Archive for May, 2008

‘I Do’ on the Day Bobby Died

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

The family of Robert Kennedy, reminded this spring that it’s been 40 years since they lost him, heard May 23rd that his tragic death had been diminished into a talking point in another senator’s crass campaign rhetoric. [Sioux Falls Argus-Leader transcript]

In 1968, having won California, Senator Kennedy’s life and his nation were struck, turning joyful hope into instant emotional chaos: [RFK assassination, live audio]

The following day, June 6, I had awakened on my parents’ couch to the sound of a news report from KMOX radio on Dad’s breakfast table, “Senator Robert F. Kennedy died at 1:44 A.M. today.” [New York Times] Mary Ann Templeton and I were to be married that afternoon, at 3:30.

Just weeks earlier, on March 18, he had spoken in Manhattan, Kansas, at the state university, of another war in another time, with words that echo in Barack Obama today:

“For it is long past time to ask: what is this war doing to us? Of course it is costing us money — fully one-forth of our federal budget — but that is the smallest price we pay. The cost is in our young men, the tens of thousands of their lives cut off forever. The cost is in our world position — in neutrals and allies alike, every day more baffled by and estranged from a policy they cannot understand.” [PBS American Experience]

Speaking in Fayetteville, North Carolina, nearly 40 years later to the day, on March 19, 2008, Obama evoked the message of the fallen Senator:

“This war has now lasted longer than World War I, World War II, or the Civil War. Nearly four thousand Americans have given their lives. Thousands more have been wounded. Even under the best case scenarios, this war will cost American taxpayers well over a trillion dollars. And where are we for all of this sacrifice? We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad. We are divided at home, and our alliances around the world have been strained. The threats of a new century have roiled the waters of peace and stability, and yet America remains anchored in Iraq.” [Time Magazine]

While Bobby’s death jolted many of us into political awareness, it also seemed to snuff out the dream for a better nation and world that he, his older brother and Martin Luther King — all gone in an instant — had held out in promise.

With dashed hopes, starting with Watts and culminating with the riots after Dr. King’s assassination [Atlanta Journal-Constitution], we watched our country morph into Nightly News maps with bonfire icons displayed on what seemed a dozen cities per night, a series of ‘long, hot summers’ [Time Magazine], turmoil that Kennedy and King had hoped to stop. [YouTube]

Why are we moved now, in this year, when idealistic former 22 year-olds, having turned into 62 year-old cynics, are grasping again for hope? Because we, finally, have before us a person, who holds within his and our grasp, the promise of a renewed dream.

As Caroline Kennedy, our only direct link to the Camelot of JFK, said in her January 27 endorsement, “Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.”

She spoke for so many of us who had watched in disbelief as her father was carried to his grave [] , “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”
[New York Times]

While our memories are filled with sadness, tinged with the news of Senator Edward Kennedy’s illness [Reuters] , we listen each day and read each day and hope each day that Bobby’s smashed vision YouTube, John’s call to service [Kennedy Inaugural] and Martin’s eloquent dream ["I Have a Dream"] now stand before us in the form of Barack Obama.

And, God willing, we will see a new America emerge next January 20.

He sums it up, when the Senator says, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” [YouTube] , while we believe “He is the one we’ve been waiting for.” [YouTube]

We have the opportunity, this once in a generation opportunity, and we can’t afford to let him slip away. Not for your sake, and, 40 years later, not for my bride’s sake, not for our four daughters’ sake, not for our two grandsons’ sake, not for our nation’s sake.

Go to

Let’s make it happen.

Let’s get to work.

So, You’re a ‘Legal’ American, Huh?

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

A year ago, illegal immigration stood out as the issue many of us feared would dominate the presidential campaign of 2008. First, there was Congress, where fiery speeches and anti-immigrant rhetoric soared in a fierce debate on whether illegal immigrants should be allowed access to public housing. Democrats pulled out all the stops to kill this Republican motion. While the GOP plan was defeated, the back-and-forth voting was so controversial that the chamber had the atmosphere of a near riot. [Congressional Record]

We had presidential candidates, early on, who blasted illegals [YouTube] and, as a result, the climate for immigrants, legal or not, became a fearsome one.

Our federal government was well on the way to building a non-stop wall between the United States, a land of freedom, and the United Mexican States, our poorer neighbor to the south. And self-styled ‘Minutemen’ patrolled the border “doing the job the federal government will not do”. [ BBC News]

Unfortunately, the trend in Europe continues in that direction with the recent election of Italy’s fiercely anti-immigrant Silvio Berlesconi. [Reuters]

And there’s the continued influence in Russia of Vladimir Putin, who was quoted last year as saying his decision to ban immigrants from food market stalls will “ease tension on the labor market and make it more civilized.” [New York Times]

Mercifully — thanks to the immigration reform policies of John McCain and Barack Obama — immigrants, particularly Latinos, won’t be bashed at the national level.

While the GOP presidential field did have an aggressive anti-immigrant player, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., his defeat in the primaries, and the failure of anti-immigration rhetoric at the polls, demonstrated that “candidates with a hard line – ‘close the border and kick them all out’ — fared worse than those in favor of more nuanced reforms.” [Reuters]

State action is another matter.

And Virginia stands out as among the worst.

The Washington Post reported May 11 that Loudon County, Va., public schools have experienced a markedly slower enrollment growth in English as Second Language (ESL) courses, those provided for children who know little or no English. The Loudon Board of Supervisors last July passed a resolution to limit illegal immigrants’ access to county services. [Washington Post].

While decrease in construction activity in Northern Virginia was noted as a possible cause of the slump, Alessio A. Evangelista, supervisor of Loudoun’s ESL program, said, “”I suspect the decrease in [ESL] growth also has to do with the general appearances’ that Loudoun has become less friendly to immigrants.” [Washington Post]

On May 7, the voters in the town of Herdon, Va., re-elected their mayor and town council, all of whom backed a policy that removed the city’s job center for day laborers. [Washington Post]

The most anti-immigrant jurisdiction in Northern Virginia, Prince William County, April 30 revised its October “check immigration status of all ‘suspects’” policy [Washington Post] and put in place one that allows county police to question the citizenship of arrested persons only. The motive for the change was described as giving the county “better protection from potential racial-profiling lawsuits” at the suggestion of its County attorney.

But, when asked if this move was a change in Prince William’s vicious anti-immigrant stance, County Board Chair Corey A. Stewart responded, “We have not rolled back or repealed any portion of it.” [Washington Post]

Other examples of anti-immigrant policies include:

North Carolina, where the state’s Attorney General, Roy Cooper, “advised the [state’s] 58 community colleges to return to a 2001 policy that prohibited illegal immigrants from degree classes.” [Raleigh News & Observer]; and

Postville, Iowa, where, on May 13, according to the Des Moines Register, “federal agents conducted what they’re now calling the largest raid of its kind in the nation’s history” and arrested and detained 390 workers alleged to be illegal immigrants. [Des Moines Register]

The local school superintendent spent the day trying to help more than 200 immigrant children find out what happened to their parents. [Education Week]

Aren’t those of us who are ‘white’ lucky? We don’t have to go through the day wondering if the authorities will suddenly burst in and deprive us of our freedom.

While the presence of illegal immigrants from Latin America may be the most openly-expressed reason for these anti-immigrant policies, the unspoken reason could be a nationalist fear of the growing numbers of persons in the U.S. of Latin American descent. According to the U.S. Census, Hispanics are the nation’s fastest-growing minority, whose children are now one in four of all children under the age of five. [Washington Post]

Of course illegal immigration is a problem. But the way to handle it is to develop a “path to citizenship,” as Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain have proposed. [US News]

Looking at the origins of our nation, you have to agree that among our founding ‘fathers’ were persons who came here with no legal right to displace native peoples. They sailed into Massachusetts on the Mayflower and occupied what they chose to call “New England,” where native peoples already lived. They invaded Virginia and set up their own ‘illegal’ settlement at Jamestown. They conquered the West and Southwest with their invasion from Spain, illegally taking land from the Incas and Aztecs and well-established native nations of the area. And they illegally claimed all of the middle of North America in the name of the King of France, naming ‘their’ misbegotten land Louisiana.

So, who are the illegal immigrants among us? Ellis Island was established in 1892, long after these earlier invasions and occupations. [Bowling Green State University]

You see, we are not as ‘legal’ and ‘pure’ Americans as we would like to think. And those who also come here ‘illegally’ yearn for no more and no less than those who landed on this multi-nation continent prior to 1892. Imagine what emotions must tear at Native Americans when they hear us sing, “This land is your land; this land is my land.”

It is? Really?

Are We the Next Rome?

Monday, May 5th, 2008

I have often thought to myself… “Rome, at its peak, only lasted for so many years… the U.S. won’t be ‘on top’ forever.” And it appears W Bush has taken us to, and now, over the precipice.

The Federal Reserve, having demonstrated our entire unregulated financial system is based on nothing but thin air — upon which the rich built fortunes on loans backed by loans that were backed by loans — ‘saved’ the dominant, under-the-regulations paper giant International Herald Tribune, while the rest of us appear to be spiraling into something akin to our Great Depression, a fact that only a few seem to understand and our electronic media for the most part ignores. Robert Reich

The Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein seemed to ‘get it’ in his most recent piece, “The Bottom Is Up Ahead” Pearlstein in which he states:
“Don’t be fooled by the latest sucker rally on stock markets or predictions that the ‘worst may be behind us.’ The first thing you need to remember is that these guys still don’t have a handle on what they’re dealing with — nobody does. And even if they did, we know that when it comes to their own balance sheets, or to the outlook for the markets and the economy or designing a new regulatory framework, they simply cannot be trusted.”

The one person who would deliver us from the greed and arrogance put in place by W and those of his ilk is, to my mind, Barack Obama, who is being torn apart by the apparently amoral Clintons; who themselves winked at Wall Street and helped continue the fiscal arrogance created by Ronald Reagan and the far right.

Having corrupted our economic system, our post-1980 presidents have transformed our nation, so it is no longer recognizable for its idealism, but now — thanks to W Bush and Cheney and their predecessors — sits atop a mountain of shame.

The ‘good America’ has become, with the assistance of W and those who were fooled by or cooperated with him, in essence an ‘ugly America,’ 1958 Best Seller of killing and torture and greed-centered excess. This is well-expressed by Dr. Gerry Lower of Wisconsin in his, “How Does One Apologize to the Entire World?” New Europeans Magazine

A President Obama can help restore the ‘goodness’ at the top of our elected leadership, and, I hope, banish forever the influence of ‘Wall Street’ from our national policy agenda.

But President Obama will inherit a nation approaching financial oblivion. W and the right always refer to Democrats as ‘tax and spend’ policymakers, yet he and Cheney have so corrupted our government by ‘borrow and spend,’ that we now have a cumulative National Debt of $9.3 Trillion dollars (trillion being a number that, for baby-boomers, was almost cartoon-like in character when we grew up in the 1950s). Nat’l Debt Clock

Only eight years ago that total U.S. debt (just the debt of the government, not including personal and corporate debt) stood at $5.6 trillion … a figure 66 percent less than today’s economic hole, dug deeper by a so-called fiscal conservative.

Conservatism finally has been exposed for the bankrupt, amoral movement it has always been. But we have learned that at a terrible price.

And the world will doubtless have little pity for a financially-ailing nation, led by an arrogant plutocrat, who took us to a policy of killing, torture, and corporate greed on a scale that pales in comparison to the worst excesses of any previous time in North America.

Will we escape from these jaws of greed and immorality; or will the Clintons and the far right succeed in bringing down the ‘once in a generation leader,’ who could at least restore our reputation, if not our economy?

So, Who’s Really Elite?

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Let’s see … after graduating from Harvard Law as Law Review Editor, one candidate heads for Chicago’s notoriously poor and ravaged South Side to organize neighborhoods in need of community playgrounds, asbestos cleanup and just plain help after the steel mills had shut down, leaving families with no jobs and not much hope. L.A. Times

The other made Law Review at Yale, married the Arkansas political ‘boy wonder,’ and, while he was attorney general, managed to turn $1,000 — put into cattle futures on the advice of a Tyson Food counsel — into $100,000. Marshall Magazine. Later, “just as her husband was being inaugurated as the nation’s youngest governor,” she was made partner, at age 32, in the Little Rock-based Rose Law Firm, where she was putting $200,000 in the family coffers by the time she and her husband moved to Washington. N.Y. Times

The other guy… the one from Illinois? He started a civil rights practice and taught constitutional law.

And she, according to the New York Times, “lent prestige to the (Rose) firm’s letterhead [and] served as director of several of Rose’s” major clients, “including Wal-Mart and TCBY.” The Times also reported that “the head of the firm’s executive committee … said she was a leading ‘rainmaker’” who brought in clients based on her marriage to the governor. N.Y. Times

Since becoming a senator, she and her husband have made $109.2 million NPR. Just last year the William J. Clinton Foundation received hefty donations totaling $131.3 million from a grateful Canadian financier, who brought along Mr. Clinton in his corporate jet, when the two traveled to Kazakhstan. Upon arrival they headed for a dinner with the president — infamous for his suppression of dissent — and soon the former governor/former president’s ‘friend’ won “three uranium projects controlled by the state-owned uranium agency …” N.Y. Times.

All the Clintons have to do is show up and money falls from the sky.

Go to Barack’s website and look at the black and white shots of this earnest young man trying to help folks who actually needed help.

And after you’ve seen his story, you tell me who’s among the ‘elite’ … And who represents people struggling to get by … who understands the real needs of real individuals.

We need a president to represent the family at their formica kitchen table … not the big shots seated around the mahogany board room table.