Friday, December 17, 2010

Updates...

As the President made a grand photo op of his signing of the controversial omnibus tax bill on Friday afternoon, Mitch McConnell certainly looked as if his stocking had been stuffed by a very benevolent Santa.  [Here]
The $858 billion Tax Bill will be spun by both sides as a legislative win, but frankly the only folks who will be dancing in the streets are the uber wealthy.  The unemployment payment extension, which is part of the bill, will tide some folks over but the checks aren’t fat enough for feasting.  Also, both sides of the aisle have agreed on funding to keep the government operating, but the total budget that the Appropriations Committee has labored over for more than a year was not passed, leaving Senatorial good humor and holiday cheer in tatters on the Senate floor.
The Russian-American nuclear treaty (START) will probably be passed but we do not know when.  The Dream Act which will allow children of illegal immigrants to obtain a green card if they complete two years of college or join the military will have to survive the threat of a GOP filibuster.  It is scheduled for an airing on Saturday.  
It is also likely that DADT will come up for a vote in the Senate before the Xmas recess.  With so much blood on the floor already and with the pro-GOP tax bill passed, let us hope that some Republican Senators will listen to their consciences and vote for repeal.  What a fine Christmas present it would be for the gay men and lesbians in our armed services who are willing to give their lives for their country (and us), but are not allowed to speak of their personal lives.  (For shame, America!) 
(Brian Beutler at TPMDC [Here] has a rundown on how this legislative agenda is playing out in a blog titled, “A Primer On The Fallout of OmnibusFAIL.”  It is the best short update that I have found.  (Warning: The NYTimes’s Michael Shear, unfortunately, never quite got under and around the story, but he did quote extensively from the ultra conservative Washington Times and a rightwing lobbyist for opinion. [Here])
Little noticed inside the White House, I am certain, was the anti-war protest outside its gates.  Daniel Ellsberg was among those who were arrested.  [Here] It is good to know that Ellsberg remains a living anti-war conscience for us.
In the meantime, Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who allegedly sent documents to Wikileaks and supposedly was the source of the leaked “collateral damage” video which shows a shocking and fatal machine gun attack on civilians via a U.S. helicopter, has been in solitary confinement for 5 months in a marine brig in Quantico, Virginia and, before that, for 2 months in Iraq. 
Manning has not been tried for any crime nor has he been convicted of anything.  Yet, he is held in solitary confinement, allowed only an hour of physical movement outside his cell.  He has no bed sheets or pillow and is under 24-hour surveillance, lest he even try to exercise in his cell.  He has been given anti-depressant drugs to offset the effects of such confinement, a tacit admission that such prison conditions are akin to torture.  [Here
I am not arguing for or against Pvt. Manning’s guilt or innocence, but I am arguing for our affording this man decent treatment.  Our system of law is part of a thousand years in a tradition of justice that must be given to all and delivered humanely and equally.  It is shocking that our military will not extend the same minimal standards to all of its prisoners, regardless of the charge or of his/hers guilt or innocence. 
What is most shocking is that we are not shocked.  We will demand humane treatment and conditions for a serial killer, but not even think to extend the same humanity to a young man who is a controversial whistleblower. 
These conditions will continue until we demand change... 

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