Apolitical Deconstruction

The title of this blog refers to my journey of self-transformation from someone loathe to publicly express his personal opinions on political matters to...well, keep reading and see!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Slowing Down The Wall Street Bailout Steamroller

Dear Senator,

I am very concerned about the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street that the Bush administration is demanding to be done immediately this week. To be honest, I don't even understand the problem, and I suspect that most Americans don't understand it any better than I do. Considering the absolutely inept manner in which the Bush administration has handled both domestic and international matters in the last eight years, I have absolutely no confidence that what the administration is saying is actually the truth.

It may well be that some sort of bailout is necessary to prevent further erosion of economic confidence in America. However, considering the tremendous amount of tax payer money that could be put at risk, I think it is imperative that the Congress and Senate do not rush a bill through without taking a sufficient amount of time to understand the problem and devise a carefully thought out strategy to improve the situation. In my opinion, it may well be advisable to take several months to study the problem before any bailout bill is voted on.

One thing that I am adamant about is that corporate executives who are responsible for this economic mess should not be given any sort of golden parachute severance packages. If the American people are going to suffer for their misdeeds, then those executives should suffer right along with the rest of us!

Please do not rush any sort of bailout bill through this week.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns.


Reply from Senator Evan Bayh:

Dear Mr. :

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 , the legislation recently enacted to stabilize our financial system. I share many of your concerns about this legislation. It was among the hardest votes I have ever cast.

Hoosiers who have behaved responsibly, who did not take inordinate risks, who saved their money, and who did not get in over their heads are angry. They have every right to be. I am angry, too.

We should not be in this mess, but we are. The question is: What are we going to do about what experts call the greatest economic crisis to face America in more than a half-century? In the end, Senator Lugar and I both concluded that, as imperfect as the bill is, the risks of doing nothing were too great for the American economy.

Regrettably, those who would pay most if Congress failed to act would be ordinary people who have done nothing wrong. This conclusion was reached by countless groups representing ordinary people across Indiana and the nation: AARP (representing seniors); the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (representing employers); the Farm Bureau Federation of America (representing farmers); the National Federation of Independent Business (representing small businesses); the National Education Association (representing teachers); and many others.

The president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce stated, "Now, more than ever, partisanship and politics must be put aside for the benefit of our state and country. The Indiana Chamber and its members are typically not in the position of advocating for government intervention in the free market system. Today's unique circumstances, however, make it essential for our legislative and executive leaders in Washington to act now to restore our financial markets and consumer confidence."

Many of our state's leading newspapers also concluded that an immediate federal response was an unfortunate, but necessary step for Indiana . The Indianapolis Star wrote, " The cost of further inaction is likely to be devastating to the American public, both now and in the years ahead." The Louisville Courier-Journal stated it "is critical to pass the best available bill now to avoid panic." The Evansville Courier-Press warned of "preventing financial Armageddon [and] the potential loss of millions of jobs, a scenario not contemplated since 1929." The Times of Northwest Indiana wrote, "For the sake of local investors, savers, employees and their families, Congress must not delay. A bailout might be distasteful, but bitter medicine is sometimes necessary." Finally, the Lafayette Journal and Courier concluded, "The bailout isn't fair, and it isn't free enterprise at its best. But it's the right thing to do to shore up the nation's economy."

There were no good options. However, the final plan is far better than the Administration's original proposal. Executives seeking public help after ruining their companies will be prevented from profiting. There will be no golden parachutes or outrageous executive pay packages. There will be independent oversight to prevent conflicts of interest and outright corruption. The taxpayer will be protected by receiving an ownership interest in companies that receive government assistance. If after five years, the taxpayers have lost money, the financial industry can be required to pay it back.

This intervention is no cure-all. More difficult decisions lie ahead. But it is better than doing nothing, and that was the alternative. It is, however, not all that must be done.

Once we have stabilized our system, we must channel our anger into making sure this never, ever happens again. I'm not a cynic, but I am a skeptic about the way Washington can work in times like these. Congress will act in a moment of crisis, but once it has subsided, the sense of urgency will pass. The forces of reform will not have the energy that they do today. All the special interests will circle the Capitol like hungry birds looking for prey in order to prevent us from taking the steps that are necessary. We must not let that happen. I will do everything I can to see that it does not.

The troubled state of public finance highlights the importance of restoring fiscal responsibility to the federal budget. As Governor of Indiana, I balanced the budget without once raising taxes, and I left behind a $1 billion budget surplus, the largest in state history. I vetoed an entire state budget because I didn't think it was fiscally sustainable.

I have continued to push for a more conservative fiscal approach during my time in the U.S. Senate. This year, I was the only member of my party to vote against a bloated budget that would have added $2 trillion to our national debt. I was one of a handful of Senators who voted for a one-year moratorium on wasteful earmark spending. I was one of only seven Democrats to support a commission to recommend cuts in wasteful government programs. I was one of only 15 Senators to vote against the now-infamous Bridge to Nowhere.

In September, the Senate passed my legislation requiring Iraq - not the U.S. taxpayers - to pay more to help themselves. Iraq has a $79 billion surplus. It's not fair to ask American taxpayers to borrow billions from China to hand over to a country that is not spending its own money to help itself.

We must treat every taxpayer dollar like the precious commodity it is. Hoosiers work their fingers to the bone, and money sent to Washington must be spent on critical national priorities, such as preventing a collapse of our economy.

Again, thank you for contacting me. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you.

Office of Senator Evan Bayh

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Telephone Privacy and Torture

Dear Senator,

I would like to communicate my thoughts regarding two current legislative matters.

First, I would like to urge you to support the new FISA bill that the House of Representatives is working on. I believe that it is very important that every individual American, as well as every American business, should be held accountable for any violation of the law. This principle is fundamental to the continuation of our democracy. In keeping with this belief, I am absolutely against giving telecommunication corporations immunity for their blatant violations of personal privacy laws and any other laws that they may have broken. I hope you will agree with me that it is critical to uphold the laws of our country and bring to justice those who have broken them.

Second, I am very concerned by the President Bush's veto last week of the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act. I do not believe that torture in any form should be used against prisoners or detainees. America needs to rebuild its image in the world as a bastion of freedom and human rights. We can not do this if we continue to violate those rights that our Constitution was designed to guarantee. I feel very strongly that all U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, should be held to the standards specified in the Army Field Manual on Interrogations. Once again, I hope that you will agree with me on this issue.

Thank you for your time and attention to my concerns.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Security Contractor Accountability in Iraq

Dear Senator,

I am writing to you today to express my very deep concern about the killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians by security contractors in the employ of the U.S. Dept. of State. I am astonished to learn that these men will not be subject to any criminal penalties for the crime that they have committed. I believe that such immunity from prosecution for people who have committed such a terrible crime is morally wrong and will further undermine the efforts of American troops in Iraq who are working hard to provide a safer environment for the Iraqi people.

If the U.S. military is so overextended that it is unable to provide security for the U.S. Dept. of State in Iraq, then I think it is imperative that any contractors hired to fulfill this duty must maintain the same high standards of behavior as the U.S. military. They must be held to the same rules of engagement and must face the same criminal penalties for the violation of said rules.

I understand that there is a bill titled "The Security Contractor Accountability Act" currently under consideration. If this bill will ensure that security contractors will be held to the same standards as the U.S. military, then I urge you to support it. If the bill, as currently written, falls short of holding security contractors to these same standards, then I urge you to amend the bill until it does so.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

An Important Anniversary

On Tuesday March 20th, my friend Baghdad Treasure published a post to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He wrote to a group of Iraqi and American bloggers and requested that they answer a few questions about their thoughts prior to the war and now four years later. I was honored that he asked me to participate! Below are his questions and my answers. I encourage my readers to visit Baghdad Treasure's post (using the link above) to read some of the other respondents answers to the same questions. I read them all, and I found some of the answers to be very educational, perhaps you would, as well. Thanks for your interest!

1.) What was your opinion when the US decided to invade Iraq in 2003?

I had mixed feelings. I felt certain that Saddam and his sons were profoundly evil people. I knew that Saddam had killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, gassed to death thousands of Kurds, and brutally suppressed the Shia in southern Iraq after the first gulf war uprising. After the U.N. presentation on Iraqi WMD by Colin Powell, I thought that Iraq may well have chemical and biological weapons (we all know better now!). However, I did not think that Saddam would be stupid enough to use them against Americans. I listened to the U.N. inspectors who were saying that they were making progress in Iraq and needed more time. I thought why not give them more time? Iraq did not seem an eminent and dire threat to any other country. Also, I was wondering about Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar were still on the loose. I thought, shouldn't we finish our business with the people who really attacked us?

After the bombs of "shock and awe" began to fall on Baghdad, all I could think was that I hoped there were no civilians sitting under those huge explosions, but I knew that there must be some. I hoped that the military campaign would be short and that the death toll would be small. When the war began, I really didn't have much understanding of the social dynamics within Iraq (neither did Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld!). There was no inkling in my mind of the possibility of sectarian violence or civil war. I never imagined, that Iraq could become a worse place to live with Saddam gone!

2.) It has been four years since the invasion. Has your opinion changed since then? Why?

After four years, I certainly have a much different perspective. The lies and manipulations of the Bush administration, that enabled their rush to war in Iraq, are now public knowledge. More significantly, though, in the past three years I have become friends with a number of Iraqi bloggers who have really opened my eyes to the true costs of this war for the Iraqi people.

3.) Whom do you blame for the insecurity in Iraq? Why?

Ultimately, Bush is responsible, but I have always perceived him as little more than a puppet. Cheney has been more or less the power behind the throne from the start of the Bush Presidency, so a lot of the blame must rest squarely on his shoulders. The absolute incompetence of Rumsfeld, who thought he could have a war on the cheap, under-manned and under-funded, is blatantly obvious now. The abject failure of the administration to produce any sort of plan to keep the peace after their "Mission Accomplished" celebration, led first to the looting of Baghdad, next to the rise of the insurgency, and finally to the horrific sectarian violence prevalent today. The biggest single mistake was probably the disbanding of the Iraqi police and military forces. No doubt some were hard core Saddamists, but I think that most of them were just trying to support their families. I certainly don't think that all the violence and death of the past four years could have been prevented, but I do think it could have been dramatically reduced with better planning and competent leadership.

4.) What do you think should be done to quell the violence there?

I strongly believe that any potential solution to the violence must come through dialog among the Iraqi people themselves. I also think that Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia should be involved in the discussions. These countries all have interests in Iraq and will suffer if the violence there escalates. I don't think that the current surge of American troops within Iraq will have any lasting beneficial effect. These troops will probably reduce the violence in the short term, but they are like putting a heavier lid on a boiling pot (to paraphrase some recent remarks by Colin Powell). The pot is still boiling, and when the lid is lifted, it may well boil over.

5.) Do you think the US should withdraw its forces from Iraq now or not? Why?

I think the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces would be a very bad idea. There are millions of vulnerable civilians whose lives could be placed in jeopardy, were that to happen. However, I do not have any objection to a planned and publicized timetable for the reduction of U.S. forces, or to a deadline for the withdrawal of all forces. I think that setting a schedule with hard deadlines, combined with intensive political dialog and diplomacy between all Iraqi parties and neighboring countries, would be conducive to crystallizing the thoughts of the major players and forcing them to make the hard compromises needed to reduce the violence and rebuild a civil society.

6.) Do you think the war was worth it? Why?

No, absolutely not! The war has cost the lives of at least half a million Iraqi people. How many more have been severely injured or maimed for life? How many people have been psychologically scarred by the loss of loved ones, by the loss of their homes, by the loss of their sense of security, or by the loss of their livelihoods? What about the women of Iraq? They are now losing many of the freedoms they have known for decades. More than 3000 American soldiers are dead, and at least 20,000 more have been seriously injured or disabled. America has lost much of the worldwide respect that it enjoyed prior to the war. The so called "war on terrorism" has created many times more new terrorists than have been killed. America has wasted more than 300 billion dollars on this misadventure which it did not have to spend. Bush cut the taxes of all Americans, but especially those of the super rich. The money to fund his war was borrowed mostly from China and Saudi Arabia, who are the biggest buyers of U.S. Treasury Bills. Now, that just doesn't seem like a very sound fiscal or strategic policy to me!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stopping The Rush To War Ver.2.0

Today, I sent a letter to my U.S. Senators in which I presented my views on why I think it would be a terrible mistake for the U.S. to launch a military attack on Iran. There is currently some very real tension between the U.S. House and Senate and the White House on this issue. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are very concerned that President Bush may order an attack on Iran without first gaining the explicit approval of Congress, which is not likely to be granted!

I have been thinking for some weeks about what I would like to write in a letter to my Senators about this issue. I have read various articles and watched lots of discussions on various news programs about the potential for a U.S. attack on Iran and what the consequences might be. Here is a link to a really excellent op-ed from the January 19, 2007 edition of the Christian Science Monitor written by Ali G. Scotten. He is a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the University of Chicago and a former Fulbright scholar who has traveled extensively in Iran. I found his article to be very well written, and its content, in part, was an inspiration for this letter to my Senators.

Dear Senator,

I have become very concerned recently about the possibility that the U.S. may start a war with Iran by attacking its nuclear facilities. I believe that such an action would be disastrous for America and for the proponents of political moderation and change within Iran!

It would be very unwise to assume that an attack by the U.S. on Iran would not be followed by devastating retaliation. Iran's military may be no match for the U.S. in a conventional sense, but Iranian special forces, by all accounts that I am aware of, clearly have the ability to dramatically escalate insurgent activity within Iraq and elsewhere against American troops, civilians, and material interests. Iran also has the ability to severely disrupt the flow of oil to world markets, the economic consequences of which could be dire.

Let me be clear that I am no friend to the leaders of Iran. Their human rights record is terrible, especially toward women, and they are taking actions in Iraq that are leading to the deaths of American troops and Iraqi people. However, I am a friend to a number of Iranians who live in the U.S., Iran, and various other countries around the world. They hate the Iranian government, but they love their country. They want to see positive change in Iran, but they believe that real change can only come from within the country. It is my understanding that the vast majority of Iranians within Iran have serious disagreements with their government. They want change! The recent elections in Iran, that resulted in the defeat of many hard-line candidates running for city council positions, are a good sign that the policies of Iranian President Ahmedinejad are widely unpopular.

I truly believe that the leaders of Iran would like nothing better than for the U.S. to attack. Their power is waning, but a U.S. attack would cause many Iranians, who are currently disillusioned with their leaders, to rally around their government. The tremendous good will that most Iranians have toward America would evaporate. Also, I believe that an American attack on Iran would give the Mullahs an excuse for eliminating thousands of dissidents within Iran. A similar crackdown happened during the Iran-Iraq War, and resulted in the imprisonment, torture, and execution of a great many opponents of the regime.

America has the power, in concert with our allies, to economically reward or punish Iran's government, depending on their behavior. While I do not think that sanctions are a very effective tool to encourage positive change, they are a far better alternative than going to war! In my opinion, we should focus on encouraging continued moderation within Iran through dialogue, diplomacy, and economic incentives. We have followed this path with China for more than thirty years, and I urge you to support this path with Iran.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iraqi Lives In The Balance

Well, it has been quite a while since I felt motivated to write to my Senators! However, I feel very strongly about the current situation in Iraq and I just had to try and do something. If you have known me through blogging for any length of time, you probably already know my views on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. However, if you are new to my thoughts, I will say that I believe the decision to invade Iraq by the Bush administration was ill concieved and very poorly planned. Bush and his people lied to the American people about the presence of WMD's in Iraq. They rushed to war, and they had no plan to win the peace after our so called "military victory". I truly wish that the invasion had never happened! To date, the invasion has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and has cost the lives of nearly 3000 American soldiers. As far as I am concerned, the situation in Iraq today is most definitely a Civil War, and no matter what the U.S. government decides to do, many more thousands of Iraqis will most surely die! I do not know the best way forward. I honestly believe that there are no good options that will allow the U.S. troops to come home and that will also preserve a unified Iraq. So, what should be done? As far as I am concerned the focus should be on saving Iraqi civilian lives. I will support any course of action that has even the hope of reducing the number of Iraqi civilians that are being kidnapped, tortured, and murdered every day. So, I give you now the thoughts that I have just emailed to my two Senators. I truly hope they will listen, not only to American interests, but to the interests of the Iraqi people themselves!

Dear Senator,

I am writing to you today to express my thoughts regarding the current situation in Iraq. In the past two years, I have been reading the web logs of about a dozen Iraqi bloggers regularly. I consider some of them to be my friends. Every day more brave American soldiers are killed or maimed for life in Iraq. Further, at least 100 Iraqis are killed every day, as well. I see Iraqi people as human beings with the same hopes and aspirations as American people. I am not someone who can sit calmly and do the math on what number of civilian casualties are acceptable. As far as I am concerned, there is no acceptable number of civilian casualties!

I do realize that there is no easy solution to the current violence in Iraq. I certainly do not advocate an immediate pullout of American troops. However, I urge you to consider any course of action that will save the lives of Iraqi civilians. I also urge you to listen to the voices of the Iraqi people themselves, as it is their lives that are hanging in the balance.

I would like to give you the web log addresses of three Iraqi bloggers who are currently living in the U.S., and who may very well be willing to testify before the Congress or Senate.

1.) Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi of mixed Sunni and Shia ancestry. He has been interviewed about Iraq several times on national TV by CNN. The address of his blog, titled "Raed In The Middle" is:


2.) Zeyad (who withholds his last name to protect his family) is a Sunni dentist from Baghdad who is arguably the most famous Iraqi blogger. He recently came to the U.S. on a student visa to study at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. The address of his blog, titled "Healing Iraq" is:


3.) Baghdad Treasure (he goes by this pseudonym) is a Shia who worked as a reporter and translator in Baghdad. He is personally acquainted with Zeyad, and he also recently came to the U.S. to study journalism at a school in Philadelphia, PA. The address of his blog, titled "Treasure of Baghdad" is:


I urge you, or a member of your staff, to read some of the posts of these three bloggers and consider contacting them personally. They all care deeply about their country, and want desperately to help save the lives of Iraqi people.

Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts.



This morning, November 31, I received the following email from the office of Evan Bayh (who is a Democrat), one of my two Senators. It appears to be a very general reply sent to anyone expressing an opinion or concern about the situation in Iraq. Although this letter does not discuss my specific suggestions (which I still hope his office will consider!), it does contain some interesting insight into Senator Bayh's thinking about Iraq.

Dear Mr.:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). I appreciate your thoughts and understand your concerns on this important issue.

The President's decision to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein by military force is one of the most monumental of our time, and regardless of how one feels about that decision, we are in Iraq now and must rally together as a nation to make the mission as successful as possible.

The situation in Iraq is grave, and unfortunately, the Bush administration has made some errors that have made our mission far harder than should have been the case. Chief among those was the decision to disband the Iraqi Army. Clearly, the top generals should have been removed, but not the privates, the sergeants, or the corporals who had little choice but to join the Iraq military. The Administration should have reached out to these individuals to provide stability and security during the political transition. Unfortunately, the Administration has also failed to adequately lay out a clear plan with benchmarks for success in Iraq. I believe this accountability is critical to ensuring progress in Iraq.

In spite of the challenges, the United States has no choice but to succeed in Iraq. Premature withdrawal could lead to full scale civil war, destabilize a region of vital importance, and potentially turn Iraq into a haven for international terrorism.

Most of all, we must do everything we can to support our brave troops fighting in Iraq. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I am committed to ensuring that our fighting forces have all the tools they need to succeed in Iraq.

I continue to advocate for additional funding for our troops, especially for making sure they have the equipment and armor they need for the fight. During Senate consideration of the Fiscal Year 2005 Iraq Supplemental, I offered an amendment to provide $213 million to purchase additional Up -Armored Humvees and to prevent future shortfalls by requiring the Secretary of Defense to report to the Congress more frequently on future Humvees requirements. My amendment received bi -partisan support and passed by a vote of 61 -39.

As always, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as the Senate continues its active and vital role providing oversight of the nation's mission in Iraq.

Again, thank you for contacting me. I hope that the information I have provided is helpful. My website, http://bayh.senate.gov, can provide additional details about legislation and state projects, and you can also sign up to receive my monthly e-newsletter, The Bayh Bulletin, by clicking on the link at the top of my homepage. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you.

Office of Senator Evan Bayh


Today, December 12, I received a written reply in the mail from Senator Lugar (my Republican Senator). He always mails his reply letters to me. This letter is quite specific, so he may have actually dictated part of it himself! Although I do not always agree with Senator Lugar on the issues, I have always found him to be a very honest and sincere man, a true rarity these days in Washington, D.C.! BTW, Senator Lugar is the current Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so my letter to him was right up his alley, so to speak. Ok, here is his letter:

December 4, 2006

Dear Mr.:

Thank you for contacting me about Iraq and for bringing to my attention the writings of several Iraqi bloggers. I appreciate this opportunity to respond.

A great amount is at stake in our involvement in Iraq. U.S. efforts in Iraq have been focused on fighting an insurgency that uses brutal tactics in an attempt to create regional instability and increase sectarian strife within Iraq. The United States and the international community should work closely with the Iraqi government and support a comprehensive solution to the violence, including a resolution of issues relating to oil revenues.

As you mentioned, there is currently a growing debate about how best to proceed in Iraq, including the possibility of a scaled down U.S. presence; at the same time, we must be aware of the possibility that the Iraqi government loses control over the country. In a recent interview on CNN, I noted that "if we withdraw, we clearly open the borders but we do have once again an incubator for terrorism in Iraq, comparable... to the Afghanistan situation we tried to clean up after 9/11." Moreover, civil war in Iraq could undercut American credibility in the region and expand the influence of Iran and Syria.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which I chair, has devoted 39 hearings since 2003 to the subject oflraq. Ih particular, we have emphasized how our efforts there can be more effective through greater alliance contributions, improved public diplomacy, more efficient reconstruction and humanitarian relief, accelerated political development, faster training of Iraqi forces, and many other factors. We have conducted oversight of the administration's policies and attempted to point out both what is working and what is not working. My emphasis has been on examining options and ideas that can contribute to success in Iraq. You can read more about these hearings at http://foreign.senate.gov.

Thank you, again, for contacting me on this important matter.

Richard G. Lugar
United States Senator


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Iranian Women's Rights Demonstration

I have sent the following letter to my U.S. Senators. I have also contacted the CNN News Tip's Web Site regarding this story and sent them the links listed below. I urge my readers to also contact CNN or your preferred media outlet. I think it is very important that this story receive as much international news coverage as possible.

Dear Senator,

Yesterday, June 12, 2006, there was a peaceful demonstration in Tehran, Iran by women who are seeking greater freedoms, equal rights, and equal protections under the law. This demonstration was brutally repressed by the Iranian police and many women were beaten and arrested. I believe that non-violent resistance by Iranians in Iran is the best way to bring about positive changes in Iran's government. Could you please do whatever you can to help support and promote groups within Iran who are seeking change through non-violent resistance? Also, could you please contact the Iranian government and urge them to release the arrested demonstrators? Thank you very much for your help and consideration!

Here are links to two excellent blog posts by two of Iran's most famous bloggers that describe the June 12 event. Please have a look at the excellent pictures of the demonstration and its repression in the posts:




Saturday, May 13, 2006

On the Execution of Children

Today, after reading a post by my friend Lady Sun, I emailed the following letter to the Supreme Ayatollah of Iran urging him to end his country's policy of allowing the execution of criminal offenders who are under the age of 18. I sent a similar but shorter letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (his web site email allowed only short messages).

I am against capital punishment in general, as I believe that it does not deter crime, but more importantly, a significant percentage of convicts on death row in the U.S. have been proven innocent by new evidence. There is no excuse for a just society to execute an innocent person! Further, I find it morally offensive to execute a child, a retarded person, or a mentally ill person, as they are not fully capable of understanding or taking responsibility for whatever crimes that they have committed. Here is a link to the specific information that Lady Sun posted if you would like to read it.

To: His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader, Shoahada Street
Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellency,

I understand that Iran has signed international treaties that expressly prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed by those under the age of 18. I learned this from reading the following from Amnesty International:

"As a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18. Despite this, since 1990 Iran has executed at least 18 people for crimes committed when they were children.

In January 2005 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Iran to suspend the practice immediately. Nevertheless at least eight child offenders were executed that year, including two who were still under 18 at the time of their execution."

I am against the practice of capital punishment, and especially so when child offenders are the subjects. I respectfully urge you to please enforce the rules that Iran has pledged to uphold. I think this would be a very positive gesture that would show the world community that Iran is serious about respecting the human rights of its citizens.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Securing U.S. Ports

Yesterday, I sent the following letter to my U.S. Senators concerning the upcoming takeover of U.S. port facilities by Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. This CNN article from last week, although a bit dated with respect to the very fluid political dynamics of this story, gives a good background to the events and issues involved. The story continues to evolve, and the D.P. World deal may yet be undone, however, I remain of the opinion that the security of U.S. ports is not contingent on the nationality of the port management company. Certainly, D.P. World must be properly screened and vetted, but port security will remain the province and responsibility of the U.S. government.

Dear Senator,

I have been closely following the news of the pending Dubai Ports World port management takeover deal. I am pleased that the company has agreed to a second and more thorough 45 day investigation. Although I would prefer that U.S. ports be managed by American owned companies, I think that Dubai Ports World should be given the opportunity to do so, provided that the company can fully address and comply with U.S. national security concerns.

Actually, I am far more concerned that the U.S. Coast Guard has requested $5.4 billion to fully fund its port security responsibilities, but thus far, the Bush administration has sought funding for only one tenth of that amount. I would like to request that you please work to ensure that the U.S. Coast Guard is provided with the full funding required to ensure that it can fulfill its responsibilities to secure our ports.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Warrantless Wiretapping

A few days ago, I sent the following letter to my U.S. Senators regarding President Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA, at one time so secret that it was referred to as No Such Agency) to conduct warrentless surveillance of American citizens. This CNN article, written in December of last year, shortly after the New York Times broke the story, gives some background information on this issue. This Reuters article summarizes a speech given by former Vice President Al Gore in January, in which he called for the appointment of an Independent Counsel (same meaning as Special Prosecutor) to investigate the legality of Bush's authorization.

Dear Senator,

I am writing today to express my concern regarding President Bush's authorization of the NSA to perform wiretaps and other information gathering procedures on American citizens without any warrant or judicial oversight. It appears to me that the consensus of legal opinion on this matter is that this authorization was illegal. The President of the United States is not above the law. If he has broken the law, he must be made to answer for his action. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of protecting and defending our Democracy from a Chief Executive who may have chosen to ignore the rule of law. I do not believe that this matter can be effectively dealt with by partisan Congressional or Senate hearings. Therefore, I urge you to support the appointment a special prosecutor to objectively investigate the legality of the President's action.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns on this important matter.