The Fool On the Hill

January 14, 2007

null The topic below was originally posted on my blog the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Paul McCartney is hardly my favorite Beatle (John Lennon is) and Magical Mystery Tour is not my favorite Beatle album (Revolver is). Yet the lyrics to McCartney’s “Fool On the Hill” have played inside my head since President Bush’s nationally televised “surge” speech last week.

McCartney’s lyrics aptly describe both the disposition and reputation of this President as he prosecutes a losing war in Iraq. Bush and his cabal of criminal enablers are insipid sociopaths. Foolish and simultaneously Machiavellian. For all the speculation over the years about Vice President Cheney being in charge, this group of ideological freaks are defined by George Bush. I leave the rest to Paul McCartney:

Day after day, alone on the hill
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
As he never gives an answer
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around
Well on the way, head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices talking percetly loud
But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around
And nobody seems to like him
They can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around
He never listen to them
He knows that they’re the fools
They don’t like him
The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around

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Brick By Brick: A Civil Rights Story

January 13, 2007

The topic below was originally posted in my blog the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

In 1985, the US vs. Yonkers ruling challenged the institutionalized housing and educational discrimination of an entire city. It was the first time housing discrimination was linked to a segregated school system and this ruling codified a remedy for both.

The fallout from the litigation exposed the naked bigotry of Yonkers, New York as the white community resented any effort to expand access to better, more integrated housing for minorities. I attended Sarah Lawrence College located nearby in Bronxville from 1987-1991 and followed the racism with disgust. Sadly, the city of Yonkers found being in contempt of court preferable to addressing their legacy of racism.

On February 9th, at 9:00 PM, Brick By Brick: A Civil Rights Story, a one-hour documentary about Yonkers will air on New York’s local PBS station Channel 13. This important documentary was produced and directed by William Kavanagh. Kavanagh is a good friend who I came to know through regularly reading his blog. I’m hoping with the help of the progressive netroots, PBS will be persuaded to show his documentary to a national audience.

Kavanagh’s filmmaking career is dedicated to illustrating the human dimension of public policy issues. In 2001, Kavanagh was the field producer for Enemies of War, a PBS documentary on the civil war in El Salvador. Kavanagh went to El Salvador and interviewed rebel commanders, Jesuit priests, officials from the Salvadoran and US governments, human rights workers and ordinary Salvadoran citizens. He covered the first elections after the ceasefire and interviewed the late Congressman Joe Moakley and his aide, Jim McGovern, who broke the wall of silence around the killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter by the Salvadoran military in 1989. Enemies of War was shown nationally on PBS.

With Brick By Brick, Kavanagh and his production team illustrate how a ghetto was created through public policies. It is the local people themselves from different backgrounds, who describe their experiences with housing and educational discrimination. This is contrasted with still other local people living across town who enjoyed superior opportunities and access to a better life.

Kavanagh’s film also informs viewers how local public school divisions emerged in a neighborhood overwhelmed with 7,000 units of public housing, “further entrenching the city’s color line.” The community reacted to these conditions in their children’s schools by fighting back and compelling Yonkers to change.

Essentially, Kavanagh’s documentary follows three families in Yonkers, New York as they navigate through the volatile maelstrom of racial politics and discrimination law in housing and schools that transforms their hometown. As Kavanagh put it to me,

“The fact that Yonkers (as well as other cities which were not held to account in court) essentially kept their foot-dragging and evasion going for so many years after going into contempt of the Federal courts in 1988 is symbolic of the turn that civil rights enforcement has taken since the end of the Carter Administration, when US vs. Yonkers was originally filed. The film title is a bit of tribute to the folks who pressed on, despite the odds, to fight for an equitable end to the situation there.”

This story merits maximum exposure and support by the progressive netroots. Yonkers is no different from many of our hometowns and neighborhoods. First and foremost the project needs money if it has any chance of ever being seen by a wider audience. I hope anyone reading this with the means will consider making a donation. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NFA) sponsors Brick by Brick and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations can be made through the NFA by clicking here. When completing the online form please type “William Kavanagh” for artist’s name and “Brick By Brick: A Civil Rights Story” for project title.

As many reading this post are not New Yorkers and don’t have access to Local WNET 13, please click here for the contact information of Kavanagh Productions to request a press screener for bloggers. Upon viewing the film, if you approve of it, please contact WNET 13 praising it (click here for their contact information).

Our country is confronted with challenges ranging from war and peace to millions who don’t have health insurance. So many issues and causes competing for the attention of progressives. Civil rights are a core value that must never be allowed to slip through the cracks as we work to improve society and bring peace to the world. William Kavanagh reminds us with his documentary about the importance of standing up for justice in our own neighborhoods.


Make Your Voices Heard

January 12, 2007

The topic below was originally posted in my blog the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

It’s not possible to be a little bit pregnant. Yet the Bush Administration prosecuted the Iraq War as if they were awaiting the results of a pregnancy test. Under Donald Rumsfeld the Pentagon tried to win on the cheap. Without boots on the ground however order could not be established after Saddam fell.

In 2004, President Bush ridiculed John Kerry during his re-election campaign for suggesting more troops were required. In his twenty minute speech last night the President finally acknowledged an insufficient number of troops resulted in chaos. Iraq was a war of choice and Bush waged it with timidity while claiming the fate of western civilization was at stake.

Of course this war was never about weapons of mass destruction, democracy, liberating people, empowering moderate Islam or saving western civilization. Thousands of young soldiers and who the hell knows how many Iraqis at this point have died for war profiteering, oil and to market George Bush as a magnificent war leader. Iraq was a neat diversion allowing Bush and his cronies to steal billions of dollars.

Underneath all the rhetoric about winning and catastrophic consequences if we don’t prevail is the truth. The simple truth is that 20,000 troops will not make a strategic difference. At this point military tactics are useless. The best we can hope for is containing the violence within Iraq’s borders until they grow tired of killing each other.

A policy of containment is despicable because it leaves Iraqis in the lurch after we wrecked their country. Shamefully, Bush/Cheney’s incompetetence leaves us no choice. Our military presence will not facilitate a political solution. Containment is the only viable option left through a strategic redeployment.

The Bush/Cheney Administration is aware of this reality. They’re not as stupid as many people think they are. Hence, the “surge” is not about winning. Bush/Cheney are hoping to kick the can down the road with Iraq. They don’t want a helicopter lifting of the rooftop in Saigon moment happening on their watch. They prefer retreat to take place under the next president. If some more American soldiers must die or become permanently wounded, so be it. They don’t care.

Meanwhile, these insipid sociopaths are hoping they can divert us into another war by blaming the Iranians and Syrians for our failures in Iraq. It’s not hard to imagine another speech in five or six months claiming all of Iraq’s problems will be solved if we topple the regimes in Teheran and Damascus. The neocons especially want a crack at Iran. Finishing the job right in Afghanistan is not sexy enough for the neocons. They’re a waste of skin.

A wise office colleague of mine wonders why the neocons have stopped distancing themselves from the Bush Administration and embraced “the surge.” It had become fashionable for intellectual elitist right wing crazies such as William Kristol to diss the Bush Administration about Iraq but lately they’ve been having love-ins. Perhaps the neocons know this surge is a pretext to widen the war and go into Iran? Just as Nixon’s escalation in 1970 resulted in an illegal invasion of Cambodia? Are we going to let it happen?

Non-binding congressional resolutions make for nice symbolism and may demonstrate bipartisan opposition to the Bush regime. Congressional leaders are pushing for that and Republican legislators may see it as an easy way to voice their opposition without having to really confront their President. I hope such a resolution leads to stronger action by congress. By itself however a non-binding resolution is worth a bucket of warm spit. Lives are on the line. As I’ve written previously there are only three viable options to save our country:

  • Impeachment and removal of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney;
  • Invoking the War Powers Act;
  • Cut off funding.

CLICK HERE to contact your congressman and CLICK HERE to contact your Senator. Politics is not a spectator sport and apathy is unforgivable given the stakes. These people work for us and it’s your moral duty to make your voice heard.

Also, don’t be shy about writing editorials to your local newspaper. Even if they’re not published, letters to the editor may influence how newspapers cover the war and can have a ripple effect. Your obligation as a citizen doesn’t end on Election Day when your country continues to pursue a collision course with calamity.


Elections Have Consequences

January 10, 2007

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

So why did liberals such as myself work so hard putting Democrats in congress this November? Why did we get out the vote through phone banking and canvassing? Why did we even raise and contribute money to pro-life Senatorial candidates such as Bob Casey of Pennsylvania? Well, as the Washington Post reports,

“The Bush administration officially withdrew four of its most controversial nominations to the federal appellate bench yesterday, bowing to the political reality of a Senate Judiciary Committee under the control of Democrats who show no inclination to confirm them.

First Republican senators obstructed President Clinton’s moderate judicial nominations. Then they threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster to put counter culture reactionaries on the federal bench. Most recently we had to swallow a corporatist in Chief Justice John Roberts and the father of the unitary executive with Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Republicans considered this payback because Democrats prevented Robert Bork from being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987. Bork believed the state had the right to infringe upon a husband and wife’s privacy and not allow couples to use contraception in the privacy of their own home. In the bizarre logic of Bork and other “strict constructionists” since the Constitution doesn’t mention Trojans one has no legitimate expectation their rights to use them are protected.

Compared to the damage done to our judicial system and Constitution in recent years this is a minor victory. But I’ll take it. Hopefully, electing a Democratic President in 2008 will help restore rationality to the judiciary and we can detoxify our country from the strict constructionists. For too long we’ve allowed jurists dedicated to reversing social progress and eliminating economic justice established over the past sixty years to pollute the federal bench. The first step to restoring decency in America is proper respect for civil liberties, individual rights and the law. The withdrawal of Bush’s nominees is small step in the right direction.


The Inspid Joe Klein

January 10, 2007

The topic below was originally posted in my blog the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Joe Klein is an insipid and dangerous man. In the spring this bastion of mainstream moderation said on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopolous (CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO) America should not rule out using tactical nuclear weapons in Iran. Recently, Klein joined the blogosphere and excoriated lefty bloggers for their “naiveté” about national security.

Klein claimed to be a credible critic of the left because he wrote an article in Slate in 2002 opposing the war and he proudly embedded a link to the article. At the time of Klein’s original posting the link was broken. It has since been repaired (CLICK HERE) and upon reviewing it I don’t read “opposition” from Klein. He does praise Al Gore for making a stand and raises important questions not being asked by Democrats or Republicans at the time. Well, that’s nice and I give him credit for doing that much.

However, the proprietor of Booman Tribune brilliantly refuted Klein and exposed him as a liar with a post entitled, ”An Open Letter To Joe Klein.” I wish I wrote it as Booman illustrates how Klein also made statements agreeing with Bush’s war. I suppose he was against it before he was for it.

What really irks me is this sanctimonious attitude from so called moderate pundits such as Joe Klein or politicians like Joe Lieberman who have a track record of being horribly wrong. They claim critics in the blogosphere want America to fail. Respectfully, we made a stand because we’re patriots. It’s called dissent.

We believed four years ago the war was strategically stupid and immoral. It’s quite apparent we were right. Yet these very same people who were wrong about the war four years ago will accuse critics of being “naïve” or wanting America to fail because we oppose Bush’s so called surge. And they represent the voices of moderation while the liberal bloggers are the kooks?

More young kids are going to die so Bush/Cheney can hand off Iraq to a successor and not have defeat on “their watch.” That is morally reprehensible and the Joe Kleins of the world are enablers for criminal behavior. Is that patriotism Mr. Klein? Perhaps you deserve the benefit of the doubt and should simply be considered naïve.


Sayonara For Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

January 3, 2007

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, John M. Shalikashvili published an op-ed in the New York Times (Click Here) today expressing second thoughts about the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell policy” regarding homosexual personnel. Shalikasvili became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under President Bill Clinton in 1997. Clinton reneged on his campaign promise in 1993 to lift the ban on homosexual’s serving openly and instead instituted the infamous don’t ask don’t tell policy guiding the military today.

Shalikasvili contends our culture has evolved and the military sufficiently over extended that it may finally be time to allow homosexuals to serve the armed forces openly. Although Shalikashvili doesn’t advocate for a sudden change in policy he concludes his piece with this:

“By taking a measured, prudent approach to change, political and military leaders can focus on solving the nation’s most pressing problems while remaining genuinely open to the eventual and inevitable lifting of the ban. When that day comes, gay men and lesbians will no longer have to conceal who they are, and the military will no longer need to sacrifice those whose service it cannot afford to lose.”

Our country’s treatment of homosexual personnel serving courageously in the armed forces is disgraceful. The time has long past for the military to let homosexual soldiers serve openly. When institutions such as the military sanctions prejudice a message is delivered to society that intolerance is acceptable. And as Shalikashvili notes in his op-ed, George Bush’s military is overextended and needs all the help it can get. How ironic if Bush’s imperial designs in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps Iran are buttressed by the very community his most loyal constituency has condemned to hell.


The New Breeze From Albany

January 2, 2007

The topic below was originally posted in my blog Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Understandably much of our nation’s focus regarding politics is on Washington as Democrats take control and the Bush Administration continues to prosecute their failed war in Iraq. Will Democrats take a stand or remain subservient? How will Democrats utilize their power for oversight and investigation? And numerous personalities inside the beltway from both parties are already jostling for position in the 2008 presidential election.

Just as important however are the newly elected Democratic governors and state legislators across the nation. In recent years state capitals have outflanked Washington regarding important issues such as global warming, minimum wage and health care. The New York Times reports today that state capitals are also outflanking Washington regarding changes to ethics and lobbying reform.

As a New Yorker I’m especially enthusiastic about incoming governor Eliot Spitzer (click here to read the text of Spitzer’s inaugural address). In terms of corruption and pay to play politics, Albany has made Washington D.C. look like a beacon of rectitude in comparison. Another negative of Albany’s culture has been governance by “three men in a room” as outgoing Governor George Pataki, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Senate’s Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno made all the important policy decisions. Joining them in their room for a decade was a cabal of special interests and lobbyists while the public was ripped off.

Presently, both parties are back on their heels in Albany regarding ethics as Democratic State Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned after pleading to a felony and the Republican’s Joseph Bruno recently revealed federal authorities were investigating his outside consulting work. Spitzer to his credit pushed political ally Alan Hevesi out the door after election-day and appears ready to spend his political capital on an ambitious reform agenda.

Today Spitzer signed five executive orders pertaining to procurement and the agencies his office has unilateral control over. He’s also imposing on his staff strict guidelines regarding bans on gifts and prohibiting any part of the executive branch from lobbying his office two years after they leave their posts.

The real challenge of course will be how much and how fast he can push Albany’s lethargic state legislature to accept in reforming state government as a whole. At the moment Spitzer dwarfs representatives from both parties but his popularity will inevitably decline as he makes tough calls regarding Albany’s budget deficit.

In spite of the political challenges confronting Spitzer, one can feel a new breeze blowing from the state capital. Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group told the New York Times,

“He has talked about redistricting reform, he’s talked about campaign finance reform, he’s talked about ending pay to play and he’s talked overall about a transparent and accountable state government. If he accomplishes all of that, that’s probably more reform that we’ve seen in New York for the last 200 years.”

The previous Democratic governor Mario Cuomo talked a good game and his rhetorical gifts made him the darling of the national Democratic Party for years. Truthfully, Cuomo didn’t accomplish much as governor and the record suggests his greatest impact was constructing prisons that served the jail industrial complex. George Pataki defeated Mario Cuomo in 1994 partly by claiming to be a reformer and proceeded to govern as a lethargic corporatist. Let’s hope Spitzer turns out to be the real deal.