Sunday, December 18, 2005

Impeachment: No Joking Matter!

This is Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the Republican National Committee:

As reported:
"The senator's former campaign staff had gathered for a holiday party Wednesday night at Finn macCool's, a Capitol Hill watering hole, and Kerry, with a drink in hand, quipped that if the Democrats retake Congress they could make a case for impeaching President Bush."
But this wasn't a very funny joke for the sensitive Republicans. After all had they ever impeached a President for something as serious as lying about sex in the Oval Office? I suppose that would be pretty funny too.

The RNC responded:
“With his impeachment advocacy last night, John Kerry once again showed how out of touch he is with American people and how in step he is with the far left fringes of the Democrat party. For one of the leaders of the Democrat party to begin a push for presidential impeachment, in seriousness or jest, on the eve of the Iraq elections is both foolish and shortsighted.”
Out of touch? Far left fringe? Foolish and shortsighted?

I don't think so.

Perhaps Mr. Mehlman hadn't been thinking about the recent revelation of Presidential spying on American citizens:
WASHINGTON - President Bush acknowledged Saturday that he ordered the National Security Agency to spy on Americans and he defiantly vowed to continue such domestic electronic eavesdropping ``for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from Al-Qaida and related groups.''
In an unusual step, Bush delivered a live weekly radio address from the White House in which he defended his action as ``fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.''

President Bush giving a radio address.
This is Senator Russ Feingold.

Russ understands that spying on American citizens is not something we do in America without search warrants or judicial overview. Senator Feingold stated:
"We have a system of law," Feingold said. "He just can't make up the law … It would turn George Bush not into President George Bush, but King George Bush."
Today, President Bush went further.

President Bush at Today's News Conference

In a fifty-five minute news conference he defended his actions:
Normally, no wiretapping is permitted in the United States without a court warrant. But Bush said he approved the action without such orders "because it enables us to move faster and quicker. We've got to be fast on our feet.

"It is legal to do so. I swore to uphold the laws. Legal authority is derived from the Constitution,'' he added.
In other words it is legal because he says it is.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales explains it better:
Gonzales said Monday that a congressional act passed after September 11 not only authorized President Bush to use force in the war on terror, it gave the president the power to allow such wiretaps.

"There were many people, many lawyers within the administration who advised the president that he had an inherent authority as commander in chief under the Constitution to engage in these kind of signal intelligence of our enemy," he said.

"We also believe that the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following the attacks of September 11, constituted additional authorization for the president to engage in this kind of signal intelligence."
And what has Senator John Kerry had to say about this?

Campaigning in Maine for Governor John Baldacci, Kerry stated:
Calling the NSA news "very, very disturbing," the Massachusetts senator said that with the exception of the most urgent national security circumstances, such as direct information about attacks, there is no reason such wire tapping couldn't go through a legitimate legal review process.

"This administration is out of control, and they're stepping on the rights of American citizens," Kerry said.
This is no joke.

This is a usurpation of power by this executive who not only doesn't even apologize, but who pledges to violate the law again and again.

How about that joke about impeachment now Mr. Mehlman? Is anyone laughing?


Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Happy Holidays" An editorial

This is what I wrote on my investing blog, Stock Picks Bob's Advice.
Thursday, 15 December 2005
"Happy Holidays" An Editorial
Hello Friends! Thanks so much for stopping by and visiting my blog, Stock Picks Bob's Advice.

I generally spend my time on this blog writing about stocks and investments. And I plan to continue to do so in the future. But from time to time, just as you may see a comment in the Wall Street Journal or the Investors Business Daily, I would like to share a word with you about a perhaps unrelated subject. And you are welcome to respond and add your comments to this discussion.

There has been a movement started in this country to defeat the "War Against Christmas" as Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson and others have been explaining. And what is this "War" been doing? Have there been shots fired? Churches burned? Pogroms against true believers?

No. The war is simply that some people and some businesses are using and encouraging their employees to say "Happy Holidays". Perhaps sometimes in preference to the more Christian "Merry Christmas".

The war includes broadsides against Christianity in the form of inserts in the newspapers advertising sales and toys and maybe even a "holiday tree" instead of a Christmas tree. Of course, the attack on Christmas also includes denial of Christmas in public schools, removal of Creches from the Town Square and making things in general more "politically correct."

Is Christmas in trouble? Do we need to rise to the front to defend this assault?

What most of these pundits try to gloss over to their readers and listeners is the most important fact that America is a multicultural nation. We have a majority of Christians, a large majority in fact, but we have a variety of religious denominations and many who choose not to believe anything in the religion department at all.

When businesses say "Happy Holidays", they are recognizing and indeed respecting the diversity of all of their customers. And that is the American tradition and the freedom that we cherish in America.

To respect diversity is to respect tolerance, inclusivity, and yes indeed to respect our love for our fellow man.

Insofar as the public space is concerned, keeping religion out of this arena protects both the public that may or may not share this particular message, preventing the "Establishment of Religion" prohibited in the First Amendment, but also protects that religion itself.

The development of "Happy Holidays" is indeed a watered-down version of "Merry Christmas" for most people. This is the risk of mixing government and religion as well. We get a secularized version of a religious message. A new religious message that may not make anyone happy. And then we will have each religious denomination lobbying to have its version included or made the exclusive view. So let us continue to work on separating church and state to protect both institutions.

So let us encourage the good will and love of this holiday season. Let us respect diversity and not create conflicts that are imaginary to fire up our political base.

Wishing all of my friends a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings!

May you all have a wonderful 2006 and may it find us more at peace with each other, with other nations, spending money to find cures for disease, hunger, ignorance, and improving the quality of life for all of the inhabitants on this planet. And may we all seek ways to understand and respect each other, and not feel threatened when some may choose to be inclusive in their holiday greetings!


Monday, December 12, 2005

Schwarzenegger: Life Imitating Art.

The "Terminator" stays on script.

In the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) gets the following response:
John Connor: Jesus, you were gonna kill that guy.
The Terminator. Of course; I'm a terminator.
But real life is not about science fiction movie heroes.

Sister Helen Prejean understands what it is like on death row.

The author of Dead Man Walking understands about the racial bias of this form of punishment.

She understands the macho thinking, virtually identical to gang thinking expressed by this planned execution. She stated:
“If someone has killed one of our gang members, don’t tell us you changed your life. Don’t tell us you’re helping kids now. Don’t tell us you’re working so that there will be no more games and there will be peace,” says Prejean. “Did you do the crime? Then we’ve gotta kill you.”

But Sister Prejean says that kind of gang mentality at the state level must stop and she says she's praying Governor Schwarzenegger saves Tookie Williams' life.
But Sister Prejean's prayers are not to be answered.

There is no redemption in the California Justice System.

As reported, the Governor denied Mr. Williams' request for clemency. He stated:
"Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?" Schwarzenegger wrote less than 12 hours before the execution. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."
Tookie Williams has asked the appropriate question:
"How can a person express contrition if he’s not guilty?"

"If I were culpable of these crimes, I’d be on my knees, begging everybody."
Of course, maybe former Movie Star Arnold "The Terminator" Schwarzenegger remembers that famous Book and Movie by Joseph Heller "Catch 22".

In it, the author describes the famous impossibility called "Catch 22" which was the "out" for fighter pilots who were psychiatrically unstable:
"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle."Chapter 5, pg. 55
So maybe that was the movie that Governor Arnold was thinking of when he complained that Mr. Williams had shown no remorse for a crime that he had denied committing. That Mr. Williams did not deserve to live even though he had worked hard while in prison writing anti-gang books for children and working to encourage young people to stay out of gangs.

Tookie has raised important questions about justice in America:
"I always ask the question: Can a black man in America receive justice? I can say to you or anybody else that the answer is absolutely no. There’s a myriad of things that bring me to this conclusion — prosecutorial misconduct, the biased selection of juries, the issues of informants, the exclusion of exculpatory evidence, illegal interrogation of witnesses. It’s commonplace. It’s deeply ingrained in the California criminal justice system."
But the bigger question is why have the American people elected such mediocre candidates such as Arnold and George W. to higher office?

As Joseph Heller points out in Catch 22:
Quote 19: "that's the way things go when you elevate mediocre people to positions of authority." Chapter 29, pg. 335
America deserves better! We need leaders with greater wisdom that can understand the concept of redemption. That can repeal laws that harbor racial bias. That can understand that Capital Punishment is a cruel and unusual punishment; that violence begets violence, and that this is the only punishment that cannot be undone if mistakes are made.

We shall never know if Tookie Williams really committed those crimes. But can we expect a man who has pleaded innocent to crimes allegedly committed to ask forgiveness for them as a requirement for clemency?


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Kerry Attacked for Criticizing Abuse in Iraq!

Once again we have Senator Kerry receiving the brunt of a organized smear campaign by the right-wing wackos.

In 2004, it was reported by the International Red Cross:
The report cites abuses -- some "tantamount to torture" -- including brutality, hooding, humiliation and threats of "imminent execution."

"These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information and other forms of cooperation from person who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an 'intelligence value."'

The agency said arrests allegedly tended to follow a pattern.

"Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property," the report said.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it said. "Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

It said some coalition military intelligence officers estimated "between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units."
And this is what Senator Kerry said on Meet the Press:
"You've got to begin to transfer authority to the Iraqis. And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the-of-the historical customs, religious customs."
Senator Kerry was merely pointing out that American soldiers have been involved in night-time activity that does inflict fear upon civilian Iraqis. That is violent, and often against the elderly and children.

He didn't make this stuff up.

He just said American shouldn't be doing this. That if there is a need for nighttime raids on civilian homes, let the Iraqis do the raids.

Senator Kerry, please continue your leadership in this arena. Our President and his Administration have lied to us repeatedly about the war. Have condoned torture and outed a CIA agent. They have manufactured news for both domestic and Iraqi use. They have had phony reporters in the White House Press pool. They torture and practice rendition. They have secret prisons in other countries and they fail to follow the Geneva Conventions. They do not allow interviews with detainees. And they hold them indefinitely without charges.

America deserves better! And YOU are part of the solution. We got your back John!