Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Detainee Rights

The Supreme Court is once again considering the rights of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Arguments on both sides suggest the case to be a no-brainer.

All prisoners have a right and must be given access to full representation and all charges and supporting information brought against them. This is one of the cornerstones of any democratic society and a primary and significant difference between democracies and non-democracies. Without these rights, the ability to accurately determine guilt or innocence cannot be ensured.

A departure from this standard would only be another chink in the armor of our way of life. If we are fighting for democracy, we must ensure we hold ourselves to the highest standards, or we have already surrendered the battle. Justice without a fair trial is not justice at all, and is regularly practiced in non-democratic societies around the world. We should genuinely fight for and defend our founding democratic principles.

The Supreme Court has two choices: the right choice and the ideological choice. This decision is a defining moment for this Court and will not be forgotten by the history books of tomorrow nor the tyrants and despots of today.

UPDATE: This case has been thrown an important, if indirect curveball. According to new reports, Senate and House Intelligence Committee members of both parties were apparently briefed as early as 2002 about the CIA's use of waterboarding in detainee interrogation. While not directly related, it certainly enhances the necessity of detainee's receiving proper representation and fair treatment under the law. If the U.S. Congress can sign off on torture, federal courts should have the ability to review the cases.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

An Offer We Cannot Refuse

Someone has finally breathed new life into the Bush administration, and it has come for a most unlikely source: the Department of Defense. At last, an indication that someone on the inside is thinking clearly, speaking their made, willing to be honest with the people who sign their paychecks.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made an offer that I don't think anyone can refuse. In his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday, Secretary Gates commented that if the new Iraq war funding bill proposed by House Democrats, which would end funding of the war in July, is passed, he would be so short on funds that he would likely be forced to close at least part of the Pentagon in August or September, that he could not even issue paychecks to some employees.


I think we have to take this offer, it might be the only one we get. The Iraq war has cost around $500 billion, (plus, of course, the 3,377 American troops killed and untold thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, many innocent bystanders) thus far (and could cost $1 trillion or even $2 trillion). Secretary Gates also just asked Congress to fund the Pentagon and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. Plus, I shouldn't have to mention that the Department of Defense has at the very least "augmented" the catastrophe in the Middle East if it is not the outright cause of the problems in the Middle East. This department has clearly been quite pricey for the shareholders, and I'm for as small a government as the next guy. Maybe shutting down for a month or two might do everybody a bit of good. Give everyone a chance to unwind, reflect, refocus and re-energize so they can start fresh in October and re-open (start?) the hunt for bin what's his face.

Secretary Gates, we humbly accept your offer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Time Is Now

Now is the time for Democrats to act. Now is the time for the Democrats to solidify themselves for years to come as the party of spine, the party of strong, committed decision-making, the party of honest assessment and perspective.

Many Republicans have begun to comment that they will have a decision on Iraq by “September.” September is four months away, four months more of decision-making time lost, of soldiers killed and maimed and families destroyed, four more months of a enormously unpopular and increasingly irrelevant president and minority in Congress setting the terms of the debate in this country. It is also four more months of this administration not only not being held accountable, but getting them closer to the date when they will never be held accountable.

A new strategy means making a new decision. When even President Bush decided a new strategy was needed, his decision was to offer more of the old strategy. He continues to do so. The President is the last person who wants to make a decision. He has offered every excuse in the book as to why no decision should be made. Republicans in Congress are equally happy to continue on the same path. If the 2008 elections rolled around with the same policy in place, there is still ample doubt in the minds of the electorate as to which party should be power. The Democrats have to be the party that finally makes a decision.

Setting aside the absurd Republican argument that timetables and benchmarks are “unpatriotic” and “don’t support the troops” and “embolden the enemy,” Democrats now have the opportunity to move forward, starting today, as the unambiguous, incontrovertible, indisputable, party of responsible, professional, mature, good governance. If they do not make the only decision, history will be no kinder to the Democrats as it will be to President Bush and his supporters.

The facts are in on Iraq (and have been for some years now). The United States military can do nothing more to support a stable progression toward self-rule in Iraq (to say nothing of the broader Middle East or the rest of the world for that matter, at least with the current administration in power). The choice the Democrats have to make is not whether to “pander” to the “radical left” or the “vehemently anti-war” wing of the party or to move toward the middle, where at least 60% of the country opposes the war. The choice the Democrats have to make is much larger. Will they continue to be the party that has enabled historic tragedy and immeasurable damage to the both the United States and the world?

Most Americans, and probably most citizens in most countries around the world, are still willing to restore American prestige and are ready to be led by the city on the hill once more. But Democrats must decisively embrace the opportunity they now have to end the war, not just before September, but before the end of this month. By May 31, Americans and the world must know definitively what the U.S. position in Iraq will be before President Bush is out of office.

The United States still can do substantial good in Iraq. It cannot do so with the current administration in charge. Americans are ready for decisive leadership. The Democrats can define themselves for many elections to come and they do not even have to make a choice. The choice has been made. The Democrats need to make it happen.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Oprah W

What would happen if Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee? More precisely, what would happen now that he officially has Oprah in his corner, a TV personality with greater market share than anyone on TV and someone who has never previously endorsed a candidate? Would a better world result?

Would there be a challenge to his appearance on her show as an immeasurable in-kind donation to his campaign? Probably. Would his opponent or opponents agree to appear on her show as well? Could they expect an equal opportunity to express their positions?

Imagine the slimey ads that will undoubtedly coat the airwaves about every supposed “dark” corner of his past and the sinister motives behind his positions. Oprah could devote show after show to debunking each and every detail in front of a spellbound national audience of millions, faithful minions willing to support her in nearly every cause. Can Oprah exploit the right wing noise machine for what it really is? Can Oprah fix political reporting in this country by forcing it to make real and honest assessments of the positions of candidates, rather than simply offering a medium for each side to air its views uncontested. The democratic process falters when non-partisan means each side gets equal airtime instead of each side being challenged equally.

I wonder what effect Oprah’s support will have on Obama’s positions, if any. How do they presently differ? Obama may not have to pander to the wants and needs of Oprah’s audience, and it is probably too diverse to find a message that speaks to all of them, except that Oprah’s fans do seek a better world for themselves and those around them, and if that is Obama’s vision, he may be our next president.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jon Stewart

I think that it is hard to underestimate the value of Jon Stewart in the modern media climate. The questions he asks ensure that his audience gets important, difficult to digest information in an easy to understand format. Consider his exchage with former Iraqi Defense Minister Ali Allawi from last night.

The comparison of the events at Virginia Tech to daily life in Iraq is the exact analogy all Americans should use to properly assess the results the effects of the war.

Many media personalities are not permitted, or are unwilling, to ask a wide variety of questions, for fear of offending advertisers, for fear of losing access to sources or even for fear of losing their jobs. Whether their timidity is justified or not, the country and the world lose out on valuable information crucial to their everyday lives. Corruption is less likely to be exposed, I do believe that when the history of today is written and studied many generations from now, it will be noted and highlighted is that one of the few contexts in which honest questions about current events were able to be asked without fear of retribution was through the "comedy" of the Daily Show. It is an unfortunate state of affairs. How long will Jon Stewart be labeled "fake" news (and how long will he consider himself "fake") and which "real" reporters will have the courage to help him out?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gen. Peter Pace

General Peter Pace:
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in an interview with the newspaper. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way."
A few things I think are immoral:
Gen. Pace, why don't you focus your energy and efforts on fighting a war in which our military is currently losing instead of wasting your time arguing yet another failed policy position? Any person living in the real world knows that homophobes will be embarrassed in the history books. What is the point of bigotry when you especially have real problems on your plate?

Monday, March 12, 2007

An Open Letter to Al Gore

Dear Vice President (President?) Albert Gore,
Please do not run for President. Now is not the time or the place. You are doing far too much good in the fight against climate change. You'd have to stop you work for the next two years in order to focus on the campaign, and as you keep saying, time is of the essence in race to save our green earth.

Plus, don't you think you could be much more useful (and fun) to be the Secretary of Energy in a Democratic Administration? Think of all the great meetings you could have with oil company lobbyists and former Halliburton executives:

Gore: Hi, thanks for coming by.

Oil Lobbyist: Sure thing, thanks for having me. Let me fill you in on where I left off with the Bush administration.

Gore: Hold on a second. I wasn't aware the oil industry had anything useful to contribute to national energy policy any longer. We will be operating in the real world now with actual science used as the basis for policy. You have nothing to say? Like I said, thanks for coming by.

In either case, give the job some thought. It's much better for you than the Presidency.