Sunday, April 30, 2006


On December 20, 1983, President Reagan's "special envoy" Donald Rumsfeld cements the ties of the Reagan Administration to Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein with a handshake

For the parents and spouses of American servicemen and women currently serving in Iraq- or, more accurately for too many, serving once again in Iraq- the homecoming of Georgia’s 48th Brigade of the Army National Guard is bittersweet. Sweet because anytime we get to welcome home those who endured danger and hardship, there’s a feeling of both gratitude and relief. Bitter because 130,000 plus American military and their future replacements will be in harm’s way for the foreseeable future. The yellow ribbons, parades, and tearful homecomings are wonderful for those fortunate enough to have returned. But we are- all of us- honor bound to remember the Americans in uniform who are still there, those whose lives were forever altered by the experience, and those who paid the ultimate price.

It’s been more than three years since the Fall of 2002 when President George Walker Bush ordered a buildup of hundreds of thousands of troops on Iraq’s border. On March 20, 2003, he ordered a preemptive invasion of Iraq, allegedly to prevent Saddam Hussein’s imminent use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological weapons. To date President Bush’s decision has cost America $300 billion dollars, 2,400 dead soldiers and Marines, over 17,000 wounded and maimed, the loss of our credibility and goodwill throughout the world, and skyrocketing gasoline prices due to the instability in the region.

How did we end up invading Iraq? Why are Americans still there?

Here are some highlights of the history and context of America’s involvement with Iraq. If any of the following information is news to you, then you have some appreciation as to how our educational institutions and the media have failed.

PART I: The years leading up to the George H. W. Bush presidency

1953, IRAN: After the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize Iran's oil industry and seize control of the British-owned and operated Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Britain asked the U.S. for help in overthrowing pro-nationalization Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. On April 4, 1953, with the appoval of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, CIA Director Allen W. Dulles approved $1 million to be used "in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadegh." On August 19, 1953, the CIA engineered the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh through Iran’s young Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. More than 300 Iranians died. Over the next 25 years, a pro-Western Shah allowed the U.S. to use Iran as a listening post, as a base for spy flights, and as a host for U.S. nuclear weapons aimed at the Soviet Union, Iran’s northern neighbor.

1979 AFGHANISTAN: On July 3, 1979, President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser, predicted the aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention. On December 24, 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, beginning eight years of the Soviet “Vietnam” and eventual U.S. support for mujahadeen, the Islamic fundamentalists. The mujahadeen were the forerunners of the Taliban, which emerged and took political power in the 1990’s after the Cold War ended and America ended its direct involvement in Afghan affairs. The anti-Soviet Afghan insurgency drew in Saudi Arabian Osama Bin Laden, who remained connected to Afghanistan after the Soviets departed. After the Taliban took power, Bin Laden set up terror camps with the overt participation of the Taliban government. Under Presidents Bush and Clinton, America ignored the Taliban’s soccer stadium executions, subjugation of its women, and hostility to all things non-Muslim, including historical treasures such as giant Buddha statues which were dynamited.

1979 IRAN: Iranians revolted against Shah Pahlavi, still in power after 25 years, and replaced the monarchy with a parliamentary theocracy led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the rule of “Sharia,” Islamic law. On November 4, 1979, “student” members of Iran’s “Revolutionary Guard” seized American embassy and held American diplomats and Marines hostage over 14 months. All of the hostages were released on Inauguration Day, January 20, 1981, when Republican Ronald Reagan took office.

1980 IRAQ-IRAN WAR: On September 22, 1980, Saddam Hussein ordered an invasion across Iraq’s southern border with Iran in attempt to seize Iranian oil fields on Persian Gulf. This began an eight year long Iraq-Iran war during which Hussein violated the Geneva Convention and committed crimes against humanity when he used mustard gas on Iranian soldiers and nerve gas against Iraqi Kurds and other Iraqi civilians.

1981 OSIRIK, IRAQ: Israel launched a raid with six American build F-15’s and F-16’s against a 40 Mega Watt light water nuclear materials testing reactor in Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Centre in Osirik, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad, being built by the French. Saddam Hussein was about to take the plant on line and start building nuclear bombs. President Ronald Reagan was furious with Israel for violating terms of U.S. sale of warplanes which are only permitted for “defensive purposes” and suspended arms shipments to Israel. Iraq suspected U.S. complicity in the attack and relations soured. The Osirik facility was later completely destroyed by American aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.

1983 BAGHDAD, IRAQ: On December 20, 1983, President Reagan’s special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, met with Saddam Hussein in effort to repair the relationship damaged by Osirik raid. Rumsfeld was photographed shaking hands with Hussein as he pledged support for Iraq in its conflict with Iran. U.S. began its policy of supplying covert spy satellite photographs to Iraq, some of which Iraq used to wage war against its own citizens

1982-1988 IRAQ: During Reagan presidency, U.S. companies with strong Republican ties provide essential war materials to Iraq, including chemicals used in illegal weapons of mass destruction. In 1988, just after Saddam Hussein had earned international condemnation for using poisonous gas against thousands of Kurds, the Bechtel Corporation signed contracts with Iraq to build a dual-use chemical plant in Baghdad.

1986 IRAN-CONTRA, WASHINGTON, IRAN, NICARAGUA, LEBANON: The Iran-Contra political scandal involved members of the Reagan inner circle who orchestrated illegal arms sales to Iran in exchange for cash and hostages seized in Lebanon by Iranian backed terrorist groups. In violation of a Congressional ban and despite Reagan’s avowed policy of not negotiating with terrorists and hostage takers, the Iranian cash was funneled to right wing Nicaraguan rebels who fought against a democratically elected Communist government led by Daniel Ortega. The Communist government later left office peacefully in 1990 after losing the election to opposition candidate Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. Former Middle East CIA case officer Robert Baer revealed in his 2002 memoire, “See No Evil,” that the Iranians had orchestrated the April 18, 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy (America’s rebuilt and relocated Beirut embassy was blown up again on September 20, 1984) and the October 23, 1983, Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the latter killing 241 American servicemen. In response, President Reagan ordered the battleship New Jersey to fire 16 inch shells into unoccupied areas of the Lebanese Shouf mountains, and he ordered the invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada on October 25, 1983.

During the Iran-Contra scandal, President Reagan appeared on television and told the American people that the United States had not sold weapons to Iran. In a later televised address he admitted that his administration had, in fact, done so.

Monday, April 24, 2006


George Bush, learning the basics of international economics at Harvard Graduate School of Business, circa 1973

In June of 2001, Vice President Cheney met secretly with an "energy task force", including lobbyists from Enron and other energy companies to create a national strategy. No representatives of consumers were permitted to attend. Reportedly the Vice President and other members of the Project for a New American Century devised a plan to divide up Iraq's oil production-- months before the 9-11-01 attacks, and almost two years before the invasion of Iraq.

President Bush welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to his ranch in Crawford, Texas

Since 1990, Republicans have garnered more than $100 million in contributions from the oil and gas industries- and now control the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court

Georgia's gasoline prices have skyrocketed from less than $1.25 a gallon before Gulf War II started in March of 2003 to over $3.00 a gallon for premium. The White House's first name for the War was "Operation Iraqi Liberation" which they hastily changed when they realized its acronym was "O.I.L."

Meanwhile, President Bush has continued the Bush family's VERY close ties with the House of Saud

Recently retired Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond received $686 million in compensation; last year he generated a world record $36.1 billion in profits for his company, more than $10.7 billion in the fourth quarter alone, when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina drove prices up over $3.00 a gallon.

Exxon Mobil Corporation stock dipped as low as $30 in the Fall of 2002; stock prices have risen steadily and have gone up over 100% since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq destabilized oil production.

When President Bush leaves office in January of 2009, the Saudis will undoubtedly pay him millions to give speeches in grateful thanks for energy policies which in five short years have more than tripled the value of the oil under the sands of Saudi Arabia.

Monday, April 17, 2006


The upcoming Duke lacrosse rape trial could be OJ, Part 2

(This column will appear in the April 20, 2006 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

About a year after I got out of law school, I was in Atlanta for a seminar, and after the class was over I had some free time in the afternoon. In those days, downtown Atlanta had some upscale “gentlemen’s clubs” and on a lark some of my buddies and I decided to check one out. The girls were attractive enough, but after a few minutes I realized that without a frontal lobotomy, I could never enjoy watching strippers or pole dancers perform. Because I couldn’t view the dancers as sex objects; to me, they were human beings with lives, with pasts, with reasons for doing what they were doing for a living.

In my career as a lawyer I’ve represented women who made questionable career choices- prostitution and stripping being the two most notable. For the most part, they weren’t coeds working their way through college or young single mothers trying to pay the rent. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of conversation to learn that most women in those trades are damaged goods- molested or physically abused as children, products of broken homes with one or more alcoholic parents, women with low self esteem or no self esteem. Many of them are drug users or alcohol abusers themselves.

Embarrassed police fail to land a prostitute

As easy as it is to generalize, not all women in these professions are hapless victims lacking self-esteem. Back when Herbert Phipps, who now serves on the Georgia Court of Appeals, was an Associate Judge of the Dougherty County State Court, he conducted a preliminary hearing in a criminal case where a young lady was charged with solicitation of prostitution.

The genesis of this legal proceeding had occurred a few weeks earlier when a covey of police had gathered in the basement of the courthouse to prepare the insertion of one of their own (pardon the pun) into the infamous “Joe’s Cellar.” Joe’s was a strip joint (not for gentlemen) located a block from the courthouse, in the basement of the old Lee Hotel- it’s now a prisoner halfway house- at the corner of Flint and Washington. Local law enforcement had somehow brilliantly glommed onto the fact that South Georgia country girls were selling their wares inside while the intoxicated patrons downed shots and occasionally cast an eye at the dancers on the small stage. What Albany’s finest hadn’t counted on was that the local prostitutes weren’t totally dedicated to their profession.

Judge Phipps patiently listened as the undercover policeman- he was middle aged and not a very attractive man (not that there’s anything wrong with that)- described his near close encounter with the young woman in the dock. He had been wired by his cohorts and sent across the street and down the stairs into the devil’s den. Once there, he approached my client and asked her how much she charged to perform oral sex. So she quoted him a price- it was probably around $25-- and he told her he’d go upstairs and wait outside for her. He headed out, and she stayed right where she was. After a few minutes, he came back down inside the club, found his mark, and asked her again to meet him upstairs. He went back up, waited a few more minutes-- but no prostitute. Totally frustrated by this point, he went back down, arrested her, and charged her with solicitation of prostitution.

An obviously amused Judge Phipps listened to this tale of intrepid police work, then dismissed the charges. As he explained to the perplexed policeman, “it seems like you asked her what she did for a living, and she told you. Then you asked her what she charged, and she told you. But she wasn’t interested in you and never solicited you for a sex act- it was the other way around.” The unlucky officer had run into one plucky prostitute who was picky about her johns.

Duke University’s Dark Side

Recently, my law school alma mater has made the news, and not in a good way. The Duke men’s lacrosse team managed to hit the trifecta with charges of sexism, racism, and classism, all in a single night. On March 13th, the team had held a party at the residence of some team members on Buchanan Road in Durham, N.C., a few miles from the Duke campus. One or more of the testosterone fueled team members had the bright idea of importing two “exotic dancers” from a local club to entertain the party goers.

According to one of the dancers, in the course of the evening’s entertainment, she was raped, beaten, and choked by three players in the bathroom. One neighbor reported that he heard the young men taunting the stripper when she stumbled away, "Thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt." The Duke lacrosse team is virtually all white- it has one black member. The typical Duke students are well to do- tuition now runs over $30,000 a year at the school students used to proudly call “The Harvard of the South” when I was on campus in the mid 1970’s. (My ironic response to them was: “you ought to make your school so good that Harvard will call itself ‘the Duke of the North.’”) The contrast could not have been more stark- the alleged victim is female, black, poor, and attends a low profile historically black college, North Carolina Central, in Durham. Her alleged attackers are male, white, rich, and attend an internationally renowned university.

Rush Inserts Large Foot in Own Mouth

What should have been treated as a local sex crime has been transformed into an international furor- it’s been all over CNN and I found one story on it in England’s Guardian newspaper- and a national Rorschach test on race, gender, and class. Eminently fair and balanced radio commentator Rush Limbaugh called the two black women “hos” on his March 31st radio show, then quickly backtracked and halfheartedly apologized:

“... Sharpton's working on a New Orleans deal, too. He's trying to figure out how he can get involved in the deal down there at Duke where the lacrosse team uh, supposedly, you know, raped, some, uh, hos....

CALLER 2: Rush, did you just call those young ladies "hos" on the nationally syndicated program?

LIMBAUGH: Yes....I'm running on fumes today, [caller], and I felt terrible about it. And I knew somebody was gonna call and give me a little grief so I'm takin' the occasion of your call to apologize for it. That was, it was a terrible slip of the tongue. I'm sorry."

In Durham rallies and marches have featured outraged feminists and local black residents. The Durham County District Attorney has an election in a few weeks and is milking the publicity for all its worth. Defense lawyers have countered with press conferences defending the innocence (but not the judgment) of the Duke lacrosse team members. One team member has been suspended from Duke for writing an outrageous e-mail in which he envisaged committing depraved acts of violence on women. Duke’s President, Richard Brodhead, sent an e-mail to Duke alumni in which he pulled no punches:

“Allegations against members of the Duke lacrosse team stemming from the party on the evening of March 13 have deeply troubled me and everyone else at this university and our surrounding city. We can’t be surprised at the outpouring of outrage. Rape is the substitution of raw power for love, brutality for tenderness, and dehumanization for intimacy. It is also the crudest assertion of inequality, a way to show that the strong are superior to the weak and can rightfully use them as the objects of their pleasure. When reports of racial abuse are added to the mix, the evil is compounded, reviving memories of the systematic racial oppression we had hoped to have left behind us."

As this column is written, the Durham Herald-Sun reports that the Durham grand jury has returned sealed indictments naming two team members, although the exact charges have yet to be disclosed. If Court TV carries the trial, we may get another national look at racism and violence against women, 10 years after the O. J. trial became a litmus test on race and crime. With a black female victim and white male defendants, the roles will be reversed this time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


The Glosser boys and Dad celebrate Aunt Rita's 85th
Larry, Joanne, Ilana & Jeff
Emily, Samantha, Nancy & Rick with Aunt Rita
Marilyn (with "Ben button") and Mike

Dad, Aunt Rita & Jim
(This column will appear in the 4-13-06 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

DATELINE: Friday, April 7, 2006.

In a Boeing 767-300 at 30,000 feet, 550 mph heading northwest from Atlanta to Seattle.

Traveling used to be an unmitigated pleasure- especially when it involved air travel. I've been flying long enough to remember flying on a United or Eastern flight and having a hot meal served-- free!-- on a plate with real silverware. After domestic passengers were treated to a few too many unscheduled side trips to Cuba in the late 1960's, courtesy of gunwielding hijackers, travelers in ensuing decades had to endure lining up to step through metal detectors.

Shortly after the 9-11 attacks traveling by commercial air became a near nightmare. At one point I considered stripping down to my boxer shorts when I got to the checkpoint to save Transportation Security Agency (TSA) the trouble. One time I got wanded and frisked because I had skipped through the metal detector after a long 6:00 A.M. wait at McAfee Air Terminal. Apparently, skipping is proscribed in the world of Homeland Security. I offered to step back and go through again, walking in the mandated fashion, but the grim TSA guard ordered me into the special glass enclosed booth where potential air pirates and grandmothers got the heavy going over.

But a few years down the road from 2001, savvy travelers and less tense security personnel have become accommodated to the aggravations of shoe removal, emptying pockets, pulling out notebook computers, and the (recently repealed) ban on nail clippers and pocket scissors. Coming home from Seattle on this trip, I made it through the checkpoint at SeaTac Airport in a matter of only a couple of minutes with a startling "Have a great day!" send off from a smiling TSA employee.

But this trip, like so many others, was worth the aggravation. Even though the seatbelt light rarely came off on the flight out from Atlanta, and the cabin service became an adventure as the flight attendant attempted to serve coffee as the plane lurched, my pleasure was unalloyed because I got the chance to see and talk to my Dad. Luckily, his Pittsburgh to Seattle flight was routed through Atlanta (Delta’s new motto: “We’re ready when you are, we’re just going to have to route you through Atlanta no matter where you’re going.”). Looking back at my air travel and other long distance trips in recent years, seeing family has been my primary reason for leaving the comforts of home. This trip was to visit my Aunt Rita, her three sons, and their families as we celebrated her 85th birthday.

We arrived late Friday night- almost two o'clock in the morning Eastern time. It was my fourth visit to Seattle, and there are some enduring impressions of the Great Northwest that I've carried back with me. It's wet, to be sure. Puget Sound to the west, Lake Washington to the east. Rain and clouds almost every day. The gorgeous Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympics to the west are typically obscured by clouds, as is majestic 14,000 foot plus Mount Rainier to the south.

APRIL 8th and 9th:

When I travel to different places- I've been fortunate enough to visit London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Ty Ty and Sasser- I try to get a sense of the local flavor by parking my car and pounding the pavement. Whether walking the streets of Bellevue, Washington, or talking to the residents and staff at my Aunt Rita's beautifully appointed residence (think hotel and condo combined), I quickly discovered that the people are diverse-- Asians, Hispanics, and many other ethnic groups-- and they are friendly. Within one block from our guest quarters I saw restaurants from India, Vietnam, and Thailand. Most everyone I met had a ready smile and friendly greeting.

The civic virtues appear to be a cut above the average American city. The area where we were visiting in Bellevue, just east of Seattle, was so clean that my Dad was reluctant to toss an apple core on the grass as we took a walk around the neighborhood. Like the downtown Seattle area, Bellevue has beautiful, imaginatively designed officer towers in a neighborhood setting.

As I walked up Northeast 8th Avenue past the business district, I noticed a juxtaposition of relatively old (50 years or more) modest bungalows adjoining brand new two million dollar plus mansions. Out of curiosity, I pulled a real estate flyer from the box in front of one new structure to see what the asking price was for a home that might fetch somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000 in Albany. The stunning answer: $2,380,000. As I walked in a light rain, I saw over a hundred homes as nice or nicer-- and with better views-- in the residential portion of Bellevue stretching from the top of the hill down to Lake Washington.

Emily and Rebecca show their maturity as they get ready to pick a college

Later that evening, after talking to my cousins living in the area, I discovered that there is some serious computer money being spent on nearby real estate. Microsoft's main "campus" is located in nearby Redmon, Washington, and Bill Gates has his primary estate on the Medina section of western Bellevue. (I guess if I had $50 billion in the bank, I might blow a few bucks on a nice house or two). Unlike Hollywood celebrities and newly enriched professional athletes the country over, the atmosphere in Northwestern America is not one of ostentatious display or conspicuous consumption- the cars in the driveways were more likely to be conservative looking Lexuses and BMW's than Pimp my Ride Escalades or Ferraris.


I've always felt that in order to appreciate what we have, we have to go somewhere else. I never thought highly of my hometown, Johnstown, Pa., until I lived in Philadelphia, London (England), and Durham, North Carolina. Then, when I came home, I had new eyes to appreciate what I had heretofore taken for granted. The Johnstown area has tree lined and shaded streets, beautiful old homes, some dating back to the early 20th century, mountains, and rivers, all features I'd rarely noticed growing up there. Leaving Albany to travel to more exotic locations has helped me appreciate what Albany has to offer: no traffic jams, easy access to libraries, grocery stores, work, and the several outstanding (and inexpensive) golf courses, with friendly people throughout the city.

However, as much as I like Georgia, Washington State has something that Georgia will likely never have- a woman governor and two women Senators, Democrats all. Somehow, I doubt that their official agenda includes officially endorsed Bible study in the schools, hostility to gays, or delusions about American prospects for "victory" in Iraq. But that's grist for another column and a revisit with my friend Marvin.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

LIBERAL versus CONSERVATIVE- a Dialogue, not a Diatribe

Marvin and Jim are more diplomatic in their exchanges

(This column will appear in the April 6, 2006 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

I have an acquaintance, Attorney Marvin Mixon, a Vietnam Veteran and a true patriot, whom I greatly respect yet with whom I profoundly disagree in regards to many hot political issues of the day. Unlike the shouting heads on Fox, we have exchanged numerous e-mails in recent years while passionately debating ideas, not slinging mud.

This exchange started out as a discussion on what a “liberal” is and whether President Bush should be impeached.

Dear Jim,

Your definition of “liberal” applies to the relationship between friends, relatives and socializing people in general. In the political arena, the definition of “liberal” is more like “government does it best”; “the masses are too incompetent to do anything themselves”; “let me have your money to spend for you; you will not spend it properly (almost a direct quote of Bubba Clinton in Chicago after his impeachment trial)”; “self-reliance, self-responsibility, respect for others” are dirty words and “socialism” is not really a dirty word and actually is somewhat better than “capitalism”; and “the elite know better what is good for society, the rest of you are too ignorant.” The last is where your paranoid concern about President Bush fits – liberals think they are so much smarter than he is, he doesn’t deserve to be president of the United States.

The idea that President Bush should be impeached because of the NSA monitoring of international telephone calls when one of the parties has suspected or known ties or connections with terrorism is really a straining stretch of the imagination. Have you knowledge of even one complaint filed by anyone because of this security measure? There are hundreds of cases of aliens being deported since 9-11 as the result of security measures.

Now I know where a big part of your problems arise. If you rely on the contortions and twistings of truth by the likes of “Fahrenheit 9-11” for your information, you are being blindly led in the wrong direction. You would do better spending some of your free time reading something like “Atlas Shrugged” or studying some of the Revolutionary Era personalities. The struggles, sacrifices and efforts to give us a form of government with the proper relationship between citizen (superior) and government (sub-servient) is being totally lost by the host of liberals who are doing everything they can to reverse that concept – and, unfortunately, they have made tremendous strides in that direction since World War II.

Actually, good ole FDR gave us a big shove starting us down that road in the 1930’s. And the steam roller of liberalism has been running full blast since the 1960’s. The most horrible example is that of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and his War against Poverty. His civil rights programs (done deliberately, he admitted, to attract and forever hold the loyalty of the black race to the Democrat Party) did more damage to the black population of our country in one decade than slavery did in 200 years.


Dear Marvin,

Why should I allow people who are self professed haters of freedom and equality to be the ones to define liberalism? If you think that only the guilty have their phones tapped, then you haven't been paying attention. The FBI's chief complaint about the intercept program was that the thousands of intercepts turned over by the NSA were a colossal waste of their time. Not one case has been made in 5 years from a phone intercept. As for complaints- how can you complain about having your phone or e-mail tapped if the program is secret and you never find out? If you think the government never makes a mistake in phone intercepts and only gets the bad guys, then how do you square that view with your assertion that liberal means "government does it best?" You can't have it both ways. If you subscribe to Ronald Reagan's view that "government is the problem, not the solution" and smaller government is better, then you need to rethink your contention that Big Brother is the way to go and never makes mistakes.

My liberalism includes balanced budgets, elimination of unnecessary government programs and departments, and focusing spending where you get the most bang for your buck (i.e. eliminating anachronistic Cold War defense spending on new nuclear submarines and F-22 Raptors and spending more on human intelligence and better pay and benefits for grunts). The dictionary defines political liberalism as including embracing progressive ideas and willingness to accept change where change is an improvement. That means that I realize the Cold War is over and we need to change to respond to security needs in 2006, not continue those designed for 1961.

My liberalism doesn't say anything about elitism or a belief that the masses can't do for themselves. My liberalism says that providing college scholarships to every gifted child is an investment in our future, and cutting those programs (as Congressional Republicans have proposed) is cutting back on our future. My liberalism says that a tax system should be fair and simple, and not rigged with deductions that favor the wealthy or special interests. My liberalism says that government should be open and not secret. My liberalism says that Congressmen, Senators, and other elected officials should not be permitted to solicit or receive bribes in any form- including so called campaign contributions or lobbyist gifts or favors.

My liberalism says that the press should be free, the people should be free to express themselves, and that government has no business telling adults how to live their lives upon pain of imprisonment, whether it be how to have sex, who to marry, or what books to read or movies to watch.

Your conservative friends used to say that they wanted (in the words of your Deity, Ronald Reagan) to get government off the backs of the people and to allow States freedom from federal interference. However, once in power, they have done the opposite, whether it be a universal marriage law (pre-empting state laws), marijuana use (California & Oregon law be damned), the right of the terminally ill to end their own lives (Oregon), consumer rights or safety (California), or any other issue that is red meat to the Republican religious right or their special interest business partners.

My liberalism also embraces the concept that the Bill of Rights is not tissue paper which can be thrown away whenever fearmongers and demagogues rail against unpopular groups. Did you favor wiretapping of Americans, indefinite imprisonment without trial or access to counsel, or torture of white American Christians in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995? Why not? Is it because you and the people you care about are white, American, and Christian? Do you recall that the first reports of the 1995 bombing blamed Islamic terrorists, and within hours death threats were phoned into mosques? Once Timothy McVeigh was arrested, the racist bigotry subsided. What does that tell you about "conservatives" and their willingness to lock up unfortunate, innocent Afghans and Pakistanis in Guantanamo even when the authorities concede their innocence? Answer: racist bigots. If those locked up in violation of the Bill of Rights and international law were white, Christian, and European in origin, your friends and fellow travelers would be storming the gates to free them.

So my liberalism is intellectually consistent. I believe in equal rights for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion or national origin. I believe that the rule of law covers everyone from the President on down. Conservatives no longer believe that, or else they lack the courage of their convictions.

I believe that freedom is not free and that freedom does not come without some danger. We could lock up every suspected criminal in the U.S. without charges or a trial, and we would all be safer. But we would no longer be a free country. Take your pick: freedom with some danger, or tyranny and some safety. Ben Franklin said those who would give up essential freedom for temporary safety would deserve neither.


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