Monday, September 12, 2005

Cindy Sheehan and Thousands Make a Difference

Mother of Iraq War casualty Casey Sheehan, Cindy Sheehan, crusader and leader of the anti Iraq War movement, chronicled her reception, or lack thereof, from various congressional leaders. Sheehan writes a blog entry at Huffington Post titled “Camp Casey to DC Update” in which she delineates whether a member of congress should go on her “hall of fame” or “hall of shame” list. Here in California, Senator Boxer makes the “fame” side while Senator Feinstein goes on the “shame” list.

Feinstein wavers and waffles with Sheehan, through an intermediary aide, about the Iraq War:

Her aides (I have only spoken with her aides, even though I have requested 3 meetings with her) have admitted that she knows that Iraq was a mistake and if she knew then what she knows now she never would have given George Bush the authority to invade and occupy Iraq.—Cindy Sheehan, Huffington Post 9/11/05

Sheehan wrote that she felt patronized by the aide’s curt manner, and the list of “hurdles” Feinstein claimed were needed to breach precluded her from siding with an early withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

One interesting aspect of Feinstein’s continued lack of conviction about getting out of Iraq came in the form of a comment to Sheehan’s post:

I am not surprised Mrs. Feinstein did not agree to meet with you. She probably thinks you know about the sweet govt contract the Bushies awarded her husband's company in Iraq....—Sheehan Blog

Here is what the comment refers to:

The Pentagon has begun doling out $5 billion in new contracts to rebuild Iraq, and a San Francisco firm partially owned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband has landed some of the cash.URS Corp. will oversee repairs to Iraq's communications system, hospitals and courthouses under contracts worth a total of $27.7 million…

… Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, controls about 20 percent of URS shares through his investment firm, Blum Capital Partners. Although connected to the one of Washington's leading Democrats, the company has also donated more than $10,700 to President Bush's re-election campaign and $3,800 to Democratic candidates, according to Center for Responsive Politics.—

In another case of fence-sitting, Senator Feinstein responded to my email to her regarding the nomination of John Roberts for Supreme Court Justice. In my email I delineated some of the following major concerns regarding Roberts' background:

In July of this year, Roberts sat on a three-judge D.C. Court of Appeals panel hearing the "Hamdan" case, and voted to uphold the Bush Administration's prosecution of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay using military tribunals, rather than courts-martial (or regular U.S. courts). On the very same day (July 15) that Roberts ruled in favor of the defendants in the Hamdan case -– a group that included President Bush -- he was also secretly meeting with the President at the White House for the final interview that led to his nomination to the Supreme Court.

While no quid pro quo can be shown here, ethical standards dictate that judges must recuse themselves in any case that could involve appearances of impropriety -- such as the interests of a potential future employer.—Act For Change

John Roberts has little experience as a judge—he was only appointed in 2003. But he's got a lot of experience as a corporate lobbyist and lawyer, consistently favoring wealthy corporations over regular Americans.

Here's a list of some of the things that make Roberts the wrong pick for the Supreme Court:

Wrong on environmental protection: Roberts appears to want to limit the scope of the Endangered Species Act, and in papers he wrote while in law school he supported far-right legal theories about "takings" which would make it almost impossible for the government to enforce most environmental legislation.

Wrong on civil rights: Roberts worked to keep Congress from defending parts of the Voting Rights Act.

Wrong on human rights: As an appeals court judge, Roberts ruled that the Geneva Convention doesn't apply to some prisoners of war.

Wrong on our right to religious freedom: Roberts argued that schools should be able to impose religious speech on attendees.

Wrong on women's rights: Roberts wrote that "Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled." He also weighed in on bhalf of Operation Rescue, a violent anti-abortion group, in
a federal case.

As a corporate lawyer Roberts fought to gut the Americans
with Disabilities Act, denying lawful accommodation for workers injured over time as part of their job.

He helped a major car manufacturer avoid a recall when their seatbelts were found to violate federal safety standards.

Argued for the National Mining Association to overturn a ruling that restricted mountain top removal practices devastating to Appalachian communities.

In his brief tenure as a judge, he argued for a very limited view of congressional authority to regulate corporate excess that could threaten broad swaths of environmental protections, workers rights, and anti-discrimination laws.

· He advised Jeb Bush during the Florida recount debacle.

· As a lawyer for the Reagan and Bush Sr. White House, he advocated for right wing ideology over free speech, religious liberty and voting
rights for minorities.

· Roberts has been a life long partisan Republican, a claim the New York Times calls "indisputable," and has donated thousands of dollars to exclusively Republican candidates. The violent anti-choice group Operation Rescue said, "We pray that Judge Roberts will be swiftly confirmed."

James Dobson of Focus on the Family called Roberts "unquestionably

Pat Robertson said Roberts was "at the top" of his own list of cndidates for the court vacancy.

Tony Perkins of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council said
"The President ... promised to nominate someone along the lines of a Scalia or a Thomas and that is exactly what he has done."

--[Above list]From MoveOn.Org email July 20, 2005

Here is part of Senator Feinstein’s email response to my concerns about Roberts’ appointment:

“Judge Roberts has been nominated to a seat on the Court that will be critical with respect to rulings on Congressional authority, as well as all Americans' constitutional right to privacy, environmental protections, and many other aspects of Constitutional law. The extraordinary importance of this nomination cannot be overstated, so I intend to reserve judgment until our due diligence is completed.”

A senator who represents me should have answered, “I intend to oppose the nomination of Roberts for Supreme Court Justice because his past record proves him to be unsuitable in competence and in the intent to uphold the Constitution impartially.”

So, here’s my “due diligence--” in my judgment, Feinstein does not represent the tenets of the Democratic Party in the Senate. It’s hard to find a member of congress these days who isn’t bought and paid for by special interests because of the enormous sums of money needed to run for office.

So much for our form of democracy as the framers of the constitution intended. Then again--and this could produce arguments the size of books—maybe the kind of fascist arrogant power running our government today, in the form of a benevolent dictatorship, was exactly what the founding fathers envisioned.

With Bush filling Supreme Court vacancies like so many eggs in a crate, and US unwillingness to extricate our military and industry from Iraq and the Middle East, we the people surely are declining into a state of international imperialism and domestic martial law, and we are letting it happen easily. While our “representatives” still require our vote, it is our responsibility to let them know what we want, in huge numbers.

One person, Cindy Sheehan, has made a difference, and the millions who follow her lead can also change reality, one by one.

It is entirely up to us, while we still have the chance!


After writing the above today, including the email from Senator Feinstein with the wishy-washy response to concerns about Roberts, the following appeared in the Orange County Register online:

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein worries that if John Roberts becomes Supreme Court chief justice and follows the same judicial philosophy as his mentor, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, that Congress would be inhibited in its ability to tackle important issues of the day.

"If Judge Roberts subscribes to the Rehnquist Court's restrictive interpretation of Congress' ability to legislate, the impact could be to severely restrict the ability of Congress to tackle nationwide issues that the American people have elected us to address," Feinstein, D-Calif., says in her prepared opening statement for today's first day of Roberts' confirmation hearings as the next head of the nation's highest court.

Feinstein, the only woman among the 16 Judiciary Committee senators, repeats in her opening statement that she would find it hard to confirm someone "whom I knew would overturn Roe v. Wade," the decision that made abortion legal.-- Feinstein lists Roberts worries, DENA BUNIS, 9/12/05

My conclusion is that the tremendous campaigns organized to send emails and make phone calls to congressional leaders, by and People for the American Way, have resulted in one representative listening to thousands of voices.

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