Thursday, June 21, 2007

Guantanamo Comes To A Head

We've been through the reports, the pictures, and the speeches of plausible deniability. In fact, the calls to close Guantanamo surfaced while the Iraq War was heating up. The latest chapter in the saga that has become of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center is from the podium of the Presidency. Friday, there will be an announcement whether the prison will remain open or not. The chatter of the day sided with the fact that American President George W. Bush will consider closing the facility. That, of course, would be a surprise in the long run, because there was such a protracted fight on his part to keep it open to house "enemy combatants".

What was not surprising to me about this move is that I later read this evening that the talk scheduled about finally closing the detention center had suddenly been "dropped" from the schedule. Wonder why? So do I. Here is the latest from the ABC News:

The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility and move its terror suspects to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

Senior administration officials said Thursday a consensus is building for a proposal to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where they could face trial.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers had been scheduled to discuss the move at a meeting Friday, the officials said, but after news of it broke, the White House said the meeting would not take place that day and no decision on Guantanamo Bay's status is imminent.

"It's no longer on the schedule for tomorrow," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "Senior officials have met on the issue in the past, and I expect they will meet on the issue in the future."

I wonder when.

But, the stink from the detention center has risen to the surface. Furthermore, the stories have been so profuse that one cannot ignore them--especially when they have to do with the United States' unconscienable record of treating prisoners within a thin shade of state-sanctioned torture. There has been suidices, force feedings, the rolling out of prisoners in straight jackets, the denial of prisoner rights especially on the grounds of habeas corpus, indefinite incarcerations without charges as well as the inability to see one's legal advocate behind bars. Add that to the lists of prisoners that were smuggled out by one Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz to a lawyer who specialized in the welfare of human rights law.

We do have to question the humanity of not only our military,but our government when stories such as the "mental torture" of the prisoners come out in plain sight--as related in the BBC News:

A Pakistani-born US resident detained at Guantanamo Bay has said he was "mentally tortured" there, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

Majid Khan, who has been accused of planning to blow up petrol stations in the US, also described how he tried to commit suicide by chewing on an artery.

Mr Khan presented a Statement of Torture to the US military tribunal reviewing his "enemy combatant" status.

He was among 14 "high-value" detainees moved to Guantanamo Bay in September.

The men were previously held in secret CIA prisons but are now being detained in a maximum security wing at the base in Cuba.


At the tribunal at Guantanamo Bay on 15 April, Mr Khan denied he had any connection with Islamist militant groups such as al-Qaeda.

There is extensive torture even for the smallest of infractions.

"I am not an enemy combatant," he asserted.

"I am not an extremist."

"I have never been to Afghanistan and I have never met Osama bin Laden."

Afterwards, Mr Khan's personal representative read out a written statement, in which he alleged psychological torture.

"I swear to God this place in some sense worst than CIA jails. I am being mentally torture here," he said.

"There is extensive torture even for the smallest of infractions."

After reading stories such as the one above, it only goes to show that the saga that is Guantanamo Bay is drawn-out from vignettes such as these which generate more questions than getting the answers that are so needed. With the legal cases on the docket that continue to challenge the legality of the Bush Administration in keeping the site open, it is almost inevitable that culpability must come from some where--especially when it deals with the most blatant acts of torture and legal wrongdoing within the prison. What is especially mind-blowing is that after the false assurances and contrition that has come from the lips of assorted officials of the current Administration, the latest news shows that there is a lack of desire to get to the truth and finally close the doors of the notorious place of incarceration. It's as if the government wants to allegedly keep the system in tact without caring how the acts within its gates reflect on the national character outside American shores.

Have they no shame?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ceci's Communication Special, Pt. IV: The Courage To Try

Call me terse in my writing. Heck. You can even call me sarcastic at times. But, still, this entry comes from the heart--as my other essays on the blog. And, for you new readers to the blog, every once in a while, I write a little column about communication skills. This was inspired by a poster (who will still remain nameless from a board long, long ago and far away) who blatantly said in her post that "I lacked the communication skills to be on a certain forum"(that will also remain nameless). I dedicate this series to not only her, but to the rest of you who might grapple with your communication skills from time to time when you go on your postings duties like I do.

After all, we all come to logger-heads with other individuals who will misunderstand you know matter what you say. And, of course, we all have engaged in "verbal battles" (I prefer to call them debates) with others who will say things out of their misunderstanding and their lack of trying to create a middle ground in contentious issues.

In my discussions on-line, I have been told that "I lacked empathy" and sought to stir discord with my talks on controversial issues. At the very beginning when I was told these remarks, I thought to myself perhaps that they might have a point. There are times in which highly emotional discussions turn out to be free for alls in which passions take the place of reason. Let me tell you, I have witnessed it warts and all. But, time and wisdom has taught me that it isn't the conversations on-line themselves that cause the problems. It is the attitudes of others who refuse to understand. The refusal to understand another point of view causes frustration.

That's why there needs to be a moment when engaging in tough conversations to take a step back and assess your point of view. Then, you can go on to discuss these matters another day.

Just because someone has a strong opinion about a given topic doesn't mean that they are a brick wall.

Of course, there are those out there who are like "brick walls" who let any amount of facts bounce back without even discerning the difference between their thoughts and yours.

But for the most part, expressing one's opinion takes a tremendous amount of courage that sometimes seems foolhardy and stupid. The simple bravery to engage in tough conversations again and again requires a lot of character and fortitude that even a shy person like myself can't muster all the time.

Engaging in meaningful and contentious conversations has caused me to grow a thick skin over my years of posting. That has required a lot of researching on my part in learning how to properly engage in debates. Most of the time, I have met interesting and fascinating people due to my love of politics. Our talks together has caused me to grow as a person and to become more knowledgable about the world around me. I have learned a breadth of information from these thinkers because they taught me to see the world with new eyes, pretty much in the same way that the talks with my family have done.

And then, there are other times, I have met the type of poster who would lord over the conversation by pronouncing their credentials at every turn of the way. While they are discussing their side of the issue, they would slip in little digs such as, "You ought to go back to school to learn some more history." Or they would pronounce, "I have such and such degrees. That means I am qualified to talk about this while you aren't."

Especially in talks about race, I've gotten the usual, exasperated response, "What do you want?!?" That is even after I have said the aims of my conversation over and over in many posts in the same thread.

In the past, those conversations used to frustrate me because I tried to be as clear in my communication skills as I could possibly be. Even though those times have resulted in different outcomes, I simply discovered I must have courage to try again.

I've realized by now, not everyone will have the patience to discuss an important issue with aplomb and kindness. In fact, I've found out that there are some who are not in the least geniuine or polite about making their points--often going below the belt. Even when I get the short end of the stick in such negative affairs, I gained the insight that it requires a lot of mettle in order to go on even though the other side might portray you as the bad guy (or gal). That means, sticking to what I've presented and not wavering even if a group of posters try to persuade you otherwise.

Having the courage to speak requires not only fortitude; it also demands conscience and sensitivity to see into human character. If anything, discussions on-line have been compelling because there are so many facets to people that I have yet to discover. And as a result, I love engaging in the fun as well as the serious conversations because you learn so much how to relate with others. These very same lessons can be taken back with you into the "real world" when you deal with classmates, professors, bosses and co-workers.

The most important and revelant thing about having the courage to speak is to discover that not everyone in the world thinks like you do. You also develop the grace to acknowledge that everyone has their special fount of knowledge in which they pride themselves on. But to be a true conversant in a discussion is to be the student instead of the teacher, contribute where you can to widen the conversation, and to always have the resolve to speak your mind with a sense of strength even though others might not agree with you.

It is natural to fear the unknown when you participate in discussions that are rife with emotion. Out of that fear comes wisdom enough to know what your limits are. Furthermore, you begin to learn what you are able to express. It takes baby steps. In the end, it is worth it to have the special privilege to discuss a variety of things with various people. It is noteworthy to be able to have those conversations and to see how much further you can stretch yourself in terms of gaining knowledge and exchanging information.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

With Lots of Love To My Father

Just as my mom is a wonderful, witty, elegant woman, my father is also quite a character in many ways. On the outset, he looks rather dour and quiet with purpose. However, when you get beyond the surface, you find a man who is soulful, passionate, resilient and stalwart when it comes to the causes that he supports and talks about. As my mother gave me the gift of conversing about important and serious subjects, my dad bestowed upon me a sense of compassion and conscience when it comes to humanity.

Ever since I could remember, my Dad has always told me to think about the implications of my actions for good and for ill. His quiet words has created a sense of depth for watching the world at large as well as acting within it. That in turn has helped me to especially become a passionate person in terms of caring about society. He, along with my mother, have helped the homeless, organized food drives, and other types of service that pointed out that we are all connected together. He especially made the point that we must be empathetic, hard-working individuals who are responsible for our actions.

What I love best about my dad is his plain-speaking nature. In talks about politics around the dinner table, my father and I would get into these great talks from time to time about the nature of society. Sometimes when the spaghetti was being served out or the beverages were being poured, he would start out with a question (mind you, this was while the nightly news was on in the background on the kitchen table). Some of these questions were about everyday matters that he had experienced. Others were about the issues of the day. From that start, we would sit there and discuss these matters with depth and frankness which I have always enjoyed--even today when we still discuss them daily.

Even though he could be reserved, there are times that he would have a warm sense of humor that would compliment his outlook on the world. When thinking back about it, I must have developed my sense of irony from him. He especially use irony when thinking about how things turn out in the world. It would especially provide the punctuation point after a long drawn out discussion on the phone or over dinner--even when things became rather heated in the midst of passionate debate. The funny thing about it was the fact that he was just say it and then there would be silence. He would smile and the rest of us would laugh. And that would spell the end of some great family time especially when the gravity of events would weigh us down.

For my dad, the personal was political. He makes no bones about class and race when he discusses politics. Because of his honesty, he made discussing these issues all right instead of something to fear. On this account, I consider myself lucky because I've realized that in a lot of ways class and race are sensitive issues that really are hard for people to express themselves about. I was even luckier to grow up around his world view of loving everyone--regardless of race, class, sexual orientation or religion. Because of his (and my mother's) kindness and generosity within my hometown, he (and my mom) had a lot of friends from all types of backgrounds.

And here too, I am fortunate because I was able to hear the voices and experiences of so many different people at an early age to the present. I owe him a debt of gratitude for exposing me to different cultures in the name of diversity. This was especially punctuated in developing early a sense of traveling and meeting all sorts of people.

One of the things that impacted me the most when realizing the gifts that my father gave me in order to become a more, well-rounded individual is strength and dignity especially when things are at their worst. He would always tell me, "Well, Ceci, you've hit the bottom. Now, all you have to do is go up." It was that saying, along with, "Strike while the iron is hot," that got me through a lot of challenges in my life. I still think about them today as I face new adventures in real life as well as on-line. Most of all, the ability to face things with the frame of mind filled with purpose and resolve has really given me the knowledge in the midst of the struggle, you know more about yourself than you possibly ever could.

That is why he too has played a part in my writing and sense of political discussion. His influences helped me develop a deeper part of myself especially when researching and looking into issues that affect us all. His wisdom and kindness has made an impact especially on those writings--whether by essay or by post. And I love him for it because everyday, he still wakes up with a view that there is still more of the world left to discover. And that too, has instilled me a sense of curiosity and love of learning. He never gets tired of delving into things and always encourages us to do the same.

And that is one lesson that has proven invaluable time and time again in many circumstances, even now. :)

Happy Father's Day with lots of love, Dad. :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Law And The Struggle For America's Soul

The current cycle of legal news has placed American society in a fascinating light not only within the nation, but across the world in many ways. The outcry surrounding heiress Paris Hilton's early release and subsequent house confinement had opened the doors on social disparity and access when it has to do with class and race. It was further punctuated today when an appeals court had overturned the decision regarding the confinement of Genarlow Wilson, incarcerated for having consensual sex as a seventeen-year old with a fifteen year-old female. Before his mother and lawyer could even celebrate the turn of events, the Georgia Attorney General decided to appeal the ruling.

How quickly, the bottom drops out.

Before one could catch their breath, then there was the no-confidence vote on U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. Marked as a show of no support for his office, it was well known that even some Republicans disapproved of the tactics that Mr. Gonzales employed during his tenure. But, as partisan politics always shows (in the name of conventional wisdom), the Republicans blocked the vote and the action within the Senate failed.

As news of this came down, there came the decision in an appellate court that barred the U.S. Government's attempts to hold a detainee indefinitely without charges. The Washington Post explains this succinctly:

The decision by U.S. military judges on Monday to dismiss the war crimes charges against two detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has reignited a debate over how to try those accused of terrorism, prompting members of Congress to challenge the Bush administration over a legal system that they say denies proper rights to detainees and has yet to bring a single case to trial.

In dismissing the charges against detainees from Canada and Yemen, the judges ruled that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 lacked jurisdiction because that law limits cases to those who are deemed "unlawful enemy combatants." Because a tribunal had officially deemed both men "enemy combatants," the letter of the law did not allow the detainees to go to trial, the judges determined. Prosecutors say they hope to try about 80 of the 380 detainees at Guantanamo, but all such cases are now on hold -- one more setback in a five-year effort to bring even one case to trial.

This was in conjunction to Congress entertaining a habeas corpus proposal to allow detainees in Guantanamo Bay to fight their charges in American courts:

Members of Congress who have opposed the hastily written commissions act renewed their calls yesterday for a new system, demanding that detainees be moved to U.S. federal courts or that the law be rewritten to grant them important rights, such as habeas corpus.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and an outspoken opponent of the Military Commissions Act, said yesterday that legislation he and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) have sponsored to restore habeas corpus rights will be taken up by the committee this week. Both senators have argued that the law is dangerous because it suspended habeas corpus, or the right of detainees at Guantanamo to challenge their detention in federal courts.

"These court decisions underscore that, far from being beyond reproach, the system set up by this administration in the weeks before the last election is not adequate and cannot be trusted with the liberties of millions of people," Leahy said. He called Monday's decisions "the latest rebukes" of the "legally suspect systems for addressing detainees."

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said legislation restoring habeas corpus rights will be brought to the Senate floor, possibly this month.

What does this mean?

Americans are experiencing the growing pains of searching for the soul lost by the current Administration. Just think of it. After 9/11, people were afraid to speak because they didn't want to be called "unpatriotric". We quietly witnessed "Shock and Awe" in Baghdad while enduring problematic issues afforded to civil liberties at home. And then, the anger started to rise when the pictures were released showing the flag-draped coffins of the war dead. In November, the fury hit a fever pitch when the United States populace turned out the old Congress and ushered in new politicians to make meaningful changes overturning the drastic actions taken by the Bush White House.

The anger continued to swell as the body-count continued to rise at the cost of war. Now, we've gotten to the point of caring about how legal issues affect us in the face of the War on Terror. It put us all on a path to question how societal views us legally and socially through viewing thought-provoking and compelling cases which challenge our perceptions and ideas. Furthermore, such events that depicts an unbalanced legal system often introduce issues that we need to explore when scrutinizing the people we vote for office. In that way, if there are people in office that would allow the unbalanced scale of justice to continue, why should they continue to serve the people--especially if they are not looking out for them?

It's strange to say so, but when the public outcry occurred as a result of Ms. Hilton's early release, it showed that the public could not be hoodwinked into the meaningless propaganda of the past. We were sick of Enron. We were sick of the oil companies profiting. We were tired of seeing all the Executive Statements pass. And the best of it, we were beginning to question how our country treats us legally opposed to others who existed in upper one-percentile of wealth. It was infuriating to see yet another rich person get away with facing the law.

With the news of Mr. Wilson, this righteous anger is carried on in an examination of what is right and wrong in society, especially when questioning our own societal positioning. And painfully, it revealed that the legal system is broken in many ways and needs fixing--especially when it comes down to partisan attempts to steer the law one way or another in terms of governmental policy.

The news about the jurisdiction of courts, detainees and Guantanamo Bay take these issues to an even deeper level. If the government imprisons "enemy combatants" without just cause, what could happen if the scales of justice were turned on us? Disturbing to think about, yes, but rather meaningful in trying to reflect upon how unequal things are in terms of social positioning and politics. And then, it might go into further territory when one questions whether partisan politics is responsible for tailoring our civil liberties and treatment under the law. Out of that, one might start the question why was our privacy undermined in the practices of wiretapping and datamining.

What it comes down to is that the current interest in the latest legal issues of the day shows that people are beginning to question themselves and society in the wake of 9/11 culture. We're not acting like sitting ducks anymore. The best thing is that the righteous indignation from the United States populace is forcing our politicians to look at their own actions when making decisions to affect us. There is more to go on this aspect, but when people began to struggle to find themselves after such dark times, they begin to launch social movements which challenge the way things are in small ways. You never know. It might even introduce new faces on the political landscape who will work for meaningful change and for earnest attempts in trying to employ the law in a balanced light.

In the end, this is a time to be hopeful.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why We Ought to Care

It's not sexy reading, but I took a part of my Sunday to delve into The Conyers Report (2006). I found the book (subtitled George W. Bush versus The U.S. Constitution)to be eye-opening in many ways. It not only presented the research into the problematic nature of the current Administration; the text started me thinking about a most dire and pertinent issue that we cannot ignore: The Supreme Court.

I know thinking about The Supreme Court is not high on a lot of people's lists, but you have to think about this fact: there are two Justices that are nearing eighty years old and about to retire. President George W. Bush, a known conservative, is in office. He has already replaced two past positions with Chief Justice John Roberts (replacing William Renquist) and Samuel Alito (replacing Sandra Day O'Connor) who reflect the views of the current White House. Furthermore, both new officials in the highest court in the land will slant the ideological leanings toward the Right.

Some might not have a problem with that. However, others might be troubled with the future of rulings that might affect our nation's way of governing our civil liberties. This is especially the case when it comes to civil rights and abortion. In theory, the Supreme Court is to be non-partisan in its approach to rule on cases that might have lasting effects legally and socially on American citizens. However, if the current President of the United States is willing to fill the bench with partisan representatives, there might not be a fair hearing on such cases; let alone the fact that draconian measures might be entertained and accepted without hearing the other side of the matter.

There's one thing when it comes to discussing issues with others not only offline in our circle of family and friends or on-line on different forums. There's another thing when the vital issues of the day (such as stem cell research and the separation of church and state) are ruled upon without any argument coming from another point of view. Unfortunately, what you get is a court that is reflective of tyrranical decision making instead of a fair balanced body that would adequately serve as one of the "checks and balances" that our Founding Fathers had created in the first place.

And if we do have Justices that are put there to serve conservative causes, let alone the bidding of the current Administration, what exactly does justice represent? This is especially pertinent when it comes to questioning torture methods in Guantanamo Bay or whether the practice of wiretapping and datamining of everyday Americans is legal. With a slanted court, how will we be able to judge whether our Constitutional rights will be treated fairly when certain measures are brought up on the Supreme Court docket?

Problematic questions, I'm sure, but very notable to think about.

We saw the future of the highest court of the land, when it had ruled in the favor of George W. Bush after the 2000 Presidential elections. In that ruling, one could surmise that it was partisan politics without the proper hearing of the issues that had outlined the election: the disenfranchisement of voters in Florida; the problematic issues with electronic voting machines; the popular vote vs. the electoral vote. One could question whether the ruling was fair at all. Or was it an attempt to just quash the dissent that fomented out of the outrageousness in Florida?

It's not water under the bridge when one thinks about the civil liberties of the citizens in Broward county who didn't get to voice their votes fairly. It almost seemed, at the time, that not only the Voters Rights Act of 1965 was ignored, but the 15th Amendment was thrown by the wasteside as well.

Before we get jaded and think that the stacking of the court is business as usual, it is highly relevant and compelling that we take a moment to stop and think about the future of the nation in terms of the Constitution and what it stands for. Do we just go about our daily lives and let these rulings happen? Or will we write our Congresspeople when one Justice retires and inquire of them to be very vigilant when it comes to a fair hearing of our rights?

This is not an issue that will go off into the dead of night. We must care who is part of the Supreme Court because these rulings, in their small way, affect everything thing we not only stand for, but how we live. And for some of us, their rulings affect how much access we will get within American society opposed to others.

So, take the time and consider these things whenever there is news about the Supreme Court. Yes, it's not like American Idol, but nevertheless it is much more substantial than you think.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

When Things Look Bad, Always "Change Course"

At this point in time, the Bush Administration will go down in history of making the most changes in personnel than any other administration in the record of the American Presidency. The latest change in personnel came Friday when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that General Peter Pace (one of the officials who was there since the beginning) would have to step down from his Joint Chiefs of staff position. General Pace was known to have been one of those who planned the United States policy for Afghanistan and Iraq. He suggested that former, late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would be contained. And, of course, the military official had weathered the many storms that brewed around Iraq policy--even before "Shock and Awe".

What was surprising about this move is that the Bush White House accepted this decision without a fight. Unlike the stir around Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in which Mr. Bush and company challenged the move for a no-confidence vote with full guns blazing, Gen. Pace's forced outing occurred with nary a whimper. Instead, the current Administration had seen the mess that was made out of Iraq. They allegedly have their eyes open to the potential brouhaha that Turkey might bring to the place with its hostilities against the Kurds on the Northern border of Iraq. And of course, they cannot truly ignore the outcry that the American pubic has raised over wanting the troops home and ending the war overseas that has virtually become unwinnable.

Although the official reason is that Defense head Gates did not want a "divisive ordeal" occurring in the Senate when reviewing the record in retaining General Pace, this decision comes when foreign policy in the Middle East has become too much of a hot potato for America to handle. Instead of following the mantra of "staying the course", they decided--in this case--to "cut and run" (something that conservatives have openly taunted Dems of doing).

It will be interesting to see what the change of leadership has to offer, especially when events--in the wake of the G8 conference--has forced the United States to have a long, cold, hard look in the mirror of world events.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Saga of the Poor Little Rich Girl

And Lo! The blonde celebutante allegedy cried out as they dragged her away in handcuffs and tears, "Mom! Mom, it isn't fair!"

She's been talked about in many circles. A million cameras have flashed her picture as she hawked her CD, fragrance or her reality show. But, Paris Hilton must take comfort in knowing that her latest exploit had even eclipsed news of the replacement of General Pace and the tummy trouble of President Bush. Friday, the cameras followed her as she hugged her mother in front of her plush, Hollywood Hills home to the cold confines of L.A. Superior Court in police car 865. The melodrama had hit a high point as court drawings had depicted the hotel heiress sobbing as the judge lowered the gavel on her attempts to circumvent the law. The judge wasn't having it. He finally had lost his patience. After being sent to house arrest after a short, two-day stint in jail, Ms. Hilton was going back to stew in the cold, hard confines of another prison cell.

However, she will get treated for her alleged "medical issues" first. In the press, some aliments ranged from "a nervous breakdown" to a "rash". Even Ms. Hilton ought to realize that there are prisoners within the confines of lock-up who have worse problems than hers. Why couldn't the medical staff in her first place of incarceration step in instead of her own personal doctor and therapist? In the hoi polloi of the prison population, any prisoner who gets sick gets sent to the prison doctor. If they have mental illness, the prison psychological staff would be sent to see them.

Well, Ms. Hilton, what was wrong with seeing the medical help on the taxpayers' dime? I bet they are just as qualified as the fancy doctors that you pay for!

But, the most interesting thing in the saga of the poor, little rich girl is the world outrage against her house confinement. Not even in the case of Martha Stewart, had I ever seen such fury being vented by the hands of the public. As I talked about this with my mom and dad(and they watched the O.J. trial in full, too), they admitted that they were shocked at the outcry of the public when they found out Ms. Hilton was whisked away from her first incarceration point to stay within the confines of her mansion. To them, it was worse than the "country club prisons" one would often hear about when white collar, corporate convicts are sent away to pay for their penalties.

What especially fascinated my dad was the response of Nicole Richie. "I mean, David Letterman asked her how she was going to face her own DUI charges and she just laughed," he told me. "Would anyone else laugh at the gravity of such charges?"

Well, Dad, Ms. Hilton isn't laughing.

The astonishment and anger coming from the public is probably because they recognize that there is really a separate justice not only racially, but also in terms of class. Let's face it. Ms. Hilton is the victim of the American economy. Everyone is tired of seeing the rich get off of offenses that the commonplace United States citizen has had to be incarcerated over. The question has been asked over and over about what would happen to the any of us if we had to face the same charges as the heiress. Especially among Black folk, we wonder what would happen if any one of us were in front of the same judge. Would he have sentenced any of us to ten to twenty years in prison and be sent to the worst prison L.A. County has to offer?

Perish the thought.

We would have been quickly ushered among the nearly two million prison population in America without any way to appeal the case. The prison doors would slam in our faces mercilessly without any tsk tsking from the public at large. It's a sad, but true fact that if we were the ones in Ms. Hilton's Jimmy Choo shoes, we would have been
"just another statistic", without any money to hire a compentent lawyer to help us get out of it.

Ms. Hilton, who is now part of that same population, still has lots of money to fight her case without going into bankrupcy. For the rest of us, we would probably have to sell everything that we own to fight the charges that would be a drop in the bucket for the idle rich.

The famous? Well that differs in a way. When we think about celebrities of color (most notably O.J. Simpson), most have had to see the inside of jail cell. In the case of O.J. alone, he had to be incarcerated in prison for at least a year. The likes of Lindsday Lohan, Britney Spears and the rest of the bubble-gum, Hollywood crowd should be so lucky( in the case of Ms. Lohan, she was caught as being underage while under the influence by the authorities after her car crash).

And that's the problem. The outrage of seeing the rich get off of charges over the years has taken their toll.

We've had to witness high-profile client after high-profile client being let off while the everyday people we know or have read about in the crime digest pages of our local papers languishing in jail without anyone caring about their welfare. The outrage comes from the common knowledge that in a nation in which jobs are hard to come by while the oil companies profit, Ms. Hilton is another example of corporate greed representative of the one-percent of the uber-rich. What is worse, the American people are also tired of watching executive statements and the underlying falsities attached to them being used as a way to skirt away from wrongdoing. For that air of rareification, only the law has to be changed in order for the person in question to get away with it.

So, Ms. Hilton should take comfort. She's being treated in the medical ward now just like everyone else. She might be out in eighteen days due to good behavior. She's lucky in a way. People care about her. But would she be able to sleep at night knowing that there are other prisoners among her than no one cares about, let alone not getting the same preferential treatment as she does?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Candidates A-Go-Go

We're into the election season early. For the first time I could remember, there have been debates from the candidates from both sides, trying to sell themselves in terms of what they can offer to the American people. I have to admit, there are still questions that I have about what each person running for office (declared and undeclared) has to offer. After all, we're in contentious times here.

We're in an unwinnable war in which President George W. Bush has envisioned as a South Korea model. In fact, the American leader wants troops to be a presence in Iraq for more than fifty years. That's right. You heard me. Fifty years. And with the candidates that are on the table now who want the highest job in the land, it is very important to hear from them how they are going to deal with the presence there. In fact, I have not heard one refer to the war in Iraq as an occupation. That is an important point to note in terms of voting someone into office.

Furthermore, both sides have been rather coy in trying to describe what they would do in terms of bettering the United States landscape in terms of jobs, health care and reducing the national debt. Still those are very interesting aspects that need to be brought forth because they affect us in a daily basis. Especially notable is what they are going to do about education. After all, there are plenty of young people who are graduating in May and June seeking jobs. And if the economy is bent on outsourcing and downsizing its workforce, where does it leave them?

To note, the only candidate who has especially worked on the aspects of poverty, jobs and health care has been John Edwards. Mr. Edwards, a former running mate of Massachussetts Senator John Kerry, has been very vocal about combatting poverty in the United States. In fact, he had set up a center just to do that. It is one of the most important things that we have to look into in order to have a society that is not predicated on crime and frictional unemployment. When you think about it, when people have jobs and are able to make a living for their families, they don't think about unsavory ways to make money. This was a fact during the Clinton years and it could be that way again--if he's on the right track regarding this measure.

The other important thing has to do with the likability as well as the intelligence of the candidate. Surely within the crop of political hopefuls that have been on camera during the debates, there are charismatic people who could draw a crowd by their message. Unfortunately, charisma is something. But when it is tied to intellect, then we have something here. Let's face it. We have suffered with the gaffes and the missteps of an ineffectual leader for six years. The American people deserve better in their hopes for a national leader. We have to have someone who can not only have a common touch with the working man and woman, but also someone who can use their smarts for good in terms of domestic and national policy.

What is even more, but underreported in terms of candidate eligibility is the notion of one's intolerance for cruelty. Mr. Bush, allegedly through several books (most notably Dr. Justin Frank's Bush on the Couch [2002]), has been known to lack empathy--especially when it came to the plight of the underserved in society. One highly publicized emphasis on this was during Hurricane Katrina in which the President of the United States stayed on vacation while people suffered on rooftops waiting for aid. And how some New Orleaneans put it now is that he flew over the devestated area and landed elsewhere instead of getting in touch with the people. And their neglect continues especially with the latest news of trailers that were constructed with formaldahyde. That alone has caused not only the adult residents in the FEMA structures health problems; their children have suffered immensely from this constructional flaw. The second notable aspect is the lack of feeling for the innocent civilians who have died during the "occupation". Mr. Bush has said few words about their plight in wartorn Iraq. Instead, he and his cohorts focus on democracy without any cultural or historical understanding of the region nor its peoples.

It is about time we elect someone with a conscience who can treat all people with dignity. I know I'm not the only one, but isn't it about time we look past someone who can just look good in photo-op that says the right things, but does not convey any feeling behind it? We need someone who is actually genuine that can sit in the chair of the Presidency.

The other aspect is the "secrecy" and the undoing of civil liberties in American society. Not one candidate has has the gumpton to speak about the wiretapping and datamining that has occurred as a result of the NSA program. It would be entirely helpful if a debate was set up on this fact. Furthermore, what has been trouble some is the corruption that has occurred within the Bush White House. I know that the candidates are walking on eggshells to please everyone right now, but if one would be vocal about this and show that there would be changes in place to protect our rights in America, it would be far better than just waiting around and watching people vote with their feet instead of with their heads on this issue.

The only thing now is to sit and wait to see how this unfolds. I'm not going to kid you. The next President of the United States will have a long row to tow in terms of trying to rebuild America in terms of its foreign policy and domestic issues. Yes, terrorism is a problem as well, but I think that there are other situations on the plate that have to be looked at instead of using fear as a tactic in order to get votes. So, keep your eyes people and your minds keen. We've got to scrutinize every candidate and their voting record like there's no tomorrow. Our society depends on it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

CNV Forum News

In case you've been wondering what has happened to me between the last post and now it has been because I've taken a little time off (in between RL obligations) to promote Ceci's News and View Forum. It's been rather hard, but two months have taught me quite a deal about the forum running business. Between networking and trying to gain more members, it's been a wild ride. We've got a lot of things planned for the community in terms of podcasts and a CNV blog showcasing our member's talents.

Furthermore, I've been also involved in site promotion and advertising as well. Along with CNV, I've started Publicity Junction as a place for forum runners to promote the content of their message boards. Included are the advertising of other blogs in the blogosphere (in case any blog writers are interested, please click on my sister site Publicity Junction for details). I find that for forums to be a success, there needs to be a community of administrators and blog writers who will get together in order to exchange observances and work toward each other's success. I know that some might think that it is a dog-eat-dog business in which forum runners and blog writers actively compete against each other, but in the end, one needs to build allies in terms of promotional ideas for the betterment of all. So, please do stop by the sister forum and see some of our forums we advertise there.

However, the most important news for CNV is the fact that we're changing hosts. We've enjoyed our run on Proboards. And now, it is time to find a place that will help with the growing community. So, we're at a new home. It is: Hopefully there, we will be able to attract more people to become a part of our community as well as engage in some very fascinating topical discussions. So don't be left out. Join the fray and contribute your two cents. We need you. :)


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