Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Those "W" stickers

Out there in the blogosphere, people have been noticing for some time that the "W" stickers are disappearing. Dave Lindorff has written an article making the same observation entitled, "Where have all the Bush/Cheney bumper stickers gone?":

Has anyone seen a car with one of those 2004 "Bush/Cheney" bumper stickers on it lately? It's been days since I've noticed one.

My community, which is about 50 percent Republican, used to be full of them, mostly pasted on the backs of hulking SUVs and brightly colored Hummers.

Suddenly, I'm just not seeing the things anymore. I suppose it's possible that they all just fell off, but then why am I still seeing Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers? Did Democrats use better glue?

No, I suspect something else is at work: buyers' remorse, or maybe shame.

At this point, it must be a little embarrassing to have a sticker on your car broadcasting the fact that you voted for those two clowns.

The Zogby poll conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 found that even among Republicans, 29 percent say that they think Bush should be impeached if he lied about the reasons for going to war against Iraq. The percentage can only have risen since then, as more evidence comes out that there's no reason for the "if."

It's too early to predict how this tectonic shift in political attitudes will play out in the November congressional races across the country, but I'm guessing that my neighborhood is not that different from much of the red and purple parts of America, and that there are going to be a lot more contested House and even Senate races than people were expecting a few months back.

All I can say is, let's hope!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wise comment

Here's a comment I found on Echidne of the Snakes:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Worth remembering.

A sensible plan

Well, this is really an update, so to speak, of the post just below or perhaps it is more accurate to say, a suggestion regarding the dilemma. Here's a plan for getting out of Iraq I just found that makes a lot of sense to me. It's called, "What Is To Be Done: A 10-Point Plan for Iraq". I'll list the 10 points here but suggest that you click through to see how each one is developed:

1. Offer An Honest Assessment
2. Define Success
3. Decide: Is "Success" Still Possible?
4. Announce a Contingent Timetable for Withdrawal
5. Commit the Needed Troops and Resources
6. Give Up Permanent Bases In Iraq
7. Promote Transparency in the Iraqi Oil Industry
8. Accept the New Constitution and Government, Come What May
9. Prioritize the Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis
10. Apologize

Of course this will never happen because George Bush will never apologize. But I think it would work if we were willing to be decent.

How's the war going?

Whether you believe in the war or not, you have to acknowledge that it is not going well. Sy Hersh catches us up on what is actually happening in a New Yorker article entitled, "UP IN THE AIR". I really urge you to click through and read the whole article. It seems that the plan is to withdraw a number of ground troops and emphasize air strikes. The problem is that there is no real plan or strategy for conducting those air strikes. In fact, the idea is eventually to have Iraqis deciding which targets to bomb. Reasonable people are, of course, concerned that this will result in tribal conflict, the settling of old scores and that sort of thing.

Bush's rigid attitude is also discussed. Here's an excerpt:

Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.

The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”
Many of the military’s most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they say nothing in public, because they don’t want to jeopardize their careers. The Administration has “so terrified the generals that they know they won’t go
public,” a former defense official said. A retired senior C.I.A. officer with knowledge of Iraq told me that one of his colleagues recently participated in a congressional tour there. The legislators were repeatedly told, in meetings with enlisted men, junior officers, and generals that “things were fucked up.” But in a subsequent teleconference with Rumsfeld, he said, the generals kept those criticisms to themselves.

We are really in a terrible predicament when the generals will not tell the White House what's really going on in a war we are fighting. That is simply an incredible state of affairs. And very scary.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart's - Part 9

Here's another article on why not to shop at Wal-Mart's. It's entitled, "Battling Wal-Mart" by Neal Peirce:

The Wal-Mart Watch campaign, a labor-environmental group highly critical of America's mega-mega retailer, recently launched more than 1,000 events nationwide for its "Higher Expectations Week."

"Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," a scathing documentary by independent filmmaker Robert Greenwald with a focus on Wal-Mart's business tactics and treatment of workers, began to play to audiences across the country.

Wal-Mart is fighting its critics with waves of television ads celebrating happy workers and the company's gifts to local charities.

But the action goes much further. Across state capitals, legislators are into spirited debates over whether Wal-Mart should be forced to pay adequate health benefits or leave it to the states to subsidize its low-paid workers through Medicaid and other public benefits.

Scene of the biggest current fight: Maryland, where Gov. Robert Ehrlich vetoed a measure to require any company with more than 10,000 workers -- only Wal-Mart qualifies -- to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health benefits. Or, alternatively, to contribute significantly to the state's health insurance program.

An override vote on Ehrlich's veto is set for January. Wal-Mart has deployed at least a dozen lobbyists to Annapolis, offering goodies such as a $10,000 gift to underwrite a conference of black legislators.

In one sense, all of this is predictable: With annual sales of $288 billion and 1.6 million employees, Wal-Mart is now the world's biggest corporation. Its footprint on American communities and retailing is so vast that some opposition to its tactics is virtually inevitable.

Current debates about proposed Wal-Mart stores in Cornelius, Gresham and Beaverton -- with the typical protests by many local citizens and smaller retailers -- are par for the course. Usually Wal-Mart wins, though not always; it has experienced some dramatic rejections.

But something even bigger seems to be happening. Wal-Mart has become the poster child for an era of unfettered globalized corporate operations -- "a destabilizing business model, a dangerous detriment to America's local and national economies and to the middle class," in the words of critic Leo Hindery Jr. He's former CEO of the telecom carrier Global Crossing and an active figure in Democratic Party politics.

At a recent Washington conference organized by the Center for American Progress, Hindery noted that as recently as 1992 (the year of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton's death), the Business Roundtable of top business leaders was saying that corporations had a major responsibility not just to stockholders but to their employees, society at large, and the nation's economy.

But now, Hindery says the Business Roundtable -- and most of the corporate world -- focuses almost exclusively on profits for stockholders.

I know it can be tempting to shop at Wal-Mart's this time of year. Just say no, okay?

Sunday, November 27, 2005


The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

-- John Kenneth Galbraith

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The deficit

The financial cost of what Bush is doing to the country is really huge. It's also terrifying. Today I want to share with you an article entitled, "The Cost of Bush Will Be Huge, Lasting" and it's by Dave Zweifel. Here's the core of what it says:

A front page of USA Today last week showed it all in graphic detail. If we continue on the same track we are today, our annual $319 billion deficit will be more than $4 trillion in 2050, when our grandkids are nearing retirement.

"We face a demographic tsunami," insists David Walker, the U.S. comptroller general. He compares the United States to Rome before the fall of the empire. The country faces deficits in its budget, its balance of payments, its savings and its leadership, he told USA Today.

And he's far from alone. Both conservative and liberal economic experts are starting to sound the alarm. We can't keep spending on everything from an incredibly expensive war to a Medicare drug program that mainly benefits insurance companies and cut taxes by hundreds of billions at the same time.

As Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, wrote in the Chicago Tribune last week:

For too long, the philosophy in Washington has been that you can spend without consequence or sacrifice. That we can fight a war in Iraq and a war on terror, protect our homeland, provide our citizens with Medicare and Social Security and maintain our domestic priorities, all while cutting taxes for the wealthy and funding every local project there is.

It's not a sustainable future for America, he added.

Now we have Alan Greenspan lumping the country's record trade deficit on top of all our other problems.

There's going to come a time - perhaps earlier than we realize - that foreign lenders are going to stop funding that deficit we keep growing.

And to think: we started out with a surplus at the beginning of the Bush administration. But this deficit is what the so-called conservatives want so that they can cut every social program that provides the safety for ordinary Americans.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday cat blogging!

Here's Leroy taking a bath. (Check out those killer back claws!)

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Global warming and sea level rises

It is very depressing to report this but here goes. The Guardian has published an article about sea level rises and global warming entitled, "Sea level rise doubles in 150 years". Here are some sobering exerpts:

Global warming is doubling the rate of sea level rise around the world, but attempts to stop it by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be futile, leading researchers will warn today.

The oceans will rise nearly half a metre by the end of the century, forcing coastlines back by hundreds of metres, the researchers claim. Scientists believe the acceleration is caused mainly by the surge in greenhouse gas emissions produced by the development of industry and introduction of fossil fuel burning.

Today's warning comes from US researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey who analysed cores drilled from different sites along the eastern seaboard. By drilling down 500 metres through layers of different sediments and using chemical dating techniques, the scientists were able to work out where beaches and dry land were over the past 100m years.

The analysis showed that during the past 5,000 years, sea levels rose at a rate of around 1mm each year, caused largely by the residual melting of icesheets from the previous ice age. But in the past 150 years, data from tide gauges and satellites show sea levels are rising at 2mm a year.

"The main thing that has happened since the 19th century and the beginning of the modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," said Professor Kenneth Miller, who led the study. "We can say the increase we're seeing is much higher than we've seen in the immediate past and it is due to humans."
According to Prof Miller, there is little chance of slowing the rising tide caused by global warming. "There's not much one can do about sea level rise. It's clear that even if we strictly obeyed the Kyoto accord, it's still going to continue to warm. Personally, I don't think we're going to affect CO2 emissions enough to make a difference, no matter what we do. The Bush administration should stop asking whether temperatures are globally rising and admit the scientific fact that they are, but then turn the question around politically and say: 'We can't really do anything about this on any kind of cost basis at all'," he said.

Of course what is really futile is the idea that George Bush is going to admit the scientific fact that temperatures are rising. I don't know whether the man is simply out of touch with reality or truly evil or both.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pure insanity

Today is both a day for counting our blessings and cultivating concern for those who have nothing. I think it's a good time for looking squarely at what the Bush administration is doing to the poor. The article I want to share with you this morning is entitled, "Dysfunctional democracy: Has Washington gone insane?" and it's by E.J. Dionne, Jr. Here's the excerpt that really caught my attention:

The current leadership in Congress simply refuses to revisit any of the tax cuts it has passed since President Bush took office. On the contrary, the leaders plan to push through $70 billion in tax cuts after Thanksgiving, including dividend and capital gains reductions that go overwhelmingly to the very wealthiest of Americans.

Some of the most powerful words on the budget cuts came from one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. Rep. Gene Taylor, whose district was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, couldn't believe that cuts in programs for the poor were being justified as necessary to cover the costs of relief for hurricane victims. Taylor's syntax only underscored the emotion he brought to the floor:

"Mr. Speaker, in south Mississippi tonight, the people who have electricity, who might be at a VFW hall or a parish church hall, who are living in two- and three-man igloo tents waiting for Congress to do something, have absolutely got to think this place has lost their minds. The same Congress that voted to give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tax breaks every time ... suddenly after taking care of those who had the most, we have got to hurt the least. ... Folks, this is insane. ... This is the cruelest lie of all, that the only way you can help the people who have lost everything is by hurting somebody else."

It is, indeed, insane that a clear majority in the House was unable to work its will and come up with a more reasonable approach. In addition to the 14 House Republicans who voted against the cuts, another dozen who voted for them under pressure expressed grave doubts about the effect of some of the reductions.

If our democracy were functional, the House majority that wants a balanced approach to cutting the deficit -- Democrats and middle-of-the-road Republicans -- could hash out the trade-offs between tax cuts and spending cuts. Everything would be on the table.

I simply don't see how these people sleep nights. If, for example, a family is just barely getting by with food stamps, what on earth are they going to do if they lose those food stamps? I think maybe the people in power are sadists and actually derive pleasure from making others suffer. That's the only possibility, really, that makes any sense.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A failed presidency

Once more I'm giving you the link to an article that is worth reading because of its title: A failed presidency by Stephen Pizzo. I'll share with you how it gets started and then suggest that you click through to read the examples of just why the word "failure" is so appropriate:

The first nine months of the George W. Bush presidency foretold what was to come.

If you recall, pre-9/11 George was the quintessential deer in the headlights. He had landed the biggest job in the world, and had no idea what he was supposed to do next.

I was reminded of that look on Monday, when I saw the photo of W. trying to escape reporters' questions in Japan. It was a telling moment. He ended a news conference with a perfunctory, presidential "Thank you." He strode from the podium, employing his most serious presidential stride. So far, so good. Then his act abruptly collapsed. He pulled the door handle, but the door was locked.

And there he was again, for the whole world to see, pre-9/11 George, lost, adrift and looking for help. Help had always arrived for George before. It arrived and saved him in the nick of time on Sept. 11, 2001. But that kind of help doesn't grow on trees, and now he's on his own again.

September 11 did for George W. Bush what cocaine does for losers; it makes them feel and act like winners. If you've known a cocaine user, you know what I mean. They brim with energy and self-confidence. They listen to no one but their inner buzz. They are cocky, smug, obnoxious. Still, if they are able to focus that buzz, they can create an illusion that they actually know of what they speak, that they are driven -- even leaders.

As long as the cocaine lasts, the illusion can, too. But when it runs out, or stops working, the loser is all that's left. 9/11 has stopped working for George -- so Bush, The Loser, is back.

Not that he was ever gone, which explains why virtually everything he has done since 9/11 has come to naught, or worse. Had 9/11 never happened, W. would be long gone already, a one-term President, like his father before him.

Therefore, the media needs to begin a conversation we would have had around the third year of Bush's first term: Is this a failed presidency? And if so, how?

Now that's an interesting take on why the president brings up 9/11 so much. It's his substitute for cocaine.

I do recommend that you read the rest of the article to see just how bad off we are compared to when George Bush took office.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Something to ponder

You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy. But you cannot have both.

The Fall of Bob Woodward

The title almost says it all, doesn't it? James Carroll of the Boston Globe explains in this article just why it's so disturbing:

At what point does naiveté become something to be ashamed of? The revelation last week that Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward abetted the Bush administration's program of lies and character assassination left you feeling as if you, too, have been a coconspirator in the sleaze. Not that you were under any illusion about the turn Woodward's career took when he became a justifying megaphone for ''Washington insiders." Nor is it a surprise to find the dean of investigative journalism acting like every other self-protecting member of the establishment, since journalism itself has become a pillar of the governing power structure. But Woodward represented something more than all of this, and his quite American fall from grace (''The bigger they come") presents a challenge to your conscience.

''Watergate" is the most familiar word in the political lexicon. It means two things at once, referring first to the American low point, when the White House became a den of law breakers. You remember that the crimes of the Nixon cabal were meant to shore up the walls of deceit behind which the war in Vietnam was being fought. Lies and unjustified violence defined the nation's soul. But Watergate also became code for the most dramatic reiteration of national redemption, when diligent truth-seekers brought to light the methods and purposes of Nixon's band. The myth of American goodness depends on the conviction that, when the truth is finally apparent, the nation will act upon it. Watergate was the morality tale that made it so, and Bob Woodward, with his partner Carl Bernstein, was the moral hero. It is not too much to say that Woodward rescued your ability to believe in your country again.
And why shouldn't you be disturbed by Woodward's fall? As Watergate was about the war in Vietnam, so the Valerie Plame affair is about the war in Iraq. Woodward turns out to have been just another embedded reporter, doing the war-work of the Bush administration while pretending to be independent of it. But, speaking generally, the press has not been independent since the traumas of the autumn of 2001. Newsrooms were themselves targeted by the anthrax killer, and the fear that paralyzed the nation was felt as much by reporters as by anyone.

It's very depressing, isn't it? The cowardice, I mean. It's also disturbing that the press hasn't held before our attention the fact that the anthrax attacks have never been properly investigated - or, rather, that they've been investigated and swept under the carpet. What we do know is that the strain of anthrax involved was American in origin and came from our own labs. I guess the powers that be just don't want us to know who the perpetrators really are.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hugo Chavez and the Crawford madman

I like the articles of Mike Whitney. Today I found one entitled, "Hugo Chavez and the Crawford madman" that illustrates how we come across to the people of Venezuela and what their president is doing about it. Here are some samples:

Hugo Chavez seems to take great pleasure in tweaking George Bush's nose. He's repeatedly called Bush a "terrorist" and disparaged the US as a "terrorist state". Just last week, Chavez fired off another broadside saying, "The planet's most serious danger is the government of the United States...The people of the United States are being governed by a killer, a genocidal murderer, and a madman."

He got that right.

For liberals and leftists Chavez's fiery salvos have been a welcome respite from the weak-kneed groveling of congressional Democrats and the congratulatory purring of media brown-nosers. So far, the Venezuelan president has been the only leader on the world stage to state the obvious, that Bush and his maniacal group of liars, carpet-baggers, and war criminals are savaging the planet and putting millions at risk.

That doesn't mean that Chavez hates the American people; quite the contrary. Following the vast devastation of Hurricane Katrina Chavez responded more quickly than FEMA, offering to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area. He offered to provide $1 million of free petroleum via the state run Petroleos de Venezuela and its subsidiary CITGO for the relief effort.

According to civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, Chavez also offered two mobile hospital units, 120 rescue and first aid experts, and 50 tons of food; considerably more than "Brownie" was able to produce."

We have drinking water, food, and we can provide fuel," Chavez told reporters.

None of this was, of course, was reported in the American media which consistently lambastes Chavez as a "radical leftist".
Chavez also got his digs in at the recent economic summit at Mar Del Plata, Argentina where he was the center of attention. A throng of 35,000 celebrated his arrival and filled the local soccer stadium with protestors chanting, "Bush is the terrorist. Bush is the fascist".

Chavez gave a 2 hour speech railing against Bush, his "immoral war" and his ruinous "neoliberal economic policies".

"The US has bombed entire cities, used chemical weapons and napalm, killed women and children and thousands of soldiers. That's terrorism," said Chavez. "The US government is a threat to humanity."

The summit at Mar del Plata was billed as a "showdown" between Bush and Chavez and many of those attending anxiously awaited the face-off. Chavez even joked to reporters that "he would sneak up on Bush and scare him".

No need. The normally boastful Bush was uncommonly subdued during the activities and slinked away to the safety of Air Force 1 as soon as possible. The Crawford windbag had no intention of going nose to nose with his Venezuelan nemesis.
Last week, Chavez took another swing at the Bush team by ordering the delivery of "12 million gallons of discounted home-heating oil to local charities and 45,000 low-income families in Massachusetts next month." (Boston Globe)

The deal will provide nine million gallons of oil to institutions that serve the poor, such as homeless shelters. Families will be able to buy heating fuel at discount rates, keeping them from freezing to death in the bitter New England winter.

The plan is yet another blow to the administration and the rickety system of predatory capitalism.

Massachusetts congressman William Delahunt explained that there was a "desperate need" for affordable home heating oil that would not be met by state or federal governments.'
The political implications of Chavez's move are enormous. It's a slap in the face to George Bush, who tried to remove Chavez 4 years ago in a failed-coup attempt. It also demonstrates that Bush's "survival of the fittest" neoliberal policies have fallen on hard times. Chavez has assumed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt redistributing Venezuela's prodigious oil wealth to the people who need it the most, while the blinkered Bush has become a modern-day Herbert Hoover paving the way for economic Armageddon by shifting $1.3 trillion of wealth (in just 5 years) from the middle class to his friends at the top of the fiscal food-chain.

Just this week, Bush slashed another $700 million from the food stamp program leaving 235,000 needy Americans without enough to eat. These same people face the prospect of a frigid Bush-winter unless they can get help from Chavez.

If you can, buy your gas from CITGO. It's a Venezuelan company so you're not only supporting a more enlightened society, you're NOT supporting companies that get their oil from the Middle East.

A sober truth

This was sent to me by Frank Ford:

Only when the last tree has died
And the last river been poisoned
And the last fish been caught
Will we realize that we cannot eat money.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Woodward again

Well, it seems the Washington Post is defending Woodward. Sickening. If you want to read about it go over to AMERICAblog for a wonderful rant on the subject right here.

Get out of Iraq - NOW

It's so, so good to have Cynthia McKinney back in the House of Representatives. I want to suggest that you read the text of a speech she gave on the November 18 debate over the "Murtha" withdrawal resolution. Here are a few excerpts:

The Republicans in this House have done a heinous thing: they have insulted one of the deans of this House in an unthinkable and unconscionable way.

They took his words and contorted them; they took his heartfelt sentiments and spun them. They took his resolution and deformed it: in a cheap effort to silence dissent in the House of Representatives.

The Republicans should be roundly criticized for this reprehensible act. They have perpetrated a fraud on the House of Representatives just as they have defrauded the American people.

By twisting the issue around, the Republicans are trying to set a trap for the Democrats. A "no" vote for this Resolution will obscure the fact that there is strong support for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. I am voting "yes" on this Resolution for an orderly withdrawal of US forces from Iraq despite the convoluted motives behind the Republican Resolution. I am voting to support our troops by bringing them home now in an orderly withdrawal.

Sadly, if we call for an end to the occupation, some say that we have no love for the Iraqi people, that we would abandon them to tyrants and thugs.

Let us consider some history. The Republicans make great hay about Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against the Iranians and the Kurds. But when that attack was made in 1988, it was Democrats who moved a resolution to condemn those attacks, and the Reagan White House quashed the bill in the Senate, because at that time the Republicans considered Saddam one of our own.

So in 1988, who abandoned the Iraqi people to tyrants and a thugs?
Yet let us remember that the United States and its allies imposed a severe policy of sanctions on the people of Iraq from 1990 to 2003. UNICEF and World Health Organization studies based on infant mortality studies showed a 500,000 increase in mortality of Iraqi children under 5 over trends that existed before sanctions. From this, it was widely assumed that over 1 million Iraqi deaths for all age groups could be attributed to sanctions between 1990 and 1998. And not only were there 5 more years of sanctions before the invasion, but the war since the invasion caused most aid groups to leave Iraq. So for areas not touched by reconstruction efforts, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated further. How many more Iraqi lives have been lost through hunger and deprivation since the occupation?
If America wants to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, we as a people must be willing to face the pain and death and suffering we have brought to the Iraqi people with bombs, sanctions and occupation, even if we believe our actions were driven by the most altruistic of reasons. We must acknowledge our role in enforcing the policy of sanctions for 12 years after the extensive 1991 bombing in which we bombed infrastructure targets in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.
I will not vote to give one more soldier to the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney war machine. I will not give one more dollar for a war riddled with conspicuous profiteering.

Tonight I speak as one who has at times been the only Member of this Body at antiwar demonstrations calling for withdrawal. And I won't stop calling for withdrawal.

I was opposed to this war before there was a war; I was opposed to the war during the war; and I am opposed to this war now--even though it's supposed to be over.

A vote on war is the single most important vote we can make in this House. I understand the feelings of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who might be severely conflicted by the decision we have to make here tonight. But the facts of US occupation of Iraq are also very clear. The occupation is headed down a dead end because so long as US combat forces patrol Iraq, there will be an Iraqi insurgency against it.

I urge that we pursue an orderly withdrawal from Iraq and pursue, along with our allies, a diplomatic solution to the situation in Iraq, supporting the aspirations of the Iraqi people through support for democratic processes.

I wish Cynthia McKinney would run for president. I, for one, would have no problem supporting her.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The president and the press

Here's an article I really recommend that you read. It's published in The Nation and it's entitled, "Bush's War on the Press" by John Nichols & Robert W. McChesney. Here's a sample:

Corrupting PBS. Tomlinson's tenure at the CPB, which annually distributes $400 million in federal funding to broadcast outlets, was characterized by an assault on the news operations of the Public Broadcasting Service in general, and Moyers in particular, for airing dissenting voices and preparing investigative reports on the Administration. His goal was clearly to fire a shot across the bow of all public stations so managers would shy away from the sort of investigative journalism that might expose Bush Administration malfeasance. On November 15, on the heels of Tomlinson's resignation, the CPB's inspector general issued a sixty-seven-page report documenting Tomlinson's repeated violations of the Public Broadcasting Act, CPB rules and the CPB code of ethics with his political meddling, though it stopped short of calling for prosecution, or of examining the link between Tomlinson's actions and White House directives.

Faking TV News. Under Bush Administration directives, at least twenty federal agencies have produced and distributed scores, perhaps hundreds, of "video news segments" out of a $254 million slush fund. These bogus and deceptive stories have been broadcast on TV stations nationwide without any acknowledgment that they were prepared by the government rather than local journalists. The segments--which trumpet Administration "successes," promote its controversial line on issues like Medicare reform and feature Americans "thanking" Bush--have been labeled "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.

Paying Off Pundits. The Administration has made under-the-table payments to at least three pundits to sing its praises, including Armstrong Williams, the conservative columnist who collected $240,000 from the Education Department and then cheered on the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind Act.

More examples are given including turning press conferences into charades, gutting the Freedom of Information Act, obscuring the Iraq war and pushing media monopoly.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday cat blogging!

This is a sweet mama kitty who belongs to a friend of Cynthia's:

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Photo by Cynthia Burgess

That so-called "theory"

You're going to think I've really flipped out quoting right-winger Charles Krauthammer but this is really too good to pass up. Krauthammer just might incur the wrath of the religious right for what he says here and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Anyway, he's published a column in the Washington Post entitled, "Phony Theory, False Conflict". I found it by way of AMERICAblog. Here's part of what it says:

Let's be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological "theory" whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God. It is a "theory" that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, "I think I'll make me a lemur today." A "theory" that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the "strong force" that holds the atom together?

In order to justify the farce that intelligent design is science, Kansas had to corrupt the very definition of science, dropping the phrase " natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us," thus unmistakably implying -- by fiat of definition, no less -- that the supernatural is an integral part of science. This is an insult both to religion and science.

Well, Dover, Pennsylvania threw out the school board that tried to institute "intelligent design". But, as mentioned above, Kansas voted it in, changing the definition of science in the process. If this continues across the country, we are certainly entering a new dark age.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What a disappointment

I refer, of course, to Bob Woodward. Arianna Huffington expresses my sentiments perfectly in an article entitled, "Bob Woodward: From Watergate hero to Plamegate goat":

Bob Woodward. What a career arc. From exposing a presidential cover-up in Watergate to covering up his role in Plamegate. And being forced to apologize to his own paper.

And asking a colleague, Walter Pincus, not to mention Woodward's role in the story. And failing to tell his editor that he had vital information about a major story.And, to bottom it out, doing the TV and radio rounds, minimizing the scandal as "laughable," "an accident", "nothing to it" and denigrating Fitzgerald as "disgraceful" and "a
junkyard dog
" without ever once divulging that he was not just an observer of the CIA leak case but a recipient -- perhaps the first -- of the leak.

Hear that hissing noise? That's the sound of the air being let out of Woodward's reputation. Especially now that he's decided to challenge Pincus to a round of credibility one-on-one. My money's on Pincus, who was appropriately skeptical
about the administration's WMD claims while Woodward was writing hagiography about the brave president and his fearless aides.
I called Carl Bernstein to ask what he thought of his old partner's behavior. He was loyal as ever but he did say something very revealing -- and unintentionally damning. "This investigation," he told me, "has cast a constant searchlight that the White House can't turn off the way it has succeeded in turning off the press. So their methodology and their dishonesty and their disingenuousness -- particularly about how we went to war -- as well as their willingness to attack and rough up people who don't agree with them are now there for all to see. They can't turn off this searchlight, which is shining on a White House that runs a media apparatus so sophisticated in discrediting its critics it makes the Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Ziegler press shop look like a small-time operation." And these are the very thugs that Woodward was protecting while attacking the guy operating the searchlight.

What we need is a courageous reporter like the young Bob Woodward. Sad what has happened to the Bob Woodward we have.


The Wall Street Journal has an article entitled, "Bush's Approval Rating Falls Again, Poll Shows" that shows just how unpopular this president is:

President Bush's positive job rating continues to fall, touching another new low for his presidency, the latest Harris Interactive poll finds.

Bush's current job approval rating stands at 34%, compared with a positive rating of 88% soon after 9/11, 50% at this time last year, and 40% in August.

Now when does the mainstream press start calling him "unpopular"? That's what I want to know.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Great snark

President Bush, is on his Asian tour now. He'll visit Japan, China, South Korea, Mongolia. Once again, he's skipping Vietnam.

--David Letterman

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

habeas corpus

Here's an article entitled, "An Unconstitutional Amendment" by Peter Rothberg about the horrible Graham amendment. If this legislative amendment hasn't come to your attention, take a look at this:

Last Thursday, in a close 49-42 vote, the Senate adopted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's amendment to a military budget bill restricting the authority of US courts to hold the executive branch accountable for its detainee policies. (Click here for the roll call.)

The measure would overrule a 2004 Supreme Court decision allowing detainees, even those the government has declared "unlawful combatants," the right to appeal to American courts. This right--known as "habeas corpus"--is enshrined in the US Constitution and even strict constructionists like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas can't be happy with this unprecedented encroachment on the judicial branch's turf.

Graham is carrying water for the increasingly embattled Bush Administration on this one, and it may come back to haunt him. The rapid-fire opposition to his bill is being joined by far more than the usual suspects, as Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith write in a new piece on The "John Hutson, a retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general of the Navy, not only protested but organized 60 former military officers to object. The National Institute of Military Justice, the organization of military lawyers, denounced it. High-powered legal scholars like Judith Resnick of Yale Law School, David Shapiro and Frank Michelman of Harvard Law School, and Burt Neuborne of New York University Law School circulated a blistering letter describing the legislation as "an effort to alter fundamental precepts of our constitutional order."

It also seems to me that if there is nobody in detention who can be convicted of anything without special kangaroo courts, then the real terrorists have indeed won, in part by pushing us to abdicate all moral authority.

On that topic, I also want to call your attention to an article by Jimmy Carter entitled, "This Isn't The Real America". Here's a sample of what he has to say:

In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements — including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top U.S. leaders to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.

These revolutionary policies have been orchestrated by those who believe that our nation's tremendous power and influence should not be internationally constrained. Even with our troops involved in combat and America facing the threat of additional terrorist attacks, our declaration of "You are either with us or against us!" has replaced the forming of alliances based on a clear comprehension of mutual interests, including the threat of terrorism.

Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated exclusively on the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to fight in the quagmire of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been asked to make any sacrifice, and every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties.

Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human rights, we now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly violated under some extreme provisions of the Patriot Act.

Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in U.S. custody.

Carter has more to say in this vein. I agree with him. This is not the America I grew up believing in. And my heart breaks.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Found comment

Nixon: "I am not a crook."
Bush: "We do not torture."

Oh, I so agree.

People on the right say to people like me, 'Oh, you hate America.' And I always say, 'No, I love America. I want it back. I don't want you representing it. I don't want torture representing it.' If I hated it, I'd be okay with being represented by the torturers.

– Bill Maher

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Another consequence of global warming

The wolves are starving in Canada due to global warming. Here's an article entitled, "Wolves suspected in northern attack" that explains why and how their behavior has changed as a result:

Wolves are striking fear into miners and residents in northern Saskatchewan, where encounters have become frequent as the animals lose their fear of humans.

Bill Topping, who makes routine hauling trips to the hinterland regions near the Northwest Territories border, spoke with two men from Ontario during supper Sunday at a camp community in Points North, west of Wollaston Lake.

The men, who were conducting aerial surveys for a private company, had spoken excitedly about a close encounter with a wolf pack. They took digital photos of the animals from just five feet away.

Two days later, one of those men was found dead. His mangled body was located Tuesday after he failed to return from a walk. An autopsy confirmed the 22-year-old man's injuries are consistent with an animal attack, says an RCMP release.

"They thought it was quite an experience being that close to a pack of wolves," Topping said in an interview. "Bet they don't think that today."

According to Saskatchewan Environment and other government agencies in North America, there are no documented cases of wolves killing a human in the wild. That may change. Despite the autopsy results, the RCMP are continuing to investigate the cause of death and the type of animal involved. There is no doubt in Topping's mind that wolves are to blame.

"I've been up there three or four times in the past week and I've had some close encounters with wolves. They're everywhere," he said.

So why are the wolves coming close to humans and attacking them? Simple. It's a lack of their normal prey:

On the east side of Wollaston Lake, the Hatchet Lake First Nation has issued a wolf warning for the area because of its own problems. Although no one has been attacked, the animals are more prevalent than ever, says Rosalie Tsanni-Burseth, the reserve's director of education.
She partly blames the presence of wolves on the changing environment. Lakes up north should already be frozen to allow for migrating caribou, a diet of wolves. But unseasonably warm weather has kept the water open, forcing the wolves to find food elsewhere.

Soon we will have human "climate refugees". We are destroying the balance of nature. Our own demise is inevitable if we don't do something to stop the destruction.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Re-writing history

Was anybody else besides me seriously offended by the president's Veteran's Day speech yesterday? Well, Matthew Rothschild was as he explains in an article entitled, "Bush tries to gag critics in Veterans Day speech". Here's a sample:

In his Veterans Day speech, Bush took the low road.

Responding to critics who charge him with manipulating intelligence and hoodwinking the American people into war, Bush said: "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began."

And then he set about rewriting it.

He said, "Intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein."

But at the time Bush launched the war, many intelligence agencies had severe doubts.

Britain's did, as the Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002, clearly illustrated. It noted that the Bush Administration had "already made up its mind" to overthrow Saddam and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." The memo stated that "the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Why then did Cheney say, on August 26, 2002, that Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction "to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us"?

Why then did Bush say, on March 17, 2003, that Saddam Hussein had "some of the most lethal weapons ever devised"?

Nor did the governments of France, Germany, China, and Russia buy Bush's arguments in February and March of 2003.

There's a good reason for that.

The United Nations weapons inspectors had reported back to the Security Council that they could find no weapons of mass destruction. And Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency and is the current Nobel Peace Prize-winner, said in no uncertain terms that Saddam Hussein had not reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, much less the nuclear weapons themselves, as Dick Cheney falsely claimed just days before Bush launched the war.

Then Bush, in a desperate ploy, invoked John Kerry's words when the Senator supported the October 2002 authorization of force. Bush quoted Kerry as saying: "When I vote to give the President of the Untied States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat--and a grave threat--to our security."

That was an embarrassing and indefensible vote and statement by Kerry. But Kerry himself now admits that Bush cooked the intelligence."

This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition," Kerry said after Bush's speech.

What REALLY annoyed me is that Bush claimed that the people we are fighting want to destroy our way of life. They want nothing of the sort. They want us to get out of their country. Sheesh!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday cat blogging!

Cynthia's wonderful kitty, Simon!

Image hosted by
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Secret prisons and torture

Go read the Molly Ivins column entitled, Some Kind of Manly. It makes you sick. Well, if it doesn't, you ARE sick.

Austin, Texas -- I can't get over this feeling of unreality, that I am actually sitting here writing about our country having a gulag of secret prisons in which it tortures people. I have loved America all my life, even though I have often disagreed with the government. But this seems to me so preposterous, so monstrous. My mind is a little bent and my heart is a little broken this morning.

Maybe I should try to get a grip -- after all, it's just this one administration that I had more cause than most to realize was full of inadequate people going in. And even at that, it seems to be mostly Vice President Cheney. And after all, we were badly frightened by 9-11, which was a horrible event. "Only" nine senators voted against the prohibition of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control the United States." Nine out of 100. Should we be proud? Should we cry?

"We do not torture," said our pitifully inarticulate president, straining through emphasis and repetition to erase the obvious.

A string of prisons in Eastern Europe in which suspects are held and tortured indefinitely, without trial, without lawyers, without the right to confront their accusers, without knowing the evidence or the charges against them, if any. Forever. It's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Another secret prison in the midst of a military camp on an island run by an infamous dictator. Prisoner without a name, cell without a number.

Who are we? What have we become? The shining city on a hill, the beacon and bastion of refuge and freedom, a country born amidst the most magnificent ideals of freedom and justice, the greatest political heritage ever given to any people anywhere.

I'll tell you what we have become. We have become what we once despised. That is what we have become.

Go ahead. Read the rest of the article. No sense hiding.

A poem to give one pause

by Maurice Ogden

Into our town the Hangman came,
Smelling of gold and blood and flame.
And he paced our bricks with a diffident air,
And built his frame in the courthouse square.

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
Only as wide as the door was wide;
A frame as tall, or little more,
Than the capping sill of the courthouse door.

And we wondered, whenever we had the time,
Who the criminal, what the crime
That the Hangman judged with the yellow twist
of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

And innocent though we were, with dread,
We passed those eyes of buckshot lead --
Till one cried: "Hangman, who is he
For whom you raised the gallows-tree?"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
"He who serves me best," said he,
"Shall earn the rope of the gallows-tree."

And he stepped down, and laid his hand
On a man who came from another land.
And we breathed again, for another's grief
At the Hangman's hand was our relief

And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn
By tomorrow's sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way, and no one spoke,
Out of respect for his Hangman's cloak.

The next day's sun looked mildly down
On roof and street in our quiet town,
And stark and black in the morning air
Was the gallows-tree in the courthouse square.

And the Hangman stood at his usual stand
With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike
And his air so knowing and business-like.

And we cried, "Hangman, have you not done
Yesterday, with the foreign one?"
Then we fell silent, and stood amazed,
"Oh, not for him was the gallows raised."

He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:
"Did you think I'd gone to all this fuss
To hang one man? That's a thing I do
To stretch a rope when the rope is new."

Then one cried "Murder!" and one cried "Shame!"
And into our midst the Hangman came
To that man's place. "Do you hold," said he,
"with him that was meant for the gallows-tree?"

And he laid his hand on that one's arm.
And we shrank back in quick alarm!
And we gave him way, and no one spoke
Out of fear of his Hangman's cloak.

That night we saw with dread surprise
The Hangman's scaffold had grown in size.
Fed by the blood beneath the chute,
The gallows-tree had taken root;

Now as wide, or a little more,
Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,
As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,
Halfway up on the courthouse wall.

The third he took -- we had all heard tell --
Was a usurer, and an infidel.
"What," said the Hangman "have you to do
With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?"

And we cried out, "Is this one he
Who has served you well and faithfully?"
The Hangman smiled: "It's a clever scheme
to try the strength of the gallows-beam."

The fourth man's dark, accusing song
Had scratched our comfort hard and long;
"And what concern," he gave us back.
"Have you for the doomed -- the doomed and Black?"

The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,
"Hangman, Hangman, is this the man?"
"It's a trick," he said. "that we hangmen know
For easing the trap when the trap springs slow."

And so we ceased, and asked no more,
As the Hangman tallied his bloody score.
And sun by sun, and night by night,
The gallows grew to monstrous height.

The wings of the scaffold opened wide
Till they covered the square from side to side;
And the monster cross-beam, looking down,
Cast its shadow across the town.

Then through the town the Hangman came,
Through the empty streets, and called my name --
And I looked at the gallows soaring tall,
And thought, "There is no one left at all

For hanging, and so he calls to me
To help pull down the gallows-tree."
So I went out with right good hope
To the Hangman's tree and the Hangman's rope.

He smiled at me as I came down
To the courthouse square through the silent town.
And supple and stretched in his busy hand
Was the yellow twist of the hempen strand.

And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap,
And it sprang down with a ready snap --
And then with a smile of awful command
He laid his hand upon my hand.

"You tricked me. Hangman!," I shouted then,
"That your scaffold was built for other men...
And I no henchman of yours," I cried,
"You lied to me, Hangman. Foully lied!"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
"Lied to you? Tricked you?" he said. "Not I.
For I answered straight and I told you true --
The scaffold was raised for none but you.

For who has served me more faithfully
Than you with your coward's hope?" said he,
"And where are the others who might have stood
Side by your side in the common good?"

"Dead," I whispered. And amiably
"Murdered," the Hangman corrected me:
"First the foreigner, then the Jew...
I did no more than you let me do."

Beneath the beam that blocked the sky
None had stood so alone as I.
The Hangman noosed me, and no voice there
Cried "Stop!" for me in the empty square.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The president's credibility

Found on Eschaton:

AOL poll

Should the U.S. ban abusive treatment of terrorism suspects?
Yes 79%
No 21%

President Bush has said "we do not torture" terrorism suspects.
Do you believe him?
No 88%
Yes 12%

"Support our troops" - yeah, right

You are just not going to believe this. Here is a report entitled, "Veterans Day Outrage: Conservatives End 55-Year-Old Practice of Hearings for Vet Groups". Here's what it says:

On Tuesday — three days before Veterans Day — House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) announced that for the first time in at least 55 years, “veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.”
The Disabled American Veterans, the “official voice of America’s service-connected disabled veterans,” just issued a scathing release calling the move “an insult to all who have fought, sacrificed and died to defend the Constitution.” The timing, they said, “could not have been worse.”

I have one word for the so-called conservatives: hypocrites.

Good question

If you can impeach a President for lying about an extramarital affair, why can't you impeach a President for lying about weapons of mass destruction that led to a war that led to thousands of deaths. In one case, you have thousands of deaths, and in another, you have a dry-cleaning bill for a dress.

-- Tim Robbins

Catapulting the propaganda

Well, the White House is starting a propaganda campaign to try to plant in the public's mind that the CIA leak had nothing to do with the reasons for the Iraq war. CNN reports on it in an article entitled, "White House to 'hit back' at Democrats":

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top White House officials say they're developing a "campaign-style" strategy in response to increasing Democratic allegations that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to make its case for war.

White House aides, who agreed to speak to CNN only on the condition of anonymity, said they hoped to increase what they called their "hit back" in coming days.

The officials say they plan to repeatedly make the point -- as they did during the 2004 campaign -- that pre-war intelligence was faulty, it was not manipulated and everyone was working off the same intelligence.

They hope to arm GOP officials with more quotes by Democrats making the same pre-war claims as Republicans did about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Democrats have pointed at declassified information they say shows the White House was "deceptive" in pre-war statements.

Telegraphing the beginning of a communications effort is a tactic the Bush team has used in the past, especially when it comes to Iraq.

The examination into the intelligence used to justify invading Iraq has intensified on the heels of the October 28 indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who resigned the day he was indicted. (Full

You'd think the American people would realize they're being manipulated. But many will not and will believe the propaganda. Let's hope enough don't buy it that we're able to win back at least one house of Congress in 2006.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Another polling result

Some time ago I posted the results of a CBS poll that gave the president a 35% approval rating - the lowest it's been yet. Well, AMERICAblog has published some other interesting numbers from that poll. Take a look:


CIA Leak
Great importance - 51%
Some importance - 35%
Little/no importance - 12%

Clinton-Lewinsky (1/98)
Great importance - 41%
Some importance - 21%
Little/no importance - 37%

Whitewater (3/94)
Great importance - 20%
Some importance - 29%
Little/no importance - 45%

Iran-Contra (2/87)
Great importance - 48%
Some importance - 33%
Little/no importance - 19%

Watergate (5/73; Gallup Poll)
Great importance - 53%
Some importance - 25%
Little/no importance - 22%

Definitely people think the CIA leak is more important than Monica. But they even think it's overall more important that Watergate when you total the "great importance" and "some importance" figures. This is serious folks. In spite of the fact that the right wingers have an incredibly effective propaganda machine going, the people are not happy.

This is good news. Definitely.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

True religious persecution

Oh the right-wing fundamentalists love to carry on about how persecuted they are. But their churches are not threatened by the IRS. In spite of the fact that many of them engage in blatant political activity. But an Episcopal Church where an anti-war sermon was preached is threatened. What? Christians are no longer allowed to preach against war? What part of "Prince of Peace" don't they understand?

The articles are all over the internet but I'm giving you a link to the one published by CNN. It's entitled, "Church: Anti-war sermon imperils tax status". Here's part of what it says:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service has warned a prominent liberal church it could lose its tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, church officials say.

The Rev. George F. Regas did not urge parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena to support either President Bush or John Kerry, but he was critical of the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts.

The IRS warned the church in June that its tax-exempt status was in jeopardy because such organizations are prohibited from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The church's rector, J. Edwin Bacon, told his congregation about the problem Sunday.

"It's important for everyone to understand that the IRS concerns are not supported by the facts," Bacon said.

Bacon later said he chose Sunday to inform the congregation because Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu was in attendance and because he believes a decision from the IRS is imminent.

He called the IRS threat "a direct assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion."

An IRS spokesman in Washington declined to comment Monday, saying he could not discuss particular cases.

What about the Mennonite Churches and the Quakers who are historic peace churches? Preaching against war is part of their identity. Are they going to lose their tax exempt status because of anti-war messages? Time to turn those tables and go after the fundamentalists and reactionary Catholics who try to influence elections over abortion. I don't think liberals are going to go down without a fight on THIS one.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The proposed budget cuts

I got an email today the bulk of which I want to share with you. Here it is:


With a national budget hemorrhaging red ink, even the profligate pork barrel princes in Congress had to do something. And what is their solution? Will they trim back even modestly any of the gratuitous tax cuts gifted to the most wealthy and the most fortunate? No, they propose to cut the last ropes of what remains of the social safety net for those hurt most by their "soak the masses and give it all to the corporate kingpins" policies, apparently to pave the way for even MORE reckless tax injustice.

When a right wing think tanker said he wanted to shrink the government down to where it could be drown in a bathtub, he was talking about the social services that are the only thing that keep the burgeoning class of the abjectly poor going. Perhaps the former residents of New Orleans experienced exactly what he meant by drowning, as FEMA had been degenerated into a dispenser of Christmas plums for administration cronies only. The only thing he wanted to shrink was that part of government that does NOT serve the most powerful corporate interests. For the rest it's still unlimited, no-bid, cost plus party time.

Yes, for those whose agenda is war profiteering, or bankrupting families with blockbuster medical bills, or gouging the public with usurious interest charges and fees, or pocketing unneeded subsidies while they collect windfall profits for environmentally hostile sources of energy, or absolving corporations of any social responsibility whatsoever . . . for them it's supply side as far as the eye can see. And the primarily Republican members of Congress they own lock stock and beholden barrel have no shame in continuing to push though special interest legislation written word for word by the corporate lobbyists themselves, to the detriment of every other pressing national policy need.

This groaning chuck wagon of cruel greed will be ringing the bell once again in the House of Representative this coming week. And if the failure of the Senate last week to stand up and protect the most weak and needy wasn't bad enough, the House version of the budget bill proposes even MORE cuts for essential and indispensable lifeline services. They want to cut to the bone Medicare, Medical, food stamps, student loans, pension protection, Supplemental Social Security . . . the massacre list goes on and on.

It has been called "immoral" by voices representing a wide ranging spectrum of the religious community. For example, all 65 synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have signed a letter to members of Congress in strong protest opposing the proposed budget cuts. But what of you conscientious reader? What are you doing to speak out about this uncompassionate cruelty, so cold of heart that it would chill any but the most unrepentant Scrooges among this administration's cronies?

For those who profess to be Christians, is it not written in your bible? "I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25:43-45)

And yet here we have a bill which will take AWAY food from the hungry, rob medicine from the sick, and steal clothing intended for those who are already naked. What would your Lord say should be the judgement for those who do such things? Perhaps you already know the next verse. What do you have to say about all this? Words of true compassion can be found in all faiths. Send a message to Congress and tell them to get their priorities straight.
(Save our social services)

For those who profess to be liberals, or progressives, or whatever the latest trendy label for people who care about their fellow human being, who will speak out if not you? The action pages linked from this article will send your personal message in real time to your own members of Congress with just once click, and you can make it also a letter to the editor of your nearest daily newspaper as well all at the same time.

And those who profess to be conservatives, even if you care only for yourselves, do you not understand that those who are fortunate in society prosper MOST when there are more who can afford to buy the goods and services from which you profit. The more you cheat the workers in your businesses the less they can buy the necessities which in truth drive the very economy itself. The more you force people into the ditch of debt, the less there will be for all but a handful of unaccountable owners of monopoly corporations, which so few of even you will ever be.

That's what puzzles me the most. Why would corporations want to destroy the consumer class thus making it impossible for people to buy the goods they produce? It seems that greed makes people stupid.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

War reparations

Well, here's an idea that will never be adopted, I know, but I thought I'd tell you about it anyway. I want to share an article with you entitled, "Why We Should Pay War Reparations To Iraq":

We recently learned that the $30 billion the United States allocated to "reconstruct" Iraq is about to run out. That seems like a whopping amount, until you realize that the World Bank estimates the cost of rebuilding at between $50 billion and $100 billion. This sum does nothing, of course, to compensate Iraqi families for the deaths and immense suffering caused by the invasion.

Withdrawal from Iraq has understandably been the main focus of the peace movement. The problem with this approach is that many concerned Americans have serious reservations about withdrawal, because they fear that we'd be abandoning Iraq to chaos. If, however, withdrawal is linked to hefty reparations payments, this fear could be alleviated. Withdrawal while providing the resources to recover and restore order could lead to domestic peace far more readily than withdrawal by itself.

Reparations are clearly appropriate in an invasion that was justified on false advertising of the Bush administration, which purposely dismissed solid evidence against its dubious claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Before the hardball pundits and opportunist politicians who got us into this mess dismiss reparations as a "non-starter," we should note that there is ample precedent for reparations, the most obvious being that of Iraq itself. Iraq has been forced to shell out more than $19 billion in reparations claims related to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, and it owes another $33 billion. The payments, ordered by the U.N. Security Council, have gone to many claimants, including U.S. corporations, according to the U.N. Compensations Commission.
Making amends through reparations might also help us regain some of the international respect we have lost. Withdrawal coupled with reparations would also deprive terrorists of their most attractive recruiting tool, hatred of a nation that is perceived to be on a pathological crusade against Islam.

In addition to the strategic and moral reasons for getting out and paying reparations, there's an economic argument: Because we've already wasted more than $200 billion in Iraq, reparations might end up costing us less than staying the course, and less than battling the increased terrorism that the occupation has provoked.

Of course, we owe the Iraqis more than money. We owe them repentance. But money would be a start.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Police State America

I really want to urge you to read Mike Whitney's latest article entitled, "Drifting towards a Police State". How is it that we are asleep to what's happening? Take a look:

Did you know that under the terms of the new Patriot Act prosecutors will be able to seek the death penalty in cases where "defendants gave financial support to umbrella organizations without realizing that some of its adherents might eventually commit violence"? (NY Times; editorial 10-30-05) So, if someone unknowingly gave money to a charity that was connected to a terrorist group, he could be executed.

Or, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is fine-tuning the details of a bill that will allow the FBI to secretly procure any of your personal records without "probable cause" or a court order giving them "unchecked authority to pry into personal and business matters"? (New York Times, "Republicans seek to widen FBI Powers, 10-19-05)

Or, that on June 29, President Bush put "a broad swath of the FBI" under his direct control by creating the National Security Service (aka; the "New SS")? This is the first time we've had a "secret police" in our 200 year history. It will be run exclusively by the president and beyond the range of congressional oversight.

Whitney gives even more example. Then he says the following:

The American people have no idea of the amount of energy that has been devoted to stripping them of their constitutional protections and how stealthily that plan has been carried out. It has required the concerted efforts of the political establishment, the corporate elite, and the collaborative media. For all practical purposes, the government is no longer constrained in its conduct towards its citizens; it can do as it pleases.

The campaign to dismantle the Bill of Rights has focused primarily on the key amendments; the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th. These are the cornerstones of American liberty and they encompass everything from due process to equal protection to free speech to a ban on the "cruel and unusual" treatment of prisoners. Freedom has little tangible meaning apart from the safety provided by these amendments.

At present, there's no reason for the administration to assert its new powers. That would only dispel the widely-held illusion of personal freedom. But, the existing climate of "well being" will not last forever. The poisonous effects of war, tax cuts, burgeoning budget deficits, and inflation indicate that darker days lie ahead. The middle class is stretched paper-thin and disaster could be as close as a hike in interest rates. The new repressive legislation anticipates the massive political unrest that naturally follows a tenuous and volatile economic situation.

The time will come when it's so bad we will take to the streets. And that's when we will discover that we are no longer a free people.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Downright evil

Here's an article by a religion writer of the Chicago Sun-Times that is entitled, "Bush administration's moral compass is lost". Of course I don't think they ever HAD a moral compass to begin with but this writer is being generous. Here's part of the article:

And this week, as Republican leaders try to force a monstrous $50 billion budget cut designed allegedly to offset the mounting costs (currently in excess of $62 billion) of hurricane-related aid through Congress, it is clear that its moral compass also has been lost.

The proposed budget cuts, part of the so-called "budget reconciliation," would have devastating effects on the poorest, most vulnerable Americans, while allowing tax relief for the rich.

The massive budget reductions would include billions of dollars from pension protection and student loan programs, Medicaid and child support enforcement, as well as millions from the food stamp program, Supplemental Security Income (read: senior citizens and the disabled) and foster care. Also attached to the "reconciliation" proposal is a plan that would allow oil drilling in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
[A]ll 65 synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have signed a letter to members of Congress vehemently opposing the proposed budget cuts, saying in part, "The Biblical record is clear. The scriptural witness on which our faith tradition stands speaks dramatically to God's concern for and solidarity with the poor and oppressed communities while speaking firmly in opposition to governments whose policies place narrow economic interests driven by greed above the common good."

Evangelical Christian theologian and leader Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a national network of "progressive Christian" peace-and-justice activists, led an ecumenical gathering of religious leaders in a protest at the Capitol building Thursday, calling the proposed cuts "a moral travesty."

"Instead of wearing bracelets that ask, 'What would Jesus do?' perhaps some Republicans should ponder, 'What would Jesus cut?' " Wallis said.

The immorality (by any religious tradition's measure) of the proposed $50 billion budget reconciliation package is brazen.

If enacted, it would prove only to increase the suffering of the already-struggling poor, including tens of thousands who lost everything along the Gulf Coast.

Maybe immoral isn't the appropriate word.

Downright evil is a better description.

Soon the streets of our cities and towns are going to look like the streets of Calcutta and we will be stepping over the poor, the sick and the dying as we try to go about our business. It is beyond reprehensible.

Friday Cat Blogging!

Leroy on his window seat.

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Secret CIA prisons

Well, anyone who keeps up on the internet has known about these for years but the secret CIA prisons have just come to public light in the mainstream press. I want to call your attention to an editorial by the Star Tribune entitled, "U.S. must dismantle its secret CIA gulag". Here's part of what it says:

Not many months ago, Amnesty International and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., got in hot water for respectively calling Guantánamo Bay prison "the gulag of our times" and comparing America's treatment of terror-war detainees to the kind of treatment one would expect from the Soviet gulag, Pol Pot, Nazis and others. Durbin apologized.

Now comes a story by the Washington Post's Dana Priest describing a string of secret CIA prisons scattered around the world, including one at an old Soviet facility in Eastern Europe. These are prisons that are known only to a handful of officials, facilities where inmates are kept, potentially until they die, in dark, sometimes underground cells. The prisoners have no contact with anyone except jailers, are afforded no legal rights and are subjected to "enhanced" interrogation techniques that include almost drowning them. That is a gulag, albeit a miniature one.

This string of prisons is where the most important terrorist suspects are kept. Those with less potential intelligence value are "renditioned" to other countries for interrogation, including some nations that are known by the State Department to practice torture.

All this has left many professionals at the CIA, Priest reports, distressed about the legality, morality and benefits of the operation. As many experts and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former POW, have said, this sort of treatment does not yield good intelligence. It is also a poor reflection on the United States, a horrible example that enables other countries to use similar techniques.

Incredibly, the Bush administration wants the inhuman treatment to continue. McCain has sponsored legislation banning the "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners by the U.S. military and its intelligence agencies. In early October, the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 90-9. It now awaits action by a conference committee. President Bush has threatened to veto the measure if it contains the McCain language, while Vice President Dick Cheney has been lobbying hard to get the CIA exempted. At the same time, Cheney's new chief of staff, David Addington, is pushing the Pentagon to avoid invoking the Geneva Conventions in a new code that top military leaders want to promulgate for the armed forces.

I was really disappointed in Durbin at the time for apologizing. I hope he feels vindicated.

Pay attention to what is being done in our name.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Democrats are sizzling!

Wow. Nancy Pelosi introduced a resolution on the House floor that just knocks my socks off. Of course, the Republicans squashed it but now her attempt is part of the record. Here's the text:

Privileged Resolution on Iraq

Whereas the war in Iraq has resulted in the loss of over 2,000 American lives and more than 15,000 wounded soldiers, and has cost the American people $190 billion dollars;

Whereas the basis for going to war was Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the President made a series of misleading statements regarding threats posed by Iraq, but no weapons of mass destruction have been found;

Whereas the Republican Leadership and Committee Chairmen have repeatedly denied requests by Democratic Members to complete an investigation of pre-war intelligence on Iraq and have ignored the question of whether that intelligence was manipulated for political purposes;

Whereas the Vice President’s Chief of Staff Lewis Libby has been indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements in connection with the disclosure of the identity of a CIA operative, and that disclosure was part of a pattern of Administration efforts to discredit critics of the Iraq war;

Whereas four separate requests to hold hearings on the disclosure of the CIA operative were denied in the Government Reform Committee, and Resolutions of Inquiry were rejected in the Intelligence, Judiciary, Armed Services, and International Relations Committees;

Whereas the American people have spent $20.9 billion dollars to rebuild Iraq with much of the money squandered on no-bid contracts for Halliburton and other favored contractors;

Whereas Halliburton received a sole-source contract worth $7 billion to implement the restoration of Iraq’s oil infrastructure, and a senior Army Corps of Engineers official wrote that the sole-source contract was “coordinated with the Vice President’s office”;

Whereas despite these revelations, on July 22, 2004 the Republican-controlled Government Reform Committee voted to reject a subpoena by Democratic Members appropriately seeking information on communications of the Vice President’s office on awarding contracts to Halliburton;

Whereas prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo, and Afghanistan have seriously damaged the reputation of the United States, and increased the danger to U.S. personnel serving in Iraq and abroad;

Whereas the Republican Leadership and Committee Chairmen have denied requests for hearings, defeated resolutions of inquiry for information, and failed to aggressively pursue serious allegations, including how far up the chain of command the responsibility lies for the treatment of detainees;

Whereas the oversight of decisions and actions of other branches of government is an established and fundamental responsibility of Congress;

Whereas the Republican Leadership and the Chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction have failed to undertake meaningful, substantive investigations of any of the abuses pertaining to the Iraq war, including the manipulation of pre-war intelligence, the public release of a covert operative’s name, the role of the Vice President in Iraqi reconstruction, and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal;

Therefore be it resolved that:

The House calls upon the Republican Leadership and Chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction to comply with their oversight responsibilities, demands they conduct a thorough investigation of abuses relating to the Iraq War, and condemns their refusal to conduct oversight of an Executive Branch controlled by the same party, which is in contradiction to the established rules of standing committees and Congressional precedent.

The Democrats are finally standing up and fighting. If you want a link for the above resolution it is here.

35 %

The president's approval rating is at 35 % according to a new CBS poll. Check it out: "Poll: More Bad News For Bush".

Karl Rove is going down

Wow. The Washington Post has a very encouraging article this morning entitled, "Rove's Future Role Is Debated: White House May Seek Fresh Start In Wake of Leak". Things don't look to good for Bush's Brain. Here's part of what the article says:

While Rove faces doubts about his White House status, there are new indications that he remains in legal jeopardy from Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's criminal investigation of the Plame leak. The prosecutor spoke this week with an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about his client's conversations with Rove before and after Plame's identity became publicly known because of anonymous disclosures by White House officials, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.

Fitzgerald is considering charging Rove with making false statements in the course of the 22-month probe, and sources close to Rove -- who holds the titles of senior adviser and White House deputy chief of staff -- said they expect to know within weeks whether the most powerful aide in the White House will be accused of a crime.

But some top Republicans said yesterday that Rove's problems may not end there. Bush's top advisers are considering whether it is tenable for Rove to remain on the staff, given that Fitzgerald has already documented something that Rove and White House official spokesmen once emphatically denied -- that he played a central role in discussions with journalists about Plame's role at the CIA and her marriage to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the Iraq war.

Is the noose slowly being pulled tighter and tighter? It looks like it.

About the nightmare

I want to call your attention to a biting and penetrating column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. It's entitled, "Ending the Fraudulence" and it takes a look at events over the last few days:

So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so. I have no idea whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, will bring more indictments in the Plame affair. In any case, I don't share fantasies that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush administration will stagger on for three more years. But its essential fraudulence stands exposed, and it's hard to see how that exposure can be undone.

What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths.

The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch - from Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama - turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.

The point is that this administration's political triumphs have never been based on its real-world achievements, which are few and far between. The administration has, instead, built its power on myths: the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth that the administration is patriotic while its critics are not. Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left.

Krugman then outlines how those myths have been dismantled. But perhaps the most important part of his piece is the way he ends it:

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

The journalists are supposed to be our watchdogs. Are they finally waking up? Let's hope so.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Harry has a blog

I thought you'd like to know that there's a blog set up with statements by Harry Reid. It's appropriately named, "Give 'em hell Harry". Makes for some interesting reading and lots of people are posting comments. Here's a sample from today's posting:

Instead of uniting the country around a consensus nominee, the White House has chosen a potentially divisive candidate to distract from its current problems. A Supreme Court nomination is too important to be scripted from the Karl Rove playbook of distract, deceive, and divide.

And while George Bush attempts to distract the country, he knows CIA leak case is bigger than the indictment of Scooter Libby or Karl Rove. It is about how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions. Now it’s time for President Bush to come clean with the American people.

This is a man to watch. And I plan on paying attention.