In a series of extraordinary speeches, Senator Robert Byrd, a longtime historian of the Senate, has persistently sounded the alarm about imperial executive power. He has unflinchingly exposed the grave danger we face from an Administration that routinely abuses power and tramples democracy without batting an eye.
Yesterday, Byrd delivered another wakeup call. Taking aim at the Republicans' threat to use the "nuclear option"--a change to the rules of the Senate that would effectively bar Democrats from filibustering judicial nominations--he assailed those who would aim "an arrow straight at the heart of the Senate's long tradition of unlimited debate."Â He didn't stop there. "Many times in our history," ByrdÂ said--perhaps speaking to the hypocrites in power who prefer to lecture the world about democracy rather than protect it at home-- "we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not men."
Read Byrd's warning to the republic:
It's time to start making plans for what are expected to be a nationwide series of antiwar protests from March 18 to March 20 to mark the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The antiwar coalition United for Peace & Justice is calling for vigils, rallies, marches, nonviolent civil disobedience and creative expressions of antiwar sentiment of all kinds.
As UFPJ reports, last year on the first anniversary of the invasion, there were at least 319 antiwar events in cities and towns across the United States. This month, they're looking to increase that number after a disastrous year of continued body counts and billions of dollars wasted on an illegal and immoral occupation.
In the coming days, we'll be highlighting some of the many grassroots, antiwar efforts taking place on March 19th. Today, I'd like to thank Nation reader and bassist Brandon Kwiatek for alerting us to what's happening in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania where his acoustic duo Real West will stage a free concert at Bethlehem Book Loft & The Caffeine CafÃ© from 8:00 to 10:00pm. The concert, called War is a Wonderful Thing: An Evening of Dissent, will be the culmination of a series of antiwar vigils and rallies scheduled across the Lehigh Valley that day.
Gloria Totten is the savvy executive director of Progressive Majority--and she's bullish about Howard Dean's ascendance: he will speak "with a clear voice," pursue a "movement-building politics" and "bring a well-rounded [states-based] approach to the chairmanship."
Indeed, the former Vermont Governor and former head of the Democratic Governor's Association shares Totten's commitment to rebuilding state parties, mobilizing new voters and using new technologies and fresh ideas to inspire the grassroots. In short, Dean gets it--and so does Totten.
In 2004, Dean's group Democracy for America endorsed scores of candidates running in local and state races--from a school board member in Huntsville, Alabama, to a mayoral contender in Salt Lake County, Utah. Working with like-minded progressive organizations such as Progressive Majority and 21st Century Democrats, DFA sought to give back power to citizens, and recruit and support the next generation of grassroots leaders.
What is the issue on which Congressional Democrats are least likely to take a bold--and appropriate--stand?
War and peace? No. More than 126 House Democrats voted against the use-of-force resolution that President Bush used as an excuse for the invasion of Iraq, as did 21 Senate Democrats. Some 118 House Democrats and 11 of their Senate colleagues had the courage to vote against the continued funding of the war--not because they do not "support the troops" but because they want to get the troops home alive.
The Patriot Act? No. While US Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, was the only Senate Democrat who opposed the Patriot Act, 62 House Democrats opposed that assault on the Constitution and the majority of House Democrats have since backed resolutions to address the law's worst excesses.
Your credit card issuers are hoping that the sixth time will be the charm for a bill they've been pushing since the Clinton years: "The Consumer Bankruptcy Reform Act" (now S.256 & H.R.685). This legislation would make it more difficult for people turning to bankruptcy as a last resort to actually discharge their credit card debts.
Considering that most people who file for bankruptcy are squeezed middle-class homeowners who experience a job loss, divorce, or medical emergency (see Dan Frosch's "Your Money or Your Life"), you'd think that Congress might be timid about introducing such a draconian bill with 46 million uninsured and on the heels of record job losses. As research from Demos shows, American families' debt has skyrocketed over the past decade because of stagnant wages, rising basic costs, and abusive practices on the part of a deregulated credit industry. Many families are borrowing to make ends meet, and are just one missed paycheck away from financial collapse.
Somehow, though, that kitchen-table reality hasn't reached the Washington bubble. In DC, the banking lobby's line about frivolous debtors lacking personal responsibility plays well on both sides of the aisle. Perhaps that's because the industry was Washington's single largest contributor in 2000. Or perhaps it's because they haven't heard from you. Senator Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on February 11th on the Senate bill. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) is the main sponsor of the bill in the Senate, and Democrats Kennedy (MA) and Durbin (IL) are leading the fight against it.
At Pittsburgh's Jefferson Elementary School, which overlooks the dark
gray plumes from two electric power plants, there are so many children
with asthma the school nurse alphabetizes the inhalers