Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bill Maher says it.

You can't say it better than this:

A great nation doesn't torture people or make them disappear without a trial. Bush keeps saying the terrorists hate us for our freedom. And he's working damn hard to see that pretty soon that won't be a problem.

-- Bill Maher

Happy All Hallow's Eve everybody!

Monday, October 30, 2006

An evil thing

I want to recommend a short article here. It's succinct and to the point and, unsurprisingly, Canadian - from the Toronto Star, to be exact. It's entitled "The Real Problem is That it is Illegal for One Country to Invade Another Country". Here's an excerpt:

The real problem is, and always has been, that it is illegal — not to mention immoral — for a country to invade another country, in other words, to wage a war of aggression.

The fact that Iraq is the last unharvested oil bonanza on earth, in an era of increasingly fierce global competition for dwindling oil reserves, only makes U.S. motives all the more suspect.

As the Nuremberg Tribunal concluded after World War II: "War is essentially an evil thing ... To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

If the U.S. had a genuinely open media, there would be a ferocious debate raging about how to deal with the fact that Washington initiated a war of aggression that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands — possibly hundreds of thousands — of Iraqis, and almost 3,000 Americans.

But of course, we don't have a genuinely open media. Our Fourth Estate has been bought and paid for by big business. And war is profitable. For the already rich, that is.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Computer woes

Hi, friends. You're not going to believe what happened. Henry, one of my cats, was sitting on the keyboard of my computer when I got home from church today (that's what I get for not closing the laptop) and he obviously messed it up royally. It's totally frozen. Yes, I've re-booted. I've tried everything. I'm going to need to phone my computer guru in the morning and see what's what. Right now I'm at the computer in Cynthia's office but I won't be able to use that much so be patient. I'll get back to posting regularly when I have a reliable computer.

Ah, cats! Ya gotta love 'em.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Linguist George Lakoff has written a very interesting article analysing Bush's "stay the course" slogan and why the attempts to change it won't work. Here's an excerpt:

In the context of a metaphorical war against evil, "stay the course" evoked all these emotion-laden metaphors. The phrase enabled the president to act the way he'd been acting - and to demonstrate that it was his strong character that enabled him to stay on the moral path.

To not stay the course evokes the same metaphors, but says you are not steadfast, not morally strong. In addition, it means not getting to your destination - that is, not achieving your original purpose. In other words, you are lacking in character and strength; you are unable to "complete the mission" and "achieve the goal."

"Stay the course" was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president's policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one's moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses.

I do hope Lakoff is right. Bush's recent claim that he'd "never been stay the course" is simply laughable. You really should hear Keith Olbermann on that subject. You can do so right here. And while we're at it, you might as well hear Dave Letterman's crack on the slogan right here.

Lincoln's view on invasion

This is from an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer entitled "Fear is Driving this Political Drama":

Abraham Lincoln vigorously denounced President Polk for unnecessarily, in Lincoln's view, launching the war with Mexico in 1846. Lincoln declared Polk's argument -- "that if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution ... invade the territory of another country" -- permitted the chief executive "to make war at pleasure" and subject the American people to "the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions."

-- Hubert G. Locke

As George Santayana said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Voting machine "glitches"

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I know the polls are favoring the Democrats as we head into this election. But I'm not confident. And the reason I'm not confident is because of the voting machines. One reason, of course, is that they're owned by Republican leaning companies and have been known to be programmed to flip votes for Republicans. But the second reason is the simple unreliability of the machines. Take a look at this excerpt from an article by Steven Lesser entitled "Election 2006 - Electronic Voting Machines Are Already Failing":

"I tried to hit the letter 'A' and instead the machine kept displaying that I had typed 'S'". Such was the experience of Allan Greene of St. Petersburg, Florida when he attempted to select write in Florida Gubernatorial candidate Omari Musa . According to Nancy Whitlock, spokesperson for Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, the culprit was machine calibration.
Elections personnel now overwhelmingly depend on computerized electronic voting machines. Anyone familiar with running a moderately sized Information Systems department, particularly on the Operations side, knows that it is a challenge to keep machines running even under the best of circumstances. I have fourteen years of experience working on the Operations side of the IS/IT departments of large and prestigious firms. I can tell all of my readers that being able to guarantee that a couple of hundred machines will definitely work on a specific day for the entire day under heavy use is a difficult task for even the best IT professionals. Yet, this is exactly the task that now faces elections staff of every county in the country every two years.

Now that's bad enough. But then there's the nefarious tampering that you know is going on. Take a look at what's happened in Virginia:

As been reported by the AP press, Jim Webb, Democratic challenger for U.S. Senator in Virginia to Republican incumbent, George "Macaca" Allen, has had his last (Webb’s) name chopped off or "hacked" off by electronic voting touch-screen

What is being called a "glitch" by Hart InterCivic spokespersons, three cities in Virginia -- Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville -- will not properly display Jim Webb's name on the November ballot summary screen. Voters will only see 'James H. "Jim"' on the ballot, instead of James H. "Jim" Webb.

To make matters worse, the candidates will have "their party affiliations...cut off" even after navigating through the summary screen nearly blind. To put some perspective and clarity to this, in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, Virginia, voters will not be able to recognize Jim Webb by his full name OR by his party’s affiliation!

The AP is also reporting, "Jean Jensen, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, pledged to have the issue fixed by the 2007 statewide elections." How generous of her, to have the "issue" fixed by next year! In the mean time, unsuspecting voters, in these three cities, will show up on Election Day and not even find the name "Webb" on the ballot summary screen or be able to find Jim Webb’s party affiliation – Democrat – once they do find Mr. Webb’s full name.

That is correct; the vote stealing “black boxes” of 2004 are back with a new trick! Not only are the people designing and operating these machines “hacks”, not only do they allow their machines to be “hacked” into for political gain, now they program these dubious devices to “hack off” candidates names and party affiliations. Somehow, we are all supposed to believe – after all the deception in 2004 – that it is just another coincidence that it happened to a democrat – again!

Whether it’s just another “oversight” by the republican-owned and controlled electronic voting machine companies, or further proof of the malicious attempts by the GOP to suppress voter information and perpetrate election fraud, it is another glaring example of why these machines must be banned immediately.


Now why is it that the computer problems always seem to favor Republicans? It's a close race in Virginia. Yes, that's right: close enough to steal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

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Photo by Ellie Finlay

Dixie Chicks censored again

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Well, the major broadcasting networks are clearly bought and paid for by the right wing. It's really beyond disgusting. Check this out by John Aravosis from AMERICAblog:

"[NBC] cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush." - NBC's letter to the Dixie Chicks.

Let's just all pack up and move to Canada because this isn't our country anymore. But then again, I have a better idea. Once Democrats win back the congress we have a long and hard look at media consolidation, and more importantly, media bias and whether the large networks have essentially been bought off by the Republicans. The Fairness Doctrine went away a long time ago, and as a result, whether through coercion or wooing, the networks have gone Republican.

For NBC to say that they won't run ads that "disparage" the president is beyond sick, it's beyond un-American. This was an ad for a new movie about how the Dixie Chicks were censored in this country for simply being critical of the president. So now NBC is going to censor their movie about being censored because the ad for the movie is critical of the president.

Seriously, NBC needs to pay for this. Just like ABC needs to pay for its Path to 9/11 fiasco. The major media has gone conservative because they think that's where the money is. Come November 7, let's show the meeting who's really in charge.

ThinkProgress has the commercial that NBC has banned for being critical of our president. Funny, but the networks don't seem have a problem with racist or homophobic ads, but when ever the ads are critical of Bush, or worse, promoting inclusive religions, suddenly they're not fit for television.

This used to be a free country. Look what has happened. It's heartbreaking.

A study of awareness of one's incompetence

Frank Ford sent me a very interesting article from the San Francisco Chronicle entitled "Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find; They're blind to own failings, others' skills". Here's part of what it says:

There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them.

Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.

On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.

"I began to think that there were probably lots of things that I was bad at, and I didn't know it,'' Dunning said.

One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence.

The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, they suggested in a paper appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it,'' wrote Kruger, now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and Dunning.
In a series of studies, Kruger and Dunning tested their theory of incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the most likely to "grossly overestimate'' how well they had performed.

This could, I suppose, explain Bush, if you don't hold to the hypothesis that he's just plain evil, that is.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Enron crimes

This is really sickening.

I'm showing you an excerpt from an article by Greg Palast:

Don't kid yourself. If you think the sentencing of Jeff Skilling, former Enron CFO (criminal financial officer), to twenty-four years in the slammer means that justice has been done, think again.

First, Skilling got away with murder - or at least grand larceny. Like Al Capone convicted of failing to file his taxes, Skilling, though found guilty of stock fraud, is totally off the hook for his BIG crime: taking down California and Texas consumers for billions through fraud on the power markets.

Jeff Skilling, his unmourned co-convict Ken Lay and Enron did not act alone. They connived with half a dozen other power companies and a dozen investment banks to manipulate both the stock market and the electricity market. And though their co-conspirators have now paid $3 billion to settle civil claims, the executives of these other corporations and banks get a walk on criminal charges.

Furthermore, to protect our President's boardroom buddies from any further discomforts, the Bush Justice Department, just days ago, indicted Milberg Weiss, the law firm that nailed Enron's finance industry partners-in-crime. The timing of the bust of this, the top corporation-battling law firm, smacks of political prosecution - and a signal to Big Business that it's business as usual.

So the goons have gone after the law firm that got Skilling and Lay convicted. Sends quite a signal doesn't it? "Mess with us and we'll get you back - and good." Now what high powered law firm is going to be willing to take on the president's business buddies? Just sickening.

True nobility

Thomas Jefferson

I found this quote looking for something else and it truly moved me:

I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.

--Thomas Jefferson

How wonderful it would be to have people in public life who have this attitude.

And here's something from Jefferson's First Inaugural Address:

The essential principles of our Government... form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety.

Yes, we have wandered from those principles in moments of error and alarm and of corruption too. How greatly we need men and women of honor and integrity to lead us in retracing our steps. May we move in the right direction at least and at last on November 7.

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart - part 16

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I'm posting here something I've told you about before but a reminder is in order. Wal-Mart exploits its workers, exploits taxpayers and exploits the environment. Here's something from Wal-Mart Watch about the health care situation:

Who pays for Wal-Mart workers' health care? Wal-Mart, right? No, we all do.

Despite Wal-Mart's mammoth profits, the company actually burdens us -- taxpayers -- with its workers' health care costs. In a disturbing nationwide trend, more state studies are revealing that Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of taxpayer-paid health care. The scope of this corporate failure is massive: Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States, with over 1.3 million associates, yet they fail to give health insurance to 54 percent of its employees.

"So here's how it works: Wal-Mart offers insurance, but aggressively shifts the cost onto its employees. The low-wage workers then pass up the unaffordable coverage and turn to the states. If this isn't exactly company policy, it is at least company philosophy. CEO Lee Scott, at the company's recent ''summit'' for the media, even described it. He said some state health programs are 'so lucrative that, in fact, it's hard to be competitive with them and certainly extraordinarily expensive to be competitive with them.'" (Editorial, Miami Herald 6/11/05)

I recommend that you explore the Wal-Mart Watch site to acquaint yourself with the real cost behind those famous low prices. Then make it part of your personal integrity not to support such exploitation. Don't shop there. Shop, if you can, at locally owned businesses. And, hey, you Tulsa people. Let's band together and try to get Costco to open a store in Tulsa. They treat their workers right and their CEO does not make an obscenely outrageous salary. Check out this New York Times article entitled "How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart":

Mr. Sinegal [Costco's CEO] just might be America's shrewdest merchant since Sam Walton.

But not everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well. Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of
Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."

Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.
IF shareholders mind Mr. Sinegal's philosophy, it is not obvious: Costco's stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while
Wal-Mart's has slipped 5 percent. Costco shares sell for almost 23 times expected earnings; at Wal-Mart the multiple is about 19. (Written in July, 2005)

So you see, it is possible to combine low prices with justice for workers. And so I say once again, with feeling: PLEASE don't shop at Wal-Mart!

Republican slime

Heck, and I feel like I'm insulting slime when I say that. They have, as the expression goes, sunk to new lows. I suppose we can expect more as we approach November 7. Take a look at these excerpts from an article entitled "Something smelly on our shoes":

Developments during the past few days conclusively prove that conservatism is the political equivalent of the foul residue an unhappy farmer has to scrape from his boot bottom after carelessly strolling through his cow pasture.

In Tennessee, where black senatorial candidate Harold Ford Jr. is locked in a close race with a Republican good old boy, Bob Corker, a not-so-subtle appeal to racism is featured in a GOP campaign ad being televised throughout the state. In it, a purposely floozified blonde woman exuding come-hither sexual allure is depicted as being excited about Ford attending a Playboy party with her.

It's such a shameless attempt at stirring old Southern prejudices that one can easily imagine long unused KKK garb being dusted off in more than a few closets after each viewing.

What could possibly be worse?

How about Rush Limbaugh claiming that Michael J. Fox fakes the dramatic physical impact of his Parkinson's disease?

After the afflicted actor appeared in an ad for the Missouri senatorial campaign, in which he supports the affirmative stem-cell research position of the Democratic candidate, the fatuous rightwing comedian used his widely syndicated radio show to ridiculously opine that Fox's onscreen involuntary jerking was "acting."

I saw both those ads. The one sliming Harold Ford was beyond despicable.

And here's another Republican trick that is completely beneath any decent person:

Topping both of these outrages, however, is the Bush administration's sudden cutting and running fromits familiar "stay the course" mantra regarding Iraq.

The two dudes and one gal at Air America's "Young Turks" early morning show recently pointed out that they'd found at least 13 instances where Dubya very emphatically used that phrase in connection with his stubbornly delusional Iraq policy.

We, of course, have all heard the words over and over again.

But then, in an in-your-face lie of staggering audacity, Bush was caught on tape saying stay the course "never was" his objective!


I saw that too. He said it triumphantly and with a straight face. Disgusting! They have no decency. They really have no decency at all.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why War Fails

Howard Zinn

I'm a great admirer of Howard Zinn. And I want to bring you several passages from an article he wrote entitled Why War Fails:

I remember John Hersey's novel The War Lover, in which a macho American pilot, who loves to drop bombs on people, and also to boast about his sexual conquests, turns out to be impotent. George Bush, strutting in his flight jacket on an aircraft carrier, and announcing victory in Iraq, has turned out to be an embodiment of the Hersey character, his words equally boastful, his military machine equally impotent.
More important than the futility of armed force, and ultimately more important, is the fact that war in our time always results in the indiscriminate killing of large numbers of people. To put it more bluntly, war is terrorism. That is why a "war on terrorism" is a contradiction in terms.
If a bomb is deliberately dropped on a house or a vehicle on the ground that a "suspected terrorist" is inside (note the frequent use of the word "suspected" as evidence of the uncertainty surrounding targets), it is argued that the resulting deaths of women and children is not intended, therefore "accidental." The deaths of innocent people in bombing may not be intentional. Neither are they accidental. The proper description is "inevitable."

So if an action will inevitably kill innocent people, it is as immoral as a "deliberate" attack on civilians. And when you consider that the number of people dying inevitably in "accidental" events has been far greater than all the deaths of innocent people deliberately caused by terrorists, one must reconsider the morality of war, any war in our time.
More than a million civilians in Vietnam were killed by U.S. bombs, presumably by "accident." Add up all the terrorist attacks throughout the world in the twentieth century and they do not equal that awful toll.
If reacting to terrorist attacks by war is inevitably immoral, then we must look for ways other than war to end terrorism.

And please, people, don't bring up the "Well, what about Hitler?" argument. Hitler notwithstanding, we need to decide as a species whether or not we want to survive. And, if we don't learn to settle our differences some other way besides war, we won't. Suppose, however, that we put the energy and will behind fighting global warming that we currently put behind fighting wars. Then, and only then, we just might have a chance.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Our national shame

I'm directing you to an article called "BUSH REGAINS POWERS OF MONARCH" by Bill Gallagher. It's about our loss of habeas corpus through the bill President Bush signed one week ago today. Here are a couple of excerpts:

The greatest shame is the scarcity of shame. The president of the United States and his toadies in Congress pulled off an unprecedented frontal assault on our most fundamental "unalienable rights," and most Americans snored through the event.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 reaches far beyond its narrow and innocuous title. Simply stated, the president of the United States can now, on his authority alone, declare that you, or any American citizen suspected of helping or aiding "illegal enemy combatants," can be whisked away and imprisoned indefinitely without even being charged with a crime.

No public statements, no affidavits and no information brought before a judge or grand jury. Our long-tested process of justice gets tossed for a "star chamber" system, where the president alone can point to someone as "dangerous" or "disloyal" and can order that person to be locked up.

You have no recourse to go before civilian court and demand to know why you are being held. You can rot in prison for the rest of your life based exclusively on the president's discretion. You can be separated from your family and held in a secret prison. Your loved ones may never be told what happened to you.

While imprisoned, you may be subjected to "coercive interrogation" -- a euphemism for torture -- and the statements you make while being water-boarded can and will be used against you.

If you ever are charged, you will go before a secret military tribunal, where secret evidence can be used against you. You have no right to see that evidence or to confront your accusers. You have no right to legal representation.

We have returned to the House of Hanover rules. The king does as he pleases. The people must accept his benevolent protection and shut up about quaint notions of civil liberties and human decency. The decider decides what is fair and just. We must accept what he decides without question.

The problem is that the king is not benevolent. Yes, I know Gallagher was being sarcastic there but it's an important point nevertheless. The king punishes dissent (go read the rest of the article and you'll see what I mean) and tortures people. And, yes, it is shameful that we have no shame. Why weren't there protests in the streets over this bill? Maybe we've completely lost the confidence that protest will do any good.

Worth remembering:

War Is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is strength.

-- George Orwell

And this:

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

-- George W. Bush

Our poor trees

Frank Ford sent me an article from USA Today entitled "Trees dying by millions across country". It's due largely to global warming, of course. Here, take a look:

DENVER -- Some of the country's most treasured tree species are under attack by insects and diseases in a growing assault coast to coast.

From ash and aspen to white pine, millions of trees are succumbing to lethal bugs and fungi. Some are foreign pests brought to this country in cargo or by travelers. Others are home-grown insects in epidemic numbers because of drought and weather changes.

"We're at one of those points in time where it's all happening at once," says Wayne Shepperd of the U.S. Forest Service in Fort Collins, Colo.

The native mountain pine beetle has ravaged millions of acres of Western forests. Trees were weakened by drought or subjected to worse infestations because warmer temperatures enabled the bugs to multiply faster. The emerald ash borer from Asia is killing species that have no natural defenses.
California's scenic Big Sur region and Sonoma and Humboldt counties have seen "tons of new mortality this year" from sudden oak death, says Katie Palmieri of the California Oak Mortality Task Force. "Entire hillsides are just gone."

When are we going to learn that the web of life is very intricate and that all things are connected?

The October surprise?

Tuesday good news blogging

My friend, MadPriest (over at Of Course I Could Be Wrong...) sent me an article entitled "Ruling finds diocese not 'religious employer' in contraception/insurance case". He claimed it was because I'm more into "wimmin's issues" than he is! :-)

Here's part of what it says:

New York state's highest court Thursday said religious groups, including the Albany, N.Y., Roman Catholic Diocese, must abide by a state law requiring that health insurance policies in New York cover contraception.

The Court of Appeals ruled from Albany that the constitutional rights of the groups are not violated by the Women's Health and Wellness Act of 2002.

The court said in a 6-0 decision that although the groups challenging the law are religiously based, they are not "religious employers" under an exemption written into the law.

"None of the plaintiffs qualifies a 'religious employer' under the WHWA," the court said. "This is essentially because plaintiffs are not, or are not only, churches ministering to the faithful, but are providers of social and educational services."

The judges also said that factoring into their reasoning was the fact that the religious groups bringing the suit said they hired people of various faiths and not only those believing in the tenets of their faith.

"It is also important, in our view, that many of plaintiffs' employees do not share their religious beliefs," the court said.

This is important on a number of levels. One, of course, is the issue of women's health and the obligation of the Church to obey the law. But we also need to realize that the anti-choice people are now going after contraception. And this is not just Roman Catholics. Fundamentalist protestants are now taking up the cause. Those of us who support reproductive choice and freedom need to be ever vigilant and active in protecting women's rights in this regard.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The wave that is forming

I want to recommend an article called "How Close to Catastrophe?" from the New York Review of Books. I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing but what I really want you to see is this paragraph:

What's amazing is that even Al Gore's fine and frightening film An Inconvenient Truth now lags behind the scientific cutting edge on this issue -- the science is moving fast. It's true that the world is beginning slowly to awaken to the idea that global warming may be a real problem, and legislatures (though not ours) are starting to nibble at it. But very few understand with any real depth that a wave large enough to break civilization is forming, and that the only real question is whether we can do anything at all to weaken its force.

The article says that "teeming billions" will perish. I feel great anguish for the generation of children being born today. As many of you know, my eldest niece recently had her first child. What will that little girl inherit and how will she survive? It pains me to think what she will suffer.
Sent to me by Larry Hicks

About that double standard

Robert Jackson, the United States prosecutor at Nuremberg, stated:

If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.

Well, that's what we used to believe.

We're in it together

Lou Dobbs on ‘the Daily Show’ calls for a return to progressive values:

Why don’t we take on the concept that’s held the country in pretty good stead for 200 years and return to a national vision of shared burdens, shared responsibilities and shared sacrifice.

Why don't we indeed? And that's a conservative speaking.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blogger troubles

This is just to let you know that the Blogger program has been acting up over the past couple of days and I was not able to post anything even after multiple attempts. On my other blog I finally got it to publish a new posting with ordinary text only - without any links, pictures or blockquotes. So that's what I'm trying here now.

I'll be up and running again as soon as Blogger is more reliable!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Appalling cruelty

And poor sportsmanship as well.

So what do Dick Cheney and the King of Spain have in common? They both participate in "canned" hunts. Take a look:

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian region has ordered an inquiry into a report that hunt organizers, keen to make the King of Spain's chances of killing a bear easier, provided a tame one drunk on vodka, a regional spokesman said Thursday.

"The governor has ordered a working group set up...to check the facts published in local press about the killing of the bear," said a spokesman for Vyacheslav Pozgalev, governor of the northwestern Vologda region.

National paper Kommersant carried a letter from Vologda's deputy chief of regional hunting resources management, Sergei Starostin, which accuses hunt organizers of plying a captive bear named "Mitrofan" with vodka-drenched honey and then forcing him from a cage to be shot by Spain's King Juan Carlos.

I know. There are much worse atrocities visited on animals than this. But the King sets an example and therefore ought to exemplify, if not compassion, at least honesty. Killing a tame animal that has been deliberately impaired is cheating, pure and simple.

Friday cat blogging!

Sandy's cat
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A very early president

John Hanson (1715-1783)

Frank Ford sent me a very interesting article on John Hanson, one of our early presidents before George Washington. Do you remember that the country was actually established in 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation? But George Washington didn't take office until 1789. So who was running the country during the intervening years? Our pre-Constitution presidents, that's who. They each had a term of just one year and the first to serve a full term was John Hanson*. Take a look:

Before the adoption of the Constitution in 1787, the states operated under the direction of the Continental Congress, although they remained in principle a Confederation of independent states. Even after the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, there was no executive branch. Therefore the President of the Continental Congress, which was a position similar to a Prime Minister, was the highest authority; under the Articles, the position adopted the title President of the United States in Congress Assembled, and Hanson was the first presiding officer of the Congress to use that title when dealing with foreign governments, diplomats, or treaties. Congress had little authority beyond those powers, which had been specifically delegated to it by the states, and its weakness during this period led directly to a decline in influence and the 1787 Constitution, with a more robust federal model.

Hanson's term as President of Congress, during this critical formation period, did have longstanding influence.

Among the accomplishments of Hanson's presidency of Congress:

* Delivered the official Thanks of Congress to George Washington for his victory at
* Commended
Gen. Lafayette and thanked France for his services
* Pressed states to keep up their commitments to sending delegates to Congress, which was often short of a
* Passed legislation for the
Bank of North America, the first central bank
* Appointed a Secretary of the United States to assist in correspondence and record-keeping
* Granted Gen. Washington broad powers to negotiate prisoner exchanges with
Britain; Washington immediately worked out a trade of Gen. Cornwallis for Henry Laurens, the first president of the Continental Congress
* Established the
United States Mint
* Established the predecessor agency of the
State Department
* Proclaimed the first national
Thanksgiving holiday
* Created the position of Chairman of Congress, a predecessor of the
* Negotiated a peace treaty with Britain
* Settled a dispute between
Connecticut and Pennsylvania, with Hanson acting as an equivalent of Chief Justice
* Called for the first national

Looks like we owe him a lot.

And we need to remember that George Washington was the first president under the CONSTITUTION. (And from the looks of things it seems that Bill Clinton may well have been the last.)

* John Hanson is sometimes called the first president because he was first to serve a full term but there were two presidents who preceded him: Samuel Huntington and Thomas McKean. Hanson, however, was the first to use the title "President of the United States in Congress Assembled". A lot of inaccuracies have been perpetrated about John Hanson and you can find out what they are here.

Leaving the Republicans

Well, this is encouraging. I want to call your attention to a Washington Post article that was sent to me by Marilyn Bedford. It's entitled "Moderates in Kansas Decide They're Not in GOP Anymore". Here's part of what it says:

WICHITA -- Paul Morrison, a career prosecutor who specializes in putting killers behind bars, has the bulletproof résumé and the rugged looks of a law-and-order Republican, which is what he was until last year. That was when he announced he would run for attorney general -- as a Democrat.

He is now running neck-and-neck with Republican Phill Kline, an iconic social conservative who made headlines by seeking the names of abortion-clinic patients and vowing to defend science-teaching standards that challenge Darwinian evolution. What's more, Morrison is raising money faster than Kline and pulling more cash from Republicans than Democrats.

Nor is Morrison alone. In a state that voted nearly 2 to 1 for President Bush in 2004, nine former Republicans will be on the November ballot as Democrats. Among them is Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, who changed parties to run for lieutenant governor with the popular Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

The former CHAIRMAN of the Kansas Republican Party became a Democrat? That's big, people. Here's what Parkinson said:

I'd reached a breaking point. I want to work on relevant issues and not on a lot of things that don't matter.


Marilyn says that her favorite part of the article is right here:

"These are people who felt banished," Sebelius said in an interview before crowing to Democratic campaign workers: "We have some remarkable conversions. My favorite kind of revival is going to a place where someone says, 'I've been a Republican all my life, and I've seen the light.' "

Let's hope a LOT more Republicans "see the light" before the 7th of November.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

That law

Can you imagine a joke like this in the America you grew up in?

President Bush signed a law Tuesday giving him power to declare any American an enemy combatant without rights. Word spread fast. That night at the Comedy Store, all the comics could talk about was what a great job President Bush is doing.

-- Argus Hamilton, comedian

We are a different country now

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Since Tuesday, that is. I'm linking you to an article called "Mehlman: Democrats have 'concern for terrorist civil liberties'". Yes, Mehlman is saying that Democrats have voted against interrogating terrorists. Can you believe it? But here's the part I really want you to see:

Appearing on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann Tuesday night, George Washington University Professor of Constitutional Law, Jonathan Turley, described exactly how hideous the law signed by Bush truly is.

"People clearly don‘t realize what a fundamental change this is about who we are as a country," said Turley. "What happened today changed us. And I‘m not too sure we‘re going to change back anytime soon."

"And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values."

Now what I want you to see is a comment by someone whose screen name is Helios:

Bush could now, by law and in complete secrecy, arrest, incarcerate, torture and murder poets, artists, intellectuals, dissidents, protestors or political opposition at his discretion. If Bush gave the order, millions of American citizens could be rounded up this very day, and without trial or counsel, be sent to concentration camps to never be seen again. He has the power to do just that.

I made Cynthia, my administrative assistant and friend, promise that she'd take care of my animals if I'm hauled off to the camps. She thought I was being silly. "Isn't that law intended for terrorists?" she asked. I painstakingly explained to her that I could be accused of being a terrorist with no evidence against me at all because without habeas corpus I would be unable to challenge my detention in a court of law. I explained to her that I've given money to PETA, an animal rights organization, and that rabid right wingers consider animal rights activists to be terrorists. (That shocked her. It's true, though.) I explained that members of the Bush administration consider political dissidents to be "supporting the terrorists". It took her a long time to get it.

Now Cynthia is not stupid. And even if she's not obsessed about politics the way I am, she keeps up a lot better than the average person. So if she thinks people are safe just because they're not terrorists then so do millions of other Americans who are not any where near as politically aware as she is.

Evangelical clergy misconduct

It's not just members of the Catholic clergy who sexually abuse the young. It's time the evangelicals got their house in order. I want to call your attention to an article entitled "Baptist Leaders Blind to Their Responsibilities" written by an adult survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Here's part of what it says:

"The fact is any cleric--Catholic or Protestant--who molests a child to satisfy his own dark urges should be immediately dismissed and severely punished. Period. However, church leaders have gone blind to their responsibilities."

Jerry Falwell directed these remarks,
published in 2002 by Baptist Press, mainly at Catholics, but Southern Baptists need to take a look at themselves.

Particularly in light of the Foley scandal, this would be an opportune time for the Southern Baptist Convention to get its own house in order and to institute accountability procedures for protecting kids against clergy predators. After all, as a group of religious leaders recently wrote in an open
letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, "protecting children is a biblical responsibility."

Not long ago, 18 church and denominational leaders were informed of a substantiated report that a Southern Baptist minister had sexually abused a minor church girl, and yet the man was allowed to remain in ministry. These leaders were in four different states and at national headquarters.

Whatever the reasons--whether they were trying to avoid scandal or protect a colleague’s career--those leaders were "blind to their responsibilities."
Baptist scholars report that clergy sex abuse is as prevalent among Baptists as among Catholics. Yet this denomination has no procedures for tracking abusive clergy across state lines, for removing them from ministry, or for informing people in the pews.

The betrayal of trust is simply beyond reprehensible. As is the hypocrisy. These are the "family values" people and yet they're unwilling to police their ranks.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This isn't right

I want to call your attention to an article called Health Care Scandal has Real Victims. Here's the part I particularly want you to see:

The U.S. health care system is an open scandal. We devote far more of our national income to health care than any other industrial nation. Yet we get worse results -- higher child mortality, higher deaths from breast cancer, less prevention and more expense. If you have wealth, the best medicine in the world is available to you. If you are poor, or increasingly a middle- or low-income family, too often you will lack insurance or be vastly underinsured. You will forgo costly tests and let illnesses fester until they become debilitating.

This is getting worse, not better. More and more small businesses simply don't offer health care for their employees. More and more large ones are imitating Wal-Mart and moving to part-time employees, who can't afford what plan is offered. They count on Medicaid to provide some coverage for their workers. We pay the highest drug prices in the world, even though the U.S. government pays for much of the research that develops the drugs.
Every American, regardless of income, should have the right to quality health care. The nation should support aggressive prevention programs, which would not only help keep people healthier, but save taxpayers' money.
This ought not be a partisan political issue, but a shared moral commitment.

We are the only industrialized nation in the world without a national health care system. It is, of course, a false economy. It would actually be good for businesses if they didn't have the burden of providing health care for their employees. We are not able to attact manufacturing jobs from multi-national companies because here they have to worry about health care costs. As a result, we are simply not competitive. And, of course, we are an international disgrace because we don't take care of our people.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Today is a dark day

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It's the day President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It's the day we lost the right to a lawyer. It's the day we are legally able to be "disappeared". As CNN reports:

"The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

"Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act," he said.

I am grieving today. I really feel as if somebody had died. And that makes sense, doesn't it? That which has died is my country.

Please look at part of what Timothy Gatto says in his article "America's Dark Day":

What is a terrorist? This is a very important question. After October 17, 2006 (that's today), anyone that is considered a terrorist has no rights. This means that we should be told what determines a terrorist. If I write articles criticizing the administration, am I considered a terrorist? If someone puts a few sticks of dynamite and a timer in my Jeep in the middle of the night, and FBI agents, working on a "hot tip" search it at 3AM, will I be taken away, never to be heard from again? Under the present law the President will sign today it could happen. They wouldn't have to tell me the charge against me, and they wouldn't have to show me the evidence they have against me, and they could lock me up for as long as they want. If you never read anything I write again, maybe I'm just gone.

When I was in Germany from 1976 to 1980, I met some of the nicest, gentlest people I have ever met. They worship their children, and the family is a very important part of their life. They are a very friendly people, and will share a meal with a stranger and go out of their way to help someone stranded on the side of the road with a broken car. I know this because I have experienced it. They really impressed me as a people that have good moral values.

I made it a point to ask older Germans that survived World War II, how they let their country be taken over by Hitler. Almost to a man, they told me that one-day they woke up and it had just happened. They said if a person spoke out against the Nazis, they were never seen again. They told me again and again that they never saw it coming.

Of course, some of us have seen it coming. Some of us are seeing it coming right now. The knocks on our doors in the middle of the night haven't started yet but the law is now in place that will make them possible.

Pop Christianity

OpEdNews has published an article by Carol Hamilton called Pop Christianity that makes some important observations. Take a look:

For Christianity has changed in America. The remote, inscrutable, and mysterious deity of the Puritans has become hands-on, accessible, transparent, and distinctly pro-American. The commentaries and interpretations of past centuries are read only in highbrow theological seminaries, which most prominent American preachers do not attend. Americans read best-sellers like The Purpose-Driven Life, which assures them that God takes a personal interest in the most trivial aspects of their lives.

I call this phenomenon "Pop Christianity." Like pop music and pop psychology, it is purged of complexities, nuance, and darkness. Pop Christianity looks relentlessly on the bright side of life. In its heaven, there are no clouds, only silver linings.

It turns a blind eye to suffering, like the mass death of the 34 people in St. Rita's Nursing Home in New Orleans-those elderly people who may well have cried out like Job, or like Christ himself, as the waters relentlessly rose around their wheel-chairs.

Like the United States, Pop Christianity claims to have a monopoly on morals and ethics. Those who do not share their beliefs are devoid of good qualities. This obliges them to ignore the misdeeds of their own flock. David Ludwig, the 18-year-old accused of killing his girlfriend's parents in the presence of their young children, was home-schooled in a Christian group. Kansas' s horrific BTK killer was active in his church.

Pop Christianity lacks poetry and emotional breadth. It wages a mindless war upon science and medicine. It reduces complex forms of causality like weather systems to what psychologists have dubbed "ideas of reference" and "magical thinking." It rejects both randomicity and statistical probabilities.
To paraphrase Jon Stewart, Pop Christianity is bad for America. Anti-intellectual, anti-traditional, and ahistorical, it is the religious equivalent of Cliff's Notes. If it were a beverage, it would be not communion wine but diet soda.

Worst of all, with the cooperation of politicians and television, it is imposing its superficial worldview on everyone in the United States.

This is certainly not the Christianity I grew up with. I was formed in a Christianity that demanded intellectual rigor and personal sacrifice. That kind of religion is not cheap. Pop Christianity is.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why I tell you about the difficult news

A number of people around here say that they used to read Child of Illusion but don't anymore because it upsets them. They claim they'd just rather not know what's going on. For me, knowing what's going on is more likely to prevent anxiety than to stimulate it for the following reason:

Optimists believe that everything will turn out for the best. I, on the other hand, PREPARE myself for the worst, so, should it NOT occur, I'm delightfully surprised.

-- Ben Franklin

I agree. I want to be prepared - even if it's only a psychological preparation. That's better than being blindsided any day.

Still another effect of global warming

The Wall Street Journal reports the following:

[O]ne cubic meter of ice weighs just over a ton, and glaciers can be hundreds of meters thick. When they melt and the water runs off, it is literally a weight off Earth's crust. The crust and mantle therefore bounce back, immediately as well as over thousands of years. That "isostatic rebound," according to studies of prehistoric and recent earthquakes and volcanoes, can make the planet's seismic plates slip catastrophically, and cause magma chambers that feed volcanoes to act like bottles of shaken seltzer.

"It's unavoidable that glacial retreat will induce tectonic activity," says geoscientist Allen Glazner of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
"Recent findings reinforce the idea that the solid earth and the climate are inextricably linked," says Prof. Glazner.

So, we've got more earthquakes and volcanic activity to look forward to.

Do take note of the fact that it's the very conservative Wall Street Journal reporting here. The only non-believers now are members of the right-wing lunatic fringe. And still, Bush is supressing the science on climate change. It's not that he doesn't believe in the science; of that I'm convinced. It's that he cares more about short term profits for his rich corporate friends.

Iraq's civil war

From an article in the Independent by Patrick Cockburn:

The Government's picture of Iraq is not so much a tissue of lies as a tissue of fantasies. It is absurd to say that American and British forces will stay until Iraqi security forces are trained to take their place. What soldiers and police lack is not training but loyalty to the Iraqi government. Far from establishing an independent Iraq or preventing a civil war, the continued presence of American and British troops deeply destabilises the country, de-legitimises its government and deepens sectarian hatred.

Can roundups be far behind?

Look what's happening in Britain:

Lecturers and university staff across Britain are to be asked to spy on "Asian-looking" and Muslim students they suspect of involvement in Islamic extremism and supporting terrorist violence, the Guardian has learned.

They will be told to inform on students to special branch because the government believes campuses have become "fertile recruiting grounds" for extremists.

The Department for Education has drawn up a series of proposals which are to be sent to universities and other centres of higher education before the end of the year. The 18-page document acknowledges that universities will be anxious about passing information to special branch, for fear it amounts to "collaborating with the 'secret police'". It says there will be "concerns about police targeting certain sections of the student population (eg Muslims)".
Wakkas Khan, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, said: "It sounds to me to be potentially the widest infringement of the rights of Muslim students that there ever has been in this country. It is clearly targeting Muslim students and treating them to a higher level of suspicion and scrutiny. It sounds like you're guilty until you're proven innocent."

Gemma Tumelty, president of the National Union of Students, said: "They are going to treat everyone Muslim with suspicion on the basis of their faith. It's bearing on the side of McCarthyism."

This is very troubling.

The above passage is from a Guardian article entitled "Universities urged to spy on Muslims".

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

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Buddhist Prayer for Peace:

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be free from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another. May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses -- the children, the aged, the unprotected -- be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain The Enlightened State.

I really like the wish that people think of befriending one another. May we all take that to heart and look for such opportunities.

Sunday good news blogging

Father Morris

I want to share an article with your from the New York Times that is about people of faith who are taking action with regard to climate change. The article is entitled Citing Heavenly Injunctions to Fight Earthly Warming. Here's how it gets started:

WYANDOTTE, Mich. — To find St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church in this working class suburb south of Detroit, look toward the roofline, for the windmill. Not a big windmill, it is a spare steel structure maybe nine feet high, perched atop the rectory of the church and facing northeast into the winds that come off Lake Erie.

Yet the windmill, two solar panels on the roof, another atop the front porch and a solar water heating system above the garage are the pride of the Rev. Charles Morris, St. Elizabeth’s priest.

Over the last five years, Father Morris has sharply reduced his small parish’s energy use and emissions of carbon dioxide, the compound most scientists believe has led to global warming, and he has organized other congregations across Michigan to do the same.

“We’re all part of God’s creation,” Father Morris said. “If someone like me doesn’t speak about its care, who will? The changes we’ve made here, that’s a form of preaching.”

Over the last year, religious activism on global warming has won much attention. Last February, 86 evangelical Christian leaders backed an initiative to combat global warming, a move that broke the evangelical movement’s broad silence on the issue but exposed stark divisions.

In October, 4,000 congregations of various faiths will show films on global warming, including “An Inconvenient Truth.” [On Oct. 8, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders met in Philadelphia to discuss global warming.]

At ground level, clergy members and lay people have been working to increase awareness of global warming and to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. Many, like Father Morris, were active for years before the issue attracted wider concern. Encounters in their own lives awakened them to global warming, they said. But their faith and the imperatives they see in their Scriptures compelled them to act, they said.

What can I say but it's about time.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Now this is hopeful

Here's a comment I found on AMERICAblog:

I have a 95 year-old friend of the family who is so right wing that he was considering joining the John Birch Society back in the 50's. He is a big-time donor to the GOP and gets personal letters from Nancy Reagan. He says W is a total disaster and if he makes it till voting day, he's going to vote a straight democratic ticket.

His health is failing, I hope to God he makes it - let me tell you, when you've (the GOP) lost Clancy, you're screwed.

Now if it just weren't for Diebold I would really have hope!

Yes, they're hypocrites

But we already knew that, didn't we? So the latest news that folks in the administration consider the Religious Right leaders to be "nuts" is not really surprising is it? This is all over the web but the article I want to share with you is from the Guardian and it's entitled, "Aide says White House mocked evangelicals". Here's an excerpt:

· Administration accused of cynical ploy to win votes

· Bush adviser denies he called supporters 'nuts'

A former senior presidential aide has accused the Bush administration of using evangelical Christians to win votes but then privately ridiculing them once in office. The allegations by David Kuo, the former deputy director of the White House office of faith-based initiatives, come at a devastating time, when the administration is counting on born-again Christians to vote in sufficient numbers to save the Republicans' hold on Congress in the November elections.

In a book entitled Tempting Faith: an Inside Story of Political Seduction, to be published on Monday, Mr Kuo portrays the Bush White House's commitment to evangelical causes as little more than a cynical facade designed to win votes.

"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ridiculous, out of control, and just plain goofy," Mr Kuo wrote, according to MSNBC television, which obtained an early copy of the book. In particular, he quotes Karl Rove, the president's long-serving political adviser and mentor, as describing evangelical Christians as "nuts".

I've never believed for a heartbeat that this was truly a "Christian" White House. Karl Rove's sole interest is power. And if exploiting the Religious Right will help him get it, well, that's what he'll do.

Friday, October 13, 2006

This is what we have come to

I want to recommend an article by Ted Rall entitled "America's Nuremberg Laws: The End of the U.S. as a Civilized Nation". This sums up where we are:

Under the terrifying terms of the radical new Military Commissions Act, Bush can declare anyone--including you--an "unlawful enemy combatant," a term that doesn't exist in U.S. or international law. All he has to do is sign a piece of paper claiming that you "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." The law's language is brilliantly vague, allowing the president to imprison--for the rest of his or her life--anyone, including a U.S. citizen, from someone who makes a contribution to a group he disapproves of to a journalist who criticizes the government.

Although Bush and his top officials ordered and endorsed torture, the courts had found that it was illegal under U.S. law and treaty obligations. Now torture is, for the first time, legal.

And take a look at this observation about how it happened:

How did we get here? Good Germans--and many of them were decent, moral people--asked themselves the same thing. The answer is incrementalism, the tendency of radical change to manifest itself in bits and pieces. People who should have known better--journalists, Democrats, and Republicans who are more loyal to their country than their party--allowed Bush and his neofascist gangsters to hijack our republic and its values.

What I can't believe is how we're all going along as if nothing happened - as if we were the same country as before. We're not, you know. We're not.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Ethel, the feral, has a way of running off for a day or two. I always worry a lot and email Cynthia telling her that Ethel's gone again. Cynthia then writes back and reminds me that Ethel has done this before and always comes back. This has happened often enough that Cynthia photoshopped the picture above for me! Love it!

You might also like to go over to Meditation Matters to see Leroy's fine face!

What the government can now do to you

This is about the Padilla case. I want you to click through, if you have time, and read about how he has been tortured and held without access to the judicial system. Here's how the article by Glenn Greenwald gets started:

The Bush administration's May, 2002 lawless detention of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla -- on U.S. soil -- was, as I recounted in my book, the first incident which really prompted me to begin concluding that things were going terribly awry in our country. The administration declared Padilla an "enemy combatant," put him in a military prison, and refused to charge him with any crime or even allow him access to a lawyer or anyone else. He stayed in a black hole, kept by his own government, for the next three-a-half-years with no charges of any kind ever asserted against him and with the administration insisting on the right to detain him (and any other American citizen) indefinitely -- all based solely on the secret, unchallengeable say-so of the President that he was an "enemy combatant."

To this day, I have trouble believing that we have a Government that claims this power against American citizens and has exercised that power and aggressively defended it -- and even more trouble believing that there are so many blindly loyal followers of that government who defend that conduct. The outrage that it provokes when thinking about it has not diminished even a small amount and does not diminish no matter how many times one reads, writes or speaks about it. It is as profound a betrayal of the most core American political principles as one can fathom.

The Bush administration finally charged Padilla with a crime (after 3 1/2 years of detention)
only because the U.S. Supreme Court was set to rule on the legality of their treatment of Padilla, and indicting Padilla enabled the administration to argue that his case was now "moot." The Government's indictment made no mention of the flamboyant allegation they originally trumpeted to justify his lawless incarceration -- that he was a "Dirty Bomber" attempting to detonate a radiological bomb in an American city (because the "evidence" for that accusation was itself procured by torture and was therefore unreliable and unusable). Instead, the indictment contained only the vaguest and most generic terrorism allegations. Since then, the federal judge presiding over Padilla's case (in the Southern District of Florida) has repeatedly expressed skepticism over the Government's case against him and has, on several occasions, admonished them to provide more specific information setting forth exactly what Padilla is alleged to have done.

Last week, Padilla's lawyers filed a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment against him on the grounds that the Government has engaged in outrageous conduct -- specifically, that they tortured him for the 3 1/2 years he remained in captivity, particularly for the almost 2 full years that they denied him access even to a lawyer.

Click through and read the details of how he has been treated if you have the stomach for it.

Now I want to share with you part of a comment on this case by a police officer:

Regardless of Mr. Padilla's genuine guilt or innocence of any act, the bare facts of his confinement make an absolute mockery of the death of every soldier, sailor, airman or police officer who has ever been killed in the performance of their duties. To retort that this raw power is necessary to "protect Americans" is to assume that there is nothing in being a citizen of this nation for any of us beyond the mere fact of being alive. My own judgment is that this is not what the signers of the Declaration of Independence had in mind when they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the task of creating the United States of America and it horrifies me that those who have taken oaths to defend the Constitution view their fellow citizens as having no greater aspirations as Americans than craven physical safety.

If they are right and I am wrong then being American is little more than being situated in a certain place on the globe with no claim to moral authority beyond what can be enforced through bullets and bombs. Then we are little more than a street gang with assertions of control over our turf. Then we are truly lost.

I could not have expressed it better. I have said this to you before and I'll say it again: I grieve for my country.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

They're not running after all

Well, the Washington Post reports that Stewart and Colbert are letting us down. Take a look:

NEW YORK -- Those people wearing "Stewart/Colbert '08" T-shirts can stop hoping -- Comedy Central's fake news stars have no intention of making a run for the White House.

Jon Stewart said the T-shirts promoting him and Stephen Colbert "are a real sign of how sad people are" with the state of affairs in the country.

"Nothing says 'I am ashamed of you my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08,' Stewart told an audience Sunday at the New Yorker Festival.

He certainly has a point.

Let's hope

The big distraction

Look, I think Foley is reprehensible just as strongly as the next person but enough already! So does Alan Bisbort in an article entitled "Getting De-Foley-Ated: Republican Fatigue Will Clear The Deck":

Wow. That was fun, in a sick, sad and sordid way, wasn't it? Every single synapse of the Great American Media Machine drifted into the Black Hole of FoleyGate. From the newsrooms of the big city dailies to the talking heads on cable TV, this is a better story than the runaway bride or the white girl on Antigua; plus, it's cheaper to cover.

While America was collectively De-Foley-Ated, Bush was left all alone to bark his fear-and-torture mantra into the abyss of his own empty soul, and 20 more American soldiers died. No one even noticed that Homeland Security issued a suspiciously timed "elevated terror alert" on Friday.

Now, we all await the latest poop on the Congressional page scandal. More is forthcoming, I guarantee it. You don't let a pedophile run free for 10 years and not leave a trail. Nonetheless, something feels -- I'll admit it -- forced in all this gloating. One part of me says, "Whatever it takes to get these bastards out of office." Indeed, the Republicans nearly ran a president out of office over consensual adult sex, so the Democrats could conceivably ride a child predator at least that far. Still, another part of me thought, "Something's going on here, and it's much worse than this particular story."

Sure something's going on here. The torture bill got passed. Habeas corpus has been suspended. The aircraft carrier Eisenhower is on its way to the Iranian coast along with guided missle cruisers, nuclear submarines, and mine sweepers. The drum beats of war with Iran are getting louder. Something is definitely going on and it's much worse than Foley-gate.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What we're facing

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Please click through and read this simple but chilling article by Joyce Marcel entitled "Our Daily Lives Don't Amount to a Hill of Beans in the Face of Nuclear War". She is convinced, as I'm I, that Bush intends to use nuclear weapons against Iran. Here's part of what she has to say:

It's no secret [Bush] ordered the Eisenhower's fleet to sail.

It's no secret he badly wants to attack Iran.
It's no secret that he and Vice President Dick Cheney believe that the nuclear option is not only a viable one, but a desirable one.

It's no secret that the U.S. military is stretched beyond its limits in Iraq. Recruitment standards are being continually lowered to get more warm bodies into uniforms. Even if attacking Iran was rational, it would be impossible to put men and women on the ground without bringing back the draft.

Taking all these things together, it's not hard to visualize a nuclear attack on the good people of Iran.
Think about the possible results of dropping a few "tactical" nuclear bombs on Iran. Besides the cruelty of such an act, the horrific destruction to cities and towns, the burning, anguish and death we would bring to thousands - possibly millions - of people, the poisonous clouds of nuclear dust that would be released into the atmosphere to circle the earth, what else might happen?

Pakistan, India and Israel have nuclear weapons. Once the concept of MAD - mutual assured destruction, an idea which has kept the world from a nuclear holocaust for over 60 years - is demolished, what will keep other countries from using their nukes? India and Pakistan over Kashmir? North Korea, which has developed and is testing nuclear weapons while we've been busy destroying Iraq, on South Korea and Japan?

Europe would be horrified, traumatized. Asia would be repelled. The Arab world, which already loathes the United States, would rise up in howling violence. Terrorism would increase. Israel would be at risk. Chaos would rule the Middle East.

Why aren't we, as citizens of this country and this world, screaming for this to stop right now?

Maybe it's because we know we can't do anything to stop this attack. Millions of us - around the world - poured into the streets to stop Bush from attacking Iraq. He did it anyway.

It's hard not to be depressed about this. Still it's important that we know. I'm aware that some people deal with their sense of powerlessness about what's happening by tuning out the news - by just not knowing what's happening. But I would rather know. Somehow that gives me at least a way of preparing myself psychologically. I would rather know about the lead up than to be taken by surprise.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

O Mensch Bewein

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Well, this is interesting. I was tagged by Always Learning for the meme of listing the "songs" I want at my funeral. As I explained over on her blog, I'm an Episcopalian and we are rather traditional about such things so what I have is hymns and organ music. Here goes (with composers and/or hymn tunes):

Organ prelude: Oh Mensch bewein - J.S. Bach

Processional: I heard the voice of Jesus say - The Third Tune, Tallis

Sequence: Jesus all my gladness - Jesu, meine freude, Cruger

Offertory (choir): How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place - Johannes Brahms

Now the silence, now the peace - Now, Schalk
Remember your servants, Lord - Beatitudes, arr. Proulx
'Tis the gift to be simple - Simple Gifts, Shaker melody

Post Communion: King of Glory, King of peace - General Seminary, Walker

Organ postlude: In dir ist Freude - J.S. Bach

All hymns are from the Episcopal Hymnal, 1982. I've tried to give you texts in the links above. In a couple of instances I've just linked to a webpage that gives you information about the piece.

Now it's my turn. I'm tagging MadPriest and Clyde. (I know Clyde is on vacation now but that's okay. I'm happy to wait until he gets back.) Enjoy!

That October surprise

USS Eisenhower

Here's a very disturbing excerpt from an article by David Lindorff:

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its accompanying strike force of cruiser, destroyer and attack submarine slipped their moorings and headed off for the Persian Gulf region on Oct. 2, as I had predicted in a piece in The Nation magazine a few weeks back.

The Eisenhower strike force, according to my sources, is scheduled to arrive in the vicinity of Iran around October 21, at the same time as a second flotilla of minesweepers and other ships. This build-up of naval power around the coast of Iran, according to some military sources, is in preparation for an air attack on Iran that would target not just Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, but its entire military command and control system.

While such an attack could be expected to unleash a wave of military violence all over Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and elsewhere against American forces and interests and against oil wells, pipelines and loading vacilities, as well as a mining of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, with a resulting skyrocketing of global oil prices, the real goal of this new war by the U.S. would be ensuring Republican control of the House and Senate.

Predictably, the Democrats are not addressing this:

What is deeply troubling here is the total silence on the part of the Democratic Party opposition. Not one Democrat in Congress, and as far as I know, not one Democratic candidate for Congress-- not even anti-war insurgent Ned Lamont in Connecticut - has demanded an answer from Bush and the Pentagon for the obvious military buildup around Iran, or about published reports that the U.S. already has special forces in side Iran backing the terrorist organization MEK, and selecting targets for U.S. bombardment.

I shudder to think where the world is heading. And I do think the United States is led by a sociopathic megalomaniac.