Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Voting is Fundamental...

God willing, I'll be out of the country on Election Day this year. I will be participating in a funk party somewhere in the Federal Republic of Germany.

But don't worry. I am voting early.

As I've stated before, this has become the most important US election of the decade. Why? Because the two terms of George W. Bush have been filled with deficits, destruction, depression, death and a few more "D" words I could probably think of (despair? delirium? the devil?).

This election will determine whether we must endure another two years of a Republican led Congress that is rubberstamping Bush's deceptive and despicable deeds or do we dispatch a dedicated Democratic Congress to DC, one that would dare defy the dictatorial designs of the Decider-in-Chief.

Da situation isn't much better on the local front either.

In Michigan, radical Republican billionaire Dick DeVos has spent a mint on advertising in his bid to unseat Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm. I'm not the biggest Granholm fan, but DeVos is the second coming of Dubya - a right-wing businessman with a hidden agenda.

His one note message - JOBS - is playing well in a state with one of the nation's poorest economies. But his refusal to discuss his millions in donations to Republican candidates and radical social and religious causes betrays him as a wolf in a wool business suit. (Read this story by The Michigan Citizen's Bankole Thompson for the 411 on DeVos and the conservative dream team that is running his campaign.)

The most important reason to vote in "the mitten," however, is Proposal 2 or the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which will ban affirmative action in any state funded program. Despite the deceptive name and the fraud used to get the initiative on the ballot in the first place, state and federal judges are allowing the proposal.

Activists haven't done a great job getting the word out so far, but passage of this proposal will affect any program that receives funding from the state with any preferences at all for minorities. This includes colleges, universities, government hiring for sure, but it would also affect charities and programs like DAPCEP, the Detroit-Area Pre-College Engineering Program, which encourages minority students to pursue careers in science, math, engineering and technology. Vote NO on Proposal 2.

Just because the Republicans are mired in scandal and their horrible mismanagement of the country doesn't mean the Dems will have a free ride. Expect every manner of dirty trick that the GOP has used in past elections, and probably a few new ones.

On the other side, I am still convinced that The Democrats Are Punks. Even if they do win, what will they do after the election? Most people who don't vote say there is no difference between the two parties. I heard one elder ask about the DeVos/Granholm race, "Who do you vote for - the wolf or the fox?"

I believe voting is important because, if you're serious about it, and you treat the ballot like a precious commodity, you will pay attention to the issues and to the people who are running your city, state and country. The key then is to hold them accountable. So in that regard, voting should make a difference, but even more important is what we do after this election.

George Bush will still be in office on November 8. How much damage can he do in two years? Ask another question: how much damage has he done in any three month period of his regime? Beginning November 8, we have to continue the work of getting him out of office and making sure his successor - whoever that may be - reverses course and starts to turn this nation around.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just Doing Their Jobs While Their Leaders Are Not

When I was at Camp Democracy in Washington DC last month, I met a marine who had just reenlisted after being out of the Corp for six years. Several of the activists there were trying to talk him out of it. Why would he want to go back to that God-forsaken place to fight a war that he agreed was founded on lies and deceit?

He argued that all he could think about was his brothers over there giving their lives while he was safe at home. The activists told him to think of himself. Think of all the good he could do here to help bring them back.

But I told the marine that I could not fault him at all for wanting to go watch the backs of his buddies who were sent into a hostile region short-handed and without adequate supplies. Certainly no one could refute that those kids over there need the help.

Whether you believe they are following illegal, immoral and unjust orders or not, the men and women of our military are willing to make the supreme sacrifice. They put their lives on the line every day. Why? Because their job is to protect and defend their country. They aren't allowed to debate whether the cause is right or wrong. They do their jobs.

The Washington Post reports that Iraq casualties have soared to their highest level in two years with over 1000 soldiers wounded in the last five weeks.
More than 20,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in combat in the Iraq war, and about half have returned to duty. While much media reporting has focused on the more than 2,700 killed, military experts say the number of wounded is a more accurate gauge of the fierceness of fighting because advances in armor and medical care today allow many service members to survive who would have perished in past wars. The ratio of wounded to killed among U.S. forces in Iraq is about 8 to 1, compared with 3 to 1 in Vietnam.
Yet the war rages on with little or no support from the American people and little or no protest from the Congress of the United States.

For the past week the media has been focused on the electronic exploits of a would-be child molestor in the halls of Congress. They have ignored the men and women who are fighting for their lives in an unwinnable war that they should not be in in the first place.

The soldiers who are giving their lives or their limbs to the US war effort are doing their jobs, following orders. In a letter published recently in Time Magazine, a Marine in Iraq says the 18-20 hour days he works is "not really like Ground Hog Day, it's more like a level from Dante's Inferno."

The anonymous soldier describes the man he calls " Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province"
Any Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD Tech). How'd you like a job that required you to defuse bombs in a hole in the middle of the road that very likely are booby-trapped or connected by wire to a bad guy who's just waiting for you to get close to the bomb before he clicks the detonator? Every day. Sanitation workers in New York City get paid more than these guys. Talk about courage and commitment.
Courage and commitment indeed. There isn't as much courage in the entire Congress as one of those Marines has in his little toe.

It is becoming more apparent that Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert didn't do his job. One of the most basic animal instincts is to protect our young, to protect our children. When it was learned that Republican representative Mark Foley was harassing high school boys, Hastert chose to protect the adult who should have known better and the party that grants him power.

The Democrats on the Hill aren't doing their job. They aren't functioning as an opposition party. They function as a weak counter balance to the Republican rubber stamping of the neoconservative agenda. Several of them crossed the aisle to vote in favor of torture and the centuries old legal principle of habeas corpus.

None of these members of Congress is doing their job. The oath they swear is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, but they have allowed and approved several illegal and unconstitutional acts by the Bush/Cheney regime.

Why can't they just do the job? Is it really that hard?

We have another shining example of a soldier standing up for the Constitution and fighting against torture.

From The Seattle Times:
The Navy lawyer who took the Guantánamo case of Osama bin Laden's driver to the U.S. Supreme Court — and won — has been passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and must soon leave the military.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, said last week he received word he had been denied a promotion to full-blown commander this summer, "about two weeks after" the Supreme Court sided against the White House and with his client, a Yemeni captive at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Under the military's "up-or-out" promotion system, Swift will retire in March or April, closing a 20-year career of military service.

A Pentagon appointee, Swift embraced the alleged al-Qaida's sympathizer's defense with a classic defense lawyer's zeal, casting his captive client as an innocent victim in the dungeon of King George, a startling analogy for the attorney whose commander-in-chief is President (George) Bush.

"It was a pleasure to serve," said Swift, who added that he would defend Salim Hamdan again, even if he knew he would have to leave the Navy earlier than he wanted.

"All I ever wanted was to make a difference — and in that sense, I think my career and personal satisfaction has been beyond my dreams," he said.

This is the thanks our members of the military receive. All the calls to support our troops are going unheard by the government that leads them.

Swift was doing his job, defending a man whose life was at stake. He pleaded the man's case and won in the highest court of the land, and for that he is pushed out.

Well, it's time for us as citizens to do our jobs. It is time for us to remove these deadbeat Congressional dingbats from office. They are serving no one but themselves. It's time to replace them with someone who will be about the job of doing what the American people want. The lives of our troops depend on it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

It’s Time for the Democrats to Make Their Move

nature.comWith Republican leadership stumbling, bumbling and ducking for cover on issue after issue, it is difficult to conceive how the Democrats could blow the election on November 7.

Difficult, but unfortunately, not impossible.

In his “The Buck Stops Here” speech at Batavia, Illinois, GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert joined the chorus that has implied the Dems may have had a hand in the escalation of the Foley fiasco from Capitol Hill gossip to major congressional sex scandal. It is an election year, Mr. Speaker, and the political chess match is approaching the final gambit. We're sure Karl Rove has a few tricks up his sleeve as well.

This Foley foolishness obviously won’t play well with the GOP’s homophobic, sex-inhibited, radically religious right-wing base. Republican candidates in close races were already trying to distance themselves from the failures of George Bush. Now they have to find a way to look independent, isolated and insulated from the sins of party leadership.

Still it is most striking that while the Dems stand to gain much from the exposure of Republican wrongdoing, they have failed to highlight the real differences between them and their opponents across the aisle. Their strategy seems to be to let the Republicans hang themselves, and so far the Republicans are cooperating.

But now is the time for someone in the Democratic party to stand up and take the initiative. This latest sex scandal and its cover-up, the corruption of Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay and their ilk, the Plame-Wilson affair, the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the continued loss of American jobs when the stock market is booming… All of these problems emphasize that what the United States is lacking is strong, moral leadership.

And I don’t just mean moral as in no hanky-panky with your teenage page. I’m talking about the kind of leadership that can stand up to the GOP bullies in Congress and the thugs in the White House. The kind of leadership that speaks out when a US Court of Appeals says it is okay for the NSA to continue spying on American citizens after a District judge ruled this as unconstitutional.

But where are the Democrats? If they are like Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, they are standing side by side with the Republicans voting “Yes” when they legitimize torture. If they are like House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, they will gladly play hardball with Hastert during a sex scandal, but will refuse to pursue the two paths that would set them apart from the GOP and give them Congress on a silver platter - ending the war in Iraq and impeaching Bush and Cheney.

It’s time for someone…ANYONE in the Democratic Party to stand up and offer more than an alternative to Republican corruption and hegemony. The American people deserve more than, “at least we’re better than the other guys.”

Why? Because Anybody-But-The-Other-Guy may help bring voters to the polls during a presidential election, but it won’t work in the midterm. This election is too important to let slip away because the Democrats are reacting to GOP weakness instead of presenting themselves as the right women and men for the job.

With the Republican Party in power, there is much to vote AGAINST, but now it’s time for the Democrats to offer something that Americans should vote FOR. Otherwise, they will once again fail to mobilize their own base, and they will lose an election that, thanks to GOP errors, should be in the bag.