Saturday, July 19, 2014

PUTIN -- QADDAFI -- BEN LADEN label them MURDERERS.


Because the United States agreed to negotiate and is doing so with Iran rather than use military force to stop the Iranian production of nuclear weapon; and, because the United States chose to negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons rather than respond with air strikes against Syria; Putin, the 21st century Russian Czar, has miscalculated and seen American willingness to talk rather than shoot as a sign of weakness.  Twice in the last century the rulers of Germany and then once the ruler of Japan made the same mistake.  America may take a long time to get roused in anger enough to unleash our military might but when we do dictators have learned to pay a heavy price.

Obama is trying to use 21st century multilateral methods to combat the new Stalin.  Whether he succeeds will remain to be seen.  But Putin would be well advised to ignore the Republican party propaganda in DC about Obama being weak and recognize that on this issue -- the freedom of the people of Ukraine-- Obama will remain strong.  Shooting down a plane is akin to sinking ships a hundred years ago (Lusitania) an public ire will grow not diminish.

Unfortunately too many of my liberal friends (I consider myself a liberal) are bemoaning the “lack of clear evidence of Russian involvement” some have even taken to blaming the United States for starting the Ukraine crisis (which began when Putin forced his puppet President of Ukraine, Yanukoyvich, to drop plans to integrate with the EU which led to a popular uprising in Ukraine).  Both Putin and our domestic liberal commentators say the answer is to guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO.  Firstly, Ukraine has never applied nor indicated interest in joining NATO--they want to be in the EU.  Secondly, Ukraine in 1994 gave up their nuclear weapons as part of the Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing their territorial integrity only to have that integrity violated by a nuclear power.  Now, guarantee that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO, should they ever apply, and we invite Putin to take more aggressive action later.

The history of the 20th century is replete with occasions when democratic nations could have stopped dictators when they first made aggressive moves.  And when the democracies didn’t act the resultant wars costs millions of lives.

It is time we accepted that not everything in foreign affairs is complex - likewise not everything is simple.  Because the Bush-Cheney administration lied our country into a war in Iraq does not mean that Obama-Biden are lying us into peace through strength.  Because the English translators of the Russian language recordings released by Ukraine used complete sentences and deleted curses doesn’t mean the recordings are fake -- those who understand and speak Russian find the actual language credible.

Russian separatists aided or directed by Russians used a Russian supplied weapon to shoot down what they thought was a Ukrainian cargo or troop plane.  They made a mistake. They should have admitted it and pointed out that mistakes are made in wars.  Instead Putin blames Ukraine.  When a fox broke into my grandfather's chicken coop and stole two hens instead of trying to remove the danger and kill the fox, Putin would blame my grandfather for building the hen house and filling it with chickens.
Obama is Right.  This is a wake up call!  And if Europe doesn’t want to wake up then America must lead.  In the 20th century in WWI and WWII we followed.  During the Cold War we led.  Now it is time for us to lead again. This may be our last chance to bring Russia into the world community as a peaceful partner as Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to do.  This may indeed be our last chance to put together a world of old powers (Germany, France, United Kingdom and Russia) and the emerging powers (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) We can lead that combination -- we must not let it become a new division with Russia leading one part.  Putin has shown the world what he is capable of doing - now America must show the world that we will not allow him to bully the other nations on this globe. 


19 July 2014    

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

STAY HOME AMERICA -- STAY HOME



Once again the United States finds itself facing a crisis in another part of the world and confronting the decision as to the degree, if any, of our involvement.   I am not an isolationist; in fact, I have often supported military intervention by our nations in foreign: conflicts the Korean War, the invasion of Grenada (by Reagan), the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, and the bombing campaign to stop the genocide in Kosovo, and the Libyan air intervention to assist the rebels in overthrowing Qaddafi.  I also supported aid to democratic forces seeking to oust Assad in Syria and I believe that our failure to aid those indigenous rebels opened the way for the takeover of that revolution by ultra extremists who now have declared an Islamic Caliphate and apparently oppose the Iraqi Shiite regime, the Iranian - Syrian - Lebanese (Hezbollah) alliance and evidently Russia as well as possibly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

The United States of course should always protect its territory and its people and their security and our national interests even to the point of military action.

We do not belong in the middle of an intra-Muslim theologically based and culturally based civil war between Shia and Sunni.  While we should not in any way condone the barbarity of the Islamic State (ISIS) we should not be perceived in the Muslim world as opposing a Sunni radicalism and not a Shia radicalism.

After our invasion of Iraq in 2013 which I publicly opposed that nation devolved into three parts - even if only de facto: a Shiite section which dominated the nation; a Sunni minority and a Kurdish region in the northeast.  The United States always opposed any effort by the peoples of those regions to seek their own countries and became the defender of the territorial integrity of Iraq - a territory created by Winston Churchill (he drew the map in 1921) out of three provinces of the Ottoman Empire (a Shia, a Sunni and a Kurd region).

A similar situation is developing in Afghanistan which threatens to divide into a Pashtun majority area, which the Taliban may take control of, and a Tajik area in the north of that state (which was the base of the anti Soviet and anti Taliban forces).  We do not belong in the middle of that conflict either.

Our use of military force should be limited to defending our national interest and any ratified treaty obligations (such as NATO) and clear instances when nations which share our democratic values and have shown decades of friendship to our people are threatened (e.g Israel and Jordan). We should not be sending American men and women to fight in intra national disputes nor in civil wars

Before our involvement anywhere in the world goes beyond diplomacy and economic sanctions we should observe certain cautions:

First) We have no obligation to defend the territorial integrity of states whose boundaries were established by European colonial powers.  We should judge the integrity of a state by the ability of that state to represent a population that considers itself a nation. (In the failed state of Somalia we have opposed the independence of the former British Somaliland which has now held three successive democratic elections over a fifteen year period and has remained at peace with unity among the various tribal clans. Once again we are shortsighted for no apparent reason than our opposition to secession (we took the same position in Yugoslavia as that nation divided into seven separate states which we reluctantly accepted each time after a few years of opposition.)

Second) We should never intervene in a genuine civil war based on religious or cultural divisions unless there is a clear threat to the security of our nation.

Third) We should support popular democratic revolutions with military aid (not troops) early and use our other weapons - diplomatic and economic
and even air power, to make certain the democratic forces win and the revolutions are not hijacked by extremists.

President Obama handled Libya the right way with air support to indigenous rebels who were then successful. He flubbed it in Syria.  He was right to end the Iraq War and should fully disengage from Afghanistan.  Obama must not allow our nation be re-involved in Iraq.  Already from a reputed 200 troops/advisers within three days the number had become 750.   That number must not increase and we should evacuate the multi -billion dollar embassy compound we built in Baghdad (a larger geographic area than the Vatican City state).  Americans have been coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan under this President now it behooves him to allow our men and women in uniform to Stay Home.


9 July 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE SUPREME COURT - ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY AGAIN


Too often in our nations’ history the Supreme Court has been dominated by judges who rule on the wrong side of history and against the clear wishes of the American people.

Today in this new 21st century the Roberts Court (led by a Reagan era Justice department staffer) is again standing against history as it attempts to undo many of the reforms of the 60's and 70's.  The Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the absurd reasoning that since the Act has been successful and all Americans are now assured of voting rights it is no longer necessary to keep in place the federal protections that led to that success. The blind justices sitting on their exalted bench feel that forty years of elections free from racial discrimination against some electors trumps the two hundred and fifty years of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

This Court is also determined to undo women’s 9th amendment rights to reproductive freedom of choice (Griswold v Conn. and Roe v. Wade) by chipping away at those rights in the name of other rights (freedom of speech and religion). So freedom of religion allows an employer to offer health insurance to employees that doesn’t cover anything that the employer doesn’t believe in; and freedom of speech allows demonstrators to intimidate women who wish to seek reproductive health care. (The Supreme Court of course can keep demonstrators away from their doors)

Nor satisfied with curbing the rights of minorities and women the Court has now gone after labor unions by limiting the use of Agency shop. Decades ago in response to those who felt that compulsory union membership was an infringement of workers' rights a public policy consensus was developed around a system where those who didn’t want to join a union, but would benefit from the terms of union negotiated contracts, would pay dues to the union: seemed fair to all sides. Now the Court weighs in against that concept - again in a limited way but clearly foreshadowing its willingness to go further.  And, in a case that effectively consigns part time women employees to going back to non representation and lower wages.

In what I can only conclude is a strategy both clever and disingenuous. The conservative Justices have determined to use some rights as means to curtail others - so the 1st amendment overpowers the 9th amendment; the 14th amendment seems to be often ignored; the 2nd amendment (misread) trumps them all and the rights of corporations who are now given some mystical form of personhood are given a sanctity that only an oligarch would commend.

In the 1850's the Taney Court became the protector of Slavery with the Dred Scott decision that even went to the point of declaring that no free Negro could be considered an American citizen. The racist decisions of that Court were ultimately overturned by three constitutional amendments; passed after a bloody Civil War that cost over 600,000 lives and millions of dollars of property.

In the 1890's the Court empowered robber barons as they attempted to monopolize industries and beat down workers efforts to organize; and that court also legitimized state enacted segregation laws.  The Populist and later the Progressive movements rallied enough people to eventually regulate the large monopolies.  It took another Court, and a national popular movement (non-violent but often met with attendant violence), to end 60+ years of the effects of the Plessy v Ferguson ruling and dismantle legal segregation and end lynching and indiscriminate racial killings.

In the 1930's the Court dominated by conservative old men attempted to gut the New Deal by killing most of the first laws passed by Congress to reform the economic factors that led to the Great Depression. The American people by re-electing FDR in 1936 and again in 1940 turned the Court around; first because the Judges were intimidated by Roosevelt's’ revival of US Grant’s court expansion plan, and second by FDR’s serving long enough to replace most of the old judges.

The American people, whose progress of the past century in social and economic matters has been steady and strong, must in the upcoming elections support Progressive (which in today's context means Democratic) candidates so the Supreme Court can again be turned around and headed in the progressive direction.  As in the past the Supreme Court and its decisions will be rejected as reactionary and anti-democratic. 


2 July 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

POLITICS IS TOO IMPORTANT TO BE LEFT TO POLITICIANS


I  served from 1994 through June 2010 as chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party. Upon my retirement from that office I chose to refrain from using my blog entries to analyze or criticize Democratic Party activities in Delaware County or Pennsylvania as I preferred to give my successor four years without me nipping at his heals. He has now been re-elected and four years have gone by.  I no longer intend to remain mute when I see my party moving in the wrong direction.


The political party structure in the United States is an anachronistic irrelevancy.  The party structure as modeled differently by both parties is based on precinct, municipal, county,  and state committees with boundaries often drawn in the 19th century based on rivers and streams and the ability of a horse drawn carriage to reach the central meeting place in sufficient time to allow a meeting.  It was created by most states before the inception of the direct primary in which the people chose the party candidates.   It has now become a group of permanently involved party activists who meet to choose officers and delegates to larger meetings who meet to choose officers.  This act of self preservation occurs two or four years, as the party and the jurisdiction require, and as shown in the recent PA state committee reorganization the primary concern of this structure is not who will lead the people but who will run the party. Our former Governor Ed Rendell has pronounced the verdict on the state party structure: “They have no significance, no political power, no punch.”

[The Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee turned down the proposed party chairman suggested by the state’s Gubernatorial candidate, Tom Wolf, because rather than unite the party by selecting one of the competing primary candidates as state chair along with a prominent African American legislator (as Vice Chair) the party bosses preferred to keep their friend, the current chair, in office.  In 2002, after a bitter primary, the State Comm. accepted as Chair and Vice Chair, for six months, the choices of the two candidates Rendell and Casey - Rendell went on to win and after the six months the State Committee could go back to business as usual and elect a loyal trooper to the Chair position. It only took four years of Republican control of Harrisburg for the Democratic State Committee to drop decades of party tradition and put their personal interests above the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.]

This anachronistic structure modified by the direct primary at the turn of the 20th century is out of step in every way in the 21st century.  A system designed shortly after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone has no structural relevancy to a society that communicates using smart phones, the Internet, instagram and varying and always developing modes of social media.  Today’s generations are more open to political discussion in chat rooms than following the dictates of bosses meeting in back rooms.

The party structure proves its irrelevance in almost every primary.  In the Republican contests tea party grass roots movements continue to topple long time incumbents backed by the party structure.  In the Democratic Party the same is often true of populist and independent candidates. Here in PA Tom Wolf defeated the party structure in the state primary with well over 50% of the vote in a four way contest with two long time opponents who had the support of over 95% of the party structure.
Whether this country continues as a two party democracy, or a multi party democracy, it must find a way to prevent the oligarchs from creating a plutocracy.  And, the only way to do that is to create a 21st century party modality.  That party infrastructure must be based not on geography (when our population is so mobile that few live in the same precinct or even municipality more than a half dozen years) nor on single issues.  It must be based on a general sharing of political values - liberal, conservative, centrist, socialist, Green, Libertarian et. al.  It must be grass roots in its membership - open to all and funded by all.  And it must rally behind candidates that reflect its values --  not seek to anoint those candidates who cater to them nor destroy their opponents but to encourage candidates who want to serve the public and educate those opponents to the positive aspects of the party’s values.

I would say we need a new political structure but nothing in history is new. Before the Civil War our political parties were much less structures and often consisted of rallies and county conventions of like minded folk. Our politicians practiced a politics of civility when in office and governing and hardball on the campaign trail.  And of course we all know there was a time when politics stopped at the water’s edge.  Since 1994 and the Gingrich revolution and the advent of Fox News we have become a nation of the politics of personal destruction.  All actions are reactions.  All politics instead of being local is now just mean and nasty.


My generation may be too old to bring back the American democratic system and revise the party system that made the governing system work.  And my generation’s children may be too cynical after Watergate and Iraq to care enough about politics to do what needs to be done.  But my grandchildren’s generation - growing up now seeing an America that accepts its diversity and leads for peace in the World may reclaim the Democracy which our founding fathers gave us and make it work again. 

22 June 2014

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ten Reasons To Vote YES For The Syria Limited Strike Resolution





1.  The President of the United States, with the authority to engage in limited military action under the War Powers Act has asked the Congress to “authorize” a strike against the user of chemical weapons.  We did not fight Hitler because he gassed millions nor did we fight Saddam Hussein when he gassed Kurds and Iranians. That we blinked twice is no reason to ignore this violation of the post WWI prohibition on use of chemical weapons.  The Chemical Weapons Convention was ratified by the U. S. Senate and we should enforce it. Children died in their sleep gassed by a madman against all the norms of  the civilized world and all its religions.  Surely at least one nation has the capability and the will to stand for those norms and if no one else will then let it be the United States of America.

2.  The fact that the Security Council of the United Nations is stymied by Russian and Chinese vetoes and cannot do anything about this should not prevent us from joining with our allies France and Turkey and taking action to degrade Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons against those of his people who are not of his religious sect.

3.  At the close of WWI the world looked to the United States for leadership.  All the major nations adopted and joined the League of Nations and our Congress said no.  We drew into ourselves and began a twenty year period of isolationism and Fortress America.  As late as 1937 the Congress refused to join the World Court which had been a TR-Taft idea.   I believe that was the last vote of the US Congress where isolationism won. After 76 years Congress should not go back to isolation.

4..  After WWII America accepted the world’s call to leadership and in fact led the free world in a forty +  year Cold War with Communism eventually becoming the world’s only superpower when the Soviet Union imploded in part due to the pressure of the arms race with the US. If Congress rejects this Presidential request we abdicate that leadership and I guess we hand leadership over to China which practices its’ own form of isolationism, i.e. involvement only when it benefits her economically (sort of like the turn of the century American dollar diplomacy).

5.  If the Congress now votes NO on the President’s request we send a green light to the two bit dictators of the world to do what they want when it comes to chemical weapons and nuclear weapons.  Assad will use the chemical weapons again and with a demoralized rebel opposition he will ultimately retain control of Syria. His alliance with Iran and Hezbollah will pose a threat to the security of Israel.  When the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah troika attacks Israel what will we do?  Hold another debate in Congress while Assad gasses the Israeli’s, and then send in troops.  Or if they first invade the Sunni Moslem states do we do nothing because we don’t want to get involved?

6.  When Iran produces its’ nuclear weapon and the world draws a line in the sand will anyone in Iran believe that any nation will enforce that line.  Not China which is engaged in economic trade with Iran; Not Russia which is trying to recapture Putin’s imagined good old days of the USSR;  Certainly not America the new paper tiger.


7.  When the boy dictator of North Korea pushed to the wall by the starvation of his people and the collapse of his economy looks south will he hesitate to invade and use his nuclear weapons because of the U. S. commitment to South Korea and the presence of our troops?  And when he invades do we then refight the Korean War.?

8.  In the 1930's decent Americans opposed involvement in European affairs because they had been lied to during WWI by the false propaganda of the Allies about German atrocities (which of course proved true in WWII).  And, similarly many opposed tough action against Japan in China because some believed that the Japanese were being provoked and anyway we were protected by the two great oceans - well then came Pearl Harbor and millions of Americans had to go to war.  That we were lied to about Iraq is now incontrovertible but we must not make the mistake of now not believing the truth when presented to us.

9. The President shouldn’t have tossed the ball to Congress. But, he did.  So now it’s the responsibility of the Congressmen and women to do the right thing.  The easy vote is NO. That’s what the polls show (by the way a war never won a poll in this country before it started).  A YES vote is much tougher because one would have to explain to a skeptical public that this limited strike is “limited”.  Of course if the Congress votes a limit and the President ignores the limit he could and should be impeached and removed from office. Similarly if the Congress votes No and he acts anyway he should be removed.  But it’s never that simple -- we will probably see either one house vote in the affirmative and the other in the negative or one house not cast a vote.  Whichever, Congressional inaction will be ambiguous and put the entire matter back on the President’s desk - where, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops.

10. In the 1990's President Clinton engaged in a 78 day air war against Serbia to end that state’s attempt to exterminate the Kosovars.  At the end of that air campaign, no American soldiers had died, the Serbs bounced the communists and began a democratic experiment and Kosovo was free. The Clinton intervention in Kosovo succeeded - the Obama one in Libya did also.

Since its founding the United States has been a symbol of many things.  To many it has stood as the Statue of Liberty stands in NY harbor as the symbol of freedom and liberty for all and progress for mankind.  As a nation we haven’t always done the right thing and we have our historic blemishes (treatment of Native Americans; paternalistic attitudes toward our Caribbean and Central American neighbors, failure for one hundred years to enforce the civil rights of many of our citizens).  But,  usually we have been on the right side of history - even when it took a while - emancipation of our slaves; participation in and leadership of world organizations; standing against fascism, Nazism, militarism and communism; and the liberation of countries without attempting to then govern or control them (Europe after WWII,  Japan,  Libya, Serbia and Kosovo).

Winston Churchill said that you could count on the Americans to do the right thing after they tried everything else.  Couldn’t we just once prove him wrong?  Couldn’t we stand tall in Syria against the use of chemical weapons and against the madness of dictators? Some say we should have moved two months ago; while others say wait and see what happens.   It is already later than it should be -  but it is not too late to do the right thing early.

7 September 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SYRIA - WORSE THAN DOING NOTHING - DOING NOTHING THE WRONG WAY




Congressman Eliot Engel of the Bronx, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview while the President was reaching his Syria decision that there was nothing worse than doing nothing.  Unfortunately the President found something worse.  He tossed the ball to the Congress and now puts the prestige of his Presidency on the line, as already was the credibility of his country.  Instead of speaking softly and carrying a big stick President Obama spoke loudly and often about the Syrian use of chemical weapons and then asked permission to use a stick.  Regardless of whether the Congress authorizes him to strike Syria he has done inestimable damage to the office of the Presidency and to our nation’s alliances throughout the world.

If the Congress votes no, and as I write this on Sept. 5 it appears the Senate will vote yes and the House no, the ball is back in the President’s court. If he then acts he negates the very logic and sincerity of going to Congress but if he doesn’t act abdicates the position of the United States as the world leader - a position assumed after WWII because our failure to take that leadership after WWI was in part a cause of WWII.

Should other nations be responding to Syria’s use of chemical weapons?  YES.  But should the failure of others to do something justify our doing nothing. NO.  During the Second World War many people went to FDR and asked him to bomb the death camps - he was dissuaded by those who said we would be killing the inmates (incredible) and by those who questioned the veracity of the evidence. When General Eisenhower liberated the camps he had film makers and photographers take as many pictures as they could because he wanted people never to forget. It doesn’t matter if we remember atrocities if we do nothing when they reoccur.  Due to a courageous American President the genocide in Kosovo was ended and democracy brought to Serbia and Kosovo without one losing the life of one American soldier.  Had he asked Congress first who knows if we would have done anything?

American Presidents of course should ask Congress, under the Constitution, to declare war and Madison. Polk, McKinley, Wilson, and FDR did so.  But for limited military actions most Presidents have sought either Congress’ unofficial approval or post action approval.  In 1801/02 President Jefferson with an almost non-existent Navy sent a battleship to the Mediterranean to combat the Tripolitania pirates -- sufficient force was used to get a negotiated peace -- and he was praised for doing it. 

Americans don’t like War.  We as a people have opposed almost every war we’ve been in before it was declared and get weary and unsupportive if the war lasts to long.  And, that includes the first one - the War for Independence.  But Americans will support their President when they use military force to defend our interests and our values (most notably the support of Pres. Lincoln in both saving the union and freeing the slaves).  Limited strikes such as Jefferson in Tripoli, Reagan in Grenada, Clinton in Kosovo, these met with public approval as did Korea in the early years after Truman acted; but, Americans are not going to decide to involve us in a foreign war when most of them can’t identify countries on a map outside of Mexico and Canada.

Americans would support a President who would tell them the truth, and Obama has, and take a course of action supporting our nation’s historic opposition to use of chemical weapons.  One person is elected to make this tough decision - and it’s not the members of Congress who are elected based on local issues and district boundaries.  And, this nation decided over 225 years ago that the British Parliament doesn’t speak for us.  While we created and have been the world’s greatest proponent of the United Nations we made clear after 1945 that we would not let the veto power hamper action in our nation’s interest and we would not subordinate our values and commitments to a majority vote among nations. 

The President gave the nation his decision. He should have owned it and taken action accordingly.  When the history of this time is written, in fifty years, I hope no historian has to write that America could have stopped a future holocaust had it taken action in 2013 as they write about how the west could have stopped Hitler had they taken action in 1936.   

When the southern states seceded President Buchanan was urged by some members of his Cabinet to take action.  Buchanan was a long time Pennsylvania lawyer and got his start in politics at the local level in 1812 - he knew some of the authors of the Constitution.  So he came to the conclusion that the Constitution did not permit secession -- but, alas, the Constitution according to Buchanan did not permit the President to do anything about it.  In 2008 and 2012 I truly believe that most Americans thought they were electing another Lincoln not another Buchanan.

5 September 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

THE SUPREME COURT ONCE AGAIN NOT ON THE SIDE OF THE PEOPLE




In 1850 the Congress and the President adopted a series of bills that they thought would end the sectional division in the country over the slavery issue.  It didn’t, it did delay what now appears to have been an inevitable Civil War for ten years and probably bought the North the time it needed to develop strong enough to win that conflict.  Despite what the legislators and President thought, their best efforts were undermined by a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1856 known as the Dred Scott Decision.  That infamous decision ruled that a class of people could never be considered citizens of the United States nor have any rights under the laws and constitution of the nation because they had black skin.  That decision made the Civil War inevitable  upon the election of President who opposed the expansion of slavery; a Civil War with over 600,000 dead and more wounded.

After ten years of an effort by the Congress and the President to assure the rights of the newly freed slaves and enforce amendments to the constitution that fully undid the Dred Scott Decision, the country settled for a society where all were free but only some (white) had rights.  In 1896 the Supreme Court of the United States issued a second outrageous ruling Plessy v. Ferguson. That decision accepted the right to citizenship of ex-slaves but held that black and white citizens could be separated and treated equally. It led to Jim Crow segregation and unequal schools, libraries, wash rooms, public fountains, parks etc.  It took almost 60 years for the Supreme Court to reverse that decision and declare unanimously that separate but equal was inherently unequal and therefore a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection of the laws clause.

It took another dozen years for the country to come to grips with that 1954 decision Brown v. Bd.. of Education.  And, in 1964 and 1965 the people of the country and the President from the South, with a preacher from Alabama and a Senator from Illinois succeeded in enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Some of those provisions led to immediate desegregation of public facilities; and, the Voting Rights Act led to representation at the county, state and federal level for the black citizens of many states.  Every President since Johnson and every Congress through 2006 has renewed the Voting Rights Act.

Now the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, decides that section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which sets the trigger for the implementation of Section 5 is unconstitutional.  It is Section 5 that has made the Voting Rights Act a success. It is Section 5 that required per-approval by the Justice Department if covered jurisdictions want to make changes in their election laws.  And, it is the means by which the federal government prevents encroachments on the rights of our citizens in the covered states.  If there is a weakness in the Voting Rights Act it is that pre-clearance should apply to all the states.

The Supreme Court is the most undemocratic branch of our government. The Justices are appointed for life by an indirectly elected President (read Electoral College) and a non-representative Senate (read 2 per state).  It has a history of bowing to the powerful interests that rule our economy (witness the attempts to gut the New Deal reforms).  And now in Shelby v Holder it guts the Voting Rights Act.

We are at a crossroads in America.  One road leads to an America with a large underclass of undocumented non-citizens who will provide a cheap labor force for the industrial capitalists; a debt-burdened graduate student population that will live in apartments (read dollars for landlords and real estate interests) as they can’t afford their own homes; and a poor and black population whose voices at the ballot box will be stifled.  The other road leads to the America that the 19th and 20th centuries progressed towards: a Nation where all: men and women, young and old, rich and poor, white and black and Latino, gay and straight, enjoyed the promise of the American Dream - the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and to live one's life with dignity.

Twice the Supreme Court has been dangerously wrong on the issue of  race and equality.  Now it is wrong a third time.  Three strikes and you’re out.  It is time to begin a crusade for Democracy in America. It is time to abolish the Electoral College; reform the Congress(and particularly the Senate) and establish a Supreme Court with Justices serving ten-year terms.  It is time to enhance and enshrine popular democracy in the United States.  We can keep the Republic that Benjamin Franklin said was being left to us rather than a Monarchy -- and we don’t want an Oligarchy or a Plutocracy either.   

25 June 2013