Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Court got this one right…I’m sorry to say.

It hurts this old liberal to admit this, but…The United States Supreme Court did something yesterday that, in the long run, may be a smart move. It told Congress to redesign the Voting Rights Act according to new guidelines.

In a 5 to 4 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the USSC ruled that Section 4, which establishes the formula that determines which jurisdictions are subject to federal “preclearance” of changes in election laws, is unconstitutional. Congress will now have to decide which areas of the country still deserve additional federal scrutiny.  That says to Washington, you cannot discriminate in writing laws – even laws that try to end discrimination.

Imagine the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent laws drafted from its framework being addressed only to the former confederate states.  No one in an elected office would have voted for that; yet, we passed a law that allows the U.S. Justice Department to discriminate in their jurisdictional coverage of the VRA.

To be sure, in the short term there will be all kinds of fall out from this USSC ruling that will not be nice, or fair, or even logical. (The court doesn’t always make logical sense.) But if Congress can get its head screwed on straight, (THAT IS A BIG IF) it will realize that all 50 states should be brought under section 4 of the VRA. Then the discrepancies within the law, about which it was sued over, will disappear.

Arizona and Alaska and Alabama will be covered the same as California, North Dakota and Minnesota. All of the country – every American will have the protection of the VRA covering their state’s handling of election on a free and open basis.

There is a lot of discord about the ruling right now, but if all of America can be covered by the new section 4, then all of America will be better for it. And in that way, the law itself will not discriminate, as it does now.

There are moves afoot in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin to subdue voter roles and purge certain elements of society from those roles. Those states ARE NOT covered by the VRA.  And that is wrong.

To those who are arguing against the ruling, I understand. Especially with the Citizen United ruling having preceded this one, it seems as if the court is favoring the GOP and big business more than the individual. But in the decision it is pointed out that the law itself violates the equality clause, because it does not treat every state equally.  You can’t get around that.  Sure the states like Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi would love to railroad blacks and Hispanics out of the voting booth. But the law has to be applied equally to all states. That is in our constitution. It is what the five justices found wrong with the rule of law they acted upon.

They did NOT strike down the Voting Rights Act. They simply said Section 4 had to meet the fair and balanced test of the equality of law that all constitutional questions are put up against.

I am all for the VRA.  Always have been.  But Congress has to make it stronger and more universal. The court has said so. And whether you like it or not, that is now the law of the land.

So if you want to bitch and moan, do so.  But if you want to make a difference, I would suggest you get busy and send people to Washington who can affect just and fair laws for everyone.

On another note:

I witnessed our lawmakers in special session in Austin last night and I can say if this is government of the people and for the people, America is in dangerous shape and equally dangerous hands.

I fear the divisions within our country will grow wider and wider, if underhanded business like the actions of the Texas Senate continue across this land. David Dewhurst is to be held responsible for the chaos, which ensued. That wasn’t leadership, that was despotism.

The whistle blower as hero.

The whistle blower, Edward Snowden, may turn out to be a huge jerk.  He may even soil his own name with something stupid, but what he did for us, as citizens of a “free democracy,” can’t be ignored.  For that, he is a hero in my book.

He had the courage to say, “…look at your government and what they are doing and what they are capable of doing and how they are doing it.  Your lawmakers have given the spooks free reign over your constitutionally-guaranteed rights.” The quotes are mine, made up of course, but that is his message to us.

How has this come to pass?

We have abdicated our rights and freedom in the name of security. We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave, but rather we have become the scared, the meek and the shamefully cowardice nation. Perhaps we get what we deserve.

We are fighting a war on terrorism, we are told. And because of this war we must endure the loss of certain freedoms. The British did it against the IRA. Yet, their civil liberties were not reined in.  Does this mean the British are braver than Americans? No. It means their intelligent services aren’t as lazy as the NSA, CIA and FBI.  They didn’t have to depend on a secret court with hidden documents outside the light of due process and legitimate law to accomplish the tasks at hand.

It is easy to point the finger at this young man and yell, treason, traitor and even other pejoratives. It feels wholly American to do so. Almost patriotic. (Like the Patriot Act, it is misguided and misnamed.) Those actions and catcalls at Snowden mask the truth. He helped bring to light the fact that since Bush and Chaney (and now under Obama) we have a government who will do and can do anything it wishes in order to keep us safe.

And that, my fellow Americans makes me feel far less safe than anything the terrorists have yet done.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Justice for sale

Today’s Dallas Morning News carries two unrelated stories that I have woven together to prove a point. If you are white and rich in America, you get a different justice than if you are poor and black. Take the cases of Anthony Hill and Jeffery Skillling. The two couldn’t be more different

Hill, a 19-year old black kid, confessed to armed robbery in Dallas’ Lower Greenville section of town on Stain Patrick’s Day, while Skilling, the former CFO of one of America’s largest energy companies, has never confessed to having done anything wrong in the Enron debacle, which cost billions of dollars and wiped out entire life savings for thousands of Enron employees, not to mention investors, suppliers and others that suffered due to the fall out from this thug’s crimes.

The black kid gets 45 years for armed robbery.  Jeffery Skilling gets ten years commuted from his 28-year sentence. He will be eligible for parole in about 8 years.
As the Morning News reported:

 Ex-Enron worker Diana Peters, the only victim who spoke at the resentencing hearing, said afterward in a phone interview that Skilling should have to serve his entire original sentence.

"Jeffrey Skilling has never taken any responsibility for his actions," said the 63-year-old Peters, who lives in Huntsville, north of Houston. "He has no remorse for the end result of what happened."

During the hearing, prosecutor Patrick Stokes criticized Skilling for continuing "to cast himself as a victim" and said Skilling "is anything but a victim."

"Mr. Skilling was not only at the pinnacle of Enron, he was at the pinnacle of the fraud schemes," Stokes said.
Once the money from Skilling's assets is added, about $560 million in restitution will have been collected for victims of the Enron scandal, Stokes said.

Former Enron employee George Maddox said he still blames Skilling for his losing $1.3 million in retirement savings when Enron collapsed. Maddox worked for 30 years as a plant manager with the company.

"Long sentences are for no one but poor people," said Maddox, 79, who lives in the East Texas town of Van and is now supporting his 16-year-old grandson and himself mainly on Social Security income.

And just to make matters worse, the high court waded in to this case when it ruled ­– again according to the Morning News:

The U.S. Supreme Court said in 2010 that one of Skilling's convictions was flawed when it sharply curtailed the use of the "honest services" fraud law - a short addendum to the federal mail and wire fraud statute that makes it illegal to scheme to deprive investors of "the intangible right to honest services."

Honest services?  And your life savings are being stolen out from under you?  Is this court a sham or what?

Now to be fair and honest, the black kid did use a gun in his crime, which I think is low life and should be punishable by having your hands removed at the neck. But the true story is there are hundreds of young black and Hispanic men arrested every year in Texas for stealing a few dollars, who end up serving more time than Skilling will.


Because in Texas and in the U.S., justice can be bought. True, Skilling didn’t shoot anyone in his crime spree.  But he did use computers, accountants and lawyers as well as other complicit traders to pull off one of the largest crimes of the century and he hasn’t shown a tear of remorse. So while no armed robbery can be brought against him, he did rob, steel and injure thousands. And his team of very highly paid lawyers got him first 28 years and then with the help of costly legal appeals it has been knocked down to 14 with parole just around the corner.

Got money?  Get out of jail.  That is the U.S. justice system.  Oh yeah, it helps if you are white and wear a suit to work.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Half truths are still lies, Rep. Issa.

Representative Darrell Issa from California is a scum bag. Besides having a questionable reputation himself with many brushes with the law, he has led a witch hunt on the Obama administration from everything from Benghazi to the IRS scandal. Neither of which has he been able to produce one shred of evidence that there was a conspiracy involving the President.

Then yesterday, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, who has seen the same interview transcripts as Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), documenting the interviews investigators conducted with IRS officials in Cincinnati played his hand. Cummings was getting a little tired of Issa playing partisan games, releasing carefully edited, cherry-picked quotes from the transcripts in the hopes of keeping a "scandal" alive.

Indeed, Cummings has declared publicly, more than once, than if Issa didn't provide the public with all of the information -- rather than the portions Republicans found convenient -- than Cummings would feel compelled to make the disclosures himself.

And he did.

What did it show?  That Issa and his staff have been waging a war of propaganda against the Obama administration by deleting evidence that the public gets to hear. Selective truth is still a lie.  My mother taught me that when I was about five.

Issa has no business in congress. He is a scum bag and a liar. He wields power based on fear, falsehoods and  fanaticism. And now he has been caught at it.  This is a form of McCarthyism. ‘We can’t prove anything so we will insinuate and insinuate until damage is done’. The truth is, Issa is just like the majority of his party right now. They don’t care about truth and justice and America. They only care about their political way. They only care about power.

It is because of people like Representative Issa that the GOP will soon lose its power. For good. America is getting tired of scumbags.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ms. Floyd nails it right on the head.



In today's Dallas Morning News (Metro Section, Jacquielynn Floyd tells it like it is when it comes to the Texas political scene. All I can add is that abortion and guns seem to be the totality of the GOP's issues in America. Their legislative agenda is clear...anti-Obama, anti immigration reform, anti women and pro guns. 

So I am reprinting her column (without permission but with full credit and disclosure) here for those of you who may have missed it or those of you who do not take this newspaper.

Sorry, sisters: Texas lawmakers think we’re idiots





 If you are a woman in Texas, there’s bad news: Our state Legislature believes you are an imbecile.
It thinks you have the brain of a squirrel.

 Not every single legislator is in this camp, of course. But there are plenty of them operating on the premise that the adult female of our species is a childlike ninny incapable of reason, analysis or independent thought.

Texas women — and Texas men who respect them — ought to be insulted. We ought to be aghast.
Anybody who feted the Legislature for its sensible, bipartisan tone during the just-concluded regular session is choking on crow today. The ensuing special session has, in a matter of days, devolved into a grandstanding parade float of restrictive gimmicks and tricks intended to make a legal, constitutionally sanctioned abortion virtually impossible to obtain.

And here’s their patronizing justification: If you want an abortion, it’s not because you’re not ready or able to be a parent. Lord knows, it doesn’t enter their collective noggins for a second that, if you want an abortion, your reasons are your private business and not theirs.
No, their belief is that if you want an abortion, it’s because you’re just too stupid to know better, too hopelessly ignorant to subscribe to their personal religious preferences.
It’s nothing new. Our legislative majority, led by our august (and interminable) governor, has spent the last couple of sessions busily chipping away at abortion rights.

As much as they’d like to, Texas legislators cannot amend the U.S. Constitution. So they’re going about it through a never-ending series of expensive, intrusive, medically unwarranted government rules and restrictions.
The state has already imposed a medically pointless but pointedly humiliating sonogram requirement for obtaining an abortion.

Now — perhaps anxious to keep up with other states also attempting to enact full-blown theocracies — legislators want to push a lot further.
The omnibus bill being bulldozed through the Texas special session would place an outright ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It would force unnecessary, expensive upgrades to clinics that offer this service — so much so that most of them would have to shut down.
It would tell doctors how to administer drugs, perform procedures, affiliate with hospitals and talk to their patients. If anyone is justified in being even more insulted than Texas women at all this interference, it’s Texas doctors.

But this is a great way for ambitious politicians to curry favor with social extremists, whose votes they value an awful lot more than they value your rights or your dignity.
And (brace yourself for a breathtaking insult — you might want to hold onto a chair or something) they think you are such a clueless ignoramus that you don’t notice the spectacular hypocrisy here.
They think you don’t grasp the inherent contradiction that this is coming from the same politicians who drone on ad nauseam about getting the nanny-state gubbermint off our backs!

Listen, I don’t love talking about this. Nothing makes people angrier; nothing generates more flaming insults; nothing encourages more people to call the big bosses and try to get me fired.
But it’s impossible to not speak up when somebody is trying to force their personal brand of religion on everybody else. That’s not how Texas and not how America are supposed to work.

Yet that’s what’s going on here, behind a dense cloud of made-up science and phony medicine. These legislative zealots think you’re too busy shopping for shoes and watching Real Housewives to find out what reputable medical and scientific organizations have to report.
Yes, I know — it’s maddeningly patronizing and offensive to be told that all this is being done “for your own good.” The leaders of this merry band — most of them lawyers and nearly all of them men — think they know more about medicine than your doctor, more about theology than your pastor, more about your private business than your best friend and more about your own life than you.

Just as bad, if not worse, is that the same people who say they want to protect unborn children don’t seem to mind much that our state does a comparatively lousy job protecting the born ones from sickness, poverty, ignorance and abusive adults.

They think you’re too wrapped up in People magazine and getting your nails done to notice this bizarre inconsistency.

Whether an abortion is the right option, or even an option at all, is an intensely personal decision. I have nothing but respect for people whose personal moral beliefs take that option off the table.
But it’s hard to have anything but contempt for those who think they can make that decision for tens of thousands of Texas women.

Because they’re just showing the contempt they have for us.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mr. President, you are losing my support. Fast.

First he allows Gitmo to continue to stand after campaigning to shut it down. Then he continued the Patriot Act brought to life by his predecessor President Chaney and Vice President Bush (W). Then, if that weren’t enough his administration conducted high level spying on U.S. citizens.  (This while enacting a watered-down healthcare system instead of a robust single-payer system we truly needed.)  But the straw that broke the camel’s back for me is that in today’s newspaper, Obama has said we will send supplies to the rebels in Syria. Really?  And why?  What business is of ours?

Who is going to pay for that, Mr. Obama?  Where is the money going to come from?  More slashing of infrastructure repair?  Less dollars for education? Deeper cuts in Medicare?

Enough of this stupid “Let’s police the freakin’ world” foreign policy.  Since World War II we have traversed the globe trying to make things go our way, regardless of what others want. This smacks of being a bit of a bully, sir.

I have gone on record before and written that this fight not only does not concern us, it flies in the face of the best interest of the U.S. by even dipping our toe into a religious faction war in some rat-infested desert country. If we choose the rebel’s side we are choosing to recognize Hamas and Al Qaeda. We could be throwing our support to the Sunni’s and if we choose the other side the Shiites get our vote. Neither makes me feel comfortable at all. It’s like trying to decide if you are going to support The Nazi’s or the Tea Party.

Bug out Obama. Now.  I know, every president gets to start his own war, but this one is not yours. Your job was to get us out of conflicts. Remember your promise? Out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan. Not to get us embroiled into another conflict halfway around the globe.

You have lost my support, Mr. President. Sorry.  Have your White House staff quit sending me emails asking me to pledge my support to your agenda. Your agenda seems far too Republican now for me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We all looking for heros. Well, I found us one.

Three weeks ago the head of the NSA appeared before Congress and swore that the program of internal espionage aimed against American citizens did not exist. Swore under oath it did not. Now he is accusing Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee, of treason against America for revealing to its citizens that the program was up and running and did exist. 

The head of the NSA called the act cowardly and treasonous.  (He was referring to Snowden's tell-all, not his own lying to Congress.) 

I don’t know about you, but I think Snowden is a hero. And the head of the NSA should be tried for Treason. If Congress asks you a question under oath, answer the damn question. Even if it hurts. Answer it.

No more secrets. No more cloak and dagger stuff. You think someone is a terrorists, then get a “real” court order and go after them. But enough of this secret court and secret warrents and secret snooping.

But do not go after Snowden. He did what any good American should do. He blew the whistle on an illegal and immoral act of spying on American citizens. I think we should put is face on a coin or a dollar.  He had the guts to tell the truth.

He is a much stronger and bigger man than the NSA chief.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

“The watchers must be watched” — Barack Obama


 A good friend of mine wrote me an email chastising me for my remarks against President Obama yesterday.  (If you missed them, check yesterday’s blog: Stop Spying On Us.) 

In his email, my buddy called me to task for not supporting the President and taking sides with the political right. (Both of us often find ourselves standing left of center on many social issues.) I thought long and hard about his critique and decided to answer him in this blog today.  I decided to make it public, for there may be others who are having the same feelings of abandoning the President they so believed in at this crucial moment in his presidency. Perhaps this will act as a salve for them.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported in a major headline that Obama felt that the NSA moves were both legal and necessary for our national defense. I reject both notions.

I replied to the White House that if that were true, they should remember that slavery was once legal in this country, too. That didn’t make it morally right. It also sat off square of the intent and affirmations of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Slavery was wrong. Period. Even though it was legal, it was wrong.  Today, this invasion of Americans privacy is just as wrong, regardless of how legal the President (and the secret courts who support it) say it is. 

Besides, I expected more from this President. His goals and his vows of making a more transparent government and society are now clouded by scandal after scandal that revolve around spying on Americans.

And since it is an affront to the freedoms we as Americans hold so dear, — freedom of speech, privacy and press, as well as the freedom to due process without unlawful search and seizures, then every liberal, conservative and libertarian should stand up and denounce these moves.  Everybody.

This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is about the Patriot Act, which is wholly un-American being used to sweep up and contain our liberties under the façade of National Security. That is a sham. It is a lie. And it has been since Chaney and Bush put into affect after 9-11. (It is the main reason I so vehemently decried the act of SMU placing that man’s library on their campus. He has done more to harm America than any president. And just because he is a Texan doesn’t make me like him any more than a West Texas rattlesnake.) The Patriot Act is anything but patriotic. It is an attack on the foundations of the freedoms we share as Americans.

When we eschew these freedoms, these liberties we own, when we give them up in the name of security, we are diminishing every life ever lost on a battlefield for liberty and justice. We are diminishing our very society and its rule of law and order. We are diminishing our promise to each other that we will be a land of the free and the home of the brave. Instead we will be come the land of the coward and suppressed. 

The constitution guarantees us the freedom of speech, freedom of gathering and freedom of fear from unwanted governmental intervention in our lives such as unlawful searches and confinement— in short the freedom of privacy. This administration (and the one before it) has done everything in its power to ride rough shod over those inherited freedoms.

I supported this President. Not once, but twice. I have donated to his re-election. I have worked tirelessly for his causes. Many of you have suffered undue eyestrain reading by blistering attacks of the stupidity from the other side when they spun lies against his good work and vision. So I have a clear conscious when I write this. I write it as a supporter of the man I thought I was sending to Washington:  Mr. President you are way, way off base.

And to my friend who castigated me in the email. You and I hold the Bill of Rights to be sacred. We hold the individuals’ rights above the government’s and above corporations. We fought against stupidity like Citizens Untied, because we could see the very fabric of our democracy slipping away. But now the same threat arises from the very man we worked so tirelessly to elect. Barrack Obama has fallen to the same ideology that so many who rise to the residency of the White House do:  That he is the undisputed leader of America.  He is not. He is a hired servant that is there to carry out the will of the people.  And We The People think being spied on by the NSA, FBI, CIA and IRS is wrong.  Dead wrong.

You are wrong Mr. President. And to my friend, Phillip, so are you. Get back on the right side of the argument. Get on the side of freedom and democracy and quit making this about Republicans and Democrats. This is about the American way of life, versus a subversive, secret police state. Which do you want?

I choose the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And the Patriot Act and its subsequent actions are a violation of the moral and constitutional laws of our land. So to insure our privacy and our Constitutional rights, we're watching, Mr. President. We're watching you.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Stop spying on us.

Up front: I’ve been a big fan of President Obama during his first few years in the White House. I was all for (and still am) his healthcare reform. Our country desperately needed it. I still don’t think it went far enough, but that can be argued in a separate blog. I supported his tax reform and his mandates to congress about the what and where the budget should be trimmed. But I must say his administration’s continuance of the Bush administrations snooping and spying on Americans is revolting.

America’s government  has no right to intercept my calls and read my mail or take a swab of my DNA without a court order that is derived from some type of evidence in due process from a sitting judge that I am a threat to national security or a suspect in a criminal investigation.  Where are the NRA members who yelled so loudly for the protection of the 2nd Amendment rights when our 4th Amendment rights and our 1st Amendment rights are being trampled all over?

Mr. President, you are wrong to allow this to continue.  You are wrong to allow Gitmo to continue. You are wrong in spying on media and reporters without due process and without court orders giving you access to their files. You are trampling on our rights.

Never thought I’d have to write such a paragraph aimed at this President. I thought he, of all politicians, would be above this. He is not. He is just like the rest of the power thugs looking for a way to control Americans.  Sure, they hide it behind the needs to collect information about terrorists. But the Patriot Act is wrong. Its usage is wrong and to continue to hide behind it is wrong. It was wrong when it was drafted under the care and watchful eye of Dick Chaney and it is still wrong even in the hands of a Liberal Administration.

America, we should be as brave as the people of Turkey and stand up against our government and the folly they are making out of our Constitution.

The Bill of Rights trumps political process and national security, especially in such ways as it is being used today in Washington.

Enough is enough President Obama: Come clean and clean up this mess.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Greg Abbott is starting out on the wrong foot in his race for the governor's mansion.

Greg Abbot doesn’t want to be Attorney General of Texas any more. He wants to be governor. And his campaign handlers have said the sure way to get there is to attack the current administration over gun rights. 

Dear Greg,  Shut up.

Texas has a whole wealth of problems that need addressing, but slamming the current administration in paid for ads is not the way to ear our trust. We’ve had a fool in office for years now who has done nothing but that. In fact he is set to veto the ethics bill because it would force political action committees and lobbyists to be denoted on all political ads, especially TV. They don’t like that. They want anonymity. But Rick will veto it because of the sheer amount of money being thrown at the argument.

So what is your stand on this?  Oh that’s right, your stand is against the Obama administration. 

The current legislature is tackling a strict water-districting plan that would divide the state’s water rights into regions. There is some talk that it would hurt some rural areas. At the expenses of small towns, the cities and large counties would get preferential treatment.  How do you feel about that, Greg?

Oh I forgot. You are against the Obama administration’s gun control.

You see, Greg, big issues mean we need big thinkers.  Not small angry people.  Not mouth pieces for the national GOP, who itself is running out of steam because it has stood for only one thing in the last eight years:  Their hatred for the Obama Administration.

We don’t need you to join in the noise, Greg.

In fact, we do not need you at all.