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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid

(I am sending this letter by postal mail, with copies to my own Congressman and Senators). If enough people write similar letters, maybe they'll actually do some of this stuff)

Dear Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid:

It is thrilling to be able to write to both of you congratulating you on the Democrats' election victories and on your new positions in majority leadership.

The Democrats have been given a window to make real change. I'm writing to ask that we not squander it. It is time for meaningful change on order of FDR's First 100 Days--before the window slams shut and the American people once again have the sad image of a spineless do-nothing Congress, only this time with the Democrats in charge.

The biggest issue facing the US is foreign policy. President Bush managed to squander a huge international reservoir of good will toward the US in the aftermath of 911, along with the entire Clinton budget surplus, and the Democrats must work to rebuild our standing not as a rogue state but as a leader among nations in the campaign for world peace and prosperity. Specifically…
  • Get us out of Iraq NOW! That troubled country will face a civil war regardless of how long we stay. The longer we stay, the longer and more bloody that war is likely to be. As in Vietnam, let's get out and let them get it over with. Less blood will be shed than by staying. The only possibility I see for avoiding civil war is to divide the country among Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurdish factions—but that strategy hasn't worked well elsewhere in the world (e.g., India/Pakistan, Serbia/Albania, Ireland/Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine). Demand from the Bush administration an immediate timetable for phased withdrawal within 90 days.

  • Bring North Korea and Iran to the bargaining table. Use diplomacy to avoid additional wars.

  • Play a peacemaker role in the Israel/Palestine/Lebanon conflict--through which, if real progress can be made, it might actually influence Iraq toward peace.

  • Change the dynamics of the US role in Latin America. Right now, we're seen as "the neighborhood bully." It is time to form working coalitions with the promising new governments in that region, to identify and work toward mutual objectives.

    Another "elephant in the room" is energy policy. It is time for a Marshall Plan-style campaign for true energy independence, based on renewable and nonpolluting technologies such as solar, wind, and small-scale hydro. We need to see our rooftops as an energy (and possibly food) resource, and the government needs to put programs into place to make these systems affordable to those who can't come up with the large capital investment necessary to eliminate oil dependence and reduce carbon emissions/global warming in the long run. These could even be loans paid back directly out of energy savings. Large-scale involvement would bring down the price, make it affordable to every homeowner, reduce or eliminate dependence on foreign oil and uranium, reduce CO2 buildup and thus global warming. I live in a 1743 New England farmhouse and even in this somewhat challenging environment, solar systems provide nearly all our hot water and a portion of our electricity.

    A third major concern is fair elections. For starters every American needs to know that if they are registered to vote, they will be allowed to vote, and that their vote will be counted accurately. This requires a Federal law mandating voter-verifiable paper ballots, hand-counted in open and supervised public session. But beyond this basic and fundamental right, we need to be looking at other electoral reforms. Top of my list is Instant Runoff, which would take 3rd parties out of the role of "spoiler" and into the same kind of meaningful force and alternate voice that they provide in other democracies around the world.

    Fourth, the role of Congress. In the last few years, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibilities to the American people. Highly dubious, extremist Presidential appointments are approved with little debate. Massive bills are shoved at members at the last minute, with no time for adequate review. And the Legislative branch has been largely afraid to challenge the continuous power-grabs on the part of the Executive branch. The American people elected you to be part of the checks and balances, and I trust you will help your colleagues rise to their responsibility.

    And finally, there's the question of what to do about the many high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration. Rep. Pelosi, I understand why you would not want to engage in the divisive and all-consuming process of impeachment--but at the same time, we should not give these people a free ride for the serious crimes they have committed--for establishing a culture of greed, corruption, abuse of power, negation of the Legislative branch, corporate favoritism, unnecessary and unjustified curtailment of liberty, an international role as a pariah who has created space for terrorists that never existed before...and the unnecessary death and injury of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in a move that only strengthened the hand of our terrorist enemies. Perhaps the appropriate response is something like South Africa's Commission on truth and Reconciliation, that holds the perpetrators accountable but does not divide the country.

    In short, there's a big agenda, you have the support of the American people, and that support can be strengthened by an assertive program of action. I wish you the best of luck.


    Shel Horowitz

    cc: Hon. Richard Neal, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sen. John Kerry

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