Being Thankful (and Not-so-Thankful) on Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a traditional US  and Canadian holiday during which many people gather to have a large family dinner and, theoretically, to give thanks for all the good thing in their lives, even though its origin is somewhat disputed.  Still, for many the holiday has evolved to generally include over-eating in large groups, and then sitting in front of a television watching sports because of the discomfort when moving around too much due to the large mass now inside the stomach.  And while many will remember what they’re thankful for in their lives, some will also count the things and events they are not so thankful for…perhaps to achieve some form of balance?

Accordingly, We, the PEOPLE!! has developed a partial list of events and items to give thanks for, and a list of events and items that do not illicit thankful thoughts and feelings.   Adopt any or all of the list as one sees fit.  The list is by no means all-inclusive.  In fact, additions are always welcome.

First, the positive:

Events and items to be thankful for include the following:

1.  Both GW Bush and “Tricky Dick” Cheney are no longer in office.

2.  Barack Obama won the 2008 election.  A distinct perk of that event is that Sarah Palin is not vice-president.

3.  The democrats regained control of congress (but also see the not-thankful list about this).

4.  First the first time in history, meaningful health care reform has passed the house of representatives and is to be debated in the senate,  and therefore, for the first time in history, has a real chance of becoming reality in the last national hold-out of all the advanced industrial countries on earth, the USA.

5.  NY23 voted a democrat into congress for the first time since the end of the civil war.  It’s a sign.

6.  The US Constitution is again fully operational (after eight years of abuse).

7.  The nation’s air traffic controllers finally have a fair contract after three years of unnegotiated abuse by the Bush Administration.

8.  The economy continues to improve, albeit slowly, but steadily.

9.  The war on science is over, and science won it.

10.  The Earth is located on the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy.  Thankfully, as a result, the more advanced civilizations possibly located closer to the galactic center probably won’t find us.  If they did, they would probably make us the laughing stock of the rest of the galactic civilizations for being so primitive, destructive and hateful towards each other.  Or they might simply eliminate us as a threat to galactic peace and harmony.  In 2012.

11.  The “Star Trek” franchise has been rebooted and a sequel to Star Trek 11 will be filmed.  Logically, it’s Star trek 12.

12.  The music of ABBA endures.

13.  Gas isn’t back up to over $4 a gallon, or even $3 a gallon.  Yet.

However, some not-so-thankful events and items are:

1.  GW Bush And “Tricky Dick Cheney were ever elected in the first place.

2.  Democrats in the senate can’t seem to get it together, and their majority is razor thin.

3.  Big business, big health insurance companies, big “pharma”, and the ultra-conservatives they finance continue throwing massive amounts of money and energy into a totally dishonest and fear-mongering ad campaign bent on destroying any change to their profit-motivated (as opposed to health and wellness-motivated) health system, even at the expense of the truth, and despite the cost in human lives and suffering.  If that same money was spent on research, they could probably have cured cancer by now.

4.  The people responsible for implementing torture as “acceptable US policy” still haven’t been held accountable.

5.  Human beings are still allowed to go hungry.

6.  According to a blue-ribbon panel of experts who studied the US  space program at length, insufficient money has been budgeted over the next 10 years to allow us to ever leave lower earth orbit and/or return to the moon.  And forget about exploring Mars.

7.  In business, even though management is always directly responsible for any concessions they give to labor during negotiations, labor is always blamed for management’s concessions.

8.  Some who that cannot convince anyone that they are right by using honest facts and data, revert to lies, fear-mongering, and hate-mongering instead.  They even become talk show hosts making tons of money, or write books about being rogues, which also makes tons of money.

9.  Even with 500 channels available on TV, nothing worth watching is often on.

10.  No matter how frequently one buys a state-of-the-art-cell phone, it’s obsolete the next day.

11.  Diet and exercise can slow the aging process, but nothing stops it.

12.  We are still at war.

13.  Battlestar Galactica hasn’t been revived.

On balance, there is more thankful than not, although the non-revival of Battlestar Galactica is very hard to take.  🙂

Still, for all who celebrate or commemorate the day, We, the PEOPLE!! wishes a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!

Just don’t eat too much.

And Justice For All…If We Approve You

US Attorney General Eric Holder testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the decision to transfer five captured alleged terrorists connected to the 9-11 attacks of September 11, 2001 from Guantanamo Bay to New York City to stand trail in open federal court.  He was called before the committee because of the controversy some conservative see regarding bringing these captives to US soil after as much as eight years in indefinite (and often secret) US military custody, under direct control of the good folks in the Bush administration.

During Bush’s reign, these prisoners were denied both basic human rights and the most basic due process.  This occurred because the Bush group, led by “Tricky Dick” Cheney, saw them as “enemy combatants“, a term of art used as an thinly veiled excuse to deny them the basic right to a speedy trial as guaranteed in the 6th amendment of the US constitution.  It was also used by the Bushies to deny the rights of the Geneva Conventions to humane treatment. By the way, the US signed the Geneva Conventions, and of course, the US constitution.  But then, they’re just pieces of paper, right?

The GOP conservatives have been screaming ever since the decision was made to transfer decision was made.  They claim that this will give the terrorists a forum to spout their venom*.  They also claim that these captives do not fall under either US or international law*.  They predict that having a trial in New York City will simply traumatize the survivors of the 9-11 attacks*.  They even managed to get several hundred of those survivors to sign a statement to that effect.  And finally, they claim that this action tells the rest of the world that the US is soft on terrorism*.

Curiously, these self-same conservatives are the first to defend the justice system of the USA as ostensibly being the best in the world (primarily because they believe the USA is always the best at EVERYTHING!).  So if it’s so good, why are they so afraid of using it?

And when you analyze each of their complaints separately and in detail, they don’t stand up to close inspection:

Terrorists will spout their venom:  The most infamous terrorist to stand trial, confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has already spouted his venom at the military commission in Guantanamo, with press coverage.  No one complained back then, nor was there any perceivable impact anywhere.  Are we so afraid of what a terrorist might say at his trial that we would cower at the thought?  Wouldn’t it be better to let the entire world see this maniac for what he really is?

captives do not fall under either US or international law: Of all the reasons the Bushies offered to deny rights to these captives, this one was absolutely the most galactically stupid!  According to this idiotic “logic”, the captives are not covered by our constitution, federal law, or Geneva Conventions.  So, by following this twisted thought process, they don’t have to worry about being arrested if they commit murder, rape, theft, or even tax evasion, because our laws don’t apply to them, right?  And it’s okay if they torture captured US soldiers or behead innocent civilians, because the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to them, right?

* A New York trial will simply traumatize the survivors of the 9-11 attacks:  Actually, many of the survivors have stated publicly that seeing these prisoners finally being held accountable by facing justice in a court of law will help the healing process which, for over eight years, has not occurred because there has been no closure for them.

* tells the rest of the world that the US is soft on terrorism:  This one is almost as short-sighted and shallow as the one about terrorists being exempt from the rule of law.  The entire world had always (until stunned by the Bush actions) seen the USA as a nation committed to the rule of law, a land of  “justice for all”.  And even ignoring for a moment the truly tainted US history of justice over the past 230 years, including injustice to minorities, lynchings, mob vengeance, religious intolerance, and justice if you can afford it, the USA still has always projected “equal justice for all” to the rest of the world.

Besides, what on earth are we afraid of in trying these terrorists in open court?  Either we have a case against them, or we don’t.  Either the evidence is solid, or it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  Either a prosecutor can prove their crimes, or he can’t.  And if we do prove our case for all the world to openly see , we can fix the tainted image of the USA as a nation that bends the rules or makes up new ones whenever the going gets tough.

Despite the values upon which the United States of America was founded, over the past week We, the PEOPLE!! has heard several people say that we should just have “eliminated” or “disappeared” these terrorists after they “confessed” (under unknown conditions).

Gee.  Isn’t that why these conservatives thought it was such a great idea to invade Iraq?  Isn’t that what Saddam Hussein used to do?

Oh wait;  It’s so clear!  Do as we say, not as we do.

Still crazy after all these years…..  🙁

So Who Polices the Police?

American children are told in elementary school that the USA has perhaps the best and the fairest system of justice in the entire world.  They are instructed that the basic foundation of American justice is the US Constitution.  And that, in itself, is fair enough.

However, once these kids enter high school, or perhaps are in college, they become aware that the American system of justice is fraught with weaknesses, shameful historical acts of prejudices and discrimination, injustice, and even brutality.  They reluctantly learn of the protection of the financially powerful at the expense of the poverty-stricken, disenfranchised, and “undesirable” segments of the population.

The axiom that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is an unfortunate but nonetheless real human weakness that even the magnificent US constitution can’t prevent.  Thus, young US citizens experience disappointment when they find out that the US justice system does not always protect the rights of all citizens as much as it sometimes protects the interests of the powerful.

Consider the very recent case of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies in court in Phoenix, Arizona.  These deputies theoretically ensure security against a violent act that might be committed by a defendant during a formal court session.  Because they are law enforcement personnel, they are entrusted by the public to serve and protect the citizens of Maricopa county, to obey and enforce the law, and to be above reproach in their conduct and integrity, both on and off duty.

But over the past two weeks, that’s not what happened in the Maricopa county courtroom, where a defense attorney was representing her inmate client who had gotten into a fight in jail.  The particulars of this court case are not at issue here.

Waht is at issue is that the defense attorney was at the podium with her client at her side, and she was addressing the judge.  At that point, behind her back, a MCSO deputy sheriff began illegally searching through her private papers which were in a folder on the defendant table.  The deputy found a particular document and then called another deputy over.  He handed the document over to this additional deputy.  The new deputy exited with the document, presumably to either keep it or copy it..  The defendant just happened to turn his head and witness the entire action.

More importantly, it was captured on video.

The defendant told his attorney what had just occurred.   She complained to the judge.  The judge told her to “take a deep breath”, and then attempted to minimize the deputies’ actions by explaining that they are present to provide “security”.  She must have considered the stolen document capable of somehow committing an act that would have threaten security, right?

We, the PEOPLE!! strongly urges that you now watch the actual videos here, here, and here, and read the story here and here to witness this unbelievable event for yourself.  Besides being absolutely shocking and disgusting, it demonstrates that none of us are really “protected” by the actions of some whose jobs it is to “serve and protect“, including the judge.  She witnessed the entire event but neither said nor did anything until the defense attorney complained.  Even then, the judge essentially did nothing.

During a later hearing held on this outrageous event, the judge STILL did NOTHING, claiming that the deputy would have to read the document in order to defend himself, and that would require a privacy waiver not granted by the defense.  Therefore, the deputy walked out of the courtroom a free as when he walked in.

No wait:  There’s more!

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) issued a statement that the deputy acted appropriately!  The sheriff, Joe Arpaio, seems to enjoy being put into the spotlight of the press, as witnessed by the many actions he takes that illicit a ton of negative press coverage.  Anyone interested can do a google search to learn more about this “shining example of law enforcement integrity”…quote, unquote.

The whole point of this article is:  With people like these both in law enforcement and in judges’ seats in courts, no one can really feel safe in this country if they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and are not financially powerful and independent.  The fact that justice in the USA is largely based upon a citizen’s ability to hire the best legal counsel and finance appeal after appeal is not an definition of “justice for all”.

A classic example of this is the famous O.J. Simpson trial of 1995.  The very wealthy Simpson hired a “dream team” of famous, VERY high-priced attorneys who convinced the jury that members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) tampered with evidence.  The jury subsequently acquitted Simpson, not because he was innocent, but because the LAPD violated the law.    Ten million dollars bought Simpson a lot of protection against lawlessness by cops, but a public defender would have been crushed.

In this case, the inmate who caught the MCSO deputy stealing documents from his defense attorney doesn’t have the financial capability to take his case higher. The MCSO knows this, and so does the judge.

But if it had been Warren Buffet, or even “Tricky Dick” Cheney…do you think the MCSO deputy sheriff would have even approached within 10 feet of those documents?

Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

The REAL Meaning of Last Night’s Elections

Last night two off-year elections were held for governors in Virginia (VA) and New Jersey (NJ).  Additionally, the 23rd congressional dictrict of New York State (NY23) held an election to fill the seat left vacant by Rep. John McHugh, a Republican who resigned to accept the appointment of President Barack Obama as secretary of the Army.

In the lead-up to the elections, the GOP has been making all sorts of claims about these election being primarily a poll on Barack Obama and the democrats.  The democrats, for their part, have been as aware as the republicans that they this was a tough election situation for them.  They were reasonably certain that they were going to lose at least one of these races, and were claiming that these are simply local elections about local issues.

In point of fact, the republicans won both governor races.  And now the GOP is claiming the end of the democrats.  Unfortunately, as they often do, they neglect to mention some very significant facts:

1.  Since 1989, the party winning the White House has always gone on to lose the gubernatorial races in both states the following year.  This year was no different.

2.  In both states, an incumbent was running for re-election.  Based largely upon their lack of strong popular approval due to varying issues they’ve handled, both incumbents lost.

3.  In Virginia, both the democratic incumbent and the republican challenger had previously run against each other for state attorney general, and the the democrat lost that race, too.

4.  The only significant race where no incumbents were running was NY23.  In that race, the republican was forced to drop out of the race at the last moment because polling indicated that an extreme right wing challenger, running late under the banner of the “Conservative Party“, was way ahead of her for the conservative vote.  However, in this significant election, the republicans lost the NY23 seat to a democrat.  It was the first time since 1872, only seven short years after the end of the US civil war, that a republican did not win that seat.

What makes this race the most significant of all of last night’s races is that the ultra-extreme right-wing fringe of the GOP endorsed an ultra-extreme right-wing conservative named Hoffman because they did not like the moderate republican that the GOP leadership had endorsed.  The ultra-extreme-right political pundits on hate-radio also endorsed him.  And yet, he lost the race.

In this race, none of the candidates was an incumbent.  None had run against another in a previous race.  But when the day was done, a man who got tons of free advertising on hate-radio, a man who had the support of the Tea-Partiers, a man who somehow knocked the moderate republican candidate out of the box, a man with the backing of the ultra-extreme conservative wing of the republican party, lost.  He lost an election in a republican district that is not as much about local issues as national ones in congress.

So what’s the significance of last night?

First, it is clear that most registered republicans voted for republicans and most registered democrats voted for democrats.  They were not the folks that determined the outcome for these elections; the independent voters were.  It is also reasonable to assume that a very small minority of these voters in VA and NJ disregarded all local issues in favor of cast a “political statement” vote against Barack Obama, or for him in NY23.  But the vast majority of independents were probably concentrating on the candidates and/or the local issues in New Jersey and Virginia.  So these races probably mean absolutely nothing when it comes to a poll on Obama and the dems.

However, in the more nationally oriented election in NY23, they probably concentrated more on the issues that congress and the administration have worked or will work.  As a result, this election is incredibly telling, because this is yet another republican congressional district which, since the 2006 elections, has turned to  a democrat to lead it.

It’s also quite possible that had the republican candidate stayed in the race without an extreme ultra-right candidate muscling her out, she might have kept that seat in the GOP’s corner.  But the ultra-right, being as arrogant as they generally are, decided, as they tend to do, that brute force was more effective than negotiation.  In other words, shoot your way in, regardless of who gets hurts rather than dealing to get some of what you want instead of none at all.

Didn’t work too well, did it?

And if anyone somehow still thinks that the elections were disapproval of Obama and his policies, they should check the totality of all of the national polls, which can be done at PollingReport .com.  It carries every national poll conducted on every national issue, updated continuously as the polls are individually updated with new data.

According to pollingreports, President Obama has a very respectable 54% approval rating, exactly one year after he was elected.

So if the GOP and the hate-radio gang still want to push the “Elections = Poll on Obama” concept, perhaps they should join the organization known as “The Earth Is Flat Society“.

They’ll fit right in.    🙂