Saturday, December 31, 2005

So true

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.

-Noam Chomsky

Evolution and Intelligent Design

I've just come across two websites with wonderfully accessible and scientifically accurate information about evidence for evolution and the claims anti-evolutionists make. They are:

Talk Origins


Talk Design

These are wonderfully browsable sites and will equip you to refute any assertion make by the pro-Creationism crowd.

Americans in a bubble

Did you see the recent Newsweek magazine that had Bush in a bubble on the cover? Well here's an article entitled "Americans in the bubble" that asserts that the people are in one too. Here's an excerpt:

Bush may not like to think of himself as a product of evolution; and his critics would find it hard to believe that he could be a progeny of "intelligent design." As a compromise, let's just advance the notion that he might be an archetype of mediocrity, a generational transplant from a once ruling class that forever lingers, living off its panache.

But whether he is, or has been, living in a bubble needn't be critically important to America; not to a democratic, politically-aware America. What is profoundly important, however, is whether Americans, not Bush, live in a bubble. For if we do, true democracy and political relevancy may be going down the tubes... and fast! After all, if Bush lives in a bubble, he does so by choice. But if Americans have accepted to live in a bubble, they have done so by surrendering their choice... by welcoming the captivity that comes with fear and ignorance.

Neither ideas nor ideologies are to be blame for the current state of affairs, for our imprisonment in the bubble. Americans are not captive of religion, but of religious quacks; they are not captive of free enterprise, but of predatory capitalists; they are not captive of some repressive form of government, but of corrupt politicians that milk the ideals of democracy for their own selfish ends.

When it comes to foreign policy, most politicians of the two acceptable denominations, aided by a "respectful" self-censured mainstream press, have pushed us into a bubble by instilling in us, in soft tones at times and vociferously on occasions, the need for dominance over other people in the world. Thus, America's three-prong foreign policy that spells empire: protection for Israel- under any and all circumstances; protection for our commercial colonialism- to maintain our so-called "standard of living" ["standard of consumption" would be more apropos]; and, of recent vintage, the right to preemptively check-mate any nation that might dare challenge America militarily, even in what could be interpreted as self-defense. In our bubble, we fail to understand why this behavior is so abhorrent to other peoples, other cultures, other nations.

On the home front, the US, for all its wealth in both resources and resourcefulness, has become the planet's breeding grounds for consumerism and greed. The government, shamelessly during the past five years, has disregarded meeting the most basic needs of America's growing "throw-away" class, now adding up to one-fourth of the nation's population... regardless of what government-friendly statistics [on poverty] say.

America is fast changing from a society with a long tradition of acceptable pluralism and charity-consciousness to a faith-based nation where patriotism wears best with a flag in the lapel, and skillful business deception is allowed to rule the day. It's this ongoing change, and the inability of Americans to see it, much less stop it, that gives credence to the proposition that we do live in a bubble.

Okay. You've heard me say this before - many times, in fact - but I'm going to say it again. Please don't get all your news from the mainstream American press. If you do, you'll stay in that bubble for sure. Here are some sources I can recommend:

The Guardian
Smirking Chimp
Common Dreams
Media Matters
Truthout News
Unknown News

Friday, December 30, 2005

The year regarding climate change

Here's an article I really want to share with you. It's from the UK newspaper the Independent and the article is entitled, "Review of the Year: Climate Change". Here's an excerpt:

The past 12 months have been one of the hottest periods ever recorded. When all the figures are in, this may prove to have been the warmest year in the global temperature record, although in mid-December British meteorological scientists were saying it was still just exceeded by 1998.

But, around the world, there have been unprecedented heat-waves. The thermometer reached an astonishing 50C - that's 122F - in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. Canada and Australia had their hottest-ever weather, while a record drought in Western Europe saw bush fires devastate much of Portugal's countryside.

Two other phenomena besides high temperatures pointed directly at climate change in 2005. One was the record melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and of land-based glaciers and ice sheets; the other was the record incidence of tropical storms.

In September, satellite measurements showed that the Arctic sea ice had melted to a record low extent - about 20 per cent below the long-term average - prompting fears that an irreversible decline has set in, and that the whole of the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free relatively soon, perhaps within two to three decades.

This is horrifying. How can people say with a straight face that it's not happening? I was listening to Science Friday on NPR this afternoon and one guest was talking about the anti-science climate in this country today and how scary that is. I suppose if you just don't believe in science, the empirical evidence will not persuade you.

Friday cat blogging!

Ethel and Edgar out in the sun:

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Some of the presidents failures

One of the blogs I check in with more or less regularly is No More Apples. Today I found this on a posting by someone whose screen name is Motherlode:

List after list of the president's failures should be drawn up and publicized, including, but certainly not limited to:

- Failure to find bin Laden
- The very limited number of actual terrorists that have been caught and brought to justice
- His poor grades on the 9/11 Commission's scorecard
- What looks to be the loss of a major, and unique, American city, and a large portion of the gulf coast
- The stagnation of wages vs. record corporate profits
- Republican and corporate corruption
- A million more Americans living below the poverty line
- Record deficits and trade imbalances
- A weakened military
- An increase in terror attacks worldwide
- Budget cuts for programs benefiting the poor and middle class and tax cuts benefiting the uberwealthy

Another thing I'd love is to see juxtaposed a clip of Bush after Katrina talking about rebuilding Trent Lott's vacation home with clips of people in New Orleans living in tents in the streets, then a bit of footage of Bush talking earnestly about supporting our men and women in Iraq split with our troops scavenging for armor to protect themselves and their vehicles. "THAT'S Republican priorities for you," the voiceover would intone. "THAT'S Republican values in action."

What about that surplus of funds that the Kerry campaign finished up with? Why couldn't some of that money be used for ads like the one above? Have we ever been told what happened to that money anyway? I contributed a fair amount of my hard earned money to that campaign and I, for one, would like to know.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

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Great comment

Whoever believes it is possible to preserve freedom by forsaking it is stupid.

- comment off of Smirking Chimp

They thought they were free.

Here's a comment off of Smirking Chimp. Very sobering:

What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with ______, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic.

Excerpted from They Thought They Were Free : The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer. The blank left in the above for effect is very easy to fill.

Sometimes I wonder if the complete descent into fascism is just what's inevitable and that it will just have to play itself out. If only the Democrats are able to take back the House in 2006 we'll be able to impeach Bush. But with Diebold voting machines owned and operated by Republicans, that's not very likely.

In looking for a link for the above book, I came across this one entitled, The Twilight of Democracy : The Bush Plan for America by Jennifer Van Bergen. Here's the description:

In The Twilight of Democracy, Jennifer Van Bergen dissects the signs of something gone terribly wrong. A massive superstructure is being constructed, whose shape can be discerned by the 2000 election, the enactment of the PATRIOT Act, the detentions at Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq, the withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, the promotion of the FTAA, the eradication of environmental protections, and a policy of increasing secrecy.

Jennifer Van Bergen helped raise the alarm with her six-part series "Repeal the Patriot Act." She is an adjunct faculty member of the New School for Social Research in NYC since 1993. She lectures on the antiterrorism laws and the Constitution.

One of the reasons I am so obsessed with finding news sources other than the mainstream press is that I don't want to wake up one day to a completely fascist tyranny being in place and have to admit to myself that I didn't even notice it happening. I have noticed and I fear it may already be too late.

Karen Armstrong in Cairo

This morning, Tom Vinson sent me an Aljazeera article about Karen Armstrong in Cairo. I first discovered Armstrong when I was living and working in Cape Town and an agnostic friend sent me a copy of her A History of God. She is a scholar of the world's great monotheistic faiths and someone who speaks out eloquently against fundamentalism in all its forms. Here are some excerpts from the article: What is the common denominator linking all the faiths you have studied?

: I would say compassion and the Golden Rule, ("don't do to others as you would not have done to you") which is what they all teach. I was with the Dalai Lama a couple of months ago and he said all religions teach kindness. He said: "My religion is kindness."

Compassion doesn't mean we have to feel warm affection for people - we have to learn to feel with them, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there.

We have to do that globally to learn other nations, other people, are as important as ourselves. If we don't like people speaking against our culture, bombing or terrorising us, we shouldn't do it to others.
In your book, [The] Battle for God, you wrote that fundamentalist religious movements claim God as their own. What are the similarities and differences between the various fundamentalist movements?

I've concentrated only on the ones in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Most of them began in fear - a fear of annihilation. All groups are convinced that modern secular liberalist society is going to wipe them out.

This is true across the board.

When they feel that their backs are against a wall, that's when they become aggressive, defensive and worried.

A profound hinging on this is a loss of identity - people not knowing where they are and feeling their values have been marginalised and kicked out of the way.

This produces a sense of frustration and impotent rage. They have a desire to bring God and all religion back to centre stage.

This expresses itself in an exaggerated vision of the enemy; all of them have cultivated blown-up versions of the enemy which reflects a great deal of their own sense of menace.

In some cultures, this fear and dread is hardening into rage and it was quite clear when I finished this book; some fundamentalism was becoming more extreme and moving into a new phase.

The whole article is interesting if you have time to click through and read it.

If you haven't discovered Karen Armstrong yet, I really recommend that you spend some time with her works. They are truly good. And she's branched out from the monotheistic religions and written a fascinating book about Buddhism too.

Still purring

All right, if you don't know by now that the issue that really concerns me overwhelmingly is animal cruelty, be advised of it today. CNN has a story - that, fortunately, has a happy ending - about horrible cruelty to a cat. Here's what it says:

A house cat survived being locked in a cage, thrown off a bridge and then stranded in an icy puddle of river slush.

The ordeal ended Tuesday morning when a pair of passers-by spotted the calico cat while crossing a footbridge and called for help.

Missoula firefighters arrived minutes later, donned wet suits and launched a rescue boat.

Someone had put the animal in a cage, along with a rock weighing about 16 pounds, and tossed it into the Clark Fork River. But instead of landing in the water, it bounced several times on the ice and then became stuck.

It's unclear how long the cat had been there.
"It was really skinny, nothing but skin and bones, and had collar marks where a too-small collar had rubbed the fur off its neck. But it was really friendly," firefighter Philip Keating said.

Firefighter Josh Macrow decided to keep the cat. After his shift, he took it to a veterinarian and then home to his 12-year-old daughter.

"It's the sweetest cat," Macrow said. "It sits on your shoulder when you drive down the road, and it curled up with my black Labs this morning."

Naming the animal was easy, he said.

"We call her Lucky."

How an animal can trust humans again after being treated so despicably is really amazing. What a good-hearted kitty to be so forgiving.

Please consider giving a year end gift to an animal welfare organization. There is much cruelty perpetrated against animals every day and the rescue organizations really need your help. Those I can heartily recommend are PETA, The Humane Society and Noah's Wish. I make a monthly pledge to both PETA and The Humane Society - each of which is automatically charged to my credit card - and the amount I budgeted for Katrina relief was sent to Noah's Wish. It's not a huge amount and I hardly notice it but the contributions really add up over the year and I have the satisfaction of knowing that that money is truly being used to help sentient beings who cannot possibly understand why they are suffering. Please consider helping.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Spying on the U.N.

Here's a story that's received almost no coverage at all in the U.S. press. It's reported by Norman Solomon in an article entitled, "NSA Spied on U.N. Diplomats in Push for Invasion of Iraq". Here are some important passages:

Despite all the news accounts and punditry since the New York Times published its Dec. 16 bombshell about the National Security Agency's domestic spying, the media coverage has made virtually no mention of the fact that the Bush administration used the NSA to spy on U.N. diplomats in New York before the invasion of Iraq.

That spying had nothing to do with protecting the United States from a terrorist attack. The entire purpose of the NSA surveillance was to help the White House gain leverage, by whatever means possible, for a resolution in the U.N. Security Council to green light an invasion. When that surveillance was exposed nearly three years ago, the mainstream U.S. media winked at Bush's illegal use of the NSA for his Iraq invasion agenda.

Back then, after news of the NSA's targeted spying at the United Nations broke in the British press, major U.S. media outlets gave it only perfunctory coverage -- or, in the case of the New York Times, no coverage at all. Now, while the NSA is in the news spotlight with plenty of retrospective facts, the NSA's spying at the U.N. goes unmentioned: buried in an Orwellian memory hole.

A rare exception was a paragraph in a Dec. 20 piece by Patrick Radden Keefe in the online magazine Slate -- which pointedly noted that "the eavesdropping took place in Manhattan and violated the General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the Headquarters Agreement for the United Nations, and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, all of which the United States has signed."
In early March 2003, journalists at the London-based Observer reported that the NSA was secretly participating in the U.S. government's high-pressure campaign for the U.N. Security Council to approve a pro-war resolution. A few days after the Observer revealed the text of an NSA memo about U.S. spying on Security Council delegations, I asked Daniel Ellsberg to assess the importance of the story. "This leak," he replied, "is more timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers." The key word was "timely."
Noting that the Bush administration "finds itself isolated" in its zeal for war on Iraq, the Times of London called the leak of the memo an "embarrassing disclosure." And, in early March 2003, the embarrassment was nearly worldwide. From Russia to France to Chile to Japan to Australia, the story was big mainstream news. But not in the United States.

Several days after the "embarrassing disclosure," not a word about it had appeared in the New York Times, the USA's supposed paper of record. "Well, it's not that we haven't been interested," Times deputy foreign editor Alison Smale told me on the evening of March 5, nearly 96 hours after the Observer broke the story. But "we could get no confirmation or comment" on the memo from U.S. officials. Smale added: "We would normally expect to do our own intelligence reporting." Whatever the rationale, the New York Times opted not to cover the story at all.

Some days I suffer from outrage fatigue. This is one of them. The New York Times continues to cover itself with shame. How the editors can sleep nights is beyond me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thank you, Santa!

I want to tell you about a terrific gift Santa Claus brought me. It's a Bill Maher DVD called, "I'm Swiss". Here's what I want to say: Go get it. Ask Santa for a late gift. You'll be glad you did. Basically, the performance (before a live audience) is one long rant against the Bush administration and it's funny as hell. Very, very satisfying.

Here's an excerpt from one of the Amazon reviews:

If intolerance of individual opinion is one of Maher's targets, another is stupidity. He is brilliant at identifying nonsense and characterizing it as such. He is also unswerving in calling a dime a dime. For instance, he points out the cowardly lack of courage shown by the media for referring to Strom Thurmond's fathering a child by a black servant in the 1925 Jim Crow South Carolina as "having an affair," as if an 18-year-old black servant had any choice in the matter. Maher calls it what it almost certainly was: rape.

But as he calls our attention to one political issue after another, Maher laces it with humor. So, in the end there are two very good reasons to see this, first to be entertained, and second to be informed. Either reason would be sufficient on its own, but together they make this a must-see.

I agree. Find a way to see this DVD. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Just-when-I-think-I-can't-be-shocked-anymore department

Cynthia Burgess sent me the following quote by, yes, George Bush himself:

I do know I'm ready for the job [the presidency].
And if not, that's just the way it goes.

Can you believe he said that?

Check it out for yourself in this review of George W. Bushisms: The Slate Book Of Accidental Wit And Wisdom Of Our 43rd President.

The social reality of our country

Here's a comment from one of the threads on Eschaton I thought worthy of sharing:

Don't get me wrong. I like Reagan just as much as the next guy. But I would have liked it more when Ronnie got Altzheimers if he did not have any kind of health insurance and Nancy had to lose every fuckin' thing she owned to get him healthcare and poor healthcare at that. The kind where he would lie around in his own excrement for hours at a time getting bed sores. Like so many others do in the America he made. Then we could say, why didn't he plan for his future? Or why didn't he invest in this or that? And then do nothing whatsoever to help him other than to be critical of him. Now that would have been a just ending for that thing they once called the pResident.

And it's getting even worse under Bush. What causes a country to become so greedy and callous that it refuses to take care of its own people?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Queen's Christmas message

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Something the Queen said today struck me powerfully. Here's the excerpt from a report by CNN entitled, "Queen delivers somber message":

She said that during this Christmas her "thoughts are especially with those everywhere who are grieving the loss of loved ones during what for so many has been such a terrible year."

The queen said that in Britain itself "many people's lives were totally changed by the London bombings in July" and she said "I have sometimes thought that humanity seemed to have turned on itself -- with wars, civil disturbances and acts of brutal terrorism."

She called the humanitarian response after the tragedies from "people of compassion" as "quite remarkable," noting that religious faith was the inspiration "in many cases" for such a reaction.

"Christianity is not the only religion to teach its followers to help others and to treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated yourself. It has been clear that in the course of this year relief workers and financial support have come from members of every faith and from every corner of the world."

"Humanity seems to have turned on itself". Yes, it does seem that way. The question is why. Why do we seem to be determined to destroy ourselves as a species? It grieves me profoundly to see what we are doing.

But there is a way through. Let us simply decide to do as much good as we can and accept that over which we are powerless with equanimity.

And let us support one another on the path.

Yuletide blessings to all.

The Christmas truce

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It seems fitting today to remember a remarkable outbreak of peace that happened during World War I. The Nation has an article about it entitled, "Short Peace In A Terrible War":

Rather, Anderson recalled in an interview on the 90th anniversary of the truce, "there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas,' even though nobody felt merry."

The calls of "Merry Christmas" from the Brits were answered by Germans singing: "Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht."

The Brits responded by singing "Silent Night" in English. Then, from the trenches opposite them, climbed a German soldier who held a small tree lit with candles and shouted in broken English, "Merry Christmas. We not shoot. You not shoot."

Thus, began the Christmas Truce. Soldiers of both armies -- more than a million in all -- climbed from the trenches along the Western Front to exchange cigarettes and military badges. They even played soccer, using the helmets they had taken off as goalposts. And they did not rush to again take up arms. Along some stretches of the Front, the truce lasted into January of 1915.

Finally, distant commanders forced the fighting to begin anew.

Thus, it has ever been with war. As George McGovern, the decorated World War II veteran who would become one of America's greatest champions of peace, "old men (are always) thinking up wars for young men to die in."

But Alfred Anderson remembered, well beyond the century of two world wars and too many lesser conflicts, that the young men of opposing armies often have more in common with one another than they do with the old men who send them into battle.

Once, on a Christmas Day that ought not be forgotten, the young men decided to make a short peace in a terrible war.

May it be so again. And may the hearts of the old men be softened and brought to compassion by the true meaning of Christmas.

Peace on earth; good will to all people.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Media falsehoods on the spying scandal

Media Matters has an article entitled, "Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal" in which the falsehoods are listed and thoroughly debunked.

Check this out to see what the right leaning media is trying to get you to believe:

1: Timeliness necessitated bypassing the FISA court - MYTH

2: Congress was adequately informed of -- and approved -- the administration's actions - MYTH

3: Warrantless searches of Americans are legal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - MYTH

4: Clinton, Carter also authorized warrantless searches of U.S. citizens - MYTH

5: Only Democrats are concerned about the Bush administration's secret surveillance - MYTH

6: Debate is between those supporting civil liberties and those seeking to prevent terrorism - MYTH

7: Bin Laden phone leak demonstrates how leak of spy operation could damage national security - MYTH

8: Gorelick testimony proved Clinton asserted "the same authority" as Bush - MYTH

9: Aldrich Ames investigation is example of Clinton administration bypassing FISA regulations - MYTH

10: Clinton administration conducted domestic spying - MYTH

11: Moussaoui case proved that FISA probable-cause standard impedes terrorism probes - MYTH

12: A 2002 FISA review court opinion makes clear that Bush acted legally - MYTH

Click through to read details as to why these are all falsehoods.

I really need to train myself to read Media Matters every single day. The misinformation that's promulgated by the mainstream press is appalling.


Now this is a hoot. The GOP web page says "Happy Holidays". Look:

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Wow. The Republican National Committee hates Christmas. Somebody tell Bill O'Reilly quick.

Now the link I've given you takes you directly to the web page. Of course, they may well change it soon now that they've got the left taunting them about it, but trust me, when I posted this, the picture above WAS on their front page.
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Some facts about Christmas

Here's an excerpt from an article entitled "O'Reilly's fraudulent 'War on Christmas'" that gives us perspective on the "reason for the season":

Maybe if O'Reilly and the other conservative idiots pimping this phony war on Christmas did a bit of reading on the origin of the holiday, they wouldn't be so quick to defend it.

Because the Yuletide celebration goes back considerably further than the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago.

Most famously, the Romans celebrated their Saturnalia with seven days of drinking, feasting and gift-giving around this time of year. Their neighbors to the north, the Celts, had their own version of the holiday, one that involved the lighting of trees, decorative wreaths and kissing under the mistletoe.

The church didn't get around to assigning a birthday to Jesus until 336 A.D., and most scholars believe Dec. 25 was chosen because people still celebrated the pagan festivals despite having become nominally Christian.

So deeply entrenched were the pagan origins of the holiday that the Puritan pilgrims of New England outlawed the celebration of Christmas entirely."

Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas and the like, either by feasting, forbearing labor, or any other way ... every such person so offending shall pay for each offense five shillings as a fine to the country," read the early statute.

And Puritan clergyman Increase Mather found Christmas nothing but "mad mirth ... highly dishonorable to the name of Christ."

It wasn't until 1877 that our most alcoholic of presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, signed a law making Christmas a federal holiday, paving the way for countless office parties celebrants have difficulty remembering afterward. A fitting legacy if ever there was one.

Not even the pious Pope Benedict XVI agrees with O'Reilly and his ilk. Speaking on Dec. 11, the pope said that rampant consumerism, not the ACLU, was the biggest threat to Christmas."

In today's consumer society, this time is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit," he said. O'Reilly would likely say the pontiff is out of touch, as he did when Pope John Paul II came out against the American invasion of Iraq.

Whatever you celebrate, may it be joyous. As the author of our article here says:

Anyway, here's hoping you have the best Christmas ever. Or the best Hanukkah. Or the best Kwanzaa. Or the best Saturnalia or Yuletide.

Now, isn't it just easier saying "Happy Holidays"?

Happy Holidays, indeed!

Friday, December 23, 2005

A reminder

I've posted this before but, with the latest hoopla about a so-called "war on Christmas", it's worth reminding ourselves of the Treaty of Tripoli which was written during George Washington's presidency. It said this:

As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The claim that we are a "Christian nation" is an out and out lie.

All the presdient's lies

Well, Tom Daschle has written a piece in the Washington Post refuting the president's claim that congress authorized him to conduct warrantless wiretaps on American citizens. Here's part of what Daschle says:

In the face of mounting questions about news stories saying that President Bush approved a program to wiretap American citizens without getting warrants, the White House argues that Congress granted it authority for such surveillance in the 2001 legislation authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda. On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said the president "was granted authority by the Congress to use all means necessary to take on the terrorists, and that's what we've done."

As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

Later he goes on to say the following:

If the stories in the media over the past week are accurate, the president has exercised authority that I do not believe is granted to him in the Constitution, and that I know is not granted to him in the law that I helped negotiate with his counsel and that Congress approved in the days after Sept. 11. For that reason, the president should explain the specific legal justification for his authorization of these actions, Congress should fully investigate these actions and the president's justification for them, and the administration should cooperate fully with that investigation.

In the meantime, if the president believes the current legal architecture of our country is insufficient for the fight against terrorism, he should propose changes to our laws in the light of day.

But what this administration hates is the light of day. This is undoubtedly the most secretive administration in the history of our nation.

Tom Daschle, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota, was Senate majority leader in 2001-02. He is now distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Friday cat blogging!

Leroy in profile:

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Gospel Truth

I'm quite an admirer of the writings of Chris Floyd. Today he offers an article entitled Gospel Truth that I really wish the president would read this Christmas time. Of course, as Bush has boasted, he's not much on reading and he never reads newspapers so my wish is just an idle fantasy. Here's how Floyd's article gets started:

Countless words of condemnation have been heaped upon President George W. Bush and his hard-right regime -- a crescendo growing louder by the day, with voices from across the political spectrum. But the most devastating repudiation of the regime's foul ethos was actually delivered almost 2,000 years ago by the man whose birth is celebrated at this season of the year.

We speak, of course, of Jesus of Nazareth, whose Sermon on the Mount called for a revolutionary transformation of human nature -- a complete overthrow of our natural instincts for greed, aggression and self-aggrandizement. This radical vision -- erupting in the turbulent backwater of a brutal world empire -- is the true miracle of Jesus' life, not the primitive fables about virgin births, magic tricks and corpses rising from the dead. The vision's living force sears through dogma, casts down the pomp of church and state, and gives the lie to every hypocrite who evokes Jesus' name in pursuit of earthly power.

Bush professes to believe that Jesus is the son of God, whose words are literally divine commands. Yet anyone who compares what Jesus really said to Bush's actions in power -- the abandonment of the poor, the exaltation of the rich; the dirty insider deals, the culture of corruption, the politics of smear and slander; the perversion of law to countenance murder, torture and predatory war -- can readily see that this profession of faith is a monstrous deceit.

Bush, along with his politicized, pseudo-religious "base," may well believe that some divine being approves of their unbridled greed, aggression and self-aggrandizement; but this mythical godling in their heads has nothing to do with the man from Nazareth who, as Matthew and Luke tell it, went up into a mountain one day and began to preach:

"Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh."

"But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep."

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you: Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."

Floyd offers more sayings of Jesus that are in direct contradiction to the Bush administration's approach to life. I've never understood how being a Christian can include taking no notice of what Jesus actually taught. But the Republicans manage.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why don't we listen to our founding fathers?

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

~~James Madison

A different kind of news

Well, I've decided to post occasionally on non-political topics when I come across an interesting article. I'll offer reports that I think you'd be unlikely to come across otherwise. Today I'm sharing one that is particularly interesting to me. It's from NPR and is entitled, "One-Room Schools Holding on in Rural America". Here are a couple of passages:

One-room schools still exist in America. They are a legacy of a less mobile, more rural time in American history. Mostly serving isolated communities, the remaining schools require one teacher to educate children of varying ages at the same time in a single classroom.
In most one-room schools, there are few students. The result is a good student-teacher ratio. At Lennep Elementary in Meagher County, Mont., for example, four students, from kindergarten through fifth grade study at their own speed. All of them, the teacher says, are advancing at a rapid pace.

It's also not unusual for students to have the same teacher for many years in a row, a concept referred to as "looping" when it's used in larger schools. And in one-room schools, the older students often help the younger ones.

These qualities make one-room schools unique centers of learning, worth a second look from a world that has passed them by. But the schools are often more than a place to get an education. They are also important centers of community activity for the rural areas where they still exist.

Back when I was a young teacher I very much wanted the opportunity to teach in a one-room school. I still think it's a model that could well help today's children learn and thrive. I'm glad a few still exist.
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An evil Vice President

Well, I'm bringing you an article just because of the title: "Does Dick Cheney know he's evil?" Interesting question. Here's how the article gets started:

Dick Cheney was on a tear yesterday. He got the ball rolling by firing off the following quote defending the President's right to spy on Americans with no approval from any court. "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority and I think that the world we live in demands it," Cheney said. "I would argue that the actions that we've taken there are totally appropriate and consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."

Cheney then said he felt that after the Nixon administration executive power has been diminished and needs to be restored. Is it just me or is this a chilling quote? It seems like a line from the Emperor in the most recent Star Wars: "The Power of the Emperor must not be limited by the council or the Jedi in a time of war!"

Cheney then cast the deciding vote on budget cuts that seriously limit Medicaid and Student Loans for Americans. This after Congress just made permanent large tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent in our country.

Does Dick Cheney know he's evil? I mean it. Does he occasionally look up from his breakfast of one hard boiled egg and a plate of heart pills and say to himself, "Man, I'm an evil fuck"?

Bush and Cheney have presided over one of the worst runs in American history: starting a war based on lies that has cost tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions; total failure to deal with Katrina and then blaming others for that failure; basically legalizing torture; outing a CIA spy; tax breaks for millionaires; huge no bid contracts to Cheney's former company; a crazily-divided country that has lost the respect and trust of the world; insane trade deficits...etc, etc, etc, etc.

And now Cheney says they need even more power?

They will stop at nothing short of dictatorial power. They already have it, really. But they want to do away with the inconvenience of having to pretend to be accountable to the American people. It's genuinely tragic to be alive in the generation that's seeing the demise of the American republic. Genuinely tragic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What the president said

Okay, this is off the White House website. It's dated July 14, 2004. Here's what he said:

THE PRESIDENT: Let me -- that's a great question. A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.

We now know he was using wiretaps without a warrant at that time. So the president out and out lied.
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Oh the decadence

This is just unbelivable. Read:

ABOARD AIR FORCE II Dec 21, 2005 — Vice President Dick Cheney didn't suffer for lack of comfort on the cavernous cargo plane that he rode into Iraq and Afghanistan this week.

The Air Force loaded the plane with the "silver bullet," a mobile home in the sky strapped down in the middle of the belly. The accommodations included sleeping and working quarters that protected him from the noise and cold of the cargo hold during a more than five-hour flight into Baghdad.

The rest of his traveling party was not so lucky. Cheney's senior staff and junior aides were assigned to a cramped three rows of seats in front of the bullet, while reporters and Secret Service agents had to sit in jump seats along the side with a view of Cheney's stainless steel exterior walls.

Cheney used the C-17 cargo plane for security purposes when flying to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. The C-17 is an inconspicuous gray aircraft less likely to draw attention than the normal Air Force II a blue and white 757 emblazoned "United States of America" in the same style as the president's larger Air Force One.

I just don't know what to say. Well, I can say this: Your tax dollars at work, folks.

A man of integrity

I figured this was something you should know:

WASHINGTON - A federal judge has resigned from a special court set up to oversee government surveillance, apparently in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program on people with suspected terrorist ties. U.S. District Judge James Robertson would not comment Wednesday on his resignation, but The Washington Post reported that it stemmed from deep concern that the surveillance program Bush authorized was legally questionable and may have tainted the work of the court.

Wouldn't it be good to see mass resignations? Sadly, that will never happen in today's America. But this man's actions are truly inspiring. Let us hope for more acts of integrity by those in positions of public power and influence.

Police state America

Sean Gonsalves has written an article entitled, "Is U.S. Becoming a Police State?" Here's the way he ends it:

All this eavesdropping business reminded me of C. William Michael's 2002 book ''No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and the Rise of the National Security State.''

Besides providing a detailed analysis of the USA Patriot Act, he lays out the 12 most common characteristics of a national security state.

1. Visible increase in uniformed security. Got that;

2. Lack of accountability in law enforcement. George Tenet got a medal for his fine WMD work and ''Brownie'' was praised for doing a heckuva job in the Katrina aftermath;

3. Reduced judiciary and executive treatment of suspects. Can you say ''detainee''?;

4. Secrecy of ruling authority and momentum of threat. It's an open secret that this administration has taken official secrecy to a whole new level;

5. Media in the service of the state. The Times held the eavesdropping story for a year, to say nothing of the WMD reporting of the major media in the run-up to the war;

6. National resources devoted to security threat. The most recent budget passed in Congress speaks for itself;

7. Patriotism moving to nationalism. Since 9-11, America was divided in two - between those who don't know the difference between patriotism and nationalism and those who are terrorist-sympathizing, blame-America-first traitors;

8. Lack of critical response by religions. Name one prominent national church leader critical of the way U.S. power has been wielded. At this point, I'll settle for a religious leader who isn't telling their parishioners to vote Republican to stop abortion and gay rights or who isn't calling for the assassination of foreign leaders;

9. Wartime mentality and permanent war economy. See any Bush speech;

10. Targeted individuals and groups. Scott Ritter, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson, Cindy Sheehan and come to mind;

11. Direct attack on dissent. See previous comment; and

12. Increased surveillance of citizenry. Or as it's being called now, a ''special collection program.''

Remember this list was written in 2002. A lot has gone down since then. As we learned just yesterday, now they're spying on Quakers, Catholic Workers and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) I'm a PETA member with a monthly pledge automatically charged to my credit card. I guess the goons have a file on me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

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Molly Ivins weighs in

Okay. Molly Ivins has a great column on the domestic spying story. It's called, "Good old Constitutional crisis" and it starts like this:

AUSTIN, Texas -- Uh-oh. Excuse me. I'm so sorry, but we are having a constitutional crisis. I know the timing couldn't be worse. Right in the middle of the wrapping paper, the gingerbread and the whole shebang, a tiny honest-to-goodness constitutional crisis.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country: Damn the inconvenience, full speed ahead. On his own, without consulting the Congress, the courts or the people, the president decided to use secret branches of government to spy on the American people. He is, of course, using 9-11 to justify his actions in this, as he does for everything else -- 9-11 happened so the Constitution does not apply, 9-11 happened so there is no separation of powers, 9-11 happened so 200 years of experience curbing the executive power of government is something we can now overlook.

That the president of the United States unconstitutionally usurped power is not in dispute. He and his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, both claim he has the right to do so on account of he is the president.

Let's try this again. The president is not above the law. I wish I thought I were being too pompous about this, but the greatest danger to our freedom always comes when we are scared or distracted -- and right now, we are both.

Only I don't think it's a tiny constitutional crisis. I think it's a big constitutional crisis. Once you decide the fourth amendment can simply be ignored because you're the president, you have set the precedent for ignoring the whole Bill of Rights.

Now, about 9-11. Here's the comment someone made when this article was posted on Smirking Chimp:

Go get 'em Molly!

Molly pointedly notes, "He is, of course, using 9-11 to justify his actions in this, as he does for everything else".

We know the main stream media has done a poor job reporting on the 9-11 Commission's giving the administration grades of D and F in terms of preventing another terrorist attack. But few are aware of the even more significant lack of coverage of credible information indicating that the premise of 911 is wrong.

The New York Times has just released an oral history of the first-hand reports of firefighters who were in the World Trade Center towers after the planes hit. They report hearing explosives being set off inside the buildings. Dr. Steven Jones, a professor of physics from Brigham Young University has written a very incriminating scientific paper (available at that argues a controlled demolition is the most reasonable explanation for the collapse of the twin towers and WTC Building 7.

Imagine the implications if Dr. Jones is correct!

He urges an independent scientific investigation to determine whether controlled demolition or the administration's official story better explain what happened to the World Trade Center.

Additional information, allowing comparison of the official story vs. the controlled demolition scientific argument is available at .

I'm tired of tip-toeing around the 9-11 story. The official account just doesn't add up - never did add up. I think this administration has amply proven that they are capable of anything. They've demonstrated they will happily trash the Constitution and they've demonstrated they'll happily send thousands of Americans to be killed or horribly maimed on the basis of a blatant lie. What won't they do? Ask yourself who benefited from 9-11. Think about it. And before you write me off as a conspiracy theorist, please read this article by Gore Vidal who is no crack-pot. Especially read the section entitled, "Bush and the dog that did not bark".

Some good news

I just hope there's not a fundamentalist backlash to what CNN reports here:

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- "Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

Yeah, "good Christians" the lot of them.

Dictator Bush

Thank God for Senator Robert Byrd. Yesterday he gave a speech on the senate floor which was entitled "No President Is Above the Law" by Common Dreams when publishing it. It's short so I recommend that you click through and read all of it but I'll show you this excerpt which for me is the most powerful part:

The President claims a boundless authority through the resolution that authorized the war on those who perpetrated the September 11th attacks. But that resolution does not give the President unchecked power to spy on our own people. That resolution does not give the Administration the power to create covert prisons for secret prisoners. That resolution does not authorize the torture of prisoners to extract information from them. That resolution does not authorize running black-hole secret prisons in foreign countries to get around U.S. law. That resolution does not give the President the powers reserved only for kings and potentates.

I continue to be shocked and astounded by the breadth with which the Administration undermines the constitutional protections afforded to the people, and the arrogance with which it rebukes the powers held by the Legislative and Judicial Branches. The President has cast off federal law, enacted by Congress, often bearing his own signature, as mere formality. He has rebuffed the rule of law, and he has trivialized and trampled upon the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizures guaranteed to Americans by the United States Constitution.

I, too, am shocked. The president is a criminal. An admitted criminal. (Not only did he admit what he did, he seems proud of it.) Now you know that if this were a Democratic president the Republicans would be screaming impeachment from the housetops.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What DON'T we know?

I've just discovered the web page of Grant Gerver. I've seen him quoted over on All Hat No Cattle from time to time but hadn't thought to do a search on him. Here's something he just said:

IT'S PERSONAL NOW: I saw President "Spying Liar" speaking with Jim Lehrer last night on PBS. I have never witnessed a bigger embarrassment in my life. Lehrer was unyielding about the NSA spying scandal, torture, the Patriot Act, DeLay, Libby, and "THE LEAK." Bush was a fidgeting mess. He was so non-credible you could tell HE didn't even believe his own bullshit. You just knew he was coached by Scott McClellan. How anyone in their right-wing mind could honestly believe and support this unpatriotic bastard of a president is seriously beyond my comprehension. How ANYONE could look at this tyrant and feel good about being an American would require an overdose of ecstacy. I am ashamed he is my President, I am ashamed for what he's done to our Country, and I am ashamed of what he has done to the World. Ladies and gentlemen: George Walker Bush is unquestionably the TERRORIST we must fear most. AND, knowing what we know now, WHAT DON'T WE KNOW?!

That's right. What DON'T we know???? It's really unnerving to think about it that way but I believe we must. This president is simply shredding the Constitution and not only does he not deny it, he's PROUD of it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

We have lost our freedom

I suppose when I lose my ability to be shocked I will have turned truly cynical. I'm not there yet because the president's defense of domestic spying shocked me. Apparently it has shocked others as well. The Washington Post has an article about it called, "Pushing the Limits Of Wartime Powers". Here's how it gets started:

In his four-year campaign against al Qaeda, President Bush has turned the U.S. national security apparatus inward to secretly collect information on American citizens on a scale unmatched since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s.

The president's emphatic defense yesterday of warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and residents marked the third time in as many months that the White House has been obliged to defend a departure from previous restraints on domestic surveillance. In each case, the Bush administration concealed the program's dimensions or existence from the public and from most members of Congress.

Since October, news accounts have disclosed a burgeoning Pentagon campaign for "detecting, identifying and engaging" internal enemies that included a database with information on peace protesters. A debate has roiled over the FBI's use of national security letters to obtain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans. And now come revelations of the National Security Agency's interception of telephone calls and e-mails from the United States -- without notice to the federal court that has held jurisdiction over domestic spying since 1978.

Defiant in the face of criticism, the Bush administration has portrayed each surveillance initiative as a defense of American freedom. Bush said yesterday that his NSA eavesdropping directives were "critical to saving American lives" and "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution." After years of portraying an offensive waged largely overseas, Bush justified the internal surveillance with new emphasis on "the home front" and the need to hunt down "terrorists here at home."

Bush's constitutional argument, in the eyes of some legal scholars and previous White House advisers, relies on extraordinary claims of presidential war-making power. Bush said yesterday that the lawfulness of his directives was affirmed by the attorney general and White House counsel, a list that omitted the legislative and judicial branches of government. On occasion the Bush administration has explicitly rejected the authority of courts and Congress to impose boundaries on the power of the commander in chief, describing the president's war-making powers in legal briefs as "plenary" -- a term defined as "full," "complete," and "absolute."

Well! With that argument, all Bush has to do is keep us perpetually at war and he becomes, in effect, a dictator. Wake up, people! It is happening here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Liberal basics

Liberals have been blamed for all the ills of society by the right-wingers. Sometimes it's easy to forget just what it means to be liberal. I'm sharing an article with you today called "A Manifesto (for Democrats & Liberals)" that outlines the basics. Here are some examples:

That means National Security. We don’t want angry foreigners flying planes into the World Trade Center.

That means law and order. We don’t want home grown wackos blowing up federal buildings. We want our homes to be safe, our streets to be safe, our schools to be safe.

Everybody should be able to get some kind of job. Anybody who works deserves a living wage. And appropriate benefits. Those who can’t work – because they’re children or too old or ill or disabled or because there are no jobs available – still need to eat. And live in tolerable conditions. We need to continue to make sure that happens. Those who have worked and have earned social security, health care and pensions, deserve to get what they have earned. We need to protect that.

The Democratic Party is the party of business.

Here’s a really bizarre statistic for you. The Dow Jones average today is almost exactly where it was the day George Bush came into office. If you take inflation into account that means over the course of five years it’s gone down about 8%. From the time Bill Clinton came into office and the time he left, the Dow went up 320%.

The Republican Party is good for Enron types. It’s good for people who want short term windfall profits – oil, pharmaceuticals and big government contractors like Halliburton. It’s good for people who don’t work but inherit money and live off of dividends and capital gains while they sip daquiris in Palm Beach. But it’s not good for business.

Government is necessary. It’s good for a lot of things. Indeed it does many things better than business can: defend the country, wage war, reinforce the levees when the hurricanes are coming, rebuild countries, provide infrastructure and education, save business from its own excesses and much, much more. We believe in doing those things well. The Republicans believe in only doing them some way that someone profits from them. Which is why they do them so badly.

We believe in religion. Faith. Spirituality.

This country was founded in large part by people who wanted freedom to worship their own way. We know from them – and from current events - that when religion and government mix, the first thing that happens is that someone else’s right to worship is oppressed.

The best thing that government can do for religion is stay out of it.

That's just the start. Go read the article. All of it. It's worth sending to your Republican friends. (Or not. Depends on how much conflict you want!)

Friday, December 16, 2005

A former Republican speaks out.

Okay. Click right on through to Smirking Chimp and read this article - all of it. It's entitled, "Are we really this stupid?" and here's how it gets started:

The deficit is careening out of control. Health care costs are through the roof. We've started a disastrous war in Iraq that threatens the stability of the whole region. Osama bin Laden has never been caught. The 9/11 Commission says four years after the attacks on this country, we are failing to protect the American people.

And what are the Republicans talking about? Tax cuts that go largely to the upper class. The war on Christmas. The gay marriage amendment. Flag burning. Does anyone believe these are the real pressing concerns of the American people? Is our top problem that the rich don't have enough tax breaks?

I'm a former Republican and I understand the value of tax cuts and I am strictly opposed to class warfare. But are there no bounds of reason? We have record deficits that only promise to get worse. Our national debt is over eight trillion dollars! That means we owe over $27,000 for every man, woman and child in America. In the midst of this financial recklessness, the Republicans are passing even more tax cuts.

Last week, the Republican House voted for $95 billion of new tax cuts. This is fiscal insanity. They were so proud of themselves for tightening their belt on spending by cutting $50 billion in Medicaid, food stamps, and federal student loans. And I might have supported this if it were part of a package to truly balance the budget. But when they turned around and added $45 billion more to the deficit with their reckless tax cuts, their position became untenable.

These guys are like a bunch of spoiled kids who don't understand the concept of a budget. We desperately need some grown-ups back in government.

Mind you, I don't believe in screwing the poor in order to balance the budget but his point that the Republicans have become completely unreasonable is an important one. Then later the author says the following after first ranting about no-bid contracts and bribes:

The Democrats use to be the tax and spend party. Now, it looks like the Republicans are the tax and steal party. How much of this are we going to tolerate?

Apparently a lot, because God forbid we should have gays getting married or for someone to say "Holiday" instead of "Christmas." Are we really this stupid as a nation?

While this administration and Congress rob us blind and give hundreds of billions of tax cuts to the wealthiest among us, we sit around worrying about whether someone says Happy Holidays.

I hate to say it but, yes, we are really this stupid. It's embarrassing. And depressing as hell.

Friday cat blogging!

Here's Henry - sitting in the window:

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Head Start

I got this message from True Majority this morning:

Dear Ellie,

To fund tax cuts for millionaires, Congress is poised TODAY to remove 35,000 kids from HeadStart – widely regarded as one of the government’s most successful programs at lifting people out of poverty.

Two years ago, TrueMajorityACTION members swung into action and successfully stopped proposed cuts then. Amazingly, the budgeteers have chosen the Holiday Season to launch yet another attack on Head Start. So our friends at the National Head Start Association are mounting another defense of the kids living in poverty who benefit from this program.

Please take just a minute to check this out and take action. It’s fast, easy and the right thing to do this season.

Take Action

Duane PetersonTrueMajorityACTION

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years as an undergraduate I worked as a teacher's aide for Head Start. It is a wonderful program and does terrific things in enriching the lives of young children while preparing them for school. The very idea of cutting this program is beyond reprehensible.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Polar bears are drowning

O God. This just kills me. The article is from the Wall Street Journal and it's entitled, "Is Global Warming Killing the Polar Bears?" Here's what it says:

It may be the latest evidence of global warming: Polar bears are drowning.

Scientists for the first time have documented multiple deaths of polar bears off Alaska, where they likely drowned after swimming long distances in the ocean amid the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The bears spend most of their time hunting and raising their young on ice floes.

In a quarter-century of aerial surveys of the Alaskan coastline before 2004, researchers from the U.S. Minerals Management Service said they typically spotted a lone polar bear swimming in the ocean far from ice about once every two years. Polar-bear drownings were so rare that they have never been documented in the surveys.

But in September 2004, when the polar ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of the northern coast of Alaska, researchers counted 10 polar bears swimming as far as 60 miles offshore. Polar bears can swim long distances but have evolved to mainly swim between sheets of ice, scientists say.
While the government researchers won't speculate on why a climate change is taking place in the Arctic, environmentalists unconnected to the survey say U.S. policies emphasizing oil and gas development are exacerbating global warming, which is accelerating the melting of the ice. "For anyone who has wondered how global warming and reduced sea ice will affect polar bears, the answer is simple -- they die," said Richard Steiner, a marine-biology professor at the University of Alaska.

The environmental group Greenpeace began airing a 30-second commercial yesterday in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and other cities showing an animated adult polar bear and a cub on a cracking ice floe. The two bears, nowhere near land, slip underneath the water. "Polar bears may soon be extinct because of global warming," the voice-over states. It ends with "Global Warming: It's the Real Thing," a takeoff of a Coca-Cola Co. commercial featuring polar bears.

Of course, the right-leaning Wall Street Journal had to give equal time to the people who say global warming has nothing to do with emissions of greenhouse gases. Shame!

Wikipedia vindicated

The wonderful website Wikipedia has come under criticism lately because someone posted a fraudulent article on it. CNN tells the story:

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that relies on volunteers to pen nearly 4 million articles, is about as accurate in covering scientific topics as Encyclopedia Britannica, the journal Nature wrote in an online article published Wednesday.

The finding, based on a side-by-side comparison of articles covering a broad swath of the scientific spectrum, comes as Wikipedia faces criticism over the accuracy of some of its entries.

Two weeks ago prominent journalist John Seigenthaler, the former publisher of the Tennessean newspaper and founding editorial director of USA Today, revealed that a Wikipedia entry that ran for four months had incorrectly named him as a longtime suspect in the assassinations of president John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

Such errors appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said in Wednesday's article, which the scientific journal said was the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia to Britannica. Based on 42 articles reviewed by experts, the average scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four errors or omissions, while Britannica had three.

Of eight "serious errors" the reviewers found -- including misinterpretations of important concepts -- four came from each source, the journal reported.

"We're very pleased with the results and we're hoping it will focus people's attention on the overall level of our work, which is pretty good," said Jimmy Wales, who founded St. Petersburg, Florida-based Wikipedia in 2001.

Any reference work can contain errors. What is wonderful about Wikipedia is that it is a self-correcting process. I just love it. Of course, for any serious research, more than one source is needed. But for background information or raising one's level of awareness, Wikipedia can't be beat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bill O'Reilly again

Look, I'm sorry to bring you more information about the right-wing's belief in a "war on Christmas" but it's just getting ridiculous. Media Matters has two articles today on Bill O'Reilly's nonsense. His attitude is bad enough. He's also simply lying or at least not bothering to check his facts. First of all, he is claiming that the Post Office is no longer offering a religious Christmas stamp. That is patently false. I just bought two books worth of the Madonna and Child stamp on Monday. That article is entitled "O'Reilly falsely claimed that "spiritual" Christmas stamps are no longer being offered". Here's an excerpt:

A December 2 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about "the Internet and public conversation awash with horror that no new religiously themed stamp was printed for the 2005 season" quoted Diana Svoboda, a spokeswoman for the USPS' Pittsburgh district, stating that reports of the Postal Service planning to discontinue religiously themed Christmas stamps were "absolutely not true." The Post-Gazette article went on to report that although a new design is typically chosen for the "Madonna and Child" every year, this year USPS opted not to print a new design, due to an overstock of 37-cent "Madonna and Child" stamps left over from the previous Christmas season. USPS is increasing the price of first-class stamps to 39 cents on January 8, and "[t]he Postal Service ... didn't want a fresh crop of outdated stamps sitting in the drawers for next year," the Post-Gazette reported.

I don't know about you but that just seems sensible. Apparently there's less of a call for them or there wouldn't be so many left over from last year. Why does Bill O'Reilly get incensed about that?

The other article is entitled, "O'Reilly falsely claimed a Texas school district banned red and green clothing, called move "fascism":

On December 9, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed on both Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and the nationally syndicated The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly that the Plano Independent School District (Texas) "told students they couldn't wear red and green because they were Christmas colors." He labeled the alleged ban "fascism." On December 12, the school district released an official statement by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Doug Otto refuting O'Reilly's contention:

"The school district does not restrict students or staff from wearing certain color clothes during holiday times or any other school days," noted Dr. Otto, who said that the school district's attorney has requested that Mr. O'Reilly retract the statement.

I don't see how these so-called conservative people live with themselves given their willingness to play fast and loose with the truth.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


A lot of conservatives are upset that the White House Christmas card doesn't say "Christmas" on it. Have you heard this? It says "Happy Holidays," and they're mad. They're furious about this. Boy, times have changed, haven't they? Going to war for the wrong reason, that's okay, but send out the wrong card, "Oh, my gosh."

—Jay Leno

They're not conservative

One of the things that has really bothered me about today's right-wing ideologues is that they call themselves conservative but they, assuredly, are not. Today I found an article that makes this point called, "Conservative? No.Radical, Regressive, and Reckless? Yes."

Here are some passages:

Just because someone calls him or herself a conservative doesn't make it so. I regularly hear critics of the Bush Administration and its policies referred to as "conservative." Well, here's a news flash:

George W. Bush is not a conservative.
Richard B. Cheney is not a conservative.
Donald Rumsfeld is not a conservative.
Karl Rove is not a conservative.
Paul Wolfowitz is not a conservative.
John Bolton is not a conservative.
Grover Norquist is not a conservative.
Bill Bennett is not a conservative.
Pat Robertson is not a conservative.
James Dobson is not a conservative.
Jerry Falwell is not a conservative.
Rush Limbaugh is not a conservative.
And Bill O'Reilly is not a conservative.

No, indeed, this is a list of radical, regressive, and often reckless political partisans who have exhibited careless disregard for other people, often ignored traditional or established policies, and many of them have flouted the rule of law or have had their hypocrisy publicly exposed (Bennett and Limbaugh, for example). In the mouths of these people, the "conservative" mantle (with or without its alleged compassion) merely supplies the sheep's clothing to cloak their wolf-like avarice.

Webster's Dictionary defines "conservatism" as the "disposition in politics to preserve what is established". It is further defined as "a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions and preferring gradual development to abrupt change."
The original species of "conservative" (perhaps best defined by Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative) seems now to be an endangered one. The current Administration has bloated the size of government, creating not one but two new federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Defense and the Transportation Security Agency. It has engaged in unprecedented deficit spending and trade deficits that are fast becoming matters of national security. And their idea of sacrifice in wartime is to give away tax receipts, mostly to the richest Americans. Only the poor have been asked to make sacrifices in a time of war.
Speaking of war, the Bush Doctrine was used to justify the invasion of Iraq. The Bush Doctrine is, of course, a rationalization for "pre-emptive" war. In plain language, this means that the U.S. arrogates to itself the right to attack another nation which has not attacked us first; in other words, this Administration feels fully justified in starting a war without provocation. Can any reasonable person consider this "conservative"?

The problem is that they call themselves conservative. And uninformed people who want to support conservatives then vote for them.

Monday, December 12, 2005

About New Orleans

Here's something John Aravosis said over on AMERICAblog:

The Republican Congress is increasingly rumbling about not paying the $32 billion it would cost to rebuild New Orleans' levies to make them hurricane proof. But they have no problem passing four new tax cuts this week totaling $95 billion.

He goes on to point out that the administration is happy to let the city die because it's a liberal city and it's largely populated by black people. Scratch a right-winger and don't be surprised if you find a racist underneath.

The sheer ugliness of Bill O'Reilly

All right. Did you hear what Bill O'Reilly said about the so-called "war on Christmas"? Take a look:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.

You know what he's upset about, don't you? That people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in stores. What kind of Christian would want to bring horror into the world of people who have the good manners to use an inclusive greeting on the off-chance that they might not be talking to a Christian? Saying "Happy Holidays" is nothing new, by the way. It certainly goes back to my childhood at least (as does "Season's Greetings") and I'm no spring chicken.

This is really one massive attempt at distracting the populace. Here's what one commenter on Smirking Chimp had to say about it:

The silly uproar over Christmas is just another play to cover up a failed presidency. You might think it is another flagrant attempt to stir up the fundamentalist base, but that is really a side issue. The primary goal is to get opponents of the Chimp to expend energy on a topic that has no real world implications. At the end of the day the whole fuss is resolved by mediocre observations about how it is a tradition in the US to respect everybody's hallucinations, and then everyone goes back to sleep. The Chimp's lectures on the war have a similar objective. His handlers don't aim to convince anyone. They just want you to get bored and go to sleep. If nothing else, it takes your mind of Scooter Libby and Tom DeLay. These guys are just trying to run out the clock while they finish ransacking the nation.

They are ransacking the nation. While all this hateful silliness about Christmas has been going on, Congress has passed four new tax cuts which, despite the cuts in desperately needed social programs, will only enlarge the already terrifyingly large deficit. And in the meantime, the right-wingers want to coerce people into using the December greeting that's associated with their religion. Well, they sure went to a different Sunday School than I did. I was taught that Christianity was about loving your enemies, doing good to those who despitefully use you, and taking care of the needy. I've yet to see any real Christian spirit among the right wing goons making so much noise today.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

More on the "War on Christmas"

Actually, the accusation by the right that there's a liberal war on Christmas is more serious than first meets the eye. The dynamics of this are explored by Robert Parry in his article entitled, "The meaning of (the war over) Christmas". Here's the big point he makes:

While an outsider arriving in the United States might see a nation celebrating Christmas with an unrivaled intensity and extravagance, the Right's media has created another world for its followers - where Christians are persecuted for celebrating their faith, where they are repressed by cruel non-Christians and evil secularists.

This perceived persecution exists even as America's downtowns and shopping malls are bedecked with the red-and-green Christmas colors and Christmas symbols are everywhere, even in cities like New York with large populations of Jews and Muslims.

It's the drumming up of a belief in victimhood by what is really a powerful group that has Parry concerned:

There is, of course, a danger whenever a powerful group begins to view itself as the victim, because their real power allows these ersatz oppressed to inflict far greater harm on their enemies than could a group without power.

Historically, the world has seen this phenomenon many times, for instance, when Christians in Europe convinced themselves that they were at the mercy of cunning Jews. Many of the continent's anti-Jewish pogroms were conducted by Christians convinced that they were simply defending their way of life, that they were the real victims.

Now, the United States is witnessing a similar exploitation of Christian fears and the fanning of Christian anger. The "war on Christmas" theme is one manifestation of this growing chip on the shoulder.

The Right has learned well how it can deploy its powerful media to make even the most ludicrous notion seem real - both frightening and infuriating - to millions of Americans.

Well, I'm glad I've finished my Christmas shopping. I don't want to be in a store where some clerk wishes me a "Merry Christmas" and I won't know whether it's a genuine greeting or political one-upmanship.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Questions for Bush supporters

Here's an article I'd like you to take a look at called, "Questions for those still approving of Bush". (We are talking about something like a 40% approval rate.) There are 15 questions in all. I'll share a few of them here for you and you can click through to the article if you'd like to read them all:

1. Do you understand that no tangible, truthful reason has ever been given for the invasion of Iraq and that the 9/11 Commission Report – which is the de facto, official findings of our government – says there was no reason whatsoever for this war?

2. Have you ever heard of the Downing Street Memos? Would it interest you to know that these official notes, from the British Prime Minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, show that the Bush administration was dead-set on war with Iraq and twisting intelligence to fit that goal? "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," reported the secret memo, later published in the Sunday Times of London. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
You can go here to learn more.

3. When you look at the picture of even one military man or woman killed in Iraq and imagine the pain their family must feel, can you multiply that by 2,134 and believe that was a worthwhile down payment on removing Saddam Hussein from power? Before you answer, are you aware that Iraq had nothing to do with any attacks on our country and that it has been proven that Saddam Hussein had no capability at all to harm our people?
See the 9/11 Commission Report for more information.

4. Do you approve of how ineffective the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been rendered since 2000 and the deadly results in our inability to protect our own people in disasters -- even those for which we have plenty of warning? Were you surprised to find out that the campaign contributor President Bush appointed to be the recently-disgraced head of FEMA had no experience at all in disaster management?

5. Do you have health insurance? Are you aware that almost 46 million Americans have no medical insurance and that the Bush administration thinks this works just fine? Most of us parents have seen our young children suffer with a common ear infection. Imagine watching your child in that pain and how you would feel being powerless to get antibiotics to ease your child's suffering. Are you comfortable with children in America living in situations like that – and worse?

6. Is your family better off and more stable socially, medically and economically now than when Bill Clinton was president? Even assuming you are not an economist, how do you compare the 22.7 million jobs created by President Clinton's administration with a net loss of jobs -- a 4.6 percent decrease in total employment -- since Bush took office?

The article has nine more questions like the ones above. They're all good. And I wish the Bush supporters out there would think about them.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Would someone please ask Mr. Bush, and Ms. Rice, who are stating we do not torture, what was going on in those Abu Ghraib pictures?


Friday cat blogging!

Here's Cynthia's wonderful kitty, Simon, just resting in the sun:

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Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Holiday donations

Looking for a good cause to donate to before the New Year? The Nation has provided a wonderful list in an article called, "Ho-Ho-Holiday Donations, Early Edition". Let me also recommend PETA, The Humane Society and Noah's Wish. Animals particularly need protection this time of year.

Condi and torture

I want to share an article with you by Sidney Blumenthal entitled, "Condi's Trail of Lies". Here are some passages:

Condoleezza Rice's contradictory, misleading and outright false statements about the US and torture have taken America's moral standing - and her own - to new depths.
Rice arrived as the enforcer of the Bush administration's torture policy. She reminded the queasy Europeans that their intelligence services, one way or another, are involved in the rendition of hundreds of suspected terrorists transported through their airports for harsh interrogation in countries like Jordan and Egypt or secret CIA prisons known as "black sites." With her warnings, Rice recast the Western alliance as a partnership in complicity. In her attempt to impose silence, she spread guilt. Everybody is unclean in the dirty war and nobody has any right to complain. "What I would hope that our allies would acknowledge," she said, "is that we are all in this together."
Rice arrived in Berlin on the heels of a Washington Post report about the rendition, to a secret CIA jail in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit, of a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, who was tortured and imprisoned for five months in a case of mistaken identity. After meeting with Rice, Merkel announced that Rice had acknowledged that the U.S. had made a "mistake" in the case. But Rice countered with a statement denying she had said that at all. The reconciliation with Germany was botched; Merkel was embarrassed; and Rice's credibility, at least in the German press, was left in tatters.

Rice had hoped to quell the controversy before she landed. On Monday, as she boarded her plane at Andrew Air Force base in Washington, she delivered a lengthy statement on torture. Her speech was remarkable for its defensive, dense and evasive tone. It was replete with half-truths, outright falsehoods, distortions and subterfuges.

Her remarks can never sway or convince any European leader, foreign ministry or intelligence service, which have the means to make their own judgments. In her effort to persuade world opinion and reassure the American public, she raised the debate over torture to greater prominence and virtually invited inspection of her claims.

And this woman is the Secretary of State of the United States of America. It's shameful. Just shameful.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

More tax cuts

Here's what CNN says today:

Voting mostly along party lines, the House narrowly passed a $56 billion, five-year package of tax cuts that retains reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends in 2009 and 2010. The vote was 234-197.

Republicans said their record of tax cutting revitalized a sluggish economy, and the White House praised the bill. "These extensions are necessary to provide certainty for investors and businesses and are essential to sustaining long-term economic growth," the president's budget office said in a statement.

Democrats said tax cuts for investment income, and much of the GOP's economic agenda, help Republican friends and ignore average workers.

"Everybody loses under this bill. Everybody, that is, except the top one-fifth of 1 percent," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia. "Some might call them the superrich. Apparently, the majority calls them donors."

HOW can they justify this, the deficit being what it is? What about our children and grandchildren? What about the national debt? What happens when China decides to cash in its U.S. Treasury bonds? It makes me think that the Republicans actually WANT to destroy the country.

UPDATE: Here's a comment I found on AMERICAblog about the tax cuts:

This is another brilliant step forward in the Republicans 30 year strategy to bankrupt government. Soon there will be no money left for anything except the military and corporate assistance.Should the Democrats somehow manage to beat the voting machines and get back into power, they will be forced to raise taxes, mostly to pay interest on the neverending debt. Higher taxes without benefits -- the Dems are screwed! Kudos to Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove. They are truly jeenyuses.

Sickening, isn't it? And undoubtedly true.