Saturday, July 14, 2007

Impeach for the Future

This intent for this site is to focus on the future, which we dream up daily with our imaginations, our hopes, our actions and commitments. Baseball and personal observations get on here, too, but I try to limit the political commentary to subjects important to the future. So this site doesn't chronicle the hourly political events and issue debates, nor does it dwell on the outrages of the Bush administration, its lawlessness, its arrogance and its criminal conduct of the war in Iraq.

That's partly because the Bush administration has no future. But lately I've been becoming uncomfortably conscious that the damage Bushcorps has done is not going to end in January 2009, regardless of the 2008 election outcome. This country and the entire world have suffered potentially severe setbacks, making the tasks necessary to save the future, and to build the future, much more difficult.

Despite the high crimes and misdemeanors committed by Bush and Cheney, Congress has had little stomach for Impeachment, due in part to the short time left before Bush and Cheney go anyway. The political calculation for congressional Democrats has been that it's better to accentuate the positive, and spare the country another impeachment process.

On Bill Moyers Journal Friday night, Moyers discussed impeachment with conservative Republican Bruce Fein, and liberal journalist John Nichols. I met John Nichols many years ago, when he was a young reporter for the Toledo Blade. On Moyers, he presented arguments derived from his research into the Constitution and the Founders debates, for his book The Genius of Impeachment. He made a compelling case that the Constitution requires impeachment hearings in these circumstances. He made a convincing case that hearings into the impeachment of Cheney and Bush must begin in the House immediately, not in order to remove them months before the end of their term, but to defend the Constitution they are violating, for the future.

Left unchallenged, the extraordinary and unconstitutional powers they have seized for the executive branch, and specifically for the White House, will remain by default. These include international lawlessness. This is very dangerous to the future. We know what their crimes are, Nichols summarized, and if we don't impeach, it sends a new standard for what the presidency can legitimately do. It was to limit the presidency and subject it to law, to keep it from being a monarchy, that the Founders created impeachment.

Political parties, conventions, primaries--none are mentioned at all in the Constitution, Nichols said, but impeachment is, six separate times.

Both Nichols and Fein talked about impeachment hearings as an important educational opportunity, and a way to involve citizens in their government. Especially if they are televised (though in today's TV environment, who knows.) This time there will be real constitutional issues involved, concerning the conduct of the nation's business by the President and Vice President, and whether that conduct is constitutional.

It seems like the right argument to me. It's time to begin the process of impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Barry and the Level Playing Field

Barry Bonds is four homers away from the all-time career home run record. So he's an Issue again. Because he used steroids as part of a bulking up program, it is alleged, he's had an unfair advantage. His career was not played on a level playing field. To which I say: hey, Ump--are you blind?

The points that Jonathan Cohen made in the Nation last month about the SI all time team are relevant here. They add up to this: what level playing field? He points out that the SI team is largely composed of players from before 1947--that is, from when black athletes like Bonds were banned from major league baseball. Without athletes of color even permitted, and in particular so many demonstrably superior black players, what are those records really worth? Where was the level playing field then?

What constitutes a level playing field anyway--what gives this metaphor a real meaning? The U.S. population has doubled since Babe Ruth, and it's probably a third larger than since Hank Aaron. What about the number of teams? The influx of players from Japan, China and Europe, as well as the recently higher number of Latin players as contrasted with African Americans? What about the average height and weight? What about ball parks? (San Francisco's is beautiful, but one of the harder ones to hit homers in.) What sort of mountains or molehills in the playing field does any of those produce?

While steroid use is often illegal and against the rules, and also harmful, the fact is that various products containing such substances have been used in recent years by a number of players, including pitchers that Bonds faced, and hitters whose records are not currently being questioned. Where's the level playing field exactly? Maybe it is level--everybody in the game today is competing against some players who have used some banned substances to some degree, and some who haven't. And does anyone claim Barry Bonds is using such substances now?

Keith Olbermann did a piece on Bonds and the record tonight. He clearly thinks Bonds has cheated (and sorry, I don't find bigger shoe size compelling evidence), but he told the sad story of previous players who approached such a record: Roger Maris was vilified, and so in fact was Hank Aaron--where the tone was often decidedly racist. You'd have to be as blind as an umpire not to see that some of the violent emotion behind criticism of Bonds is racist.

Maybe it's because I've been watching Barry Bonds since he broke into the league with my Pittsburgh Pirates, and hit his first major league home run on my birthday. But I'm rooting for him. I'll let others measure the tilt on the playing field.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Answering the Call (of the Future)

UPDATE: I posted a version of this on a few community blogs, but the lack of response or comments made me wonder whether it was of any interest, or too late, or what, until some substantive (and flattering) comments appeared on the European Tribune version. And despite not a single comment or rec for the Daily Kos version, it made the Rescued list--thank you so much, SusanG.

The Live Earth concerts on Saturday were watched by more people--in person, online and on TV--than any previous entertainment event in history. While even as an erstwhile "rock critic" I'm no longer qualified to offer an opinion on the music (I don't know the musicians anymore--I know my era has ended when the old standbys I'd expect weren't there, unless you count portions of Pink Floyd, Madonna--who impressed the hell out of me, frankly, in terms of energy and showmanship--and the headliners, Sting and the Police--Sting and his wife Trudi Styler having worked on environmental issues particularly involving Indigenous societies in South America for more than 20 years; most of the new-to-me people sound derivative to me anyway), I am interested in the event's significance for the Climate Crisis and the future in general.

One of the more balanced evaluations I've run across is Oliver Burkeman's in the Guardian. While he begins with the criticism of the usual suspects that these events used (or more pointedly wasted) energy (disregarding as usual the real efforts that went into minimizing the impact, which were at the very least, not hypocritical) he does so with irony, and his second graph concludes: "And yet - as the shock that the planet had not been saved in a day began to fade - the scandalous possibility presented itself that Al Gore's seven-continent, 24-hour concert series had been really rather impressive, and might yet prove to have been hugely important."

He mentions the specific practical outcomes: if you tell a world audience of up to 2bn people, over and over again, that they should use energy-efficient lightbulbs, do their washing at 30 degrees, and never leave their TVs on standby, you can hardly fail to have some kind of effect. He then relates the roster of musicians (specifically at Wembly Stadium in London) to the larger significance of these events: To observe that the London line-up was deeply middle-of-the-road was to miss the point entirely. The best interpretation of Saturday's concerts was precisely that climate change moved to the middle of the road, fostering a vague but - at last - mainstream sense that "something must be done".

Middle of the road, middle class and more. It was direct in the sense that the message was unmediated by political parties or ideologues. A diary posted at Daily Kos noted that the standard environmental groups were not part of the Live Earth event, and many comments suggested why: because environmental groups have largely failed, especially to come together with a common and effective voice on the Climate Crisis and associated issues, such as deforestation, energy and ecosystem destruction.

Years ago, when I wrote my ideas about how to create an "emotional consensus" on the Climate Crisis as a moral issue, I advocated using well-known media figures from entertainment to get broad attention, which is what Live Earth did. (I also advocated using the term "Climate Crisis" instead of "climate change". ) These have successfully begun, and there's more to come. Another idea--to get recognized moral leaders, like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandella-- behind it in a big way is probably not far off. But my #1 idea--that environmental organizations must come together to speak in One Big Voice on the issue--hasn't happened, and apparently won't, especially when there is so much contention on forest issues, and so many turf battles over specific priorities.

So while environmental organizations aren't irrelevant by any means, they have been bypassed, which may turn out to be a good thing. For Live Earth didn't just dispense advice on small changes we can make (though they do add up, and the audio inserts on CNBC and NBC with the uncredited voices of Whoopi Goldberg and William Shatner were terrific, as were at least some of the short films they and Bravo showed--though it's important to note that some of these films and even some of the inserts focused on the complexity of many large issues, such as the relationship of forests, global heating and child labor in the Amazon.) Everyone was also asked to take a 7 point pledge (see post just below) which involved larger changes and activism on political and societal levels. The day's mantra was Answer the Call.

I was pondering all of this when I came across Dan Carol's piece on the Huffington Post. The piece itself is noisy, but he makes this point: American voters would respond to Barack Obama calling for a national effort to address the Climate Crisis and related energy, economic and social problems: I don't really care what you call it. Call it Project Hope. A Green New Deal as Tom Friedman does. A green corps to rival FDR's civilian conservation corps in a new century. A new Apollo project.

This means a huge government commitment to R&D and industries for clean energy and new climate crisis-fighting technologies, with lots of participation from big and small business, and labor unions. But it also means individual people signing up for the variation on national service, or a domestic environmental peace corps. It can't ever be compulsory service, but it is an idea that could inspire millions, especially the young--and even the middle class young and retirees--who were largely the target audience for Live Earth.

In his last round of talk show appearances, Al Gore not only continued to express his reluctance to get into the presidential race--he made clear that he won't endorse any candidate until he finds one who is strong enough on the Climate Crisis issue. If Obama were to make these proposals the centerpiece of his campaign, he would very likely win Gore's endorsement and active support and participation. This could make Obama the Democratic candidate, or at the very least force Hillary Clinton to move this issue and these solutions closer to the top of her priorities (Bill Clinton is already on record saying that revitalizing the American economy with clean energy independence industries would be the issue he'd be running on.) It could make either one of them (or John Edwards, should he do this) President.

In the long run, the Climate Crisis may require nothing less. Burkeman ends his Guardian piece quoting one of Al Gore's more persistent aphorisms: "In Africa there's a proverb that says 'if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,'" Mr Gore said, live from Washington. "We have to go far, quickly."
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Live Earth Pledge

I Pledge:

1.To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2.To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral;"

3.To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4.To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5.To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6.To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7.To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

You can formally make the pledge here.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Happy Birthday

Joyce B.
President Cynic

He knows the cost (as computed from Bloomberg and AP by Think Progress): “Four thousand U.S. service members have died in U.S. President George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror’ in Iraq and Afghanistan 5 1/2 years after American forces ousted the Taliban in December 2001.” AP adds, “All told, Congress has appropriated $610 billion in war-related money since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror assaults, roughly the same as the war in Vietnam. Iraq alone has cost $450 billion.” The wars cost approximately $12 billion a month, according to a new Congressional Research Service report.

Add to this the largely unreported (and secret) cost in money and national reputation not to mention the nation's soul of civilian contractors, many operating in combat outside any law, who now outnumber U.S. combat troops in Iraq. Leaks today indicate that the reports from the field due at the end of the week will show no progress, especially in the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks of success. All of which led the New York Times on Sunday to call for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq and bring the occupation to an end.

But as the Times editorial noted, and as White House statements confirmed today, President Bush and his Bushcorps has no intention of doing so, and expects to leave this horrific mess to his successor.

In fact, this is the chief Bush strategy now. With more than two-thirds of the American public against this war, and with barely a quarter of the voters giving him a positive approval rating, and with Congressional Republicans running away from him and otherwise powerless to do anything but stop the Democrats from passing any legislation, the only ally Bush has is time--the short time until his terms expires--and he is exploiting it deliberately and cynically.

He knows there is no election that can increase the number of Democrats in Congress to give them a veto-proof and filibuster-proof Senate until he is gone. He can refuse to give Congress information on everything from illegal wiretaps to improper partisan meddling in the firing and hiring of U.S. prosecutors on the flimsiest unsupported grounds, because the processes to compel Bushcorps' cooperation lead through Congress and the courts to the Supreme Court, and won't be resolved until they are long gone from office.

Above all, he can act with impunity--keeping Gonzales as Attorney General, commuting the entire jail sentence of convicted felon Scooter Libby--because until now the long and painful process of impeachment seemed not worth it, as he would face removal from office a matter of months before his term expires.

Bush and his Bushcorps are cynically using this sense of too short a time to defy the American people, to defy and defile the Constitution and international law, and above all to protect themselves. They are banking on another characteristic of short time--the short public attention span--to protect them after they leave office, when their images are no longer on TV every day.

Meanwhile, it takes only a split second to end the lives of soldiers and civilians in Iraq, or to damage their bodies and minds for perhaps a half century life span or more. In the meantime, prisoners will be tortured and suffer incarceration without charges or trial, and millions of Americans and people around the world will suffer the consequences of Bushcorps actions and failures to act. And generations yet unborn will suffer the consequences of failing to act on the Climate Crisis, for every day of climate crisis pollution at today's levels or growing adds to the accumulating effects that will inevitably be visited on the Earth's future, perhaps in a couple of generations, on top of the effects of past pollution we suffer now and for the next generation.

This is the cost of Bushcorps, and of the smiling cynicism holding this country captive.