Saturday, January 21, 2006

Light Posting

Tried posting this last night, but Blogger was having some issues.

I hope no one expects this blog to be updated on a daily basis. I just don't have the time for that. I'm really just learning about operating a blog (just look at the "edit-me" options under "Links").

Still, I plan to blog when there are important pieces of information, especially regarding Senator Feingold. I hope to blog frequently during the upcoming NSA wiretap hearings. I'm really hoping for the best from the senator.

For the best in day-to-day Senator Feingold activities check out Russ Feingold for President. They're your best bet for up-to-the-minute goings on. I swear I'll have actual links up soon.

That's going to be all for now, but I hope to have another post up this weekend (probably after the Seahawk game).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is the day we celebrate the life and vision of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since my day job is in civil rights, I feel obligated to post a few words. We'll see where this takes us.

As I will explain in a future post, my political awakening occurred during the presidential campaign of 1988. I was 16, not able to vote, but definitely interested in seriously following politics for the first time. Besides the presidential election, though, 1988 was the 20th anniversary of the assassination of MLK and RFK, and the 25th anniversary of JFK's assassination. Accordingly there were a number of television specials and retrospectives on those 3 men, and the '60s in general. I probably watched every single one.

Learning about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement helped shape my view of the world, my sense of justice, and my politics. It had such a profound impact on me that I went on to write my college thesis (scroll to the bottom) on the Civil Rights Movement, and ultimately went to Howard University, the birthplace of the NAACP's anti-segregation strategy culminating with Brown v. Board of Education, for law school. Today I work for a civil rights organization that strives to make our world one where Dr. King's "Dream" can be realized:
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

There is still so much work to be done before Dr. King's dream can remotely be considered a reality. To be sure, much progress has been made on many fronts. But there are many areas where we are hardly any better off today than we were 43 years ago when Dr. King uttered those words. Sadly hatred, bigotry and ignorance still plague us. This fact was brought home to me with a sledgehammer when I learned that one, if not more, website designed to provide Katrina refugees with information about housing opportunities listed several posts that said "whites only."

This was in 2005, shortly after the worst natural disaster to hit our country in modern times had left thousands homeless. When I first saw these "ads" I was speechless. Even today I cannot fully get my head around how people, on the one hand, could be so compassionate as to open their door to strangers, but on the other hand be so blatant about their bigotry.

Discoveries like this make me realize just how far we still have to go. I don't mean to suggest that I'm naive about bigotry, but one of the "victories" of the Civil Rights Movement was to make it disreputable to give public voice to such beliefs and feelings. Clearly that is an assumption I can no longer make without pause.

Still, on days like that, when I realize the full enormity of the task before us, I am reminded of the following: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." I'm not about to wade into the quote attribution except to say that the exact quote is attributed to Dr. King, but if you'll follow the link you'll see he was paraphrasing Theodore Parker, an abolistionist minister.

It is this concept, regardless of who said it, that gives me solace and hope. But I think this idea cannot be considered by itself. It must be considered in conjunction with admonishment from Dr. King:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. (Emphasis added).
Put another way, justice is ours if we're willing to work for it. So on this holiday honoring a true American hero I encourage you all to reflect upon what part you are playing in the struggle. Take a breather if you'd like. Just be ready to gear up and fight on. But take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Alito Hearings

Like I said above, I sat through almost all the senators questioning of Roberts. I have to admit that I thought the experience was very illuminating, but not in the way I was expecting. After listening, I certainly felt like I had learned a lot about the state of constitutional law in many areas I don't deal with (e.g. the "effects" test of the Voting Rights Act). But I came away feeling that I had no better understanding of Roberts own view, and no sense of how he would decide in the future (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but also no idea what sort of philosophy would guide his decision-making. I know he said a lot of stuff about "precedent" and "statutory interpretation" and so on, but most of the time he was just articulating the prevailing view or one particular school of thought. Roberts rarely said what he personally held to be true.

The Alito hearings are shaping up to be more of the same. The tough questions Democrats have to ask he has deflected and will continue to do so. Of course even those tough questions will be drowned out in a sea of inane questions that some senator was convinced to ask for reasons that defy my comprehension (like yet another question about Roe, because he hasn't dodged that bullet enough). Republicans, for their part, seem deathly allergic to asking anything approaching a tough question. I hold out hope, though, that Senator Coburn will get fed up and demand Alito pledge himself to overturning Roe.

To show that I too can engage in inanities, has anyone else found Alito's posture at the witness table....odd? Roberts (and most Senate and House witnesses I've seen) struck a very sincere and engaged, leaning on the table in front of him like whatever a senator was saying was the most thrilling and mind-blowing thing since the Sermon on the Mount. Alito is a distinct contrast in what I've seen so far. It looked to me like he was almost leaning back in his chair (although probably he was just sitting up straight). This kind of gave him a sort of laid-back and aloof look which could be good or bad. To some they'll see that as evidence the man has complete command of what's going on before him. To others, they'll see it as cockiness and arrogance. I just found it visually striking. Maybe it's a New Jersey thing.

One final note about Feingold and the Supreme Court nominee hearings. Many on the left will try to make hay out of his vote to confirm Roberts. Now, I still have no idea what kind of justice Roberts will be, but I completely agreed with his vote. Roberts delivered a tour de force of legal intellect. I'm no idiot, but listening to him made me want to call everyone one of my clients and apologize that they didn't have a guy like Roberts representing them. Since nothing incriminating (politically, ethically or otherwise) came out, voting to confirm Roberts was the only logical vote. Voting against him made little sense, and could (and was) easily cast as partisan bitterness. Feingold's vote was good on principal and was good politics. Sure die-hard lefties (of which I am probably one) will cry about it, but he's been "right" on so many other issues, especially on issues where other potential 2008 candidates have been "wrong," that I hope we can move past this one.

Feingold Boosterism

I hope everyone is enjoying the Alito confirmation hearings. Truly it is fascinating stuff. I wish I could say I've listened to a lot of it, but after the Roberts hearings I'm a tad cynical about these things. But I'll get to that in the post below.

In Feingold news, I was very pleased that he was one of 3 Democrats whose questions were featured on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. The other two were Leahy and Kennedy. For those wishing to read 2008 implications into everything, Feingold gets a miniscule boost, but at the expense of Joe Biden (the man most in love with the sound of his own voice, which for the Senate is saying a lot).

The more Feingold can stake his claim to be the defender of common sense civil liberties (like, you know, keeping the President from engaging in widespread warrantless wiretapping), and the more often the public sees him in that role, the better shape he will be in for the primaries and (hopefully) the general election.

For those of you who think this analysis is anything but facetious, I've got a bridge in New Mexico I can sell you for a steal.

On a serious note, I was glad (and a little surprised) to see them excerpt Feingold. The other senators excerpted were Specter, Hatch, Grassley and of course Leahy and Kennedy mentioned above. Feingold with 13 years of seniority in the Senate is a young pup compared to the 1000 years of combined Senate tenure in that group. Plus there's the old adage: any press is good press.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Greetings and Salutations!

My New Year's resolution for 2006 was to help convince Senator Russ Feingold to run for president in 2008, and to do what I could to lay the groundwork for such a run. After spending some time touring the surprising number of "Feingold 2008" sites, I decided to give this blog thing a try. So far, no one from my area of the country has jumped in, so I figured I may as well try to fill the void.

I have kept tabs on Senator Feingold for the last several years. In the wake of that terrible day in October 2002 when we lost Sentaor Paul Wellstone (and his wife, daughter and three campaign staffers), Senator Feingold's presence in the Senate was the only thing that gave me hope or optimism about the political future of our country. I am pleased to say that he has been a complete joy to follow since then.

Senator Feingold brings to politics a rare quality of authenticity, and the rare ability to cross partisan and ideological lines in pursuit of the common good. I have never heard him speak in the pre-packaged "spin" tones so many politicians exhibit today. Neither, though, does he speak in the "off the cuff" manner that often lands so many other politicians in hot water. Rather his comments come across as thoughtful, informed and genuine. When he takes up an issue (e.g. campaign finance reform, Patriot Act reform, withdrawal from Iraq etc.) he makes it his own and communicates about it in a way that dispels any thought that he is a "johnny-come-lately," or somehow pandering to the audience. Few politicians these days can accomplish this feat.

I look forward to watching him in the coming year. I also hope that this blog will serve to inform people about Senator Feingold, and build support for a 2008 candidacy, but I also hope it will be a forum to debate all things political (and possibly some things not political) including the strengths and weakenesses (I'll grudginly admit there are a few) of a Feingold campaign.

Again, greetings and salutations!