Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Letter to the editor

Here's a copy of a letter I emailed this date to the SB News-Press. I'll update this post if/when it's published.

The October 21 verdicts by a federal jury finding four Blackwater "civilian contractors" guilty of homicide (three verdicts of manslaughter, one of murder) for the 2007 killing of seventeen civilians in Iraq will likely result in lengthy prison sentences for all four. The contractors raised various defenses: that they were under stress; that they perceived immediate danger; that they were employed to ensure the safety of State Department personnel and sensed an imminent threat; and so on.

Nevertheless, after seven years of judicial fits and starts, after a ten-week trial and four weeks of jury deliberation, the federal prosecutors convinced a unanimous jury that the defendants' conduct evidenced a callous disregard for human life (twenty other innocent Iraqis were seriously injured), and that their lawyers' defenses were unavailing under the facts.

I agree with the verdicts and am heartened to see that a federal prosecutor had the stamina and diligence to persevere to obtain them. But I have this question: Given that these four Blackwater employees have been found to have acted with callous disregard for innocent lives, and their counter-arguments – which sound hauntingly similar to those made by the last two presidents in their years of drone-launchings and bombings throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa – have been dismissed, unanimously, as without merit, why haven't Bush and Obama (the latter having received my vote in 2008) been placed in the dock to account for the thousands of innocents they've killed?

I'll say this: I'd love to sit on that jury.    

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Here's a letter to the editor of the SB News-Press that I'm emailing this date. I'll update this post if/when it's published. (I appreciate that I've quite recently been published, and that the News-Press wants only one letter per month.)

Update: The letter was published on June 29, 2014.

Dear Editor:

Breaking news! Progressives and Conservatives agree on something – and it's something important, very important! I'm referring to Riley v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court's 9-0 decision (that's unanimous, my friends – with one of the conservative Justices, Alito, concurring in the result), issued June 25, denying police officers the ability to search an arrestee's cellphone content without first obtaining a warrant.

Why so important? Because – again, unanimously – the court's decision addresses the balance of the government's interest in crime detection against the citizen's right to privacy – and firmly strikes the balance in favor of the latter. The tilt of that balance, so long favoring law enforcement by means of internet surveillance, indefinite detention, airplane-travelers' searches, ubiquitous TV cameras, finally tipped in the direction that both stripes of Americans – folks of the Left as well as Right – have long sought. The Court recognized how prevalent were cell phones and how broad and intrinsically personal was their content that police were not allowed, under the Fourth Amendment's search-and-seizure provisions, to examine the phone's data absent a court-approved warrant.

There are other issues on which Left and Right agree. Both deem suspect any government intrusion into citizens' private lives; both favor robust public discourse and protest; both seek government truth and transparency; both despise government waste, whether in domestic or foreign (including military) expenditure.

Could the Riley decision make these seemingly "opposing" forces – from Tea Party to Occupy to Green – realize their common bonds and, more importantly, unify to take actions to effectuate them?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Letter to the editor

Here's a letter the I emailed today to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press. I'll update this post if/when it's published.

Update: The letter was published in the News-Press on June 18, 2014.

In the movie, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," Doris Day sings the popular song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)." This is an adage the United States could employ with advantage in its policy in the Middle East, Africa and throughout the world. Our several international military interventions (with troops, drones, money and weapons) in the last three decades have invariably produced dire results.

Indeed, the eruptions of violence in the countries where we've meddled or invaded, as most recently evident in Ukraine and Iraq – as tragic as they are for the residents of those nations – merely support the conclusion that our foreign policy, which relies almost entirely on force and sanctions, is uniformly an abject failure. It's not "isolationist" to demand that the U.S. desist from such policies and actions. Instead – in the off-chance it matters to American politicians – it's common sense.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Letter -- What choice do I have?

Here's a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press that I emailed today. I'll update this post if/when it's published.

To the editor:

I just watched the fourth game of an NBA playoff game between the New Jersey Nets and the Miami Heat. Miami (Lebron James, et al.) won the game, of course, a firm step (3-1 in the series) toward their eventually winning the NBA Championship.

I wrote "of course" and "eventually" advisedly, because I know – everyone knows – the Heat will win the NBA title for the third year in a row. In fact, knowing this inevitable outcome of playoffs, I wonder why I – like millions of viewers – continue to watch the games. More poignantly, why did tonight's Nets fans keep screaming and chanting from the stands during the game? Why did the Nets coach keep coaching? Why, indeed, did the Nets players keep playing? For that matter, why, knowing the Heat will win it all in the end, do all of these folks, during the weeks to come – players, coaches, fans of other teams – keep crying out, keep hoping and trying to win?

What does this have to do with issues regularly presented on Voices?: Questions about the state of the economy, the environment, the world. Why do folks keep caring, keep writing, keep chanting, keep marching about these issues, when – by many mainstream accounts – the game is already lost?

Here's the answer from a dejected Nets fan who, upon exit from tonight's loss to the Heat, was asked by an interviewer why he kept cheering even after the Heat's victory was apparent: "What choice do I have? To quit?"    

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To the editor

Here's a copy of a letter I emailed to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press this date. I'll update this post when/if it's published.

Update: The letter was published on April 18, 2014.

My favorite adage to describe the current state of American governance is that it's merely "arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." As our ship of state churns onward in the cold and dark, our captains – which include, at least, President Obama, the Congress and the "mainstream media" – are content to provide us, their passengers, only comfort and distraction, trusting that we'll remain oblivious to the looming disaster.

The deck chairs are such items as pot legalization, missing-airplane searches, gay or gun-toting athletes, items which, although perhaps worthy of some slight attention, hardly help right the ship. To continue the metaphor, these and similar constant front-page entries don't even belong on the bridge.

The imminent iceberg is apparent – and immense. It's our bloated military, our fear-based society, our consumer-obsessed culture, our corporate-dominated politics, our inequitable economy, all contributing to our collision with history: the inevitable end of the American empire.

Prominently at the helm are five Justices of the Supreme Court whose opinions in the Citizen United and McCutcheon cases have steered us straight toward our destruction. Their decisions that money is speech, that corporations are people, and that financial influence over politics is disallowed only by proof of outright bribery, taken together, mean this, and nothing less: We, the American people, must retake the wheel; otherwise, there won't be enough lifeboats for most of us – and we needn't guess who'll fill them.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Root and branch

Here's a copy of a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara New-Press that I emailed today. I'll update this post if/when it's published, although, unlike many of my letters, I doubt I'll see it in the newspaper's pages, given how direct and strident my message is.

Update: The letter was published on April 11, 2014.

To the editor:

Does our government represent Americans anymore? That is, the vast majority of Americans who only reluctantly – as a last, self-protective act – assent to wage war? Who value privacy and freedom of expression above all? Who care for our poor and sick and less-advantaged? Who take pride in sharing wealth and opportunity?

Americans who believe legislators should answer to the people – not only the wealthy few and corporate contributors – and who demand that honesty, transparency and principle, not money, should reign? Americans who refuse to react out of fear in their world view, as well as in their neighborhoods? Who believe criminals deserve due process, but – of whatever status and wealth – warrant vigorous prosecution? In short, Americans whose core values are anchored in the Constitution: Does our government represent them anymore?

The answer to these questions is No. The government wages war – by covert ops, "contractors," drones and troops – all over the world. It silently, secretly (until revealed by Edward Snowden) collects and archives our private communications. It spends our tax money on bank bailouts and foreign adventures. It rewards corporations and their executives with tax breaks and loopholes while suppressing workers' earnings. It is, in short, a government run amok, unresponsive to and uncaring of Americans' will.

It's time – well past time – to remove our government,  to replace all of its actors, all of its supporters, root and branch.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Letter to the editor

Here's a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press that I emailed today. I'll post an update if/when the letter is published.

Update: The letter was published on March 12, 2014.

To the editor:

Two more names for Americans to ponder: Ukraine and Crimea. What's going on, who are the players, what are the issues, why do we care?

If you listen to the mainstream media, to many members of Congress, and the Obama administration, you're told that at issue is a "fight for freedom" between good guys – activists who forcibly ousted the elected (probably corrupt, pro-Russian) government of Ukraine – and bad guys, namely, Russia (Vladimir Putin), who seeks to maintain influence over Ukraine and control over the Crimean Peninsula, where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based. These mainstream voices argue that we – EU, NATO and, of course, the U.S. – should become involved, by sanctions, by deployment of arms, by aid to the non-Russian side.

Others argue that the West has unduly meddled in the Ukraine, that battles of the region are historical, cultural, economic and complex, and that the West shouldn't intervene in any form; and that Crimea, largely ethnic Russian, should exercise self-determination of whether to separate from Ukraine.

As a responsible American, I know this: I don't have a dog in this fight. Nor do I have a dog in Syria's fight, in Iraq's, in Iran's, in Libya's, in Somalia's, in Yemen's, in Afghanistan's, in Egypt's – in short, in anyone's fight but our own, here at home. I wish I could blow a silent whistle to bring all our dogs home to fight our own battles – against economic inequity, to achieve fairness and good health and humane care for all Americans. 


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Letter to the editor

Here's the text of a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press that I emailed today. I'll update this post when/if it's published.

Update: The letter was published in the News-Press on February 16, 2014.

To the editor:

Senator Rand Paul, meet ACLU. With his joinder as a plaintiff in a recently-filed lawsuit by the Tea Party entity, FreedomWorks, against President Obama and the National Security Agency, the Far Right has officially joined the Far Left. Not entirely, of course. Not on many "social" issues or, to be sure, on taxation. But with formidable vigor, the Kentucky Senator and his devotees by this filing have entered the freedom-of-expression and right-to-privacy debates in lockstep with ACLU, insisting that the government's mass collection of Americans' electronic messages is unlawful, unconstitutional.

Two previous lawsuits to this effect – by ACLU and by Judicial Watch – have met with mixed results: the former being dismissed, the latter victorious, with the issues doubtless headed to the Supreme Court.

But Senator Paul's recent joinder in the claim of the NSA's unconstitutional over-reach by its "metadata" collection of our phonecalls and Internet activities does more than add heft to arguments about its illegality. It shows what we Americans – Left, Right or Middle – have always known but have seldom seen so squarely framed: That the Bill of Right's First and Fourth Amendments aren't mere political articulations. The rights to be free from government intrusion into, and monitoring of, our private expressions and activities are fundamental to what we, of whatever political persuasion, hold paramount – rights we've enshrined in our founding documents, rights we've fought wars to protect and rights we won't surrender to any secretive, rogue government agency, no matter what its claimed rationalization or its initials.  

Thursday, January 09, 2014

It must be in the blood

Not just Mo Dowd, but an O'Dowd from a previous century, makes observations about class although as my many readers of this blog have doubtless noted, I rant lately more about war and spying than about the plight of the poor. It's nice to see Mo has joined the herd of Downton Abbey devotees, however. I can now watch my newly-arrived disks containing all of season four. Goody.

Fallujah falls

This is a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press that I emailed today. I'll update this post if/when it's published.

Update: The letter was published on January 9, 2014

To the editor:

Remember Fallujah? For the historically challenged, that's the Iraqi city that during America's invasion was the site of not one, but two, major U.S. military operations which reduced the city to ruin, drove out thousands of its inhabitants and created walled enclaves for its remaining residents. All this was done, we were told, in the interest of creating secure zones for Iraqis in the aftermath of our destruction of the city's infrastructure and populace. It was a classic case of "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Well, guess what. Within the last few days, Fallujah has fallen under the control of al-Qaeda-aligned militants after a prolonged battle against the Iraqi security forces. A repeat of the Viet Nam experience, to be sure, both in terms of the eventual outcome – the Communists took over all of Viet Nam after years of battle, remember? – and in terms of the American war-resisters' outcry against our military involvement in that nation's conflict.

We "peaceniks" don't want to say, I told you so. That sounds impudent, crass. Rather, to those Americans who would involve our military in Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, elsewhere – as well as maintain our forces in Afghanistan indefinitely – the words of Pete Seeger seem apt: "When will we ever learn?"