Sunday, April 25, 2010
Justice Roberts sought to cloak the majority's ruling in the guise of protecting "free speech", and claimed that the law was too broad. According to CNN.com, during oral arguments last October "the justices offered a number of wide-ranging hypotheticals over what the law could forbid, including: fox hunts, pate de foie gras from geese, cockfighting, bullfighting, shooting deer out of season, even Roman gladiator battles." Actually, forbidding any or all of these things sounds great to me!
Only Justice Samuel Alito demonstrated wisdom and compassion. In his dissent, he turned the spotlight on "crush" videos--in which women (faces hidden) in spiked-heel shoes are shown brutally stomping small animals, such as rabbits, to death. Justice Alito noted that the animals killed in these videos are "living creatures that experience excrutiating pain". Likewise, he observed that the suffering experienced by dogs horrifically maimed in the dogfighting videos "lasts for years, rather than minutes".
Albert Scweitzer maintained "we need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also".
Rather than uphold the slow progress made by the humane community, this court appears ready to protect brutality and exploitation; the "freedom" to film and market unspeakably violent acts. One is left to wonder if this court might consider striking down the statutes banning child pornography if a convincing argument can be made that the laws are somehow "interfering" with the commerce/business of the video traffickers?
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
It suddenly dawned on me that over the course of the past few months she'd had to contend with two books (Halperin & Heilemann's "Game Change" and Andrew Young's "The Politician"), national headlines announcing that she and her husband John had separated, and, most recently, her husband's mistress lasciviously posed in the pages of "GQ" while psychobabbling inanities. How much more indeed?
Much of the media attention mentioned above has painted Elizabeth in an unfavorable light, as if they--or any of us, for that matter--can possibly know what it's been like to walk in her shoes...to lose a child, to fight the battle with cancer once, only to learn that it had returned, and was terminal. Finally, Elizabeth Edwards has had to deal with a very public betrayal by her partner in marriage for over thirty years, with every detail and scene played out in public. Perhaps, as some of the stories mention, she was ambitious. God forbid we're still dealing with the absurd resentments and recriminations that ambitious and intelligent women have faced throughout our history! Perhaps she's had her moments of anger, and even paranoia. It would seem, in looking back at the 'big picture', that she wouldn't be human if she hadn't experienced both. I suspect the devious and hurtful actions of John Edwards and Rielle Hunter might even break the spirit of a saint, let alone a mere mortal.
I once supported John Edwards, and believed his populist agenda was genuine. The fact that he has so thoroughly disgraced himself does not mean that the issues or causes he once championed were without merit, however. Now, quite frankly, I tend to believe that Elizabeth was the more thoughtful, and progressive, of the two. It certainly appears she was more of a policy "wonk" than John. So, if at any point she feels the desire to speak out on those issues again, I would hope she realizes the podium remains available, and her voice is still respected. The choice, of course, needs to be hers.
In the meantime, for her sake, I wish her restorative quiet time, and inner peace.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Citizens who oppose the expansion of coverage to the roughly thirty-two million Americans who currently struggle without that protection are free to vent thier frustration in voting booths this November. In fact, that participation is to be expected and welcomed in our democracy.
Unfortunately, many of the so-called "Tea Party" protestors exhibited anything but democratic tendencies this past weekend as the House debate reached its climax. Their "true colors" (to borrow from the Cyndi Lauper tune) included a disturbing mix of racism, homophobia, threats of violence, and spit. Grassroots "patriotism"? I don't think so.
Congressman John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement who has represented Georgia's 5th congressional district since 1987, was repeatedly subjected to the n-word. Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, representing Missouri's 5th congressional district, in addition to being a United Methodist pastor, endured the same treatment, but was also spat upon.
Congressman Barney Frank, who has represented the 4th congressional district in Massachusetts since 1981, and who is a noted gay rights activist, was subjected to the f-word several times over the weekend.
Not merely content with personal abuse, however, the tea partiers touted several particularly menacing signs during their protests. Perhaps the most disturbing example, and one that had been duplicated several times over--so it wasn't a case that "merely"involved a single mis-guided individual--featured the image of a handgun with the legend: "if Brown can't stop it, a Browning can". The threat of violence is clear. It's 2010, and yet, it seemed all that was missing was the white sheets.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
While there's certainly nothing to inspire a 'dance of joy' associated with any of the above, the reason is actually a more decidedly personal one.
Mr. O'Malley passed away this week, just shy of his 112th birthday. If I didn't know better, I'd be scrambling for the record books to measure this achievement. I didn't have the pleasure of getting to know him until late in his life, but he nevertheless provided me with new insights, and caused me to re-examine some long-standing priorities.
Mr. O'Malley looked forward to each and every day, and enjoyed life to the fullest. He was oblivious to a person's race, age, sexual orientation, political beliefs, or appearance. Quite simply, he did not judge. He enjoyed the company of a wide assortment of people, and always welcomed the stranger. Mr. O'Malley manifested love without reservation. I found myself believing that the spark, or light, that was clearly present in his eyes just might answer questions of faith more succinctly (and accurately) than many a theologian or religious text.
O'Malley happened to be a golden retriever, and, as previously mentioned, he was just shy of his 16th birthday ("dog years"). He was a gentle, smiling soul, and I will miss him. I wish I'd had the opportunity to know him sooner, but I will be forever grateful that our paths ultimately crossed.
Monday, March 8, 2010
From a post by Sam Stein, firstname.lastname@example.org:
Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay called Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) "brave" on Sunday for launching a one-man filibuster of unemployment benefits, arguing that they dissuaded people from going out and finding work.
DeLay made these remarks on Fox News, and though it might appear surprising to some, Monica Crowley pushed him to explain his premise regarding the unemployed:
Crowley: People are unemployed because they want to be?
Delay: well, it is the truth. and people in the real world know it. And they have friends and they know it. Sure, we ought to be helping people that are unemployed find a job, but we also have budget considerations that are incredibly important, especially now that Obama is spending monies that we don't have.
DeLay went on to describe allocating federal funds for the unemployed as "unsound policy".
There will always be those who make every effort to take advantage of "the system", whether it's Bernie Madoff operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, AIG paying out obscene bonuses after accepting $85 billion in federal (taxpayer) money, or the relatively few individuals who choose to "milk" unemployment benefits. To hear Tom DeLay focus exclusively on the unemployed (and the rather limited "safety net" currently in place) is simply sad, not to mention wrong. However, his social views are generally quite well known: promoter of the "birther" conspiracy, opponent of government checks on corporate power, anti-labor rights, pro-life, anti-immigration (legal or illegal), pro-guns, and anti any teaching of evolution in schools. Quite frankly, if I were looking for a rational exchange of political views, I'm not sure I'd start here.
What is truly lamentable, however, is DeLay's reference to President Obama "spending monies we don't have".
It's important to look at how we got into the financial mess we find ourselves in. There's no doubt that both of our major political parties deserve blame for reckless spending. At times, it appears the only difference is in spending priorities. Former Congressman DeLay has opposed both funding the Environmental Protection Agency ("Gestapo of government"), and increasing federal funds for expanding health coverage. He voted in favor of prayer in school, and against grants for black and hispanic colleges. He voted in favor of limiting prescription drug benefits for Medicare recepients, and in favor of privatizing social security. On the other hand, DeLay never met a defense appropriations bill or weapons system he didn't support, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's far too easy to scapegoat powerless segments of our population, and to toss about "red meat" slogans for political gain. Conversely, it's too easy to villify individuals like Tom DeLay, instead of giving serious consideration to the issues. Perhaps the key lies in fully undertanding the consequences of his actions, as well as our own. We may be able to brush aside political rhetoric, but it's the aforementioned consequences that are so sobering. To put the federal deficit in perspective, I invite you to click on this link:
http://costofwar.com (National Priorities Project).
It may be somewhat important to view Tom DeLay "in context", but, in the long run, he's the least of our worries.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
For those not familiar with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", it's a1939 film by producer/director Frank Capra (see "It's A Wonderful Life"). Many consider this classic comedy/drama to be Capra's greatest achievement. James Stewart established himself as a leading actor in the role of Jefferson Smith, a wide-eyed innocent idealist who is plucked from obscurity to fill out the term of a Senate seat left vacant by the sudden death of Senator Samuel Foley, a largely spineless and compliant character in the decidedly corrupt political machine presided over by boss Jim Taylor. Taylor, along with Governor Hopper and Senator Paine, are determined to appoint someone who won't ask questions, or do anything that might disturb the machine's backdoor dealings. Political parties aren't identified, nor is the state in question... instead, Capra leaves us with the realization that this could be anywhere, and corrupt politicians come in all flavors.
Jefferson Smith, however, seems to believe in the basic decency of every person he encounters, and he maintains a passionate love affair with the United States. He's a wide-eyed patriot who reverently recites the words of Lincoln and Jefferson, and is awe-struck by the sights and sounds of Washington D.C. Smith feels unworthy to join the Senate, and is completely unaware he's being set-up by those he respects most. Initially too stunned by this betrayal to defend himself, he finally takes to the Senate floor and initiates a filibuster to postpone a bill boss Taylor has engineered, and to prove his own innocence & integrity.
The film's climactic scene illustrates the difference one good person, standing on truth, can make in the face of overwhelming adversity.
When it was first released, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" was attacked by the Washington press corps and by politicians in the U.S. Congress, both of whom labeled the film as anti-American and pro-communist for its portrayal of corruption in the government. Today, it is recognized as a paen to individual strength, integrity, and decency.
In this day and age of out-of-control partisan bickering and gridlock, I, for one, am missing Mr. Smith.