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January 29, 2006

Re: Fighting for our values (myDD)

[Posted on MyDD re: Fighting for our values]

We should also look for ways to reinforce our beliefs with people.

For example, combining the call for a filibuster of Alito with a strategy of declaring the importance to all Americans of having a right to mainstream judges -- and backing up that claim by simultaneously announcing the launch of a constitutional amendment to that effect, one requiring either 60% like a filibuster, or 66% like a treaty which also needs to sustain over the political winds of time).

To have legitimacy, court results need to be accepted as fair and unbiased by the vast majority of citizens.  Such an amendment can increase that legitimacy.

By announcing the constitutional amendment at the same time, it elevates the discussion above claims of mere “partisan politics” regarding one nominee, to the greater principles of a democracy of, by and for the people that are motivating the concern.

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January 28, 2006

Re: Checks, Balances and the Duty to Filibuster (Nation)

[Submitted to The Nation on 1/28/2006 re: Checks, Balances and the Duty to Filibuster]

While I support the filibuster and its goal of protecting the rights of the minority over a bare majority, it's role is diminishing and it is not a right, but an arcane parliamentary rule of the Senate.

I suggest combining the call for the filibuster with a strategy of declaring the importance to all Americans of having a citizen right to mainstream judges -- and backing up that claim by simultaneously announcing the launch of a constitutional amendment to that effect, one requiring either 60% like a filibuster, or 66% like a treaty which also needs to sustain over the political winds of time).

To have legitimacy, court results need to be accepted as fair and unbiased by the vast majority of citizens.  Such an amendment can increase that legitimacy.

By announcing the constitutional amendment at the same time, it elevates the discussion above claims of mere “partisan politics” regarding one nominee, to the greater principles of a democracy of, by and for the people.

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January 27, 2006

Re: 10 will ask Oregon: What do you want? [Oregonian]

[Submitted to The Oregonian 1/27/2006 Re: 10 will ask Oregon: What do you want?]

Surveys show that by two-thirds majorities, Oregonians want both strong land use and respect for property rights.  The “Big Look” forward at Oregon’s land-use policies for the next few decades must recognize people want both and not a false choice between them.

When Senate Bill 100 was implemented, it came with assumptions that remained true over much of the last 30 years.  For example, that if we preserved farmland, and gave farms a very low tax rate, that farming would continue to be an economically positive activity.

But the forces of globalization, vast distribution efficiencies and innovative economies of scale have produced pressures on small- to mid-sized farms.  Just look at the vast reduction in Oregon strawberries -- easily the best looking and tastiest, but crowded out even in our local markets by alternatives shipped from over a 1000 miles away.  The consequence, at least here in Yamhill County, is that many small farms are not economically viable -- often people continue some limited farming but have their livelihoods in town.

We should look at the broader view of our public investments and land-use.  For example, when land is brought into Urban Growth Boundaries, we invest millions in infrastructure to enhance its planned-for new uses, but make almost no investment to sustain the existing planned-for use of rural areas to ensure their continued viability.  As just two little examples, many farmers still don’t have access to broadband internet, making it hard for them to participate in markets; and, as less land is farmed, it cuts the market size for suppliers of materials and equipment to farms.

Oregon needs to look not only at the preservation of productive farm and forestland, but also at what sustains the economics of those lands -- saving farmland without viable farming businesses will ensure continued friction.  The Big Look should include how Oregon’s land-use fits in this broader Oregon economic vista.

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January 26, 2006

To Ron Wyden re:Alito and constitutional amendment for mainstream judges

Ron -

I applaud your decision not to support the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.  He does not a represent the highest ideals of this country for justices that would uphold the great principles behind our constitution over his own ideologies.  He should be filibustered if necessary.

However, the threat of the “nuclear option” against any filibuster seems ultimately to become as effective as having no filibuster at all -- it never gets used.

I believe that America should have mainstream judges, not left nor right.  This is much more important than some “presidential perogative”, which in fact has no value to Americans.  Currently, there is a view that a President “deserves” to get nominees approved, but our Constitution provides for the President to choose not in order to shift the political tides on the Court and leave a legacy, but simply to provide for an efficient candidate identification process.

Because justices are seated for life and the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the interpretation of the Constitution, Supreme Court decisions need to be ones that will have both broad acceptance and enduring acceptance of the vast majority of Americans for decades through shifting political winds.

To this end, until the threat of the nuclear option, the filibuster rule in the Senate has helped prevent the tyranny of the bare majority.  However, it is a Senate rule subject to change or elimination and not a right of the people.

So, while I would encourage using the filibuster against Alito, I would also suggest combining that with a strategy of declaring the importance to all Americans of having a right to mainstream judges -- and backing up that claim by simultaneously announcing the launch of a constitutional amendment to that effect, one requiring either 60% like a filibuster, or 66% like a treaty which also needs to sustain over the political winds of time).

To have legitimacy, court results need to be accepted as fair and unbiased by the vast majority of citizens.  Such an amendment can increase that legitimacy.

By announcing the constitutional amendment at the same time, it elevates the discussion above claims of mere “partisan politics” regarding one nominee, to the greater principles of a democracy of, by and for the people.

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January 25, 2006

Torture is terrorism

You cannot be against terrorism and allow torture, for torture is terrorism of the individual, the use of extreme fear to intimidate someone/people.

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January 23, 2006

Re: Abortion Opponents Rally, Saying the End of Roe Is Near [NYT]

[Response to Abortion Opponents Rally, Saying the End of Roe Is Near 1/23/2006 in NYT]

The triumphalism of the radical right and of anti-abortion foes shows how far out of the mainstream Samuel Alito really is ... and how poorly our confirmation process is that he could cover his positions so well.  His positions should be known for the country to evaluate not snuck in, known but to a few by a wink and nod.

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To Senator Smith re: Nomination of Samuel Alito to Supreme Court

Dear Senator Smith -

While we don’t always agree on every issue, I consider you to be a principled man.  After following the Samuel Alito hearings, I can’t say the same about him and encourage you to vote no on his nomination.

Two things struck me particularly, besides the typical evasiveness of nominees:  first, a rigidity of thought and second, a weakness of character.

First, as he  reviewed his perspective on past decisions he has made as a judge, one thing troubled me: he always defended his overturned decisions and never seemed to have learned from them about constitutional interpretation -- he still believes he was right.  So he appears to bring his own view to these things about which he learns how to make his case better, perhaps, but not learning to see things differently.

Second, was his defense of some of his older applications and writings.  There are basically two reasonable positions available: he believed them or didn’t ... and might have changed his view over time.  But he regularly defended them as appropriate because of trying to appeal to the hiring boss.  In other words, a nominee for Supreme Court basically said, unapologetically, he’s a suck-up, which is not really a very good self character reference.

Elect

Finally, Bill Frist said Friday that he thought Alito was “the worst nightmare” for Democrats.  Given that half of the country votes Democrat, this would seem to indicate the Alito is pretty far out of the mainstream.

Rigid in his thinking about the constiution and weak in character, even if charming in person, is not what we should have on the highest court.

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January 22, 2006

Re: Rove Offers Republicans A Battle Plan For Elections [WP]

[Submitted to Washington Post Re: Rove Offers Republicans A Battle Plan For Elections 1/22/2006]

The pre-9/11 worldview I remember was Al Gore's 2000 platform in which after identifying terrorism, and Osama bin Laden by name, as major threats to the nation, he said our strategy, “requires trying to disrupt terrorist networks, even before they are ready to attack.... As President, Al Gore will tolerate no attack against American interests at home or abroad: terrorists must know that if they attack America, we will never forget.  We will scour the world to hunt them down and bring them to justice.  While fighting terrorism, we will protect the civil liberties of all Americans. ”

A position the Bush administration belatedly adopted AFTER 9/11.  Before 9/11, Demcrats understood the threat while the Republicans let the problem fester until the boil burst on 9/11.

But sadly the Bush administration still doesn’t understand about protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.  That’s the next boil to burst.

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January 19, 2006

Usurpation of Powers by the President

For years, President Bush has been warning of the foreign threats posed by terrorists to usurp our freedoms.  The terrorist attack of 9/11/2001 was dramatic and tragic, but in itself failed to usurp our freedoms.

Instead, in the name of fighting terrorists, President Bush has become the domestic threat to our liberties.

There is a fundamental tradeoff in a free society with a government of the people, and it is also is a core principle in assuring freedom from tyranny: that it is important to accept certain limitations on the power of the Presidency to wage war in order, in fact, to assure our liberties, just as we accept limitations on police powers even knowing that some guilty people will go free.  As Benjamin Franklin put it,

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

We have to put unreasoning fear aside.  We have to have the courage our founders had to accept that we can’t be totally free of all threats if we also want to have our freedoms.  We have to have the courage to fight to get our freedoms back.

I believe, as argued below, that the president has acted illegally and unconstitutionally.  Yet while the general sentiment that “no man is above the law” is a grounding principle, the question is, “In what ways is he acting above the law?”.  What elements of the constitution are being violated, and specifically, countering the arguments made in some detail by the administration to support their claim that he is acting legally.

Democrats have done a poor job of marshalling their arguments.

Consequently, below I have made my own [long] assessment of the key administration claims.

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January 18, 2006

Sliding down the slippery slope to Big Brother authoritarianism

Bob Herbert 's column of 1/19/2006 contained an interesting quote from Bill Goodman, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, referring to the Republican administration's warrantless wiretaps of Americans:

“I think they are engaging in surveillance that they don't want even the FISA judges to see. They don't want them looking over their shoulders and seeing that they are doing things like listening in on attorney-client conversations, listening in on journalists talking to their sources, engaging in the kind of Big Brother tactics that will turn this society from a free one into an authoritarian one.”

Whether it is true or not today, the point is that the Republican administration has put in place a system that has no checks and balances, so such activities could happen in the future ... and we know from history, they will eventually happen in some administration.

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