Teddy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy, youngest child of Kennedy family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Kennedy, and brother of both assassinated US President John F. Kennedy (JFK) and assassinated US senator Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy (RFK), died last night of brain cancer.  He was 77 years old, and a forty-year veteran democratic US senator from the US state of Massachusetts.

Ted Kennedy was known as the “lion of the senate”in his later terms of office.  He was a true and formidable champion of the poor, the down-trodden, the sick, the elderly, the minority population groups…anyone that needed a helping and or an equal opportunity.  He was instrumental in passing legislation regarding civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, equal rights, patient’s rights, quality education programs, health care programs such as medicaid and prescription assistance for seniors and guaranteed health care for children.  His strong personal socially-liberal value system belied the fact that he had been raised as a privileged child in a very wealthy, aristocratically oriented family.

But besides his liberal agenda, he was also known and respected by the conservative senators and politicians who knew him for his ability to compromise and negotiate fairly with them to achieve workable legislation in the senate, even when the conservatives were in control of the US senate.  A classic example of this was the Bush education bill of 2002, which he and the conservative president GW Bush worked on together.  This compromise assured its passage and its signing into law by the president (who later reneged on funding for several aspects of the law.  Read more of this HERE.)

Another example was the Kennedy-McCain Immigration Reform legislation of 2007. And there are many, many more examples which any reader can research here, for starters.

Ted Kennedy was not with his imperfections and life-mistakes.  For example, In 1952, at the age of 20,  he was caught cheating on an exam at the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was expelled for two years.

But the worst incident occurred in the summer of 1969, when Kennedy, as a 7-year US senator and heir-apparent to the democratic US presidential nomination for 1972 and/or 1976, drove his car off an unlit bridge late at night on Chappaquiddick Island, part or Martha’s Vineyard Island in Massachusetts, after a party.  His passenger, a pretty 29-year old campaign worker named Mary Jo Kopechne, drown.  Kennedy himself escaped the sinking vehicle and swam to safety, but after consulting with aides, failed to report the incident to police for ten hours.  The ensuing public scrutiny threatened to end Kennedy’s senate career as well as any further political ambitions.

Although Kennedy was able to retain the loyalty of Massachusetts voters and keep his US senate seat, his chances of winning enough support to win the democratic presidential nomination for president in  both 1972 and 1976 were gone.  And although he did run in 1980, he failed against incumbent democratic US president Jimmy Carter.  He simply could not shake off the specter of the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident.

However, as a result of his 1980 loss and his soul-searching, he gave what many consider the most inspiring speech of his life, known today as “the dream is alive” speech at the August 1980 democratic convention in New York City.

While Kennedy had resolved that he would never again try to follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers to the presidential nomination, others still urged him to try again in 1984.  Instead, Kennedy made it clear to the entire world that his presidential ambitions were totally behind him.  In doing so, he disarmed all who claimed that all that he did, and was doing, was for ulterior political gain.  This was the turning point for Ted Kennedy, who now would become the statesman which has earned him the respect and friendship of liberals and conservatives alike, including all who have worked with him over the years in the US senate.

Of course, there are always the ultra-right lunatic fringe of hate-mongers who rejoice in the death of liberals…any liberals.  The only US senator Kennedy never had a cordial working relationship with was Jesse Helms, the in-your-face ultra-right racist white-male-supremacist from North Carolina.  And crawling on their bellies through the mud in Helm’s embarrassing claw-steps are the ultra-extreme-right bloggers and web sites spewing their hatred for Ted Kennedy and their absolute joy regarding his death.  But by their very nature, they have little to no credibility (probably mirroring their intellectual capabilities), and thus, are simply a faint din in the shadow of a great man who did great things.

Those great things are not yet over, either.  Ted Kennedy was a champion of health care reform, and was working on achieving compromise with fellow conservative senators.  Whether compromise can now still be achieved is any one’s guess, but the smart money is that it will be, if no for no other reason than in honor of the man himself.

JFK set a goal of landing a man on the moon, which, in his death, was achieved.  RFK set a goal of getting the USA out of Vietnam, which, in his death, also was achieved.  Ted Kennedy’s ultimate goal was true equality among all people.  Universal health care for all was but one facet of that goal.

It’s a good bet that in his death, this too will eventually come to pass.

For now…..Teddy, Hail, and Farewell.  We hardly knew ye.

They Love You…Until You are Born

While the country debates, lobbies, rages, negotiates and schemes over both side of health care reform, a story hit the bricks today that in many ways is related to the differences between liberals and conservatives on health care and the like.

A Texas death row inmate, Michael Richard, was executed after 6pm on September 25th, 2009.  His lawyers attempted to have the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) stay open for perhaps 20 minutes past its normal closing time (6pm) on the day Richard was scheduled to be executed so that an appeal for a stay of execution could be filed.  The lateness of the appeal was by a faulty computer service provider.  This caused the required filing documents to not be ready until 5:56pm, 4 minutes before closing time.

The presiding CCA judge, Sharon Kelly, had the authority and obligation under Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.2 stay open.  She received the request to do so in time to act.  However, she chose to let the court to close promptly at 6pm.  Thus, the appeal was not filed nor ruled upon, and Richard was executed as scheduled.

Two years later, Kelly is standing trial for misconduct.

Texas executes more inmates than all other US States combined.  In fact, more than a third of all executions in the USA since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 have occurred in Texas alone.

It is a well-known fact that favoring the death penalty and opposing universal health care, even just for children, are both very conservative positions.   The view is that it’s okay for the state to murder death row inmates convicted of capital crimes, while denying health care to those least able to care for themselves or least able to afford medical care.  They would eliminate programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, welfare programs and food stamps if they could.  Not real people friendly.

Abortion, on the other hand, is about people who aren’t really people yet.  They’re one-celled fertilized eggs, or zygotes, or embryos, or fetuses.  They lack sentience and expend no resources, public or private, except those of the mother, who is a private citizen.  She may be a single, unemployed, uneducated woman pregnant for the eight time because ideally by conservative dogma the state provides no comprehensive sex education or access to birth control.  She and her post-natal offspring are on their own.

Her pre-natal offspring, on the other hand, is to be protected at all costs, regardless of whether it is the result of rape or incest, or if it’s birthing could result in the death of the mother.  Oh, well.  it would suck to be her.  Protect that unborn entity all costs!  Or is it no cost to the state…?

So the ideal seems be that as long as there are no state costs, you can live forever.  But as soon as you cost money to maintain, you’re  a liability the state should not support.  Health care (even for children)?  Nope.  Costs money.  Social programs?  Nope.  Cost money.  Life sentence for capital crime?  Nope.  Costs thousands of dollars a year vs. $82 for lethal injection.

Ban all abortions no matter what the ramifications?  Absolutely.  Why?  Costs nothing except the cost of passing the law.   Health care reform?   Nope.  Cost too much vs. letting people for free.

Maintaining the life of a zygote of embryo at all costs vs. accepting people’s death from of preventable diseases, lack of care, or by state-sanctioned murder known as executions (even at the cost of a few executed innocents)… insanely held diametrically opposed moral views?  Under the proper rationalization, it really isn’t about moral values at all, regardless of empty protests to the contrary.

Nope.  It’s about MONEY!!!!

Some folks really don’t believe in subsidizing their fellow citizens in any way.  After all, the strong have always survived at the expense of the weak.  It’s the way of the world  It’s worked since the creation of the universe 6000 years ago.  Why are those nasty spend-crazy liberals trying to change nature’s perfect system?

Well…maybe because the “perfect” system is not sustainable.  It seems to save money in the short term, but costs go up endlessly in the long term.  A woman denied an abortion today:  no cost now, but ultimately huge costs in the form of increased crime by her hungry, needy offspring.  Families with no health coverage: no cost now, but ultimately huge costs due to their emergency room use for health care.  Plus, their children get our children sick, which costs more money.  No health care reform: no visible costs now, but wild upward spiral of costs of the present US system, while in Europe, well-established universal care has resulted in spending half per-capita of what the USA spends, while longevity is four years more on average than in the USA.

And executing innocent men and/or women has cost hundreds of millions of dollars in court awards.

If you only care about yourself and conserving your present financial state, then the status quo is for you.  But if it prevails, hope that you stay both healthy and employed until you drop dead, that you never get framed for a crime you didn’t commit,  and that no family member ever gets raped and/or pregnant with a life-threatening condition.

Because if any of that ever happens to you, you may have trouble with your (secretly money-based) “morality” system.

Due To Major Computer Software Meltdown…..

…this weeks blog will be delayed until next week.  Windows Vista tried to demolish We, the PEOPLE, as well as all other files on the machine.  After five days of fierce cyber-battles, We, the People!! has emerged VICTORIOUS, albeit not without some battle scars, such as lost-in-cyberspace passwords and bookmarks, thank to Microsoft;s level 2 support folks in India, who worked remotely for four days to help diagnose the problem and advise on the fixes.

And please:  MAC users, don’t tell me to get a MAC.  🙂

So relax and enjoy the week off, and while you do, and consider pondering the fact that many faith-based organizations are joining forces with the liberals in support of health care reform (although not the ultra-extreme-right-wing organization “Focus on the Family”.

Oh well.  If it wasn’t for the fanatical lunatic fringe, who would we criticize?  🙂 🙂

All the best,

Howie

The GLORIOUS Return (Finally!!) of Back-Channel Diplomacy

In 1994 the Clinton administration was successful in negotiating agreements with N. Korea, and subsequently maintained a level of “back-channel” diplomacy with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, (DPRK), more commonly known as North Korea.  During the 2000 US presidential campaign, President Bill Clinton had a visit scheduled to N. Korea.  The trip was ultimately canceled because the presidential campaign strategists for then-vice-president and democratic presidential nominee Al Gore believed that the George W. Bush campaign would use it as a political football.

Shortly after “W” Bush took office, newly appointed US secretary of state Colin Powell stated, in answer to a press question about N. Korea, that the USA was intending to continue the Clinton policy of maintaining some contact with the DPRK.  Later that same day, then-vice-president “Tricky-Dick” Cheney contradicted Powell, telling the press that the USA was looking at policy change toward N. Korea, and that the Bush administration would adopt its own policy toward that country.

That policy turned out to be soon-to-be-infamous “do as we say, or we might invade you” Bush-Cheney policy, which led the USA into the Iraqi war, and turned many of our international friends against us.  It was arrogant, insulting, demanding, and devoid of the quiet “back-channel” diplomacy which had, among many other events, successfully ended the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and allowed the USA to reach the 1994 agreement with N. Korea.  But the war-mongering Bush/Cheney team would have none of that.  After all, the USA was the earth’s mightiest nation, the only superpower still standing.  It could and would dictate terms to whomever, whenever.

As a direct result of this policy change, the N. Korean leader Kim Yong Il chose to save face (very important to this little man in total control of the DPRK) by increasingly delivering “up-yours” defiance to the USA and its allies.  He broke agreements, starting with the 1994 agreement in 2002, after Bush defined his regime as part of the “axis of evil”, along with Iraq and Iran.  He tested at least two nuclear weapons and multiple ballistic missiles. And while N. Korea demanded bilateral talks with the USA on any future agreements, Bush demanded six-party talks only, absolutely refusing to negotiate nation-to-nation, as the Clinton folks had done.

Fast forward to 2009.  Barack Obama, who campaigned on a premise that he would talk to adversaries directly, is now president of the USA.  And in February of this year, in what may have been a premeditated test of the brand new administration, N. Korea detained two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee.  They were promptly convicted of trumped-up spying charges and sentenced to 12 years at hard labor.

Had this occurred between 2002 and 2008, those two women would have been breaking rocks at some freezing prison camp until they died of exhaustion and malnutrition, while “Tricky-Dick” traded insults and threats with Kim Yong Il.

But luckily for them, now-in-power Obama administration invoked the services of the Swedish government, former vice-president Al Gore, secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and most importantly, former president Bill Clinton.  Back-channel diplomacy subsequently determined the successful outcome of a trip Bill Clinton would take to N. Korea as the US’s visiting “goodwill emissary” because they hold him in high esteem.  Notice that they didn’t ask for a visit by W, or “Tricky-Dick”.

In fact, if the Bush syndicate hadn’t been such arrogant, partisan war-mongers, they could have had successful back-channel diplomacy with the N. Koreans as well.  Bill Clinton probably might even have accepted the role of “goodwill emissary” had he been asked.  But there was absolutely no chance of that happening.  After all, if Clinton had been successful, it would have diminished what little respect and credibility existed for the Bush policy (a.k.a. the “Bush Doctrine”) of “do as we say or we might invade you.”

In fairness, it must be noted that N. Korean leader Kim Yong Il does seem to be act like a petulant, ego-centric psychotic child than a mentally stable national leader.  He allowed millions of his country’s men, women and children to starve in famine conditions he helped create through lack of financial support, while he maintains the world’s 4th largest army, and pursues nuclear bombs and long-range missiles.  He has broken every agreement he has every made with the USA.  He has also continuously thumbs his nose at the UN and its imposed sanctions, which, by the way, primarily hurt only the totally powerless people of N. Korea, while Kim and his cronies enjoy a luxurious lifestyle.

However, personality and cultural experts repeatedly advise that people like Kim Yong Il are enormously concerned with saving face, especially in defiance of demands and/or threats from a more powerful adversary.  The Clinton visit to N. Korea, which freed two Americans, allowed Kim to do exactly that within his own country and, in his own warped mind, globally.

But who cares what Kim feels?  Two Americans, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are free after five months of incarceration by Kim.  They must be thanking their lucky stars that it was Barack Obama is in the White House, instead of “W” and “Tricky-Dick”.

Otherwise, it could have been a long, long 12 years for two innocent and unlucky American women and for their families, while colorful insults and threats got traded back and forth by petulant, ego-centric psychotic children.