Wednesday, June 08, 2005

America! Seeing things as they could be and asking "Why not?"

Today I was very discouraged when I read not one but three different stories about how our government was failing us in acting for our future and for the betterment of the world we live in.

I was disappointed when I read:
In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In most cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.

The dozens of changes, while sometimes as subtle as the insertion of the phrase "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties," tend to produce an air of doubt about findings that most climate experts say are robust.

Photo of sea ice breaking up in the Antarctic summer

Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.
I love America. What is happening to our country when oil lobbyists rewrite reports to cover for the polluters?

I was concerned when I also read:
The surprise development came in closing statements in the government's racketeering case against the tobacco industry, which has been in trial for 8 1/2 months. The tobacco companies will make their summations today, and rebuttal arguments by the Justice Department are expected Thursday. A ruling is not expected for weeks or months.

In prior expert testimony, the government had outlined a proposal that tobacco companies pay more than $5 billion a year to provide a smoking-cessation program for 25 years. This effort would include telephone quit lines, cessation clinics and training and research on the most effective quit methods.

But near the end of the government's presentation before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler on Tuesday, Justice Department lawyer Stephen Brody said the government was seeking a five-year program funded at $2 billion a year.

A person familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the change was "forced on the tobacco team by higher-level, politically appointed officials of the Justice Department," including Associate Atty. Gen. Robert McCallum, who oversees the civil division.

Joe Camel Advertisement

I knew that Karl Rove had once worked for Philip Morris as a tobacco lobbyist. But I could not believe that in my America, a $100 billion gift would be given to big tobacco in broad daylight. I thought of the youth of America that might be starting to smoke because the educational effort was inadequate. I thought of the people I have known who have suffered through the suffocating death of lung cancer. And I thought that America must have a better way.

Finally, I read about the Boeing fiasco.

Photoillustration of appearance of Boeing 767 tanker

I thought of President Eisenhower who stated:
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
So it is natural that I became alarmed when I read about the Boeing contract scandal:
The report is riddled with redactions of material concerning White House officials, lawmakers, Boeing executives and lower-ranking Pentagon officials who had roles in the lease deal. "There is no legal authority that would conceivably justify the redaction of this material from the report," Levin said.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. has previously been identified as playing a role in the negotiations. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Card had served "simply as an honest broker to make sure that all views were represented and to make sure that it was completed in a timely matter, because it was relating to a national security need that was pressing."

McClellan brushed off questions about whether the White House should be more transparent about its role. "Those who were involved in wrongdoing are being held accountable," he said.
An honest broker? America is being led by those who spend billions of American taxpayers dollars on military spending in the most unethical fashion. America deserves better.

I wanted to cry.

I wanted to moan and wail. I wanted to ask what is going on here?

And I thought what was needed was a few words about a great man who believed in America. Who believed in peace, in lifting up minorities, feeding the poor and educating the ignorant. A man who was loved by all around the globe.

Senator Edward Kennedy, on June 8, 1968, gave a moving tribute to his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy.

Photo of Senator Kennedy

He concluded:

"For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.

"Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."

This is the way he lived. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

"Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not."
Let us all remember the words of Robert Kennedy! Let us not just ask "why?" but let us look forward to a better time in America, a time we can be proud of, a time where swords are indeed beaten into plowshares, when honesty and integrity is restored to our leadership, when hope and respect returns to the American people!

Let us ask, "Why not?"



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