Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sage of the Big Apple: A Podcast Interview With Congressman Jerrold Nadler

New York State’s Eighth Congressional District is a diverse mosaic covering Manhattan’s West Side below 89th Street, Lower Manhattan, and areas of Brooklyn including Borough Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. Since 1992, Congressman Jerrold Nadler has ably represented the eighth in the House of Representatives following his sixteen years of service in the New York State Assembly.

Nadler is a senior member of both the House Judiciary and Transportation committees. In 1998, Nadler gained national prominence as a steadfast defender of President Bill Clinton during the House Judiciary’s impeachment proceedings. Mostly, Nadler’s legislative career in Washington has been focused on championing civil liberties and progressive causes such as universal access to healthcare. His service on the Transportation Committee is especially important for his district as increasing demands challenges New York City’s mass transit system.

9/11 had the greatest impact on Nadler’s district where the World Trade Center used to reside. Yet even as America was consumed by fear and irrationality, Nadler continued to champion civil liberties, peace and prudence in our foreign policy. On Saturday, Nadler joined activists from New York and around the nation, at the National Mall in Washington, DC to protest the Bush administration’s War in Iraq.

Nadler just authored the Protect the Troops and Bring Them Home Act (HR 455), which stipulates no funds can be used in Iraq except to protect the troops and arrange for their withdrawal beginning in one month and ending by December 31, 2007. Nadler’s act also provides that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq cannot be increased at any time. In a press release issued on January 26th, Nadler observed:
“It has been wrongly asserted that Congress cannot force the President to de-escalate or withdraw from Iraq because it cannot use its only real power – cutting off funds - lest it be accused of ‘abandoning the troops.’ But if Congress appropriates funds, but limits those funds to protecting the troops and redeploying them from Iraq, that would be the best way of supporting the troops. In fact, keeping (or adding) American soldiers in the middle of a civil war with no end in sight is the ultimate act of abandonment. We must save American lives by bringing them home as soon as possible.”
Nadler was also recently named new Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. He noted in a press release issued on January 24th that,
“In 1995, our Republican colleagues, upon assuming control of this committee, changed the name of the ‘Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights’ to the ‘Subcommittee on the Constitution.’

I have long promised that, were I ever in a position to do so, I would put the words ‘civil’ and ‘rights’ back in the name of this subcommittee. Today, the Judiciary Committee does just that.

Now, more than ever, it is vitally important that we give meaning to these words through action. Civil rights and civil liberties are under assault in this nation. We are at a pivotal moment in our history and we have to decide as a nation whether we are willing to fight for the rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights.”
Congressman Nadler graciously agreed to be interviewed by me in a podcast format. Our interview took place just before he left for an event and had to be squeezed in a tight schedule. Among the topics we covered were his proposed legislation to withdraw troops from Iraq, former President Carter's controversial book, Israeli-Palestinian relations and the merits of impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Please refer to the media player below.

This interview can also be accessed for free via the Itunes Store by searching for "Intrepid Liberal Journal."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Inside Dick Cheney's Brain (Satire)

I feel like Count Vitte who served the insipid Czar Nicholas II in the final years of Russia’s monarchy. A stupid boy sovereign who believed he was annointed by God. His subjects, the ungrateful peasants and proletarians lost their stomach for a noble war.

Rabble rousers, subversives and opportunists sowing the seeds of dissent and undermining morale. “Peace, land and bread!” Now it’s peace, healthcare and raise the minimum wage! Put a mustache and beard on Senator Schumer and he resembles Leon Trotsky! Instead of Lenin’s propaganda pamphlets we have blogs. Hillary Clinton might as well be the reincarnation of Vladimir Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaya.

Karl Rove is Rasputin. No way am I protecting the boy’s “turd blossom” when I testify in Scooter’s trial. Why should my guy hang for that faggot? At least my daughter is honest about who she is. And then there’s that closet fairy Ken Mehlman lecturing the party about ethics on his way out the RNC’s door. I’d like to take that hypocritical faggot on a hunting trip at my ranch.

Condi Rice is a waste of skin. Another token black with high approval ratings who forgets her place too much. Making Rummy ride shotgun to that woman in the Mideast during the Israeli-Lebanon war! Well, at least she doesn’t have a doctrine and medals to flaunt like Collin did. She’s a Nubian dilettante. Maybe I should unleash another subtle leak in the press about how Condi was shopping for shoes in New York while her people drowned in New Orleans.

Poppy’s mad at me. He should be mad at Collin who’s trying to salvage his precious reputation whenever he talks about the war. It was Collin, Baker and Scowcroft who didn’t want to go to Baghdad in 1991 and we hung the Shiite’s out to dry. That’s why we had to go back and get it right. Hell, Poppy would’ve won in ’92 if he’d only listened to me back then.

Everything is going fine but defeatists surround us! Most of Iraq is pacified. So some Arabs are fighting and dying in Baghdad? Who cares? The right strong man will emerge eventually and we’ll have our bases and the oil will flow. And when that happens we'll call it democracy. It’ll be like the good ole days when the Shah ruled in Iran with Savak.

Goddamn, every time a few soldiers die in an explosion the media has to hype it and make it a human-interest story. Some perspective please! Most Americans are not being asked to sacrifice for the war so why the unpatriotic criticism? Why can’t people just be happy that we’re fighting them over there instead of over here? Be a patriot and focus on your own life. Buy, sell and consume and stop asking questions. We know best or I do anyway.

Ah hell, nobody’s going to stop us. Let congress pass their stupid resolutions. Let them whine about us not having any authority to go into Iran. They’re not going to cut off funding. They’re not going to impeach us. They don’t have the balls. Pelosi certainly doesn’t have balls. And Kerry cried on the Senate floor the other day! Ha! We did miscalculate about James Webb. We’ll just have to Swift Boat him. And Hagel too. Murtha’s day is done now. Nobody listens to that ethically challenged son of a bitch anymore.

Our boy John McCain is going to take it in 2008. The people are such saps! He’ll criticize me to establish his independent bona fides but the fix is in already. We’ll even let McCain talk about “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government. But he’s on board with our vision of remaking the world. He’s actually a heck of a fellow!

Yeah, everything is fine. It’s not like the end of the Russian monarchy at all. And I have plenty of money too. Time for another Scotch! Is Fox and Friends on?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Was I Right About Chuck Hagel vs. Hillary Clinton?

The Washington Post reports Chuck Hagel is seriously considering competing for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2008. On August 27th, I pondered the possibility of a race between the rhetorically anti-war Republican Chuck Hagel and the mealy mouthed Hillary Clinton in a post entitled, "Reminiscing About the Future: Chuck Hagel vs. Hillary Clinton." I was innudated with emails from people who considered me crazy for even suggesting such a scenario. In a crossposting at Daily Kos, many commenters from that community also rejected the possibility. It doesn't seem so crazy anymore does it? I stand by what I wrote then,

"Hillary is the wrong messenger for Democrats to defeat him. She’s too mealy mouthed, too corporatist and too insincere. True strength stems from authenticity combined with a record of clarity and sound judgment. Hillary Clinton embodies none of those virtues. Preposterous as it sounds, a Hagel vs. Clinton race means Republicans prevail on a platform to exit from Iraq. We can’t let them get away with it."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Senator James Webb: A Tough Liberal

E.J. Dionne wrote a terrific column about newly elected Virginia Senator James Webb in today’s Washington Post. It was Webb who delivered the Democrat’s pugnacious response to President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. I hope the mealy mouthed Hillary Clinton took copious notes during Webb’s speech. As Dionne wrote,

“Webb's performance was a salutary sign that Democrats just might be getting over the battered party syndrome that has left so many of them terrified of saying exactly what's on their minds. Then again, maybe Webb was just speaking for himself. Having lived on the Republican side of politics during the Democrats' most traumatic years, he may have escaped the traumas associated with defeat.”

Indeed, Webb pulled no punches about Bush’s reckless war in Iraq which timid wrong-headed Democrats like Hillary supported. Webb also didn’t hold back about the class warfare waged against working people struggling to make ends meat.

Webb is not a corporatist nor is he a mealy mouthed “triangulator.” For a generation the Democratic Party was a self-gelding machine of ineptitude. Even President Clinton was unable to prevent the party’s decay. Thankfully, Democrats such as Webb doesn’t carry that baggage. And by the way, we kooky bloggers championed Webb early on because he spoke our language. It’s the language of truth over expediency and action over centrist inertia. Senator Webb, thank you for joining the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Has John Kerry Come Full Circle?

I admired John Kerry prior to his voting for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. The early years of his senate career were terrific. During his first term, Kerry went to Nicaragua and his determined pursuit of the truth resulted in the first exposure of the Iran-Contra scandal.

His Senate elders didn’t appreciate being upstaged by the upstart Kerry and they refused to give him a seat on the joint House/Senate congressional committee that investigated the affair. Kerry didn’t make friends easily in the Senate but he did good work.

He especially captured my attention in the 1980s when I was a teenager. Kerry fearlessly tangled with the feculent Jesse Helms on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as I watched him on CSPAN. I observed how Kerry's Democratic colleagues were far more subservient with Jesse Helms and far less aggressive about uncovering the truth of Reagan's criminal foreign policy.

In today’s context it sounds absurd but in those years Kerry appeared authentic, articulate and assertive. Kerry’s investigative work during the BCCI scandal in the early nineties and his joint effort with John McCain regarding prisoners of war in Vietnam were also important contributions. As the years passed I regarded Kerry as a statesman and hoped he would run for president.

Kerry articulated a forceful critique of the Bush Administration’s failure to capture Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan while other Democrats remained timid. Watching Kerry on Meet the Press in the early months of 2002, I believed he was the best Democrat to challenge Bush in 2004. Alas, he opted to support Bush’s war in Iraq and my estimation of him changed.

In my opinion Kerry voted for the resolution out of expediency and not principle. I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton and Kerry’s running mate John Edwards. Consequently, I haven’t been kind to Kerry in my blog writing on this site or the community blogs.

Nevertheless, I worked my butt off for Kerry in 2004 once he earned the Democratic Party’s nomination. Kerry was flawed but at least he wasn’t Bush. I truly believed until the last days Kerry would win. Indeed, I believe Kerry really did win. What happened in Ohio was a disgrace.

But the Kerry campaign resembled an armless swimmer. He waited too long to respond to the Swift Boaters For Truth. Democrats have known since Mike Dukakis’ defeat in 1988 that failure to respond to the Republican slime machine was a recipe for disaster. Incredibly, Mike Dukakis’ former Lt. Governor didn’t heed the lesson.

This war veteran who went to Yale and could’ve opted for a draft deferment, was defined as a soft effeminate individual who “looked French.” And George Bush won re-election in spite of an approval rating under fifty percent. Even defeating Bush decisively in three debates didn’t help.

Since that campaign Kerry became a symbol of ineptitude. The gaffe about a “botched joke” towards the end of the recent mid-term election was the last straw. Thankfully, Kerry is not self-delusional and he dropped out. It’s my hope Kerry has taken a step toward becoming an elder statesman for the Democratic Party. In announcing he wasn’t running for president on the Senate floor Kerry said,

"As someone who made the mistake of voting for the resolution that gave the president the authority to go to war, I feel the weight of a personal responsibility to act, to devote time and energy to the national dialogue in an effort to limit this war and bring our participation to a conclusion."
I believe he means it. Hopefully, not running for president in 2008 will liberate Kerry to be the assertive champion of truth of his early years in the Senate and the young man who testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his return from Vietnam. In life we sometimes have to come full circle before we can move forward. Today, John Kerry took a step in the right direction.
ADDENDUM: Click here to review comments from a crosspost of the above topic on Daily Kos. One of the commenters named "fly" provided this link to the Bill Moyers 1987 documentary, "The Secrete Government: The Constitution In Crisis. "Among those interviewed in the documentary is John Kerry as a young Senator. It's been twenty years since I first watched the Moyers documentary. It's even more relevant today. Watching it again online, I can't help but resent the so called "moderates" who allowed our national security to be hijacked by insipid sociopaths.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I'm Proud of My Alma Mater

I am an alumnus of Sarah Lawrence College. Over the weekend, I read a diary posted by "rba" at epluribus Media about a statement of “academic freedom” published by Sarah Lawrence’s Board of Trustees in 1938. That statement became an important part of history during the McCarthy Era.

In November 1951, Louis Budenz published an article in American Legion Magazine accusing SLC, along with other colleges and universities of employing "subversive" and "communist" faculty members. Subsequent to this insidious publication, the newly formed Americanism Committee of the Westchester County American Legion accussed Sarah Lawrence faculty members of being communists.

The Legion regularly presented reports from the Americanism Committee targeting individual faculty members at Sarah Lawrence who they considered communists. Their first target was Joseph Barnes. Ultimately, the Legion targeted almost a dozen faculty members at Sarah Lawrence. I'm proud to say the leadership of Sarah Lawrence reaffirmed their 1938 statement of academic freedom and refused to be bullied. Click Here to read about this history on Sarah Lawrence’s website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yawn: Hillary's Running

Hillary Clinton made it official today and joined the fray. Click here to listen to Clinton’s official announcement from her website and here to read the actual text.

Frankly, reading and listening to Hillary’s announcement is like drinking soda without carbonation. It's focus grouped for the political fifty-yard line. Just like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary will campaign from weakness. Too fearful to offend the “middle class” or appear weak on national security will result in a mealy mouthed posture. Strength stems from authenticity but does Clinton even know who she really is anymore?

Clinton is very closed and insular and listens to a tight circle of advisors like Bush. As we’ve seen, such an insular governing style is dangerous. Her husband was far more open, hungry even for a diversity of information as president. Hopefully, he will serve as an information conduit for her as Eleanor Roosevelt did for FDR. My suspicion however is Hillary would be obsessed with leaks as president and drown inside her bubble. Also, she has the imagination of a grapefruit.

Edwards interests me because on domestic issues he’s offering specifics about valuing “work over wealth” whereas Hillary’s a corporatist. I remain troubled about Edwards’ record on Iraq and therefore I’m not quite sold on him yet. Obama to this point is a platitude machine but his candidacy does intrigue me. How will he handle the fishbowl? Is there more to him than “something new”? I’m curious to find out.

An Al Gore candidacy would intrigue me because he’s grown as a person since 2000. I suspect he would campaign on candor instead of being afraid to lose. I'd sign up for his campaign in a heartbeat. Alas, it doesn’t appear he will run.

I used to believe Hillary was authentic with a core but unlike Gore, the former first lady has regressed. I hoped Hillary would emerge as a Robert Kennedy sort of figure in the senate but she has not put her prestige on the line for the working poor or the cause of peace.

Hillary is so afraid of appearing weak that she appears weak. Her pandering on an amendment for flag burning last year has me wondering what else she would surrender to project an image of values and toughness. We don’t need that sort of weakness undermining the progressive cause. Hillary has proven she can take a punch. She also deserves credit for providing effective constituent service as a senator. As a senator, Hillary has been a workhorse more than a show-horse unlike Obama or Edwards when he served. As a New Yorker I respect that.

But her original support of the Iraq war was a callous and cowardly act of political expediency. Her tepid “if I knew now what I knew then” explanation regarding Iraq is neither believable nor acceptable. War and peace requires a different standard of leadership. Not calculating cynicism resulting in needless bloodshed.

I don’t underestimate Hillary. She’s disciplined, smart and tough. And I'd love to support a woman for the White House. We could certainly do worse and this country has. But her candidacy for president does not inspire me and I expect to support somebody else.
: Click here to review the comments from my crossposting of the above topic on Daily Kos. Special thanks to The Nation magazine for linking today's post under "Newsfeeds." Hopefully it will stay there for awhile. Also, a special thanks to Blue Gal for including a link to this post in the blog roundup for Crooks and Liars. If you look under my left side bar you will find a link under "Intrepid Voices" to Blue Gal's terrific blog. I love her style. Her recent post entitled "Death Of A President" is a must read.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Where's the Beef?

It was 1984 and a youthful looking Colorado Senator named Gary Hart was getting traction as the candidate of “new ideas.” Presumptive front-runner, former Vice President Walter Mondale appeared to be a dinosaur as Hart scored an upset in New Hampshire.

The two candidates were about the same age but the combination of Gary Hart’s hair and “new ideas” slogan propelled him to the top tier. Only fifteen at the time, I was astounded how Gary Hart succeeded while offering so little substance.

You may recall a popular television commercial for the fast food chain restaurant, Wendy’s at the time. Gray haired Actress Clara Peller stared at an unimpressive looking hamburger and asked, “Where’s the beef?” Mondale effectively neutralized Hart’s momentum by asking the same question about his rival's program.

I happen to respect Gary Hart. Our country should have heeded the report about terrorism he co-authored with former Senator Warren Rudman. This country would be far better off if we had. However, in 1984 Gary Hart was a platitude machine hiding behind the slogan of “new ideas.”

This week Barack Obama announced the formation of his exploratory committee to run for president and he noted the public wanted “something new.” Reading that I immediately thought of Gary Hart and Clara Peller. Where’s the beef?

As E.J. Dionne observed in today’s Washington Post, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is running on specifics. Edwards has stated his immediate priorities are not balancing the budget but addressing the nation’s investment deficit. Dionne writes:

“Most Democrats don't like to talk about it, but somebody's taxes are going to have to go up. Edwards, at least, is willing to say which taxes he would raise to keep the deficit from going through the roof. He would start by eliminating Bush's tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners, which he defines roughly as those earning more than $180,000 to $200,000 a year.

He wants to increase the capital gains tax for an interesting reason: In an interview this week, he argued that it's wrong to tax income from work at a higher rate than income from capital -- an extension of his long-standing theme that the country should not value ‘wealth over work.’ He also favors a windfall-profits tax on oil companies.

But since health coverage and ‘transforming the energy economy of this country’ are first on his to-do list, Edwards says he is prepared to disappoint voters who make a balanced budget their top priority.

Edwards deserves points for honesty and for stating the politically difficult truth that both fiscal and social balance demand a comprehensive health-care fix.”
My favored candidate for 2008 was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold but he’s not running. My next preference is former Vice President Al Gore but it doesn’t appear he has the fire in the belly anymore.

As I’ve written previously, Edwards record about the Iraq War troubles me. I believe he supported the congressional resolution supporting President Bush’s misguided venture in Iraq out of political expediency. I can’t help but wonder if his “apology” for supporting the war is also about political expediency. War requires a higher standard of leadership than he’s provided. Yes, today he’s speaking out but seventy percent of the public is with him now. We needed Edwards to speak out in 2002-2003.

Nevertheless, I appreciate the progressive campaign Edwards is waging on domestic policy and the specifics he’s offering. In 2004, I regarded Edwards as a Ken Doll and his “two Americas” campaign a mere slogan. This time it appears he’s rising above platitudes.

Do platitude machines Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have any beef to offer? A cynic might recall how Walter Mondale was honest and specific. He told a nationally televised audience at the Democratic National Convention:

“President Reagan will raise your taxes. So will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”
The deficit was out of control but Reagan promised not to raise taxes, won in a landslide and raised taxes for the middle class anyway, which he called “revenue enhancements.” And he got away with it.

An optimist however might note John Edwards on his worst day is far more charismatic than Walter Mondale ever was on his best day. Perhaps Edwards is just the candidate to sell a specific progressive program and earn a mandate for real change. Without either Feingold or Gore in the race I don’t know which candidate I’m going to volunteer for yet. For damn sure I want more than platitudes such as “something new” offered by Obama. I want to know where the beef is.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Remembering Barbara Jordan

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this week had me thinking about other pioneers with grace, wisdom and decency. One figure worth remembering is Barbara Jordan. It happens January 17th was the 11th anniversary of her death at the age of 59. Jordan was a rare figure who combined gravitas with humility. She broke down barriers to walk the corridors of power but never forgot where she came from.

Educated in the public schools of Houston, Jordan graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1952. Upon earning her B.A. in political science and history from Texas Southern University in 1956, she graduated from Boston University Law School in 1959. Think about that for moment – a black woman from Texas earned a law degree in 1959.

Jordan was admitted to the Massachusetts and Texas bars and began practicing law in Houston in 1960. Her first attempts at elected office were not successful as a candidate for state representative in 1962 and 1964. Thankfully, Jordan didn’t give up and in 1966 she became the first African American state senator from Texas since 1883. She served in that body until 1972.

Jordan joined the 93rd Congress defeating Republican Paul Merritt to represent Texas' Eighteenth District in the House of Representatives. She served in the House until 1979. Jordan’s expertise and passion for constitutional law placed her on the House Judiciary Committee as congress considered the merits of impeaching President Richard Nixon. Below is the text of her powerful speech delivered on July 25,1974. Jordan’s words are especially poignant when considering the crimes of the Bush/Cheney Administration.

"Mr. Chairman:

I join in thanking you for giving the junior members of this committee the glorious opportunity of sharing the pain of this inquiry. Mr. Chairman, you are a strong man and it has not been easy but we have tried as best we can to give you as much assistance as possible.

Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, 'We, the people.' It is a very eloquent beginning. But when the document was completed on the seventeenth of September 1787 I was not included in that 'We, the people.' I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in 'We, the people.'

Today, I am an inquisitor; I believe hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.

...The subject of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men. That is what we are talking about. In other words, the jurisdiction comes from the abuse or violation of some public trust. It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution, for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office.

The Constitution doesn't say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of this body, the legislature, against and upon the encroachment of the Executive. In establishing the division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge, the framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judges the same person.

We know the nature of impeachment. We have been talking about it awhile now. It is chiefly designed for the President and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. It is designed to 'bridle' the Executive if he engages in excesses. It is designed as a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men. The framers confined in the Congress the power, if need be, to remove the President in order to strike a delicate balance between a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical and preservation of the independence of the Executive. The nature of impeachment is a narrowly channeled exception to the separation of powers maxim; the federal convention of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors and discounted and opposed the term, 'maladministration.' 'It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,' so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the Virginia ratification convention: 'We need one branch to check the others.'

The North Carolina ratification convention: 'No one need to be afraid that officers who commit oppression will pass with immunity."

'Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,' said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. 'And to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.' I do not mean political parties in that sense. The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term, 'high crime and misdemeanors.'

Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that 'nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.'

Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: Appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we are not being petty. We are trying to be big, because the task we have before us is a big one.

This morning, in a discussion of the evidence, we were told that the evidence which purports to support the allegations of misuse of the CIA by the President is thin. We are told that that evidence is insufficient. What that recital of the evidence this morning did not include is what the President did know on June 23, 1972. The President did know that it was Republican money, that it was money from the Committee for the Re-election of the President, which was found in the possession of one of the burglars arrested on June 17.

What the President did know on June 23 was the prior activities of E. Howard Hunt, which included his participation in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, which included Howard Hunt's participation in the Dita Beard ITT affair, which included Howard Hunt's fabrication of cables designed to discredit the Kennedy Administration.

We were further cautioned today that perhaps these proceedings ought to be delayed because certainly there would be new evidence forthcoming from the President of the United States. There has not even been an obfuscated indication that this committee would receive any additional materials from the President. The committee subpoena is outstanding and if the President wants to supply that material, the committee sits here. The fact is that on yesterday, the American people waited with great anxiety for eight hours, not knowing whether their President would obey an order of the Supreme Court of the United States.

At this point, I would like to juxtapose a few of the impeachment criteria with some of the President's actions.

Impeachment criteria: James Madison, from the Virginia ratification convention. 'If the President be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there is grounds to believe that he will shelter him, he may be impeached.'

We have heard time and time again that the evidence reflects payment to the defendants of money. The President had knowledge that these funds were being paid and that these were funds collected for the 1972 presidential campaign. We know that the President met with Mr. Henry Petersen twenty-seven times to discuss matters related to Watergate, and immediately thereafter met with the very persons who were implicated in the information Mr. Petersen was receiving and transmitting to the President. The words are, 'If the President be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter that person, he may be impeached.'

Justice Story: 'Impeachment is intended for occasional and extraordinary cases where a superior power acting for the whole people is put into operation to protect their rights and rescue their liberties from violations.'

We know about the Houston plan. We know about the break-in of the psychiatrist's office. We know that there was absolute, complete direction in August 1971 when the President instructed Ehrilichman to 'do whatever is necessary.' This instruction led to a surreptitious entry into Dr. Fielding's office. 'Protect their rights.' 'Rescue their liberties from violation.'

The South Carolina ratification convention impeachment criteria: Those are impeachable 'who behave amiss or betray their public trust.'

Beginning shortly after the Watergate break-in and continuing to the present time, the President has engaged in a series of public statements and actions designed to thwart the lawful investigation by government prosecutors. Moreover, the President has made public announcements and assertions bearing on the Watergate case which the evidence will show he knew to be false. These assertions, false assertions; impeachable, those who misbehave. Those who 'behave amiss or betray their public trust.'

James Madison, again at the constitutional convention: 'A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.'

The Constitution charges the President with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed, and yet the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregarded the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, concealedsurreptitious entry, attempted to compromise a federal judge while publicly displaying his cooperation with the process of criminal justice. 'A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.'

If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth century paper shredder.

Has the President committed offenses and planned and directed and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? This is the question. We know that. We know the question.

We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question.

It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time."

ADDENDUM: The above topic was a "rescued diary" on Daily Kos. Click Here to review comments from that community about Barbara Jordan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Showing Good Prosecutors the Door

With Democrats eager to use their new majority for oversight can the Bush Administration safeguard the criminal enterprise known as the Republican Party? Well it turns out a little known provision in the USA Patriot Act reauthorization last year empowers Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint replacements without Senate confirmation. Yesterday, California Senator Diane Feinstein complained,

“The Bush administration is pushing out U.S. attorneys from across the country under the cloak of secrecy and then appointing indefinite replacements.”
Eleven U.S. Attorneys have resigned in the past year. Among those departing is Carol Lam, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. California’s Southern District covers San Diego and Imperial counties. Lam was appointed in 2002 and leaving office on February 15th. Her priorities the past four years were prosecuting political corruption and health care fraud. It was Lam’s office that managed the government’s case against Republican Congressman Randall “Duke” Cunningham who pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes.

Attorney General Gonzales denies politics has played any role with the turnover at the Justice Department and insisted the Bush Administration,

"in no way politicize these decisions."
Simply put, I don’t believe him. I'm also irked at Democrats. I realize preventing the reauthorization of the Patriot Act last year was difficult but why couldn't Democrats at least raise some hell about this provision?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Eliot Spitzer and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

George Pataki’s era of inertia and stagnation has been jettisoned. As the New York Times reports, state lawmakers are laying the groundwork for the “most ambitious government-financed stem cell project on the East Coast.”

When President Bush severely limited funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001, it was up to state governments to fill the void. New Jersey immediately seized the initiative and pledged millions for stem cell research. Under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California implemented a $3 billion bond initiative, and other states followed with ballot initiatives or legislation to give scientists grants or to build research centers.

My home state of New York remained a wallflower in the stem cell research dance. Remarkable, as New York is the proud home of elite research universities, medical centers and biotechnology companies. Furthermore, embryonic stem cell research can be a huge tax windfall for New York and stimulate job growth. Under Pataki’s lethargic leadership, legislative efforts to direct state funding for embryonic stem cell research was at a functional impasse.

Spitzer has proposed passage of a $2 billion 10-year bond initiative for research and development. Half of the money is to be allocated for stem cell research. To entice upstate Republicans, the economic growth component of the project is being heavily promoted. Upstate New York’s economy even struggled during the economic boom of the nineties so this project is likely to even attract support from conservative representatives.

Embryonic stem cell research is one example of Albany's new breeze. Progressives are understandably focused on Washington Democrats because of their new majority and the Bush era of corruption and war mongering. However, I’m more excited by what’s happening under the leadership of Democratic governors such as Montana’s Brian Schweitzer. As a New Yorker I’m encouraged by Eliot Spitzer’s start. His policy initiatives are ambitious and sensible. Spitzer's proposals on embronic stem cell research, illustrate the reality based community has a dynamic advocate inside the governor's mansion. It's been a long time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr: An American Hero

Martin Luther King Jr. was a unique soul who pursued justice absent of vengeance. As we honor his birthday let’s reflect and absorb the wisdom of his poignant words:

Strength to Love, 1963
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Strength to Love, 1963
"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

Strength to Love, 1963
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963
"Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' "

Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today."

Speech in Detroit, June 23, 1963
"I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live."

Accepting Nobel Peace Prize, Dec. 10, 1964
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

December 11, 1964
"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

BEYOND VIETNAM, April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, NYC
"Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor."

A CHRISTMAS SERMON" December24, 1967
"And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends."

CONSCIENCE AND THE VIETNAM WAR" in The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
"We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and for justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight."

Speech in Memphis, April 3, 1968, the day before King was assassinated
"And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man."

The Fool On the Hill

Paul McCartney is hardly my favorite Beatle (John Lennon is) and Magical Mystery Tour is not my favorite Beatle album (Revolver is). Yet the lyrics to McCartney’s “Fool On the Hill” have played inside my head since President Bush’s nationally televised “surge” speech last week.

McCartney’s lyrics aptly describe both the disposition and reputation of this President as he prosecutes a losing war in Iraq. Bush and his cabal of criminal enablers are insipid sociopaths. Foolish and simultaneously Machiavellian. For all the speculation over the years about Vice President Cheney being in charge, this group of ideological freaks are defined by George Bush. I leave the rest to Paul McCartney:

Day after day, alone on the hill
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he's just a fool
As he never gives an answer
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around
Well on the way, head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around
And nobody seems to like him
They can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around
He never listen to them
He knows that they're the fools
They don't like him
The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Brick By Brick: A Civil Rights Story

In 1985, the US vs. Yonkers ruling challenged the institutionalized housing and educational discrimination of an entire city. It was the first time housing discrimination was linked to a segregated school system and this ruling codified a remedy for both.

The fallout from the litigation exposed the naked bigotry of Yonkers, New York as the white community resented any effort to expand access to better, more integrated housing for minorities. I attended Sarah Lawrence College located nearby in Bronxville from 1987-1991 and followed the racism with disgust. Sadly, the city of Yonkers found being in contempt of court preferable to addressing their legacy of racism.

On February 9th, at 9:00 PM, Brick By Brick: A Civil Rights Story, a one-hour documentary about Yonkers will air on New York’s local PBS station Channel 13. This important documentary was produced and directed by William Kavanagh. Kavanagh is a good friend who I came to know through regularly reading his blog. I’m hoping with the help of the progressive netroots, PBS will be persuaded to show his documentary to a national audience.

Kavanagh’s filmmaking career is dedicated to illustrating the human dimension of public policy issues. In 2001, Kavanagh was the field producer for Enemies of War, a PBS documentary on the civil war in El Salvador. Kavanagh went to El Salvador and interviewed rebel commanders, Jesuit priests, officials from the Salvadoran and US governments, human rights workers and ordinary Salvadoran citizens. He covered the first elections after the ceasefire and interviewed the late Congressman Joe Moakley and his aide, Jim McGovern, who broke the wall of silence around the killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter by the Salvadoran military in 1989. Enemies of War was shown nationally on PBS.

With Brick By Brick, Kavanagh and his production team illustrate how a ghetto was created through public policies. It is the local people themselves from different backgrounds, who describe their experiences with housing and educational discrimination. This is contrasted with still other local people living across town who enjoyed superior opportunities and access to a better life.

Kavanagh’s film also informs viewers how local public school divisions emerged in a neighborhood overwhelmed with 7,000 units of public housing, “further entrenching the city's color line.” The community reacted to these conditions in their children’s schools by fighting back and compelling Yonkers to change.

Essentially, Kavanagh’s documentary follows three families in Yonkers, New York as they navigate through the volatile maelstrom of racial politics and discrimination law in housing and schools that transforms their hometown. As Kavanagh put it to me,

“The fact that Yonkers (as well as other cities which were not held to account in court) essentially kept their foot-dragging and evasion going for so many years after going into contempt of the Federal courts in 1988 is symbolic of the turn that civil rights enforcement has taken since the end of the Carter Administration, when US vs. Yonkers was originally filed. The film title is a bit of tribute to the folks who pressed on, despite the odds, to fight for an equitable end to the situation there.”
This story merits maximum exposure and support by the progressive netroots. Yonkers is no different from many of our hometowns and neighborhoods. First and foremost the project needs money if it has any chance of ever being seen by a wider audience. I hope anyone reading this with the means will consider making a donation. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NFA) sponsors Brick by Brick and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations can be made through the NFA by clicking here. When completing the online form please type “William Kavanagh” for artist’s name and “Brick By Brick: A Civil Rights Story” for project title.

As many reading this post are not New Yorkers and don’t have access to Local WNET 13, please click here for the contact information of Kavanagh Productions to request a press screener for bloggers. Upon viewing the film, if you approve of it, please contact WNET 13 praising it (click here for their contact information).

Our country is confronted with challenges ranging from war and peace to millions who don’t have health insurance. So many issues and causes competing for the attention of progressives. Civil rights are a core value that must never be allowed to slip through the cracks as we work to improve society and bring peace to the world. William Kavanagh reminds us with his documentary about the importance of standing up for justice in our own neighborhoods.
CLICK HERE to listen to my podcast interview with William Kavanagh about his documentary.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Make Your Voices Heard

It’s not possible to be a little bit pregnant. Yet the Bush Administration prosecuted the Iraq War as if they were awaiting the results of a pregnancy test. Under Donald Rumsfeld the Pentagon tried to win on the cheap. Without boots on the ground however order could not be established after Saddam fell.

In 2004, President Bush ridiculed John Kerry during his re-election campaign for suggesting more troops were required. In his twenty minute speech last night the President finally acknowledged an insufficient number of troops resulted in chaos. Iraq was a war of choice and Bush waged it with timidity while claiming the fate of western civilization was at stake.

Of course this war was never about weapons of mass destruction, democracy, liberating people, empowering moderate Islam or saving western civilization. Thousands of young soldiers and who the hell knows how many Iraqis at this point have died for war profiteering, oil and to market George Bush as a magnificent war leader. Iraq was a neat diversion allowing Bush and his cronies to steal billions of dollars.

Underneath all the rhetoric about winning and catastrophic consequences if we don’t prevail is the truth. The simple truth is that 20,000 troops will not make a strategic difference. At this point military tactics are useless. The best we can hope for is containing the violence within Iraq’s borders until they grow tired of killing each other.

A policy of containment is despicable because it leaves Iraqis in the lurch after we wrecked their country. Shamefully, Bush/Cheney's incompetetence leaves us no choice. Our military presence will not facilitate a political solution. Containment is the only viable option left through a strategic redeployment.

The Bush/Cheney Administration is aware of this reality. They’re not as stupid as many people think they are. Hence, the “surge” is not about winning. Bush/Cheney are hoping to kick the can down the road with Iraq. They don’t want a helicopter lifting off the rooftop in Saigon moment happening on their watch. They prefer retreat to take place under the next president. If some more American soldiers must die or become permanently wounded, so be it. They don’t care.

Meanwhile, these insipid sociopaths are hoping they can divert us into another war by blaming the Iranians and Syrians for our failures in Iraq. It’s not hard to imagine another speech in five or six months claiming all of Iraq’s problems will be solved if we topple the regimes in Teheran and Damascus. The neocons especially want a crack at Iran. Finishing the job right in Afghanistan is not sexy enough for the neocons. They're a waste of skin.

A wise office colleague of mine wonders why the neocons have stopped distancing themselves from the Bush Administration and embraced “the surge.” It had become fashionable for intellectual elitist right wing crazies such as William Kristol to diss the Bush Administration about Iraq but lately they’ve been having love-ins. Perhaps the neocons know this surge is a pretext to widen the war and go into Iran? Just as Nixon’s escalation in 1970 resulted in an illegal invasion of Cambodia? Are we going to let it happen?

Non-binding congressional resolutions make for nice symbolism and may demonstrate bipartisan opposition to the Bush regime. Congressional leaders are pushing for that and Republican legislators may see it as an easy way to voice their opposition without having to really confront their President. I hope such a resolution leads to stronger action by congress. By itself however a non-binding resolution is worth a bucket of warm spit. Lives are on the line. As I've written previously there are only three viable options to save our country:

  • Impeachment and removal of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney;
  • Invoking the War Powers Act;
  • Cut off funding.
CLICK HERE to contact your congressman and CLICK HERE to contact your Senator. Politics is not a spectator sport and apathy is unforgivable given the stakes. These people work for us and it’s your moral duty to make your voice heard.

Also, don’t be shy about writing editorials to your local newspaper. Even if they’re not published, letters to the editor may influence how newspapers cover the war and can have a ripple effect. Your obligation as a citizen doesn’t end on Election Day when your country continues to pursue a collision course with calamity.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Elections Have Consequences

So why did liberals such as myself work so hard putting Democrats in congress this November? Why did we get out the vote through phone banking and canvassing? Why did we even raise and contribute money for pro-life Senatorial candidates such as Bob Casey of Pennsylvania? Well, as the Washington Post reports,

“The Bush administration officially withdrew four of its most controversial nominations to the federal appellate bench yesterday, bowing to the political reality of a Senate Judiciary Committee under the control of Democrats who show no inclination to confirm them.”

First Republican senators obstructed President Clinton’s moderate judicial nominations. Then they threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster to put counter culture reactionaries on the federal bench. Most recently we had to swallow a corporatist in Chief Justice John Roberts and the father of the unitary executive with Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Republicans considered this payback because Democrats prevented Robert Bork from being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987. Bork believed the state had the right to infringe upon a husband and wife's privacy and not allow couples to use contraception in the privacy of their own home. In the bizarre logic of Bork and other "strict constructionists" since the Constitution doesn't mention Trojans one has no legitimate expectation their rights to use them are protected.

Compared to the damage done to our judicial system and Constitution in recent years this is a minor victory. But I’ll take it. Hopefully, electing a Democratic President in 2008 will help restore rationality to the judiciary and we can detoxify our country from the strict constructionists. For too long we've allowed jurists dedicated to reversing social progress and eliminating economic justice established over the past sixty years to pollute the federal bench. The first step to restoring decency in America is proper respect for civil liberties, individual rights and the law. The withdrawal of Bush’s nominees is small step in the right direction.

The Insipid Joe Klein

Joe Klein is an insipid and dangerous man. In the spring this bastion of mainstream moderation said on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopolous (CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO) America should not rule out using tactical nuclear weapons in Iran. Recently, Klein joined the blogosphere and excoriated lefty bloggers for their “naiveté” about national security.

Klein claimed to be a credible critic of the left because he wrote an article in Slate in 2002 opposing the war and he proudly embedded a link to the article. At the time of Klein’s original posting the link was broken. It has since been repaired (CLICK HERE) and upon reviewing it I don’t read “opposition” from Klein. He does praise Al Gore for making a stand and raises important questions not being asked by Democrats or Republicans at the time. Well, that’s nice and I give him credit for doing that much.

However, the proprietor of Booman Tribune brilliantly refuted Klein and exposed him as a liar with a post entitled, ”An Open Letter To Joe Klein.” I wish I wrote it as Booman illustrates how Klein also made statements agreeing with Bush’s war. I suppose he was against it before he was for it.

What really irks me is this sanctimonious attitude from so called moderate pundits such as Joe Klein or politicians like Joe Lieberman who have a track record of being horribly wrong. They claim critics in the blogosphere want America to fail. Respectfully, we made a stand because we’re patriots. It’s called dissent.

We believed four years ago the war was strategically stupid and immoral. It’s quite apparent we were right. Yet these very same people who were wrong about the war four years ago will accuse critics of being “naïve” or wanting America to fail because we oppose Bush’s so called surge. And they represent the voices of moderation while the liberal bloggers are the kooks?

More young kids are going to die so Bush/Cheney can hand off Iraq to a successor and not have defeat on “their watch.” That is morally reprehensible and the Joe Kleins of the world are enablers for criminal behavior. Is that patriotism Mr. Klein? Perhaps you deserve the benefit of the doubt and should simply be considered naïve.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pelosi Ascends

Among the get out the vote efforts I volunteered for during the 2004 presidential campaign was Women Voices Women Vote. The project was designed to register single women because this demographic is more politically sympathetic to Democrats but hadn’t previously voted in high numbers. I tweaked the script when calling because it made a plea for women to support “our issues” at the polls and I’m a male. One of the first calls I made that campaign on behalf of this project was to a woman in Pennsylvania who told me she had no interest in voting because “in my religion women are not equal to men.” While I haven’t always been enamored with Speaker Pelosi that is the sort of mindset I hope her ascension will reverse.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sayonara For Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, John M. Shalikashvili published an op-ed in the New York Times (Click Here) today expressing second thoughts about the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell policy” regarding homosexual personnel. Shalikasvili became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under President Bill Clinton in 1997. Clinton reneged on his campaign promise in 1993 to lift the ban on homosexual’s serving openly and instead instituted the infamous don’t ask don’t tell policy guiding the military today.

Shalikasvili contends our culture has evolved and the military is so over extended it may finally be time to allow homosexuals to serve the armed forces openly. Although Shalikashvili doesn’t advocate for a sudden change in policy he concludes his piece with this:

“By taking a measured, prudent approach to change, political and military leaders can focus on solving the nation’s most pressing problems while remaining genuinely open to the eventual and inevitable lifting of the ban. When that day comes, gay men and lesbians will no longer have to conceal who they are, and the military will no longer need to sacrifice those whose service it cannot afford to lose."
Our country’s treatment of homosexual personnel serving courageously in the armed forces is disgraceful. The time has long past for the military to let homosexual soldiers serve openly. When institutions such as the military sanctions prejudice a message is delivered to society that intolerance is acceptable. And as Shalikashvili notes in his op-ed, George Bush's military is over extended and needs all the help it can get. How ironic if Bush's imperial designs in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps Iran are buttressed by the very community his most loyal constituency has condemned to hell.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The New Breeze From Albany

Understandably much of our nation’s focus regarding politics is on Washington as Democrats take control and the Bush Administration continues to prosecute their failed war in Iraq. Will Democrats take a stand or remain subservient? How will Democrats utilize their power for oversight and investigation? And numerous personalities inside the beltway from both parties are already jostling for position in the 2008 presidential election.

Just as important however are the newly elected Democratic governors and state legislators across the nation. In recent years state capitals have outflanked Washington regarding important issues such as global warming, minimum wage and health care. The New York Times reports today that state capitals are also outflanking Washington regarding changes to ethics and lobbying reform.

As a New Yorker I’m especially enthusiastic about incoming governor Eliot Spitzer (click here to read the text of Spitzer's inaugural address). In terms of corruption and pay to play politics, Albany has made Washington D.C. look like a beacon of rectitude in comparison. Another negative of Albany's culture has been governance by “three men in a room” as outgoing Governor George Pataki, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Senate’s Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno made all the important policy decisions. Joining them in their room for a decade was a cabal of special interests and lobbyists while the public was ripped off.

Presently, both parties are back on their heels in Albany regarding ethics as Democratic State Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned after pleading to a felony and the Republican’s Joseph Bruno recently revealed federal authorities were investigating his outside consulting work. Spitzer to his credit pushed political ally Alan Hevesi out the door after election-day and appears ready to spend his political capital on an ambitious reform agenda.

Today Spitzer signed five executive orders pertaining to procurement and the agencies his office has unilateral control over. He’s also imposing on his staff strict guidelines regarding bans on gifts and prohibiting any part of the executive branch from lobbying his office two years after they leave their posts.

The real challenge of course will be how much and how fast he can push Albany’s lethargic state legislature to accept in reforming state government as a whole. At the moment Spitzer dwarfs representatives from both parties but his popularity will inevitably decline as he makes tough calls regarding Albany's budget deficit.

In spite of the political challenges confronting Spitzer, one can feel a new breeze blowing from the state capital. Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group told the New York Times,

“He has talked about redistricting reform, he’s talked about campaign finance reform, he’s talked about ending pay to play and he’s talked overall about a transparent and accountable state government. If he accomplishes all of that, that’s probably more reform that we’ve seen in New York for the last 200 years.”
The previous Democratic governor Mario Cuomo talked a good game and his rhetorical gifts made him the darling of the national Democratic Party for years. Truthfully, Cuomo didn’t accomplish much as governor and the record suggests his greatest impact was constructing prisons that served the jail industrial complex. George Pataki defeated Mario Cuomo in 1994 partly by claiming to be a reformer and proceeded to govern as a lethargic corporatist. Let’s hope Spitzer turns out to be the real deal.

It's Time For A 21st Century Enlightenment

We’re living in a decade of darkness. Inept and callous leadership at home while the world continues to tear itself apart over ancient tribal hatreds and the flames of religious fanaticism. Sixty years after the Holocaust, genocide and ethnic cleansing occur on a daily basis. Globalization widens the gulf between rich and poor. Corporate power expands as opportunities for individuals recedes. A predator created by humanity’s wasteful indifference called Global Warming is laying in the high weeds to wreck havoc upon our future.

Even so I remain an optimistic idealist as we start 2007. Thugs rule the world but most people are fundamentally decent. Progress is seldom a straight uninterrupted line. Struggle and progress are part of a package. I don’t believe the future belongs to dark figures such as Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong II or Dick Cheney. We must never surrender to our fears or cynicism. Cynicism is the easy way out and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ultimately what shall determine the future of this planet is whether people plug into the well being of their communities or remain self-absorbed.

In the 17th century the Enlightenment ushered an era of reason. I believe the 21st century will usher an Enlightenment based on communal values. Communities will have to coordinate if the planet’s air and water supply is to be preserved, corporate power reversed and homicidal leaders stopped. No better time to start then 2007.