I just returned from a canoe trip in the Everglades National Park, and the picture there is not pretty, even if the park is. Not only was this last wet season the driest in memory for this unique ecological gem, but the rangers say it's only a matter of time--and not that much time at that--before rising seawater drowns the entire park (and much of southern Florida along with it). The rangers say these kinds of things under their breaths these days because their employer, the Bush administration, doesn't like science mixing with park business. It's not even permissible for rangers at the Grand Canyon National Park to respond if visitors ask them how old the ancient gorge is, for fear the scientific answer might offend some yahoo who thinks the park was carved by the retreating waters of Noah's flood a few thousand years ago.
Back in the so-called civilized world, I read that our mad president is buying into yet another version of the neocon fantasy. This time, instead of claiming that we could beat the Iraqi Army by low-balling the troops on the ground (because the Iraqi people would rise up and welcome the American invaders with flowers), he's saying we'll go in with more troops than we even used for the invasion, and the now well-entrenched Iraqi insurgency will somehow be smashed, leaving in its and our bloody wake a new democratic and pro-American Iraq. The soldiers on the ground, of course, know better. According to the latest poll of the troops, more than half think that the war has already been irrevocably lost, and a majority want to just pack up and go home.
I also learned on my flight home to Philadelphia that Bush, just before Christmas, issued yet another "signing statement"--he's up past 1200 now--this time claiming the right to subvert the very bill he was signing into law. The law in question was the Postal Reauthorization Act--a seemingly routine measure providing federal support for the postal service. But where that act reaffirmed the inviolability of the mails from government snooping without a warrant, Bush in his signing statement gave himself a blank check to inspect any mail he wants--and screw the warrants.
Maybe he wanted to check out all the Christmas and Hanukah cards to look for illicit Muslim holiday greetings.
As disturbing as these things all are, there is precious little relief to be derived from watching the Democrats in their new role as majority party in the Congress.
Even with Paleolithic-aged ice sheets suddenly breaking away at both poles, global warming doesn't appear anywhere on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 100-hour agenda of urgent items, and with people like Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich) in key positions in the new Congress, with his record of obsequious support for the auto industry, it seems unlikely that much of consequence can be expected over the next two years. All the more so with Bush still pretending there's no problem.
As for the war, Democrats in leadership positions are falling all over themselves offering support for Bush's preferred "surge" option for expanding the war by sending as many as 32,000 additional troops to Iraq. It's as though the election, in which American voters made it clear they wanted the U.S. out of Iraq, never happened. In a few months, the Bush fiasco known as the Iraq War will be transformed into a full-fledged Democratic fiasco, just as the Vietnam War, initially a Democratic fiasco, became Nixon's fiasco in the late 1960s.
The irony was that today, the members of Congress, including especially the new members who have never served before as Senators and Representatives, were taking their oaths of office, in which they swore to "support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic."
Given the president's and vice president's extensive abuses of power and crimes against the law and the Constitution--which have included, among other things, lying to Congress and to the American people about the reasons for going to war, violating international law by invading another nation which posed no immediate threat, authorizing torture and kidnappings, violating the FISA law by spying on the American people, subverting and ignoring laws passed by the Congress, failing to act to protect the lives of the residents of an American city during a declared state of national emergency, and obstructing a federal investigation into the deliberate outing of an undercover CIA agent--it is nothing short of a violation of that very oath for Congress members not to be initiating an immediate investigation into impeachable crimes by the Bush administration and by the president and vice president in particular.
Instead we have Pelosi basking in the encomia at expensive party celebrations reminiscent of a presidential inaugural ball, all the while insisting that impeachment of the president is "off the table."
Pelosi should check the capital refrigerator. It's full of impeachable offenses that are going to start reeking if they aren't laid out on the table and acted on very soon.
One of the things I learned while exploring the Everglades was that alligators, while looking fearsome, are actually very timid animals with walnut-sized brains that leave them functioning largely by instinct. According to the park rangers, gators generally attack only small prey and shy away from anything larger than they can comfortably swallow whole.
In that, they sound not unlike Congressional Democrats, who may talk a good game on the stump, but who in office are afraid of their own shadows.
The good news is that the public is riled up, especially over the war, and on January 27, will show its anger to the new Congress, with a major march and rally in Washington DC for peace and impeachment.
Scared and startled, alligators can become truly aggressive and dangerous, park rangers say. Maybe if members of the new 110th Congress are confronted with masses of irate Americans demanding that the troops be brought home from Iraq and that the president be called to account for his crimes, they'll be scared into acting in accordance with the oaths they swore today.