Thursday, September 22, 2005

We Aren't Long-haired Hippies Anymore

Tia Steele:

She was stunned when David signed up for the Marines, but she didn't try to talk him out of it. He was a thoughtful young man, figuring out his own path. He took "War and Peace" to the battlefield.

He was killed kicking down a door in Fallujah. He was 21.


"David can't have died in vain," she says. "I have an obligation to his honor and to the David that I loved to do something about this craziness. . . . This war is a lie. To keep perpetuating it is to cause more damage."


"I don't want it to be another country with better plumbing," he says.

Before the invasion, members of his family, some of whom still live in Iraq, were divided on the prospect of war. Some thought removal of Hussein was worth the price of invasion. Others questioned the legitimacy.

Shallal thinks toppling the dictator could have been achieved peacefully with more time. The violence, he says, undermines U.S. claims to be doing anything good for Iraq. Life in Baghdad for his cousins is more primitive and dangerous than under Hussein, he says.

The presence of American troops is breeding more terrorists, making America less safe, he says, so bring the troops home now.

Charlie Anderson:

He had a job stocking shelves in Ohio when he enlisted a decade ago hoping for a better future. He kept reenlisting: He felt he didn't have a choice with a wife and daughter and no immediate prospects outside the service.

When the war came, he supported it without much thought. He couldn't believe his country would launch it without good reason and hard evidence. Turning against the war was a slow process.

"To admit that everything we gave up in order to do this was for nothing, that's a hard sell," he says.


Anderson says American troops are "phenomenal people who are willing to sacrifice everything" to complete a mission, but in Iraq "the mission keeps morphing."

"What is the mission? Tell me what the mission is."

These are the voices of some of the people from the peace movement that exists in this country. United for Peace and Justice and several other organizations are having their huge rally and march in DC this weekend.

With a full majority of Americans believing that the Iraq war was a mistake, it has become increasingly hard for the rightwing critics to label the antiwar movement as out-of-the-mainstream radicals.

Hopefully, the rally and peaceful protests this weekend will get the attention of the media and be one of the catalysts to begin a serious dialogue about bringing our troops home and finding a way to end this war.

90s Nostalgia

This article in the Post by Tina Brown made me nostalgic for the 90s and the Clinton years:

Now after the Iraq debacle, the ballooning deficit and the aftermath of Katrina, Americans are pining for grounded leaders in public office, too -- leaders who have moral conviction, yes, but also the gnarly, dexterous ability to think things through.

The irony is that no one would have believed that Clinton -- the king of spin, who went out under a cloud of indecency five years ago -- could climb back to such credibility. Monica is fading and he's backlit now by his disciplined handling of the economy, the unsought comparisons of how well FEMA used to perform under his watch and the enlightened nature of his global activism.

I miss those years, not just because there was a Democrat in the White House, but because I remember the sense of hope and optimism about the future at the dawn of the 21st century. It seems now that all of that has been squandered by our current petulant and ineffective president.

Yes, Sept 11 was a huge blow to our psyche and shattered the illusion that we lived in a peaceful world, but this administration squandered, along with our budget surplus, the opportunity to really bring people together. In those days, after Sept 11, Bush could have asked just about anything of us and we would have followed.

But just five short years from the end of the century we are faced with looming budget deficits, corporate cronyism in government, ineffective emergency response systems, two incomplete and incompetently run wars with no end in sight, growing natural disasters, the fear that we may have damaged the environment irrevecobly and growing international animosity towards our policies, there is the sense that things are unraveling at the seams.

I think its about time we get back to that place of hope and possibility and leave behind the policies that are keeping us trapped in fear. And we need to start now. I know my state has local elections this November and the congressional mid-term elections are next November in 2006. We need to start electing leaders who are going to bring us back to policies that make sense and represent the needs of all Americans.

"We are so arrogant because we are obsessed with the present," he told his guests at the conference's end. "I've reached an age now where it doesn't matter whatever happens to me. I just don't want anybody to die before their time anymore."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Supreme Opposition

Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid voiced his opposition to John Roberts to the position of Supreme Court Chief Justice. This was a startling and brazen move by our party leader. It looks as if someone up there is finally starting to listen to his constituents.

Today, in contrast, the Washington Post wrote a scathing criticism of Reid's comments with all of the 'how DARE they' rancor that one would expect from a hack like Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. If this attack was coming from the O'Reilly/Limbaugh sector of the republican spin machine, this could be categorized as the ever-echoing ditto-head radical right. The difference is when an attack comes from the Washington Post, it lends a certain credibility to what can only be described as spin.

It is not often that I take issue with something that appears in the WashPost editorials, since it is afterall the epitomy of the so-called 'liberal media.' Today, however, I take exception. I could barely get through the first paragraph without being completely outraged.

"IN ANNOUNCING his opposition yesterday to the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice of the United States, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) made a remarkable statement: "The president is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary." Leave aside the merits of the Roberts nomination, which we support; if Mr. Reid regards Judge Roberts as unworthy, he is duty-bound to vote against him. But these are dangerous words that Democrats will come to regret." (emphasis mine)

There are at least three items in this opening paragraph alone that really got my hackles up, two of which I emphasized. Let me explain.

Number one was the quote 'The president is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary.' Apparantly, the Post was truly offended by this statement by Reid. And taken out of context the way the author of the editorial does, it does sound as if Reid is trying to reinterrpret, if not rewrite the presidential power of judicial nominations in the constitution. However, if we go back read the entire two paragraphs in Reid's statement where he discusses the presidential and senatorial responsibilities to the judicial branch and think about what he was actually trying to say, it sounds a little different than what the Post implies that it means. Here is the actual quote:

"Some say that the President is entitled to deference from the Senate in nominating individuals to high office. I agree that such deference is appropriate in the case of executive branch nominees such as Cabinet officers. With some important exceptions, the President may generally choose his own advisors.

In contrast, the President is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary. The Constitution envisions that the President and the Senate will work together to appoint and confirm federal judges. This is a shared constitutional duty." (emphasis mine)

'Shared constitutional duty' is a lot different than 'the president is not entitled to very much deference,' yet Reid said both. What did he mean? How dare the president assume authority? or the president and the senate both have equal responsiblity to ensure the integrity of the court? I personally like the idea of a shared constitutional duty. Reid then goes on to say:

"The Senate's role in screening judicial candidates is especially important in the case of Supreme Court nominees, because the Supreme Court has assumed such a large role in resolving fundamental disputes in our civic life. As I see it, any nominee for the Supreme Court bears the burden of persuading the Senate and the American people that he or she deserves confirmation to a lifetime seat on the Court."

Which is something that Reid is arguing Roberts did not do. Roberts repeatedly refused to give the Senate or the American people a picture of what the court would look like with him as their leader.

The second thing I take issue with is the 'Leave aside the merits of the Roberts nomination, which we support,' comment. Merits? What merits? He went to Harvard, is lawyer and judge and is smart? That's it? He's not supposed to give us any other reason than that?

While being an extremely intelligent individual who graduated from Harvard Law, which is no small task, is a great qualification, how Robert's plans to execute his role as Chief Justice is just as important, if not moreso.

The only way we can get a clear picture of how he might adjudicate is to look at his previous record, which has been censored. What we do know is that while a legal counsel to Reagan, he wrote some pretty right wing extremist opinions. His claim that he was writing for a 'client' rings hollow. I'm not sure I could accept a job with the president as a client if I didn't already agree with his/her positions. Can you imagine Antonin Scalia writing legal briefs to support Jimmy Carter's administration? I didn't think so.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial position a lawyer and judge could ever hope to hold. Let me say it again...Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial position a lawyer and judge could ever hope to hold.

This is a lifetime appointment, with no possibility of being fired and the justices are beholden to no one. They are not elected and are not subject to re-election. And while the whole world reviews their work, they are free to act independently without fear of retribution or removal from office.

And Roberts is a relatively young man who could live well into his 90s. He could potentially hold this position as many as 40 or more years. This is an extremely powerful position.

Which brings me to the third point, 'But these are dangerous words that Democrats will come to regret.' I am more than a little sick of the 'woe to those oppose the right' rhetoric. Its old and its time for a new dialogue of openess to begin.

Our leaders need to have the freedom to speak out on any issue that affects the laws and governance of our country. Its why we send them there. I would be mortally offended if someone asked for my vote and then went to Washington to act as a rubber stamp for the president's agenda.

The Sept 11 Commission's analysis of how we could be so blind sided by the terrorist attacks on that day was a failure of imagination caused by the 'group think' mentality at our intelligence agencies. Imagine if that happened to the Senate and House and our leaders there all became victims of a failure of the imagination caused by 'group think' mentality. What kind of damage could be wrought to our laws and constitution under the guise of the democratic process and deference to presidential authority? I shudder to think.

Personally, I'm glad that Reid has stood up and taken a strong stance against the Robert's nomination. I hope more of our leaders start to think critically of the state of our county, even if it means saying things that the Washington Post doesn't like.

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