Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Scalito Hall of SHAME

The Democrats stood up to Alito better than I feared they would. Still, we have four Democrats who should be singled out for "Hall of Shame" designation. I can forgive Nelson of Nebraska, Condrad of North Dakota and possibly even Byrd of West Virginia for all are up for re-election in very Red States this year. However, Johnson of South Dakota has no excuse. Johnson is not up for re-eleciton until 2008. Perhaps Johnson was spooked by what happened to Daschle last year. The progressive community really rallied around him to save his seat in 2002, and this is how he repays us. He slaps us in the face by voting for a candidate who has sworn to do everything in his power to undo the progress made in the last 100 years.

I realize it could hurt us, but if Johnson is in trouble in 2008, the progressive community should not lift a finger to help him. There's no reason to support someone just because he/she has a "D" behind their names if that person will not vote to protect our vital civil liberities. Two years is a long time in politics, and Johnson could have afforded to vote "NO". That he didn't is inexcusable.

The Democrats who deserve our THANKS for standing up to Scalito's Right Wing Agenda on the Supreme Court and could have rough 2008 re-election fights are:
  1. Mary Landrieu - Louisiana
  2. Max Baucus - Montana
  3. Mark Pryor - Arkansas

Those Democrats who voted against Scalito and are up for re-election in 2010 in tough states are:

  1. Evan Bayh - Indiana
  2. Byron Dorgan - North Dakota
  3. Blanche Lincoln - Arkansas
  4. Ken Salazar - Colorado

Not all of these Senators voted to sustain the filibuster led by Kerry and Kennedy. I don't blame them for not triggering the nuclear option, but the Democrats should have come together enough to plan who would vote to end the filibuster, so that ONLY the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster would have been recorded. Having 72 Senators on record to end the filibuster was a political mistake, I think. But if it gave cover to Senators, especially those listed above, to vote NO on Scalito, then I'm OK with it.

Friends in the progressive world, remember those who voted against us on this, and in the case of Tim Johnson, make him feel the consequences. Also remember those who took a "risk" in supporting us on Alito, and help them out if they are in a tough spot when they are up for re-election.

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Right of Refusal" INDEED!

I finished reading this Washington Post article this morning about bills appearing in legislatures across the nation debating the right of health care workers to REFUSE treatment or services because of their religious or moral beliefs. Anyone now want to seriously tell me that the right in this country does NOT want to create an Old Testament-based theocracy in America? I'm so angry over this issue that I could spit nails. I'm almost speechless. Almost.

The first rule they teach you about medicine, even when you are premed and taking a bioethics course like I did in college, is "First, Do No Harm." It blows my mind that someone would actually endure years of education and training in medicine or pharmacy and seriously think they should have the right to pass judgment on their patients and refuse to render service. People are supposed to enter the medical fields to heal the sick, not heal only the sick you approve of.

Many of these states are focusing solely on the right of pharmacists to refuse to give a woman birth control pills or the morning after pill based solely on that pharmacist's moral or religious beliefs. The pharmacists' role is to fill prescriptions from a doctor and to provide advice on drug interaction, side effects, and proper use of the medication. Nothing more. If Susie has the clap because she's a slut, the pharmacist does not have the right to refuse her antibiotics to teach her a lesson on sexual morality. I think having to go to the doctor for a case of clap would be lesson enough. Even if it wasn't, it is NOT the pharmacist's job to provide moral judgement about clients. He or she should fill the damn prescription, answer any questions, and go on to the next customer. If that is too difficult, than perhaps Dr. High-and-Mighty should not have gone to pharmacy school. Perhaps open a "Christian Taliban Drugs" store and watch it fail.

Other states apparently want to give more blanket "protection" against coercing health care workers to do their jobs. If victims of gang violence come into the emergency room, workers should have the right to refuse treatment because they find gang bangers morally reprehensible. Perhaps they should refuse to treat someone with syphilis for moral reasons. Perhaps refuse pain medication to a woman who was beat by her husband for being "sassy". Perhaps refuse treatment of any sort to GLBT people out of moral repugnance for their "lifestyle". There is no line where the "right to refuse" treament will be considered inappropriate. You can have any reason or no reason, call it a moral or religious belief, and boom, you can sit down and read a book without your boss being able to do anything.

This is not about religious freedom. This is about religious bigotry...the bigotry of the religious against those they don't like. Mostly, I'm talking about evangelicals here. I'm sorry, but if your morals will not allow you treat anyone who comes in the door of your business no matter what their personal story (assuming they can pay, of course), then you should NOT be in health care. Pharmacist's should not have the right to refuse to fill a valid prescription. Doctors, nurses, etc. should not have the right to refuse treatment because they disapprove of the patient. Employers who have these types of hateful people on staff should be able to punish or fire them when they refuse to do their job.

If the Christian Taliban wants to have "Christ-centered" care, they are welcome to form their own medical practices, private hospitals, etc. Let patients decide where they get care. It's up to the provider to decide whether a valid treatment is provided or not. It's up to the patient. The American people should be livid that such proposals are even being taken seriously in this country.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dems Need to Stop Rolling Over

Maureen Dowd wrote a column in the January 18, 2006 New York Times entitled "Looking for a Democratic Tough Guy, or Girl." As usual, it was a well written article and made the point that if "the Democrats are like the dithering 'Desperate Housewives,' the Republicans have come across like the counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer on '24': fast with a gun, loose with the law, willing to torture in the name of protecting the nation. Except Jack Bauer is competent."

Oh, Maureen, how right you are, and as someone who is a Democrat and loves his party along with his country, it pains me to acknowledge the truth of that analogy. Ms. Dowd is aobut the 5th columnist or so within the past couple of weeks that has made largely the same point about Democrats. We have a platform, and we do have ideas, but damned if anyone can articulate them.

Everyone seems to know the formula, but no one's offering something that would work. I think we need someone to stand up to Bush and his thugs and say, "NO, Mr. President, you are WRONG. We Democrats do NOT have a 'pre-9/11' view of the world. We are painfully aware of the dangers that terrorism and despotism pose to this country and its freedoms. Where YOU and YOUR PARTY are deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong is your insistence that in order to protect American lives and freedom, we must destroy those very liberties that make America unique. You want to save us by destroying us. You have demonstrated time and again that you will lie or finagle facts and laws in order to get your way. You will pound our civil liberties into an unrecognizable pulp in order to 'protect' us. We Democrats will not cower in the face of any threat to this nation. What we will do when we regain power is attempt to rebuild the shattered credibility and alliances that you have destroyed. We will work with our partners across the world, but we will not dictate to them nor will we sacrifice what's good for this country. If doing what is right for America means we tell our partners and allies, 'Sorry, but this what is best for the US and here's why we must go this route' we will do so. We will not be soft, but we will also not destroy what makes this nation great. We will not destroy our civil liberties in order to 'protect' them. We will work with Congress to pass laws that will make tracking terrorists easier while respecting the rights of Americans. This is something you do not respect Mr. President. Your actions have showed time and again that when it comes to doing what you decide is the correct path, you will let nothing...not the Constitution, not laws, not Congress, not the Courts, nor public opinion stop you. You are reckless, Mr. President, and that places us in more danger in the long run than any of your actions to stop further terrorist attacks has saved us. It's time for the recklessness and disregard for laws, treaties, and civil rights to stop. That's why Democrats need to regain power."

Alas, I don't know if there is such a leader in the Democratic Party right now. John Kerry seems to have found a spine in Europe, rushing back to DC to lead the filibuster against Alito along with Senator Ted Kennedy. Of course, it doesn't stand a chance of succeeding, but it would be nice if the filibuster was sustained once before being overtuned by 60 senators voting cloture. I don't think that will happen, but at least the Democrats will have tried SOMETHING to derail Alito. And when Alito is on the Court and voting for opinions are radical right wing readings of the Constitution, we can remind the country who is at fault....the GOP.

So far, the Democratic Hall of Shame for promising to vote "aye" on Alito's confirmation has three names: Robert Byrd (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), and Tim Johnson (SD). Now Nelson, I understand. He comes from a deeply red state and he's up for re-election this year. I can begrudgingly give him a pass on this, although I'd hope that verbally he'd blast the President for putting forward ideologues, albeit a qualified ideologue. I know, I know...but a guy can dream! Johnson and Byrd I just don't understand. I guess Byrd is in more trouble with his re-election campaign than previously thought. I was surprised to learn that Nixon once sought to appoint him to the Supreme Court. Tim Johnson doesn't face the public until 2008, but I guess what happened to Daschle made him pee in his pants. His statement in support of Alito clearly stated he would not have picked Alito, but that he was "mindful" of the 96 votes for confirmation that Ginsberg got in 1993. I guess supporting Alito is payback for the support in 1993? Who knows? I just know that Tim Johnson, whom we all fought so hard to keep in the Senate in 2002, has just spit in the face of progressives everywhere who care about fairness and justice...and unlike Byrd and Nelson, he doesn't have a tough reelection campaign this year as an excuse.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Activist Courts for the Right Wing

Samuel Alito (aka "Scalito") is about to be confirmed for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. He'll get out of the Judiciary Committee by a 10-8 partisan vote. Unfortunately, the chair of the committee (Sen. Specter) doesn't seem to care that Alito is certain to overturn Roe and other protections based on the right to privacy. He's like a Southern mother who's 40 yr old son is still single, owns a flower shop, and a has a longtime "roommate" named Steve: in denial.

By now, we know that Alito promises to be open minded and fair, and has even trotted out some "liberal" judges to say he's not got a partisan bone in his body. Of course, his letters during the Reagan years belie this argument, not to mention his record of siding with government and conservative causes nearly 100% of the time when his discretion was not bound by precedent. He touted his membership in an organization that was notoriously racist and sexist but only because he was mad that ROTC was kicked out of Princeton, even though this group did NO work on ROTC whatsoever.

This week, we saw that Bush did well in his pick of John Roberts as Chief Justice. Roberts joined his ideological soulmates Scalia and Thomas in dissenting from a 6-3 decision telling the Attorney General he overstepped his authority by trying to punish doctors who legally prescibe lethal doses of medication under Oregon's Right-to-Die law. Of course, when it suits conservatives, they are all about states' rights. They scream that if you want abortion or gay rights, the only way to get them is through the ballot box. But when the ballot box doesn't go their way, suddenly it's the federal government's role to BAR the actions of democracy for the good the nation. Hypocrites. Roberts has declared his allegiance to the Scalia faction, and Alito will join him there. That means Scalia basically controls 4 votes on the Supreme Court, one vote shy of a majority.

These are perilous times in our great nation. We have a president ignoring whatever laws he deems to be inconvenient, who spies on Americans and claims it's a "terrorism prevention program", and a court system that is veering sharply to the right. Bush has appointed 25% of the judges on the courts today. He's not picking old people either; most of the people he's picking are in their 40s and could be on the court for another 30 years. They can be counted on being firmly with the religious right on issues of the day from abortion to gay rights.
I think Roe is finished. If there is one more retirement in the Court, then Bush will have his 5th vote to overturn Roe. Barring that, his justices will interpret O'Connor's undue burden standard to mean, "Hey, as long as you aren't making abortion illegal, it's not 'undue'. Otherwise, all restrictions and impediments are fair game."

As disgusting as I find the prospect, perhaps we should let the right wing start to have its way. The American public has NO idea what kind of wackos they have put into power. The interference with the Terri Schiavo case was just one example. Let's go back to back alley abortions and young girls dying in old warehouse while some butcher leaves her barren or dead. Let's see the Supreme Court allow states to regulate contraception so that women will no longer have control over their bodies. Let's go back to the days where women were expected to remain virgins until their wedding night and then give their men as many babies as he wanted. How much is America willing to put up with? How about reversing the right to privacy? After all, it's not spelled out in the Constitution itself, even though any idiot with half a brain understands that the rights that are guaranteed mean nothing if privacy is not a protected right.

Perhaps pundits are right. Maybe outrageous court decisions are the way to get America to wake the hell up and kick the "Christian" Taliban-dominated GOP out of power. The price though will be steep, and I don't think it's necessary for us to pay it. However, with the electorate seeming to believe whatever lies are fed to them by the Bush machine, maybe some harsh realities are in order. Maybe scores of young women need to die, scores of gay people get lynched openly, and the government have the "right" to search your home or person any time they please before people will wake up and realize that this GOP is destroying America and our freedoms.

Some say that the Democrats should fight harder to stop Alito. With what? The American people have hobbled Democrats to the point they don't have the votes to stop anything. If they try to filibuster, the GOP will simply revoke that right. The Dems could retaliate by bringing the Senate to a screeching halt, but odds are good that the GOP will just turn that against Democrats in the fall and claim they "need" a filibuster proof majority of 60 in the Senate. All they lack are 5 seats. The danger is not worth the risk at this point. Progressive purists just think the Democrats should throw caution to the wind and fight to certain death. Maybe it wouldn't be bad to filibuster, but then have the "gang of 14" vote to end the filibuster. At least a statement would have been made that the party wasn't going to just roll over while Bush installs right wing fanatics on our courts. The Democrats in the "gang of 14" would then have to face voters who could reject or reward them. My senators are two Republicans who both basically promised to do whatever Bush wanted in order to get elected. So I could write or call until I'm blue in the face, and they will ignore me. Any Democrat though who votes for Alito and doesn't live in a deep red state should be ousted at the first chance for dereliction of duty to protect the Constitution from all attackers, DOMESTIC and foreign.

We'll see which Democratic Senators enter the hall of shame by voting to confirm Scalito and bring us all within one vote of having a world view from 1789 firmly in control of our nation.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What will it take?!?!?

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

"Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." - THOMAS PAINE

I keep thinking about these two quotations, especially in the wake of the apparent lawlessness of the current Bush regime. I finally found the exact quotations since I had them paraphrased (somewhat badly) in my head. I look at these quotations and wish that I could reach into the past and bring Franklin and other Founders back to the present and show them what's happening. I'm sure their reactions would not be pretty for the American public seems willing to trade in our republic for a authoritarian regime all in the name of terrorism.

We have people in Atlanta that are all in a twitter over some child painting an American flag on the middle of the street in a cul-de-sac in Duluth, GA. First, it's not a real flag...it's a painting of one. But you'd think that people enforcing the anti-graffiti ordinance and having the flag painting removed were the greatest threat since Osama Bin Laden. It's a PICTURE of a flag people! And besides, since when is it respectful or patriotric to put an image of our national flag on the ground for someone drive over? Newsflash! It's NOT. Under the US Flag Code, you must BURN an American flag that touches the ground. Of course, this is a painting, not a real flag.

A Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed that 51% of respondents felt that in the fight against terror, it's fine for the government to engage in the warrantless wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mail. In other words, it's fine for the president to break the law, just so long as he's fighting "terror". I do understand that if you're emailing known terrorists in Pakistan, Iraq, or wherever, you should be monitored. I don't think there is a reasonable person in the United States who would disagree with that. What I DO object to is the notion that the President can't be "bothered" with showing what he's doing and why to a judge either before or after the fact. If the FISA process is too complicated or cumbersome, then amend it. Bush rammed through the original Patriot Act with all kinds of interesting intrusions on American privacy, but the Congress went along with it. So far, the Courts haven't knocked those provisions down either.

Our system is working as far as the Patriot Act is concerned. What's more, people know about the law, and have been able to debate it just as Congress did. You cannot tell me that having a law to set up a new system for this War on Terror would not get serious consideration in Congress. Such a law wouldn't even have to get into details, but set up a system of checks and balances so that a President (this one or any future one) won't easily be able to abuse his authority to spy on Americans.

It seems the public, though, largely buys the argument of "Well, if you don't have anything to hide, then you shouldn't object. He's only going after terrorists." Yeah, RIGHT. The current President has created a regime based on deceit. This is a president that misled us into war, and lied openly to us about warrantless spying. Sure, we should just take Bush's word because he's a BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN. Sorry, not good enough. I don't trust this president to not abuse his authority or discretion, as he has done time and again. And I dare any supporter of Bush to say that they feel completely comfortable with the thought of President Hillary Clinton exercising these same exact powers that Bush claims for himself. I know the GOP has aims to fix the election system to perpetuate their power indefinitely, but eventually, a Democrat will retake the White House. If the GOP could come back from Hoover, the Dems will return to power as well.

There must be a reason that Bush doesn't want anyone looking over his shoulder as he orders the NSA to spy on Americans. If his purposes were legitimate, he would have welcomed such oversight that gave him the flexibility he says he needs. But no! He claims that his role as Commander in Chief allows him to ignore the Constitutions protections against tyrrany as long as the endless "War on Terror" continues. Just today, the Washington Post reports that the Bushies are trying to revive a law that has already been declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL by the Supreme Court through a subpoena of Google's searches. They want to show that people look up porn, and somehow that an unconstitutional law can be saved as a result. So not only is Bush promising to ignore laws he doesn't like (like the ban on torture) but also court rulings he doesn't like.

Between Bush's abuse of power and the growing GOP Congressional scandal starring Jack Abramoff, the stench of corruption and authoritarianism is growing more putrid by the day. Our Constitution is seriously under assualt by the current crop of GOPers in power. We have a chance to stop them in November, but I am starting to question whether we will have the guts to do so. If 51% think breaking the law is fine as long as you promise it's to get terrorist, then our system of government and the American way of life is seriously in jeopardy.

What will it take for the public to WAKE UP and understand what is being done to the Constitution we all revere? How far can Bush go before people realize that he desires the power of a dictator or American Emperor? Will it be too late by the time people do finally realize what he's doing? I hope not, but that hope grows dimmer by the day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bashing the Book of Daniel

The American Family Association (AFA), a far right wing action group, issued an email alert today that said in part:

"I watched the Book of Daniel show on NBC tonight just so I could
see if it was as bad as you said. Mr. Wildmon you have it wrong -
it was worse than you described. The so called pastor takes drugs,
smokes, drinks, takes the Lord's name in vain. He supports
homosexuality and drug use. He broke the law by giving out
prescription drugs to a Bishop. Two Bishops were committing
adultery. They mis-quoted the Bible. The program portrayed our
Savior in a joking way. There was a corrupt Catholic priest. The
maid smokes pot. The Bishop drinks, the pastor's wife is a drunk
and her sister is a lesbian and the son is a homosexual. One son
sleeps around. I found this program very offensive to my Christian
beliefs. They were poking fun at our Savior."

A good friend of mine says they need to lighten the hell up. Yes, they do. I taped the show and watched it Saturday night. Keep in mind, I'm an Episcopalian, so if anyone should be offended, it would be me. The show portrays a flawed man who is an Episcopal priest and a descendant of THE Daniel Webster. Since his dad is also a bishop, the priesthood runs in the family.

Daniel Webster is a very flawed man. He is addicted to pain medication, and his talks with Jesus often turn to this topic. Christ chides him for needing the pills and shames him into not taking them. Yes, the Christ in this show is lighthearted, kind, and has a sense of humor. Is it what you'd expect if Jesus regularly showed up to chat with you? Not really, but after watching the show, I'd hope Jesus would be able to laugh and joke with me as He does on this show. I know that offends the delicate sensibilities of the Religious Right who believe only in an authoritarian God and Savior who would speak very firmly with you at all times. These are the same people who think Ariel Sharon had a stroke because he pulled out of Gaza.

The wife is a drunk, and I'm sure that will become an issue later. However, it's also apparent that she is the one with the responsibility to take care of everything in her family. Her sister is a bisexual mess who prefers to live as a lesbian now that her husband (who stole millions from the church school fund) is dead. She also has a daughter who was selling pot in order to raise money to buy anime programs. All her children like to tease each other mercilessly at the dinner table, even though they are old enough not to. Her husband even schedules sex for them on Friday nights. That she has a drinking problem isn't that shocking.

As for drinking in general. Episcopalians drink. We aren't called "Whiskey-palians" for nothing. We serve wine with just about every meal we share together in church. That priests and bishops drink is not shocking. It would only be bad if they developed a drinking problem, but the mere fact of drinking is not mocking of men and women of the cloth.

I'm a bit surprised that the AFA hasn't attacked the female bishop. It's one of the things that the developing world's Anglican churches hate us for. We dare give women spiritual authority over men! *GASP* Shocking, I know. We even have an OPENLY GAY bishop! Most people involved in hierarchal churches such as the Methodists, Episcopalians, and Catholics, can tell you that politics plays a big role in who gets ahead. It's like that in every church, but showing it honestly doesn't not mock Christian faith.

The two bishops committing adultery are Daniel's bishop and his father. The thing the AFA viewer doesn’t mention is that Daniel's mother has Alzheimer's and is quickly deteriorating. It's obvious from the show that her husband loves her and misses her, but he also acknowledges that she is a stranger to him now. That's the nature of Alzheimer's. It destroys your mind and your personality. Sure, he shouldn't be boinking the female bishop. Again, it goes back to the flawed human being notion. These people are doing the best they can to do God's work, but they struggle with it, and they are not perfect. I'd personally rather have two bishops having an affair than a bishop molesting children. But that's just me, I'm sure.

The son's homosexuality is not celebrated. It's clear that Rev. Daniel is quite uncomfortable with it, but he loves his son, so he accepts it. The grandfather bishop doesn't know, and the grandson feels the need to go out of his way to hide it from him. The Episcopal church is in the middle of a grand conversation about homosexuality, and many clergy agree with the actions of Rev. Daniel where he loves and supports his son as best as he can.

The corrupt Catholic priest is not corrupt...he's just related to the Mafia. Every good Catholic family likes to have at least one child each generation enter the priesthood. This priest is a friend of Daniel's and is also related by blood to the Mafia. Those connections help Daniel find the money his brother-in-law stole so that his church's school could be rebuilt.

I'm sure the AFA disapproves of the interracial relationship between the adopted son of Daniel and a blond girl. The boy was adopted from China, but he's a part of the Webster family and he's in love with a pretty blond white girl. Her parents are determined to break them up, because, as the mother says to Daniel's wife, "I don't intend to have little Oriental grandchildren running around the Christmas tree." I'm sure that the AFA feels this portrayal was mocking of the Christian tradition of racial purity, or whatever BS they can come up with.

The point is that the Book of Daniel is not mocking Christianity, and it is not diminishing the Savior. The Right tends to forget that the Savior was also a human being. Human beings joke, laugh, and talk. It's apparent that Christ knows how to best talk to Daniel to get through to him. It's not something to run from. In fact, it could actually bring people into a faith that often comes across as a holier-than-thou, judgmental, puritanical, no-independent-thought religion. As a Christian, it is THAT particular portrayal that offends me, not the Book of Daniel.