Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Bush Renews Threat to Veto Children’s Health Insurance

This should prove the end of the lie about Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”  The man who took an unprecedented surplus and turned it into mountains of red ink is claiming to do this for “fiscal responsiblity,” when the truth is that the price of renewing and expanding S-CHIP ($35 billion) is about 6 months in Iraq.  (For a breakdown of how much–not counting lives and limbs–the war is costing this nation, click here.) Bush is angering his own party on this one, because Republican governors and know how much S-CHIP has saved business, hospitals, and schools.  Also, the GOP knows that any Republican politician up for reelection in ’08 who doesn’t vote to override the president’s veto on S-CHIP can kiss her or his political futures good-bye.

It will take more than Laura Bush’s campaigns for literacy or W reading “My Pet Duck” to kindergartners to rescue an image of compassion for children from the realities of this cruel and unnecessary veto.

UPDATE: The Senate and the House have reached compromise legislation that will prevent states from enrolling adults (and make them take adults off) and only ensure children making up to 200% of poverty–too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase insurance.  The $35 billion will increase the number of children insured from 6.6 million to 10 million and will be paid for by an increased tax on cigarettes (which seems appropriate since tobacco use adds enormous burdens to healthcare, costs businesses billions a year in increased sick days and other production loss–not to mention all the smoke breaks when non-smokers get only 1 15 min. break every 4 hourse by law!).  The president is still threatening to veto any bill which increases the funding more than $5 billion (not even enough to keep S-CHIP up with inflation).  Based on votes on earlier versions of the bill, the Senate can probably muster 67 favorable votes (enough to override a veto), but this will be harder in the House.


September 21, 2007 Posted by | child welfare | 3 Comments

Olbermann: Bush’s Hypocrisy About MoveOn.Org Ad

As a MoveOn.org member, I thought this ad was a bit juvenile and not helpful. But Bush’s hypocrisy is enfuriating. So is the fact that Congress could not pass any substantive legislation yesterday, but COULD find time to condemn a political ad. No wonder their approval rating is even lower than the president’s.  Once again, Keith Olbermann tells the truth in a time of media sophistry.

Here are some other appropriate comments aimed at the spineless Democrats who approved this stupid resolution that Sen. Maj. Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) should never have even allowed to come up for a vote. (You never saw the GOP-controlled Senate allow a condemnation of the ads attacking Max Cleland or telling voters that voting for Democrats was voting for Osama bin Laden to blow us up, did you?)  See here, here, and here.

N.B.: I should add that while I enjoy Olbermann’s editorials, he doesn’t do real news anymore than most mainstream media. You have to turn to PBS, C-SPAN, NPR, the BBC, etc. for real, hard journalism. Olbermann’s “Countdown” program is filled with entertainment fluff. But, at least his editorials are a refreshing change from Fox Noise and its clones.  Olbermann steals his line “Good night and Good Luck” from the late, great Edward R. Murrow. But Murrow’s editorials were so effective because they were so rare. He cut his teeth radio broadcasting live from the London Blitz–often in bomb shelters. He did hard, objective news and worried about the effect of television on journalism and on civic life–even as he tried to bend the medium to serious reporting. Olbermann is a pale reflection of that level of professionalism–but still stands out among U.S. TV “personalities,” where the usual choices are fawning rightwing Bush worship or “he said/she said” reporting with little skepticism or tough follow-ups.  Truthtelling is hard to do in an age when news programs are supposed to make money–instead of being paid for by the entertainment shows on AT OTHER TIMES.  I like Olbermann because he tries.

September 21, 2007 Posted by | media reform, politics | 2 Comments

Racial Bias in the U.S. Courts: The Case of the Jena 6

Giving credit where credit is due, I first became aware of the Jena 6 case from Mikeal Broadway this past summer.  See his posts here, here, here, here, and here.  Thanks to Mike, a fellow Baptist ethicist and peace blogger, I followed this case which stayed off the front pages until yesterday.  I signed petitions, I asked the governor of Louisiana to grant pardons. But I didn’t use this forum to highlight the injustice and for that I repent.

The facts are not in dispute.  For decades in the tiny Louisiana town of Jena, whites at the local high school had claimed exclusive rights to sit under a certain tree, which they called the “white tree.” After an African-American student sought and received permission from the principal to sit there (to give credit, the principal denied that it was a “white tree”) and did so, white students hung nooses from the tree. A few were suspended for two days, but none were charged in any criminal case. The D.A. considered the noose incident “a prank.”  Tensions quickly escalated between white and black students.  After some slurs and taunts, 6 black students attacked a white student (one of those involved in the noose incident) and hit and kicked him until he was taken to the hospital.  The students were not suspended for fighting. Instead, the D.A. had them all arrested and charged with attempted murder.

One of the 6 was convicted, but this conviction was overturned on appeal and he awaits new charges in jail. The other 5 remain out on bail, awaiting trial. The D.A. insists the case has nothing to do with race and is determined to put all 6 behind bars for years.

No one denies the 6 were wrong and deserved some punishment, but outrage in this case has to do with the disparity of treatment. The noose “prank” could have been prosecuted as a hate crime or as terrorizing harassment, or similar charges, but wasn’t.  The white kids were slapped on the wrist and the black kids are having the book thrown at them.

The outrage is also because, unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  This is part of a larger pattern STILL in the U.S. legal system.  We all know the stories: African-American men are far more likely to be pulled over by police (“driving while black”) than whites.  Wealthy African-Americans are often arrested in their own neighborhoods at night because their presence is “suspicious” (i.e., they aren’t “supposed” to live in those neighborhoods).  Whites arrested on drug charges are often given suspended sentences, probation, or rehab while African-Americans on the same charges, with the same amounts of controlled substances, etc. are given harsh prison time.  In murder cases, if the victim is white and the accused black, the chances that a D.A. will ask for the death penalty rather than life more than triple.  And on and on it goes. My hometown newspaper reported today that a study by the city found that African-Americans are woefully underrepresented on juries, both civil and criminal.

Yes, folks, conservatives to the contrary, racism is alive and well in U.S. society and our legal system.  Do some people falsely make everything about race? Undoubtedly.  But such false “playing of the race card” only works at all because widespread racial disparities in so many areas actually exist.  For every O.J. Simpson who gets away with something (in his case, murdering his wife) by playing the race card, thousands of African-Americans get rigged courts and disparate treatment. 

It’s time to end this.  It’s time to rededicate ourselve to working for racial justice and an end to racial injustice–here and around the world.  For those of us who are Christians, this is mandated by our faith–and by the often-shameful history of our churches.

September 21, 2007 Posted by | human rights., race | 8 Comments