Monday, October 31, 2005

Reid Statement on Alito

Well, to say that Bush's latest nominee to the Supreme Court is a disappointment would be to engage in understatement. Here's what Democratic leader Harry Reid has to say about it:

The nomination of Judge Alito requires an especially long hard look by the Senate because of what happened last week to Harriet Miers. Conservative activists forced Miers to withdraw from consideration for this same Supreme Court seat because she was not radical enough for them. Now the Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people.

I am disappointed in this choice for several reasons. First, unlike previous nominations, this one was not the product of consultation with Senate Democrats. Last Friday, Senator Leahy and I wrote to President Bush urging him to work with us to find a consensus nominee. The President has rejected that approach.

Second, this appointment ignores the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the Supreme Court. The President has chosen a man to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, one of only two women on the Court. For the third time, he has declined to make history by nominating the first Hispanic to the Court. And he has chosen yet another federal appellate judge to join a court that already has eight justices with that narrow background. President Bush would leave the Supreme Court looking less like America and more like an old boys club.

Justice O'Connor has been the deciding vote in key cases protecting individual rights and freedoms on a narrowly divided Court. The stakes in selecting her replacement are high.

I look forward to meeting Judge Alito and learning why those who want to pack the Court with judicial activists are so much more enthusiastic about him than they were about Harriet Miers.

Well, I've made a personal decision on this one. If the Democrats don't fillibuster this nomination then they're not getting another penny from me. And I send a monthly pledge to the Democratic Party.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Just a reminder

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 Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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.

-- Treaty of Tripoli.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

--Article VI, Clause 2, The Constitution of the United States

Ethics and the White House

Well, there's an interesting article in the Washington Post this morning about the public's view of the state of ethics in the White House. The article is entitled, "White House Ethics, Honesty Questioned". Here's some of what it says:

A majority of Americans say the indictment of senior White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby signals broader ethical problems in the Bush administration, and nearly half say the overall level of honesty and ethics in the federal government has fallen since President Bush took office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

The poll, conducted Friday night and yesterday, found that 55 percent of the public believes the Libby case indicates wider problems "with ethical wrongdoing" in the White House, while 41 percent believes it was an "isolated incident." And by a 3 to 1 ratio, 46 percent to 15 percent, Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined rather than risen under Bush.

55 percent is a lot of people - particularly when you consider that the mainstream press is slanted to the right. Reality is starting to sink in. It's about time.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

What Patrick Fitzgerald said

It's not over.

What Howard Dean said

This is a sad day for America.

Beyond the evidence that the White House manipulated the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, a group of senior White House officials not only orchestrated efforts to smear a critic of the war, but worked to cover up this smear campaign. In so doing, they ignored the rule of law, endangering our national security and the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our nation's security. I. Lewis Libby was a part of this internal White House group.

This is not only an abuse of power, it is an un-American abuse of the public trust. As Americans, we must hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher standard. We cannot fear dissent. We cannot fear the truth. And we cannot tolerate those who do.

More importantly, we can't ignore the glaring questions this case has raised about the rationale the Bush Administration used to send us to war in Iraq, a war that continues. American soldiers are still in harms way. Over 2,000 brave Americans have lost their lives, thousands of American soldiers have been wounded, and thousands of American families have made the ultimate sacrifice. Still, the President has no plan and no exit strategy. And still he hasn't answered the question, what are we doing in Iraq and when can our troops come home?

President Bush faces a serious test of leadership; will he keep his pledge to hold his Administration to high ethical standards and give the American people what they deserve, and will he answer to the American people for these serious missteps?"

Friday, October 28, 2005

What Joseph Wilson said

The five count indictment issued by the Grand Jury today is an important step in the criminal justice process that began more than two years ago. I commend Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald for his professionalism, for his diligence, and for his courage.

There will be many opportunities in the future to comment on the events that led to today’s indictment. And, it appears that there will be further developments before the grand jury. Whatever the final outcome of the investigation and the prosecution, I continue to believe that revealing my wife Valerie’s secret CIA identity was very wrong and harmful to our nation, and I feel that my family was attacked for my speaking the truth about the events that led our country to war. I look forward to exercising my rights as a citizen to speak about these matters in the future.

Today, however, is not the time to analyze or to debate. And it is certainly not a day to celebrate. Today is a sad day for America. When an indictment is delivered at the front door of the White House, the Office of the President is defiled. No citizen can take pleasure from that.

As this case proceeds, Valerie and I are confident that justice will be done. In the meantime, I have a request. While I may engage in public discourse, my wife and
my family are private people. They did not choose to be brought into the public square, and they do not wish to be under the glare of camera. They are entitled to their privacy. This case is not about me or my family, no matter how others might try to make it so.

This case is about serious criminal charges that go to the heart of our democracy.

We, like all citizens, await the judgment of the jury in a court of law.

Thank you.

What Harry Reid said

This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information. It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president.

It's now time for President Bush to lead and answer the very serious questions raised by this investigation. The American people have already paid too steep a price as a result of misconduct at the White House, and they deserve better.

What John Kerry said

Today’s indictment of the Vice President’s top aide and the continuing investigation of Karl Rove are evidence of White House corruption at the very highest levels, far from the ‘honor and dignity’ the president pledged to restore to Washington just five years ago.

A chief architect of the war in Iraq, Scooter Libby, sworn to protect this country, used access to national security information not as weapons against our nation’s enemies, but as weapons against someone who dared to ask tough questions of a dishonest policy. Then they tried to cover it up rather than come clean with the American people, even as the President falsely claimed his Administration was cooperating with investigators. Not only was America misled into war, but a Nixonian effort to silence dissent has now left Americans wondering whether they can trust anything this Administration has to say.

Today, almost on cue as bad news struck, the President delivered another rhetorical blast on the war on terror. But the war on terror is not a convenient political distraction, it’s a war we have to win. And to win the war on terror, we can’t afford to have senior administration officials playing political games with national security. The President needs to get serious about addressing our nation’s problems, starting by cleaning out the corruption in his Administration and then addressing the situation in Iraq, soaring gas prices, and a still sluggish economy.

What Ted Kennedy said

Today is an ominous day for the country, signifying a new low since Watergate in terms of openness and honesty in our government. This is far more than an indictment of an individual. In effect it’s an indictment of the vicious and devious tactics used by the Administration to justify a war we never should have fought. It’s an indictment of the lengths Administration officials were willing to go to cover up their failed intelligence, their distortion on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and their serious blunders on the war. It is an indictment of their vindictive efforts to discredit anyone who challenge their misrepresentations.

The American people know the high cost of this misguided war – 2,000 U.S. soldiers dead, more than 15,000 wounded, hundreds of billions of dollars spent with no end in sight, and a continuing shameful effort by the White House to silence those who try to tell the truth about the war. Dissent is the ultimate form of patriotism, and it’s time we return to having an honest discourse in this country about changing direction and paying attention to the needs of the American people.

The President should take this opportunity to do everything he can to heal the country by not interfering with the prosecution of this case or the continuing investigation, and by cleaning house at the White House to immunize the country against any further corruption and dishonesty. As the President promised, anyone still in the White House who had anything to do with this scandalous plot or the cover-up should be dismissed immediately, whether or not they have been indicted. Something has to give — America can’t stand three more years of this failed Bush presidency.

Valerie Plame timeline

Well, by now you've heard that Libby has been indicted and has resigned. I thought you might like to see a Guardian article entitled, "Timeline: the Valerie Plame affair". It lists "Key events in the investigation into the leak of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame's name to the media". I trust the Guardian not to leave anything out that's significant.

Indictment disappointment

Well, the Washington Post is reporting that we should expect only one indictment and that Karl Rove is to be spared but will continue to be under investigation. Here's part of the article entitled, "White House Braces for Indictment; Rove Said to Be Spared for Now":

White House officials braced for the possibility that Vice President Cheney's chief of staff would be indicted in the CIA leak case today, while the lawyer for Karl Rove said the presidential confidant's case is still under investigation.

"The Special Counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges and that Mr. Rove's status has not changed," said Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, in a statement released this morning. "Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel's efforts to complete the investigation. We are confident that when the Special Counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong."


Thursday, October 27, 2005

A timely prophecy

This is what he said last night:

The White House remains steadfast. They said they will absolutely not withdraw Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court. You know what that means? She'll be out of there in a week.

--David Letterman

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Poll on Plame-gate

Here's a CNN article that says the following on the Valerie Plame affair:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative's identity, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Thirty-nine percent said some administration officials acted illegally in the matter, in which the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, was revealed.

The same percentage of respondents in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said administration officials acted unethically, but did nothing illegal.

The article further explains the situation:

Federal law makes it a crime to deliberately reveal the identity of a covert CIA operative, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is heading a probe into the matter. (Fitzgerald profile)

With the grand jury investigating the leak set to expire Friday, FBI agents interviewed a Washington neighbor of Plame for a second time.

The agents asked Marc Lefkowitz on Monday night whether he knew about Plame's CIA work before her identity was leaked in the media, and Lefkowitz told agents he did not, according to his wife, Elise Lefkowitz.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that notes in Fitzgerald's possession suggest that Libby first heard of the CIA officer from Cheney himself. (Full story)

But the newspaper reported that the notes do not indicate that Cheney or Libby knew Plame was an undercover operative.

The Times said its sources in the story were lawyers involved in the case.

The notes show that George Tenet, then the CIA director, gave the information to Cheney in response to questions the vice president posed about Wilson, the Times reported.

How could they not know? What would be the point of outing her if she were not undercover? The very idea strains credulity.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Great snark

Insiders say that if Karl Rove resigns, President Bush will not function effectively. Wait a minute, all this time he's been functioning effectively?

--David Letterman

Monday, October 24, 2005

The lie can't last forever

People are getting fed up with being lied to. That's what Dave Zweifel concludes in a brief but biting article entitled, "Bush's Lies are Coming Home to Roost" published in Madison Capital Times. Here's part of what it says:

Several months ago I suggested in this column that if Bill Clinton could be impeached for lying about his extracurricular sex life, then George Bush could be impeached for telling lies to get us involved in what appears to be a never-ending war that has taken the lives of nearly 2,000 Americans, wounded another 15,000-plus and resulted in the deaths of at least 30,000 Iraqis.

As far as I can tell, Monica Lewinsky was the only victim of Clinton's shenanigans and she's still very much alive.

I got letters, of course, telling me how stupid I was and, besides, since Congress is controlled by Republicans, there's no way that Bush will ever get impeached in the first place.

That's undoubtedly true.

But it's now turning out that quite a few folks agree that maybe this guy ought to be held accountable for the lies he's told and, I'm sorry to say, continues to tell.

A poll done in early October by the respected polling organization Ipsos found that a full 50 percent of Americans favor impeaching the president if he lied about the war in Iraq. Forty-four percent said he shouldn't be impeached, even for telling lies about his reasons for going to war. The rest either didn't know or care.

The percentage for impeachment grows considerably the younger the person is and the lower he or she ranks on the income scale.

The Ipsos poll comes on the heels of one done by the polling organization Zogby back in June of this year. The Zogby gauge of public opinion showed that in June 42 percent of Americans answered yes to the question of whether Bush should be impeached if he told lies to get us into war while 50 percent said he shouldn't be.

The change in opinion from June to October coincides with the dramatic drop in the president's approval rating, which now stands at about the same percentage as the vote that Herbert Hoover received against Franklin D. Roosevelt back in 1932 - 39 percent.

The fact that half of the people would agree impeachment is in order is surprising because there really is no one campaigning for impeaching the president in any high-profile place, like in Congress or the media.

People are coming to the conclusion by themselves.

I think most people are gullible for only so long. Then they get really offended by the con game. You can only insult people for so long. You can only lie for so long.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart - Part 8

I've shared with you a number of articles about the shameful way Wal-Mart treats its workers as well as how it destroys local business in small towns (in large towns, too.) Today I want to draw your attention to an article about the vast sums of money Wal-Mart gives away to promote a right-wing political and social agenda. The article is by Bill Berkowitz and is entitled, "Wal-Marting Philanthropy". Here's a little bit of what it says:

OAKLAND, California - Upon the death of Helen Walton, the frail and aging widow of Sam Walton -- founder of the Wal-Mart empire -- the Walton Family Foundation could receive as much as 20 billion dollars, making it the largest and potentially most powerful foundation in the world.
The Walton Family Foundation currently gives out more than 100 million dollars a year - a healthy chunk of it to opponents of public school education. The Wal-Mart Foundation donated more than 170 million dollars in 2004, 90 percent of which went through local stores to small community and faith-based organizations.

The Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Political Action Committee for Responsive Government earmarks the vast majority of its contributions to Republican Party political candidates and Republican political committees. Of the 2.1 million dollars the PAC gave in 2004, 1.6 million went to the GOP while less than 500,000 dollars went to Democrats.

In its new report "The Waltons and Wal-Mart: Self-Interested Philanthropy", the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) examines the intersection of corporate philanthropy and public policy by looking closely at the philanthropic efforts of the Walton family.

"The importance of the Waltons is not how much money they are giving now, but how much money they will be giving in a few years and where the money will be going," the report states. Philanthropic endeavors and contributions to political candidates and political action committees (PACs) have increasingly become a way the wealthy can divest of surplus capital while promoting their political and social agendas. In 2004, "corporations and their foundations contributed 12 billion dollars in cash and in-kind donations to charities," the NCRP report documents.

John Walton, killed in an airplane crash earlier this year, was "the activist in the family, working to fund political campaigns for school vouchers and charter schools and directing much of the family's charitable giving". It is expected that the Walton Family Foundation's expected cash transfusion would lead to an increasing support for conservative candidates and conservative causes.

So why are the Walton's against public education? Here's one suggestion:

"Some critics argue that it is the beginning of the 'Wal-Martization' of education, and a move to for-profit schooling, from which the family could potentially financially benefit. John Walton owned 240,000 shares of Tesseract Group Inc. (formerly known as Education Alternatives Inc.), which is a for-profit company that develops/manages charter and private school as well as public schools."

Oh, my goodness. We're talking about a huge amount of money going to right-wing causes. It's very worrying.

Saturday dog blogging!

Here's Izzy holding down the foot of the bed:

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Plame plans to sue

Here's a short article published by United Press International entitled, "Plame plans to sue White House officials":

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame are preparing to file a civil suit against Bush administration officials.

Plame was the covert CIA agent allegedly unmasked by the White House. Now she is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against the Bush administration officials who may have disclosed her identity and scuttled her career, reported Thursday.

"There is no question that her privacy has been invaded. She was almost by definition the ultimate private person," said the couple's attorney, Christopher Wolf.

Wolf said the couple would make a final decision on filing a lawsuit after special prosecutor Patick Fitzgerald has completed his investigation, Salon said.

If they do sue, Wilson and Plame could be the first litigants to depose senior White House officials since Paula Jones, an employee of the state of Arkansas, sued President Bill Clinton.

Fitzgerald must decide whether or not to return indictments by Oct. 28, the day the grand jury investigating the leak of Plame's name to the press is scheduled to be dismissed. Democrats in Congress have requested a report from Fitzgerald on his findings but legal observers say he is under no obligation to provide one if he decides that no crimes were committed.

Oh, the irony. The precedent was set by the Republicans going after Bill Clinton. Frankly, I think it's quite delicious that Plame is planning to sue. The White House deserves it.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's Leroy lazing in the window.

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Indictments coming

Well, I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting for the indictments to happen in the outing of Valerie Plame investigation. Here's something Dan Froomkin says in the Washington Post about it:

Serious Legal Jeopardy

David Johnston writes in the New York Times: "As he weighs whether to bring criminal charges in the C.I.A. leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel, is focusing on whether Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.

"Among the charges that Mr. Fitzgerald is considering are perjury, obstruction of justice and false statement -- counts that suggest the prosecutor may believe the evidence presented in a 22-month grand jury inquiry shows that the two White House aides sought to cover up their actions, the lawyers said.

"Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said."

And, Johnston writes: "Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby may not be the only people at risk. There may be others in the government who could be charged for violations of the disclosure law or of other statutes, like the espionage act, which makes it a crime to transmit classified information to people not authorized to receive it."

In contrast to the Times report, John D. McKinnon, Anne Marie Squeo and Joe agan of the Wall Street Journal sees signs that Fitzgerald "may be exploring whether to charge White House officials with leaking garden-variety classified information. . . .

"[L]awyers and others close to the case say he may be piecing together a case that White House officials conspired to leak various types of classified material in conversations with reporters -- including Ms. Plame's identity but also other secrets related to national security."

Sounds like treason to me. If this administration doesn't go down for this then I figure America is really done for. What they have done is so wrong on so many levels.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What about the forgery?

All right. Here's the important question: Who forged the documents that said Saddam Hussein was getting yellowcake uranium from Niger? I really want you to read an article by James Moore entitled, "The most important criminal case in American history". Mr. Moore makes the case that the Fitzgerald investigation is about something much more important that just who leaked Valerie Plame's name. Here's how the article gets started:

If special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald delivers indictments of a few functionaries of the vice president's office or the White House, we are likely to have on our hands a constitutional crisis. The evidence of widespread wrongdoing and conspiracy is before every American with a cheap laptop and a cable television subscription. And we do not have the same powers of subpoena granted to Fitzgerald.

We know, however, based upon what we have read and seen and heard that someone created fake documents related to Niger and Iraq and used them as a false pretense to launch America into an invasion of Iraq. And when a former diplomat made an honest effort to find out the facts, a plan was hatched to both discredit and punish him by revealing the identity of his undercover CIA agent wife.

Patrick Fitzgerald has before him the most important criminal case in American history. Watergate, by comparison, was a random burglary in an age of innocence. The investigator's prosecutorial authority in this present case is not constrained by any regulation. If he finds a thread connecting the leak to something greater, Fitzgerald has the legal power to follow it to the web in search of the spider. It seems unlikely, then, that he would simply go after the leakers and the people who sought to cover up the leak when it was merely a secondary consequence of the much greater crime of forging evidence to foment war. Fitzgerald did not earn his reputation as an Irish alligator by going after the little guy. Presumably, he is trying to find evidence that Karl Rove launched a covert operation to create the forged documents and then conspired to out Valerie Plame when he learned the fraud was being uncovered by Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. As much as this sounds like the plot of a John le Carre novel, it also comports with the profile of the Karl Rove I have known, watched, traveled with and written about for the past 25 years.

I really recommend that you click through and read the whole article if you have time. Mr. Moore outlines a convincing scenario of how it all happened. We could be on the verge of something very big. But cornered animals are very dangerous and the Bush administration is cornered at this point. It will be very interesting to see how matters unfold.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The illusion of normality

Ernest Partridge has written an article called The Illusion of Normality that really sums up our current national predicament. Here's how it gets started:

Never in the 229 years of United States history has this government "of, by and for the people" been in greater peril. Not during the Civil War, not during the great depression, and not during the Second World War or the Cold War which followed.

Until today, gross incompetence, abuse of power, corruption, corporatocracy, and federal insolvency could be checked and reversed by balanced and separated governmental powers, and at the ballot box by a citizenry informed and provoked by an alert and independent media. Now all branches of government and the mainstream media are dominated by the wealthy elites in control of a single political party.

Can you believe this? If not, you are in the company of a majority of Americans who might respond to the above jeremiad with "Oh c'mon now, it can't be as bad as all that! We've always had incompetence, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, and stolen elections are as old as the republic. It's no different now."

So long as that majority of Americans believes this, the rule of the Busheviks and its successor oligarch regimes will be secure. Thus Bush, Inc. and its obedient mainstream media are desperately endeavoring to nourish and sustain this "illusion of normality."

The illusion has many facets.

Partridge then lists what those facets are and discusses each one: the belief that elections are fair, the "myth" of the liberal mainstream press, the belief that our use of torture is just about "a few bad apples", the belief that we're upholding the Constitution, and the belief that the administration uses good science. All of these are illusions.

Then he says the following:

And the list continues: record federal deficits, a widening income gap between the very rich and the rest of us, corruption - personal enrichment at public expense, corporate "purchasing" of legislation and "regulatory relief" through campaign contributions. Massive. Unconstrained. Unprecedented. Unbelievable. And so most of the public is unwilling and unable to believe it.Add to this the enormous stake that the Administration, the Republican Party, and their corporate patrons have in perpetuating this "illusion of normality." Billions of dollars of public funds have been snatched from the federal treasury and billions more from the investments, retirement funds, health benefits and social services of private individuals.

Add to that the deterioration of educational facilities and public infrastructure. Some of this has been done through the cover of "legitimate" congressional legislation, and some of it through outright criminal activity. Remnants of our criminal justice system are pushing back. Today, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff and even Tom DeLay are under indictment. Soon Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury will hand down their indictments which, it is likely, will reach into the White House. Hopefully, that will be just the beginning.
If we are to restore our democracy, truth must rise again soon and here.

But how?

Foremost among the objectives of the progressive resistance must be to disabuse the public at large of its "illusion of normality." We must attack the widespread but understandable unwillingness of that public to face up to the enormity of the crimes that have been perpetrated upon the body politic.

I agree. Now who will provide the leadership to do this? That is the question.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What we're doing to workers

I happened to be in the car today while the Diane Rehme Show was on and heard her interview the author of a new biography of Henry Ford. As I'm sure many of you know, Ford made the decision to pay his workers an unheard of $5 a day so that they could afford to buy the cars they made. His philosophy was that it made good business sense to create a consumer class.

Business today is going in the opposite direction. We are systematically destroying the middle class and I truly marvel at the shortsightedness of the CEOs that are making these decisions. When ordinary Americans are driven into destitution by low wages, who is going to buy the products that the corporations are manufacturing?

I want to share with you an article published in Newsday that explores this issue. It is by Marie Cocco and is entitled "Delphi deal foretells a very grim future". Here's some of what it says:

Time was that when a big company demanded pay cuts of 60 percent from more than 30,000 workers in 13 states, announced countless plant closings and put employees on notice that pensions and health benefits were about to be slashed, some sort of political outcry would erupt.

That time has passed.

If there is official outrage over the bankruptcy strategy of Delphi Corp., the largest American auto-parts manufacturer, it is imperceptible. Yes, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said her piece. Yes, the press has reported on the bankruptcy - laying out the usual story of an old-line manufacturer finding it so much cheaper to produce its wares overseas that it now must force down wages here at home.

A few have seen fit to mention the exquisitely embroidered golden parachutes the company seeks to provide for 21 top executives who might, after all, downsize themselves out of their jobs and so deserve a soft landing. Still, the commentary congeals predictably around the idea that this is the fault of the United Auto Workers, a union that's been successful at winning pay packages that allow members to live the middle-class life.

"Unsustainable entitlement," one commentator called the UAW contracts. "Welfare," said another, as if heading for a factory before dawn to strap on safety goggles is the moral equivalent of a day spent dawdling in front of the TV.

For those who missed the brief news flash about this monumental bankruptcy, here's the outline: Delphi, once a subsidiary of General Motors, is losing money. The parts maker complains of U.S. wages that are too high to compete with labor from Mexico, China and its other offshore locales. It is hell-bent on "addressing" its "legacy issues." That's corporate-speak for cutting pensions and health benefits for retirees.

Delphi wants to slash its American production workers' wages from about $27 an hour to $10 or $12, and expects the UAW to go along. Otherwise, the company will throw the workers on the mercy of the bankruptcy court. Delphi may well dump its pension obligations on the government. This could leave retirees with drastically reduced checks and taxpayers holding the bag.

To execute these tasks, Delphi needs the very best corporate managers. So it wants to sweeten severance terms if they stay on for a while but then are let go involuntarily. After restructuring, Delphi needs managers to drive the sleek new corporate machine. So it seeks to create a separate bonus plan for about 600 executives, under which they could receive up to 250 percent of salary. President Rodney O'Neal is looking at a $2.7 million "cash opportunity," according to court documents filed this month. Vice chairman David Wohleen stands to gain $2.2 million. Chairman Steve Miller got his upfront, a $3 million signing bonus last July.

I'm sorry but that's just obscene.

The article concludes this way:

In the 20th, we built the most prosperous society ever. The accomplishment came through private striving and public policy. Behind the achievement was a shared belief in paying workers enough to create a consumer class, and raising children who would reach higher into the middle class. If there is a shared philosophy now, it seems to be that no corporate tactic is unacceptable.

It calls expensive health coverage a symptom of workers' greediness at home - but conveniently, a government-funded expense abroad, which allows Delphi and other global companies to produce cheaply overseas. It is a philosophy that says a pension for average workers is an unaffordable excess, but extra pay for executives is a business strategy.

If this is our philosophy for this new century, the era will create the sort of economic caste system we boasted of having overcome in the last.

Why is there no public outcry? The ethos of ruthless selfishness that pervades in our society today is very worrying. And this is what is truly unsustainable. What American business is going to learn soon enough is that it is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. When the American consumer is driven into destitution, American business will have no customers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The president gives up?

Here's an interesting article published by The Nation entitled, "George Bush Gives Up". I'm not sure that's really what has happened but the author certainly makes a case for it. See what you think:

George Bush has given up.

We should have seen this coming. During the first debate of the fall 2004 campaign, a weary and frustrated Bush repeatedly referred to how the presidency had proven to be a difficult job for him. Again and again, the commander-in-chief responded to questions about the missteps, mistakes and misdeeds of his first term by pleading that, "It's hard work."

The guy was clearly overwhelmed a year ago. So it can't really come as much of surprise that he has thrown in the towel.

The evidence of his surrender is all around. The man who spent years denying global warming is now borrowing talking points from Jimmy Carter to call for energy conservation. He can't even convince himself -- let alone anyone else -- that the "mission-accomplished" occupation of Iraq is functional, let alone a success story. He has essentially abandoned his primary domestic-policy initiative for 2005, admitting during a Rose Garden press conference that there is a "diminished appetite" for his scheme to privatize Social Security. And when it came to what is arguably the most important appointment of his presidency -- the selection of a replacement for the critical "swing" justice on the U.S. Supreme Court – he didn't even try.

In defending his selection of his attorney, Harriet Miers, to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Bush claimed that, "I picked the best person I could find."

He obviously did not look very hard. Maybe that's because the guy who used to tell him who to nominate for judicial openings, Karl Rove, is busy trying to avoid a indictment by a federal grand jury. Maybe it is because Vice President Dick Cheney's office is in crisis, as the veep's chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, is targeted by the same investigation into who in the White House revealed the identity of an intelligence operative in order to punish the husband of that operative, Ambassador Joe Wilson, for revealing that the administration had warped intelligence in order to make the "case" for invading Iraq.

Whatever the explanation, the Miers nomination is a signal of surrender.


A person commenting on this article, however, said the following:

I think the Miers nomination is more proof of Bush's narcissism. Narcissists, when challenged and pressured, fall deeper into their narcissism, thinking it will save them. Bush went with Miers because her sole qualification was her loyalty and devotion to him. His narcissism tells him that by putting someone like that forward, everyone else will see how great he is.

Narcissism is a horrid personality disorder, and Bush is swimming in it.

Personally, I vote for the narcissism explanation.

Normalizing treason

Today I want to send you over to AMERICAblog to read an incredibly powerful rant by John Aravosis on the Plame affair. I'll give you a taste of what he says here:

If a senior White House staffer had intentionally outed an American spy during World War II, he'd have been shot.
It would be one thing for a senior adviser to the president to put the nation's security at risk during a time of war. That could be explained as an aberration - a quite serious one, no doubt - but a fluke nonetheless. But when the president himself refuses to keep his own word about firing that aberration, and when the entire Republican party rallies around that fluke and tries to minimize what is usually a capital offense during wartime, something is seriously wrong with that party and its leadership.
The Republican party's gift to the American people, and the Bush administration's legacy, will be the normalization of treason. They are trying to convince Americans that betraying our country during wartime for personal gain is no more serious than running a stop sign or going 60 in a 55 zone.

If a senior aide to the president had intentionally outed an American undercover agent during World War II, an agent whose work was central to our mission of defeating the Germans, that aide would very likely be put to death. While no one is yet arguing that Karl Rove be executed, it is the height of hypocrisy and hubris for the Republican party to attempt to minimize a crime that not only puts our troops at risk, but risks the lives of every American man, woman and child.

It is truly a sad day when the Republican party minimizes treason in a selfish attempt to defend a traitor. President Bush has yet to give a clear explanation as to why 2,000 Americans have given their lives in Iraq. But one thing is for sure. It wasn't to defend our right to treason.

Apparently the Republicans are making the rounds of the talk shows saying that political payback is common and should not be criminalized - that prosecuting someone responsible for the outing of an undercover agent is "criminalizing politics". For them it's all about politics, isn't it? Forget about protecting the American people. Forget about putting the welfare of the country above politics. You certainly won't get that from Republicans.

Remember: Plame was working undercover on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Her work was vitally important to the security of our country. And they outed her. How could they????

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Miers and Rice, sitting in a tree...

It seems Harriet Miers and Condoleezza Rice are old chums. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just is evident that the fact had something to do with Bush's selection of Miers in the first place. The article is from NewsMax and is entitled, "Condi Is Old Pal of Miers":

It's been widely reported that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is a longtime close friend of the man who nominated her, President George Bush.

What's less known is that she's also close to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - who likely played a role in her selection.

In fact, in the past five years Miers and Rice have often enjoyed a "girls' night out" along with Ann Veneman, the former agriculture secretary who's now the executive director of Unicef.

The three got together last month at the Bull and Bear steakhouse at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

They've met at the restaurants Olives and Galileo in Washington, listened to concerts together from the president's box at the Kennedy Center, and even sat down to a home-cooked meal at Veneman's house.

Last year, Miers was a guest at a surprise birthday party for Rice at the British Embassy in Washington.

Miers and Rice share an "intense devotion" to President Bush, according to the New York Times, which quoted a friend of the two women as saying it was "reasonable to speculate" that Rice played a role in Miers' selection.

As to what the women discuss on their "girls' night out," a friend said: "There's a lot of girl talk. It's about life, not business."

I don't know about you but this business of single middle-aged women in the administration having an "intense devotion" to Bush seems psychologically weird. Creepy even. But that's just me.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Flu vaccine

A friend of mine from Virginia sent me the following and I'm passing it on to you:

Since you have a blog maybe you'd be interested in redoing what I've said below and putting it on your blog for others to read. I sent it to Congressman Charlie Rangel and to Nancy Pelosi. I usually get personal responses from Rangel's office at least. I don't even bother with Virginia Republicans. Though I may send this to Senator Warner if I don't get any positive response from Rangel or Pelosi.

I have read that a number of pharmaceutical companies, even overseas, don't produce as much flu vaccine as could be needed because too often the doses they produce are not used, causing them to lose money on production.

My grandfather died in the flu epidemic of 1918-1919. I have always gotten a flu shot every year. It seems to me that there is a rather simple strategy for assuring companies that produce vaccine of sales and people who want it of being able to get it. Set up a system of prior year subscriptions. Why can't congress do something to encourage either doctors or health departments to set up such a system? The shots are still only about $20.00. I'd personally be willing to pay $30 or even $50.00 per shot a year before the vaccines were produced to insure that I could get a shot for myself and for members of my family.

The extra charge could be used to cover the costs for the paper work a subscription system would require and even pay the cost for over production to assure that the most vulnerable would have vaccine available if they failed to subscribe or couldn't afford to subscribe.

I decided to send this to the Democratic Minority Leader before I send it to one of Virginia's Republican congressmen or Senators. If I don't get any personal response I'll send it to them in a week or so. It is simply absurd to be told yet again this year that flu vaccine for the regular flu isn't going to be available till after people over 65 have been given first chance. Our government is surely capable of finding a way to order enough for everyone who wants to get it.

It's certainly an idea worth floating past your senators and congresspersons. Of course, the right way to do this is for the government to order enough vaccine for the entire population every year and then provide the shots free of charge. But pigs will fly before that happens in the United States.

Wal-Mart - part 7

There's a new documentary coming out that exposes the cruelty of Wal-Mart as well as how much those low prices cost us in other ways. This is explained in an article by Don Hazen called, "Wal-Mart can hide, but it can't run" and published in AlterNet. Here's part of what it says:

In spite of its financial largesse, or maybe because of it, Wal-Mart constantly plays the miser. A congressional report in 2004 found that a typical 200-employee Wal-Mart store cost federal taxpayers $420,000 for children's health care, tax credits and deductions for low-income families. That equals about $2,103 per Wal-Mart employee, or an annual welfare bill of $2.5 billion for Wal-Mart's 1.2 million employees in America. What that boils down to is that Americans subsidize Wal-Mart so that its stockholders can continue to reap huge profits.

Wal-Mart is about to find itself in the spotlight again. Robert Greenwald's new documentary film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, rolls out in November, with thousands of house parties, and an array of journalistic reports in the progressive media. (Full disclosure: Robert Greenwald is a member of the board of trustees of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet's parent organization.) In concert with this media effort, SEIU and hundreds of community and religious groups have organized a "Wal-Mart Week" to expose the truths about the company to the greater public.
With this editorial, AlterNet is also upping the ante on Wal-Mart. We've published dozens of articles about Wal-Mart over the last few years. Now we have created a Wal-Mart page ( that aggregates articles and investigative work by our writers and partner publications and websites; key information about the issues; and links to important campaigns.

In an unprecedented level of teamwork, The Nation, The American Prospect, In These Times, The Washington Monthly and other media will all be publishing investigative articles simultaneously during the week of November 7 in support of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.

The concerted effort of Greenwald's documentary, progressive media, activist campaigns like Wal-Mart Watch, community groups and the SEIU is great. But the truth is, Wal-Mart won't be forced to change unless everyone pitches in.

The best way you can pitch in is to refuse to shop at Wal-Mart and to tell all your friends exactly why you have made that decision.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I want to call your attention to an article entitled, "The Fallen Legion: Casualties of the Bush Administration" by Nick Turse. Here's how it gets started:

In late August 2005, after twenty years of service in the field of military procurement, Bunnatine ("Bunny") Greenhouse, the top official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of awarding government contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, was demoted. For years, Greenhouse received stellar evaluations from superiors -- until she raised objections about secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) -- a subsidiary of Halliburton, the mega-corporation Vice President Dick Cheney once presided over. After telling congress that one Halliburton deal was "was the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career," she was reassigned from "the elite Senior Executive Service... to a lesser job in the civil works division of the corps."

When Greenhouse was busted down, she became just another of the casualties of the Bush administration -- not the countless (or rather uncounted) Iraqis, or the ever-growing list of American troops, killed, maimed, or mutilated in the administration's war of convenience-- but the seemingly endless and ever-growing list of beleaguered administrators, managers, and career civil servants who quit their posts in protest or were defamed, threatened, fired, forced out, demoted, or driven to retire by Bush administration strong-arming. Often, this has been due to revulsion at the President's policies -- from the invasion of Iraq and negotiations with North Korea to the flattening of FEMA and the slashing of environmental standards -- which these women and men found to be beyond the pale.

Since almost the day he assumed power, George W. Bush has left a trail of broken careers in his wake. Below is a listing of but a handful of the most familiar names on the rolls of the fallen:

Richard Clarke: Perhaps the most well-known of the Bush administration's casualties, Clarke spent thirty years in the government, serving under every president from Ronald Reagan on. He was the second-ranking intelligence officer in the State Department under Reagan and then served in the administration of George H.W. Bush. Under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he held the position of the president's chief adviser on terrorism on the National Security Council -- a Cabinet-level post. Clarke became disillusioned with the "terrible job" of fighting terrorism exhibited by the second president Bush -- namely, ignoring evidence of an impending al-Qaeda attack and putting the pressure on to produce a non-existent link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. (His memo explaining that there was no connection, said Clarke, "got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. Do it again.'") After 9/11, Clarke asked for a transfer from his job to a National Security Council office concerned with cyber-terrorism. (The administration later claimed it was a demotion). Quit, January 2003.

Paul O'Neill: A top official at the Office of Management and Budget under Presidents Nixon and Ford (and later chairman of aluminum-giant Alcoa), O'Neill served nearly two years in George W. Bush's cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury before being asked to resign after opposing the president's tax cuts. He, like Clarke, recalled Bush's Iraq fixation. "From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," said O'Neill, a permanent member of the National Security Council. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.'" Fired, December 6, 2002.

Mr. Turse then describes the ill fate of 38 other officials whose careers were ruined or damaged by the Bush administration.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Jay Leno snark

Newsweek reports that President Bush likes Harriet Miers because she didn't go to an Ivy League school, she worked hard and she's achieved everything on her own without family help. So, see that, opposites attract.

– Jay Leno

Bush the phony

I found the following posting on AMERICAblog today:

Bush Q & A with US soldiers this morning was fake

CNN just showed video of the "rehearsal" where the soldiers asked Bush the uestions in advance so Bush could practice his responses. The White House initially said this was an unscripted event. And now they got caught lying, again, to the media and the public regarding the war.

Mission Accomplished.

It's all about manipulating the news with this administration. And everything has to be scripted. They're so dishonest it's sickening.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Martial law - part 2

I invite you to remember something Bush said: "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier - so long as I'm the dictator." It was meant as a joke, of course, except that's no joking matter in a democracy. Well, it seems he is just itching to declare martial law as is explained in an article by Ted Rall entitled, "Giving democracy the bird: Bush asks Congress for martial law":

Creeping militarism leapt into full view with Bush's October 4 request to Congress to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the military in domestic policing except for the purpose of quelling a revolution. Citing the theoretical possibility that Asian avian flu, now only transmittable from bird to human, could mutate into a human-to-human form, Bush said: "If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have."

Overturning Posse Comitatus would allow troops to break into houses and apartments and sweep the streets for flu victims, and forcibly contain them in Guantánamo-style camps. They could seal off cities or whole states. These extreme measures could also be deployed against U.S. citizens after hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, or even election disputes--whenever and wherever a president decides they are necessary.

Bush laid the groundwork for his assault on Posse Comitatus on September 26, when he explained his decision to unleash the 82nd Airborne upon Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans: "I want there to be a robust discussion about the best way for the federal government, in certain extreme circumstances, to be able to rally assets for the good of the people." The Louisiana National Guard, meanwhile, was stuck in Iraq.

"The translation of this is martial law in the United States," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate dean of Columbia University's School of Public Health and director of its National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Redlener called Bush's proposal to deploy troops on American soil an "extraordinarily Draconian measure." Even Gene Healy, senior editor at the right-wing Cato Institute, said Bush's proposal would undermine "a fundamental principle of American law" that "reflects America's traditional distrust of using standing armies to enforce order at home, a distrust that's well-justified."
Travel to other countries and you'll find that a society's freedom is inversely related to the number of guys wearing camouflage, brandishing big guns and pulling people over at roadblocks. Blurring the distinction between policing and soldiering, as do the military police in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Jordan, is a defining characteristic of repressive states.

If Congress repeals Posse Comitatus, we can kiss democracy good-bye forever.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another look at fascism

Okay, I've showed you stuff like this before but I think it's time for another look. Here's what fascism looks like:

The excerpt from the following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite "spontaneous" acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and "terrorists." Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting "national security," and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the "godless." A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of "have-not" citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. "Normal" and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or "traitors" was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

Family values - yeah, right.

Perhaps you know that liberals in the blogosphere are referred to as "moonbats". Some have said this originated as a play on George Monbiot's name. Today I want to call your attention to one of his recent articles. It's entitled, "My heroes are driven by God, but I'm glad my society isn't" and subtitled, "The evidence is clear that murder, venereal disease and marital breakdown are all more common in religious cultures."

Here are a couple of excerpts:

Are religious societies better than secular ones?
Remarkably, no one, until now, has attempted systematically to answer the question with which this column began. But in the current edition of the Journal of Religion and Society, a researcher called Gregory Paul tests the hypothesis, propounded by evangelists in the Bush administration, that religion is associated with lower rates of "lethal violence, suicide, non-monogamous sexual activity and abortion". He compared data from 18 developed democracies, and discovered that the Christian fundamentalists couldn't have got it more wrong.

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion ... None of the strongly secularised, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction." Within the US, "the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and midwest" have "markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the north-east where ... secularisation, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms".

Three sets of findings stand out: the associations between religion - especially absolute belief - and juvenile mortality, venereal disease and adolescent abortion. Paul's graphs show far higher rates of death among the under-fives in Portugal, the US and Ireland and put the US - the most religious country in his survey - in a league of its own for gonorrhea and syphilis. Strangest of all, for those who believe that Christian societies are "pro-life", is the finding that "increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator ... Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data".

These findings appear to match the studies of teenage pregnancy I've read. The rich countries in which sexual abstinence campaigns, generally inspired by religious belief, are strongest have the highest early pregnancy rates. The US is the only rich nation with teenage pregnancy levels comparable to those of developing nations: it has a worse record than India, the Philippines and Rwanda. Because they're poorly educated about sex and in denial about what they're doing (and so less likely to use contraceptives), boys who participate in abstinence programmes are more likely to get their partners pregnant than those who don't.

Is the Bush administration likely to be influenced by these finding? Not a chance. You know that and I know that too. But at least we can take heart in our conviction that a secular society with a firm separation between church and state is a good thing.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Supporting exploitation

Here's an investigative article from the Chicago Tribune that shows your tax dollars at work:

American tax dollars and the wartime needs of the U.S. military are fueling an illicit pipeline of cheap foreign labor, mainly impoverished Asians who often are deceived, exploited and put in harm's way in Iraq with little protection.

Part 1: Desperate for work, lured into danger

The journey of a dozen impoverished men from Nepal to Iraq reveals the exploitation underpinning the American war effort. Read the story >>

Part 2: Into a war zone, on a deadly road

A worker's chilling call home: 'I am done for'.

Read the story >>

The findings

* To fill a need for cheap labor in Iraq, the U.S. military and its contractors have tapped an illicit human pipeline that exploits and endangers workers.

* The U.S. and its main contractor in Iraq, KBR, leave every aspect of the hiring and deployment of foreign laborers to Middle Eastern subcontractors.

* Some subcontractors and brokers employ the same tools of fraud and coercion condemned by the U.S. when practiced in other countries.

* Several nations, including Nepal, have banned or restricted citizens from work in Iraq, but KBR allows people from these nations to work under its contract anyway. Read the story >>

We need to demand accountability somehow. But how? That's the question. It seems our public servants can't be counted on to behave responsibly and ethically.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Harriet Miers and Dred Scott

Here's an article written by a Bush supporter that I'm linking to because it gives some insight into how Bush communicates with his base. It's explaining how Harriet Miers is a "safe" Supreme Court nominee for the Religious Right to support. The article is by Kathleen Parker and is entitled, "President winkin', blinkin' 'n' noddin'". Here's how it concludes:

Bush, in fact, has a record of communicating in code to his base, often leaving the rest of the world flummoxed. During the Oct. 8, 2004, debate in the run-up to his re-election, when asked about whether he would apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees, Bush demurred with what seemed at the time like a head-swiveling non sequitur by invoking Dred Scott. No litmus test, he said, but he would not nominate anyone who would condone Dred Scott.

"Huh?" everyone said.

Subsequent deconstructions of Bush's comments revealed that "Dred Scott" is code for "Roe vs. Wade" among pro-lifers. Scott, of course, was the slave who in 1857 sought freedom after his master's death. The courts ruled against him, saying that even freed slaves couldn't be citizens and reinforcing the subhuman status of blacks in the U.S.

Pro-life advocates often refer to Dred Scott as a way of arguing against the inhumanity of Roe vs. Wade and the sins of judicial activism. If constitutional amendments (13 and 14) nullified the Dred Scott ruling, why not a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn? So the thinking goes. A strict constructionist, in the law's reformed view, would not condone the Dred Scott decision. In Bush's view, a strict constructionist also would not condone Roe vs. Wade. When Bush asserts that Miers will be a strict constructionist, you can be almost certain he's delivering a Dred Scott wink.

Likewise, when Bush says he knows Miers' heart, he means her born-again heart, the one that mirrors his own. They are cut from the same evangelical cloth. "Trust me," in other words, means: "Relax, I've kept my word." To know Miers' heart may be to know her mind as well. Then again, with Bush, who knows?

Sometimes a wink is just a wink.

I really think we're going to lose Roe v. Wade and that's tragic. Now let me be very clear. I think abortion is also tragic and usually it is a great evil. But I think it should be safe, legal and rare. Criminalizing it will simply drive abortion underground and thereby jeopardize women's health. There will be lethal back alley abortions and women will once again resort to aborting themselves with coat hangers. Poor women, that is. The rich will always be able to get their abortions. They'll just fly to Europe.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Our attitude toward torture

Did you know that President Bush has not exercised his right to veto even once since he's been in office? But he's about to now. He's going to veto an anti-torture law. I can't believe that we've tried and convicted the grunts in the military who've tortured prisoners (as if they were just bad apples) when it's clear their behavior is about policy that goes all the way up the chain of command. And if Bush vetoes the anti-torture law, it will be clear that the chain of command regarding the policy in favor of torture truly begins with the Commander-in-Chief. An article explaining the situation is published by Britain's Telegraph and is entitled, "Bush will veto anti-torture law after Senate revolt". Here's part of what it says:

The Bush administration pledged yesterday to veto legislation banning the torture of prisoners by US troops after an overwhelming and almost unprecedented revolt by loyalist congressmen.

The mutiny was the latest setback for an administration facing an increasingly independent and bloody-minded legislature. But it also marked a key moment in Congress's campaign to curtail the huge powers it has granted the White House since 2001 in its war against terrorism.

The late-night Senate vote saw the measure forbidding torture passed by 90 to nine, with most Republicans backing the measure. Most senators said the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and similar allegations at the Guantanamo Bay prison rendered the result a foregone conclusion.

The administration's extraordinary isolation was underlined when the Senate Republican majority leader, Bill Frist, supported the amendment.

The man behind the legislation, Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam, said the move was backed by American soldiers. His amendment would prohibit the "cruel, inhumane or degrading" treatment of prisoners in the custody of America's defence department.

The vote was one of the largest and best supported congressional revolts during President George W Bush's five years in office and shocked the White House.

If Bush does indeed veto this bill it will only increase the hatred of America that is so prevalent abroad.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's Edgar, relaxing in front of the house.

Image hosted by
Photo by Ellie Finlay


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because *some liberal* union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home or go hungry because of his temporary misfortune.

It's noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just
like I have."

This came to my attention some months ago. I sent it to a Republican friend and, needless to say, did not get a reply. Today it show up on All Hat No Cattle so I thought I ought to share it with you!

Martial law

I want to call your attention to an article my Mike Whitney entitled, "Martial law: The one answer to every question". It's truly very disturbing and makes me think that our Republic is really over. Here's part of what it says:

On Tuesday, President Bush warned the nation that outbreaks of Bird Flu may require massive quarantines enforced by the US Military. He said that the military would be better able "to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the flu," although he failed to explain why that task couldn't be carried out by the National Guard. Bush's comments echoed the same themes we've heard repeatedly since Hurricane Katrina, that the president needs the power to deploy troops within the country at his own discretion and without any legal restrictions. It is a conspicuous attempt to militarize the country and declare martial law, although the media has scrupulously avoided the obvious conclusions.

Bush now claims that he will need to deploy the military following a terrorist attack, a national disaster, or after the outbreak of a flu-epidemic. "Sending in the troops" has seemingly replaced "tax-cuts" as the one-size-fits-all answer for every question asked of any member of the hard-right administration.
Even before Katrina, Donald Rumsfeld had repeatedly expressed interest in using the military domestically. According to many reports the delay in getting relief to the victims of the hurricane was the result of a power-struggle between the administration and local officials (Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin) over who would control the operation. The administration was determined from the onset to federalize the effort and put the Pentagon in charge. This caused a 3 day holdup in the federal response to the tragedy. The choice was made to withhold aid until the governor capitulated. It is impossible to calculate the number of lives that may have been lost by this decision.

The main obstacle to Bush's militarization-scheme is the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The Act bans the military from participating in policing activities on US soil. It does not, however, prevent the military from helping out in national disasters. This is what is so troubling about Bush's request to change the law; it shows a clear intention to assert military authority wherever the troops are deployed. It is clearly not an attempt simply to help out.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate Dean of Columbia University's School of Public Health for Disaster Preparedness, told the Associated Press that giving the military a law enforcement role would be an "extraordinarily Draconian measure" that would be unnecessary for the distribution of vaccines. "

The translation of this is martial law in the United States," said Redlener.

Now here's a bit of news that is truly alarming:

The intention to use the military in a "policing role" creates a permanent state of martial law that can't be fully grasped out of context. In the last few months the administration has made a number of dramatic changes to the system which have upset the critical balance between the co-equal parts of government. Just three months ago, Bush issued an executive order that created the National Security Service (NSS); a branch of the FBI that now works entirely under his authority. It is America's first secret police; no different than the East German Stasi or the Soviet Union's KGB. It operates completely beyond congressional oversight and is answerable to the president alone. It is Bush's personal Gestapo.

Also, less than a month ago the 4th Circuit Court ruled that the president had the power to declare any American citizen an "enemy combatant" and summarily rescind all of his human and civil rights; including even the right to know the reason for which he is being he imprisoned. The ruling confers absolute authority on the president and ends of any meaningful notion of "inalienable rights".

Also, just last week the Senate Intelligence Committee "approved legislation that allows Pentagon Intelligence operatives to collect information from US citizens without revealing their status as government spies." The Pentagon may now conduct clandestine investigations of American citizens without the traditional safeguards that are applied to FBI. In effect, the legislation revokes the fundamental guarantees of privacy under the 4th amendment and "green-lights" the Pentagon to operate covertly against American citizens whether they are legitimate terrorist suspects or simply political enemies.

Well, you know what I'm going to say. Why aren't the Democrats screaming about this? We simply do not have an opposition party in this country. I grieve for the country that was.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The problem with television

I want to call your attention to a speech by Al Gore entitled, "The threat to American democracy". Reading this speech make me want to weep over the fact that Gore is not our president because it demonstrates just how intelligent and literate he is. Here's the first part:

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"

The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Later he articulates the main point of his speech:

Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.

Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.

Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.

And here's another important point:

It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.

And finally, I bring you this excerpt:

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.

And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.

One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news.

This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

Read the entire speech if you have time. It's alarming in that it shows us what danger we are in. But it's refreshing, too, simply because of the thoughtfulness and intelligence that Gore clearly demonstrates.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No posting on Wednesday

I will be out of town attending a conference from Tuesday to late Thursday of this week so there will be no posting on Wednesday and possibly none on Thursday. Everything will be back to normal on Friday!

Blessings to all,

They're sociopaths

I've thought for some time now that the president is a sociopath if for no other reason (and there are other reasons) than the fact that he blew up frogs for fun when he was a boy. But here is an article that basically says that all the major players in this administration are sociopaths. The article is by Jack Hughes and is entitled, "Bush, DeLay and the GOP sociopathocracy". Here's some of what it says:

The Bush administration's lack of an effective response to the disasters along the Gulf Coast should come as no surprise at this late date. After five years of undivided Republican rule in the United States, only the most uninformed and credulous can actually still believe that Republican leaders consider government's prime responsibility to be the welfare of American citizens.

To those that have been wiped out by the one-two punch of hurricanes Katrina and Rita: sorry folks, your misery and despair isn't even worthy of consideration by our august Republican leaders -- except when they are forced to utter empty words of consolation and deceptive promises of imminent aid when the television cameras are rolling.

Of course, they're lying. They know they're lying. They don't care about the suffering of the thousands of newly displaced, homeless and unemployed Americans. There's a psychological term for those who can lie without hesitation and have no empathy for the pain and suffering of others: sociopathy (or anti-social personality disorder). The Republican Party -- and through them our country -- has been hijacked by sociopaths.

If there's any doubt about that fact, just look at the GOP's first political responses to the catastrophe: voiding the long-established Davis- Bacon "prevailing-wage" law, which would have guaranteed that workers in the stricken areas would be paid at least $9 per hour on Halliburton's sweetheart no-bid reconstruction contracts; and the gutting of environmental regulations allowing more pollution from refineries. These were the Bush administration's first priorities. Permanent shelter, medical care, jobs and education -- the stuff that will actually help people? Those will have to wait for commissions and task-force recommendations until sometime after the mid-term elections (i.e., never).

If our government exists to "promote the general welfare," an administration that has engaged in an unnecessary war, and whose policies increase poverty, decrease health-care availability and allow increased pollution levels can be described as sociopathic -- and these have been the indisputable, quantifiable results of the policies of the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

Psychologists and historians will argue for years about the real reason Mr. Bush had for his war in Iraq (Oil? Imperial conquest? Domestic politics? Oedipal rivalry?). The only undeniable truth that we have about Iraq at this point is that our invasion and occupation, the tens of thousands of needless deaths and the policy of torture for those merely suspected of terrorist affiliation, were not due to the reasons we were originally told. The sociopaths in the Bush administration knowingly and skillfully lied to get us into that bloody quagmire.

I recommend that you read the whole article for the low-down on DeLay.

The existence of sociopathy among key members of the administration is certainly a reasonable explanation for their behavior. Sadly, it means it is unlikely that they can be reasoned with or moved by ordinary human feeling.