But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions, he's the Decider. The Press Secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know, fiction.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
WASHINGTON A blistering comedy "tribute" to President Bush by Comedy Central's faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.
Earlier, the president had delivered his talk to the 2700 attendees, including many celebrities and top officials, with the help of a Bush impersonator.
Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, "and reality has a well-known liberal bias."
He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. "This administration is soaring, not sinking," he said. "They are re-arranging the deck chairs--on the Hindenburg."
Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the "Rocky" movies, always getting punched in the face--"and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world."
Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, as well as " Valerie Plame." Then, pretending to be worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean... Joseph Wilson's wife." He asserted that it might be okay, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was probably not there.
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately.
E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.
High time is all I have to say. High time.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
-- Firebrand radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was charged Friday with fraudulently concealing information to obtain prescription drugs, but prosecutors will drop the charge after 18 months if Limbaugh remains in treatment for drug addiction, his lawyer said.
Limbaugh also agreed to pay the state of Florida $30,000 to help cover the cost of the investigation into the conservative radio personality's alleged "doctor shopping," a felony in Florida.
Attorney Roy Black said the deal will end a lengthy investigation into whether Limbaugh "doctor shopped," which is illegally obtaining prescriptions from multiple sources. Limbaugh acknowledged an addiction to painkillers in October 2003 after his former housekeeper told The National Enquirer she sold drugs to him. (Watch how Rush Limbaugh made a deal -- 2:56) Following the revelation, Limbaugh left his radio show for five weeks while he attended a rehabilitation program.
"Mr. Limbaugh and I have maintained from the start that there was no doctor shopping, and we continue to hold this position," Black said in a statement, adding that Limbaugh pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Although Black urged reporters not to call it an arrest -- because Limbaugh turned himself in and was never handcuffed -- a sheriff's spokesman said technically he was under arrest during his booking.
It's the hypocrisy that's outrageous since Limbaugh has publicly insisted (before he was caught, that is) that drug offenders be dealt harsh prison sentences.
It will interest you to know that CNN has a Quick Vote with this question: "Where is the best place for Rush Limbaugh?" Rehab or jail? 65% of participants said "jail". If he's going to dish it out he needs to be able to take it. At least that's what the public seems to think.
Friday, April 28, 2006
The Bush administration has pushed hard for limitless powers to spy on, imprison and torture American citizens in the name of 'security.' Is this really what America stands for?
Then the article starts out like this:
A fellow from a town just outside of Austin wrote a four-sentence letter to the editor of our local daily that astonished me: "I want the government to please, please listen in on my phone calls. I have nothing to hide. It is also welcome to check my emails and give me a national identification card, which I will be proud to show when asked by people in authority. What's with all you people who need so much privacy?"
Well, gee where to start? How about with the founders? Many of the colonists who rose in support of the rebellion of '76 did so because their government kept snooping on them and invading their privacy. Especially offensive was the widespread use of "writs of assistance," which were sweeping warrants authorizing government agents to enter and search people's homes and businesses -- including those of people who had nothing to hide. The founders had a strong sense of the old English maxim "A man's house is his castle." They hated the government's "knock at the door," the forced intrusion into their private spheres, the arrogant abrogation of their personal liberty. So they fought a war to stop it. Once free of that government, they created a new one based on laws to protect liberty -- and this time they were determined to put a short, tight leash on government's inherently abusive search powers.
Now here's another paragraph I'd like you to see:
Nonsense. He's commander-in-chief of the military -- not of the country. He's president, not king. And as president, he's the head of only one of the three co-equal branches. Yet bizarrely and pathetically, Congress has rolled over and even cheered this gross usurpation of its clear constitutional responsibilities -- including its power to declare war, control the public purse, regulate the military, ratify treaties, make laws "necessary and proper" for the conduct of all government, provide oversight of executive actions and generally serve the public as a check and balance against presidential abuses. As Sen. Russ Feingold, the truly fine defender of our rights and liberties, wrote in a February blog: "I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday's State of the Union speech, listening to the president assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?" The breathtaking notion that Bush can, on his own say-so, thumb his nose at the due process of law and even be a serial lawbreaker has astounded not only Feingold but also a slew of leading right-wing thinkers:
*Paul Weyerich of Free Congress Foundation: "My criteria for judging this stuff is, what would a President Hillary do with these same powers?"
*George Will, columnist: "[Executive] powers do not include deciding that a law -- FISA, for example -- is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'"
*David Keene of the American Conservative Union: "The American system was set up on the assumption that you can't rely on the good will of people with power."
Do we have, as a people, the will to curb this claim to absolute power? I sincerely hope so. But I'm worried. It doesn't seem to be happening. Not effectively, that is.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
--- H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
Those of you who have been around for a while may have noticed something about the conservative blowhards on the net. The Freepers. The right-wing-nutjob blogosphere. Guns-and-gear forums, which teem with the kind of person I'm talking about.
The big secret: these people aren't much for the written word. They can't spell. They mangle grammar and syntax to varying degrees, sometimes to the point where they're almost unintelligible. And the worse the problem is, the more vociferous they are about supporting George Bush.
What do I conclude from this?
I conclude something we've always suspected. I conclude that Bush voters aren't very bright.
There's political theory that holds that people tend to vote for candidates who are like them.
When Gore talks, he makes a great deal of sense. The problem is, the ideas he expresses are complex; it's not easy to encapsulate him in a ten second soundbite. The same is true of John Kerry.
Bush, on the other hand, just makes statements. Simple statements. He doesn't bother supporting them. He doesn't bother explaining why. He just pronounces.
After all, why should he explain anything? He's the Decider.
Bush is very reassuring to a lot of people who aren't very bright, and for whom the complexity of modern times is a little bit scary. They're reassured by strong authority figures. People like that would like to return to the halcyon Mayberry days of an idealized 1950s with black and white televisions, baseball on the radio and the good old Sovs to hate and fear.
Nice and simple.
As the poll numbers crash, as it dawns on more and more Americans what a worldwide laughingstock we've become, it's like a needle sweeping downwards along the IQ curve. As Bush's popularity ratings sink below 30, we're going to see more and more malapropisms, misspellings and misunderstandings of the English language.
It makes a lot of sense to me. Of course, I don't frequent the "freeper" sites. In fact, I don't go there at all. Maintaining a sane blood pressure is just too important to me!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Congress is now pushing a law that would end the free and open Internet as we know it. Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. So Amazon doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.
Many members of Congress take campaign contributions from these companies, and they don't think the public are paying attention to this issue. Let's show them we care - please sign this petition today.
You can sign their petition on this issue right here.
April 20th, 2006
Dear Mr. Leno,
My name is Jeff Whitty. I live in New York City. I'm a playwright and the author of "Avenue Q", which is a musical currently running on Broadway.
I've been watching your show a bit, and I'd like to make an observation:
When you think of gay people, it's funny. They're funny folks. They wear leather. They like Judy Garland. They like disco music. They're sort of like Stepin Fetchit as channeled by Richard Simmons.
Gay people, to you, are great material.
Mr. Leno, let me share with you my view of gay people:
When I think of gay people, I think of the gay news anchor who took a tire iron to the head several times when he was vacationing in St. Maarten's. I think of my friend who was visiting Hamburger Mary's, a gay restaurant in Las Vegas, when a bigot threw a smoke bomb filled with toxic chemicals into the restaurant, leaving the staff and gay clientele coughing, puking, and running in terror. I think of visiting my gay friends at their house in the country, sitting outside for dinner, and hearing, within hundreds of feet of where we sat, taunting voices yelling "Faggots." I think of hugging my boyfriend goodbye for the day on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, and being mocked and taunted by passing high school students.
When think of gay people, I think of suicide. I think of a countless list of people who took their own lives because the world was so toxically hostile to them. Because of the deathly climate of the closet, we will never be able to count them. You think gay people are great material. I think of a silent holocaust that continues to this day. I think of a silent holocaust that is perpetuated by people like you, who seek to minimize us and make fun of us and who I suspect really, fundamentally wish we would just go away.
When I think of gay people, I think of a brave group that has made tremendous contributions to society, in arts, letters, science, philosophy, and politics. I think of some of the most hilarious people I know. I think of a group that has served as a cultural guardian for an ungrateful and ignorant America.
I think of a group of people who have undergone a brave act of inventing themselves. Every single out-of-the-closet gay person has had to say, "I am not part of mainstream society." Mr. Leno, that takes bigger balls than stepping out in front of TV-watching America every night. I daresay I suspect it takes bigger balls to come out of the closet than any thing you have ever done in your life.
I know you know gay people, Mr. Leno. Are they just jokes to you, to be snickered at behind their backs? Despite the angry tenor of my letter, I suspect you're a better man than that. I don't bother writing letters to the "God Hates Fags" people, or Donald Wildmon, or the Pope. But I think you can do better. I know it's "The Tonight Show," not a White House press conference, but you reach a lot of people.
I caught your show when you had a tired mockery of "Brokeback Mountain," involving something about a horse done up in what you consider a "gay" way. Man, that's dated. I turned the television off and felt pretty fucking depressed. And now I understand your gay-baiting jokes have continued.
Mr. Leno, I have a sense of humor. It's my livelihood. And being gay has many hilarious aspects to it -- none of which, I suspect, you understand. I'm tired of people like you. When I think of gay people, I think of centuries of suffering. I think of really, really good people who've been gravely mistreated for a long time now.
You've got to cut it out, Jay.
I am disturbed that gay people are considered fair game in our society. We wouldn't tolerate racist jokes on late night television. Why are jokes about gay stereotypes considered okay?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
LONDON, April 24 -- If it's war Harry Wales wants, it's war he shall have.
British Defense Secretary John Reid on Monday, addressing noisy speculation in the British media, said he saw no problem sending 2nd Lt. Wales -- better known as Prince Harry -- to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Harry himself is on record as saying he has no intention of staying home while his mates from Sandhurst, the elite military academy from which he graduated this month, put their lives on the line. "There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country," Harry, the redheaded younger son of Diana and Prince Charles, said in a rare interview last September, marking his 21st birthday. "That may sound very patriotic, but it's true."
That set off a debate about whether Harry should or shouldn't go and if the military would let him. Could he really be just a soldier doing his duty? Or would he become a "trophy target" whose presence would recklessly endanger his fellow soldiers?
Commissioned in the Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals, the oldest and most senior regiment in the British Army, Prince Harry is about to begin a five-month training course to become a troop commander. His regiment has been deployed in most major military operations in recent decades, including the Falklands War, both Gulf wars, Bosnia and Kosovo. After his training, military officials have said, it is quite possible that Harry's regiment could be assigned to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Well, whether he actually sees combat or not, the point is he is willing. Quite a contrast to the Bush twins, huh? When are they going to sign up? You, know "support the troops" and all that - by joining. Oh, you mean the Bush family is for the war as long as other people's children fight it? Silly me.
MONTEREY, California (Reuters) - The record Atlantic hurricane season last year can be attributed to global warming, several top experts, including a leading U.S. government storm researcher, said on Monday.
"The hurricanes we are seeing are indeed a direct result of climate change and it's no longer something we'll see in the future, it's happening now," said Greg Holland, a division director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Holland told a packed hall at the American Meteorological Society's 27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology that the wind and warmer water conditions that fuel storms that form in the Caribbean are "increasingly due to greenhouse gases. There seems to be no other conclusion you can logically draw."
When will the Bush administration wake up and admit that global warming is real? There seems to be no limit to the level of denial these people are capable of.
Monday, April 24, 2006
These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
-- Proverbs 6:16-19
President Bush met with the president of China at the White House. The arrival ceremony was interrupted by a protester who started yelling, 'Stop the persecution, stop the torture!' President Bush had to ask, 'Which one of us are you talking to?'
So sad to realize what our country has become.
President Kennedy, himself a hero of the Second World War, rejected the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preventive strike against the Soviet Union in Cuba.
It was lucky that JFK was determined to get the missiles out peacefully, because only decades later did we discover that the Soviet forces in Cuba had tactical nuclear weapons and orders to use them to repel a U.S. invasion. This would have meant a nuclear exchange. Instead, JFK used his own thousand days to give the American University speech, a powerful plea to Americans as well as to Russians to reexamine "our own attitude -- as individuals and as a nation -- for our attitude is as essential as theirs." This was followed by the limited test ban treaty. It was compatible with the George Kennan formula -- containment plus deterrence -- that worked effectively to avoid a nuclear clash.
The Cuban missile crisis was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in all human history. Never before had two contending powers possessed between them the technical capacity to destroy the planet. Had there been exponents of preventive war in the White House, there probably would have been nuclear war. It is certain that nuclear weapons will be used again. Henry Adams, the most brilliant of American historians, wrote during our Civil War, "Some day science shall have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race shall commit suicide by blowing up the world."
Amazing that our ability to destroy life on earth was predicted during the Civil War.
Schlesinger later goes on to say the following:
There stretch ahead for Bush a thousand days of his own. He might use them to start the third Bush war: the Afghan war (justified), the Iraq war (based on fantasy, deception and self-deception), the Iran war (also fantasy, deception and self-deception). There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war.
Maybe President Bush, who seems a humane man, might be moved by daily sorrows of death and destruction to forgo solo preventive war and return to cooperation with other countries in the interest of collective security.
How on earth does he figure that President Bush seems to be a humane man? To me, he seems anything but. He seems arrogant, cruel and utterly unmoved by human suffering.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Earth will experience significant climate change in the coming century as a result of greenhouse gas buildups, but the more extreme estimates of global warming generated by some studies are unlikely to occur, according to newly published research.
"This still commits us to quite a bit of climate change, but it leaves the door open to avoiding the largest and most devastating consequences," said Gabriele C. Hegerl, a Duke University climate expert who led the study.
Even a few degrees increase can have significant environmental and economic impacts, but by downgrading the worst-case scenarios the new work may convince governments that it is not too late to take action, Hegerl said. Models suggest that carbon dioxide levels could reach double the pre-industrial levels between 2050 and 2100. Peak temperatures would occur decades later, as the planet's climate system settled into a new balance.
Let's hope this study gets some attention and that the powers that be are willing to act.
There may be links here with the role of religion. A key element for a baby's development is security. Attending a tiny baby in the middle of the night and catching a glimpse of the anxiety or even fear in their face is a reminder of how vulnerable these small people must feel. Programming may provide a certain type of security, but of a rigid and brittle kind, which may also contain seeds of anger or despair at feeling deserted when they most needed comfort.
This brings echoes of those forms of religion that offer a fixed and firm belief system. Believers know their dogmas: there is no space for discussion or debate. If one aspect of the "faith" is undermined, or creates doubt, the whole system can collapse. Such dogmatism (rather than "fundamentalism") can be found in most faiths, and can be a driver for destruction. If your security is bound up in a belief system that by definition is right and true, you can bomb non-believers into dust, or blow yourself up with them, in certain hope of your ultimate vindication.
This is a more urgent issue than I realised when I began my exploration. Infants who are trusted to let us know when they need to eat, sleep, be comforted or held can perhaps also be trusted to let us know when they are ready to read, go out alone, surf the internet and formulate a faith. If they are programmed to accept what to do and when, we should be unsurprised if later they simply follow orders, or react aggressively.
Someone has said that the opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty. According to that point of view, the fundamentalists are not people of faith at all.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Here's a web page entitled "Things YOU can do to save the Earth". I'm going to give you just a small excerpt here:
SAVE ENERGY- If each U.S. household increased the energy efficiency of our major appliances by 10 to 30%, we'd reduce the demand for electricity by the equivalent of 25 large power plants. Energy use in the home is responsible for 30 per cent of energy related carbon dioxide (C02) emissions which is a primary contributor to global warming.
*Americans buy 2.2 million light bulbs every day. We flick a light switch dozens of times a day without thinking, but it's time to give it some thought. According to the World Resources Institute, lighting accounts for about 20 percent of all the electricity used in the United States (5 percent residential, 15 percent commercial), and 10 percent of all the emissions of CO2, the main greenhouse gas.
*Turn off lights when you are not in the room
*Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. The standard incandescent bulbs currently lighting your home have changed very little from Thomas Edison's first light bulb in 1879. Only 10% of the energy used by these standard bulbs contributes to light; the other 90% is wasted as heat. In fact, incandescent lights burn hot enough to fry an egg! And what about halogen lights? A typical halogen bulb burns at 1,000 degrees F. These old-fashioned light bulbs waste energy and can potentially cause burns or fires. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs use 75% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. This means that over the life of one CFL, you can avoid replacing up to 13 incandescent bulbs!
*Use rechargeable batteries or make sure the regular batteries will be recycled
*Use energy-efficient appliances (check the Energy Guide Labels for refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, clothes washers, dishwashers and air conditioners to buy the appliance that uses the least amount of energy.)
By the way, I found a great source for full-sprectrum, non-flickering florescent light bulbs. It's the Improvements catalog and the page for the light bulbs is here.
[Y]ou will be captivated, then riveted and then scared out of your wits. Our Earth is going to hell in a handbasket.
You will see the Arctic and Antarctic icecaps melting. You will see Greenland oozing into the sea. You will see the atmosphere polluted with greenhouse gases that block heat from escaping. You will see photos from space of what the icecaps looked like once and what they look like now, and, in animation, you will see how high the oceans might rise. Shanghai and Calcutta swamped. Much of Florida, too. The water takes a hunk of New York. The fuss about what to do with Ground Zero will turn to naught. It will be under water.
"An Inconvenient Truth" is a cinematic version of the lecture that Gore has given for years warning of the dangers of global warming. The case Gore makes is worthy of sleepless nights: Our Earth is in extremis. It's not just that polar bears are drowning because they cannot reach receding ice floes or that "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" will exist someday only as a Hemingway short story. It's rather that Hurricane Katrina is not past, but prologue. Katrina produced several hundred thousand evacuees. The flooding of Calcutta would produce many millions.
You cannot see this film and not think of George W. Bush, the man who beat Gore in 2000. Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush's initial approach to global warming. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by winning in 2000.
I hope it does do some good. But I'm not optimistic.
Friday, April 21, 2006
The Department of Energy's decision to disband its principal scientific advisory committee next month is the latest example of the Bush Administration's refusal to listen to outside, independent scientific advice, critics told C&EN on April 10.
Established during the Carter Administration, the 28-member independent Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) is no longer needed, says DOE spokesman Craig Stevens, and will shut down on May 20 after it completes a final report on science and math education. Stevens says two recently announced residential initiatives will guide the department's work on energy and basic research over the next several years.
Edwin Lyman, senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the decision to disband the advisory panel is "a symptom of an Administration that doesn't like to hear any kind of contrary view, that simply likes to talk to itself. The notion that the Energy Department has all the information it needs on scientific and technical issues is ludicrous." Lyman says DOE prefers to "listen to national lab advocates who have their own agendas instead of soliciting external scientific advice to try to put things into perspective."
Kent J. Bransford, national president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, says the decision is "not a surprise" and is consistent with "the Administration's tendency to ignore outside scientific input." One example, Bransford says, is the White House's opposition to mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions, which "essentially ignores the cautions and input of some 2,000 international scientists" on the threat of global warming.
SEAB was established in 1990 to provide advice, information, and recommendations to the secretary on the department's basic and applied research activities, economic and national security policy, educational issues, and laboratory management. SEAB, a mix of scientists, business executives, and former government officials, replaced the Energy Research Advisory Board, which had been in operation since 1978.
Someone once said that we're all entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts. I wish someone would get that across to Bush.
Well, it seems that Bush's FDA has just up and lied about the medical benefits of marijuana - completely contradicting the current science:
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana, contradicting a 1999 review by a panel of highly regarded scientists....
The Food and Drug Administration statement directly contradicts a 1999 review by the Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious scientific advisory agency. That review found marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting."
I also want to show you a very moving comment off of AMERICAblog on the subject:
My late lover of 13 years died in 1992 at age 33 of AIDS. He was from a fundamentalist family from Eastern Tennessee. They hated me for "breaking up" his two year marriage to his high school sweetheart which had produced a child (it was really his walking in and finding his wife in bed with his "best friend"!).
For years, I would get icy remarks over the phone from his family. They would include Christian tracts in greeting cards to us warning about our sinful ways.
However, when his family saw how I didn't run off when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, and essentially became his nurse for the next 8 years, they began to accept our relationship, maybe because it was no longer sexual.
Anyway, I had to watch him wretch daily due to being on chemotherapy for his Karposi's sarcoma. He wasted away due to not being able to hold down food. On his 33rd birthday, I bought some pot from the boyfriend of our home healthcare nurse and we served it on top of a giant, decorated chocolate-chip cookie.
My love only lived 31 more days, but he quit throwing up his food, began putting on weight, and best of all got his sense of humor back, a joy for living, spending many hours phoning old friends and family and laughing with them.
He and his family had decided to have a closed casket as he was so skeletal. When I shipped his body back to Chattanooga, they were amazed how good he looked again and had an open casket for the wake. They said their church had a prayer chain that had been praying for him and they gave credit to Jesus. I never have told them about his smoking marijuana daily that caused the real "miracle".
BTW, I still hear from his family, and twice visited his grave on Missionary Ridge and they always insist I stay in their home, not rent a motel room! Best of all, they never preach at me about my lost soul.
The fundies are so sick. They believe everything pleasurable is sinful. That's fine if they want to abstain themselves but whatever happened to freedom? They're determined that nobody else gets to use marijuana even if it makes someone's final few days bearable instead of unbearable. Personally, I think they're monsters.
Twelve hours. One circuit of the sun from horizon to horizon, one course of the moon from dusk to dawn. What was once a natural measurement for the daily round of human life is now a doom-laden interval between the voicing of an autocrat's brutal whim and the infliction of mass annihilation halfway around the world.
Twelve hours is the maximum time necessary for American bombers to gear up and launch an unprovoked sneak attack – a Pearl Harbor in reverse – against Iran, the Washington Post reports. The plan for this "global strike," which includes a very viable "nuclear option," was approved months ago, and is now in operation. The planes are already on continuous alert, making "nuclear delivery" practice runs along the Iranian border, as Sy Hersh reports in the New Yorker, and waiting only for the signal from President George W. Bush to drop their payloads of conventional and nuclear weapons on some 400 targets spread throughout the condemned land.
And when this attack comes – either as a stand-alone "knock-out blow" or else as the precusor to a full-scale, regime-changing invasion, like the earlier aggression in Iraq – there will be no warning, no declaration of war, no hearings, no public debate. The already issued orders governing the operation put the decision solely in the hands of the president: he picks up the phone, he says, "Go" – and in twelve hours' time, up to a million Iranians will be dead.
Now there's another article on the same subject that I also want to recommend. It's entitled "America's last days" by Margaret Kimberley and I'll give you an excerpt here:
Does George W. Bush have the numbers 6, 6, and 6 tattooed on his head? In recent years it has become popular for every calamity, natural or man made, to be ascribed to the end times, the last days, Armageddon. If the end is near, the nation most responsible is the United States of America.
Throughout history human beings have competed with Mother Nature in the killing business, and humans win hands down. The Middle Passage, the American Indian holocaust, Stalin's purges and Hitler's concentration camps took out many more millions than bad weather, or shifting tectonic plates. If no one speaks up to stop Bush and does so very soon, that awful trend will continue.
The Bush administration has been openly threatening a military attack against Iran. Seymour Hersh recently wrote in the New Yorker that not only is the Bush administration preparing to attack Iran, but is planning to use nuclear weapons to do it. In this latest report, Hersh quotes sources who repeat the Bush messianic vision to "save" the people of Iran. If the Iranians will be liberated like the Iraqis were liberated, they are on their way to a living hell.
Hersh is not the first to report that the president is a megalomaniac hell bent on killing people in order to save them. Bush reportedly told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that he is getting his orders straight from God.
"God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."
It isn't clear if God also recommended permanent bases, theft of resources, no bid contracts and Abu Ghraib.
There are obvious reasons to fear Hersh's assertions about Bush. Equally frightening is the prospect that he will get whatever he wants from a spineless, bought-off Congress. One Congressional source tells Hersh, "There's no pressure from Congress. The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it."
I think Kimberly is right. These may be the last days. Not because of some wrathful God but because of a wrathful (and demented) human being who thinks he's God.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).
Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush’s presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush’s job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved. Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April.
"It seems clear that many Republicans, while they may still like and support George Bush, are growing uneasy with what may happen to their candidates — and the policies they support — in the November elections," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman.
What can I say? Worst president ever.
Your personal impact on global warming may be influenced as much by what you eat as by what you drive.
That surprising conclusion comes from a couple of scientists who have taken an unusual look at the production of greenhouse gases from an angle that not many folks have even thought about. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago, have found that our consumption of red meat may be as bad for the planet as it is for our bodies.
If you want to help lower greenhouse gas emissions, they conclude in a report to be published in the journal Earth Interactions, become a vegetarian.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that both researchers are vegetarians, although they admit to cheating a little with an occasional sardine. They say their conclusions are backed up by hard data.
Eshel and Martin collected that data from a wide range of sources, and they examined the amount of fossil-fuel energy - and thus the level of production of greenhouse gases - required for five different diets. The vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy efficient, followed by poultry, and what they call the "mean American diet," which consists of a little bit of everything.
There was a surprising tie for last place. In terms of energy required for harvesting and processing, fish and red meat ended up in a "virtual tie," but that's just in terms of energy consumed. When you toss in all those other factors, such as bovine flatulence and gas released by manure, red meat comes in dead last. Fish remains in fourth place, some distance behind poultry and the mean American diet, chiefly because the type of fish preferred by Americans requires a lot of energy to catch.
I read a comment today on AMERICAblog that urged us against cynicism. Yes, global warming is upon us and we can't stop it at this point, the writer explained. But we can lessen its impact by what we do. So be aware that every time you choose not to eat meat, you are not only reducing animal suffering, you are also helping the planet with regard to climate change.
This Saturday is Earth Day, the one day of the year adults set aside to fool their children that they're serious about leaving them a livable planet. What dupes these children be!
Global warming spirals beyond even the most cautious scientific projections, and what do we do about it? Nothing. Less than nothing. We buy gas-guzzling, ozone-depleting vehicles, throw chemicals on the lawn, deplete and despoil the oceans, cover the countryside with asphalt. We are simply not serious about leaving the earth in better shape than we ourselves inherited it. And yet we pretend, with Earth Day, that we are.
Let's be real adults and put Earth Day to rest, along with the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, voting, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and Santa Claus. After five years of Bush, Earth Day is not something any sentient adult can take seriously. Why lie to the kids? What good will it do them?
One glance at the table of contents of Worldwatch's latest "Vital Signs" tells us the Earth is in deep trouble: Fossil fuel use surging (even as oil prices and profits hit record highs); climate change indicators rising; weather-related disasters setting records; human population surging as other species decline; global ice melt accelerating; wetlands drying up, forests disappearing, etc. All manmade problems, all ignored by the powers that be. And yet we continue to hold Earth Day.
It would be more healthy and helpful to take our kids aside and say: the powers that be don't care about your future.
All right, so Alan Bisbort is seriously cynical. But I don't blame him. And at least his approach has the merit of honesty.
Since becoming leader of the Conservative Party I have sought to push the environment up to the top of the political agenda. Not only is it something that I feel strongly about, but I am aware that my position has given me a unique opportunity to stimulate national debate on an issue that we cannot afford to ignore. I intend to take it.
This is one of the reasons I decided to go on a fact-finding visit with WWF to the Arctic Research Station at Ny Alesund in Norway. I want to see for myself the effects of climate change, not just to see a retreating glacier but to meet leading scientific and research experts. Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world and we must have a much greater sense of urgency about tackling it.
It's "one of the biggest threats facing the world," he says. I would say it's THE biggest threat. Now why can't the Republicans see that? Don't they have children? How can they be so short sighted as to put this year's profits ahead of next year's survivability?
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
You don't need new laws to defeat your temptations, and you don't need new weapons for your armies to defeat your enemies. What you need is to stop living in the lie.
Right now is the time to actually be what you say you want to be: just like Christ.
Have mercy, do not judge. Be humble, not proud. Trust in God, not the President. Turn the other cheek, instead of dropping bombs. Love your enemies, don't live in fear. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the broken-hearted, heal the sick! Farm your fields, don't pave them over! Free the prisoners -- and free the jailers too!
Free your selves: confess your wrongs, at least to yourself. Look in the mirror -- who are you fooling?
Good, huh? I wish the fundies among us would read it.
I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense.
On April 17, nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage called for "kill[ing] 100 million" Muslims and referred to the woman who alleged she was raped by members of Duke University's lacrosse team as a "drunken slut stripping whore."
On his radio show, Savage told listeners that "intelligent people, wealthy people ... are very depressed by the weakness that America is showing to these psychotics in the Muslim world. They say, 'Oh, there's a billion of them.' " Savage continued: "I said, 'So, kill 100 million of them, then there'd be 900 million of them.' I mean ... would you rather us die than them?" Savage added: "Would you rather we disappear or we die? Or would you rather they disappear and they die? Because you're going to have to make that choice sooner rather than later."
These people (I mean Savage and his ilk) simply are not civilized. And they obviously cannot be reasoned with. As I said above, it's truly depressing.
Until I read Seymour Hersh's expose in The New Yorker and subsequent follow-up coverage by other journalists about the Bush Administration's plans to start a war against Iran, I had dismissed talk of George W. Bush's messianism as so much Beltway chatter. True, he hears voices, even claiming that God and Jesus Christ talk to him. "I believe God wants me to run for president," he told a friend in Texas.
Despite the man's wacky religiosity, I have been giving Bush the benefit of a small amount of remaining doubt after five years of the most disastrous rule this nation has ever suffered. I believed that he was breathtakingly bigoted, stupid and ignorant. But I didn't think he was out of his mind. Until now.
"One of the military's initial option plans," reports Hersh, "...calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites." An intelligence insider says that "Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap. 'Decisive' is the key word of the Air Force's planning. It's a tough decision. But we made it in Japan."
"We're talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years," he went on. Crazy stuff. But whenever someone inside the Administration opposes the nuclear option, "They're shouted down." The pro-nuke faction, led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is responding to internal critics with a "B61 [nuclear bomb] with more blast and less radiation."
You may have heard that Bush dismissed Hersh's article as "wild speculation." At first I, like you, responded with a sigh of relief. But I've come to learn that Bush doesn't talk like a human being. His policy pronouncements are carefully lawyered to give him the kind of technical out that Bill Clinton could only have dreamed of. Bushspeak is crafted to ensure that what Mr. Straightshooter says is rarely what he means. Filtering "wild speculation" statement through Bushspeak analysis shows that it's no denial at all.
Bush has not denied Hersh's article. Therefore, we should accept it as accurate.
Many people have asked me during the last year whether I thought Bush would attack Iran. I said no, because he's out of troops, out of cash and out of political capital. He couldn't so he wouldn't.
Those things are still true. Not to mention that Iran would make Iraq look like a cakewalk. Yet, as Hersh reports, the U.S. may bomb at least 400 cities and towns inside Iran. "Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups." You don't need troops, money or the support of the American people when God talks to you. And when you're insane.
Look folks, this article didn't come from some extreme left-wing fringe site. It's Yahoo News for crying out loud. And Ted Rall is liberal but he's still mainstream. Please let this sink in everybody: A mainstream commentator is saying on a mainstream news site that Bush is insane. My guess is that this is the tip of the iceberg. There are probably plenty of journalists out there scared out of their minds because they truly believe Bush is out of his.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Consolidation among health insurers is creating near-monopolies in virtually all reaches of the United States, according to a study released Monday.
Data from the American Medical Association show that in each of 43 states, a handful of top insurers have gained such a stronghold that their markets are considered "highly concentrated" under U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, often far exceeding the thresholds that trigger antitrust concerns.
The study also shows that in 166 of 294 metropolitan areas, or 56 percent, a single insurer controls more than half the business in health maintenance organization and preferred provider networks underwriting.
"This problem is widespread across the country, and it needs to be looked at," said Jim Rohack, an AMA trustee and physician in Temple, Texas. "The choices that patients have now are more difficult."
Critics say that carriers are not only creating monopolies and oligopolies in many regions, they also control the other side of the equation in what is known as monopsony power. That means in addition to having the most enrollees, they're also the biggest purchasers of health care and can dictate prices and coverage terms.
It also makes it harder for new carriers to emerge, as pricing already has been set by the dominant carrier.
The AMA says it has taken up this antitrust issue with the Department of Justice, but says it has run into roadblocks with regulators. AMA officials say regulators seem uninterested, even though government officials are more than willing to target doctors' groups and hospitals on antitrust matters.
Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Well, surprise, surprise. The Justice Department is on the side of big business and big profits at the expense of the common welfare of Americans. Who knew?
Monday, April 17, 2006
Imagine if I were to walk into your house with a gun, and over the next three weeks sell every possession you had, and then I sold your house, and took all that money and paid big bucks to my wife the psychologist to consult with you on the psychological problems that you started having after I invaded your house.... essentially stealing all your wealth all the while professing to be SO CONCERNED about you and your psychological problems.
That's what the US is doing in Iraq. We're stealing their oil and giving the money to American companies with connections to Bush and Cheney...we're paying their companies HUGE bucks to repair things we broke. And in reality, they're not repairing much of anything.
That's what the US is doing in Iraq.... CRIMINAL. IMMORAL. HORRIFIC.
And killing 180,000 innocent Iraqi civilians in the process.
It's beyond shameful. It really is.
Here are the results:
I must admit I voted for "worse" as well. How sad that so many people are looking to the future with so little hope.
I'm living with a sick sense of dread about the plans to attack Iran. I agree that it will be a disaster - the kind of disaster that may well alter our lives forever.
The front page of The Washington Post of April 9th screams 'Attacking Iran May Trigger Terrorism: US Experts Wary of Military Action Over Nuclear Program.' No kidding! Well duh! I am no expert but I could have told them that. Iran is no Iraq. It is not run by one strongman on which everything depends as it did in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, making it a cake walk to dismantle. Iran is run by councils of powerful men who decide policy. Attacking such a system would unleash a most unpleasant response on America from that country, along with a firestorm of Muslim anti-American sentiment from the whole region. America would be fighting a whole region and a whole religion. This would not be another Vietnam. It would instead be another Crusades. In short a disaster.
The article goes on to make reference to a recent statement by an Iranian government official Javad Vaeedi who said of this country 'it may have the power to cause harm and pain, but it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if the United States wants to pursue that path, let the ball roll.' When this statement was made initially the immediate response from the White House was that it was 'highly provocative.' But scant days before, the Pentagon had issued a statement that attacking Iran with mini nukes would be safe and not have too much of an untoward effect on the civilian population. Before that the Bush Administration admitted that top military planners were brainstorming scenarios for attacking Iran, even admitting that the Israelis were involved in these undertakings. Notwithstanding this, our leaders think that such a statement by Iran, a country whose borders we have breached before, is 'provocative.' Who's provoking who? One has to seriously question whether our leaders are of sound mind and body.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
''Justice, not charity," was one of Coffin's constant refrains...
Coffin's contention was: ''Many of us are eager to respond to injustice, as long as we can do so without having to confront the causes of it. There's the great pitfall of charity. Handouts to needy individuals are genuine, necessary responses to injustice, but they do not necessarily face the reason for injustice. And that is why so many business and governmental leaders today are promoting charity; it is desperately needed in an economy whose prosperity is based on growing inequality. First these leaders proclaim themselves experts on matters economic, and prove it by taking the most out of the economy! Then they promote charity as if it were the work of the church, finally telling us troubled clergy to shut up and bless the economy as once we blessed the battleships."
''The churches have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. But they have also to remember that the answer to homelessness is homes, not shelters. What the poor and downtrodden need is not piecemeal charity but wholesale justice." He taught that they need political action and structural change in society, not just a warm meal and a bed in a church basement.
Coffin quoted the biblical prophet Amos regularly: ''Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground. You who trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate." Justice, not charity. Not trickle-down economics or faith-based social services, ''but," in Amos's words, ''let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream."
Coffin called the church to translate its moral teachings into politics: ''In Scripture, there is no purely spiritual answer to slavery; no purely spiritual answer to the pain of the poor. . . . In times of oppression, if you don't translate choices of faith into political choices, you run the danger of washing your hands, like Pilate."
I wonder when we shall see his like again. May he rest in peace and may we, who have been inspired by his words and example, go and do likewise.
UPDATE: I just found the Nation's tribute to Dr. Coffin. Here's a quote:
Active to the end, Coffin explained in one of his last interviews that, "There are two major biblical imperatives: pursue justice and seek peace." Honoring those imperatives, he campaigned consistently and loudly – even as his own health failed -- for the quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
As a World War II veteran and a passionate patriot who described his arguments with U.S. foreign policies as "a lovers' quarrel," Coffin counseled his fellow citizens that, "What we shouldn't do is to believe President Bush when he says that to honor those who have died, more Americans must die. That's using examples of his failures to promote still greater failures."
"A lovers' quarrel." I understand that for I love this country so much that it truly breaks my heart to see what is happening to it.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said -- Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart....Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Now go here and see the illustrated version. And weep.
And finally, New Rule: People who run everything can't complain that they're underdogs.
To whit, this week, there was a highly-attended conference in Washington called "The War on Christians." Because nothing quite says "I'm oppressed," like the opulent Regency Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
Ah, yes, whatever happened to that plucky little cult, Christianity? Oh, that's right, they're 80% of the American people, and have taken over all three branches of government, country music, public schools, the bestseller list, and until recently, Katie Holmes.
You know, Christians, I don't mind that you're part of a dress-up cult that hates sex and worships magic but the paranoia, that does scare me.
Did you know that the Missouri legislature recently felt the need to propose a resolution declaring Christianity Missouri's majority religion. No kidding. Really, you mean people aren't saying, "Gosh, I'd like to go to Missouri, but...too Jewish."
In Savannah, recently, a children's book about a baby penguin who is raised by two male penguins - ahh! - was removed from the library for its homosexual overtones. Because you know penguins, in those tuxedos, with the dreamy eyes. Huge fags!
The Christian right are now officially the party of paranoia.
Secularists are attacking Christmas! Gays are attacking marriage!
Liberals are attacking values! White girls are being abducted at an alarming rate!
You know, if you're going to be that paranoid all the time, just get high.
And the worst part is, the people bitching loudest about being persecuted for their Christianity aren't Christians at all.
They're demagogues and conmen and scolds. And the only thing they worship is power. If you believe Jesus ever had a good word for war or torture or tax cuts for the rich, or raping the earth, or refusing water to dying migrants, then you might as well believe bunnies lay painted eggs.
And Jesus - and Jesus never said a word about gay marriage. He was much too busy hanging out with 12 guys.
Now - now I know George Bush says Jesus Christ changed his heart. But believe me, Dick Cheney changed it back. The only thing Bush has in common with Jesus is they both went into their father's business and got crucified for it.
Thomas Jefferson called the type of Christian who trumpets his own belief in the divinity of Jesus rather than the morality of Jesus "pseudo-Christians."
And that's who's running our country today. And since they thrive so much on turning water into "whining"-and get off on their endless pretend persecution, this Easter season, let's give them what they want. Let's go to the zoo, get some lions, and feed them Tom DeLay.
Now that's good, isn't it? Happy Easter everyone!
The Government's chief scientist today gave his starkest warning yet about the world's increasing carbon emissions saying that even the best-case scenario put millions of lives at risk by the end of the century.
Professor Sir David King said that a 3C rise in global temperatures is likely within 100 years, a process that will lead to a rise in sea levels and increase in desertification that will place 400 million people at the risk of hunger. Parts of Britain will be flooded as the UK comes under coastal attack.
Developing countries will be the hardest hit, with ecosystems failing to adapt and between 20 million to 400 million tonnes of cereal production being lost, according to Sir David.
He said the temperature rise would be the consequence of carbon dioxide levels of 500 parts per million, roughly double those of the Industrial Revolution. The current carbon dioxide concentration stands at 380 parts per million, already the highest levels likely to have been experienced on Earth for 740,000 years.
Sir David said that his grim prediction was based on an optimistic reading of the world's ability to control its carbon emissions. Many scientists believe emissions could rise to 550 million parts per million and even larger temperature rises.
Please notice that these predictions are based on optimism about how we control carbon emissions. Are you really optimistic in this regard? I certainly am not. Not about the role of the United States government.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Bush is the amalgamation of all the hideous and sad parts of the Republican Party. He is a Republican Frankenstein. He has the temperament of Barry Goldwater, the integrity of Richard Nixon, and the brains of Dan Quayle.
And we trust this guy with his finger on the button?
God help us all if he bombs Iran. And if you think he's not that stupid, you haven't been paying attention.
The Middle East is a powder keg and Bush wants to throw a nuclear match on it. God help us all, indeed.
April 11, 2006
Ken Mehlman Chairman
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington DC, 20003
Yesterday, the AP ran a story entitled "Phone Jamming Records Point to White House." This story provides new details about the role of the New Hampshire Republican Party in the phone-jamming scandal and raises serious questions as to whether the RNC and the White House were actively involved.
As you know, on Election Day, a telemarketer hired by the New Hampshire GOP jammed telephone lines at five state Democratic and one firefighters union get-out-the-vote phone banks. The AP noted yesterday that the "records show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 - as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down."
The AP story also stated that virtually all the calls to the White House went to the same number (202-456-6173) which currently rings inside the political affairs office. Although the White House declined today to say which staffer was assigned that phone number in 2002, you may be able to shed some light on the subject, as you were the White House Political Director during that time.
You have often spoken of the importance of making sure that every vote counts. In that spirit, we hope that you will take the necessary steps to clear up the lingering confusion surrounding the RNC and the White House's role in this scandal by answering these questions:
* James Tobin called the White House two dozen times in three days. Whom was he calling? With whom did he speak? Whom did he work with in the office of political affairs?
* Tobin worked directly with Terry Nelson, who was then political director at the RNC. When will Mr. Nelson answer questions about his role in the scandal? Whom else at the RNC did Tobin work with?
* Did the White House authorize this phone jamming scheme and, if so, who specifically did so? Or was the phone jamming authorized by the RNC?
* Was anyone on the White House staff or at the RNC involved in concocting, authorizing, implementing or concealing this scheme?
The overt effort by the New Hampshire Republican Party to suppress the vote on Election Day in 2002 is unconscionable. The people of New Hampshire deserve an apology. And America deserves to know exactly how deeply the White House and the RNC were involved in the planning and execution of this scheme. We hope you will provide the answers we need so we can move forward together.
Governor Howard Dean, MD
I haven't seen an update on this story the last couple of days. If anyone knows any more current news about this, please leave a comment and let me know. And, by the way, the above was published in Raw Story. You can find it here.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., a civil rights and antiwar campaigner who sought to inspire and encourage an idealistic and rebellious generation of college students in the 1960's from his position as chaplain of Yale University, then reveled in the role of lightning rod thrust upon him by officials and conservatives who thought him and his style of dissent dangerous, died yesterday at his home in Strafford, Vt. He was 81.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Amy Coffin. She said he had recently been under hospice care.
Dr. Coffin, a believer in the power of civil disobedience to bring social and political change, was arrested as a Freedom Rider early in the 1960's and was an early admirer of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
An ordained Presbyterian minister, he embraced a philosophy that put social activism at the heart of his clerical duties. In the late 1970's, when he became senior minister of Riverside Church in New York — an institution long known for its social agenda — he used his ministry to draw attention to the plight of the poor, to question American political and military power, to encourage interfaith understanding, and to campaign for nuclear disarmament. Courage, he preached over the years, was the first virtue, because "it makes all other virtues possible."
In his later years, he devoted himself to antiwar crusades, advocating a nuclear freeze, opposing the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf and speaking out against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But he did not consider himself a pacifist, and when genocide broke out in Bosnia, he asserted that there were times when international intervention with force was justified.
But it was as the outspoken chaplain at Yale in the tumultuous years when the Vietnam War was escalating that Dr. Coffin's name became known across America. While he questioned the wisdom of the war almost from the start, he came only slowly to a decision to apply to this cause the same tactics of civil disobedience he had already engaged in on behalf of the struggle for integration in the South.
Yet when he did, the spectacle he created — the chaplain of an Ivy League university counseling students that they were right to resist the draft, and accepting their draft cards to be turned in to the Justice Department — so infuriated the Johnson administration that Attorney General Ramsey Clark, himself a prominent liberal, sought to imprison him.
In one of the most celebrated trials of the day, Dr. Coffin, Dr. Benjamin Spock and three others were accused of conspiracy to encourage draft evasion. Dr. Coffin, Dr. Spock and two others were convicted, but the verdicts were overturned on appeal. The case became a cause célèbre for the antiwar left and civil libertarians, who considered the prosecution's eventual failure an incomplete vindication of the right of free speech.
Here's something Dr. Coffin said as recently as 2003 that is worth pondering along with the Deepak Chopra quote I posted below:
Patriotism at the expense of another nation is as wicked as racism at the expense of another race...Let us resolve to be patriots always, nationalists never. Let us love our country, but pledge allegiance to the earth and to the flora and fauna and human life that it supports — one planet indivisible, with clean air, soil and water; with liberty, justice and peace for all.
May he rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him.
The toxic effects of nationalism
The illusion is that nationalism helps to free people.
The reality is that nationalism is now the same as militarism.
The illusion is that other nations are inferior, misguided and wrong in their ways.
The reality is that every nation struggles with inner conflicts.
The illusion is that God favors one country and supports its destiny.
The reality is that God has never expressed an opinion about any nation and never will.
The illusion is that national boundaries make us secure.
The reality is that we live in an open world where boundaries mean less and less.
The illusion is that your country defines who you are.
The reality is that finding out who you are requires self-searching and self-knowledge.
Deepak Chopra — Peace Is The Way
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The Royal Society yesterday issued a strongly worded attack on the teaching of creationism as a leading scientist compared it to the theory that babies are brought by storks.
The warning from Britain's leading scientific academy comes amid increasing concern over the attempts by religious fundamentalists to challenge the theory of evolution in schools and colleges by teaching the idea that a god created the world, as if that were a scientific theory.
Last night, the Royal Society gave a public platform to Steve Jones, the award-winning geneticist and author, to deliver a lecture entitled Why Creationism Is Wrong and Evolution Is Right. Professor Jones said that suggesting that creationism and evolution be given equal weight in education was "to me, rather like starting genetics lectures by discussing the theory that babies are brought by storks."
The Royal Society had invited Prof Jones, of University College London, to deliver a lecture at its headquarters in London because of concern that many students now believe that creationism and evolution are equally valid theories. An increasing number of Christian and Muslim fundamentalist students argue for a literal interpretation of the Bible or Qur'an. Prof Jones said that a Gallup poll of teenagers in the US last year indicated that 38% believed that God created humans within the past 10,000 years and President George Bush had said that "on the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the Earth." In a BBC poll; 48% opted for evolution and 39% for creationism.
"I like the quotation from Darwin, 'ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge; it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science'," said Prof Jones. "Science has proof without any certainty, creationists - certainty without proof."
He said he believed that creationists were worried that evolution showed humans to be only "chimps in dinner jackets". He added that "evolution is as inevitable as gravity".
I too am troubled by news organizations who believe they are balanced when they present "both sides" as if the two sides in question are always equally valid. The comparison between creationism and the belief that the stork brings babies is a good one. Let's hope someone on this side of the Atlantic pays attention.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
The writer concludes this way:
[T]he Bush NEI leak rationale follows an all-too-familiar theme: Bush cannot break the law, because Bush is the law. He can't leak a document, because if he says it's OK to release the document it's therefore by definition not a leak. Just like torture is illegal except when George says it's not. Or warrantless domestic wiretapping is illegal, except when he authorizes it.
Bush and the people around him appear to have genuinely believed, for at least the four and a half years since 9-11, that the President by definition is incapable of breaking the law. On his sole authority laws can be ignored, overridden, or changed. Even implicitly. Even retroactively, as when some unappetizing piece of this puzzle inadvertently comes to the public's attention.
Combine this with an administration more intent on secrecy and lack of transparency than any other in U.S. history, and you have a recipe for, well, a dictatorship. Which is exactly what it appears Bush and company believe they are operating in. Oh, of course, in normal times America is a democracy, but these aren't normal times, are they? Why? Because we're at war. Why are we at war? Because the President said so. How long will the war last? Several generations. After that, presumably, the Constitution will be in force again, and Congress and the courts can re-convene if they like.
[W]e might as well cancel that 2008 presidential election and be done with this farce we call an electoral process. Sooner or later, should Bush go unpunished, somebody in power is going to try to do exactly that sort of thing. When they do, they'll cite national security and the need for stable and experienced political leadership in a time of war, and when they do, they'll cite the precedents set by George Bush and permitted by the Congress, courts, and American public of his day. And our country's long, mostly successful experiment in representative democracy will be over.
Perhaps it already is.
Key figures in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002 had regular contact with the White House and Republican Party as the plan was unfolding, phone records introduced in criminal court show.
The records show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 — as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.
Here's an excerpt from later on in the article:
A GOP campaign consultant in 2002, Jayne Millerick, made a 17-minute call to the White House on Election Day, but said in an interview she did not recall the subject. Millerick, who later became the New Hampshire GOP chairwoman, said in an interview she did not learn of the jamming until after the election.
A Democratic analysis of phone records introduced at Tobin's criminal trial show he made 115 outgoing calls — mostly to the same number in the White House political affairs office — between Sept. 17 and Nov. 22, 2002. Two dozen of the calls were made from 9:28 a.m. the day before the election through 2:17 a.m. the night after the voting.
There also were other calls between Republican officials during the period that the scheme was hatched and canceled.
Prosecutors did not need the White House calls to convict Tobin and negotiate the two guilty pleas.
Whatever the reason for not using the White House records, prosecutors "tried a very narrow case," said Paul Twomey, who represented the Democratic Party in the criminal and civil cases. The Justice Department did not say why the White House records were not used.
Sounds like it's possible to me that the prosecutors are protecting the White House. I don't know, with everything else this White House has done it's not much of a stretch to imagine that they would happily stoop to this level.
Monday, April 10, 2006
I cannot read of what Bush and his administration have done in these five years without hearing the voices of the Torah, the prophets and Jesus reminding him and us that we as individuals and as a society can and should do better.
When President Bush makes countless executive decisions in which he sacrifices environmental concerns to the interests of particular industries, I hear the voice of Genesis. It is in the first book of the Bible that, after creating the man and placing him into Eden, God announces to us our species' job description. We are here to tend this global garden.
When President Bush pressures Congress to eliminate or limit a whole range of social and legal services designed for those who are in need, I hear the adamant voices of Moses and the prophets. For Moses, walking with God means taking care of the widow, the orphan and even the stranger who live among us. It means opening our hands widely to the poor. It means establishing a legal system and a civil administration which is neither influenced by money nor class.
For the biblical prophets, God judges a society, not on the basis of its martial triumphs, influence or wealth, but on how the powerful treat the powerless. For the prophet, a society is known by how the weakest live. For an Isaiah or a Jeremiah, a society's growth or decline is dependent upon the seriousness with which a ruler takes his social responsibility to the poor and the disenfranchised.
I wonder what it would take to penetrate the president's defensive barriers enough for him to take on board what real religion is all about?