Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The real problem

Here's another reason I've decided to cancel my pledge to the Democratic Party. The party leadership is not speaking out on the subject of election reform. Here's an excerpt from an article by Bernard Weiner called "Reforming the Democrats — or a third party?":

[O]ur current voting system is a corrupted mess. It outsources ballot-counting to private corporations with secret software easily open to manipulation from the companies that own the e-voting machines and vote-counting computers, or to hacking from without. Those corporations are Republican-supporters at present, and key recent elections probably were fiddled with, according to scholars and other experts who have examined the shoddy system. If we can't overhaul the current manner of voting and ballot-counting, taking corruption and partisanship out of it, it won't matter how clean and transparent and dynamic our refurbished party is. We'll still continue to "lose," even when we win.

What good is it going to do to fund campaigns if the Republicans are going to keep stealing elections and we're too cowed to call them on it?
I appreciate this:

People might laugh at Cindy Sheehan and Harry Belafonte, but at least they fight.

-- comment off of Eschaton

Hall of shame

Here are the Democrats who voted against the filibuster yesterday:

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)

Our problem is we have no party discipline. The Republicans would never have broken ranks like that. The Republicans needed 60 votes to prevent a the filibuster. What they got was 72. That is simply shameful. If all 19 Democrats above had demonstrated a little party loyalty, the Republicans would have had only 53 votes and then we would have seen a real fight to keep Alito off the Supreme Court. As it is, you can kiss your freedoms good-bye. Alito is the man who does not support a woman's right to privacy on reproductive matters, who believes it's fine to strip search a 10 year old girl, who supports big corporations over the rights of the little person, and, worst of all, who supports that odious doctrine known as the "unitary executive" which essentially gives dictatorial powers to the president. Yesterday was a sad, sad day for the Republic. In fact, many on the internet are saying that, as of Jan. 30, 2006, the Republic is no more.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with the Democratic Party. I cancelled my monthly pledge saying that the Democrats are going to have to show some spine if they want to keep their base loyal and energized. I'm not giving one more dime to the party until the people representing us learn how to fight. If keeping Alito off the Supreme Court is not worth fighting for, I don't know what is.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The World Can't Wait

I want to call your attention to the World Can't Wait movement. It is endorsed by such notables as Martin Sheen, Cindy Sheehan, Gloria Steinem, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn, Kurt Vonnegut, Al Sharpton, Mark Crispin Miller, Harold Pinter and many more. There's a nation wide protest planned for tomorrow night during the State of the Union address. Everyone is urged to bring noise makers to symbolically drown out the sound of Bush making his speech. Yes, there is a protest right here in Tulsa for you locals out there. Here is the Tulsa website for the movement. And the details of the protest are as follows:

This event will be in front of KJRH channel 2.
3701 South Peoria, Tulsa
Gather and rally at 7:30pm, protesting begins at 8pm, the scheduled time for Bush's address speech.
There is plenty of parking just south of Ch 2 in the Old Village Cleaners parking lot.

Tulsa Can't Wait consists of individuals from Tulsa and the surrounding areas that want to make a difference. Our current goal is for Bush to step down, "BUSH STEP DOWN, AND TAKE HIS WHOLE PROGRAM WITH HIM!" On November 2, the birth of our movement, we had over 50 people for our FIRST protest. Groups included TULSAPEACE.ORG, JUSTPROGRESS.ORG, VETERANSFORPEACE.ORG, Democrats of OK, Jenks High School, and many others! Please make sure to look over our GET INVOLVED link so you too can help by sharing ideas and thoughts.

Amazing that this movement exists in this reddest of states, in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Definitely worth finding out more about this organization and lending the movement our support.

Blair is waking up

Well, at least the Prime Minister of Britain is finally sounding the alarm regarding global warming. The article is from The Guardian and it's entitled, "PM issues blunt warning on climate change". Here's part of what it says:

Tony Blair warns that the impact of climate change may be more serious than previously thought in a new government report on global warming published today.

The report raises fears that both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are likely to melt, leading to a devastating rise in sea levels.

It warns of large-scale and irreversible disruption if temperatures rise by more than 3C (5.4F) - well within the range of climate change projections for the century.

Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change is published as a book and collates evidence presented by scientists at a conference hosted by the UK Meteorological Office last

The conference predicted that greenhouse gases would raise global temperatures by between 1.4C and 5.8C over this century.

"It is clear from the work presented that the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought," Mr Blair wrote in the forward to the book.

"It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialisation and economic growth from a world population that has increased six-fold in 200 years, is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable."

The book includes concerns expressed by the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, that the huge West Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate.

Scientists believe such an event would raise sea levels around the world by almost 5m (16 ft).

Prof Rapley writes that a previous report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dismissing worries about the ice sheet's stability had to be revised: "The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change. I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern."

"There is real concern." Well, that's putting it mildly. We ought not to be merely concerned. We ought to be absolutely terrified.

Now the question is, will Tony Blair try to talk some sense into George Bush? And if he did, would it do any good? I'm not optimistic.

UPDATE: All right, this is disgusting. CNN picked up the above story and published it on its International Edition web page in an article entitled, "Climate risk 'worse than thought'". It is nowhere to be found - I mean nowhere - on the U.S. Edition. Don't even try to tell me that's not bias.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

This sums it up

Here's a comment off of AMERICAblog by a guy named Vince. Couldn't have said it better myself:

Okay. The permafrost in Alaska is melting, causing landslides, roads to cave in, etc... New insects are appearing that did not used to live that far north, and the ecosystem is under siege. The northern forests are facing diseases that the trees have no immunity to. The glaciers and polar ice caps are disappearing, resulting in a danger to polar bears, penguins, and many other species. The North Atlantic current is starting to fail, and the result is one of the coldest and snowiest winters in Europe in a VERY long time. I live in Iowa, and we have been having rain and 40's in January, which used to be unheard of. Anyone who does not believe in Global warming, or who wants to cover it up, must want the massive extinctions that are around the corner come to pass.

And Bush is trying to silence scientists. For the life of me, I do NOT understand the right-wing death wish.

Beyond the whispered fascism

We must disenthrall ourselves from the idea that our institutions, our traditions, the barriers that protect us from absolute and authoritarian powers, cannot be broken down. They are being dismantled a brick at a time. The separation of powers has already been annihilated. It is a whispered fascism, not yet marching down your street or pounding upon your door in the dead of night. But it is here, and it is laying deep roots. We must listen beyond the whispered fascism of today to the shouted fascism of tomorrow. We must look beyond the lies and the myths, beyond the dogmas by which we sleep.

- William Rivers Pitt

Gagging the scientists

The Washington Post has published an article this morning entitled, "Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change" and subtitled, "Some Experts on Global Warming Foresee 'Tipping Point' When It Is Too Late to Act". What's really troubling is that the administration is trying to pressure the scientists not to publicize what they know. Of course, the British ecological scientist James Lovelock believes we have already passed the tipping point. But some scientists have hopes that we still have time to change our behavior. Here is a passage that explain what they think:

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."

Now here's the part about scientists being censored:

This tipping point debate has stirred controversy within the administration; Hansen said senior political appointees are trying to block him from sharing his views publicly.

When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record, NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation.

"They're trying to control what's getting out to the public," Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. "They're not willing to say much, because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble."

Of course, the right-wingers don't care because they think it means the Rapture is coming. Yeah, well I think it does mean The-End-of-the-World-As-We-Know-It but nobody's going to get "raptured". We're all going to fry together - fundamentalist and free thinker alike.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Facing what has happened

I just found a paragraph that sums up very powerfully what has happened in this country. It's from an article by Ronnie Dugger entitled, "Impeach or indict Bush and Cheney". Here's the paragraph:

As I have written in a review-essay that appears in the tenth-anniversary spring issue of Yes!, the quarterly of new solutions published in Washington state by David and Frances Korten (YesMagazine.org), we are living and working in the very days and nights of the American Emergency, the climactic American Crisis. Our elections are bought, and our government is run by and for the major transnational corporations. Bush announced in 2002 his illegal presidential policy that the United States can and will attack other nations first, waging war on them, when he so decides. He is now waging, as if he were doing it in our names, a bloody war of aggression against Iraq, which on the face of it is a crime against humanity under the Nuremberg principles that we and our allies established and enforced with hangings after World War II. The President, the Vice-President, and their factors sold this war to Congress with twistings and lies that were crafted to infuriate and terrorize us about Iraq’s alleged connections to Al Qaeda and mass-murder endangerments to us from Iraq itself, all of which literally did not exist. In polls now six of 10 Americans do not believe the president is honest. Yet he has three more years of dictatorial control over our nuclear and other arms and our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps and seems now to be maneuvering to use that control to wage another aggressive war on Iran, with literally incalculable consequences.

I have a feeling of sick dread about Iran. I wish I believed Bush could be stopped but I'm not optimistic. May Providence preserve each of us as we face the dark days ahead!

Keeping America safe from vegans

Many thanks to Echidne of the Snakes for steering me toward this article entitled, "ACLU Releases Government Photos". It seems the government is worried about vegans protesting at a Honey Baked Ham store. Here's an excerpt:

Two documents relating to anti-war and anti-government protests, and a vegan rally, prove [the FBI and Homeland Security] have been "spying" on Georgia residents unconstitutionally, the ACLU said. (Related: ACLU Complaint -- PDF file)

For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.

An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car."

They told me if I didn't give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested," Childs said on Wednesday.

The government file lists anti-war protesters in Atlanta as threats, the ACLU said. The ACLU of Georgia accuses the Bush administration of labeling those who disagree with its policy as disloyal Americans."

We believe that spying on American citizens for no good reason is fundamentally un-American, that it's not the place of the goverment or the best use of resources to spy on its own citizens and we want it to stop. We want the spies in our government to pack their bags, close up their notebooks, take their cameras home and not engage in the spying anymore," Gerald Weber of the ACLU of Georgia said during a news conference. "

We have heard of not a single, government surveillance of a pro-war group," Weber said. "And I doubt we will ever hear of a single surveillance of a pro-war group."

Well, I guess I'm safe. I'm just a vegetarian - not a vegan. (That was sarcasm folks.)

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

--Pastor Martin Niemöller

Friday, January 27, 2006

Message to the Democrats

You know, I'm fast approaching the point of deciding to cancel my pledge to the Democratic Party. I'm sick of the lack of fight in the leadership. I agree with this point made by David Michael Green in his article entitled, "Hey Stupid, Cowardly, and Venal Democrats: Run This Ad in 2006":

As the old saying goes, if you can’t run against fiscal hemorrhage, Terri Schiavo, an unpopular war with no end in sight, torture, Hurricane Katrina, the prescription drug program debacle, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and the federal government spying on Americans, maybe you should think about a different career than politics.

Click through and read the whole article. It's good.

Friday cat blogging!

Here's Henry on the sofa just being his magnificent self!

Image hosting by Photobucket
Photo by Ellie Finlay

The party of Christian values - riiiight.

How do they get away with it? Utter viciousness, I mean. Ann Coulter, right wing extremist columnist, has called for the poisoning of Justice Stevens and calls it a joke. Read this from the article entitled, "Poison Justice Stevens, Coulter jokes" published by CNN:

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) -- Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, speaking at a traditionally black college, joked that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

Coulter had told the Philander Smith College audience Thursday that more conservative justices were needed on the Supreme Court to change the current law on abortion.

Stevens is one of the court's most liberal members.

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

That's not a joke. That's over the top nastiness. It's like Pat Robinson getting his "flock" to pray for the deaths of Supreme Court justices so that Bush can appoint some more. So much for "compassionate conservatism". Sheesh.

Right wing bias

If there was ever any doubt that the mainstream press is biased toward the right, take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled, "Republicans Aim for Alito Vote Tuesday":

WASHINGTON - Senate GOP leaders plan to confirm Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito early next week after dealing with a filibuster threat from Democratic die-hards who worry that the conservative judge would swing the court too far to the right.

Die-hards. That's what the Associated Press article calls Democrats who want a filibuster. I was in my car this morning listening to NPR and also heard there the word "die-hards" referring to Democrats who are threatening a filibuster. Sounds like a Republican talking point to me.

While we're on the subject of filibuster, check out what John Aravosis has to say about it over on AMERICAblog:

As for the filibuster, here are my thoughts.

I support a filibuster of Alito IF - IF, IF, IF, IF, IF - the multi-million dollar liberal non-profits and the Democratic and moderate Republican Senators organize a true CAMPAIGN to convince the American public that a filibuster is necessary and good.

To date, I haven't seen that campaign.

What I have seen is Democratic Senators doing what they do best. Finally taking the right position on an issue, but doing nothing to build public support FOR that position. In politics both are crucial. It's not enough for a politician to do the right thing. He/she (and the big non-profits) have to devise the public relations campaign (online, offline, grassroots, media, etc.) to create the buzz in their favor. Otherwise, the public will slam them for what they're doing, the effort will be a failure, and the members of Congress in question will face a harder time getting re-elected.

Why don't we learn from the Republicans instead of being cowed by them? What they do works. And what they do best is to energize their base. They get those talking points out there. Heck, as far as I know, we don't even have anybody in the party higher-ups who is publishing talking points on a regular basis. The liberal bloggers would drive them home if we did.

John continues with this assertion:

Some day Democrats will learn what Republicans have long known. It takes a campaign to win an issue. When the Democrats and their traditional million-dollar non-profits learn that lesson, and implement it, then I'll be all in favor of a filibuster. But a filibuster without the campaign will not only fail, it will convince already spineless Democrats that the filibuster itself was a mistake because it was a filibuster, not because the filibuster wasn't supported with a real public relations campaign.

I agree. Maybe we all need to write to Howard Dean about this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Spying on Quakers and other peace activists

You will remember that on Tuesday I indulged in something of a rant about Bush's use of the straw man argument. I mentioned parenthetically in that post that there was surveillance being carried out on the Catholic Worker Movement and the Quakers. Well, Carolyn L. left a comment expressing dismay at this and asked for a link. I have three for you (there are many more.) The first one is entitled, "The Return of Total Information Awareness" by Ted Rall. Here's part of what it says:

NEW YORK--Civil libertarians relaxed when, in September 2003, Republicans bowed to public outcry and cancelled Total Information Awareness. TIA was a covert "data mining" operation run out of the Pentagon by creepy Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter. Bush administration marketing mavens had tried to dress up the sinister "dataveillance" spook squad--first by changing TIA to Terrorism Information Awareness, then to the Information Awareness Office--to no avail. "But," wondered the Electronic Frontier Foundation watchdog group a month after Congress cut its funding, "is TIA truly dead?"

At the time I bet "no." Once a regime has revealed a predilection for spying on its own people, the histories of East Germany and Richard Nixon teach us, they never quit voluntarily. The cyclical clicks that appeared on my phone line after 9/11 corroborated my belief that federal spy agencies were using the War on Terrorism as a pretext for harassing their real enemies: liberals and others who criticized their policies. As did the phony Verizon employee tearing out of my building's basement, leaving the phone switching box open, when I demanded to see his identification. He drove away in an unmarked van.

So I was barely surprised to hear the big news that Bush had ordered the National Security Agency, FBI and CIA to tap the phones and e-mails of such dangerously subversive radical Islamist anti-American terrorist groups as Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Indian Movement and the Catholic Workers, without bothering to apply for a warrant. "The Catholic Workers advocated peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology," an agent wrote in an FBI dossier, a man sadly unaware of the passings of J. Edgar Hoover and the Soviet Union.

Old joke: A suspect running away from a cop ducks down a long dark alley. When the policeman's partner catches up he finds the first cop walking around in circles under a bright streetlamp. "What are you doing?" the second officer asks. "The guy ran into that alley!" "I know," his colleague replies, "but looking for him out here is a lot easier."

No wonder they haven't found Osama bin Laden. Tapping the ACLU's phones is easier than traipsing through Pakistani Kashmir.

The second link I have for you is entitled, "American Civil Liberties Union releases documentation of spying" . Here's the pertinent excerpt:

The FBI spy files included spying on a vegan community as well as students and peace activists who participated in a 2002 conference at Stanford University that focused on ending U.S. sanctions against Iraq.

The documents released by the ACLU include FBI observances on the supposed communist leanings of the Catholic Workers Group. In an e-mail to the counterterrorism unit, an unidentified official wrote, ''the Catholic Workers advocated peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology.''

Finally, I want to call your attention to an MSNBC article entitled, "Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?" Here's how it gets started:

WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

I think it's beyond question that the government has a file on me. I'm a member of both the ACLU and PETA as well as the Democratic Party. I support all of these organizations with a monthly pledge automatically charged to my credit card. I operate this blog under my own name. I'm a liberal nun. I have marched in solidarity with the Muslim community here in Tulsa. I've run Google searches that take me to liberal, anti-Bush websites. It makes me kind of sick to think that I'm being spied upon. But I don't think reality can be avoided here. My only consolation is that there are so many of us that there are not enough jails to lock all of us up. Of course, I imagine that's what the gays and the Gypsies and the Jews in Germany thought during the 30s.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Joe Wilson speaks out

Well, it seems Joseph Wilson gave a speech Monday as reported in an article entitled, "Joe Wilson bashes journalist who leaked wife's secret identity". Here's part of what it says:

During Monday's speech in the Hinckley Caucus Room, Joe Wilson said, per his wife's request, he no longer refers to Bob Novak as a "douche bag."

Novak identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, as a CIA operative in a 2003 column, beginning an investigation into who leaked her name.

Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has since been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice."

Bob Novak is not in jail because he sang like a canary to the Grand Jury," Wilson said. "He is a denizen of the deep who crumbled like a cookie."

However, Wilson said Novak is a small fry in the grand scheme of things who was only doing someone else's bidding.

I wonder if and when we're ever going to find out who was really responsible for the outing of Valerie Plame. In my mind that was an act of treason. But, of course, the mainstream press has, for the most part, forgotten about it. If mainstream reporters were doing their job they would be holding this in front of us constantly - whether there's "news" about it or not. (There's always someone willing to comment about it. And whatever happened to investigative journalism, anyway?) But the American public can easily be lulled to sleep again when the press just ignores important issues.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

This is so crazy making

All right. You know what makes me absolutely crazy? It's the Bush administration justifying itself regarding criticism nobody has made. It's the straw man argument. It's slyly changing the subject ever so slightly so that the original issue is lost. True to form, Bush is defending surveillance of possible terrorists as if we had objected to that - which we didn't. Take a look at this article in USA Today entitled, "Surveillance program protects country, Bush says" .

Tue Jan 24, 7:35 AM ET
President Bush defended on Monday what he called a "terrorist surveillance program" that targets international communications of suspected al-Qaeda members. However, the nation's No. 2 intelligence officer acknowledged that not every call monitored proved to have a terrorist link.

Objecting to the term "domestic spying," Bush said the surveillance he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks involves communications in which one party is outside the USA.

Bush said he had the legal and constitutional authority for the program without congressional approval. He told an audience at Kansas State University that U.S. intelligence can determine whether someone is tied to al-Qaeda, "and if they're making a phone call in the United States, it seems like to me we want to know why."

Yes, indeed, I would want to know why too. That's why we have FISA. That's why we have a secret court from whom warrants can be obtained - even after the fact if time is of the essence. Listen up, George Bush: What part of "get a warrant" don't you understand? We're not objecting to the surveillance. We're objecting to illegal surveillance. Big, big difference. Now it seems to me that if you don't want to get a warrant it must mean you don't have probable cause or you want to spy on somebody no court would let you spy on. Who is it, George? Journalists? Democrats? Nuns? (I know you're already going after Catholic Workers and Quakers. Who's next? How 'bout Episcopal nun/Buddhist types who write blogs? And no, Homeland Security. I'm not taunting the president. I'm just expressing my utter disgust. Last I looked, that was still legal.) Dissenters of all stripes?

The president with his "unitary executive" theory has basically made the case that the law doesn't apply to him. That's what we're objecting to. And I, for one, will object to it with my dying breath.

Sounding the alarm

Here's another example of an American sounding the alarm and having, sadly, essentially no effect. The article is entitled, "The end of 'unalienable rights'" and it's by Robert Parry. Here's how it gets started:

Every American school child is taught that in the United States, people have "unalienable rights," heralded by the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Supposedly, these liberties can't be taken away, but they are now gone.

Today, Americans have rights only at George W. Bush's forbearance. Under new legal theories - propounded by Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and other right-wing jurists - Bush effectively holds all power over all Americans.

He can spy on anyone he wants without a court order; he can throw anyone into jail without due process; he can order torture or other degrading treatment regardless of a new law enacted a month ago; he can launch wars without congressional approval; he can assassinate people whom he deems to be the enemy even if he knows that innocent people, including children, will die, too.

Under the new theories, Bush can act both domestically and internationally. His powers know no bounds and no boundaries.

Bush has made this radical change in the American political system by combining what his legal advisers call the "plenary" - or unlimited - powers of the Commander in Chief with the concept of a "unitary executive" in control of all laws and regulations.

Yet, maybe because Bush's assertion of power is so extraordinary, almost no one dares connect the dots. After a 230-year run, the "unalienable rights" - as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Founding Fathers - are history.

Later in the article, Parry reminds us of this reality:

Another example of Bush's assertion of his supremacy over laws enacted by Congress came in December 2005 when he signed Sen. John McCain's amendment barring cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.

Bush then issued a so-called "signing statement" that reserved his right to ignore the law."

The Executive Branch shall construe [the torture ban] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary Executive Branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power," the signing statement read.

In other words, since Bush considers his commander-in-chief authority boundless, he can waive the torture ban whenever he wants, making it virtually meaningless.

And still later says this:

So far, the major U.S. news media and leading Democrats have closed their eyes to the totality of Bush's claims to unprecedented Executive power. Senate Democrats have even shied away from threatening to filibuster Bush's Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito, one of the legal architects of the Imperial Presidency.

One of the few political leaders who has sounded the alarm is former Vice President Al Gore, who addressed the issue in a speech on Jan. 16, the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr."

An Executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful Executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free," Gore said.

A few days ago an acquaintance of mine said that earlier he had thought I was wrong about George Bush. These days this person is horrified by what Bush is doing. Now, he says, he wants a bumper sticker that says, "Impeach King George!"

Now we just need more people to change their minds.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Worth remembering

The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.

— President George W. Bush. 9/13/01

I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority. ... I am truly not that concerned about him.

— President George W. Bush. 3/13/02

Sonar and whales

The UK Independant undoubted has some of the best environmental reporting on the web these days. The article I want to share with you today is called, "Sonar threat to world's whales". Perhaps some of you were as dismayed as I was by the death of the whale that got disoriented and swam up the Thames. It was quite possibly affected by sonar. Here's part of what the article says:

Secret sonar from naval ships is killing thousands of whales around the world and could have disoriented the two-ton mammal that died last night after becoming stranded in the Thames, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday has established.

The northern bottlenose whale died despite dramatic attempts at a rescue witnessed by thousands of people on the banks of the river, and millions on television. The whale was lifted on to a barge and carried down the river, in the hope that it could be taken to the open sea. But its condition deteriorated, it began to suffer muscle spasms, and it died before anything further could be done.

Experts believe that the whale's senses could have been damaged by military sonar. Some 30 strandings and deaths of whales around the world - from Tasmania to North America - have been linked to its use. The United Nations and other international bodies have warned that it is a major threat to the animals.

The investigation has also revealed that - in a separate, but deeply embarrassing development - the Government faces being hauled before the European Court for failing to take enough care of the whales and dolphins around Britain's shores.

Professor Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University in Canada - acknowledged to be the world's leading expert on northern bottlenose whales - said yesterday that he had never known the deep-ocean species to wander so far from its habitat.

"It would be unusual, and cause concern, for one to be found in the North Sea or English Channel, let alone a long way up a pretty shallow river," he said. "Its nearest habitat would be south-west of Cornwall. We know that beaked whales - the group of species to which the northern bottlenose whale belongs - are particularly sensitive to underwater noise. There has been a lot of seismic activity off northern Scotland and in the North Sea, and I understand that the Royal Navy exercises frequently."

Many strandings and deaths of whales and dolphins have been linked to sonar surveys in recent years (see table). In March 2000, for example, whales of four species beached themselves in the Bahamas after a battle group from the US navy used sonar nearby. A US government investigation established that they had been affected by the sonar. Since then, the area's population of Cuvier's beaked whales has virtually disappeared; investigators conclude that they have either abandoned the area or died at sea.

Whales are sensitive, highly intelligent mammals. What we are doing is unconscionable.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The unjust Justice Department

All right. You know by now, I hope, that the Justice Department has defended Bush's warrantless spying on the American people. I'm linking you to an article by Matthew Rothschild entitled "Bush's NSA Hubris" and I want to call your attention to one small passage:

The gist of the Justice Department's argument is that the President's "inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief" and the Congressional Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) right after 9/11 give him all the power he needs to eavesdrop in the United States without a warrant.

It's that "Commander in Chief" bit I want to talk about here. Friday night I watched a re-run of "Close to Home" - a series about a young mother who's also a prosecuting attorney. The defendant in this episode seemed to be clearly nuts and so she was given a psychiatric exam to determine competency to stand trial. So far, so good. As we all know from watching such shows, a standard question during psychiatric exams is to ask the person to state the day's date and who is president in order to determine whether he or she is in touch with reality. But this psychiatrist did not ask, "Who is president?" This psychiatrist asked, "Who's the Commander in Chief?"

I was horrified. This was clearly deliberate propaganda - an effort to plant in the public's mind the idea that we are first to think of our president as "Commander". All I can say is, read the post below about the "unitary executive" theory. I fear we have lost the Republic. Past tense. Tyranny has already begun. Oppression is soon to follow. It is only a matter of time.

The "unitiary executive" theory

Have you heard of the very sinister "unitary executive" theory yet? It's explained by Robert Freeman in his article, "Should the President be King? Reflections from the deep origins of America". Here's how the article gets started:

When he wrote the Constitution in 1789, James Madison had a specific goal in mind: to create a system of government that would constrain the tyrannous behavior of an unaccountable executive. Only in this way, Madison knew, would the "blessings of liberty" be able to flourish and grow in the new United States.

The essential features of the government he envisioned to carry out this aim included representation of the people, separation of powers, checks and balances, the rule of law, and protection of the citizenry from unwarranted intrusion by the government.

But many of those ideals are at risk today in President Bush's breathtaking assertion that he is accountable to no one in his determination to spy on American citizens. Indeed, according to the theory of the "unitary executive" espoused by Samuel Alito, there are literally no limits to presidential actions so long as they are couched as part of the "war on terror."

Yet claims of unchallengeable authority rooted in the Constitution are belied in a straightforward understanding of what Madison intended to create. The founders had just fought the Revolutionary War to free themselves from the tyranny of an unbridled King - one who would not even deign to obey his own laws. And before that, in the 1600s, the English people had fought a Civil War to prevent their own subjugation to a series of despotic monarchs.

The article then traces the development of parliamentary democracy in Britain and explains how the rights of the citizen were established. Freeman later writes:

The most dangerous of George Bush's formulations surrounding the issue of unwarranted wiretapping is that his own usurpations must continue so long as the country is at "war." Bush's "war on terror" is effectively endless because it is inherently self-catalyzing, spawning more terror than it is capable of eradicating.

Before Bush's invasion, Iraq was not a source of terrorism. Today, it is the world's pre-eminent trainer and exporter of terror. Major incidents of international terrorism have tripled since the invasion in 2003. Perhaps it is this auto-inflammatory dynamic that Dick Cheney referred to when he claimed we were facing a war, "that will not end in our lifetimes." Tellingly, Madison wrote, "No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

The confluence of these two startling facts, the claim for unlimited power based on war, and the endless nature of the war itself, poses grave threats to the American Constitutional order. And the threat is made all the more dire in the realization that the war had been planned since the first days of the Bush administration and that it was sold to the American people through a vigorous, sustained campaign of Executive deceit.

Shorn of all distractions, the "unitary executive" and Bush's claim to legitimacy in spying amount to this: that one man can lie the country into war and then, on the basis of that war, declare himself above the law - essentially suspending the Constitution. It is a legal prescription for the self-destruction of democratic government.

I keep waiting for Bush to crown himself like Napoleon. What's really sad is that I don't think it's all that far-fetched. May his Waterloo come soon - soon!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Contact Google

"M." below suggested in a comment that we contact Google and praise them for fighting the government's intrusion on our privacy. It's hard to find an email address for Google that's meant for general comments but try this one: gblog@google.com

Snail mail or a phone call might be better. Here's what you need:

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View CA 94043
phone: (650) 253-0000
fax: (650) 253-0001

Climate change web site

I want to call your attention to a web site I've just discovered. It's called The Earth Institute at Columbia University. An article that's featured on the home page is called "Special Focus: Climate Change". Here's an excerpt:

This year is on track to be the hottest year on record. This would beat the previous record high set in 1998 and continue a general trend of rising temperatures dating back to 1980.

In May 2005, scientists concluded the Earth is absorbing more of the sun's energy than is being emitted back into space, disrupting the planet's energy balance and resulting in global warming. Scientists agree the Earth's climate is being directly
affected by human activity, and for many people around the world, these changes are having negative effects. Carbon dioxide levels today are nearly 30 percent higher than they were prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution, based on records extending back 650,000 years.

According to NASA, the polar ice cap is now melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. Arctic ice thickness has decreased 40 percent since the 1960s. The current pace of sea-level rise is three times the historical rate and appears to be accelerating.

And here's a paragraph from the "About Us" page:

The Earth Institute at Columbia University brings together talent from throughout the University to address complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, with particular focus on sustainable development and the needs of the world's poor. The Earth Institute is motivated by the belief that science and technological tools already exist, and could be expanded, to greatly improve conditions for the world's poor while preserving the natural systems that support life on Earth.

It's a fascinating site and worth exploring. I hope you'll spend some time visiting there!

P.S. Here's a page that lists simple actions we can all do to help slow climate change. If we all did these things it would really make a significant difference.

Friday, January 20, 2006

More on the Google story

Well, while Google is fighting the government, it seems that Yahoo has already turned over its records. Go on and kiss your freedoms good-bye. And notice I'm linking you to a London newspaper. The article is entitled, "Yahoo admits it let White House access its databases". Here's an excerpt:

Yahoo has admitted that it granted the US Government access to its search engine's databases this summer, as a battle develops over the right to privacy in cyberspace.

Google, by contrast, promised last night to fight vigorously the Bush Administration’s demand to know what millions of people have been looking up on the internet.

It emerged this week that the White House issued subpoenas to a number of US-based search engines this summer, asking to see what information the public had accessed in a two-month period. It said that it needed the information in order to help create online child protection laws.

But Google refused to comply with its subpoena - prompting the US Attorney General this week to ask a federal judge in San Jose for an order to hand over the requested records. Details of the onfrontation emerged after the San Jose Mercury News reported seeing the court papers on Wednesday.

At the heart of the battle is the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.

How long is it going to be before we anxiously await that knock on the door in the middle of the night?

Friday cat blogging!

Here's Leroy eyeing the wrist strap that's dangling from my camera. A minute after I took this picture, he charged it!

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The rigged elections

I want to tell you to go on over to Smirking Chimp and just read all the articles for today. Instead I'm going to to give you links to three of them and, while I'm at it, to the new book by Mark Crispin Miller called, Fooled Again - How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One, Too (Unless We Stop Them).

You, know, I've had several people tell me lately that they're optimistic because "the pendulum always swings." Well, yes, it does. That is, the pendulum of public opinion. But don't forget, our votes are counted by easily hackable computerized voting machines and the machines are owned by Republicans who promised to "deliver the vote" for Bush.

Read : "Political machines Was the 2004 election fixed?" by Paul Craig Roberts. Then read "Loot the vote: The Bush faction's future victories are already in the bag" by Chris Floyd. Finally, take a look at "Goodbye Terry Gross, we niver knew ye" by Joe Bageant that outlines how NPR has refused to review Fooled Again. Interestingly, I tried to give you a link to Fooled Again on Amazon. Amazon doesn't carry it. Even Wal-Mart carries that book (I refuse to link to Wal-Mart, however) so what's with Amazon? It's known to be a "red" company, I can tell you that much. (I link to them anyway because of the reviews.) But I was truly surprised to find a book that's not available through Amazon. There seems to be a widespread conspiracy of silence around the fraud surrounding the last two presidential elections.

P.S. Here's a BuzzFlash review of Fooled Again. Also, Mark Crispin Miller has a blog right here.

More spying on the American people

All right, get this. Now they're going after your Google records. They say they're just trying to stop children from accessing pornography. Nice ploy. Who could be against that? But what they want is everybody's records about everything and they just want us to "trust" them that they're only going to use it to stop access to porn by minors. Read this excerpt from an article entitled, "Feds after Google data":

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

The Mountain View-based search and advertising giant opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.

Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government's effort "vigorously.''

"Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching,'' Wong said.

The case worries privacy advocates, given the vast amount of information Google and other search engines know about their users.

"This is exactly the kind of case that privacy advocates have long feared,'' said Ray Everett-Church, a South Bay privacy consultant. "The idea that these massive databases are being thrown open to anyone with a court document is the worst-case scenario. If they lose this fight, consumers will think twice about letting Google deep into their lives.''

Just a few days ago, I googled "Impeach Bush". It's not a far stretch to imagine the government then concluding that I'm an enemy of the state. This is truly an outrage. What is happening to America? We have thrown away our birthright because 3,000 people died on Sept. 11? The hundreds of thousands that died in WWII would consider us pathetic.

The seas are dying

The article I want to share with you this morning was brought to my attention by Frank Ford. It is beyond disturbing. It is utterly terrifying. If this is true - and I have no doubt that it is - we are truly doomed. The article is entitled, "Warmer Seas Will Wipe Out Plankton, Source of Ocean Life" by Steve Connor. Please read:

The microscopic plants that underpin all life in the oceans are likely to be destroyed by global warming, a study has found.

Scientists have discovered a way that the vital plankton of the oceans can be starved of nutrients as a result of the seas getting warmer. They believe the findings have catastrophic implications for the entire marine habitat, which ultimately relies on plankton at the base of the food chain.

The study is also potentially devastating because it has thrown up a new "positive feedback" mechanism that could result in more carbon dioxide ending up in the atmosphere to cause a runaway greenhouse effect.

Scientists led by Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam have calculated that global warming, which is causing the temperature of the sea surface to rise, will also interfere with the vital upward movement of nutrients from the deep sea.

These nutrients, containing nitrogen, phosphorus and iron, are vital food for phytoplankton. If the supply is interrupted the plants die off, which prevents them from absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"Global warming of the surface layers of the oceans reduces the upward transport of nutrients into the surface layers. This generates chaos among the plankton," the professor said.

The sea is one of nature's "carbon sinks", which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposits the carbon in a long-term store - dissolved in the ocean or deposited as organic waste on the seabed. The vast quantities of phytoplankton in the oceans absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide. When the organisms die they fall to the seabed, carrying their store of carbon with them, where it stays for many thousands of years - thereby helping to counter global warming.

"Plankton... forms the basis of the marine food web. Moreover, phytoplankton consumes the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during photosynthesis," Professor Huisman said. "Uptake of carbon dioxide by phytoplankton across the vast expanses of the oceans reduces the rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere."

Warmer surface water caused by global warming causes greater temperature stratification, with warm surface layers sitting on deeper, colder layers, to prevent mixing of nutrients.

Professor Huisman shows in a study published in Nature that warmer sea surfaces will deliver a potentially devastating blow to the supply of deep-sea nutrients for phytoplankton.

His computer model of the impact was tested on real measurements made in the Pacific Ocean, where sea surface temperatures tend to be higher than in other parts of the world. He found that his computer predictions of how nutrient movement would be interrupted were accurate.

How can we get the attention of the administration? How can we get across the message that we are truly doomed as a species unless something is done - and done quickly? I feel as if I'm trying to convince someone not to commit suicide and, of course, that the person's suicide will destroy me as well. I really cannot exaggerate my dismay upon reading this article. I came home last night and cuddled my animals - determined to enjoy life and other living beings as long as possible knowing that it's only a matter of time before that which sustains life is utterly destroyed.

I'm sorry to give you such a depressing post today but I truly believe it is better to know than not to know. Let us all do what we can to practice compassion and to alleviate suffering in the time we have left.

May all beings be happy and create the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and from creating the causes of suffering.
May they find that noble happiness which can never be tainted by suffering.
May they attain universal compassion, free of the worldly bias towards friends and enemies.
Peace be with you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sad commentary

As some of you know, the CNN web site has an "unscientific" poll (meaning that participants are self-selected) on various issues every day down in the lower right hand corner of the home page. Notice the question and the results for today:

Will the congressional focus on ethics lead to meaningful reform?



This lets me know that the American public is really very cynical. So sad that we've come to this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

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The point of no return

Scientist James Lovelock believes we have passed it. I'm bringing you a deeply pessimistic article today but I believe it is imperative that we face what this eminent scientist has to say about the condition of our planet. The excerpt is from the UK Independent and the article is entitled, "Environment in crisis: 'We are past the point of no return'":

The world has already passed the point of no return for climate change, and civilisation as we know it is now unlikely to survive, according to James Lovelock, the scientist and green guru who conceived the idea of Gaia - the Earth which keeps itself fit for life.

In a profoundly pessimistic new assessment, published in today's Independent, Professor Lovelock suggests that efforts to counter global warming cannot succeed, and that, in effect, it is already too late.

The world and human society face disaster to a worse extent, and on a faster timescale, than almost anybody realises, he believes. He writes: "Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

In making such a statement, far gloomier than any yet made by a scientist of comparable international standing, Professor Lovelock accepts he is going out on a limb. But as the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on Earth since Charles Darwin, he feels his own analysis of what is happening leaves him no choice. He believes that it is the self-regulating mechanism of Gaia itself - increasingly accepted by other scientists worldwide, although they prefer to term it the Earth System - which, perversely, will ensure that the warming cannot be mastered.

This is because the system contains myriad feedback mechanisms which in the past have acted in concert to keep the Earth much cooler than it otherwise would be. Now, however, they will come together to amplify the warming being caused by human activities such as transport and industry through huge emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2 ).

It means that the harmful consequences of human beings damaging the living planet's ancient regulatory system will be non-linear - in other words, likely to accelerate uncontrollably. He terms this phenomenon "The Revenge of Gaia" and examines it in detail in a new book with that title, to be published next month.

I remember years ago when I saw a PBS program featuring Lovelock and his assistant. It was the first I had heard of the Gaia theory - the theory that the earth behaves as if it is, itself, a living organism. I was enormously excited by that body of research and it gave me an even deeper reverence for the earth than I already had. I grieve over what we're doing to the planet - more than I can begin to express on this blog. And I remain bewildered and dismayed by humanity's apparent collective death wish as a species. I do believe we are living in the end times - not because I think the Rapture is coming but because we are hell-bent on destroying ourselves. Fortunately, the meditative teaching on impermanence comes to my rescue or else I would despair. All things are impermanent - even this good earth. And I have let go of my strong preference that I not be alive toward the end of the destructive process.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

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Support for impeachment

Well, it should surprise no one that the mainstream press is not reporting the polls that show widespread support for impeaching President Bush because of the illegal warrantless wiretapping. Check out this article entitled, "Zogby Poll: Americans Support Impeaching Bush for Wiretapping":

By a margin of 52% to 43%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Why this isn't being shouted from the housetops is beyond me. No it's not, actually. Most people in the corporate owned news outlets are simply propaganda mouthpieces for the administration. Of course they're not going to consider these polls results worth reporting.

May I recommend a blog I just found? It's called Impeach Bush Coalition and links to a lot of articles on why Bush should be impeached.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The weakness of violence

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King

Our incipient dictatorship

I am more and more dismayed as it seems inevitable that Bush's nomination of Alito to the Supreme Court will be confirmed. The reason for my dismay has more to do with his belief in the expansion of executive power than anything else. In that regard I want to share with you today an article picked up by Smirking Chimp called "Bush has crossed the Rubicon" by Paul Craig Roberts:

Dictatorships seldom appear full-fledged but emerge piecemeal. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with one Roman legion he broke the tradition that protected the civilian government from victorious generals and launched the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Fearing that Caesar would become a king, the Senate assassinated him. From the civil wars that followed, Caesar's grandnephew, Octavian, emerged as the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.

Two thousand years later in Germany, Adolf Hitler's rise to dictator from his appointment as chancellor was rapid. Hitler used the Reichstag fire to create an atmosphere of crisis. Both the judicial and legislative branches of government collapsed, and Hitler's decrees became law. The Decree for the Protection of People and State (Feb. 28, 1933) suspended guarantees of personal liberty and permitted arrest and incarceration without trial. The Enabling Act (March 23, 1933) transferred legislative power to Hitler, permitting him to decree laws, laws moreover that "may deviate from the Constitution."

Later Roberts says the following:

The Republican interest in strengthening executive power has its origin in agenda frustration from the constraints placed on Republican administrations by Democratic congresses. The thrust to enlarge the president's powers predates the Bush administration but is being furthered to a dangerous extent during Bush's second term. The confirmation of Bush's nominee, Samuel Alito, a member of the Federalist Society, to the Supreme Court will provide five votes in favor of enlarged presidential powers.

President Bush has used "signing statements" hundreds of times to vitiate the meaning of statutes passed by Congress. In effect, Bush is vetoing the bills he signs into law by asserting unilateral authority as commander in chief to bypass or set aside the laws he signs. For example, Bush has asserted that he has the power to ignore the McCain amendment against torture, to ignore the law that requires a warrant to spy on Americans, to ignore the prohibition against indefinite detention without charges or trial, and to ignore the Geneva Conventions to which the U.S. is signatory.

In effect, Bush is asserting the powers that accrued to Hitler in 1933. His Federalist Society apologists and Department of Justice appointees claim that President Bush has the same power to interpret the Constitution as the Supreme Court. An Alito Court is likely to agree with this false claim.

Another article I read expressing these same concerns ended by urging all readers to write their senators opposing the Alito confirmation. I really have a sense of complete despair in that regard. Our senators here in Oklahoma are Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe - both rabid right-wingers. No letter from me is going to have any effect on them whatsoever. I know because I once wrote to them opposing the torture at Guantanamo Bay. I received a reply stating essentially that the people we have detained there are terrorists and deserve to be tortured. It was an appalling statement that didn't even try to deny that we are horrifically abusing the detainees.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another comment

Today seems to be my day for bringing you comments I find on other blogs. Here's one (found on Eschaton) that brings me to the brink of despair because I know it's true:

80% of the national vote is counted by computers which are designed in secret, built in secret, and programmed in secret by Republican-friendly companies.

We the people aren't allowed to examine any of that. We just feed 80% of our votes, childlike, into unwatchable, unauditable, unaudited computers, run by Republican-friendly companies.


I mean, isn't that right?

I wonder if it's an exercise in futility to be giving money to the Democratic Party. Even if we mount effective campaigns, what good it that with the Republicans counting the votes?

A comment I agree with

Someone left the following comment on Eschaton:

I'd like to see the Dems get serious about energy independence. It's a foreign policy issue, an economic issue, and an environmental issue. How many young Americans have been killed or injured in the last few years because this country ignored Jimmy Carter's warnings?

This person later says that we need a Manhattan Project to develop safe, renewable sources of energy. How true.

You know, it must be very hard for Jimmy Carter to see what's happening knowing that his warnings went unheeded.

It's a Republican problem

I'm going to send you on over to AMERICAblog today because John Aravosis has posted an important report. It seems that the Washington Post is spreading the lie that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. Not so, not so, not so. John has the facts: a long list of Abramoff's political contributions. Not one Democrat is on it. The data is provided by the Federal Election Commission as of 1/2/06. Not one Democrat.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

That mining "accident"

I put it in quotes because it was an accident that was inevitable. Today I'm blogging an article called "Criminal Negligence Killed the Sago Miners" published by Common Dreams. Here's part of what it says:

Administration officials could learn a lot about improving mine safety by talking with any miner for just a few minutes. But the most crucial step to prevent tragedies like Sago has little to do with the specifics of mining -- it involves changing the cost-benefit analysis made by corporate executives in workplace safety decisions.

Consider the decisions by managers of the Sago mine, which received more than 200 citations last year from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the federal agency charged with enforcing safety compliance. These were not minor infractions; in the last quarter of 2005, inspectors cited 18 “serious and substantial” violations capable of causing major injuries or deaths. Not surprisingly, Sago's accident rate tripled the national average and more than a dozen serious roof falls -- in which huge slabs of the mine roof simply collapsed -- were recorded last year. Many citations were for violating ventilation standards that exist specifically to prevent explosions like that which doomed Sago's victims.“

This mine [Sago] should have been closed… the record is very clear,” says Jack Spadaro, former director of the National Mine Safety and Health Academy.

Instead, MSHA continued issuing fines and the managers at then-owner Anker Mining Co. simply wrote them off as a cost of doing business on the cheap. It made perfect sense for the corporation's bottom line; the fines for those 205 violations total about $25,000. This was a pittance to Anker, never mind International Coal Group (ICG), which bought the Sago mine last November. ICG's most recent quarterly earnings were $158 million, meaning the average fine levied in 2005 -- about $150 -- equals a few seconds of income. Such "enforcement" has a deterrent effect akin to punishing drunk driving with fines of a few nickels.

Later the author tells us the following:

When Rep. Owens introduced the Wrongful Death Accountability Act last year, to make corporate manslaughter a felony offense and double the maximum pnishment for lying to federal safety inspectors, Republicans quickly killed the bill on a party-line vote.

Typical of Republicans to value a coporation's bottom line over the lives of human beings.

Then the author makes this point:

Perhaps the outrage over Sago will prove the impetus to save the lives of other Americans. It's not just to protect those toiling in mines. More U.S. workers are killed in workplace accidents in an average day than died in the Sago mine -- most of them in equally preventable events.

Nothing but outrage on a massive level will improve industrial safety. And I doubt that the average American cares enough.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Civil war

According to Rep. John Murtha, the situation in Iraq is true civil war. Here's what he says:

According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, the definition of a civil war is a "war between political factions or regions within the same country." That is exactly what is going on in Iraq, not a global war on terrorism, as the President continues to portray it. 93 percent of those fighting in Iraq are Iraqis. A very small percentage of the fighting is being done by foreign fighters. Our troops are caught in between the fighting. 80 percent of Iraqis want us out of there and 45 percent think it is justified to kill American troops.

Iraqis went to the polls in droves on December 15th and rejected the secular, pro-democracy candidates and those who the Administration in Washington propped up. Preliminary vote results indicate that Iyad Allawi, the pro-American Prime Minister, received about 8 percent of the vote and Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq's current Oil Minister and close associate of the U.S. Iraq war planners, received less than 1 percent. According to General Vines, the top operational commander in Iraq, "the vote is reported to be primarily along sectarian lines, which is not particularly heartening." The new government he said "must be a government by and for Iraqis, not sects."

The ethnic and religious strife in Iraq has been going on, not for decades or centuries, but for millennia. These particular explosive hatreds and tensions will be there if our troops leave in six months, six years or six decades. It is time to re-deploy our troops and to re-focus our attention on the real threats posed by global terrorism.

I wonder how long it's going to take the mainstream press to call a spade a spade. And, of course, it's unlikely that the Bush administration ever will.

Friday cat blogging!

Here's Edgar in his little house:

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Cultivating gratefulness

Some of you who read my other blog, Meditation Matters, will have noticed that I've recently quoted from the website, Gratefulness.org - a wonderful site that can help us cultivate antidotes to despair. Today, in the question and answer section, I found something that really belongs here on Child of Illusion:

Q. How is it possible for anyone to be grateful to the U.S. administration for what they are doing to our sisters and brothers in Iraq? Every side of this confused equation believes that some god or other is with them in their struggle, even our Australian prime minister summons his god to assist with what he calls a just outcome; where is the justice in taking another nation's land and resources, when one is already so materially rich, and yet so apparently spiritually bereft? — BFM, Australia

A. It is probably not possible to be grateful to the U.S. administration, unless you agree with its policies and really believe that these policies will result in more peace and security, and less harm and violence. There are some who do believe this, probably many. I suppose it is possible they are right. The world is complicated, the sum total of wrong actions pile up over centuries, and sometimes life pushes you into a corner, and you are forced to choose between several horrible alternatives.

But if you are like me and cannot see how violence will lead to anything other than violence, then no, you cannot be grateful for the U.S. administration. But you can be grateful for life. You can be grateful for courage; you can be grateful for the peace that remains in your own heart and in the hearts of others even in the midst of war. You can be grateful for your own kind heart and discriminating mind, that yearns for peace and justice.

Even though it may not be possible or even reasonable to be grateful to the U.S. administration, it is probably not a good idea to hate its members, to diagnose their ills and pathologies, to impute motives for their actions. Suppose they were just wrong; that they were human beings acting according to their best understanding, based on their own goals and views, who were, in relation to your values and goals, just wrong. You can speak out vigorously against a person's actions, goals, and decisions without demonizing that person. That is the challenge here. Gratefulness is probably going too far.


Zoketsu Norman Fischer

I am reminded of the time the Dalai Lama was asked if he hated the Chinese. He replied with a big smile, "Hate Chinese? No, I don't hate Chinese. I pray very powerful prayers for Chinese!" I'm sure His Holiness does not experience gratitude that the Chinese invaded his country and drove him into exile. But yet he has not demonized them. That is, indeed, the challenge. Let us despise with vigor the actions of the Bush administration. Let us know that these actions are wrong and deeply evil. But let us not despise the human beings themselves. For then we will have become what we despise.

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart - part 10

Actually this article (sent to me by Marilyn Bedford) is about a state that's gotten fed up with Wal-Mart's irresponsibility regarding health care for its workers. The article is by Kristen Wyatt and it's entitled, "Legislature Tells Wal-Mart to Boost Health Care". Here's part of what it says:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Jan. 13) - Maryland has become the first state in the nation to require Wal-Mart to spend more on employee health care or pay the difference into the state's Medicaid fund. Similar laws may be coming elsewhere.

The measure approved Thursday requires companies with more than 10,000 Maryland employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on employee health care or pay the difference into the state-supported Medicaid program. Of the state's large employers, only Wal-Mart spends less than 8 percent on health care.

Labor unions, who heavily pushed for the bill, said they would pursue similar legislation in at least 30 other states, focusing first on Colorado, Connecticut and Washington.

"The tide is turning because working people are not just fed up — they are ready to get active to set our country in a different direction, one state at a time," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a statement.

Maryland's Democratic-controlled Legislature overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

Why aren't Republicans just as outraged as Democrats that Wal-Mart's policies cost the tax payer in Medicaid bills? Why should Wal-Mart be essentiallysubsidizedd by the state?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

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The NYT on Alito

Go on over to the New York Times today and read the editorial on Alito. It will curdle your blood. Here's an excerpt:

Some commentators are complaining that Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century. We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v. Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power.

Those are just a few of the quiet bombshells that have dropped. In his deadpan bureaucrat's voice, Judge Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of the law. In three days of testimony, he has given the American people reasons to be worried - and senators reasons to oppose his nomination. Among those reasons are the following:

EVIDENCE OF EXTREMISM Judge Alito's extraordinary praise of Judge Bork is unsettling, given that Judge Bork's radical legal views included rejecting the Supreme Court's entire line of privacy cases, even its 1965 ruling striking down a state law banning sales of contraceptives. Judge Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group whose offensive views about women, minorities and AIDS victims were discussed in greater detail at yesterday's hearing - is also deeply troubling, as is his unconvincing claim not to remember joining it.

OPPOSITION TO ROE V. WADE In 1985, Judge Alito made it clear that he believed the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He had many chances this week to say he had changed his mind, but he refused. When offered the chance to say that Roe is a "super-precedent," entitled to special deference because it has been upheld so often, he refused that, too. As Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, noted in particularly pointed questioning, since Judge Alito was willing to say that other doctrines, like one person one vote, are settled law, his unwillingness to say the same about Roe strongly suggests that he still believes what he believed in 1985.

SUPPORT FOR AN IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY Judge Alito has backed a controversial theory known as the "unitary executive," and argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits when he installs illegal wiretaps. Judge Alito backed away from one of his most extreme statements in this area - his assertion, in a 1985 job application, that he believed "very strongly" in "the supremacy of the elected branches of government." But he left a disturbing impression that as a justice, he would undermine the Supreme Court's critical role in putting a check on presidential excesses.

There's more. Click through and register with the New York Times if you haven't already. It's worth it.

If the Democrats don't filibuster this nomination I'm canceling my pledge to the party, that's for sure.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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The Alito hearing

Today I want to recommend that you go visit a site called Save the Court that is published by People for the American Way. It gives thorough updates on the Alito hearing. I'm going to reproduce here what they said about Alito's assurance that he will keep an "open mind" about abortion rights. Here's the passage:

“Open Mind” is Not a Legal Term and Signifies Nothing

Judge Samuel Alito repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether he still holds his 1985 legal view that “the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.” Instead, he tried to muddy the waters in his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings by pledging to keep “an open mind,” should he be in a position to reconsider precedent on that right.

The news media are trumpeting this statement as if it means something. It doesn’t. In fact, another Supreme Court nominee used this exact language to navigate hearing questions attempting to expose his not-so-secret anti-choice legal views.

In the fall of 1991, during his own hearings, Clarence Thomas said of the right to abortion, “I think that it is most important for me to remain open. I have no agenda. I am open about that important case. I work to be open and impartial on all the cases on which I sit. I can say on that issue and on those cases I have no agenda. I have an open mind, and I can function strongly as a judge.

He went on to say, “I have no agenda, Senator. I have tried to here, as well as in my other endeavors as a judge, remain impartial, to remain open-minded, and I am open-minded on this particular important issue.

As we all know, however, once safely on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas voted to overturn Roe v. Wade just months later, dissenting in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey – a dissent that likened abortion to polygamy, sodomy, incest and suicide.

So much for an “open mind."

By the way, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey came to Thomas and the Supreme Court through Samuel Alito's Third Circuit, where Alito too voted to restrict reproductive freedom.

Let me state again for the record lest I be misunderstood here. I am personally against abortion. I do believe it is the taking of a life and I think it is tragic in all circumstances. But I do not believe it should be criminalized. That will only drive abortions underground and make them unsafe for women. I think rather that we need to eliminate the need for abortions by creating the kind of society where every child is welcomed and will be cared for. The biggest predictor for abortions is poverty. The abortion rate went down during the Clinton years and up during the Bush years. When you cut social programs that help the poor, desperate women will seek abortions because they have no idea how they are going to care for another child.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

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Let us not lose heart

I know I post a lot of bad news on this blog. And that is intentional. It's a way of not giving in to the easy temptation of staying in denial. It's a way of not being overtaken by the mind poison of delusion. But that does not mean we should give in to despair either. Recently, I found an amazing essay by Clarissa Pinkola Estes that is intended to help us keep our spirits up. I think it's quite wonderful and I reproduce it here in its entirety:

You Were Made For This

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D
Author of the best seller Women Who Run with the Wolves

I love her assessment that we were made for these times. Let us remember that every act of kindness and integrity will contribute to creating a critical mass that may well "tip toward an enduring good". So let us encourage one another on the path.

Monday, January 09, 2006

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Congressmen are actually now returning illegal gifts. I called the weather bureau, and sure enough, hell has frozen over.

--David Letterman


I'm amazed and distressed by so-called conservatives who want to turn back the clock to the 50s. So is Kate Michelman as she explains in an article entitled, "Alito's Fantasy World":

In the 1998 movie ''Pleasantville," Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon play typical '90s kids who are inadvertently transported into the unreal reality of a 1950s sitcom. They use their '90s values to teach the sitcom world some lessons about diversity and tolerance.

Today many people have a stylized, ''Pleasantville" vision of the pre-Roe era in which I grew up. They imagine fondly that almost all families had a Daddy at the office and a Mommy in the kitchen; that almost all family relations were well-ordered and unthreatening; in short, that life looked like ''Leave It to Beaver" -- and that, with a few legal adjustments, it could do so again.

The conservative movement has spent the last 20 years working to roll back social progress and make this fantasy a reality. It is time to stop seeing the fate of Roe as a Beltway parlor game. What really hangs in the balance in the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito are the fundamental rights to privacy, dignity, and autonomy -- rights that transcend partisan politics, shape the course of our daily lives, and lie at the heart of who we are as Americans.

Conservative ideologues are simply wrong about the 1950s. Fans of the decade seldom mention that, with women's autonomy and earning power severely limited, poverty was a constant threat. According to the Census Bureau, in those days almost 20 percent of American families lived in poverty, as did more than 40 percent of families headed by women -- in both cases, roughly double today's rates.

Doctors and social workers were reluctant to report child or spousal abuse, and many women died from unsafe abortions each year.
Samuel Alito's public record shows unequivocally that he is out of step with Americans on each of those fundamental issues -- that he has chosen to reside in a 1950s that never really was, rather than the new century in which the rest of us live.

He believes that the state needs to assist women in recognizing the moral dimensions of their decisions -- not only abortion but the forms of birth control, such as the Pill and the IUD, that are the most effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy. He sought to uphold abortion restrictions that would have treated a grown married woman no differently from a child, forcing her to notify her husband in all circumstances, including abuse and rape, before obtaining an abortion.

As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her decision overturning these restrictions, ''Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry." Judge Alito seems not to have grasped this fundamental fact of modern American life.

Alito seems as well not to think much of women's constitutionally protected right to equality in the workplace -- a right that women today take for granted.

He has repeatedly sought to limit women's right to fight employment discrimination in the courts, even in the most extreme cases, intervening where juries had already found in favor of a woman. He has opposed the affirmative action initiatives that opened the doors for a generation of women and minorities. He seems not to have believed women and minorities deserved equal access to his own educational institution, Princeton University.

The thought of Alito being confirmed for the Supreme Court is very disturbing. As a woman I find the prospect truly alarming.