Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Destroying FEMA

I just read an article in the Washington Post that made me sick. It's by Eric Holdeman and is entitled, "Destroying FEMA". If Katrina hasn't demonstrated why we need FEMA, I don't know what will. Here are some passages from the article:

SEATTLE -- In the days to come, as the nation and the people along the Gulf Coast work to cope with the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we will be reminded anew, how important it is to have a federal agency capable of dealing with natural catastrophes of this sort. This is an immense human tragedy, one that will work hardship on millions of people. It is beyond the capabilities of state and local government to deal with. It requires a national response.

Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why, at this moment, the country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.

Apparently homeland security now consists almost entirely of protection against terrorist acts. How else to explain why the Federal Emergency Management Agency will no longer be responsible for disaster preparedness? Given our country's long record of natural disasters, how much sense does this make?
FEMA was born in 1979, the offspring of a number of federal agencies that had been functioning in an independent and uncoordinated manner to protect the country against natural disasters and nuclear holocaust. In its early years FEMA grew and matured, with formal programs being developed to respond to large-scale disasters and with extensive planning for what is called "continuity of government."
Indeed, the advent of the Bush administration in January 2001 signaled the beginning of the end for FEMA. The newly appointed leadership of the agency showed little interest in its work or in the missions pursued by the departed [former director, James Lee] Witt. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Soon FEMA was being absorbed into the "homeland security borg."

This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.
To be sure, America may well be hit by another major terrorist attack, and we must be prepared for such an event. But I can guarantee you that hurricanes like the one that ripped into Louisiana and Mississippi yesterday, along with tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, windstorms, mudslides, power outages, fires and perhaps a pandemic flu will have to be dealt with on a weekly and daily basis throughout this country. They are coming for sure, sooner or later, even as we are, to an unconscionable degree, weakening our ability to respond to them.

Has Bush never heard the slogan, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" What on earth is he thinking?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina's real name

This morning I want to share an article with you that is biting and incisive. The article is by Ross Gelbspan and is entitled, "Katrina's real name". If ever we needed to wake up to the effects of global warming on our world, that time is now. Here are some excerpts:

The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

When the year began with a two-foot snowfall in Los Angeles, the cause was global warming.

When 124-mile-an-hour winds shut down nuclear plants in Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the driver was global warming.

More calamities are listed that are, in fact, caused by global warming. Then Gelbspan makes the following point:

As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more-intense downpours, more-frequent heat waves, and more-severe storms.

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

I have longed blamed the media for this ignorance and so does Gelbspan:

Against this background, the ignorance of the American public about global warming stands out as an indictment of the US media.

When the US press has bothered to cover the subject of global warming, it has focused almost exclusively on its political and diplomatic aspects and not on what the warming is doing to our agriculture, water supplies, plant and animal life, public health, and weather.

For years, the fossil fuel industry has lobbied the media to accord the same weight to a handful of global warming skeptics that it accords the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the United Nations.

Today, with the science having become even more robust -- and the impacts as visible as the megastorm that covered much of the Gulf of Mexico -- the press bears a share of the guilt for our self-induced destruction with the oil and coal industries.

Are we going to wake up any time soon? Will it be too late? I fear it already is.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Disaster relief for animals

I want to tell you about a wonderful organization the provides disaster services for the animals affected by emergency situations. The name of this organization is Noah's Wish. I have been just horrified as news developed regarding Hurricane Katrina and my heart has been especially pained for the animals who have been abandoned to the elements. Here's a statement from the organization's web site:

Noah's Wish is a not-for-profit, animal welfare organization, with a straightforward mission. We exist to keep animals alive during disasters. That's it.

We are not involved in any other animal welfare issues. It's not that we are not concerned about all the ways animals are abused and exploited. Noah's Wish would like nothing more than to see all suffering stop. Fortunately, there are a multitude of national and local animal welfare organizations who are tackling the issues that adversely affect animals. No other organization has made the commitment though to just focus on disaster relief work for animals. That's the void we are filling.

Noah's Wish came into existence in March 2002, not to duplicate existing efforts to help animals during earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes, but rather to expand on what's already in place. Too often, efforts to help animals during these life threatening situations have been gravely inadequate. It would be unacceptable if relief efforts for people were as fragmented.

Noah's Wish recognizes that animals need and deserve an organized, consistent, and professionally managed national disaster relief program. Otherwise, they will continue to pay for human indifference with their lives. What will raise the standards for how animals are managed during disasters is to implement well thought out, field tested, policies and procedures that are practiced in all disasters. Relief efforts for people are managed this way and we feel they should be for animals too.

Noah's Wish wants animals to survive disasters by getting the services they need, therefore, we have taken on the challenge to raise the standards. What we have set out to do, no other organization has successfully done. There have been countless attempts made, but the efforts have not gone far enough. Noah's Wish has a great deal of work ahead of us, but we're confident in our ability and determination to get the job done. What other choice do we have?

Click here to see an impressive list of the services they provide.

No doubt everyone reading this will want to make donations to the relief effort regarding Katrina. I would like to suggest that there will be millions of people giving to the Red Cross and other organizations set up to help human beings. However, very few people will think about the enormous suffering that animals go through in disaster situations. Please consider making a contribution to Noah's Wish (if you scroll down, there is a Pay Pal button as well as a snail mail address). The work they do throughout the world is amazing. And you will know that you have engaged in an act of powerful compassion when you do so.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Why the silence?

Today I want to share with you an article by William E. Connolly entitled, "Why have so many remained silent?" I'm blogging this article partly because of all the comments posted after the reprint in Smirking Chimp. The article clearly touched a nerve in a lot of people. Here's how it gets started:

The protest by Cindy Sheehan in Crawford -- while a wartime president takes a five-week vacation -- posed a difficult question: Why was there a protest movement during that last quagmire in Vietnam, but no equivalent has emerged today? Sheehan clearly touched a nerve.

Nonetheless, why, after thousands of Iraqis and Americans have been killed and maimed, and the increased risk of terrorism that the war has fostered as well as the high probability that a civil war could follow in its wake, do so many Americans remain quiet about this disaster?

I am not speaking about that percentage of the populace who defend the hubris of the Bush administration no matter its cost in lives, safety, money and noble American values. I am talking about people who now see that it was a horrible mistake for which we and others will pay for generations.

Several reasons might be expressed for this silence. The first is that many people, who now see how mistaken the invasion was, believe we are trapped in a quagmire with no place to turn.

There is, indeed, no easy way out, which is why it is so important to contemplate the consequences before invading another country.

But the United States could admit its mistake, beg forgiveness from the world, ask the United Nations to create a peacekeeping force and pledge a few hundred billion dollars to help fund that effort. That, it can be argued, would improve upon existing policy. Other alternatives could be considered.

But many people refuse even to entertain such possibilities. Why? Inside the judgment that there is no way out, a second misgiving simmers.

Millions of Americans find it difficult to admit that they participated in the myth of American righteousness and omnipotence peddled by President Bush and neoconservative publicists before the war. (Remember how some people believed Iraqis would be cheering in the streets and the reconstruction would be funded by Iraqi oil revenues?) They register their dismay in impersonal polls but do not translate it into public opposition.

Connolly continues in this vein. I suggest that you click through and read the whole article if you have time and also peruse the comments listed below. Many of them are very interesting.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Opposing reality

Maureen Dowd has written an article about the president's insistence on trying to re-make reality. She also writes about how the mood of the country is shifting. But the part I really want you to see is this:

Eric Lichtblau reported in The Times this week that the administration was dumping the highly respected Lawrence Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001 to head the Bureau of Justice Statistics, because he refused superiors' orders to delete from a press release an account of how black and Hispanic drivers were treated more aggressively by the police after traffic stops. The Justice Department study showed markedly higher rates of searches and use of force for black and Hispanic drivers, compared with white drivers.

Fearing that the survey would give ammunition to members of Congress who object to using racial and ethnic data in terrorism and law enforcement investigations, Mr. Greenfeld's supervisors buried it online with no press release or briefing for Congress.

Mr. Lichtblau wrote that when Mr. Greenfeld sent the planned press release to the office of his supervisor, Tracy Henke, then an acting assistant attorney general, the section on the treatment of black and Hispanic drivers was crossed out with a notation: "Do we need this?" Ms. Henke herself had added a note: "Make the changes."

Like Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, John Bolton and others who helped spin reality to suit political ends, Ms. Henke was rewarded by the president. She has been nominated for a senior post in the Homeland Security Department.

The name of the article is "Bike-deep in the Big Muddy", by the way. You know, researchers all over the world depend upon the validity of the data coming out of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This institution is supposed to be impartial and unbiased. The fact that partisan interests are now influencing their reports to the public is very worrying.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Just a reminder

Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation' between Church and State.

--The U.S. Supreme Court, 1947

Polls on the war

The Associated Press has conducted a poll and discovered the following:

* 58 percent disapprove of the way the Bush administration has conducted the war in Iraq.

* 53 percent think the war was a mistake.

Given that the the mainstream news media are definitely slanted to the right, these numbers are astonishing.

Friday Cat Blogging!

This is Ethel, the very feral kitty who hangs around the house and is willing to be fed. She is very skittish and this is the first time I've been able to get a shot of her in a relaxed pose. Yes, I did trap her and get her spayed and immunized so don't worry. But she refuses to be tamed.

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

The untreated alcoholic

Here is a brief article by Justin Frank entitled, "Pedaling as fast as he can: George W. Bush's tenuous grasp of reality". If I'm not mistaken, Justin Frank is the psychiatrist who wrote Bush on the Couch. Here is an excerpt from the article:

George W. Bush remains an untreated alcoholic. The untreated alcoholic who has simply stopped drinking treats anxiety as an enemy. Bush's current enemy, the primary cause of his anxiety, is Cindy Sheehan.

Nobody talks about it - the press is afraid of it -- but we are all enabling a man whose grasp of reality is tenuous at best.Anxiety is always challenging; but when an untreated alcoholic's behavior is challenged, his anxiety increases dramatically - and with it, the need to numb its sting.

Anxiety is then a threat to his abstinence. Instead of learning new means to manage feelings, he has to spend energy fighting his fears. In Bush's case, he fiercely rides his mountain bike.

Managing his anxiety is one reason presidential briefings have been so simple. USA Today reports on August 25 that Bush's foreign policy briefings were, until very recently, presented to him with "snappy headlines" and simplistic perspectives leaving "little room for doubt or nuance." No wonder it was so simple to invade Iraq.

I recommend reading the rest of the article. It will only take a minute. Addiction treatment is, indeed, about learning how to manage one's feelings and how to accept "life on life's terms". Both alien concept to our president.

Counter protest

Someone just left a comment on the August 10 posting on this blog. It is addressed to Cindy Sheehan and I reprint it for you here:

Please go home. You are an embarrassment to our nation as you are giving terrorists the impression of weakness and I am sure that they are more than happy with your escapades. My grandson is serving in Iraq for the 3rd time. I am proud of him and would never dishonor him with such a show of anti-American sentiment.

It was signed by Anonymous.

I would simply like to refer Anonymous to the first ammendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the FREEDOM OF SPEECH, or of the press; or the RIGHT OF PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.

Far from being anti-American, Cindy Sheehan is commiting a profound and focused act of citizenship. May her tribe increase.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Global warming lawsuit

Here's a very interesting article about fighting global warming through the courts. It's by David Kravets and is entitled, "Federal Judge OKs Global Warming Lawsuit". Here's an excerpt:

A federal judge here said environmental groups and four U.S. cities can sue federal development agencies on allegations the overseas projects they financially back contribute to global warming.

The decision Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White is the first to say that groups alleging global warming have a right to sue.

"This is the first decision in the country to say that climate change causes sufficient injury to give a plaintiff standing, to open the courthouse door," said Ronald Shems, a Vermont attorney representing Friends of the Earth.

That group, in addition to Greenpeace and the cities of Boulder, Colo., Santa Monica, Oakland and Arcata, Calif., sued Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Those government agencies provide loans and insure billions of dollars of U.S. investors' money for development projects overseas. Many of the projects are power plants that emit greenhouses gases that the groups allege cause global warming.

Wow. This is a strategy for affecting people it hurts - in the pocketbook. Sadly, that makes more sense that appealing to the better angels of their nature. I sure hope it works.

Pat Robertson is not a Christian

That's the title of an article by The Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler. Yes, I know Robertson has apologized. But he has not repented. And there's a big difference. Here are some excerpts from the article that was published by Common Dreams:

Pat Robertson suggested this past Monday that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, be assassinated by operatives of the United States government! Though his comments are newsworthy because of his following in the 700 Club and his political stature and role in the political religious right, his comments however are out of synch with everything that has been handed down to us from the teachings of Jesus Christ. What I am suggesting here is that Pat Robertson and individuals of his ilk are not practicing or preaching Christ but have become adherents of a political movement in this nation that attempts to use Christianity towards their own narrow political ends. I believe that there is a role for Christianity in the events of the world, but the teachings of Christ leads us to love one another, strain and stretch to understand each other, and dare to know each other enough that we come to an understanding of one another and from that create a world that is not built on might and winning but on understanding and unity. Clearly the comments of Robertson defy the framework we find in the gospels of Jesus Christ.
What do we find in the Good News of Christ? We find love is expressed continually and unceasingly. The gospels admonish us to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. We finds words in the gospels that define the mission of Christians as the elevation of the poor, freedom for those who are oppressed, salvation for the lost, and hope for the hopeless. Jesus says come unto me all of you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest. He does not say come to me those who are looking for political expediency and I will show you who to and how to assassinate!
I am continually amazed at how so many preachers have ceased to preach Christ, or to proclaim him out of the rich simplicity of his teachings and have resorted to a kind of theology that is not gospel based but is based on a narrow point of view that keeps the powerful powerful and the poor poor!

I am too.

Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler is National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice and Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ Washington, D.C.

Media lies

It's a brief little article so click through and read it all. It's by Cenk Uygur and is entitled, "Big media lie: People like George Bush". Here's the critical excerpt:

News Flash - George Bush's approval ratings are at 36%. Those are pre-coup numbers. That's when a politician in a third world country becomes so unpopular that a couple of generals decide to show him the door. Nixon at the height of Watergate was at 39%, three points HIGHER than Bush is right now. And people despised Nixon.

So when are the talking heads going to stop calling him a "popular president"??? It's quite maddening that this claim persists.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Robertson apologizes

Well, he's apologized. After first lying about it and saying he didn't call for assassination. CNN has the breaking story:

Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson today apologized for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement," he said in a written statement. Earlier -- and despite video evidence to the contrary -- Robertson had insisted he was misquoted claiming "I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out'."

I'm glad our national consciousness is still such that some behavior is simply not acceptable in the public discourse. Hubris was behind the call for assassination. The humbling effects of having to apologize could potentially do Robertson a world of good.

What fascism looks like

Characteristics of Fascism

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14.Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

(From “Free Inquiry Magazine”, Vol. 23, #2)

Something to remember

I've posted this before on Child of Illusion but it needs to be brought to our attention again and again:

The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.

-- Washington in the Treaty of Tripoli

An American fatwa

You know, I'm pretty good at warding off depression which, I figure, is no small thing. Every thinking person has plenty to be depressed about given the way the country is going. But I must admit - the news about Pat Robertson really got me down. In case you've been asleep or something and don't know what's happened, it seems Robertson has publicly called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. I want to share with you a Newsday article by Ellis Henican entitled, "Pat Robertson: The words of a false prophet" because it not only reports on the story of the moment but also reminds us of outrageous statements Robertson has made in the past. Here's what he said about Chavez:

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson told his viewers.
"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. ... We don't need another $200-billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Then Henican tells us why we need to pay attention:

It's tempting to dismiss Pat Robertson as some minor figure on evangelism's fringe, writhing in the dirt of some snake-charming revival tent. Tempting but impossible. Despite a vivid history of vicious exhortations, he's still one of America's most influential clergymen, sitting atop a powerful media empire and a lucrative fundraising machine, the Christian Broadcasting Network.

He made a credible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. His "700 Club" reaches 1 million viewers a night, he says. The show is even carried by the ABC Family Channel.

Now let's take a look at some of what Robertson has said in the past:

Pat Robertson once declared that feminism "encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." He contended that liberal judges appointed by Democrats are a bigger threat to America than al-Qaida, beseeching God to create a few more openings on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he agreed with fellow evangelist Jerry Falwell that feminists, gays, abortionists and civil libertarians were to blame for the attacks. Robertson has long maintained a nutty obsession with gays - "self-absorbed narcissists who are willing to destroy any institution so long as they can have affirmation of their lifestyle."

Over the years, he's blamed gays for divorce, abortion and Sept. 11. He asserted that Gay Day at Disney World would bring "terrorist bombs ... earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor."

One commenter on Smirking Chimp said the following:

It's called "solicitation to murder," and in situations like this, with a U.S. citizen calling openly for the murder of a foreign head of state, I strongly suspect there's a federal felony involved.

A few months back, this same psychopath twice said that "Foggy Bottom" (DC area loc of State Department) should be bombed.

Nothing was done about that previous terrorist activity and nothing will be done about this latest, either.

It's the commenter's final statement that I find so depressing. We are fast growing our own version of the Taliban headed by the likes of Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. It is so important for those of us who are appalled to rally ourselves to fight back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The impact of Cindy Sheehan

Today I want to recommend another article on Cindy Sheehan's protest - one that powerfully analyzes the real impact of the movement sparked by her arrival on the president's doorstep in Crawford. The article is by Sheila Samples and is entitled, "Suddenly, this summer". First I want to share with you a few paragraphs about who is not there standing shoulder to shoulder with the Gold Star mothers:

I saw NO religious leaders striding bravely through the shimmering Texas heat in an effort to stem the flow of innocent blood. Where are the peace-loving Christians who should be speaking out on behalf of Jesus Christ -- who minced no words when it came to peace and love and mercy? Why do these Good Samaritans cross to the other side of the street and skitter by fearfully, lest anything even remotely resembling compassion should be expected of them?

I saw NO members of Congess from either side of the aisle with the courage to throw a supportive arm around Sheehan's shoulders and demand that Bush answer her single question. How can they? Like dogs in heat, some are in pursuit of their corporate donors who are marching triumphantly into Baghdad. Others, mostly Democrats, are calculating the political risk of showing their faces in public lest they be asked to take a stand on anything, especially a hideous war for which ultimately they must be held accountable. The silence surrounding the 78 elected women in Congress is as thick as an Iraqi sandstorm.

I saw NO objective mainstream media (MSM) coverage of Sheehan's vigil. Those forced to acknowledge that something of historical magnitude was gathering steam were very careful to "balance" a 10-second Sheehan sound byte with interminable interviews with those who condemned Sheehan for not supporting the troops in a time of war. It's easy for those who get their news from US state-controlled corporate media to get the impression that Sheehan is an "activist mom," that she is little more than an "anti-war advocate" who is being used by left-wing political groups for their ideological advantage.

Then Samples talks about the reporters who went on a 17 mile bike ride with the president:

I mean, after spending hours cycling through the Texas Johnson grass and loco weed with the leader of the free world, a "bonding" adventure if ever there was one, what's there to talk about -- the 1,868 butchered US citizens in Iraq, one of whom was Casey Sheehan, whose mother is camped out at the front gate?

No? Well maybe the bikers thought to ask Bush why he stubbornly continues to remain in a bloody IraqNam quagmire that continues to suck our sons and daughters under at more than three a day, continues to add more wounded and maimed Americans to the already 45,000 whose lives are shattered forever, continues a murderous rampage against innocent civilians in two countries whose existance on this planet is so trivial their deaths are not worthy of counting.

Too much hard work? Well, I'm sure those stalwart journalist cyclists were just bubbling with questions about the "nobility" of a cause wherein a president is willing to sacrifice his nation's citizens, its money, its very existance on an illegal, immoral, grandoise crusade to spread freedom and democracy -- only to back off at the last minute and support the creation of an Islamist state. Surely they are curious about such shuddering hypocrisy. For Bush to change horses in the middle of the Democracy stream is the most deadly flip-flop of all time. Bush's cowardly retreat screams an answer to Sheehan's question and to questions of all mothers who are waking up and realizing that their children have died -- will continue to die -- in vain.

That's the part that grieves my heart. We have destroyed what was a stable, secular state (albeit ruled by a brutal dictator) so that it can be replaced by an Islamic theocracy that is selling women down the river. How is it a democracy when half the population has no rights to speak of? This is the "noble cause", people. Get used to it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

In her own words

Marilyn Bedford called my attention to an article on the Smirking Chimp web site by Cindy Sheehan herself. It's entitled, "Hypocrites and liars". The article is really stunningly powerful and I urge you to click through and read the whole thing. I'll give you a sample, though:

Now I am being vilified and dragged through the mud by the righties and so-called "fair and balanced" main stream media who are afraid of the truth and can't face someone who tells it by telling any truth of their own. Now they have to twist, distort, lie, and scrutinize anything I have ever said when they never scrutinize anything that George Bush said or is saying. Instead of asking George or Scotty McClellan if he will meet with me, why aren't they asking the questions they should have been asking all along: "Why are our young people fighting, dying, and killing in Iraq? What is this noble cause you are sending our young people to Iraq for? What do you hope to accomplish there? Why did you tell us there were WMD's and ties to Al Qaeda when you knew there weren't? Why did you lie to us? Why did you lie to the American people? Why did you lie to the world? Why are our nation's children still in harm's way and dying everyday when we all know you lied? Why do you continually say we have to "complete the mission" when you know damn well you have no idea what that mission is and you can change it at will like you change your cowboy shirts?"

I'm telling you, the woman is fearless. What a refreshing contrast to the spineless Democrats we've got in the leadership right now!

Our right and our duty

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

~Theodore Roosevelt, in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Republican acknowledges reality

Today I want to call your attention to an article about Sen. Chuck Hagel and his assessment of the war in Iraq. It's by Douglas K. Daniel and is entitled, "Hagel Says Iraq War Looking Like Vietnam". Here are a couple of passages:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A leading Republican senator and prospective presidential candidate said Sunday that the war in Iraq has destabilized the Middle East and is looking more like the Vietnam conflict from a generation ago.

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who received two Purple Hearts and other military honors for his service in Vietnam, reiterated his position that the United States needs to develop a strategy to leave Iraq.

Hagel scoffed at the idea that U.S. troops could be in Iraq four years from now at levels above 100,000, a contingency for which the Pentagon is preparing.

"We should start figuring out how we get out of there," Hagel said on "This Week" on ABC. "But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East. I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."

Hagel said "stay the course" is not a policy. "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning," he said.
Hagel, who was among those who advocated sending two to three times as many troops to Iraq when the war began in March 2003, said a stronger military presence by the U.S. is not the solution today.

"We're past that stage now because now we are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam," Hagel said. "The longer we stay, the more problems we're going to have."

I found the link to this article on AMERICAblog. It was posted by "Joe in D.C." What interested me is a comment Joe made regarding Hagel's forthrightness. "Now," he said, "the White House will have to develop a smear strategy to deal with Hagel." It's a cynical remark to be sure. But smearing Hagel would be consistent with the way this White House operates.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Something RFK said

Our brave young men are dying in the swamps of Southeast Asia. Which of them might have written a poem? Which of them might have cured cancer? Which of them might have played in a World Series or given us the gift of laughter from the stage or helped build a bridge or a university? Which of them would have taught a child to read? It is our responsibility to let these men live....It is indecent if they die because of the empty vanity of their country.

--RFK, Vietnam War speech, Calif, 3-24-68

Friday, August 19, 2005

What they said when Clinton was president

"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."--Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

These were Republicans taking issue with Clinton for committing troops to Bosnia. My source for these quotes said this: "Every reporter in the country should quote these very words back to those yahoos and force them to comment." I so agree. But we don't have the kind of press that takes its job that seriously.

Friday Cat Blogging!

Well, this is the first day I've been up and about since being in the hospital so it's definitely time for cat blogging! I'm starting to feel a bit better so I'll be back to my normal blogging routine soon, I'm sure!

Here's Simon, Cynthia's cat. (Cynthia is my administrative assistant and very good friend!)

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Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Under the weather

Sorry for the lack of posting the last couple of days. I've been ill and quite debilitated. I hope I'll be back to my regular routine in the next couple of days! Thank you for your patience!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The president's "balanced life"

Oh my goodness, you're not going to believe what the president has said now. I'll just give you the pertinent passage from an article entitle, "Bush will 'go on with life':Defends refusal to meet protester" by Ken Herman:

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush, noting that lots of people want to talk to the president and "it's also important for me to go on with my life," on Saturday defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say." "But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides. It also came as the crowd of protesters grew in support of Sheehan, the California mother who came here Aug. 6 demanding to talk to Bush about the death of her son Casey. Sheehan arrived earlier in the week with about a half dozen supporters. As of yesterday (Saturday) there were about 300 anti-war protesters and approximately 100 people supporting the Bush Administration. In addition to the two-hour bike ride, Bush's Saturday schedule included an evening Little League Baseball playoff game, a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a nap, some fishing and some reading. "I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him. "And part of my being is to be outside exercising."

With Bush, it's all about him, you see. What a self-absorbed, narcissistic jerk! What's the underlying message? That Cindy Sheehan should just "get on with her life". Well, her son can't get on with his life. He's dead.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Giving up on the "noble cause"

Oh isn't THIS lovely? The Bush administration is now saying that it's "lowering expectations" regarding what can be accomplished in Iraq. Translation: we're losing. The Washinton Post has the story that is entitled "U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq" and is subtitled,"Administration Is Shedding 'Unreality' That Dominated Invasion, Official Says":

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Right, Mr. Bush. Now walk down your driveway in Crawford and tell Cindy Sheehan what her son died for.

I'm so interested that the "senior official" admits that the original policy was dominated by "unreality". Those of us on the left have been saying that from the get go.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Think about it

I found this comment on Eschaton. I agree:

I honestly think that Congress should amend the treason statute to include election tampering. It's about the most traitorous thing one can do in a democracy.

The president's radio address

Okay. Here's an excerpt from his address this morning:

The recent violence in Iraq is a grim reminder of the brutal nature of the enemy we face in the war on terror. Our mission in Iraq is tough because the enemy understands the stakes. The terrorists know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a crippling blow to their hateful ideology. And that is why our work in Iraq is a vital part of the war on terror we're waging around the world.

This war on terror arrived on our shores on September the 11th, 2001.

HOW does he get away with this OVER and OVER??? Implying that Iraq attacked us? People BELIEVE this. It's the Nazi technique of repeating the big lie enough times that it's simply accepted as fact. Why doesn't the press call him on this? Damn it, this is a STORY. Some journalist ought to count up the number of times he's done this and blow it out of the water. To my knowledge, the only person who's called him on it was John Kerry in the debates.

Actually Bush "admitted" (heh heh) back in May what he's doing:

See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.

That's right, Mr. President. Just keep on catapulting the propaganda. In the meantime, you've got one incredibly clear minded and brave woman camped out on your door step who's slicing right through the propaganda with one laser focused question: What's the noble cause? What's the noble cause her son died for? She's waiting for the answer. So are the rest of us.

UPDATE: Here's the other question: Why aren't Jenna and Barbara fighting in the war if the cause is so "noble". Why isn't the president encouraging his daughters to enlist? And for that matter, why is the military behind on enlistments? After all, supposedly 51% of the vote went to Bush in November so why aren't all those Bush voters insisting that their military age children sign up? Why aren't Bush voters signing up themselves? With all those yellow ribbon magnets out there on the backs of SUVs, you'd think we'd have plenty of people clamoring to get in the military.

A prophecy from the past

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

--James Madison

The real roots of Al Qaida

I have just read a powerful article in the Guardian that has left me stunned. It is entitled, "Racism is the terrorists' greatest recruitment tool", and is subtitled, "The problem in Britain is not too much multiculturalism but too little". So I thought it was going to be mainly about what's going on in Britain (and by extension, America) today. And indeed that reality is addressed. What I did not expect was an outline of the intellectual foundations of Al Qaida and the inescapable conclusion that we have, indeed, reaped what we have sown. The article starts out like this:

Hussein Osman, one of the men alleged to have participated in London's failed bombings on July 21, recently told Italian investigators that they prepared for the attacks by watching "films on the war in Iraq", La Repubblica reported. "Especially those where women and children were being killed and exterminated by British and American soldiers ... of widows, mothers and daughters that cry."

But then the story of Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual architect of Al Qaida, was told.

[Sayyid Qutb] had his ideological epiphany while studying in the United States. The puritanical scholar was shocked by Colorado's licentious women, it's true, but more significant was Qutb's encounter with what he later described as America's "evil and fanatic racial discrimination".

By coincidence, Qutb arrived in the United States in 1948, the year of the creation of the state of Israel. He witnessed an America blind to the thousands of Palestinians being made permanent refugees by the Zionist project. For Qutb, it wasn't politics, it was an assault on his core identity: clearly Americans believed that Arab lives were worth far less than those of European Jews.

According to Yvonne Haddad, a professor of history at Georgetown University, this experience "left Qutb with a bitterness he was never able to shake". When Qutb returned to Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to his next life-changing event: he was arrested, severely tortured and convicted of anti-government conspiracy in a show trial.

Qutb's political theory was profoundly shaped by torture. Not only did he conclude that his torturers were subhuman infidels, he stretched that categorisation to include the entire state that ordered this brutality, including the Muslim civilians who passively lent their support to Nasser's regime.

Qutb's vast category of subhumans allowed his disciples to justify the killing of "infidels" - now practically everyone - as long as it was done in the name of Islam. A political movement for an Islamic state was transformed into a violent ideology that would lay the intellectual groundwork for al-Qaida. In other words, so-called Islamist terrorism was "home-grown" in the west long before the July 7 attacks - from its inception it was the quintessentially modern progeny of Colorado's casual racism and Cairo's concentration camps.

How might things have been different had not Sayyid Qutb not encountered an "evil and fanatic racial discrimination" in America? How might things have been different had justice for the Palestinians been a priority for Western nations from the beginning of the state of Israel? It is simply chilling to read an article like Klein's. And what future leaders of terrorism are in their formative years right now? We are undoubtedly sowing the seeds of our own future calamity.

Friday, August 12, 2005

So true!

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.

--Albert Schweitzer

Friday Cat Blogging!

It's Leroy, the little boy!

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More on Cindy Sheehan

The Huffington Post has a whole series of articles on Cindy Sheehan reprinted from various sources. The one I want to quote is by Christine Lahti and is entitled, "Cindy Sheehan is my hero":

Cindy Sheehan is my hero. She is the hero of all Americans who make up the 62% of us who oppose this war. As an American exercising her right to free speech, she is a brave, passionate, living example of democracy, and she has the undeniable force and the moral authority of a grieving mother. Being a mother of three, I can't even imagine the depths of the grief she must feel having lost her son in this horrific war. But I can imagine that her grief and rage -- her demand for justice and action -- is a force that is unstoppable.
Whether he acknowledges it or not -- whether his aides try to insulate him from the truth or not -- his hands are covered in the blood of Cindy Sheehan's son. They are dripping with the blood of all who have died there. The real truth he simply can’t face is that the woman he never called by name (he condescendingly referred to her only as "mom" at a meeting last year) has now become his worst nightmare. She embodies the insistent, passionate voice of the majority of Americans -- a "mom" who has scared Bush into hiding. Well, you can run, Bush, but you can't hide. Her courage is waking up America.

If you feel like clicking through, scroll down and you will find quite a number of other articles on Ms. Sheehan. This woman is having an impact.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"It is dire..."

I want to call your attention to a brief article by Jane Wells entitled, "Reflections on Robin Cook and Cindy Sheehan". Robin Cook, who died Saturday, was the former British Foreign Secretary. He resigned from Blair's cabinet in protest against the plan to attack and invade Iraq.

Here is what Robin Cook said on the subject just last Thursday:

It is dire. I mean, frankly, it is worse than my greatest fears…..Those that advocated the war on the basis that Iraq would be a blow against terrorism have made an immense blunder for which we will be paying the price for a long time to come.

I am so inspired by people like Robin Cook and Cindy Sheehan who have not shrunk before the challenge of speaking out against this unjustifiable war, who have borne themselves with consistent courage, who have maintained their very admirable integrity.

Alarming news on climate change

Every morning I log onto the Guardian - a very fine British newspaper - and read the the headlines along with selected articles. This morning I was distressed to read an article by science correspondent Ian Sample entitled, "Warming hits 'tipping point'". The subtitle reads:

Siberia feels the heat; It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting.

I feel like printing out the article and joining Cindy Sheehan (who's camped outside the president's ranch) and then demanding that Bush read the article. Of course, he's bragged that he doesn't read. Heck, I'll read it to him.

Here's an excerpt:

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today.

The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the following:

If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide. There's still time to take action, but not much.

The assumption has been that we wouldn't see these kinds of changes until the world is a little warmer, but this suggests we're running out of time.

We are running out of time. Why aren't the powers-that-be paying more attention? It's something I just cannot, for the life of me, understand.

UPDATE: I just got an email from Environmental Defense with a link to an article entitled, "Near the tipping point?" about the oceans. You might want to take a look at that one too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Supporting Cindy Sheehan

If you would like to support the protest of Cindy Sheehan or send her a message, the information you need is here. There's a snail mail address, a Pay Pal link and an email address along with key phone numbers.

That vacation - Part 4

President Bush is now in the second week of his five-week vacation down there in Crawford, Texas. He's been taking a lot of criticism for this long vacation and his aides say he has his laptop with him so he can still play Solitaire and Minesweep -- so it's business as usual.

-- Jay Leno
You know, these vacation jokes wouldn't be funny if it weren't for the fact that the president isn't exactly known for working hard. It's really embarassing to have someone so lazy and self-indulgent in the White House.

A mother's fierce grief

Smirking Chimp has a grand total of five articles today devoted to Cindy Sheehan's protest outside the president's photo-op ranch in Crawford, Texas. The one by Maureen Dowd is entitled, "Why no tea and sympathy?" It poses a good question. Here are some excerpts:

Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.

The president met with her family two months after Casey's death. Capturing W.'s awkwardness in traversing the line between somber and joking, and his love of generic labels, Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.
It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to.
It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.

I'm glad Cindy Sheehan's protest is getting the press it deserves. She is clearly a force to be reckoned with. May she be sustained in her conviction and effort and may many be inspired by her example.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cindy Sheehan said it

I don't care if he is the President. I just don't like it when people lie to me.

That vacation - Part 3

But President Bush is getting five weeks off, and I was thinking about it. Let's see, record oil prices, gas is sky high, the economy is sluggish. Iraq is a mess. Yeah, I think he's earned five weeks off.

-- David Letterman

Campus right-wingers

It will not surprise you to learn that the right wing is in the ascendancy even on university campuses. An article by Joshua Holland entitled, "Why Conservatives are winning the campus wars", explains how and why:

In 1973, when Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors kicked together some seed money to start the Heritage Foundation, the Democrats held the Senate and had a 50-seat majority in the House. As progressives are starting to understand, the funding, planning, and coordination of the conservative movement has led to tremendous success in elections and government policy. But another arena of ideological competition has gone largely beneath the radar. An asymmetric political war is raging at universities across the country, and once again conservatives are running circles around progressives.

The campus Left, which is still organized for the most part by students and community activists, increasingly finds itself facing off against seasoned conservative strategists. And while progressive student groups are mostly self-funded, by the mid-1990s roughly $20 million dollars were being pumped into the campus Right annually, according to People for the American Way.

That money and expertise are directed at four distinct goals: training conservative campus activists; supporting right-wing student publications; indoctrinating the next generation of culture warriors; and demonstrating the liberal academic "bias" that justifies many conservatives' reflexive anti-intellectualism.
In fact, liberal bias in the academy is a fiction based on the same sort of selective analysis used to "prove" bias in the media. While there are certainly plenty of liberal professors, never mentioned are inherently conservative departments like economics, right-leaning frats and student groups, the influence of campus ROTC or the fact that for every left-leaning Vassar or Oberlin there is an equally conservative Washington and Lee or BYU.
Unfortunately, many students buy into the myth. For a generation raised on the reactionary polemics of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, more intellectual brands of conservatism - those based on Hobbes, Hayek and Friedman - are often unrecognizable; they appear solidly centrist to today's backlash youth. And once you're convinced that the university is a virtual liberal re-education camp, then every slight and inconvenience of campus life becomes further proof of the malevolence of the Left. That fits nicely with Thomas Frank's claim that populist ideology isn't built from the ground up with ideas but is a "horizontal" argument - amounting to a never-ending laundry list of petty gripes and grievances.
Only now, more than thirty years after conservatives began planning and organizing for the long haul, are progressives attempting to do the same thing. But unless they bring that long-term vision to the campus wars, the next generation of conservatives will be even more dogmatic and uncompromising than the ones in power today, and they will have won plenty of converts along the way. That should come as a troubling thought to liberals of every generation.

Do read the whole article if you want more details on the right wing organizations that are targeting our college age young people. It's very troubling. And those of us who hope to see the progressive movement survive have really got to dig deep in our pockets and be part of the funding of efforts to reach those same young people.

Monday, August 08, 2005

That vacation

President Bush talked tough today. He said he's not backing out, he's staying the course for as long as it takes. He's in it for the long haul. Not Iraq -- his 5-week vacation.

-- Jay Leno

Heartless in the face of grief

Today I want to share with you another article by Ed Naha - this one entitled, "The Heartland gets the heartless treatment". In it, Naha talks about the president's tanking poll numbers, Cindy Sheehan's protest in Crawford and an interview on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" in order to paint a picture of where the mood of the country just may be headed.

What I want to call particularly to your attention is Bush's behavior when he met with the Sheehan's after the death of their son in Iraq. Here's the pertinent excerpt:

Sheehan's family was one of fifteen who met with Bush a little over a year ago. She expected comfort, perhaps even a chance to reflect on her son's life.

"He wouldn't look at the pictures of Casey. He didn't even know Casey's name," she told CNN, Sunday. "Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject."

In another article, I read that Bush disrespectfully called Ms. Sheehan "Mom" throughout that interview.

Sheehan has made a trip to Crawford to protest the war. She is camped outside the president's ranch - as close as the secret service will let her get. She says she will stay there until Bush comes out to talk to her.

[S]she boarded a bus painted red, white and blue, with the words "Impeachment Tour" on it and began her journey. She pulled up at a house run by peace activists in Crawford, where she hooked up with local anti-war folks. The bus led a caravan of about 20 vehicles down a winding road towards Shrub's brush-clearing enclave, filled with veterans, moms of slain GIs and ordinary citizens. The caravan was stopped by Sheriff's deputies. The anti-war folks were advised that, if they wanted to proceed to Dubyaland, they would have to get out of their vehicles and walk in a ditch along the side the road.

The protesters did as they were told. They disembarked and began to walk in the sweltering heat. They walked about a half a mile. Then, deputies stopped them, saying that they had violated their instructions by walking ON THE PUBLIC ROAD ITSELF INSTEAD OF STAYING IN THE DITCH.

Sheehan, accompanied by several other mothers, insisted she had not walked on the road. The deputies said she could not go any farther, as protesters began chanting "W killed her son."

The deputies broke up the mobile protest. Sheehan and several others vowed to sit vigil in the ditch until Bush met with them.

Now, gang, fascism begins slowly, in incremental ways. When did it become illegal to walk down a road? When did it become necessary for you to have to walk in a ditch because of your political views?

At least the news media is reporting this protest. After all, they're pretty much camped outside the president's ranch themselves just waiting for some news while the president enjoys his five week vacation.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Conservative big government

You'd think that "conservative big government" would be an oxymoron, wouldn't you? Newsday has published an article by Allan Lichtman entitled "In Plain Sight" and subtitled "With the public distracted, George W. Bush is building a big government -- of the right". Here are some passages:

Like a master pickpocket, George W. Bush distracts the American people with one hand while reaching into their pockets with the other. The distraction comes through the flash and bombast of explosive social issues like abortion, gay rights, public displays of religion, end-of-life decisions and creationism, on which Bush has delivered little beyond rhetoric. The pilfering comes through initiatives that take from working- and middle-class Americans and give to Bush's corporate backers, to whom he has delivered the goods big time.

This summer, with the public preoccupied over whether Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, Congress passed an energy bill with $14.5 billion in tax breaks, most of which will flow to companies like Exxon, which last year made about $25 billion in after-tax profits, enough to float a small country.

A number of other examples are given of distraction and sneaking in bills that favor big business. Then the following points are made:
But what all of this really amounts to is a political revolution in the United States, creating a form of conservative big government that promotes not the general interests of ordinary Americans but the special interests of big corporations. This creates a sharply upward redistribution of wealth and power that threatens long-term prosperity. Job growth has been well below predictions during Bush's term, for instance, and many analysts predict hard times for the economy in years ahead.

This revolution also is making government costlier and less fair, stifling individual freedom and democratic decision-making, and opening fissures between the wealthy and other Americans.
Liberals traditionally use their version of big government to reform society from the bottom up, funding welfare benefits, regulating business, empowering labor and advancing opportunities for minorities. Today's conservatives begin from the top down, subsidizing business and expanding its global reach, shielding corporations while punishing individuals for bad behavior, enforcing moral codes, and backing powerful military and police forces.
Beyond the way the government redistributes wealth, Republican big government also has a social agenda that has vastly expanded the federal government's authority to intrude into our private lives. The recently renewed Patriot Act, for example, authorizes the feds to look over our shoulders when we browse libraries or surf the Internet. And it gives law enforcement officials broad authority to secretly search our property or bug our private conversations.

Although justified by the need to fight terrorism, these restrictions are part of a value system that aggressively pursues policies against the empowerment of individuals. The president and his allies have enacted legislation that makes it more difficult for individuals to band together in class actions that challenge wrongdoing by corporations. They are on the verge of passing a bill that shields even negligent gun makers from lawsuits. And they are pursuing sharp limitations on jury awards in tort cases, even though data gathered by such authorities as the National Center for States Courts, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Congressional Budget Office deflate the myth of an economically wasteful "litigation explosion."

It is really sad that the government is implementing policies that work against the empowerment of individuals and it is especially ironic since the Republicans say they believe in individual responsibility. Still, they want to take away from individuals that which makes it possible to be responsible.

Those were the days

Here's a comment I found on Eschaton:

I remember when the War on Terror had something to do with capturing Osama Bin Laden. Aaaah those were the days.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Another anniversary

On this day, August 6, in 2001 Bush received a briefing entitled, "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US", and he did nothing.

Thought for the day

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Who would Jesus bomb?

The Guardian today is observing 60th anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima with some very powerful articles. I've already shared one with you. Another one I want to call to you attention is by Paul Oestreicher and is entitled, "The message of Hiroshima". Here are some excerpts:

The complicity of religion with acts of violence is something that Islam does not face alone." Giles Fraser wrote that in this column two weeks ago, focused on death in London. The truth of his words was demonstrated by more than 100,000 civilian deaths 60 years ago today.
There are only two legitimate Christian approaches to war. The Christian pacifist, accepting the injunction of Jesus to love friends and enemies alike, says no to all war. A majority, since the Emperor Constantine became a Christian, accept war as permitted in a just cause and when fought by just means. Every version of that doctrine rules out the deliberate killing of non-combatants.
There is no ethical justification for weapons of mass destruction, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or humanist - no more than for the suicide bomber, whose only weapon is his body. Robert Oppenheimer rued the day when he helped create the atom bomb. He turned vehemently against nuclear weapons, while most religious leaders of the nuclear powers remained silently complicit.

A generation ago, American and British church leaders at least debated the issue. Like the Pope, they agreed that under cold-war conditions nuclear weapons might have a temporary function in maintaining a precarious peace, but that they would, as soon as possible, have to be negotiated away.
The real enemy always was war itself. I was 13, in New Zealand, the day after Hiroshima. I cannot forget the words of our physics teacher as he tried to explain what had happened: "Boys, either we now learn to end war, or war will end us."

Many year ago, when I was teaching fourth grade, my students were genuinely horrified to learn that America had actually used nuclear weapons. It was so obvious to those nine year olds that using "the bomb" was wrong and, since they thought of America as "good", they were truly shocked and disbelieving. I've never forgotten observing that reaction of children who were young enough to be still naïve about the world but old enough to have a sophisticated comprehension of the fact that we are capable of destroying ourselves as a species.

What it was like

Here's a brief article in the Guardian written by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. It's entitled, "A bright green flash" and is subtitled, "No one should again suffer as we did 60 years ago in Hiroshima". Here's how the writer ends it:

No one knows exactly how many died in Hiroshima, but it is estimated at more than 200,000, of which many were refugee women and children. Those near ground zero were instantly vaporised, leaving behind only a shadow on the ground or wall. Maybe they were the lucky ones, because many of the survivors died in agony from terrible burns. Some took a long time to die.

My mother suffered the effects of radiation for many years. I was in and out of hospitals with leukaemia until my mid-20s, and because of the possibility of having deformed babies I decided not to marry until much later in life. My brother had been affected by radiation and was unable to have children. My aunt, who had a silk dressing gown welded to her body and her fingers joined together like ducks' feet, took three years to die.

Recently I retraced my journey through Hiroshima with my husband and revisited the school where I received treatment on that dreadful day. It was a moment of mixed emotions, but I did feel strongly that this horror must never be allowed to happen again. The only certain way to ensure this is to destroy all nuclear weapons and ban the making of any more.

I wish it were possible to have the hope that one day nuclear weapons will be banned. But I think we're too violent a species for that ever to happen. What is possible, however, is for us to move in the direction away from using nuclear weapons instead of toward it as we clearly are doing now.

60th Anniversary

The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't really necessary to hit them with that awful thing.

-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart's - part 5

Recently I came into possession of a booklet called Wal-Mart Watch: Low Prices At What Cost? You can download a copy from the website Walmart Watch - a site definitely worth exploring.

Here are some just a few of the facts I learned:

* Year after year, Wal-Mart's low pay and meager employee benefits force tens of thousands of employees to resort to Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. Call it the "Wal-Mart Tax". And it costs you $1.5 billion in federal tax dollars every year.

* Wal-Mart brags about its employee health care plan. Their ads claim that "Associate premiums begin at less that $40 a month." What they don't tell you is that the deductible is $1,000. That's right, a $1,000 health insurance deductible for sales clerks who, on average, make less than $14,000 per year. No wonder so many Wal-Mart employees have to apply for public health assistance.

* The $1.5 billion Wal-Mart tax doesn't even include state tax dollars spent on Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. And it doesn't include the millions of dollars that communities pay every year to provide new roads, electricity, sewer, and water lines for Wal-Mart stores. The company has a $10 billion annual profit, but won't even build the driveways to its stores.

* Costco pays its workers 65 percent more than Wal-Mart and 33 percent more than Sam's Club, yet earns more profits per employee.

* Wal-Mart's 61,000 suppliers face constant pressure to lower costs every year which has resulted in many suppliers moving good-paying American jobs overseas to low-wage/low-regulation countries such as China, Bangladesh and India.

* Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott received $17.5 million in 2004, nearly twice the average of $9.6 million for leading CEOs.

* Wal-Mart has forced employees to continue working after they have clocked out.

* Wal-Mart is fiercely anti-worker and has an elaborate anti-union "hit squad" ready to dispatch at the first sign of worker discontent.

* Exposes of labor abuses in Wal-Mart's supplier factories reveal child labor abuses, pay as low as 3 cents an hour, long hours without overtime, health and safety hazards, and physical and verbal assaults on workers.

* Wal-Mart is a major polluter that frequently is accused of violating environmental laws.

There's so much more. Please realize that when you shop at Wal-Mart's or Sam's, you are supporting these unethical practices.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's Ethel - looking stand-offish as usual!

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

How they do it - lie, that is

Over on Meditation Matters this morning, I shared a biting little story about how immature people prefer to be lied to. Then I found an article by Allen Snyder entitled, "Logic Deficit Disorder epidemic among regressive right". Snyder outlines how the right uses logical fallacies to deceive. Here is a sample:

Straw man:

I covered this one in a previous article for Smirking Chimp, but it definitely merits repeating. A straw man is an inaccurate representation of an actual argument that, thanks to its new straw form, resembles but is much easier to destroy than the original. Thus, rebuttal requires only that the listener be ignorant of the genuine article and, among the Regressive Right, ignorance is like oxygen -- they desperately need it to survive.

So when über-regressive Svengali Karl Rove says liberals wanted to coddle terrorists post-9/11, he attacks a straw man since he knows no liberal ever said such a thing.

When regressives oppose evolution because 'humans didn't come from monkeys', they attack a straw man since no evolutionist has ever said such a ridiculous thing.

When they equivocate pro-choice with pro-abortion, they attack a straw man since pro-choicers are not for abortion, but support the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

When they say the progressive solution to gun violence is marching into your home and forcibly taking your weapons away, they attack a straw man, since no reasonable lefty advocates such a thing.

Sadly, the list could go on much, much longer.

Snyder also covers the following:

False dilemma
Ad hominem
Slippery slope

These are the symptoms of what he calls Logic Deficit Disorder. Read the whole article in order to be instructed on "how they do it."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The big lie

Here's what the president said yesterday:

"We're at war with an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001," Mr. Bush said in his address here, to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of state legislators. "We're at war against an enemy that, since that day, has continued to kill."

He simply lies with impunity. Iraq did not attack us. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The 9/11 Commission was clear about that. The president and vice president have even admitted this publicly and still they lie, determined as they are to implant the association in the American consciousness with no regard for the truth. This is the big lie that is repeated over and over and over.

What bothers me is that the news media are not even attempting to correct this. I'm quoting a New York Times article and no where in the article does it say, "In point of fact we went to war against a nation that had nothing to do with September the 11th, 2001."

When is the press going to grow a spine?

The president's vacation

Yesterday the president jumped on a plane to start a five-week vacation. This will be the longest presidential vacation in 36 years. This means President Bush has now been on vacation for 27 percent of his presidency. That means the country could be 27 percent more screwed up than it already is.

-- Jimmy Kimmel

An astronaut's warning

I want to call your attention to a Reuters article by Jeff Franks called, "Environmental damage on Earth seen from shuttle". Here are a couple of excerpts:

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned on Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.
"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used," said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.

Collins, flying her fourth shuttle mission, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.

"The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have."

Now, will anybody listen to her in the administration? Or will she just be conveniently out of a job soon?

Presidential arrogance

Ed Naha in his article, "Drunk with Power", and Helen Thomas in her article, "Doing as he pleases: Lame duck Bush has swagger, not waddle", both report on a very telling episode of presidential arrogance. Thomas puts it this way:

When a Texas newspaper reporter told him, "Power is perception," Bush corrected him, saying, "Power is being president."

Naha ends his piece this way:

Bush is cynical, manipulative and a spoiled rich kid.

Remember this classic quote as noted by Bob Woodward in his book "Bush at War," from November 19, 2002?

BUSH: "I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe ANYbody an explanation."

No, Dubya. You don't owe ANYbody an explanation.

As you continue to shred America and the entire world, you owe EVERYbody an explanation.

Unlikely that we are to get it, though.

I also want to direct your attention to another article about Bush's attitude toward the press. This one is about how he gave "the finger" to the press corps. The article is by Nick Coleman and is entitled "Bush's one-fingered 'salute' demeans us all". It was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here's an excerpt:

The Finger-in-Chief was flipped last Wednesday, when the president visited Capitol Hill to meet with Republicans. He waved at the cameras, then walked down a hallway, pestered by reporters' questions.

Then, as he faded out of sight, Bush jabbed his middle finger in the air, the way you would give a farewell salute to a jerk disappearing in your rearview mirror.

It was unmistakable. When "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno replayed the video, his audience knew instantly what the president meant (To see the video, visit the Onegoodmove website via

A president showing disdain for the media is nothing new. But doing it with a contemptuous gesture that is offensive to millions does not just insult the press. It insults anyone who relies on the press to tell us what our leaders are doing. When presidents flip off the press, Americans get the finger.

But you can't expect Americans to care if the press doesn't.

Yeah, I know. Some people (including the White House) insist he was giving the "thumbs up" but I saw the video and it sure looked like the finger to me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I like this solution

Here's a comment I found on AMERICblog on the "Intelligent Design" issue:

Fine, let them have their ID class, but the week before it is given, dedicate a whole 5 days to the study and understanding of the concepts of science, that is:

*definition of hypothesis
*definition of theory
*definition of law
*history of and basis for the scientific method
*importance of evidence
*importance of repeatable experimentation

I think if you gave high schoolers an intense week of this, and the next Monday started on evolution and ID, it wouldn't matter. Present evolution, and as much proof as the kids can stand (more than any one human can remember all at once). Then present ID and say: "There is no known evidence for this idea (explain why it isn't even a hypothesis) and no experiments that can be done to prove it. Questions?

I think the National Science Teachers Association would do well to consider this approach! :-)

Statement of the National Science Teachers Association

We stand with the nation's leading scientific organizations and scientists, including Dr. John Marburger, the president's top science advisor, in stating that intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design has no place in the science classroom.

If you want a link for that you'll find it here.

Covering up sex abuse

Perhaps it has come to your attention that Republican Senator Rick Santorum has blamed Massachusetts "liberalism" for the sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church because Boston was, as he claimed, "the epicenter". Of course he has been confronted about the fact that the abuse was widespread and was in no way limited to Boston. Rather than apologize for his bigoted slander of an entire city, Santorum defended his original assessment because that was all he knew at the time. Forget the issues of liberalism and conservatism. A true gentleman of any persuasion would apologize for having ignorantly engaged in slander.

Well, it certainly wasn't all in Boston. Here's an article about what happened in Toledo, Ohio - hardly a bastion of east coast liberalism. The article is from the New York Times and is entitled, "Paper: Police Helped Hide Abuse Claims". Here's how it gets started:

Police helped the Catholic Diocese of Toledo cover up sex abuse allegations for several decades, refusing to investigate or arrest priests suspected of molesting children, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The (Toledo) Blade, relying on interviews with former officers and a review of court and diocese records, found at least five instances since the 1950s of police covering up allegations of abuse.

Four former officers said Police Chief Anthony Bosch, a Catholic who headed the Toledo department from 1956 to 1970, established an unwritten rule that priests could not be arrested.

''You would have been fired,'' said Gene Fodor, who served on the force between 1960 and 1981.

In some cases that resulted in charges, authorities blocked the release of files to the public. In others, priests were transferred to different churches or sent away for treatment.

The Rev. Robert Lamantia, who oversaw the transfer of a priest who was suspected of abusing a boy, said church officials knew police would not investigate.

''It doesn't look good today, but it wasn't part of our policy that this was considered to be a crime against youth and it had to be handled by police,'' Lamantia said.

Police told the newspaper much has changed since the sexual abuse crisis began unfolding in 2002 and insisted that priests suspected of crimes no longer receive special favors.

The diocese refused to discuss its relationship with law enforcement in the past, saying to talk about it now would only hurt abuse victims.

You know, I can't believe the Church even tried to offer an excuse like that. It's clear they weren't the slightest bit concerned about the victims until the scandal was exposed. Of course, the role of the police is simply beyond outrageous.