Along with a few encouraging signs in Congress there are disturbing developments that represent an ever-widening assault on our form of government and fair economic policies. On the plus side, Senator Voinovich, Republican from Ohio, forced a delay on the vote to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the U. N. Saying “my conscience got me” and that he wanted more information about the appointee, Voinovich effectively stalled the vote until May. This was encouraging because it was a sign that at least in some cases, thoughtful deliberations rise above strict party discipline.
On the discouraging side, however, President Bush, as expected, signed into law the new bankruptcy bill which, it is widely acknowledged, was written by and for credit card companies. The law allows no exceptions to stringent repayment plans that will harness ordinary Americans hit by financial disaster to a never-ending cycle of revolving debt, especially given the ability of these companies to charge exorbitant fees and penalties – – in other words no fresh start for the financially disabled.
At the same time, The House will consider legislation to create a $2 billion incentive for energy companies to explore the viability of “recovering oil and gas from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.” There are, in addition, some $8 million in tax breaks “to encourage traditional domestic energy production.” It is estimated that only “about five percent of the tax advantages apply to renewable resources or energy efficiency.” It seems curious that companies have to be encouraged to develop resources that affect their business. Of course this administration and, pointedly Tom DeLay, benefit enormously from their connections to the energy industry with DeLay collecting more than $900,000 for his campaigns since 1984, according to a monitoring group, Political Money Line. (data from NY Times, 4/20/05, P. A20)
Currently, Delay is busily conducting his special brand of judicial monitoring. He is pursuing ways to define what the Constitution refers to as the “good behavior” of judges so that he can, no doubt, put his own slant on that portion of Article Six and perhaps work to remove justices he deems unsuitable. It is reminiscent of the outrageous House impeachment of President Clinton for what most reasonable people would find a woefully inadequate case of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, the standard for such cases to be brought. Delay and others on the right find it unconscionable, for example, that the Supreme Court ruled against the execution of juveniles and cited international law in a portion of the decision. Somehow stringing up juveniles doesn’t seem like the strongest place to take a stand, but then a lot of what these folks invoke is beyond puzzling.
The fact that the right wing is trying to dismantle courts with whose decisions they disagree is disturbing and runs counter to the basic institutions of our democracy. To drag out the Constitutional verbiage that gave Congress the power to establish the “inferior courts” does not readily comport with the notion that this section means that Congress should forever control the work of judges and the courts. If that were to be the case, the separation of powers would become next to meaningless.
And the decision by Senator Frist and others to participate in the putative “Justice Sunday” this weekend is a disgraceful attempt to suggest that opposition to a religious test in the selection of jurists is somehow anti-faith. It is an absolute that people of faith be free to practice that faith and to express personal religious beliefs. What is not absolute and is in fact forbidden by The Constitution is to translate religious dogma into law and proclaim it from the bench. No matter what some on the right might prefer, it is not the business of government to promote religious observance.
There is such an odd political amalgam at work in the country today.We have an administration so pro-business and so unwilling to promote the interests of middle-class America or to care for the disadvantaged members of our society, somehow identified in the minds of many with moral and religious values. How such an irrational conclusion was reached by large numbers of the electorate is a tribute to the sophistry of many of our elected officials combined with a high degree of secrecy and disinformation.
It may be that some of the current histrionics and some of the egregious policies being enacted will serve to increase national awareness and awaken those previously lulled into a numbed state by tortured rhetoric.

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