Thursday, December 28, 2006

Poignant Last words

The 38th President died yesterday, and now he is being remembered. President Ford, the only US president never elected to national office. He is remembered as the one who pardoned Nixon to help the country get on passed Watergate. He is being remembered as a man of integrity. Unfortunately, he might have been seen that way during his time in the White House, but he did not take advantage of his stature of former President; he had withheld an interview made in 2004 until after his death. In this interview, he criticizes the invasion and war in Iraq. This is poignant because Rumsfeld and Cheney both served as his chief of staff during his presidency.

Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying
going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass
destruction And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but
I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were
going to do.

He continued by criticizing the concept that the US should spread democracy by engaging in war:

Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people...[I am
unsure]whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's
in our national interest...And I just don't think we should go hellfire
damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to
our own national security.

Integrity and Courage? In the best interests of of country? [I beleive we should have a Council of Presidents, the former presidents can advise the current one--they would have nothing at stake but the best interest of the country regardless of their political party.]


"I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking.''
Saddam Hussien wrote this in a letter written Nov. 5,2006 after he was sentenced to death (translated from the Arabic, AP 12/28/06). He has had time to reflect on his past actions. He is writing to help form his legacy as a martyr. Whatever, these words are striking in their simplicity and poignancy.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of Religion, the first amendment right that allows us to practice, or not practice, any religion of our choice, and also prohibits our government from establishing any religion, or religious test is in the news.

In a private ceremony a Congressperson (Keith Ellison, D-Minn) wants to be sworn into office using the religious tome of his faith--the Qur'an --in a second private ceremony. And this has caused a bru ha ha . Actually no Congressperson is sworn in on any religious tome--they all stand en masse and raise their right hands and are sworn in. Besides , if the oath was administered upon a Bible, as those opposed to Ellison are stating, this would violate the Constitution. The Constitution states “The Senators and Representatives... [and other State and Fedral Officials]... shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit which challenges the White House office of faith-based initiatives. Initially a federal judge tossed the lawsuit out saying the FFRF did not have standing. This was appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals which held that tax money raised by Congress, which then goes to executive officials, cannot be used to support religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Bush Administration appealed this decesion to the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court decides for the FFRF it means that they can continue with their lawsuit, if they find against the FFRF it means that citizens do not have standing to challenge the executive branch's actions.
The issue here goes beyond the anti-establishment clause and speaks to the issue of the president using Congressional approriations however he (or in the future:she) may deem fit. This would fortify an imperial president. For, if Congressional appropriations can be used by the Administration in disregard of the Constitution and in this case the Establishment Clause, then Congress and the American public should be aware that no citizen would have standing or the right to challenge such violations, since executive-branch violations are not subject to court review.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Define Justice

I have been following the case of Roy Brown convicted in 1992 for the 1991 murder of Sabina Kulakowski (Cayuga County, NY). He was convicted --found guilty by a jury--and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
The question comes as new (DNA) evidence that Brown has uncovered that might lead to another man who might be her murderer. But that man committed suicide a few days after her received a letter from Brown... his daughter povided a sample that was used to match DNA. But there is no evidence that that man's daughter is really his daughter, so now his body is going to be exhumed.
The judge is letting the verdict stand. The DA in the case has already said "The issue before this court is not whether Roy Brown is guilty; a jury determined that in 1992. The issue is whether this DNA evidence proved that someone other than Mr.Brown is guilty..." James B. Vargason, Cayuga County District Attorney (12.12.06)

I am working on next semester's syllabus for the political theory class. At the beginning of the semester the question of the day will be to define "justice." The class will do an exercise "Just, UnJust" in which in small they will separate out actions/scenarios depicted on index cards into piles--just, unjust, not applicable--, and then try and come up with a group definition. They will then go to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) to find the definition. They will have to interview 3 people "on the street" to see how they define the word. The students will then write an analysis.

According to the DA Brown is guilty--by the rules of the court. Is that justice?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Exit Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld did a victory lap around the globe: Baghdad, Mosul and back to Washington to be feted this week. Unfortunately, he had no right to such a lap or celebratory party--his reign as Secretary of Defense has been abysmal at best. How could he have looked the troops in the face--the ones he sent into battle without proper armament, weaponry or force, not to mention without a battle plan and exit strategy?
How could Cheney call him "the finest secretary of defense that this nation ever had"?
This administration must be believers in positive speech and the gullibility of the media and historians. Remember the "Mission Accomplished" speech on the USS Lincoln just a few miles off the coast of California????
Let Rumsfeld's, and this administration's record speak truth to power, not their verbiage.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Knowledge is Power

If knowledge is power, no wonder we are in a powerless position:
It appears that the leaders & members (past, present and future) of our House Intelligence committee can not tell a Sunni from a Shi'ite. But then, neither does the President or his advisors or other high ranking personnel. No wonder we are in such a predicament in Iraq, in the Middle East as a whole. Our leaders are ingnorant of the most basic information necessary to deal with the situation. Not knowing that Al Qaeda is Sunni and Hezbollah is Shi'a puts the US at a very great disadvantage. to say the least.
And, this president has proved that he surrounds himself with "yes people" and does not take advise (witness his refusal to take any of the recommendations from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report issued last week). That He relies on Condi Rice, a Soviet expert, when the global issues are centered on the MidEast, also puts into question his judgement. That Condi Rice does not have a handle on Afghanistan, when many scholars link the Soviet-Afghani ten year war as a prime reason for the fall of sovietism is also telling.

As I tell my students you need to have facts to support your opinions, otherwise opinions are no more than hot air, and it will be hard to convince (or persuade) people unless you are relying on blind faith.

If knowledge is power, we are being led by morons, albeit religious ones!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Willfully Ignorant

The House Ethics Committee charged with investigating former Representative Foley's unethical relationship with underage House Pages, and if his colleagues and the House leadership who knew about said behavior had acted appropriately has returned their report.
That Foley's misconduct was known since 1999 to increasingly more and more representatives, staff members--including the Speaker of the House, Mr. Hassart. Yet, even though most people would consider Foley's actions inappropriate behavior--sexual harassment--this behavior remained closeted. Those who knew took no real action to curb this behavior.
The report while calling the members "willfully ignorant" do no find them in violation of the House Ethics rules. How high is the ethics bar set--that a member of congress can stalk someone underage, and engage in sexual banter, regardless of his/her sexuality is an abuse of their position; that other adults in power took little to no action to stop this behavior, to protect the powerless is unconscionable (and mind you, teens can be sexual creatures, but in this case the teen was NOT seeking this type of attention). This is sexual harassment...the congressperson should not be using their power to exploitative ends.
Once again, those in power are protecting their own, they are not be held to the standards of conduct that we, the public, are held to. [note: that while Congress passes labor laws for instance, they are not held to them themselves.]
It is time to hold all elected officials to the ethical and legal standards that we all recognize.

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