Thursday, September 28, 2006
( 2:53 PM )
Fools on the Hill
I have been trying to consider how to teach my government class about what is happening today in the Senate. I've set CSPAN to tape the debates. I've printed out various news reports. I've even tried to read that whole damned bill. We're only at the beginning of the semester - they've only just learned what happened during the Constitutional Convention, the compromises that were made. Some of them horrible. And now, in real life time, a "compromise" is being made that is taking away some of the very foundational concepts of our democracy.
Of course, I'll have to teach them what habeas corpus is and then explain that it's been part of the philosophy of the "Consent by the governed" since the Magna Carta. Removing the power of a king to imprison you without having to say why is something that has stood the test of time since the FOURTEENTH CENTURY. The fact that we have given so much power to the executive effectively negates the balance of powers that our Constitution was founded on. The fact that our leaders could even DEBATE whether we should entomb torture as an acceptable and non-prosecutable practice shows how far down the slope we have slidden from that ideal the Framers of the Constitution envisioned.
John Adams wanted a powerful presidency - he sought to locate more power in the hands of the executive, and he fought a battle with Thomas Jefferson over that concept. He introduced the Alien and Sedition Acts - he didn't like all the criticism he was getting, especially about consolidating his power - and so he got the Congress to make it illegal to say anything against the government, meaning him. It ended badly for all the legislators who had voted for this clearly unconstitutional idea.
Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, the one thing he said he regretted doing. The one thing he has been very criticized for in a presidency of many hard choices. He shouldn't have done it. It would not have threatened the union, though he let fear rule the day.
Franklin Roosevelt suspended Habeas Corpus during WWII when he allowed Japanese Americans to be interned without charges for indefinite periods of time. A dark stain on America's history when we once again allowed fear to rule the day.
All three beloved presidents - yet all three stepped over the line. With bad consequences. But not irreparable - the country recovered and did its best to repair the damage.
I feel in my heart the Constitution is stronger than these horrid Fools on the Hill and that it will prevail. But only if it has someone to defend it left in the government. With the passing of this bill today, it becomes more clear that this defense is dying a slow death at best. The Republicans think the passage of this bill will ensure their hold on power. They are trading their souls for it. And there are Democrats who have now done the same. Will Americans allow their souls to be sold as well?
Thomas Jefferson must be doing double flips in his grave right now. What happened to that glorious republic he and the others worked so hard to build? Flawed and damaged though it was, started on some unholy premises (the 3/5 Compromise being the worst), but altogether a simple and completely solid supreme law of the land- the Constitution has survived 217 years because of its strengths and its ability to be amended for the better. This 109th Congress, these Fools on the Hill, now think they can strip our democracy of its foundations.
If the Democrats cannot win in November, they don't deserve to. If they cannot stand up for a simple concept like habeas corpus or stand against a horrifying idea like institutionalized torture, then do we really want them to win?
Rock and a hard place. And that rock has hit the slippery slope and is gaining speed. If even executive tyranny can't be stopped by butting up against the Constitution, then the only thing left is the power of the citizenry. The Consent of the Governed. Don't surrender it, Americans.
Monday, September 25, 2006
( 1:07 PM )
It's BANNED BOOKS WEEK!
Make a statement for freedom, read a banned book this week.
Go to the American Library Association to get a list and take action.
In honor of Banned Books Week, I'll be reading "Yertle the Turtle" by Dr. Seuss to my seniors in government class. No one is too old to read Seuss and no one is too young to read a banned book.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
( 6:26 AM )
Making a Better
Jack Bog is talking about Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "Vision Quest." I can pretty much agree with Jack on his take about this survey, but then again, since the mayor is asking, I think it behooves all Portlanders to respond. Speak up about what we envisiion this place looking like in the next few decades. One thing is for sure, if we're not thinking ahead, we'll be stuck behind in a few years. We've seen that happen in this state with taxes and education. Heaven forbid that pattern becomes regular.
Check out Jack's Comments on the Quest. I'm forming my answer to Question 1 now.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
( 5:31 AM )
There was a speech far more meaningful and thoughtful and true than the President's speech last night.
I thought that Keith Olberman's soliloquy about Rumsfeld last week was amazing (as did most everyone) and it boggled my mind that he could keep his job afer that. But LAST NIGHT I watched the conclusion of Countdown with my jaw dropped completely open. If you didn't see it - WATCH IT - it's called "This Hole in the Ground."
I'm hoping, like his Rumsfeld comments, this commentary will be all over the airwaves this week. It was incredible. He told the truth. Why is that so incredible? Because until now, I have heard no news person, no commentator, no media personality whatsoever actually question the President's veracity or speak the truth about the squandered 5 years since 9/11. Olbermann put the onus purely where it belongs. On George W. Bush. Speaking about the footprint of the World Trade Center Towers, Keith Olbermann:
Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.
And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.
And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President -- and those around him -- did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."
Enough Said. Thank you, Mr. Olbermann.
UPDATE: Crooks & Liars is carrying the video as well - so hopefully it will be up on You Tube, etc. soon. Atrios links as do several Kossacks. Let the word be spread.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
( 4:18 PM )
Back To School...Again
Before this week starts and we get caught up in the 5 Year Anniversary, I thought I'd take a few minutes to enjoy the pure delight that fills my soul every time this year. This last week was the first week the students came back. What a rush. I can't help it. I love teenagers. The writhing masses of ferociously self-centered puberty-driven, half-awake human beings that cross my threshold every year just thrill me. It's the greatest feeling to see them sitting there, their hooded eyes (after all, most aren't even awake till sometime near noon) just daring me to teach them something new. I love a challenge, what can I say?
Some new things this year:
1. Not one of the sophomores (15/16 yr olds) believes that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11. To a kid, they also recognize that the reason for invading Iraq (weapons of mass destruction) turned out to be false. So either they had very frank discussions with their teachers last year, or the truth is finally seeping through to the public at large. I usually find that kids just repeat what they hear at home. In my district, that is often a conservative, very narrow view. So it's really surprising to find such an overwhelming number who actually are aware of the truth from the start.
2. Already all my seniors who are of age are ALREADY registered to vote in the upcoming election!! Wow!!
Some old things: Coming into the class, the kids feel powerless about what's happening in the world. But this is the way I like it. By the time they leave my class they have knowledge and tools to go into the world with power. That's what I love about teenagers, once they get a taste of making change in the world, you can't stop them. It's a heady thing.
This is going to be a great year. I have a classroom this year (I no longer have to run from classroom to classroom with a cart), and I love the subjects I'm teaching. I'm looking forward to how these kids will teach me. That's the best part.
( 3:56 PM )
Belated Poetry Friday
Meant to post on Friday - it got away from me...
Teenagers are tired
The Teachers are not ready
Ah, first week of school!
can you tell what I've been up to?