Thursday, July 31, 2008

In Support of a UN Arms Embargo of Sudan

It is widely known in the international community that the United Nations ban on weapons to Darfur is ineffective. The various factions are still receiving shipments of heavy weapons, small arms, ammunition, and other military equipment into Sudan, where they are transported to Darfur. That is why it is essential that the Congress act now to extend the embargo to all of Sudan. It is essential that we exercise our strength as a country to do everything we can to stop the genocide.

A recent report by Amnesty International stated that a total arms embargo on Darfur will add diplomatic pressure for the embargo to be applied to Sudan as a whole. At the moment there is a limited ban which is intended to stop the supply of weapons from reaching various factions in Darfur, but this ban has been considered ineffective. After four years of warfare, the people of Sudan are suffering terribly from the affects of widespread civilian dislocation, famine and genocide. If the United States redirected even a small percentage of budgetary allocation they are spending on the war in Iraq, we could unilaterally prevent genocide.

As a world leader, the Congress of the United States and the Executive Branch have a responsibility to do their part to help prevent genocide. As signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the US has promised to respond with a concerted will to ensure that our planet never again witnesses the horror of genocide and that people everywhere have basic rights including the right to food, housing, clean water, an education and the right to live free of violence and intimidation.

Clearly the people of Sudan have been abandoned for the most part by the current administration. While Sudan is not considered to be important in terms of military strategy for empire building and control of global oil resources, the USA does claim to engage in military adventures overseas for the purpose of building democracy and ensuring the people living in the bondage of fear and terror deserve the opportunity to be free and make choices about their government. Sudan is clearly an international crisis, more so than Iraq but perhaps equal to the gravitas given to Afghanistan.

As a country which preaches democracy and human rights, it is time for the United States to take positive actions to ensure that genocide does not continue in Sudan. We have a responsibility to support international peace keeping efforts to end the war in Sudan and feed, clothe and house the hundreds of thousands of refugees which have been created by the ongoing crisis the region. The first step is to support a total embargo of Sudan to ensure that arms do not continue to fuel the ongoing violence between various factions in the region.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Now is the Time for Comprehensive Gun Control

Many Tennesseans were stunned to hear the news that yesterday morning at 10:18am a lone gunman walked into a welcoming congregation in Knoxville and opened fire on the congregants who were gathered in anticipation of watching their children perform a scene from the musical "Annie" as part of the morning services, killing two people and shooting several more in the head before being tackled to the ground. That church, the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, is a beacon of joy and hope in East Tennessee. Its congregation is made up of some of the most loving, kind and gentle people in the fine city of Knoxville, and the horrific tragedy which was visited upon that church is a wakeup call to good people throughout Tennessee to re-examine our approach to gun control in Tennessee and throughout this nation.

Sadly this is not the first nor the last example of guns in churches, schools and public spaces being used to kill innocent men, women and children. In the past decade alone, dozens of people have been killed in our nations schools, churches and public gathering places by people who had obtained guns legally and illegally with the sole intention of killing unarmed civilians. The public school shooting rampage phenomenon started here in the South only a decade ago when two students in Jonesboro, Arkansas opened fire on their fellow middle school students killing five and wounding eleven. Since that time our nation has witnessed school shootings in over a dozen states with victims numbering in the hundreds. There have also been shootings at shopping malls and church shootings in the past year in Texas, Colorado and now Tennessee.

Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the guns that were used in the commission of felony first degree homicides were obtained legally. Either the guns were in possession of parents who were not able to keep the guns from the access of their children, or in some cases rifles were used. In many states there are no laws regarding the use of these weapons by minors. In other cases guns were obtained illegally. No matter how the gun was obtained, it was used in the commission of a crime against men, women and children who lost their parents, children or grandchildren as was the case today in Knoxville.

I cannot imagine the horror of the children yesterday watching as their parents were shot in front of them, but this incident further illustrates to me the need for effective gun control regulations at the federal level. The fact is that guns kill people and in the United States they kill a lot of people. The United States has the highest per capita murder rate in the developed world, with 14 people per 100,000 dying of gun violence each year. This adds up to nearly 10,000 people a year who die at the hands of a gun, not including the additional 16,000 suicides that happen each year with the use of a gun. This is nearly thirty three times the number of Americans who have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war.

The recent Supreme Court ruling on the second amendment by the Bush and Reagan stacked court insures that our nation's cities can continue to live in perpetual fear of similar incidents happening around the nation as what happened in Knoxville on Sunday. Cities are already scrambling to deal with the chilling new reality handed down by the Supreme Court this summer, which seems to mean that it is open season for every crazy person who can get their hands on a gun in our nation’s urban centers.

There is a solution though, and it is up to Congress to exercise the political will to make a decision to pass laws which place strict limits on gun ownership and to hold gun sellers strictly accountable for who they sell their products to. We have a responsibility to protect our children and our nation’s citizens have a right to live free of the fear of being visited with violence as they go about their daily lives of working, shopping and worshiping as they choose. As a candidate for federal office I believe that federal government has the responsibility to place strict limits on gun ownership in this country. Gun rights advocates argue that guns make us safe, but I believe that a heavily armed nation is a dangerous place to live. It is time to make our country safe for our children. Now is the time for comprehensive gun control for a safer America.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Angry Bloggers On Left And Right Unite Over FISA

Angry Bloggers On Left And Right Unite Over FISA

Morning Edition, July 25, 2008 · Bloggers across the political spectrum have been raising money in recent weeks in an effort to punish certain members of Congress for supporting a government surveillance bill backed by the White House.

Full story:

(Major party dissatisfaction on the rise - Dan)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Support the Gulf Coast Works Act of 2008

It has been nearly three years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the gulf coast region, leaving behind a wake of suffering and human misery unmatched in recent American history. Sadly, the victims of this crisis are still suffering and residents of the Gulf Coast region are still waiting for the government to do the right thing by investing in the region, cleaning up and rebuilding New Orleans and surrounding communities. The scale of this crisis is unimaginable for a modern, developed nation with the industrial strength and collective will we have to remedy the situation. As a country, it is time for us to come together and call for justice for the victims of Katrina and Rita with a comprehensive, public works program designed to address the real needs of people who are still suffering from this natural disaster.

In New Orleans and surrounding regions, people continue to suffer from unhealthy living conditions. Many areas lack basic social services and there always remains the looming threat of Mother Nature once again taking more. We have the means to address this crisis. Recently Congress introduced the Gulf Coast Works Act, which is designed to restore the region. The Gulf Coast Works Act will ensure that real progress is made toward restoring the environment, rebuilding infrastructure, and revitalizing the workforce of the area. The Act will provide 100,000 job opportunities for residents to rebuild their communities and it will create incentives for local and national business to participate in the redevelopment of the Gulf Coast region.

If this bill is introduced into the Senate I will work to support this companion legislation as a candidate and work to ensure that all victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and make New Orleans the city it truly deserves to be. Real solutions to the problems of jobs, infrastructure development and environmental restoration are possible with the collective participation of our entire society. Unfortunately, at a time when the people of New Orleans really needed our support our President was too busy waging war halfway around the world. Instead of dealing with the real crisis at home, the Bush administration and FEMA largely neglected the disaster which had struck the gulf region, betraying a fundamental trust that the people have in government that it will be there at times of national crisis.

Thankfully, some people still believe that when disaster strikes, we the people will respond. In addition to the numerous private efforts which have accomplished many good works since 2005, the federal government has finally woken up to the reality of the situation and is finally going to do something right. The Gulf Coast Works Act will create a federal authority with the ability to implement and coordinate the necessary federal response in the event of a future natural disaster in the region. It will put people to work rebuilding vital infrastructure and restoring the environment and it will spur sustainable development in the community, giving people a sense of dignity and justice.

By working to rebuild the roads, levees, police stations, schools, firehouses and public utilities in the gulf region we are rebuilding America. By cleaning up the marshes, wetlands and restoring the natural ecology of the region we are protecting the planet. By serving as a national model for disaster recovery and infrastructure development we are protecting the future.

for more information on the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act please visit:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Re: Ohio Attorneys Launch Election Fraud Probe Against Rove and Others

Velvet Revolution wrote:




Dear VR supporters,

Read the full story HERE!

Yesterday, Ohio Attorney Cliff Arnebeck launched a new legal strategy to expose a national strategy of election manipulation directed by Karl Rove.  The implications are stunning.  Arnebeck has asked the Ohio Federal Court to allow for targeted under oath depositions of key individuals including Rove, Bush IT guru Michael Connell, Jack Abramoff, Ken Blackwell and others.  This will be the first opportunity ever to place these individuals under oath. 


Arnebeck indicated that he has amassed a great deal of information from various sources including whistleblowers implicating Rove.  He wrote in yesterday’s court filing that the “suspected lead perpetrator of this conspiracy against the civil rights of the plaintiffs and against the rule of law in the United States is Karl Rove…. Rove’s politicization of  the Justice Department is currently being investigation by the US House Judiciary Committee.” 


Arnebeck also notified both Attorney General Mukasey and the Chamber of Commerce that he intends to “assert an Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim against Mr. Karl Rove and others based upon their activities beginning in 2000 to illegally use corporate treasury money and government power to establish single faction dominance in the United States, military dominance in the world and generally undermine the rule of law as it had developed over the course of the past century.” 


VR was at the press conference and extensive coverage is here on our Election Protection Strike Force and on the Brad BlogRaw Story has also covered this with new details on the possible manipulation of the 2002 Senate Max Cleland Senate race .  VR will have a complete video of the press conference up shortly.

VR is raising funds to assist in this historic litigation so please donate generously here.

All the best, VR

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Does Family Mean to You?

Americans believe they have one of the best, if not the best, standard of living in the world. Indeed, some Americans have a fantastic standard of living, while millions of others live in near third world conditions. Many people who are poor, infirm, elderly or sick will turn to their family or community for aid and support in times of need. When that is not available they will turn to the government for help. The public welfare tradition of government support is a relatively new tradition, started in full force during the great depression of the 1930's through the recognition of government as a positive force for social change. Since that time, there has been a continuous dialectic between supporters of government as a basic safety net and detractors of government who feel that family is the basic social unit of society, and that government interference weakens the family and diminishes America.

What does family mean to you? On June 15th, 2008 California became the second state in the nation to grant gays and lesbians the right to legally marry. After nearly thirty years of struggle some fundamental rights are finally being granted to same sex couples who are committed to loving and caring for each other in every way similar to those of us who have always taken those rights for granted. For some, this is a step backwards, towards a dissolution of the traditional family unit and the basic moral framework of this country. For others, it is a step forward towards a more liberal and open minded society, throwing off the shackles of an oppressive framework and moving towards a more humanistic and egalitarian vision of community.

Regardless of what family means to you, the law still places strong limitations on what a family is and can do. That is why I propose we take a step further, even beyond gay marriage and beyond traditional welfare standards in our consideration of what family means. In recent history, a family meant a mother and a father, living in a house, with dependent minor children. This basic family unit was the classic definition of postwar American culture. The reality is that this is a very new definition of family and a recent cultural construction. This definition, however, has permeated all aspects of law and public policy and has become the framework of political dialogue.

A more historical, and therefore more traditional definition of family is people who live together in a 'household.' What that means practically is that a 'household' is a group of people living together and taking care of each other. Sometimes that is a heterosexual couple and their children. Sometimes it is a grandmother and her grandchildren. Sometimes it is two men or two women and their natural or adopted children. Sometimes it is a man and his mother and her nieces. Sometimes it is a group of people who have chosen to live together intentionally. The point is that love makes a family. Whoever lives in a household together and takes care of each other out of mutual love, respect and desire is a family.

This means that public welfare policy and law need to catch up with the times. The cost to the American taxpayers and the loss of productivity and income due to the limitation of benefits is enormous and a real burden on the public treasury. Take the following case as an example of how the current framework of social policy limits who can receive benefits and the burdens that it places on individuals: A man is living with his wife and they find it is time to bring home his mother to take care of her. At the same time, his sister is caught up in a lifestyle of drug addiction and is living on the streets so she gives her daughter to that same family to take care of. The working man and his wife cannot put either the niece or mother on their insurance. In order to do so they will need to file mountains of legal paperwork as guardians, power of attorney and adoption just to be able to participate in their medical care and help them.

In this hypothetical example everyone is related and still they cannot claim these persons as dependents for matters of insurance and other public policy issues. So the only institution to turn to is the government. That is what government is for, but in this case is it really necessary? If we have universal health care and other universal social care policies then perhaps this point would not need to be made. But currently the reality is that we live in a mixed tradition of public and private institutional support with regard to matters of insurance and medical care, not to mention issues of legal responsibility, social visitation and other public policy issues which are part of the current dialogue concerning definitions of family.

A family consists of people who love each other and have made a commitment to caring for each other. I believe it is time for our legislators and public policy administrators to acknowledge this simple truth. Families helping each other out is the most responsible agenda our society can promote. Narrowing the definition of family and excluding some means that the government must then bear the burden or even worse it means that some family members will not get any support or aid in their times of need. This is especially ironic at a time when we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war in Iraq which is using public dollars to destroy an entire infrastructure and government. Our actions in that country have resulted in the dissolution and separation of hundreds of thousands of families, some temporarily and some permanently through death.

That is why I believe it is time to reframe our definition of what a family means. A 'household' should be redefined to mean any individual who lives in a common dwelling or property and is actively participating in the caregiving of one or more individuals in that dwelling or property or is the recipient of such care, living in said dwelling or property. This reframework should permeate all levels of public policy from the granting of insurance to the bestowing of rights of visitation to the administration of the ceremony of marriage. We must mandate that employers and insurers offer all family members coverage, and that hospitals and legal authorities recognize the rights of family members to participate in all aspects of their common lives.

Common law family support should be the expectation and the societal norm. Regardless of what our religious tradition may be or lack thereof, the expectation of society should be kindness, charity, love and support. Giving to one another and nurturing is the normal, human thing to do. That is why it is time for our legislators in Washington DC to catch up with the reality of how people are living now and enact laws and public policy recommendations to relieve the burden on families who are already overburdened. As a candidate for federal office, I support the framework and intention of expanding the definition of what it means to be a family and will work to see that such legislation is brought into the public dialogue and made visible to the American people.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

July 4th marks the anniversary of the birth of this nation. On that day, the Declaration of Independence was signed by a cadre of men, who wrote the words ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ That declaration was a living promise to future generations of certain fundamental, inalienable rights such as the right to privacy.

On this fourth of July let us never forget that the rights we have secured were won by the hard fought efforts of generations of tireless activists and that the Constitution of the United States is a living document, shaped and formed by the collective participation of millions of people in a constant dialogue.

Our country is not perfect. Far from it, our history is one of terrible oppression and thoughtless, inconsiderate discrimination. Too many a man has been sent unnecessarily to die in war. Too many died without freedom, without rights. The stain of our neglect and terror scars the Constitution and the legers of history.

In spite of this truth, the human spirit has prevailed more often than not in this country and people have continued to believe in the fundamental goodness of the national project we call our Constitution. That belief in the security and equality of the individual and the guarantee of rights is perhaps the greatest contributor to the slow victory of justice in America.

That guarantee of our rights ensures that no man or woman, no matter how powerful and influential, is permitted to permanently or decisively interfere with the fundamental rights and freedoms of any other. These are the rights we celebrate on Independence Day and the freedoms that have been won in the generations since our nation's birth.

These victories include the extension of the right to vote and the rights of citizenship to all members of our society. The articulation of individual rights and freedoms is the fruit of their efforts. These freedoms offer proof that our Constitution is a living document and that the will of the people can be expressed in the language of the nation, articulated as law and common practice.

These freedoms, which we hold so dear, were brought to realization through the spirit of individual liberty and collective responsibility. Through an acknowledgement of the humanity of each person, the fundamental value of humankind is acknowledged. By recognizing this value in the individual we have crafted a body of law to protect the rights of everyone.

The threats to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and our fundamental rights and liberties is always present, both from without and from within. On this day of celebration of collective freedom, let us never hand over our rights and responsibilities to any executive or any legislator who will seek to compromise those rights in the name of security.

The generations before us have worked too hard and labored too long to hand over the right to privacy and the responsibility of the national defense to rogue administrators and legislators who would betray our trust as a country. We must ensure that the freedoms and rights that have been secured for us remain so for future generations.

So on this Independence Day let us remember that the articulation of rights does not secure those rights. Only a vigilant citizenry can ensure the security of those rights guaranteed on paper. Our Constitution is a living document, which is given meaning through our participation. Through our direct engagement in the experiment of democracy we truly give meaning to the freedoms we celebrate.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Case for Impeachment

George W Bush is perhaps the worst American president who has ever served. To this day it is a mystery to me how the man was able to gain the Republican nomination, steal the election, start two wars, get re-elected and then drag on a failed war for five years and drive the economy into the ground without getting impeached. Although the light is fading on the Presidency of Bush, it is not too late to impeach the man who lied to us about weapons of mass destruction. As of result of the President's deception, over four thousand American soldiers have died in Iraq and tens of thousands have been wounded, not to mention the one million or so Iraqis who have died directly or indirectly due to Bush's interference in their country.

The case for impeachment is strong, so strong that it has been supported by numerous Congressional representatives, most notably by Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio who introduced articles of impeachment in early June. Kucinich had the courage and the tenacity to say what needs to be said and to do what needs to be done. President Bush has violated the will of the people, but more importantly, he has violated the Constitution of the United States of America, a document that he was sworn to uphold and defend, and for this indiscretion President Bush deserves to be impeached.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear when she was elected Speaker of the House that impeachment was not on the table, and she has been true to her word since that date, betraying the trust of the American people and showing her true colors as well as those of the Democratic party generally, except for a few brave individuals such as Kucinich. The irony is that the Democratic Party and the left would be stronger if they called the President to account for his actions. In any event, there are numerous candidates outside of the two party duopoly who support impeachment because we believe this should be a campaign issue. We feel strongly about our rights as Americans and do not believe that a corrupt administration can compromise those rights. When they try, we believe that it is time to call them to account.

Bush must be called to account for the lies he has made in order to manipulate the general public. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to America but the truth is that we were a real threat to Iraq. His administration lied about the issue of significant quantities of uranium being brought into Iraq from Africa. He lied about the connections between 9/11 and Iraq, continuously misleading the American people into believing there was a relationship. Bush lied about Iraq and Al Qaeda, misleading the American people into believing there was a collaborative relationship between the two. The President lied about weapons of mass destruction, insisting that there was evidence which consisted mostly of forged documents. The United Nations found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction and intelligence services produced no credible information to support Bush's claim. As a result of these lies and misleading statements the United States was led into a war it could not win, spending hundreds of billions of dollars and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

By supporting impeachment Kucinich has set in motion a process which calls to public light the terrible misdeeds of this administration. The tide of public opinion has turned against Bush and across the nation people are calling for impeachment. President Bush has condoned the use of torture on men, women and even boys in Iraq and at secret prisons around the world in the name of national security. He violated the constitution by denying habeas corpus and has called for domestic spying on Americans.

We can wait for the elections to remove Bush from office, but why wait until November? Indeed, although it is not a crime to be the worst President in the history of the United States, it is a crime to lie, mislead, deny constitutional rights, torture, spy and violate international law. There has never been a better case to impeach a sitting President than now. The people of Iraq, our soldiers abroad and ordinary Americans everywhere will all be better off once this criminal has been removed from office, and I say the sooner the better.