October 06, 2006

Eighty-one

She's survived the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile crisis, race riots, rock'n'roll, Vietnam, Watergate, the loss of a husband, and the shenanigans of three boys adept at circumventing her every command. She's witnessed the advent of jet engines, expressways, commercial air travel, television, air conditioning, cordless phones, VCRs, the Pill, and space travel. She's traveled around the nation, around the continent, and around the globe - and even made the long journey from being a Nixon Republican to a Clinton Democrat without ever breaking a sweat.

God bless her for that.

Today she celebrates 81 years of joy and pain, education and experience, growth and change, spread over the calendar divide of two millennia. Today she celebrates 81 years as an eyewitness to the steady advances and horrific mistakes of human society during a tumultuous century. Today she celebrates 81 years of a life well lived.

What an amazing journey it must have been so far - and it's faaaaaaar from over! Happy Birthday, Mom. Just don't lean too close to all those damn candles...

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The party of accountability

Great words today from David Ignatius at WaPo, about what should be a Democratic "mission that can be summed up in a simple sentence: They must be the party of accountability and reform." To wit,
With the Republicans in control of the executive and legislative branches, arrogance has become a way of life. In a series of widely disparate cases -- from ignoring the ethics problems of former House majority leader Tom DeLay to refusing recommendations to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to covering up the egregious conduct of Rep. Mark Foley -- the Republican leadership's instinct has been political self-protection rather than accountability and effective government...

The Republicans will try to paint Democrats in the next Congress as liberal fanatics bent on revenge. The Democrats should answer with a spirit of bipartisanship -- an offer to work with the Republicans on effective oversight of the executive branch and congressional reform. If a Democratic victory in November becomes an exercise in "payback," the public rightly will be angry.
Though you've gotta admit - for some, a little payback is just what the doctor ordered...

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October 03, 2006

Just a comma

I don't know. Maybe, it's just me.

Hey, most people I've known have at some point categorized me as a "weird" guy, someone who occasionally gets fixated on a just cause or a conspiracy theory or a video project or a political issue and overstates its importance as a life-altering event.

So this could be one of those times. Nevertheless, even admitting that that may be the case, I still can't help but ask: Doesn't it bother anyone that last week's hasty passage of the Military Commissions Act was almost immediately consigned to an aside on the evening news, instead of being the center of a loud and continuing public outcry?

Almost as if in the ongoing narrative of our national moral character, it's (to paraphrase our Dear Leader) "just a comma."

I mean, this unprecedented step by our government assaults the fundamental principles by which this nation has historically positioned itself in the court of world opinion. The parsing of language being hailed by the bill's supporters doesn't alter the fact that, in vaguely defined instances, the MCA legalizes the suspension of habeas corpus, legalizes the torture of individuals in our custody, legalizes subjective and ever-shifting interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, all while retroactively excusing the un-American excesses of the Bush Administration as it has prosecuted its hyped and fabricated "war on terror."

And that, kids, should be the story of our lifetimes.

But you wouldn't know it to look around the media landscape. Instead, it's "all Mark Foley, all the time" out there, and while the despicable behavior and hypocrisy of the Congressman and his apologist party are noteworthy, they hardly eclipse the bi-partisan Congressional rape of the basic legal tenets for which we're supposed to stand as a nation. As a people. As an idea.

Sure, there've been a few exceptions to the pervading silence over the MCA, but you have to dig deep to find even those. Do we simply not care any more, America, about the root principles that make America America? Things like extending legal rights to even the worst among us, no matter how hard that may sometimes be to do in practice.

Things like rejecting and denouncing the torture of prisoners as a matter of course.

Things like holding accountable those who've committed acts of barbarity against other human beings, regardless of rank or title or the claim that they "were just following orders."

Things like swearing to uphold and protect the Constitution, rather than seeking, at every possible opportunity, to usurp its wary, necessary system of checks and balances.

Make no mistake. The Orwellian pretzel logic of this bill is indeed brilliant - and ramming it through Congress in advance of November's elections was an inspired move by a ruling party terrified of losing its monopoly in Washington in a few weeks' time. But it does so at the expense of our national soul - and our standing as a beacon of enlightenment to the peoples of the globe.

Don't you get it, America? Because he's a self-proclaimed "war president" in a "war" which was never declared by Congress, but is a "war" simply because he says so, George Bush - and George Bush alone - gets to decide who is and is not an "enemy combatant," based (of course) solely on his personal definition of that term. His definition is not subject to challenge, or debate, or oversight, but instead carries the full weight of American law, because he's now passed a law that makes it a law.

Once you've been so designated, "no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination." You gotta love that last phrase. "Awaiting such determination." So, even if George is merely considering the possibility that you might fit his definition - which is now law - you can be held in custody indefinitely without charge, without trial, without recourse.

Sounds more like North Korea to me than the ol' Red White and Blue.

But now the fun really starts, because the newly-crowned Sadist in Chief has been given the authority "to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions" in any manner he pleases, and that his personal interpretation "shall be authoritative...as a matter of United States law, in the same manner as other administrative regulations."

That means that whatever method of torture George Bush arbitrarily deems is not torture is protected by U.S. law - retroactively, yet - since his opinions now officially trump all accepted international legal precedent. Got a complaint about your treatment? Wanna cite the Geneva Conventions as the basis for a legal challenge to your detention? Stick it in your ear, fella.

You're an "enemy combatant," which, according to this indefensible bill, relegates you to sub-human status. Unworthy of standard legal protections and procedures. An easy target for inhumane interrogation. Even subject, according to Section 6, sub-section (d), paragraph (1)(C) to "biological experiments [that have] a legitimate medical or dental purpose."

So don't even consider raising a fuss, or holding anyone accountable, whether you're innocent or not. You see, no government or military official can be charged with breaking a law in this area, since the MCA grants that George Bush's opinions are law.

This is simply mind-boggling - and all the more so because this President's magalomaniacal ambitions have been officially sanctioned by 535 of our elected representatives in Washington. This legislation once and for all strips the United States of any "moral superiority" we might have previously claimed in Bush's "war on terror," essentially giving a green light to the creation of an American gulag.

And for what reason? Because the ragtag members of al Qaeda are more terrifying and life-threatening than the combined armies of Hitler and Hirohito in World War II? More dangerous to our way of life than thousands of Soviet nuclear missiles aimed at our key cities during the Cold War? And even if they are, what better reason to cling tightly to those codes of conduct which once made us a role model for the civilized world?

Edmund Burke once said, "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." What a pathetic bunch of quivering cowards we and our "leaders" have become, to contend that the current threat of terrorist attack justifies the abandonment of our very democracy to a small-minded despot and his genuflecting inner circle.

But I guess I'm just in the minority, thinking that the MCA signifies a watershed moment in our short history that should be the first topic of discussion on everyone's lips. A moment at which America lost its shine. A moment exposing the GOP's arrogance - and, more sadly, the Democrats' spinelessness. A moment revealing our collective small-mindedness and surrender to irrational fears. A moment of shame for a citizenry apparently content to take the low road toward "victory."

A moment when it became impossible for the world to draw a distinction any longer between the twisted hypocrisy of George Bush and the American people as a whole.

Benjamin Franklin famously opined, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." The passage of the MCA, and the subsequent lack of outrage among the people, demonstrate that Americans no longer deserve America.

But then, I don't know. Maybe, it's just me.

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What more could I say?

I'm not going to waste your time with too many of my thoughts about Mark Foley. Seems like everyone else on the planet is already taking care of that for me - in fact, you can't read a paper, switch on the TV, or boot up the internet without plunging headlong into untold thousands of words about the pedophile Congressman and the GOP's Catholic-church-like protection of one of their own.

Adding my furious contempt to the chorus of outrage would, well, offer very little at this point.

But do read blogger Bob Geiger's take on the sorry affair in today's Huffington Post, in which he justly attacks the Religious Right's deafening silence and hypocrisy. Geiger notes:
Odd, isn't it? The same people who can move their followers to boycott any company that believes gay people even have the right to exist, can't muster much outrage over one of their own preying on young boys and, more importantly, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives ignoring it to save their political hides.
Read on.

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