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The "Ground Zero Mosque" Craziness

2010 August 18
by American

Yes it has been a long time since I posted anything here. It’s not that I quit caring about these issues or anything like that. Rather it has been that there has been a lot going on and more to write about than I have time for.  Which to pick?

Also, it has been frustrating watching the right simply make things up in an effort to tear our nation apart. It really made it, at times, difficult to consider making rational, reasonable statements rather than just raging at the horror of it all. Rage is not something I want to write.

Unfortunately, over the last couple days there has been a lot of news over a Islamic community center near planned near ground zero in NYC. The right wants to use this to get people worked up since the idea makes people uncomfortable because of 9/11. However, this is a clear 1st Amendment case. There is no good reason for this community center to be built right where it is.

I was planning on writing more about the case and the controversy surrounding it. It turns out there has already been a great opinion piece written on the subject:

Eugene Robinson – Republicans pander over ‘Ground Zero mosque’.

Just because Muslims seem different than mainstream America is no reason to deny them their 1st Amendment protections. It will be tragic if far-right extremism prevents this from being built; as it will show that 9/11 truly made America  a worse nation due to fear of the unknown.

Welcome to the party, Mr. Specter. I think.

2009 April 29
by American

Well today Senator Arlen Specter (PA) switched from the Republican party to the Democratic.

Specter To Switch Parties – The Caucus Blog – NYTimes.com.

Personally, I have some mixed feelings about this. I think it is good in the short term but does seem to prevent a more progressive candidate from taking the seat in the next election.

Sen. Specter was facing a serious challenge from the right wing of the Republican party. He probably wouldn’t have been the nominee unless the Republican challenger completely self-destructed somewhere along the way. This wold have turned the race into a contest between a far right ideologue and probably a moderate Democrat with possibly a independent run by Specter. Now, the Democrats are going to back Specter which does really limit the chance of moving that seat to someone more progressive.

However, in the short term it seems to be a good thing. Once Al Franken is seated, it will put the Democrats at 60 votes, enough to stop a filibusterer. Honestly, if Sen. Specter  just casts vote to stop debate and votes against the Democrats on nearly everything else it will be a win. Of course, even that level of support is not a given.  He  voted against the Republicans pretty frequently and will I’m sure vote however he wants as a Democrat. Hopefully, now he will side with the Democrats a bit more often.

The other part of this is that it demonstrates how broken the Republican party is. The Republicans have moved so far to the right they have completely lost the center. They’ve been losing the moderates for a while now. The last moderate Republican Senators are in Maine. The rest of the party is running to the right as fast as they can and alienating everyone else.   In some ways it is satisfying to watch the party that has caused so much of what is wrong with our country fall apart. The voices from that side of the political spectrum only get more angry, desperate and extreme. Unfortunately, this makes the idea of any kind of working together or middle ground impossible to reach.

My concern with the Democratic tent getting bigger is that as the Democrats hold the center, and at this point even the center-right, of the political spectrum the progressive values espoused by the left may not remain core to the party. Just making the tent bigger does not necessarily mean that the newest Democrats will actually help advance progressive values. It just means there are more competing views in one party. Ideological purity like the Republicans have tried to enforce isn’t the way to go. I’m just not sure the giant party of people who get elected and then bicker amongst themselves is ideal either.

Trading a chance at getting a someone who actually shares most of the values of the Democratic party for an unreliable 60th vote is not unnecessarily a good thing. Maybe Sen. Specter will surprise us all. I really hope this all works out well in the end.

Not this kind of change!

2009 April 9
tags: ,
by American

President Obama was elected to clean up the mess created by the previous administration not to make it worse. Generally, I think things are moving in the right direction. I’d prefer that they were moving farther, faster but it is improvement all the same.

Unfortunately, on warrantless wiretapping this administration is not getting it right. The continued defense of warrantless wiretapping using “states secrets” is disappointing. The assertions of sovereign immunity, arguing that the government is protected from legal action in regards to this spying,  is taking this in completely the wrong direction.

In Warrantless Wiretapping Case, Obama DOJ’s New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush’s | Electronic Frontier Foundation

If Americans are being or have been spied on illegally by our government this needs to be brought to light and addressed appropriately. This should not be hidden away forever under state secrets and sovereign immunity.

Torture is not an American Value

2009 April 8
tags:
by American

Reading through this article and the actual report makes me ill.  This is not the America that I believe in.  Yet, sadly, it happened all the same. The Red Cross says the United States tortured detainees.

The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means – The New York Review of Books

Giving up our values in the name of security is not acceptable. If we sacrifice who we are and what we stand for as a nation while trying to protect ourselves we have lost all the same.

I’m certainly in no position to judge if any of these men were good men caught in the wrong place. However, for the sake of argument assume they were the bad guys. What did we gain by sacrificing our ideals, violating international law, and damaging our credibility internationally? As it turns out not much at all.

Detainee’s Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots – The Washington Post

President Obama has said that we do not torture. Hopefully, that is in fact true today. Unfortunately, that was not the policy of the previous administration. Something needs to be done to right the wrongs of the last eight years.

When can we have the long overdue investegation into the activities of the Bush administration?

Iowa Gets It Right

2009 April 3
by American

I have to admit I’m surprised that a Midwestern state has overturned a gay marriage ban. However, Iowa recently has seemed more progressive than a lot of the rest of the region.

Today’s announcement really does put Iowa ahead of most of the country not just the reasonably conservative Midwest. The Justices recognized that it was their duty to act in this case.

A statute inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution must be declared
void, even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional
beliefs and popular opinion.

An article on the case  with reactions and links to the ruling can be found at:

Unanimous ruling: Iowa marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman – Des Moines Register.

The ruling does not require religious organizations to perform same sex marriages. Rather, it addresses the rights of individuals to have civil ceremonies recognized by the state as marriages. If a religion does not support same sex marriages they will not be forced to perform them.  Religion is protected from the influence of the state. Equally, the state is protected from being forced to discriminate based solely on the religious views of part of the populace.

Hopefully, this ruling serves as a model for other similar cases across the nation.

Tell the WA Superdelegates superdelegates what you think

2008 February 21
by American

Just a quick note to point out that the WA state Democrats have put together a web form where you can give the state party superdelegates your opinion on who they should vote for at the convention.

Washington State Democrats – Lobby the WSDCC Superdelegates

This is not all of the superdelegates for WA but the rest, with the exception of Tom Foley, are currently elected officials the Govenror, Senators & Representatives. A full list of superdelegates and what commitments they have currently made can be found at Superdelegate Transparency Project – Congresspedia.

My Caucus Experience

2008 February 9
by American

Today, I went to the Democratic Caucus here in Washington. It was a really great experience. The turnout for my district was amazing. There were hundreds of people coming out to be involved in democracy just in my small part of the world. Truly inspiring! This was my first caucus as in the past I had not realized that the Democratic Party largely ignores the primary results here. It seemed that there were quite a few people that were in the same situation. I have to admit I like the Caucus process. It is really so much more personal getting together and talking with your neighbors about what you think would be best for the country.

Caucuses are a messy affair, especially with large numbers of participants. However, the organizers managed to keep it running smoothly. We were scheduled to be in a middle school cafeteria but by the time to start that room was overflowing. There was some brief speeches about each candidate and then several of the precincts (mine included) moved off to other parts of the building so there was some space to talk and get to the business of the day.

When you first sign in you select the candidate you are voting for. Then there is some discussion about the candidates. People were excited and passionate on both sides of the Obama – Clinton discussion. There are a lot of people that spoke for both Obama and Clinton. Yours truly even made some of his thoughts on the matter known. The rules keep the debate short but in the end I think anyone who felt comfortable speaking their opinion to a group of over 40 people had a chance to have a say either in the slightly more formal timed speeches or the open discussion that followed. To get an idea of how much bigger this caucus was than past ones some of the people who who had been at the one in ’04 said there were about 5 people in attendance for my precinct that year.

It was interesting to see the people on both sides make a case for their candidate. The Clinton supporters were very focused on the arguments of experience along with fear of having someone with less time in government at the federal level as President in this current time of turmoil and her universal health care plan. The Obama supporters were in big on hope, electability (there were some who even expressed concerns that they would not be likely to vote for Clinton in a general election), the problems with mandating health insurance on people and the idea that Obama lines up better with the progressive goals of the Democratic party.

After the speech making and discussion there is an opportunity for people to change the candidate they are voting for. In our group there were no uncommitted people and everyone else was pretty committed to who they selected initially so the votes were tallied and delegates to the Legislative District Caucus were selected. Our group broke around 3 to 1 for Obama. It sounded like the other precincts around us had similar outcomes. The news reports are saying about 66% for Obama which seems pretty reasonable. In my precinct there were 4 delegates to the Legislative district Caucus available. I volunteered and was elected to go. So I will be there to support Obama at that event in a couple months.

I stayed around and made sure all my paperwork was good for the delegate process and went home really energized at having seen and participated in such an event.

Washington State Caucus – Today!

2008 February 9
by American

Here is a quick, last minute reminder that the State Caucus is today at 1PM. You can find where you are supposed to go for your meeting at http://www.wa-democrats.org/caucusfinder. (Sorry to any Republicans who stumble across this. You’re on your own.)

The Washington State Primary is not used by the Democrats and only partially used by the Republicans for delegate selection. So going to your caucus is the best way to be involved in the process.

Looking at America

2007 December 31
by American

Today the NY Times released an editorial about the ongoing abuses of the Bush administration and the lasting impact of them on America. It begins, “There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country.” It is a lament of proud, patriotic Americans about what has been done to our country since 9/11 in the name of national security.

Looking at America – New York Times

It is a well written piece and summarizes a lot of what I and many of the people in my life feel about our country these days. However, at a couple points, I think it may be too forgiving of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

“Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership…” I really have a difficult time believing that the administration was in a state of panic when it went about orchestrating a power grab for the President and the executive branch. It seems more that a sense of panic was created for the American populace in order to obfuscate what was really going on, the limiting of civil liberties of Americans. There is no doubt that 9/11 was a tragic moment in American history.  However, the Bush administration very deftly used that tragedy to further its own goals.

“The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress…” while damning, neglects the complicity of the Republican controlled Congress in abdicating legislative power of oversight.  For the first 6 years of this administration Bush largely got what he asked for from the Congress. The Republicans fully supported what was going on. Sadly, many Democrats were forced along for the ride with fear of being beaten with claims that they were “soft on terror” in the next election. Not that there was a lot the minority could do against a unified Republican majority determined to consolidate power.

It concludes with a call to action for Americans to elect someone more fit to be President in the upcoming election cycle. While it would be ideal for something to happen before the next President is elected  it is highly unlikely that there will be serious investigations right now. Hopefully, we can get someone who will investigate the abuses of this administration and not just gloss over what has been done to America in a spirit of moving forward. Yes, we need to move forward but we also need to determine the real scope of the damage, expose the abuses that have been kept secret, fix the problems created and hold the responsible parties accountable.

Going into the new year and the presidential election cycle we truly need to focus on what needs to be done to get America back on the right track after the tragic Bush Presidency. We cannot allow the country to continue down its current path.

Be Active!

Participate!

Vote!

Romney on Religion

2007 December 7
by American

Today Republican candidate Mitt Romney made his case for being a Mormon elected as President. While I do not agree with many of Romney’s positions it was a very interesting speech. It has been a long time since a major candidate has been in the position of standing up in front of America and justifying his religious faith. He may even make some progress with the Evangelical elements in the GOP. Although, it is unlikely that even with this speech they will be truly happy with him as a candidate.

Romney made sure to play up to the concerns of the intended audience. He spent plenty of time wrapping himself in the flag and proclaiming his faith. He was not really trying to convince proponents of a secular society that he was the right guy. Although he did state that the his church ties would not have authority in regards to his actions as President. Rather he focused on making sure that it was clear that he shared moral values with the the religious right despite differing faiths. Romney did not really discuss Mormonism and said that a candidate should not be the spokesman for his faith. In fact, he only used the word “Mormon” once in the whole 20 minute speech. He made it clear that he felt that faith and religion had a very large role to play in American society. This was tempered somewhat by stating that no religion should dictate to the state.

Romney makes the common conservative argument that working to maintain the separation of church and state is really an effort to remove religion entirely form the public discourse and replace it with a secular religion. While I think he is wrong in this assessment he did temper it throughout his speech by referring to the freedom to practice divergent faiths including presumably his own. Unfortunately, there did not seem to be a lot of room in Romney’s vision of America for non-believers “freedom requires religion” or for faiths that are not rooted in Judaism, Christianity or Islam as they received even less attention than his own Mormon faith.

Despite all the efforts to make the evangelicals happy and the promises a faith based presidency he did make a couple statements that were very interesting considering the primary target of the speech.

Early on in the speech Romney states, “Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed, if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.” This might have just been calculated attempt to get the the evangelicals who will never support him to think differently about their position. Later in his speech he returns to the theme talking about the lack of religious tolerance of the original colonists who had just fled persecution. However, even if it was simply an attempt to shame evangelicals into supporting him there is a great deal of truth there. To support religious freedom means that freedom needs to apply to everyone, including those without faith.

Towards the end of the speech Romney states, “We face no greater danger today than Theocratic Tyranny.” Of course, he was referring to the dangers posed to the world by radical Islam. The statement itself is true beyond its intended scope. It condemns the goals of all who would use religion to justify limiting freedoms and committing acts of violence in the pursuit of power. An American Theocracy would be no more benign than the Islamic theocracies around the world.

Romeny on Religion