Benny's World

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wow, 25,000 Cared Enough to Sign the Stop Alito Petition

I got the following e-mail from JRE this afternoon:

Dear Benny,

Last week I asked you to sign a petition calling on Senate Democrats to stand together and block Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Your response was overwhelming. Twenty-five thousand people across the country signed the petition to make their voices heard -- an incredible accomplishment. And, I thank you.

Today, we are delivering the petition to Democratic Leaders in the Senate to let them know how concerned we are about Samuel Alito and the threat he poses to our fundamental rights and freedoms. While the debate rages on in Washington about the politics of opposing Alito, this petition will remind them that some things, such as the sanctity of our constitutional protections, are more important than the political winds of the moment.

This week's news out of Washington, D.C. is heartening. We applaud a growing group of Democratic Senators, who are taking a stand and opposing the Alito nomination. Samuel Alito is an extreme conservative who showed his true colors in the hearing room. For all the reasons in our petition, this is not a man who belongs on our nation's highest court. He cannot be trusted to safeguard our Constitution.

We have never backed down from a fight -- and we won't this time. Thank you for caring so deeply about our American traditions and values.

Your friend,


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Funny Political Comic, Neil Lisst

Someone on the DU pointed out that Neil Lisst has a daily cartoon. It's worth checking out:

Web Comics Nation

Monday, January 16, 2006

True Patriots: Al, Martin, and John

Today is the celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday nationally. MLK was a true patriot of finding ways to work together in peace and with hope. I'm posting the text of MLK's speech via a graphic:

Two other patriots visible in the spotlight today that I believe are worth mention, for standing up for what many ideals Dr. King believed in. One of them, John Edwards, wrote a thoughtful piece concerning MLK's birthday celebration (and indeed was in Baton Rouge and NOLA today giving speeches):

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK
Sen. John Edwards speaks Monday at the Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

Part of what made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a great leader is that he challenged us to become leaders ourselves. He asked us what we are doing to serve others in our lives. Are we working to lift up the poor and the sick? Are we reaching out to a child who’s struggling to stay on the right path? Are we working hard to make sure our kids have the best education? Are we working to bring economic opportunity to every corner of the country? These are the questions that test the content of one’s character. And they are the questions that we as Americans must continue to ask and answer, particularly on this day, the day we remember one of the greatest leaders and patriots our nation has ever known.

Dr. King had an unshakable faith in the good of mankind, a faith that enabled him to dream of a better society in the midst so much evil and fear. He also possessed a keen awareness of how difficult it would be to make his dream a reality, and that awareness allowed him to hold onto his dream despite the dangers and strife he encountered. For he knew that his dream would not be fully realized in his own lifetime, or even in the span of his generation. His was a dream that was to endure and expand in the generations to come. He had faith in us, the future leaders of America. He had faith that we would inherit his dream and make it our own.

Here we are, almost thirty-eight years after Dr. King’s tragic death. We’ve accomplished a great deal since then, and for that we as a nation should be proud. But we are not yet the America that Dr. King described as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His dream is not yet reality. And as long as injustice and inequality persist in our society, Dr. King’s legacy will endure not just as a dream but as a challenge – a challenge to live by the principles we as a nation were founded upon, a challenge to lift up those who struggle, a challenge to become a source of motivation, guidance, and hope in the lives of others, just as Dr. King has been for us. We as a nation are up to this challenge, for despite our many differences, we share faith in the ultimate power of human goodness. “With this faith,” said Dr. King, “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” May that stone of hope serve as a building block for the one America that we dream of, and know is possible.

The last patriot I will solute today, Al Gore. Al Gore gave an enthralling speech about the history of the constitution and how the foundations have been shaken by our current administration. He express some of his thoughts this way:

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

and Gore's view of when government has reached its tipping point about its extension of power:

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Al Gore's solutions bear merit:

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

Gore concluded on a note of optimism:

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

Tied nicely with our civil rights themes for today.

As you can tell, the title of my post sort of borrowing from a song from the late 60's by Dion entitled "Abraham, Martin, and John". The best part of the song that pertains to all:

Didn't you love the things they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
And we'll be free,
Someday soon it's gonna be one day.

Thank you all, good patriots.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lively Discussions about Borklito this Weekend

From my post on OAC today. Seems fitting since it's MLK's 77th birthday:

Most of the discussions on the DU and DK are whether or not Dems should pull a fillibuster or not.

I don't believe the Dems in the Senate will. They will give the nominee Borklito an up and down vote; and it may be 59-41 (Ben Nelson is voting with the Republicans and there could be two others) for confirmation. It would be nice if Chafee, Collins, and Snowe voted their conscience, but probably will not. The money is too powerful to turn down, especially when they are up for re-election.

I'm not certain if delaying the vote until Wed will do much for the Dem party either.

I signed the JRE's petition; passed it on here, as you all know. I noticed quite a few blogs posted it as well, mainly by feminists I checked around to see what other blogs were saying about JRE and his initiatives. They were very positive.

My senators are Dems who reside in a Dem state, so I'm certain they will vote no. I wanted to state that I thought it was unfortunate that it was on Thursday before Senator Durbin finally got around to asking the questions I was more interested in hearing answers, and for some reason, Judge Borklito was too brief on his interpretations, related to the 4th amendment especially. But I was pleased with Durbin's questioning on that topic. I think the questioning brought out that Borklito will not stick out his neck for individuals because it is an area too ambigious for him. He has been a judge who sees and reads b/w and in not grey or in colors. Despite what he says, he is still will do some ruling based on his personal beliefs. Alan Dershowitz wrote an insightful piece in Forbes recently, entitled "What Kind of Justice Will Alito Be?" and commented that most SCOTUS justices bring some political views with them when they are appointed.

His best example was Bush v Gore, in which Rehnquist normally would side with Gore on the technicalities, but instead, very likely voted with his political beliefs.

What I would like to suggest to y'all is that we use this vote more of an issue for the elections this year, and that the 3 branches are not moving in the direction of the people. Bob Burnett posted at Huffington Post that believed that JRE is the best spokesperson for the party because he understands class warfare this administration and non-conservatives of the right have been incrementally eroding over the past 5 years. JRE speaks for all of us, and not for the special interests who are recking our democratic (not the party, democracy) foundations.

Lastly, I believe we need to start getting a constitutional amendment going about privacy. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know what language to suggest. But it needs to happen so that the Borklitos of the world get it, and as JRE has suggested many times, the world watches us, and what we do. Otherwise, why would any small business or a person who wants to become a citizen of our country for a better life want to live here if we cannot protect their rights? Bush is a big company person, destroying the fabric of our job foundation--small business--and Borklito, as David Broder aptly put, is the company man.

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta-Constitution of my fav political cartoonists

Insurer to give hybrid owners a 10% break

The Tribune writer Jim Mateja reports that Travelers Insurance will give hybrid owners a 10% break. Greg Toczydlowski, senior VP for Travelers, is spearheading this initiative. He says he got his idea from pumping gas when another customer pulled in with a gas/electric hybrid. The customer filled his tank and left; the insurance man was still pumping gas into his SUV.

So here's the idea: research hybrid owners to determine whether they should qualify for different insurance rates. According to Toczydlowski,

"We did some research into hybrid owners, how they drive and how they use their vehicles and found they are lower risk, very responsible motorists in the 40- to 60-year-old age bracket," he said, people who generally don't speed or get into or cause accidents."

This initiative is a superb example of how the market can work for the consumer and hopefully, my insurance company will follow suit (I own a hybrid, so this is of particular interest to my wallet). Unfortunately, it probably won't in Massachusetts. The state regulators will never let insurance go to the market place, and owners in the state will continue to pay some of the highest insurance rates in the country, along with our fellow citizens in the Garden State.

This might inspire the automobile companies to step it up in hybrid vehicle production. Maybe we will see some jobs come back. Let's hope so.

Spiritual Left or Just Being in the Middle

One of my favorite bloggers, Iddybud, mentioned that she had involved in a discussion on (a Republican blog) about the Religious Left. When I went to the site, I expected that some of their bloggers would perceive some of us who aren't necessarily Bush supporters to be disingenuous when we use the word "spirtual". His comment seem to bear a narrow point of view:
religious vs. "spiritual"

I think it's a red flag anytime you see the word "spiritual" in place of religious. For the most part, it's used by liberals to define what is left when you take religion and subtract all morality and ethics.

The problem with this is that in the context of how religion influences a political deology, watered-down "spirituality" doesn't really impact anything. At best you can claim that God would want us to help poor people through income redistribution, which is already on the table with the old-school secular left.

Iddybud thought it about it in this way:

I do understand how the political world works, however, and my faith has put me in some pretty strange and unlikely political corners, some seldom exposed by political liberals' proverbial lamps. Overall, though, I'd have to say that I land where I land on political issues because of my personal faith - and not the opposite. I am faithful first, political second. My faith has made me the "liberal" that others see me as being, and I have to say that, whatever I am, I am proud to be so. If you look at my Political Compass chart, you will see that I don't land all that far from the center, but like
Libertarians, I am not trusting of authoritarian institution.

In case you are wondering about the blogger who posited a very narrow interpretation of "spiritual", he got a response that I favored about being spiritual:

In all honestly, I'd say you have this exactly backwards. For me, it defines what is left when you take morality and ethics and subtract (organized) religion.

The term "Spiritual" can mean many things, and for me, it is "full of spirit". Organized religion spends a lot of time about getting to the end and afterlife, whereas I perceive spirituality should be about the journey.

It was interesting to see where Iddybud landed on the
political landscape. I had taken that same quiz about 6-7 months ago, and I was about 4 pixels above in the same quadrant, but still close to the middle, whereby I have concerns about authoritarian governments, yet I am between the economic and the social values of government resources.

I guess I'm sort of a spiritual left, but to be truthful, I'm just in the middle, and my thoughts as well as my feelings guide my political compass.