Thursday, June 23, 2005

An Eminently Troubling Court Decision

If you haven't heard, your home is no longer your castle. Today, in an unconscionable decision (5-4), the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that cities and towns can take homes for private development projects by use of eminent domain. I'm going to have to pinch myself and ask if I'm still in America!

Eminent domain was supposed to allow governments to take (with compensation) property for public use such as roads, schools, libraries. Now the door is open for seizure of homes for private developers. The case heard before the Supreme Court was brought by a group of homeowners in New London, CT, who are fighting to keep their homes from being taken for a private development project to complement a facility owned by Pfizer, Inc..

I literally felt shock and outrage when I first read about this. I feel it is probably the worst Supreme Court decision since Plessy v. Ferguson or Dred Scott. I bless the 4 dissenters: Chief Justice Renhquist and Justices O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas (wow - he actually got one right!) Justice O'Connor wrote in her dissent: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." She is absolutely correct. Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent that it will have a great impact on poor communities undergoing renewal programs. He wrote that "no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes."

Ladies and gentlemen, where is the outrage? Do not wait until it is your home that your town wants to seize. I urge you to take action. Contact your Senators and Congresspeople and urge a legislative remedy. Contact your state representatives and also lobby for a remedy on the state level.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Flag Amendment

Today, the House passed an anti-flag burning amendment. It may not be the most popular sentiment, but this saddens me. I love this country, and personally respect our flag. I do not like the sight of our flag being burned. However, I must agree with the Supreme Court who declared that burning the flag in protest is protected free speech. We must guard our right to free expression, even though we find some expressions personally offensive. That's what free speech is all about. Isn't that part of what we're supposed to be fighting for and standing up for around the world? When a piece of cloth, symbolic though it may be, becomes more important than the Constitution and the civil liberties that are supposedly central to the American way, it's time to look at our priorities.

I hope that it does not pass in the Senate. I would urge everyone to contact their Senators and urge them to vote against this measure which would erode more of our civil rights.

Howard Dean

What are we to make of Howard Dean? Personally, I like him. Granted, he may need to phrase things a bit more diplomatically at times, but I find his "tell it like it is" spirit refreshing. As I've said before, I'm tired of everything being so scripted and politicians being so scared they might actually say something! I liked his reply to Dick Cheney's remark (which doesn't seem to have drawn the same scrutiny). Dean said, "I don't care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not. We are going to fight back. I think it's great that Dick Cheney went after me, to be honest. At least they notice there's a Democratic Party that's not going to put up with this stuff any more. So there's a lot we're gonna do." Given the GOP attacks, it's about time the Democrats got some fighting spirit!

Actually, I'm amazed that the media jump all over Dean's controversial remarks yet never challenge the Right-wing candidates and pundits who trash the word Liberal and paint Liberal candidates as extremists. I also wonder why no one notes that his remarks have not seemed to provoke any sort of soul searching among Republicans. Often remarks we don't particularly enjoy hearing still have a grain of truth. Trying to be diplomatic here, why aren't more Republicans saying there may be a need to look at why the party is perceived in some of the ways Dean has mentioned. Why aren't such remarks provoking a discussion of having the Republican party be more inclusive racially, socio-economically, and politically (i. e., strengthening its Moderate wing and attracting (gasp!) Liberals back! There is a growing frustration in the "moderate" wing of the GOP which could be tapped into.

Meanwhile, I hope that DNC Chairman Dean stays passionate yet finds ways to express this a bit more effectively. We need his fire to help a more progressive agenda get adopted and progressive candidates elected.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Blocking Bolton

So far, efforts to block the nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the U. N. have been successful. However, the President is considering a "recess" appointment which would not need Senate approval and which would last until Jan., 2007.

We need to keep the heat up and let the Senate know that such a nominee is unacceptable. I'm not sure why that Bolton, who has shown disdain for the U. N. in the past, would want to go there. There are also questions about his possible intimidation of officials who disagreed with him and about the possiblilty of his involvement with exaggeration of intelligence data.

Urge your Senators to vote against confirming Bolton as U. N. Ambassador. Also, please e-mail the President and urge him not to use a recess appointment.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Another Outrage Du Jour

This administration's attitude toward scientific information troubles me. There was Phillip Cooney who edited passages of a global warming study to diminish the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. Now scientists who have retired from the Bureau of Land Management report that a scientific analysis was changed. Specifically, passages critical of relaxing grazing regulations for cattle were eliminated or altered. Read their story here.

I feel that it is very important that decisions affecting our precious biosphere be based on a) truthful information and rigorous science, and b) a true concern for protecting our environment. Native Americans (I'm part Delaware) always have a reverence for Mother Earth. We - and our decision makers - need to remember that in the words of one Native American, "What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves."

It seems to me that this administration falls short on adhering to both of the above criteria. We need to demand that our decision makers be held to higher standards than altering scientific reports to support a conclusion that they support for some reason, even if the data does not.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Women Still Face Unbelievable Injustice

I have been shocked, saddened and outraged by some cases of extreme injustice against women recently. Around the world, women still face many hardships such as lack of education and struggles for daily survival. They also face many injustices and indignities brought on by powerful male-dominated societies.

Very recently, an Indian woman, Imrana Bibi, was raped by her father-in-law, divorced and abandoned by her husband, yet ordered to live with her attacker! In this article, she says she will never live with her attacker and describes her ordeal.

Another famous case is that of Muktaran Mai, who was ordered gang raped to avenge something one of her brothers did. Most of her attackers are now free and she has been fearful of retaliation. On top of everything, she has been a virtual prisoner; it seems the government does not want her to move about freely and tell her story. Last week, it appeared as though she would be allowed to visit the U. S. and give a series of talks organized by the Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Women. As of today, the President of Pakistan has stopped her from coming. At their website, the Network has updates on her case, sample letters to the President of Pakistan, and a link to an e-mail form to Pres. Musharraf. Please visit their site and e-mail the Pakistani President to urge him to allow her to move freely and visit the U. S.. Contacting our Congresspeople would be a good idea also.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

The Plight of Stray Animals in Iraq

When I first started thinking about doing a blog, I toyed with the idea of calling it "Outrage du Jour" (Daily Outrage), since this administration always seemed to be doing something I found objectionable. This latest unspeakable and unnecessary cruelty is no exception.

Animal lovers, please take note and take action. The Humane Society of the U. S. reports that our armed forces have been ordered not to keep or rescue stray pets in Iraq. Those who do face severe penalties; the pets face even worse. Soldiers have confirmed contractors have been hired to actually kill dogs found on bases. Some pets have been smuggled to safety, but those routes are being slowly closed off. For anyone who cares about animals, this is an unjust action targeting innocent animals whose only crime was to be a stray and to be rescued and adopted by service personnel. In some cases, units have been ordered to shoot strays on sight - not even letting them have a chance to be rescued. I can't imagine how they can justify this action against animals who have probably been separated from their human companions and want no more than to either be reunited with them or find another loving home.

Please read about this at the HSUS site and take a moment to send a message to Pres. Bush and ask him to rescind this order.

Friday, June 3, 2005

A Plan to Save?

Today I think I'll take a break from politics and relate my experience trying to save some money on my phone bill. A few months ago, I signed on to a regional package with Verizon. I "thought" this would save me money, but quite the opposite was the case. I didn't realize this package was on top of their "basic charges", which meant this effectively doubled my bill!

So this afternoon I tried managing the maze of phone plans and automated customer service phone lines. It was a challenge just to get a live person at Verizon who could finally change my service back to the minimal package I was on BEFORE I changed it. I also didn't realize that the local lines are controlled by Verizon and ATT - who apparently don't have to share them! So much for competition.

Although I can get some great deals in long distance, that's not the major part of my phone bill. Those "basic charges", such as the FCC subscriber line fee and the wonderful fee I have to pay for the privilege of having a subsidiary line for my computer are what's killing me! I did investigate switching to ATT, but to switch both lines would have cost me almost $130! I told the gal at ATT I thought that would be highway robbery (and yes, I did use those exact words).

After dealing with all of this I am still on Verizon for my local calling (on their minimal flat rate plan), and I took a plan with my Internet provider for my long distance. And I'm still wondering when everyone will stop gouging the consumer.