vendredi, octobre 12, 2007

Congrats, Al

A long time ago, when I was a stringer for a national news service covering an environmental conference, one focused on faith and the enviroment, I walked up to ask then Senator Gore a few questions. Hearing his voice on NPR (an interview Terry Gross did last year when 'An Inconvenient Truth won the Oscar) brought back Gore's almost fatal earnestness, the sense he conveys that he's an A student talking to the gentlemen C's.

But over time, Gore's nerdiness has been leavened with humility and a wry sense of humor. Or perhaps they were there all along.

OK, so his house in Tennessee may not have been a showcase for green-he's trying to fix that. Yes, he's a multimillionare-how do you feel about Bono?

Gore has been in these vineyards a long time-and he deserves every accolade. It's not fun being the prophet standing at the gate when the gate was slammed in your face-but so it has been since the time of Hebrew prophets. I only hope Al Gore doesn't start taking himself too seriously. Occasionally, the class nerd can become Homecoming King-if only for an evening.

jeudi, octobre 11, 2007

Charade of Justices-

When I heard about the decision not to hear Khaled el-Masri's lawsuit, I was appalled. Have the guardians of our laws no moral GPS to tell them that locking up and beating an innocent man is worth some thought on the part of our nation's high court-and by our nation's top courtiers?

Courtiers? Yes. This set of justices, with a few exceptions (where were they in the el-Masri case?), have eagerly become lapdogs at the court of our monarchical leader, George W. Bush.

How thoroughly disgusting of State Secretary Condoleeza Rice not to admit publicly that this poor man, released after months of captivity, was victimized by US government decisions.

I heard that all he wanted, for his months of suffering was $75,000-but he would have settled for an apology.

Would we want American citizens to be treated this way in foreign countries? Why not? We have little moral standing left.

I hope that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the spine to stand up to her American colleagues and make a huge public hue and cry.

Shame on the Justices. Shame on us.

From Today's New York Times

October 11, 2007
Supreme Disgrace
The Supreme Court exerts leadership over the nation’s justice system, not just through its rulings, but also by its choice of cases — the ones it agrees to hear and the ones it declines. On Tuesday, it led in exactly the wrong direction.
Somehow, the court could not muster the four votes needed to grant review in the case of an innocent German citizen of Lebanese descent who was kidnapped, detained and tortured in a secret overseas prison as part of the Bush administration’s morally, physically and legally abusive anti-terrorism program. The victim, Khaled el-Masri, was denied justice by lower federal courts, which dismissed his civil suit in a reflexive bow to a flimsy government claim that allowing the case to go forward would put national security secrets at risk.
Those rulings, Mr. Masri’s lawyers correctly argued, represented a major distortion of the state secrets doctrine, a rule created by the federal courts that was originally intended to shield specific evidence in a lawsuit filed against the government. It was never designed to dictate dismissal of an entire case before any evidence is produced.
It may well be that one or more justices sensitive to the breathtaking violation of Mr. Masri’s rights, and the evident breaking of American law, refrained from voting to accept his case as a matter of strategy. They may have feared a majority ruling by the Roberts court approving the dangerously expansive view of executive authority inherent in the Bush team’s habitual invocation of the state secrets privilege. In that case, the justices at least could have commented, or offered a dissent, as has happened when the court abdicated its responsibility to hear at least two other recent cases involving national security issues of this kind.
Mr. Masri says he was picked up while vacationing in Macedonia in late 2003 and flown to a squalid prison in Afghanistan. He says he was questioned there about ties to terrorist groups and was beaten by his captors, some of whom were Americans. At the end of May 2004, Mr. Masri was released in a remote part of Albania without having been charged with a crime. Investigations in Europe and news reports in this country have supported his version of events, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged privately to her that Mr. Masri’s abduction was a mistake, an admission that aides to Ms. Rice have denied. The Masri case, in other words, is being actively discussed all over the world. The only place it cannot be discussed, it seems, is in a United States courtroom.
In effect, the Supreme Court has granted the government immunity for subjecting Mr. Masri to “extraordinary rendition,” the morally and legally unsupportable United States practice of transporting foreign nationals to be interrogated in other countries known to use torture and lacking basic legal protections. It’s hard to imagine what, at this point, needs to be kept secret, other than the ways in which the administration behaved irresponsibly, and quite possibly illegally, in the Masri case. And Mr. Masri is not the only innocent man kidnapped by American agents and subjected to abuse and torture in a foreign country. He’s just the only one whose lawsuit got this far.
This unsatisfactory outcome gives rise to new worries about the current Supreme Court’s resolve to perform its crucial oversight role — particularly with other cases related to terrorism in the pipeline and last week’s disclosure of secret 2005 Justice Department memos authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods that just about everyone except the Bush White House thinks of as torture. Instead of a rejection, the Masri case should have occasioned a frank revisiting of the Supreme Court’s 1953 ruling in United States v. Reynolds. That case enshrined the state secrets doctrine that this administration has repeatedly relied upon to avoid judicial scrutiny of its lawless actions.
Indeed, the Reynolds case itself is an object lesson in why courts need to apply a healthy degree of skepticism to state secrets claims. The court denied the widows of three civilians, who had died in the crash of a military aircraft, access to the official accident report, blindly accepting the government’s assertion that sharing the report would hurt national security. When the documents finally became public just a few years ago, it became clear that the government had lied. The papers contained information embarrassing to the government but nothing to warrant top secret treatment or denying American citizens honest adjudication of their lawsuit.
In refusing to consider Mr. Masri’s appeal, the Supreme Court has left an innocent person without any remedy for his wrongful imprisonment and torture. It has damaged America’s standing in the world and established the nation as Supreme Enabler of the Bush administration’s efforts to avoid accountability for its actions. These are not accomplishments to be proud of.

mercredi, octobre 10, 2007

Remember the Ladies?

When I was visiting my daughter at her college, she asked me about a terrifying story that ran in this newspaper on Oct. 2, reporting that the Arctic ice cap was melting “to an extent unparalleled in a century or more” — and that the entire Arctic system appears to be “heading toward a new, more watery state” likely triggered by “human-caused global warming.”
“What happened to that Arctic story, Dad?” my daughter asked me. How could the news media just report one day that the Arctic ice was melting far faster than any models predicted “and then the story just disappeared?” Why weren’t any of the candidates talking about it? Didn’t they understand: this has become the big issue on campuses?
No, they don’t seem to understand. They seem to be too busy raising money or buying votes with subsidies for ethanol farmers in Iowa. The candidates could actually use a good kick in the pants on this point. But where is it going to come from
? From today's NYT column by Thomas Friedman

It sounded so quaint when Abigail Adams reputedly wrote to her husband John as our nation was born-remember the ladies.

When women are outraged, they attract a lot of attention. Particularly mothers. Women can often simmer for a long time, but when they have finally had enough of war and corruption and venality in politics, their indignation can help bring down governments and change policies.

Our energy policies are changing the world's climate in a way that is already affecting us, and will incrementally make life more challenging for our children and grandkids.

In his article today (see link above), Tom Friedman wonders why college students aren't more involved in raising their voices and taking it to the streets on issues like global warming which ought to be of great concern.

But what about us? Global warming is an issue every mother-every woman-should be concerned about for the sake of her kids, if not herself.

I can't understand why we aren't womaning the barricades to challenge industry and government on the sickening way they have dealt with the unreeling terrors of global warming. How many of you really believe this is a Democratic plot? How many still argue that the evidence isn't strong enough? How many would argue that promoting clean energy and building and buying green isn't the right thing to do?

And yet I have seen no feminist move to organize around global warming, nor have I gotten the sense that mother's are particularly worried. I don't see it as a peculiarly feminist issue-dads should worry about their children's future, too. But I have to wonder what it will take to awaken our consciences-and our voices.

mardi, octobre 09, 2007

He's got a point

I love it when a serious journalist like Hendrik Hertzberg (of The New Yorker) makes an obvious point that I've never thought about before. It is so humbling.

These comments are from a conversation (see link above if you want to read the entire interview) he is talking about political journalism with Radar Online interviewer Charles Kaiser.
I consider myself (kudos from all, please) a literate (well, occasionally), moderate, open-minded member of the commentariat. But I certainly tend to view politicians as being a breed apart-as somehow having sold out before the first school board campaign. Actually, a few of them probably don't get corrupted until they meet their first lobbyist.

I'm being forced to see here that my thoughts on this matter are rather primitive...

So the possibility that they are human beings that sometimes buckle under constant pressure-to compromise, to promote antagonisms, to hide their human brokeness--gives me pause. It' something I need to think about. I don't see myself letting them off the hook when they make terrible choices, as with this war. But Herzberg's comment does make me wonder why I hadn't seen this before-thank you!

"Of course there's an inside-the-Beltway problem. There's also an outside-the-Beltway problem.

Which one is worse?The one that one happens to be discussing at the moment. The inside-the-Beltway problem is a type of tunnel vision and a sense of narrow possibilities. It's also a fear of not being Serious with a capital S.

I would say Serious/Masculine.Yes, right. In other words, it's much harder to damage your career by consistently supporting war and cruelty than by consistently supporting peace and love. The default position is "bombs away." The problem with the outside-the-Beltway mentality is an ignorance of what the actual human pressures and incentives are inside the Beltway, why politicians and pundits behave the way they do, and why that is not necessarily entirely attributable to their moral depravity."

lundi, octobre 08, 2007

Jay Leno's monologue

Check out the NYTimes 'blog on funny essays, monologues, et al, from across the US. That way you don't have to watch the original, but they are still worth a smile.