Thursday, April 30, 2009
The University of Texas has honored the great Barbara Jordan with a statue on campus, and no one deserves it more. Texas owes this legendary congresswoman a huge debt of gratitude for her exemplary and honorable service.
The picture is from the site of my blogging compadre and fellow Cowboys fan at Bordertown Blues.
Four states have made it legal for persons of the same sex to marry -- Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Now it looks like there may soon be a fifth state to legalize gay marriages. On Wednesday, the New Hampshire senate approved a bill that would legalize same-sex marriages by a vote of 13 to 11. The state's House of Representatives had already approved the bill last March 26th.
The bill must now go to a Senate-House conference committee, because the Senate added an amendment to the House version. The amendment gave clergy the right to refuse to officiate at same-sex ceremonies, and allowed couple to keep the words "bride" and "groom" on marriage licenses or simply use the word "spouse". It is expected that the House would accept the amendment.
That leaves it all up to the governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch. The governor has said in the past that he would prefer to leave marriage to heterosexuals only, but it is not known whether he will veto the bill or not. A recently released state poll showed that 55% of the state's residents approve of same-sex marriage, while only 39% oppose it, so the governor might bend to the will of the people.
It has been obvious for a while now that same-sex marriages would some day be approved in this country. Each year the polls show more people in favor of it. Currently, slightly less than 50% of the people in America approve of it. When you add those in favor of civil unions, the number jumps up to about 69%.
The fact is that a person either believes in equality of rights for all citizens or not. If you believe in equal rights, then you cannot exclude any group of people from participating in those rights.
Some religious fundamentalists claim that allowing homosexuals to marry would somehow harm the institution of marriage. But when asked, they have never been able to explain exactly how that would harm marriage in general or any marriage in specific.
That same argument was used 50 years ago to deny interracial marriages. The argument wasn't true then, and it's not true now. A couple of other people getting married, regardless of their sex, will do nothing to harm anyone else's marriage or the institution of marriage.
I applaud the legislators of New Hampshire. I hope their governor has the courage to do the right thing and sign the bill.
After all the discrimination suffered by the Jewish people through centuries of world history, I would have thought Israelis would be more sensitive to the feelings of another culture. I would have thought they would think twice before stigmatizing the residents of another country -- especially a country that never did them any harm. But maybe I was wrong. Consider the following story from the Associated Press:
"The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed "Mexican" influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, said an Israeli health official Monday.
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.
Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.
Scientists are unsure where the new swine flu virus originally emerged, though it was identifed first in the United States. They say there is nothing about the virus that makes it 'Mexican' and worry such a label would be stigmatizing."
That is an incredibly stupid statement by a supposedly educated government official. Is he really saying the simple use of the word "swine" offends all Jews and Muslims? And when did he start caring what offends Muslims?
No one is asking anyone to eat pork. The word "swine" is used only to signify the origin of this particular strain of the flu virus. Is he also offended by the terms "pig latin", "pork barrel spending" or "piggyback rides"? Would he run screaming into the night at the sight of a Piggly-Wiggly grocery store?
I have an idea. If Litzman and other Israelis are offended by the words "swine flu", why don't we call it "Israeli flu", or even better, why not "Litzman flu"? After all, we wouldn't want such a sensitive person to be offended!
Frankly, I'm offended by his suggestion.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
There are accommodations made to public school rules for religious purposes, and I have no problem with that. If it is a requirement for all adherents of the religion, then there should be a way for the rules to allow it. But I have to wonder in the following story, if this mother is not just using the Bible as a weapon to get what she wants.
Dyker Neyland sends her daughter to school at Thomas Haley Elementary School in Irving, Texas. The school has a dress code and requires students to wear uniforms. Part of the dress code is that uniform shirts must be tucked in. But Ms. Neyland opposes the "tucked in" rule, saying, "I don't want her behind showing. I don't want her body being exposed."
Neyland said the rule violated her rights as a christian. To prove her point, she quoted from 1Timothy 2:9, which dictates that "women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing."
What makes me wonder just how serious she is about her religion is the second part of the verse -- "not with braided hair...". As you can see in the picture above, both Neyland and her daughter seem to have no problem with the biblical exhortation to avoid braiding their hair.
Are they members of some cafeteria-style religion, where they can pick and choose what parts of the Bible they will believe. Where they can accept some parts and ignore others? Or is this just a case where a woman used the Bible as a weapon to back up her daughter who didn't want to tuck in her shirt?
The school board granted the woman's request and the daughter is now immune to the "tuck it in" rule. But how long will it be before some other rule violates this woman's rather spotty interpretation of the Bible?
In the statement released by Senator Specter yesterday, he said, "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
This doesn't mean that Specter is all of a sudden a left-wing progressive -- he's not. He's the same moderate politician that he always was, and I'm sure there will be times when he will vote against what Democrats want. But I do believe him when he says he's more in line with Democrats than Republicans. The Democratic Party has a mix of progressives and moderates, and both are made to feel they have a place in the party.
That is not true of the Republican Party. It has been taken over by ultra-right-wingers and they are making it clear there is no place in the party for moderate voices. Sen. Specter made the mistake of voting his conscience instead of the party line on the president's stimulus plan. Since that time, he has received nothing but abuse from the Republican Party. They even promised to back an opponent in the primary when he ran for re-election.
That's why it's a bit disingenuous of all the Republicans who are expressing shock that Specter is leaving the party. Did they really think he would abandon his conscience and his principles and fall in line with their ultra-right insanity? Well, they were wrong if that's what they thought. Maybe their own lack of principles and conscience leaves them unable to understand those who do possess them.
They basically ran the senator out of the party. Now they are lashing out at him like he betrayed them. Michael Steele says they are coming after him in the next election, but I find it hard to believe he really believes that. The Republican Party lost 200,000 moderates in the last election (they are now registered Democrats). There is no way a right-wing Republican can win Pennsylvania in the next election.
But this may not be the last moderate they run out of the party. Limbaugh basically said good riddance to the senator yesterday, and then told him to take John McCain with him. He and other right-wingers have also been heaping abuse on Senators Snowe and Collins from Maine.
Republican Party leaders and right-wing pundits seem determined to purge the party of all moderates. Whether more elected officials leave or not, they have been very effective in driving out rank-and-file members. A few years ago, over 36% of voters identified themselves as Republicans. In a recent poll, that has now dropped to under 28%.
Ten years ago, Republicans were riding high and the party seemed invincible. Since then, their self-destruction has been nothing short of amazing -- and it continues.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
So far, there's still only two candidates who have expressed a serious interest in running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas in the 2010 election -- Tom Schieffer and Kinky Friedman. There are some Kinky-hating bloggers who are praying for another candidate, but I think they're probably out of luck this time. There is simply no one with the name-recognition and fundraising capability to take on Schieffer and Friedman.
That leaves the Texas Democratic voters with a choice between a Republican in Democratic clothing and a Cowboy author/comedian/singer. I find it hard to believe any Democrat could bring themselves to vote for Tom Schieffer.
Schieffer is both a friend of and supporter of George W. Bush. He supported him when he ran for Texas governor, and he supported him for president in both 2000 and 2004. How can anyone with a record like that even call himself a Democrat, let alone run for governor in the Democratic primary? Frankly, he smells like the Texas version of Joe Lieberman -- who calls himself a Democrat but won't support Democratic ideals and causes.
If you like the way the Republicans have run Texas, then Schieffer is your candidate. Schieffer would run Texas just like Bush and Perry have -- putting corporate interests ahead of what is good for ordinary citizens. How could anyone who idolizes Bush do otherwise?
Schieffer has said he wants to run on a platform of improving education. But it would not surprise me at all if he didn't plant his knife firmly in the back of public school education by supporting vouchers. After all, that is what Bush and his Republican buddies want to do.
On the other hand, Kinky supports public schools and wants to make them better, so all students in Texas can receive a great education instead of just the chosen few. Kinky is really the only candidate that represents a real change from the way things have been done in Texas since the Republicans took over.
Does Kinky toe the Democratic Party line? No. He hasn't drunk the blue kool-aid (or the red kool-aid either for that matter). Kinky is an independent thinker, and that's why I think he can draw votes from a cross-section of different ideologies. He's not a progressive or a conservative or a libertarian, but he does have some aspects of all three. That's why he could draw votes from all sides in the general election if he gets that far.
Progressives are going to like his stands on better public education, adequate health care for all and abolishing the death penalty. Libertarians will like his stands on individual rights, the constitutional right to own firearms and decriminalization of marijuana. Conservatives will like his stand on keeping taxes low and providing for a healthy business climate in Texas.
Among all the candidates for governor from either party, Kinky is the only candidate who represents a real change from the ruling corporatocracy. It's time to shake up Austin and put someone in the governor's mansion who will put ordinary Texans first. Kinky Friedman is that candidate.
In a couple of days, I will be dropping a second donation in the mail for Kinky's campaign. This is a big state and no candidate can be successful without an adequate campaign fund. I urge you to do the same. It doesn't have to be a large donation -- every $10 or $20 helps. Send what you can to Texans for Kinky, and help shake Texas up!
Monday, April 27, 2009
The NFL draft is now over, and the second day gave us twelve new Cowboys. The twelve were all chosen in the third thru seventh rounds. Was it a good draft? We won't know that for a while. It is highly unlikely that all twelve will make it on to the Cowboys squad, but with that many choices, it could be considered a good draft if only five or six actually make the team and are able to contribute in the coming year.
Perhaps the most surprising draft choice was a kicker, especially since the Cowboys already have a proven field-goal kicker. However, the new kicker may have been drafted as a kick-off specialist. He's supposed to have a very strong leg, and in college over a third of his kick-offs were not returned. Over half were stopped inside the twenty.
The Cowboys also drafted a quarterback -- Stephen McGee from the Aggies. He is considered a project and should be the third-string quarterback if he makes the team. With the other drafts, the Cowboys filled some needs for good back-ups at several positions, including safety, cornerback, linebacker and wide receiver.
Here are the draft choices by round:
Jason Williams (Western Illinois), Inside Linebacker, 6' 1", 241 lbs
Robert Brewster (Ball State), Offensive Lineman, 6' 4", 325 lbs
Stephen McGee (Texas A-M), Quarterback, 6' 3", 225 lbs
Victor Butler (Oregon State), Outside Linebacker, 6' 2", 248 lbs
Brandon Williams (Texas Tech), Outside Linebacker, 6' 5", 252 lbs
Deangelo Smith (Cincinnati), Cornerback, 5' 11", 194 lbs
Michael Hamlin (Clemson), Safety, 6' 2", 214 lbs
David Beuhler (Southern Cal), Kicker, 6' 2", 227 lbs
Stephen Hodge (TCU), Safety, 6' 0", 234 lbs
John Phillips (Virginia), Tight End, 6' 5", 251 lbs
Mike Mickens (Cincinnati), Cornerback, 6' 0", 186 lbs
Manuel Johnson (Oklahoma), Wide Receiver, 5' 11", 189 lbs
Now we wait to see if these are real Cowboys, or just draft-day Cowboys.
This is a perfect example of the difference between the Obama administration and the Bush administration. The Bush administration viewed the world in a very simplistic and unrealistic way. The world was divided into good and evil. There was no in-between. The good were composed of those people and countries who approved of the United States and agreed with our policies. Everything else was evil.
The Obama administration has a much more complicated view of the world. President Obama understands that just because a country acts in its own best interests rather than how the U.S. wanted, it does not necessarily mean that country is an enemy. Obama has decided to reach out to these countries on their own terms.
Last Friday, at the 35th International Book Fair in Buenos Aires, the United States sponsored and funded a forum on the revolutionary Che Guevara (who was from Argentina). Guevara was Fidel Castro's trusted right-hand in the Cuban Revolution, who dedicated his life to fighting for the poor and oppressed people of the Americas.
The forum featured two readings and a discussion about a new book on the iconic power of Che Guevara. It was attended by dozens of people, including local elementary school students.
The current administration is smart enough to realize that while many in the United States don't like Che Guevara, he is considered to be a hero in most of Latin America. The forum was a creative way to reach out to the Argentines (and other Latin Americans) and try to repair the bad feelings the Bush administration had created there.
This forum certainly won't hurt our efforts to bridge the political gap with Cuba either
Sunday, April 26, 2009
On Monday, a very important bill will get a hearing before the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee -- at least it's important if you are a blogger who writes about politics and items of public concern. That's because the bill (HB4237 by Rep. Aaron Pena) would give bloggers and citizen journalists the same protection against being sued for libel that mainstream media has.
Here's how Vince of Capitol Annex describes the bill:
"This bill gives bloggers and citizen journalists the same protections that the mainstream media has when it comes to covering matters of “public concern,” such as legislative proceedings, school board meetings, and the actions of state officials.
Under current law, commonly known as the “Privileged Matters Clause” of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code (Sec. 73.002), coverage by the mainstream media of matters of “public concern” such as those listed above cannot be used as grounds for a libel action.
Texas bloggers and citizen journalists, however, do not have similar protections. In theory, if a politician or officeholder wanted to cause a blog a great deal of problems, he or she could file a libel or slander lawsuit over writings discussing a matter of 'public concern.' It would then be up to the court system–after, no doubt, significant expense for the blogger or citizen journalist–to determine whether or not the 'Privileged Matters Clause' applies to bloggers.
Texas bloggers have been fortunate in that no one has been forced to be a test case for this yet. Rep. Pena’s bill ensures that no Texas blogger or citizen journalist ever will. It gives us the same protections as the mainstream media in this regard."This is a good bill and needs our support. It would only give bloggers the same protections that is afforded other media. It still would not allow bloggers to intentionally defame or lie about matters they cover, and would not let them target non-public individuals to harm them (just as major media cannot do).
This is a bill that should have bi-partisan support, as it would protect both progressive and conservative bloggers. Contact your state representative and let him/her know this is a bill that should be passed.
Every day, more and more people are getting much of their political and community interest news from internet bloggers. This bill can assure the people get the full story from bloggers who are not afraid to tell the truth.
Most flu strains are most dangerous to the elderly and to children, but this strain is different. It seems to be targeting young adults (like the 1918 Spanish flu which also targeted young adults and wound up killing millions worldwide).
The Mexican officials are taking the outbreak very seriously. According to the BBC,
"Schools, museums and libraries have been closed across the capital region and people are being urged to avoid shaking hands or sharing crockery.
All public events have been suspended, an official said. Two previously sold-out soccer matches were played in empty stadiums to avoid potentially spreading the virus.
The Roman Catholic Church in Mexico has recommended measures to avoid further contagion at Mass this Sunday.
Priests have been told to place communion wafers in the hands of worshippers rather than in their mouths and to suggest to the congregation that kissing or shaking hands be avoided during the service."
The new flu strain has already jumped the border. Two cases have been discovered in Texas and six in California. The World Health Organization says it doesn't know the full risk of the new flu strain, but says it has the potential to become a worldwide pandemic.Anne Schuchat of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, "With infections in many different communities as we're seeing, we don't think that containment is feasible. We are not at a point where we can keep this virus in one place... Now that we are looking more widely, I really expect us to find more."
Normally we consider the flu season to be in the Fall and early Winter, but this new swine flu doesn't seem to care about the rules. We'd better keep our eye on this one.
Duke was invited to the Czech Republic by an ultra-right group. He was planning to give some lectures and promote his book, but it looks like the government of the Czech Republic has other ideas. They are kicking him out of their country.
On Friday, the American racist was arrested and questioned by Czech police. They accused him of Holocaust denial, which is a crime in the Czech Republic. Although no charges were filed, he was given until Saturday at midnight to leave the country. The Czech prime minister-designate said the opinions expressed in Duke's book were "simply unacceptable, incomprehensible".
Duke can get away with his hate speech in America, because we cherish our free speech right -- even if that speech is hate speech. But it looks like Duke just learned that not every country will put up with his crap.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Cowboys did have a second round pick -- the 51st overall pick of the draft, but they traded it away for the 75th and 110th picks. Those are a third and a fourth round pick. It looks like the Cowboys have decided to draft quantity this year. They have a total of 12 picks on the second day of the draft.
I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Once you get out of the first round and the first few picks of the second round, there are no guarantees of just how good a player is. It doesn't mean you can't find a really good player in the lower rounds (the Cowboys have found several). It's just more of a crap shoot, as a lot of lower round players don't make it in the league.
Lower round players are also cheaper. That's important, because the Cowboys already have a lot of high dollar players on the roster and they are still trying to come to terms on a new contract with Demarcus Ware (possibly the best defensive player in the league). You know the Ware contract is going to be obscenely large.
But the second day of the draft should be exciting with the Cowboys having 12 picks. The Cowboy starters are set, so what they're looking for is mainly back-ups and special teams players. They will be looking for diamonds in the rough -- that can be developed into first-line players. It will be a successful draft if they find just 4 to 6 players that can make the team, and with 12 picks that might be possible.
Here are the Cowboy picks:
3rd round -- 5th and 11th picks
4th round -- 1st, 10th and 17th picks
5th round -- 20th, 30th and 36th picks
6th round -- 24th and 35th picks
7th round -- 1st and 18th picks
Friday, April 24, 2009
Since President Obama took office, the Republicans have done everything they can to obstruct everything he's tried to accomplish. They've tried to label him as both a socialist and a fascist (even though these are on opposite ends of the politic.al spectrum). They've called him a muslim and a friend of terrorists, and tried to convince us he's putting America in danger. They've accused him of trying to tax Americans to death (even though for 95% of Americans he's instituted a lower tax than any Republican president since World War II -- including St. Ronnie).
Their latest pathetic attempt to smear the President was the "tea parties" organized by rich Republicans and promoted by their PR machine (Fox News). They tried to pass this off as a grassroots uprising against the president and his policies, but the poor turnout and spouting of right-wing slogans showed it was just another part of the Republican mud-slinging machine.
So -- is it working? Are they beginning to drag President Obama down to their level? Not even a little bit. Three separate polls were conducted recently to guage just how much the American people approve of the job our president is doing. All three polls show President Obama has a very high job approval rating. Here they are:
Pew Research Center...........63%
Associated Press / Roper...........64%
Those are huge numbers, especially considering the mud-slinging campaign that has been waged against him (and the fact the last Republican president couldn't break 30%). And this is not just a general approval. A solid majority approve of the President's handling of both foreign policy issues and domestic issues (including the economy). The people support President Obama and are willing to give him a chance to get things done.
But there is someone even more popular than President Obama. Michelle Obama currently has an approval rating of 76% (up from 68% in January). Surprisingly, 67% of Republican women approve of the First Lady (up 21 points since January).
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft and Antonio Gonzales all were aware of the torture and signed off on its use. And while there is no "smoking gun" that ties George Bush to the torture (yet), I find it almost impossible to believe he would be unaware of the actions of these four people.
The document also seems to clear a couple of White House officials. It looks like Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were not in the loop when it came to knowledge and approval of the torture. Further documents may change this, but right now it looks like these two are innocent of approving the use of torture.
It is time for President Obama to appoint a Special Prosecutor. This little torture cabal thought they could break the law and get away with it because of who they were and the high positions they held in the Bush administration. They must be shown they are not above the law.
Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman proves once again that his loyalty still lies with the Bush administration, and not with the Democratic Party. He has joined with Republican apologists Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain in defending the Justice Department lawyers who gave the Bush administration its legal justification to torture.
The senators admitted the legal opinions produced were "deeply flawed", but said charging the attorneys "would have a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client — the U.S. government — with their best legal advice."
The reasoning of the three senators is also deeply flawed. These attorneys were not giving "their best legal advice". They were twisting the law to allow the Bush administration to commit what were obviously criminal acts. They should be prosecuted, along with Cheney, Rice, Ashcroft and Gonzales.
This should not be done for retribution (although they deserve any punishment they might receive), but in order to show future administrations that no one is above the law and these kinds of criminal acts will not be tolerated.
The sample above is what the new Texas driver's license looks like. The Texas Department of Safety started issuing the new licenses last week to those getting or renewing a license, or replacing a lost license.
The new license contains a variety of new safety measures to prevent fraud and false IDs. A spokesman for the DPS said, "It's the latest technology. There are some pretty sophisticated measures that are going to help prevent fraud and help law enforcement identify authentic licenses."
Don't rush down to the DPS office to get a new license though. If your current license has not expired, it will remain good until the expiration date. It will not need to be replaced until then.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The corporations and their right-wing friends are still denying that we are in the midst of a significant global climactic change (sometimes characterized as global warming). But as they deny it, we keep getting more and more bad news about how it is affecting the earth. The latest news concerns the world's rivers.
A new study has appeared in the Journal of Climate, published by the American Meteorological Society. Researchers have been studying 900 rivers over the last 50 years, and they have found that almost all of the world's rivers are drying up. There is less water flowing in the rivers, and they are emptying less water into the world's oceans.
The only rivers that are not showing significantly less flow are the Brahmaputra in South Asia and theYangtze in China. Scientists believe this is because they are being fed by the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, and once the glaciers are gone they will show significantly less flow also.
In the past, most of the discussion of global climactic change was centered on what it was doing to the poles and to the oceans, but this drying up of the world's rivers is even more frightening. Many millions of people depend on these rivers for everything from drinking water to agriculture.
Some of the reduced flow is due to agriculture and the building of dams, but the scientists are convinced that now the global climactic change is significantly affecting the amount of water these rivers have. This is because the global climactic change has affected the world's rainfall patterns, and therefore, nature is feeding less water into the rivers.
How bad is it going to have to get before the world takes action to save its human population? The earth will be fine. The question is will its human population be able to survive.
But now there is no longer any doubt that torture was approved and ordered by the highest levels of government. Instead of a few apples being bad, we now know the whole tree was rotten from top to bottom. We know this because of top level secret memos by Bush administration officials that were released in the last few days.
Now if this was any other country, our government would be the first to demand the torturers be prosecuted -- both those who carried it out and those who ordered it to happen. We made that clear in the trials of the Germans and Japanese after World War II. We also made it clear that the excuse of "I was just following orders" was not a justifiable defense.
But it looks like that breaking of law only applies to other countries, and not to our own country. The Obama administration has been loathe to prosecute anyone involved in the torture. Attorney General Eric Holder has told us that intelligence officials "who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel seemed to take that even further by saying "those who devised policy" also should not be prosecuted. He said, "It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back." But it looks like he may have spoken too soon.
Yesterday, President Obama said that while he's " not suggesting that it should be done", he is leaving open the question of whether those who ordered the torture should be prosecuted or not. He said it would be up to Attorney General Holder to decide whether to prosecute anyone or not.
Frankly, this is disappointing. It looks like Obama is tossing this hot political football to an underling, because he doesn't want to take the heat for making a decision on this matter. Holder will have to take all the flak for whatever decision he makes.
I really don't see how this can not be prosecuted. It is very clear that both American and international law has been broken. It is a choice between morality and politics -- and in that kind of choice, morality should always win. All of the torturers should be prosecuted -- from those who ordered the torture to those who carried it out.
But I guess I should be grateful that at least the Obama administration is leaving open the possibility that those who ordered the torture can be prosecuted. If I had to choose between those who ordered it and those who carried it out being prosecuted, I would have to choose to prosecute the higher-ups who ordered it, because prosecuting that group would be the most likely to prevent it happening in the future.
It is still unlikely that anyone will ever be prosecuted for the torture, and that is a sad comment on our country. What has happened to our belief in justice? Does the law no longer apply equally to everyone?
(NOTE -- Picture above is from Seeds of Doubt.)
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
During the Summit of the Americas, President Obama smiled and shook hands with Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, just as he did with the leaders of the other Latin American and Caribbean nations. But for some reason, they would like for us to think that there's something wrong with smiling and shaking the hand of President Chavez. Listen to some of their comments.
Newt Gingrich -- "Everywhere in Latin America, enemies of America are going to use the picture of Chavez smiling and being with the president as proof that Chavez is now legitimate, that he is acceptable."
Senator Ensign -- "This is a person who is one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world. He is a brutal dictator, and human rights violations are very, very prevalent in Venezuela. And you have to be careful." He went on to say it was "irresponsible" for Obama to be "laughing and joking" with Chavez.
David Gergen -- "I think most political advisers would tell the president, you know, it's fine to shake hands, hold the smiles."
Gingrich's statement is ludicrous on its face. Has he not been paying attention to what has been happening in Latin America in the last few years? Except possibly for Columbia's Uribe, Hugo Chavez is already both legitimate and acceptable to the other leaders south of our own border. No matter how much Gingrich and Ensign would like for us to believe Chavez is illegitate and a dictator, the people of Latin America and their leaders know better.
Hugo Chavez is the DULY ELECTED president of Venezuela. In fact, he has been elected twice by large majorities (which is more than can be said about the last Republican president of the U.S.). And I have to wonder if Chavez is guilty of any worse human rights violations than George Bush (who is a torturer and war criminal who spied on his own citizens). I doubt it.
Gergen is the most disappointing though, since he is generally regarded as a moderate Republican. Is he really faulting the president because he smiled when he shook Chavez's hand? How ridiculous!
In this hemisphere (and generally around the world), it is considered a serious breach of etiquette and good manners not to smile and shake a person's hand when you meet them. I guess they want President Obama (and by proxy all Americans) to be considered rude by the people of Latin America (probably because their small-minded hero, George Bush, would have acted rudely).
Haven't we had enough of being the "Ugly Americans"? Isn't it time for us to start making friends instead of enemies? Shouldn't we stop trying to force our views on other countries and start working together for the mutual benefit of everyone?
You cannot solve differences with others by acting rudely and being disrespectful. A smile and a handshake won't solve all our differences with Venezuela (or Cuba), but it is where the solution must start. When you treat someone with a little respect, he/she is much more likely to listen and negotiate in good faith.
The Republicans have acted so poorly to so many for so long, that they can no longer recognize good manners and the beginning of diplomacy when they see it. They should be ashamed.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Within days, the book by Chomsky became the number one bestseller at Amazon.com, and bookstores in the U.S. and Europe sold out and ordered tens of thousands of copies from the publisher. Now it looks like it is happening again.
During the Summit of the Americas, Hugo Chavez gave President Obama a book. It was Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. The book is about the impact of foreign intervention in Latin America, from the Spanish conquest 500 years ago to modern times.
President Chavez told reporters, "This book is a monument in our Latin American history. It allows us to learn history, and we have to build on this history."
Two days ago, Amazon.com had the book rated at 54,295 in sales. By Sunday night, the book had jumped all the way up to number two in sales at Amazon.com.
It looks like the Venezuelan leader has the golden touch when it comes to selling books.
The case comes from Arizona, where a 13 year-old middle school honor student was suspected of possessing some prescription strength Ibuprofen pills (the equivalent of about two Advils). The girl was brought to the school office and her backpack was searched. When nothing was found there, the principal ordered the girl to accompany a secretary to the nurse's office. Once there, she was strip searched by the nurse and secretary. Once again nothing was found.
But the child's mother was incensed at the search, which she felt was improper. She filed suit against the school. A federal magistrate and a federal appeals panel both dismissed the suit and said the school had done nothing wrong. But last summer, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found differently. They found the search to be an "invasion of constitutional rights". The school district appealed and the case will now be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
I'm afraid I have to side with the mother in this case. Just what was the compelling justification for a full strip search? It's not like the 13 year-old was accused of dealing a dangerous drug like heroin to her peers. She was an honor student who had never been in trouble before.
But even if she had been a trouble-maker who was suspected of possessing a far more dangerous and illegal drug (or weapon), I still think the school probably went too far. Could this not have been handled by a search of her locker, her backpack, and a pat-down and pocket search of her person? Was a strip search really required?
Early teen individuals are just beginning to establish their individuality and self-confidence, and most are unsure-of and embarrassed by their developing bodies. Forcing them to strip in front of school officials (even same-sex officials) is a very serious matter and could do psychological harm to the child. I'm not sure I could even approve of a high school student being strip searched by school officials, let alone a middle school student.
This school went too far, and I doubt it is the only one doing it. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will make that clear, and set limits on this kind of action by school officials.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The party that once believed in limited government and constitutional rights is now preaching a theistic tyranny willing to replace the Constitution with the Bible and science with religion. The party that believed in balanced budgets took a government surplus and turned it into the biggest debt of any administration ever. The party that once believed in individualism found itself sacrificing the individual on the altar of corporate greed. The party that once believed in non-intervention found itself starting foreign wars to force our way of life on others.
With no new ideas, the party turned to hate speech to try and save itself. Instead of conservative thinkers and philosophers, the party turned to the Limbaughs, Coulters, O'Reillys and Hannitys of the world to push their cause. In the last election, the people firmly rejected this replacement of ideas with hate. It looked like we might be witnessing the demise of the Republican Party.
But there has emerged a lone voice crying out in the Republican wilderness -- a voice calling for reason and change. That voice belongs to Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain. Her father may have sold out to the right-wing, but she has not. She has stepped forward to fight the Limbaughs and Coulters of the party.
Listen to what she told the Log Cabin Republicans yesterday, "I feel too many Republicans want to cling to past successes. There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being 'more' conservative. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become. They just want to wait for the other side to be perceived as worse than us. I think we're seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party. But it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past."
She went on to say, "Simply embracing technology isn't going to fix our problem. Republicans using Twitter and Facebook isn't going to miraculously make people think we're cool again. Breaking free from obsolete positions and providing real solutions that don't divide our nation further will. That's why some in our party are scared. They sense the world around them is changing and they are unable to take the risk to jump free of what's keeping our party down."
Will the party listen to her and begin to change? That is the question right now. I doubt it though. The ultra-right theists and corporatists seem to have a death-grip on the party right now. That will have to change, or the party is doomed to a minority status for a long time.