Thursday, May 04, 2006

getting toward election time...

With the primaries on the horizon and the general election not far behind, with the balance of power in Congress is in play. The conservative leadership is putting itself on the cross, so to speak, and once more cheapening religion by manipulating believers into supporting wedge issues. Being blessed as peacemakers is not what the Republican leadership is after.

What's coming?

It appears we are going to get a couple of really conservative judges. Some of thee will be from the former Starr team who worked so hard to reduce the power of the presidency when Bill Clinton held it and now work hard to enhance that same power now that George Bush holds it. Like the God they insist wrote the Bible, word for word (a notion that was only developed about 400 years ago), the US Constitution is not really the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Apparently the Constitution's meaning varies with which person is in power.

This judge issue is one of my personal favorites. The Republicans blocked judge after judge on ideological grounds during the Clinton years and now they howl about how the president should be entitled to pick anyone he pleases. The Republican long run strategy is to name enough federal judges--who sit for life--so as to create a conservative judiciary that will be legislating their ideology long after the current conservative majority is cast out of office by the normal cycle of American politics.

This is a total lack of integrity on the part of Republicans who, having blocked on ideological grounds, now moan that it's unfair for anyone to ask any questions about a judge's ideology. The whole system is twisted, now, by partisanship and who knows when, or if, that can be fixed.

Aside from litmus tested judges we are also in for some flashy votes in Congress. Gay marriage, broadcast decency, a 10 commandments act, cloning ban, "protecting" in God we trust on the money and in the pledge of allegiance. These are the kinds of things that make the base go wild but that most centerist voters just tune out. These trivial issues do not mobilize, one way or the other, most voters who have their minds on serious questions (like health care, the deficit, our bankrupt transportation system, the structure of the tax system, etc). So "legislating" on these will be viewed by the center as more background noise to be ignored and will stoke the base at the same time.

We won't be seeing legislation about abortion or stem cell research which would awaken the voters in the center. The majority of Americans, including those in the center, who will hold the key the upcoming elections, do not agree with Bush and his base on these issues. Attention drawn to these issues will show that a lot of senators and representatives that go to Congress in their name don't agree with them on these kinds of issues that have great impact on how we live.

So, the Bush administration and Congress will give Dr. Dobson and the like something to chew on. They will not move on the issues that really have effect on the day to day lives of Americans because the Bush position on such issues, while drawing cheers from the base, are unpopular with the swing voters.

It's after the election, of course, that we are going to hear more about the things the administration is currently doing to prepare us for war with Iran...

The Democrats are not without fault in all of this and a number of them will be playing along with this strategy so as to fend off challanges from conservatives who have been picked and funded by the Republican National Committee to try to knock off members considered "vulnerable."

That's what we are in for from now until election day. It's not even "business as usual." It's politics as always.

Timothy Travis

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

just no end to it...

More on the same Supreme Court case discussed below...

Justice Scalia openly discussed the legal principals underlying this case and, before hearing arguments that were held today, he summed up the appellant's side of things by saying "Give me a break."

A judge, like a juror, who has his/her mind made up before hearing the case is not allowed to sit. In the case of a judge, though, and in the case of a justice, no one can enforce this ethical duty. It's up to the integrity of the judge, or justice, involved.

Awarding two "Lilies" in one day. It really is hard to keep up.

In Case You Were Wondering...

taking the Lily Tomlin prize

"No matter how cynical I get, it's hard to keep up."

Lily Tomlin

I'm going to call it "The Keeping Up" Prize and if I ever get around to creating a statue for winners I'll call them "Lilies."

And todays winners are two US Senators: Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. They filed a brief in a Supreme Court case to which they were not parties, a "friend of the court brief." In this brief they argued that a certain law applied to a case before the court. They claimed that an exchange they had on the floor of the Senate, at the time the bill was passed, made clear to all who would vote on it that this law was meant to apply. Therefore, their brief tells the Supreme Court, the law should apply.

The problem is that this exchange, that supposedly told all Senator what they were voting on, never happened on the floor of Senate. It was inserted in the Congressional Record (as most anything can be). It was a made up conversation (complete with made up interruptions and statements alluding the fact that the speaker's time was expiring). No one on the Senate floor heard it and so the argument that it shows that the intent of people who voted in favor of it was that it was meant to apply to this case before the Supreme Court today shows a complete lack of integrity on the part of the two US Senators involved.

There is plenty of stuff in the record of the actual debate on the Senate floor indicating that many Senators expressed their view that the bill was not intended to apply to this Supreme Court case. In fact, the entire record on the Senate floor indicates that the law as not intended to apply to this case. That's the exact opposite of what Graham and Kyl argue in their brief to the Court, based on their made up conversation that never happened. Since the legislative history of the law was clear that it was not intended to apply to this particular case something had to be made up to argue that it should.

You don't have to be a Quaker to be concerned at this kind of thing. You just have to know right from wrong.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Am I the only person who gets this?

WASHINGTON - Iran may yet end up on the docket of the United Nations Security Council for restarting its nuclear-fuel program. But even if the international community can agree to punish it with economic sanctions, will those actions succeed in stopping Tehran's pursuit of nuclear technology - and possibly a bomb?

so says the Christian Science Monitor, January 18, 2006

Why is the international community thinking about punishing Iran for restarting its nuclear weapons program? Why isn't the international commuity thinking of punishing the countries that currently have nuclear weapons for encouraging other countries to get them?

Iran is hot to get nuclear weapons because George Bush has clearly shown, in his disparate treatments of Iraq and North Korea, that if one has nuclear weapons one survives even if one's action do not please Washington DC. No one has pulled down any statues of Kim what's his name and the reason for that is that he has nukes. Saddam is on trial for crimes against humanity because he did not have nukes.

When I hear western leaders talking about the dangers of nuclear proliferation I just stand in dumbfounded awe of what is either clossal arrogance or most remarkable lack of insight the world has ever seen.

No one should have nukes. But the last people on earth to be objecting to their spread, with integrity, that is, are those who have them. Any country that has nuclear weapons today, and objects to other countries getting them, has adopted a policy of hypocrisy that will no doubt lead to the spread of nuclear weapons and, eventually, to a catasprophe of as yet unexperienced proportions.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

sometimes one just has to shake one's head...

Washington Times reports:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy belongs to a social club for Harvard students and alumni that was evicted from campus nearly 20 years ago after refusing to allow female members...
Judge Alito's "affiliation with an organization that fought the admission of women into Princeton calls into question his appreciation for the need for full equality in this country," Mr. Kennedy said Wednesday.

Kennedy spokeswoman Laura Capps said there is "absolutely no comparison" between the Owl Club, a social group, and an organized effort to "exclude women from getting an education" at Princeton.

"It's a social club. It's like a fraternity," she said. "He has been fighting to break down barriers for decades."

This Quaker's take is that there is no reason for social clubs to erect barriers along sex lines. Excluding women (or men) from a club or a function or a conference really says that there is something about women (or men) that makes them unsuitable for the company of the other sex in that context or for some activity that the other sex wants to engage in.

And if that's the case what is the activity in which the one sex wants to engage that is so unsuitable for the other that a rule, rather than natural inclination or lack ability, is enough to preserve the integrity of that activity? Perhaps the desire to exclude the other sex is an indication that it's really an unsuitable pursuit for either sex.

Excluding either sex from any activity by rule only proves that those who want the rule believe in sex stereotypes that do damage to the other sex and to their own understanding of themselves. People who harbor misconceptions about the other sex also harbor misconceptions about their own. One cannot believe foolish ideas about the opposite sex without believing in foolish ideas about their own.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Privacy --why do I really value it?


January 8, 2006

"In a nutshell, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story two days ago about a Web site that sells phone records, for cells and land-lines, for $110 a pop. The company boasts on its own Web site:

"Give us the cell phone number and we will send you the calls made from the cell phone number.

"So I went to their site, plopped down $110, and within a day I had a list of every single phone number that called my cell, or that I called from my cell, for the month of November. I even had the dates the calls were made, and for a premium I could find out how long the calls were."

So, is this a scary thought?

It was to me when I read it and then I wondered why it was.

I recognize that someone could do me harm with this informaton but they wouldn't need this information to do me harm. Someone who really wanted to do me harm could do it without this information.

I can see how I would be concerned if I were making calls that would indicate that I was doing things that I would rather not have other people know about because I was acting "in the dark," and I didn't want want that behavior brought into the light. If I were cheating on my spouse, for example, or doing criminal stuff, or making personal calls on work time and such.

So my take on this is that I would rather that this information were not available like this and I would love to know how they are doing this. It seems to me that I expected that this information would be confidential but I cannot point to some specific assurance I have ever received, at least not in regard to cell phones. I thought that after some Congressmen were embarrassed that some of their cell phone calls were inadvertantly overheard on other phones that a federal law was passed about intercepting cell phone calls but I'm not sure about that.

I do know that people have wierd notions about privacy--notions that are not supported by law. For example, video cameras in public places designed to detect and deter crime are perfectly legal because in public places one has, legally, no reasable expectation of privacy. But, given the state of technology, today, where does one have a reasonable expectation of privacy?

I remember when photo radar was debated in the Oregon legislature it was obvious that some members were uncomfortable about where a car (and its driver) might be photographed and with whom. They were obviously concerned about photographed drivers being in more trouble than a mere traffic ticket.

Although I do agree that people should not be allowed to get a list of all phone calls made from a specific number I also wonder about why this is such an odious idea to us. There are, no doubt, real threats to us posed by such access, but I think, too, that some of our fears in this regard have to do with the fact that we are too often up to things that, if revealed, would compromise us in the eyes of our employers, our families and our communities. In other words, whatever else such revelation would do, it might also reveal the corruption within our whitewashed sepulchers.