Saturday, September 30, 2006

Found over at Clyde's place.

The party of family values

By now, I'm sure you know about the latest scandal. The Washington Post reports the following in an article called Rep. Foley Quits In Page Scandal:

Six-term Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned yesterday amid reports that he had sent sexually explicit Internet messages to at least one underage male former page.

Foley, who was considered likely to win reelection this fall, said in a three-sentence letter of resignation: "I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent."
ABC News reported yesterday that it had interviewed Foley, 52, about excerpts of instant messages provided by current and former pages under the age of 18. ABC reported that Foley, under the AOL Instant Messenger screen name Maf54, made repeated references to sexual acts and body parts. Foley's spokesman did not respond to a Washington Post request for comment on the ABC report.

So much for the "family values" the good people of Florida undoubtedly thought they were voting for. It's the hypocrisy, people, that's just beyond outrageous. It's the hypocrisy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Letter from Amnesty International

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I just got this by email:

It’s a sad day for America and a very disappointing outcome for those of us who devote ourselves to advancing the global cause of human rights.

Yesterday, the Senate joined the House in approving an ill-considered and sweeping piece of legislation, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, that discards key human rights protections – and our best American traditions.

This could have been a proud moment for America. Congress had the opportunity to correct the Bush administration’s profoundly disturbing human rights policies.

This was an opportunity for Congress to advance the America you and I believe in.They failed to do so. In effect, they gave their stamp of approval to human rights violations. In the face of this set back, you and I must commit ourselves to working as long as it takes until we reverse the damage done yesterday to the cause of human rights.

Our representatives in Congress have just passed legislation that:

* Establishes a new judicial system to try a wide variety of people in military commissions that lack the minimal safeguards regarding coerced evidence may deny the right of the accused to examine evidence against them. A person could be sentenced to death under this flawed system.

* Strips prisoners in Guantanamo – and other alleged “enemy combatants” in U.S. custody -- of the ability to file a writ of habeas corpus and challenge their detention. Many of these prisoners have been held for almost five years without charges or meaningful judicial review.

* Expands the definition of ‘unlawful enemy combatant” to allow the U.S. government to detain people – on or off the battlefield – indefinitely without charge or access to judicial review for an act as minor as writing a check.

* Provides retroactive immunity to those who may have been implicated in creating policies or participating in abuse and other acts that most of us would consider torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

We appreciate the efforts of the members of Congress who voted against this legislation and in favor of human rights, the rule of law, and our standing in the international community. They took a principled stand. The first thing that we should do is thank the leaders who stood up for the America we believe in.

In the days ahead, Amnesty International will focus on holding the administration accountable for upholding its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law - and also for fulfilling the expectations of Americans like you and me who believe the America leads the world on human rights.

I know you will stand with us for as long as it takes to prevail.

I hope all of you realize that anybody can be declared an enemy combatant. And remember that Homeland Security is even now building detention camps to be used in "emergencies". How long will it be before those of us who dissent are rounded up?

UPDATE: Here's what William Rivers Pitt says about the point I made above:

Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."

If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation could befall you.

So, I'm not being paranoid. This is for real. I could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States for having this blog. It is very sobering, to say the least.

Moral decay

Where we are now:

The country is in the advanced stages of moral decay. The Military Commissions Act is not a law at all; it is an expression of Congress’ intention to carry out war crimes against defenseless victims in their charge.

-- Mike Whitney

Habeas corpus

We have lost our way:

The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.

-- Winston Churchill


Here's part of a comment I found on Father Jake Stops the World:

And if you want evil, I put to you what the Evangelically-elected Republican Senate of these United states did yesterday. Good Christians, nearly every one of them.Yesterday they legalized torture.

Yesterday, they eliminated habeus corpus. Yesterday, they decided the Constitution isn't worth the paper it was inscribed upon.

Today, they can grab any non-American off the streets and waterboard him, rape him, put him in a cage. They can hold him forever without a trial. They can convict him and sentence him to death using evidence against him that he cannot even see to refute. Even if he is innocent. He can be legally "disappeared".

Tomorrow, they can do it to you, or to me. Think they can't? What ever happened to Jose Padilla? See
this speech for what this means.

I'm sorry, but there is an evil conservatism in the ascendant.

The speech is by Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter speaking against the bill that passed yesterday. I recommend that you click through and read it. It will break your heart.

What sickens me is that there were actually Democrats in both houses who voted for this bill. I'm ashamed to be an American and a Democrat for that matter. The fact that the Democrats did not filibuster is simply beyond belief.

Friday cat blogging!

Sandy's cat
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Bob Woodward wakes up

The Washington Post reporter who broke Watergate but then went on to shill for the current administration has finally come to his senses. The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there, according to a new book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and author. The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war.

The warning is described in “State of Denial,” scheduled for publication on Monday by Simon & Schuster. The book says President Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq.

And check this out about then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice:

On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. [Geroge] Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.

Now if these people were Democrats, the press would hound them out of office. But just watch. This will hardly be reported. I just looked on the CNN website and I can't find it. But I did find this Quick Vote poll:

Do you believe President Bush has been frank with the nation about the situation in Iraq?

Yes - 20%

No - 80%

So in spite of the biased-toward-the-right news coverage, the American people are not believing the president. That's, at the very least, refreshing.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Comic relief - sort of

I found this parody of biblical literalist arguments on Entangled States:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. (Revelation 7:1)

It is a well-established Biblical fact that
the Earth is flat and immobile. Every good Biblical literalist knows the Scriptural passages which demonstrate that the Earth does not move and that its surface is not curved: Daniel 4:10-11, Matthew 4:8, Joshua 10:12, 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalms 93:1 & 96:10 & 104:5, Isaiah 45:18; the list goes on and on.

But far too many lazy Biblical literalists today ignore the plain fact that the Bible also tells us that the flat Earth does not have curved edges. Even the late, great Charles K. Johnson, the valiant fighter for the Truth who carried the message of the earlier Zetetic Astronomers forward into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by founding the
International Flat Earth Society, made the grievous error of assuming that the Earth was shaped like a circular disk. Nothing could be further from the Truth.

There's more. It's kind of fun in a bitter sort of way. Sad that such a parody would have no effect at all on those who are biblical literalists with regard to evolution and homosexuality.

The treatment of prisoners

Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said the following in an article called Do Unto Your Enemy:

I remember a seasoned senior officer explaining the importance of the Geneva Conventions. He said, "When an enemy fighter knows he'll be treated well by United States forces if he is captured, he is more likely to give up."

A year later on the streets of Baghdad, I saw countless insurgents surrender when faced with the prospect of a hot meal, a pack of cigarettes and air-conditioning. America's moral integrity was the single most important weapon my platoon had on the streets of Iraq. It saved innumerable lives and deterred Iraqis from joining the insurgency.

But those days are over. America's moral standing has eroded, thanks to its flawed rationale for war and scandals like Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. The last thing America can afford now is to leave Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions open to reinterpretation, as President George W. Bush proposed to do and can still do under the compromise bill that emerged last week.

Article 3 governs the treatment of prisoners of war, prohibiting "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture." Blurring the lines on the letter of the article will only make U.S. troops' tough fight even tougher. It will undermine the power of all the Geneva Conventions, immediately endanger American troops captured by the enemy and create a powerful recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

You know, those points are just common sense. Why are they so hard to understand? Why have they been so ignored?

It's not rocket science

So true:

After three long years, our efforts in Iraq have been successful in fostering a new generation of people who hate us.

--Jon Stewart

Voter ID

This is bad.

I want to share an article with you called "Mandatory Voter ID: 'This Cannot Be'". Here's part of what it says:

HR 4844, which passed the House along party lines last week, is, unfortunately, more than just sputter and bluster about the peril of illegal aliens invading our voting booths, i.e., another piece of fantasy legislation to "protect" Americans from one more right-wing bugbear, like smoldering flags and gay wedding cakes.

This bill, which would require would-be voters to show expensive proof-of-citizenship identification before they could cast a ballot in the 2010 election, is straight-on vote suppression -- addressing not the minuscule problem of non-citizens trying to vote, but the far larger one of low-income American citizens trying to vote, and voting their interests, which means, for the most part, voting Democratic.

"If this bill passed the Senate and became law, the electorate would likely become more middle-aged, whiter and richer -- and, its sponsors are anticipating, more Republican," the New York Times editorialized last week with welcome zeal (signaling, let us pray, the Gray Lady's awakened interest in the integrity of U.S. elections).

The bill, as critics have vehemently charged, is a de facto, latter-day poll tax, requiring people to obtain costly documentation to prove their citizenship. A passport, for instance (which only 25 percent of Americans possess), costs $97. The cost of the photo ID could be even more onerous. "This is a mandate on all citizens to actually have to pay to vote," according to Tanya Clay House of People for the American Way. And as such, it is blatantly unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, we're not doing a thing about real voter fraud - but then that favors Republicans so that's okay according to the people in power.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bill Maher's spot on comment

This sums it up:

The Venezuelan President went to the U.N. and called Bush the devil. You could tell Bush was offended, because his tail stopped wagging. Bush said, "I would love to answer your ridiculous charge that I'm the devil, but I'm a little too busy this week trying to unite my party behind torturing people."

--Bill Maher

Jerry Falwell on Senator Clinton

How can this man consider what he said to be Christian?

I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate. She has $300 million so far. But I hope she's the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton. If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't.

--Rev. Jerry Falwell

Of course, he's the one who said feminists, homosexuals and the ACLU were at fault for 9/11 so we shouldn't be surprised at any hateful thing that he would say.
From the Freewayblogger

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart - part 15

It's getting worse. I just got an email from and here's what it says:

The Wal-Mart health care crisis is getting worse.

According to internal Wal-Mart documents, just released by, Wal-Mart plans to slash health care costs by eliminating all of its low-deductible health care plans for new hires, increasing medical premiums on its existing plans, and increasing the spousal surcharge to a whopping $1,800 a year in order to push more employees off of the company health care plan.

By eliminating most of its health care plans and replacing them with a high-deductible, catastrophic plan, Wal-Mart is effectively out of the health care business and will, instead, shift its health care costs onto its hard-working employees and America's taxpayers.

The time has come for Congress to get involved. As our nation's largest employer, with over 1.39 million employees, Wal-Mart's departure from providing real health care threatens our entire employer-based health care system. We cannot allow big, powerful corporations like Wal-Mart to make record profits, $11 billion last year, and fail to provide company health care to over half (750,000) of its employees and their families.

Please join us in calling on Congress to immediately investigate and hold hearings on Wal-Mart's role in America's growing health care crisis. Congress should immediately examine:

1. The potential negative impact of Wal-Mart’s decision to replace real health care plans with catastrophic plans on its employees and America's working families.
2. The cost to taxpayers when large, profitable companies fail to provide affordable health care.
3. The risk to our entire employer-based health care system if the rest of corporate America follows Wal-Mart’s lead.

Please send a letter to your U.S. Senator or Congressman calling on them to hold hearings on the Wal-Mart health care crisis today:
Write a letter to Congress now!

Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans calling on profitable companies like Wal-Mart to provide real health care coverage to their employees, Wal-Mart is cruelly hurting its employees, cutting health care options, and shifting costs on to the American taxpayer.

The Wal-Mart health care crisis, which is the fact that Wal-Mart fails to provide company health care to 54% of its employees, already costs America's taxpayers an estimated $1.39 billion every year. And, even Wal-Mart admits that nearly 1 out of every 2 children (46%) of its employees is either uninsured or on taxpayer funded public assistance.

Under Wal-Mart's 2007 health care plan options, the only plan available to new hires will have a $1,000 deductible and multiple, and expensive, extra deductibles piled on top including a $300 pharmacy deductible, a $1,000 per event in-patient deductible, and a $500 per event out-patient deductible. For family coverage, if you add in premiums and deductibles, a $12,000 a year cashier may have to spend up to 90% of his/her salary just to pay for health care.

There's no way to say it gently. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

I suppose there's one thing to hope for if other companies go the way of Wal-Mart and severely reduce or even eliminate health care for their employees. Maybe the employer-based health care system in this country will completely collapse and the politicians will have to see that a single-payer government health care system is the way to go. But so many people will suffer and die before the people in power finally wake up.

The Miniature Earth

Dan Nerren sent the video below. It's very sobering:

Farm workers and injustice

MadPriest sent me an article this morning entitled "Christians back farmworkers in McDonald's protests". Here's what it's about:

A delegation of Presbyterian and United Church of Christ-backed Florida farmworkers will embark on a 10-day "mini-tour" to the Chicago area next month to carry their struggle for higher wages and better working conditions to fast-food giant McDonald's - writes Evan Silverstein.

Some 10 members of the US Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) will travel by van from Immokalee, Florida, on the three-state multi-city trek, which runs from 14-23 October 2006, with stops in Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana.

Highlights will include a peaceful rally on 20 October outside the hamburger company's suburban Chicago corporate offices in Oak Brook, Illinois. Another peaceful demonstration will follow in downtown Chicago the next day.

The CIW, an organization of farmworkers who pick tomatoes that McDonald's uses in its products, is sponsoring the event, expected to feature national human-rights speakers, religious leaders, student leaders and musicians.
Florida farmworkers suffer the same miserable conditions experienced by generations of farmworkers, including forced labor and wages that leave them in deep poverty, according to the CIW. The pickers now earn 40 to 45 cents per 32-pound bucket, a rate essentially unchanged for nearly 30 years.

It's hard for me to understand how we, as a society, are willing to tolerate this kind of injustice. I'm glad that progressive church people are standing up for the farm workers. This helps demonstrate to the country that not all Christians are conservative right-wingers.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Welcoming fascism

Here's a comment I found (not sure where):

Fascism is the revolt of the elites against the masses. It is usually welcomed when it comes, by precisely those folks whom it will eventually oppress...

The real tragedy

Frank Ford sent me this today:

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

-- Plato

The shadow side of faith

For tonight's meditation class I'm planning to give a dharma talk on Jung's understanding of the shadow - that unacknowledged side of ourselves that often manifests in very negative ways. In looking for material I came across this passage from William Sloane Coffin's Letters to a Young Doubter:

I think self-righteousness is the bane of human relations, of all of them — interpersonal, international, and interfaith. I'm sure it was self-righteousness that prompted Pascal to say, "Human beings never do evil so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." Self-righteousness blocks our capacity for self-criticism, destroys humility, and undermines the sense of oneness that should bind us all.

Self-righteousness inspired the Christian Crusades against Muslims and, centuries later, the Easter pogroms of Eastern Europe, the sermon-induced slaughter of Jews after the morning celebration of the resurrected rabbi.

Today this same self-righteousness encourages some American Christians to cheer President Bush's messianic militarism, a divinely ordained form of cleansing violence, and all in the name of a Jesus Christ who is the mirror opposite of the Jesus of the four Gospels.

This country lost a great man when William Sloane Coffin died earlier this year. He was America's conscience to those who would listen. He is greatly missed.


We so often become what we despise:

The healthy man does not torture others -- generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.

-- Carl Jung

Monday, September 25, 2006

Silence in a Time of Torture is Complicity

I want to share with you an email I got this morning from The World Can't Wait:

We have now come to a defining moment, where before the world's eyes the U.S. Congress is poised to legalize torture. We reject such a course outright. It does not represent us.

We remember the images from Abu Ghraib prison -- photos of depravity, even death. And what of the images we have never been shown from a world of even more disturbing and more "professional" horrors that have been concealed in secret prisons around the world?

To anyone of conscience, this is unacceptable. But this is exactly what your government will be making legitimate. With bi-partisan support, the "Military Commissions Act of 2006" will be made law unless people act to stop it.

Sold as a "compromise", this bill is fundamentally worse than what has gone before.

The bill takes what has existed in the shadowy world of clandestine action and now gives it the openly declared mantle of official, legal approval. While the compromise is being sold as complying with the Geneva Conventions, it gives the President huge freedom to, by executive order, define "special methods" of interrogation that HE feels "fit" that Convention. It removes the right of anyone to raise the Geneva Conventions in federal court to challenge government action against them.

The compromise allows the government the power to use confessions and other testimony derived from torture as evidence in criminal proceedings. The compromise officially, and legally, puts Congress on record approving that the president may, at his own discretion, declare anyone an "enemy combatant". This means the president can name anyone anywhere as such and remove them from the reach of family or legal counsel and hold them indefinitely without trial. It ends the Constitutional right of habeas corpus.

All this is now to be done openly, and in our name. All these actions -- and the Bush Regime which has commissioned war crimes -- must be brought to a halt. What is being met with silence in the halls of power must be manifested as a real opposition in the streets. At stake here is what kind of country and what kind of people we choose to be.

Let it not be said that the people did nothing when their government moved to make torture lawful. Let the world know that the people of this country did not acquiesce, but instead stood up and said “TORTURE DOES NOT REPRESENT US!



I know that our country has committed torture for years - probably since 1776. But at least we knew it was wrong and hid it. At least we had a sense of shame about what the CIA was doing in secret. And as a result, there has been at least some restraint. But that will disappear if this bill becomes law. For we are saying to the world that we intend to torture with impunity. I am horrified that these things are happening in my lifetime. It is beyond comprehension. And I am deeply ashamed to be an American right now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Michael Lerner

Probably one of the most tragic messages we've received from the current administration is the idea that we're all on our own. It is a death-dealing belief in separateness. Probably one of the most passionate spokespersons of our time about the reality of interconnectedness is Rabbi Michael Lerner. An interview with Rabbi Lerner published in What Is Enlightenment? magazine is entitled "From What Is to What Ought to Be". Here is an excerpt:

The fundamental reality of the universe is that we are all interconnected as part of the unity of all Being. And the alienation that we experience is first and foremost an alienation from who we are. It is a product of our failure to understand ourselves as connected to all other human beings and then to all other beings. That failure manifests in a zillion ways in contemporary life, but it's the root of the problem because every specific form of alienation is rooted in our distance from or our lack of awareness of our fundamental interconnection with all other beings.

If we want to look at some specifics around that, we can talk, for example, about the ecological crisis—the way that we imagine that we can dump pollution into the world and that it won't affect us. Or, in a more sophisticated version of this stupidity, we imagine that we won't dump the pollution into our particular part of the planet. We'll dump it into the Third World, not recognizing that we're part of one world system, one planetary system, and one universal system. So this is symbolic of the craziness that comes from not understanding the interconnection—because the poisons come back to us. They come back to us through the food. They come back to us through the air. They come back to us through the interaction with other human beings who have become sick as a result of the impact of the pollution and environmental destruction that we are engaged with. But we are unaware of this, or we're unable to see it.
On the social level, the same thing is playing out, just in a slightly different way. Were we to understand our fundamental interconnections, we would recognize that our own well-being or the development of our soul and consciousness is totally dependent on the development of every other human being on the planet. That is to say that we're intrinsically linked, that the image of us as individuals pursuing our own self-interest or even our own enlightenment is deeply mistaken. But when one doesn't recognize that, then one thinks, "Oh, I can pursue my own path. I can make it for myself, and it doesn't really matter what's happening to these other human beings around me." And that alienation from other human beings causes so many of the social problems that we're facing, because people imagine that they are on their own when, in fact, they're deeply interconnected with every other human being, not just at the physical level that I was talking about with regard to ecology but at the emotional and spiritual level, the level of our expectations of what's possible between human beings. Our capacity to connect with other human beings—every single interaction that we have—is shaped by our consciousness of the totality of human relationships. And in a world where human relationships are based on a model of each one out for herself or himself, the distance between us is dramatic, and the possibility of loving connection is deeply reduced.

As I've said before, I don't know whether to be hopeful or not about the November elections because of the vote fraud made possible by Diebold voting machines. But if it is possible for a free and fair election to take place, the choice before the voters is between two vastly different assumptions about reality. Republicans say, "You're on your own." Democrats say, "We're in it together." The question for the voters is which do we want? Not only that, which is true?

Why don't the Republicans realize that they too must breathe the air they choose to poison? Why don't they realize that their children too will inherit a planet made uninabitable by catastrophic climate change? They too will need to function in an economy wrecked by massive debt, they too will have to live in a society with increased crime due to the inescapable poverty and hopelessness their policies are perpetuating.

Well, if the polls are any indication, some Republicans are waking up. My fervent prayer is that it is not too late.


Well, I just got home from church so I went over to Of course, I could be wrong... to see what MadPriest was up to and I found this:

Have you had enough of hypocrisy?
Have you had enough of the spending spree?
Have you had enough?
Does it make you want to scream and shout?

Have you had enough of the rubber stamps?
Have you had enough of the wire taps?
If you’ve had enough, then it’s time to throw the rascals out!

We’ve let them take the test too long
They’ve gotten all the answers wrong
No plan, no shame, no oversight
Now’s the time to put it right!

Have you had enough, cause they’re all corrupt?
Have you had enough of being divvied up?
If you’ve had enough, then it’s time to throw the rascals out!

Well, do what’s right and spread the word
It’s time to make our voices heard
You cast your vote it don’t cost a dime
Sittin’ it out will be a crime

I’ve had enough, and it’s time to throw the rascals out!

Do you want to listen to it? MadPriest has got a cool thingie on his blog that lets you do just that. So go on over to find out what it sounds like!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mid-term elections

Here's why we need to win the mid-terms:

The argument for the Democrats is not that they are brilliantly organized, politically courageous, or profoundly principled. They are not. The argument for the Democrats is that on national security, on the issues that define The American Crisis, they are fundamentally professional, fundamentally decent, and fundamentally in tune with the successful security strategies that have served America well since the Second World War and have united the free world for sixty years.

The argument for the Democrats is that America is a Republic that functions best with two political parties and three branches of goverment sharing power. The Nation inevitably endures grave crisis, as we have learned through much unnecessary danger and blood, when the goodwill of the Republic, and the checks and balances of democracy, are destroyed by the single minded partisans and factions that the Federalist Papers warned all future generations so sternly against.

The problem, of course, is two-fold: Republican dirty tricks and Diebold voting machines. I can't say that I'm optimistic but I do think the Republicans are scared and that's a hopeful sign.

(The above passage is from "The American Crisis: If Thomas Paine Were With Us, Part 3" by Brent Budowsky.)

Credibility and Bush

What would we do without Leno? :-)

In his speech, Bush said the United Nations is in danger of losing its credibility. And believe me, when it comes to international affairs, President Bush is an expert on losing credibility.

--Jay Leno

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This morning in meditation class, we discussed the importance of empathy. I also posted about this on my other blog but decided it belonged here as well because what is the willingness to torture another but the complete failure of empathy in the torturer or the one who orders torture?

with that in mind I'd like to share with you an excerpt from The Power of Empathy : A Practical Guide to Creating Intimacy, Self-Understanding and Lasting Love by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli and Katherine Ketcham:

Empathy allows us to see the connections between us, making strangers less strange, foreigners less foreign. When we adopt other people's perspectives, we do more than step into their shoes — we use their eyes, we borrow their skin, we feel their hearts beating within us, we lose ourselves and enter into their world, as if we were them. I emphasize those words once again because they are so critically important and so often misunderstood. With empathy, we do not step into others' experience to see it with our eyes — empathy demands that we see it with their eyes. Through that experience we are fundamentally changed, for we see with a sudden, startling clarity that we are the other. All the good and the bad that we see in them we can also recognize in ourselves. The hurt, the shame, the fear of humiliation, the desire for revenge — these are as much parts of our own souls as the quest for honesty, the humble spirit, the forgiving heart.

President Bush has pronounced that those whom he wishes to conquer are "evildoers". He has couched the conflicts in which we find ourselves in dualistic terms - as the struggle between good and evil. We, of course, to his mind are "good". Therefore whatever we do is good. Therefore torture is good and the "evildoers" deserve to be tortured. He is unable to have enough empathy for others to realize that we are all mixtures; we are all capable of wrongdoing and guilty of it, too. He is also apparently unable (or unwilling) to feel pain when another feels pain.

Each of us has a moral duty to cultivate empathy and to let go of the narcissism that prevents it. I know it's painful at times. But the alternative is at best complacency and at worst cruelty. And it is the prevalence of complacency that allows cruelty to flourish unchecked.

What we have become

We have become what we despise - or what we have longed claimed to despise. I want to share with you an article by Robert Parry entitled "Bush's "Dirty War" Amnesty Law" that reveals something about what we have become. Here's part of what it says:

The United States is following the lead of "dirty war" nations, such as Argentina and Chile, in enacting what amounts to an amnesty law protecting U.S. government operatives, apparently up to and including President George W. Bush, who have committed or are responsible for human rights crimes.

While the focus of the current congressional debate has been on Bush's demands to redefine torture and to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, the compromise legislation also would block prosecutions for violations already committed during the five-year-old "war on terror."

The compromise legislation bars criminal or civil legal action over past violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, according to press reports. Common Article 3 outlaws "violence to life and person," such as death and mutilation as well as cruel treatment and "outrages upon personal dignity."

The legislation now before Congress also would prohibit detainees from citing the Geneva Conventions as a legal basis for challenging their imprisonment or for seeking civil damages for their mistreatment. [Washington Post, Sept. 22, 2006]

Since U.S. courts generally limit plaintiff status to people who have suffered definable harm, these provisions amount to a broad amnesty law for Bush and other administration officials who have engaged in human rights violations since the 9/11 attacks.
The emerging U.S. amnesty law would be unusual in that it wouldn't explicitly acknowledge that offenses had been committed, nor is the word "amnesty" used. Nor have there been public hearings in Congress to determine what the Bush administration might have done that requires amnesty.

Nevertheless, the legislation, which seems to be gaining bipartisan support, would create broad areas of legal protections for Bush and other human rights violators for past crimes. By also barring victims from seeking enforcement of the Geneva Conventions in U.S. courts, the bill would give the Bush administration wide latitude for future acts of abuse.

It's really insidious, isn't it? I told you yesterday that the "debate" on torture was all about keeping Bush out of jail. But it's also a way of giving him free rein to go on torturing with impunity.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Crowd control torture beams

When we finally decide to take to the streets in this country, it will undoubtedly be too late. I want you to know what your government has planned to use against you. The article I'm quoting is called "Future Shock: Evidence of Plans to Torture US Demonstrators":

Remember this story from last week? "The Air Force secretary says nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before they are used on the battlefield." It's worse than we heard ... much worse. These weapons, which cause "intolerable pain" and have been condemned by scientists as mass torture devices, may be coming soon to a demonstration near you. And there are stranger and more lethal weapons where these came from.

The Secretary,
Michael Wynne, is a longtime exec at defense contractor General Dynamics - a fox now in charge of the henhouse. The weapon he was describing is "intended to cause heating and intolerable pain in less than five seconds," as described in this Australian newspaper account.

And guess which company is one of the world's leaders in military microwave technology? General Dynamics. So you can rest assured that Wynne's very knowledgeable about this technology's intended use here and abroad, both by the military and other agencies.

Microwave beam devices are just one of a number of new weapons under development that could be used against US crowds. This article in
Defense Update magazine describes the variety of anti-personnel energy weapons being developed by the Department of Defense. These include the Laser Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) pictured above, which can "work like 'artificial lightning' to disable human targets" and "can be adjusted for non-lethal or lethal use."
The idea of subjecting demonstrating Americans to group torture may seem unthinkable today. Yet a few years ago we couldn't have imagined that our government woul ban public demonstrations by forcing protesters into "Free Speech Zones" behind fences, miles away from other Americans. The unimaginable has now become real. This is only the next logical step, and it could happen soon.

Words truly fail me.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Yesterday's torture "deal"

I found this comment on AMERICAblog:

I don't say this lightly but truly this "compromise" on torture combined with the ABC 9/11 propaganda movie is scarier to me than the events of September 11, 2001 -- and I live in Manhattan.

I agree.

And I want to remind my readers that Halliburton is building detention centers (concentrations camps) in the United States. Who are these centers for, anyway? If torture is legal, it will not be long before dissent is illegal.

Friday cat blogging!

Simon (AKA Kittyboy)
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

More on torture

It's worse now than it was before we invaded Iraq. And that's saying something. Take a look at this excerpt from an Associate Press article:

GENEVA - Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, made the remarks as he was presenting a report on detainee conditions at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay as well as to brief the U.N. Human Rights Council, the global body's top rights watchdog, on torture worldwide.

Reports from Iraq indicate that torture "is totally out of hand," he said. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."

Nowak added, "That means something, because the torture methods applied under Saddam Hussein were the worst you could imagine."

Does anybody in the administration have a conscience about this? How can they sleep nights?

How could we?

Looks like we're well on our way to legalizing torture. Oh, there are a lot of euphemisms here - nobody has literally said, "Yes, we're legalizing torture." - but it doesn't take much to figure out what really went down yesterday. The CNN article is entitled "Deal on detainee treatment quells GOP revolt" and here's part of what it says:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House and dissenting GOP senators settled a disagreement Thursday on a bill setting out procedures for interrogating terror suspects and trying them in front of military tribunals.

The deal, reached after three days of intense intra-party negotiations, satisfied the concerns of three Republicans on how the measure would affect U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

While the agreement does not redefine the Geneva Conventions, as the White House originally proposed, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said it would provide enough "clarity" to allow the CIA's interrogation program to go forward.

The White House backed off an effort to define language in the conventions barring "humiliating treatment and outrages upon personal dignity."
But the agreement explicitly gives the president "the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."

President Bush hailed the agreement, saying it will preserve the "most potent tool we have" in the war against terror -- the ability of the CIA to interrogate detainees and "get their secrets."

"The agreement clears the way to do what the American people expect us to do -- to capture terrorists, to detain terrorists, to question terrorists and then to try them," said Bush.

If Bush has the authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions then our integrity as a nation is utterly lost. Because he has been doing this already and this "deal" is intended to keep him out of jail - which is what this "debate" has been about all along.

We've been torturing people for years but yesterday the Republicans said it's okay. The shame is beyond expression. Except that they feel no shame. They are too drunk with power.

I grieve for my country. Oh, I so grieve.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday good news blogging

Take a look at this excerpt from a CNN article called "Branson pledges $3B to fight climate change":

NEW YORK (AP) -- British business mogul Richard Branson on Thursday pledged to invest about $3 billion over the next decade to combat global warming and promote alternative energy, saying that it was critical to protect the environment for future generations.

Branson, the billionaire behind the multi-platform Virgin brand, said the money would come from 100 percent of the profits generated by his transportation sectors -- trains and airline companies. It will be invested in efforts to find renewable, sustainable energy sources in an effort to wean the world off oil and coal.

The so-called "rebel billionaire" -- wearing a dress coat with no tie and denim pants -- made the announcement on the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference of business, political and nonprofit leaders hosted by former President Clinton.

"Our generation has inherited an incredibly beautiful world from our parents and they from their parents," Branson said at a news conference, with Clinton at his side.

"We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment. We must hand it over to our children in as near pristine a condition as we were lent it from our parents."

Maybe he'll have an influence on other prominent rich people. Maybe his actions will prick the consciences of the decision makers of the world. Maybe this is the beginning of the great turn around that's needed to save our planet.

Bill Clinton minces no words

Now this is refreshing:

I am sick of Karl Rove's bullsh*t.

--Former President Bill Clinton, to the New Yorker's David Remnick

The mark of a tyrant

Ah, Mr. Jefferson. We need you now:

A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free.

-- Thomas Jefferson

Why don't we stop him?

Chavez called Bush the devil and, I must say, I have to agree. He said Bush talked as if he owned the world. Ahmadinejad posed the following question: "Is it Iranian forces that have occupied countries neighboring the United States, or is it American forces that are occupying countries neighboring Iran?" Good question. Really, really good question.

Here are a couple of excerpts from an article entitled "As If Bush Owned the World" in response:

It's frustrating to watch these leaders who Bush has so thoroughly demonized - who have their own problems with their own seemingly autocratic regimes - posturing against our country, and suffer the realization that our own despotic leader has yet to be deposed for his crimes against Americans and others. Problem is, the world sees a wimp with a big mouth when Bush swaggers around like he did in his address to the assembly, ordering their affairs, and we're left to defend against the blow-back. There could be economic isolation, political isolation, or outright hostility involving more attacks on the nation in reaction and response to Bush's reckless muckraking. The American people are left to pick up the pieces of our democracy that Bush so willingly hurls around the world out of his dictatorial carpetbag.

Bush and his warmongering supporters are dangerous for America. Anyone can pick fights, as Bush seems obsessed with doing. The question for America is, are we ready to fight more of Bush's battles for him? The leaders of the world are lining up against him/us. Only blundering idiots would allow Bush to turn the world into his personal fight club. We're the ones who are going to end up defending ourselves as we defend against his blundering interference in so many other nation's affairs. His manufactured mandate supported less by the will of the American people than by his corrupt exercise of the awesome strength of our military and the sacrifices of those who do the fighting and the dying.
We in the U.S. pride ourselves in our original struggles for freedom and liberty at our country's founding; likewise celebrating the struggle for the freedom and liberty of those pitiful citizens our nation once so oppressed. Yet, most of us are timid about challenging our government to continue to live up to and uphold those very ideals as they arrogantly engage our resources and our soldier's lives abroad for interests that they alone decide are in our interest. The majority of Americans have long opposed the Iraq occupation, yet Bush persists in behaving as if our democracy allows him to be the ultimate 'decider.'

Why don't we stop him? In many other countries, the populace would have taken to the streets by now. And yet we defer to what I'm increasingly believing is truly a madman. When are we going to rise up and take our country back? Impeach. Impeach. Impeach.

By the way, here's a link to the full text of the Chavez address before the U.N.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This radical presidency

Do you have time to read a rather long, reflective article about the radical nature of the Bush presidency? Then I suggest you go on over to Smirking Chimp and read "How Bad Is He?" by Sidney Blumenthal. The article is really the introduction to his recently published book, How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime.

Here's how it gets started:

No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history.

In his 2000 campaign, Bush permitted himself few hints of radicalism. On the contrary he made ready promises of moderation, judiciously offering himself as a "compassionate conservative," an identity carefully crafted to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals of the House of Representatives. After capturing the Congress in 1994 and proclaiming a "revolution," they had twice shut down the government over the budget and staged an impeachment trial that resulted in the acquittal of President Clinton. Seeking to distance himself from the congressional Republicans, Bush declared that he was not hostile to government. He would, he said, "change the tone in Washington." He would be more reasonable than the House Republicans and more moral than Clinton. Governor Bush went out of his way to point to his record of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats in Texas, stressing that he would be "a uniter, not a divider."

Trying to remove the suspicion that falls on conservative Republicans, he pledged that he would protect the solvency of Social Security. On foreign policy, he said he would be "humble": "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us." Here he was criticizing Clinton's peacemaking and nation-building efforts in the Balkans and suggesting he would be far more restrained. The sharpest criticism he made of Clinton's foreign policy was that he would be more mindful of the civil liberties of Arabs accused of terrorism: "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." This statement was not an off-the-cuff remark, but carefully crafted and presented in one of the debates with Vice President Al Gore. Bush's intent was to win an endorsement from the American Muslim Council, which was cued to back him after he delivered his debating point, and it was instrumental in his winning an overwhelming share of Muslims' votes, about 90,000 of which were in Florida.

Amazing, isn't it, how he misrepresented himself. Of course, we now know that the strategy he used in campaigning was carefully crafted by Karl Rove.

I really do recommend that you read the whole article if you have time. It's very thought provoking. And chilling too, in its analysis of the Bush presidency.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where's his heart?

Somehow not surprising:

Someone must tell President Bush where his heart is. [photo shown of President Bush and Laura Bush; she has hand over her heart; he has his hand over his stomach] Most people don't clutch the wrong organ, but then again, most people don't invade the wrong country.

-- Bill Maher

Monday, September 18, 2006

Spoken by a conservative


How exactly does one convince the teeming masses that Republicans deserve to stay in power despite botching a war, doubling the national debt, keeping company with Jack Abramoff, fumbling the response to Hurricane Katrina, expanding the government at record rates, raising cronyism to an art form, playing poker with Duke Cunningham, isolating America and repeatedly electing Tom DeLay as their House majority leader?

-- Joe Scarborough

But then, you are reaping what you have sown, Joe. The problem is, the rest of us have to reap it as well.

Iraq and terrorism

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Perfectly stated:

We didn't go in to Iraq because of terrorism. We have terrorists in Iraq because we went in there.

-- Jim Webb

The torture debate

Here's something else sent to me by Prior Aelred. It's really a comment on the blog, Talking Points Memo by Joshua Micah Marshall. Here's part of what it says:

The torture debate in Congress--I never expected to write such words--is as surreal to me as watching the collapse of the Twin Towers. If the Democrats are able to take control of at least one chamber in November, then surely the President's pro-torture bill will be viewed in hindsight as the nadir of the Bush presidency. If not, how much lower can things go?

I am beyond being able to assess the political implications, one way or the other, of this spectacle. Regardless of which version of the bill finally passes, this debate is a black mark on the soul of the nation. Of course passage of a pro-torture bill will diminish U.S. standing internationally and jeopardize the safety and well-being of U.S. servicemen in future engagements. But merely having this debate has already accomplished that. Does anyone honestly believe that if Congress rebuffs the President in every respect that the rule of law and the inviolability of human rights will have been vindicated? Of course not.

I remember when it first came out that we were torturing people. I just couldn't believe that this country had stooped so low. It made me utterly sick to be part of a society that did this. It still does but I am no longer horrified or shocked. I'm used to it. And that, perhaps, is the most distressing development of all. For that is exactly what the administration wants - for torture to be normalized.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What's wrong with conservatism?

Last night, my monk friend, Prior Aelred, sent me an amazing article entitled, "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?" It's long. Never mind. Read it anyway. What an eye-opener. It explains why the conservatives have been winning and we have been losing. Here's how it gets started:

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

*1 The Main Arguments of Conservatism

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

Just go read the rest of it. It's riveting reading. And it will give you a lot to think about.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope and Islam

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

You all know how much I respect the British newspaper, the Guardian. And one of my favorite columnists on matters religious is Giles Fraser. Today he weighs in on the issue of the Pope's insult to Islam in an article entitled "The unmistakable whiff of Christian triumphalism". It is subtitled, "This was no casual slip. Beneath his scholarly rhetoric, the Pope's logic seemed to be that Islam is dangerous and godless."

Here are a couple of excerpts:

John Paul II's pontificate was largely defined by his relationship with a global conflict between west and east. Last Tuesday evening, in a badly judged speech before a home crowd of Bavarian academics, Benedict XVI may well have set the parameters of his own period as Pope, pitching himself into a debate over Islam that has prompted outrage throughout the Muslim world.

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." These were not the Pope's words, but those of an obscure Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologos, back in the 14th century. And yes, the Pope did make it clear he was offering a quotation. Even so, these words fell from the lips of the spiritual leader of a billion Christians without anything like enough qualification. There was no phrase distancing himself from the claim that Muhammad was responsible for evil. It's little surprise, therefore, that the remarks have roused anger and demands for a personal apology.
For the most part, the Pope's address was a scholarly exercise that sought to challenge the idea that rationality is intrinsically and necessarily secular. We must "overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable", he insisted. Most Christians would agree. But even here there was a sharp criticism of Islam buried beneath the scholarly rhetoric. For the Pope argued that in Muslim teaching, because "God is absolutely transcendent", He is "not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality". In other words, there is no reasoning in or with Islam. Which, surely, is another way of the Pope saying how dangerous he thinks Islam is.

It was an insult. It was more than an insult; it was throwing down the gauntlet. I recommend that you click through and read the entire column along with the comments that follow. I do think something very serious has taken place. The Pope's remarks are adding fuel to the already considerable raging fire of widespread Muslim belief that the West has embarked upon another Crusade against Islam.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Saddam and Osama

Just look at one paragraph from an article in this morning's Washington Post:

The CIA learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime, according to a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Now tell me you're not disgusted.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Mihail Manolov
Used with permission

We need a draft

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I've always felt that a draft was essential to peace. The only way to prevent unnecessary wars is to have a military made up of people who don't want to be there and whose parents don't want them to be there.

But there's another reason we need a draft now. Our fighting forces are depleted. The situation is really quite alarming as you will see in this passage from an article in Slate entitled "Won't Deploy? Can't Deploy.":

Earlier this week, in a Washington Post op-ed, William Kristol and Rich Lowry called on the Bush administration to send more troops to Iraq. Coming one day before 62 Iraqis turned up tortured and shot in Baghdad and a couple of dozen more were blown up by car bombs, their argument that more American boots on the ground are necessary—though not sufficient—to halt the bloodbath has a compelling logic, even for many who think the war was a mistake. It isn't clear that any conceivable increase in troops could stem the tide of sectarian violence, but it is, at least, a serious argument and a welcome counterpoint to the White House's incessant calls for staying a course that is leading to disaster.

The only problem with Kristol and Lowry's recommendation is that it is premised on an illusion: In fact, there are no more troops to send to Iraq.

That is the unmistakable message of an Army briefing making the rounds in Washington. According to in-house assessments, fully two-thirds of the Army's operating force, both active and reserve, is now reporting in as "unready"—that is, they lack the equipment, people, or training they need to execute their assigned missions. Not a single one of the Army's Brigade Combat Teams—its core fighting units—currently in the United States is ready to deploy. In short, the Army has no strategic reserve to speak of. The other key U.S. fighting force in Iraq, the Marine Corps, is also hurting, with much of its equipment badly in need of repair or replacement.

In terms of ground-force readiness, the United States is in worse shape than at any time since the aftermath of Vietnam, when revelations about a "hollow" military sparked defense buildups from the Carter and then Reagan administrations. While most press coverage of the Iraq conflict has understandably focused on loss of life and the damage done in that country by the insurgency, the readiness of the U.S. military has also been a casualty.

The president keeps saying that his job is to protect us. If he really meant that he would not allow the military to get into the shape it's in currently. It's simply dangerous to be in this state of unreadiness.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So true

Remind you of somebody?

The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water and breeds reptiles of the mind.

--William Blake

Ooh, ooh, ooh...

Check out the snark:

The problem in Iraq is that they just don't want to be Americans. And, after all we've done for them.

-- Grant Gerver

Oh, this is distressing

Here's an excerpt from a report entitled "Senate panel OKs warrantless wiretaps":

WASHINGTON -- A Republican-controlled Senate panel on Wednesday approved legislation that would authorize President Bush's controversial warrantless wiretapping program in return for his pledge to submit it for a review by a secret court.

In a 10-8 party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent the bill backed by the White House to the full Senate.

This has already been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. It grieves me more than I can say to see these people continue to shred the Constitution. It truly grieves me beyond expression.

Diebold - Part 2

You already know that I cancelled my pledge to the Democratic Party. The trigger for that decision was the Democrats' failure to filibuster the nomination of Alito to the Supreme Court. But the reason I continue to refuse to donate is Diebold - the computerized voting machines developed by admitted partisan Republicans. There's no point in supporting a Democrat's campaign when it's Republicans counting the votes.

Take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Princeton prof hacks e-vote machine":

TRENTON, N.J. - A Princeton University computer science professor added new fuel Wednesday to claims that electronic voting machines used across much of the country are vulnerable to hacking that could alter vote totals or disable machines.

In a paper posted on the university's Web site, Edward Felten and two graduate students described how they had tested a Diebold AccuVote-TS machine they obtained, found ways to quickly upload malicious programs and even developed a computer virus able to spread such programs between machines.
The researchers say they designed software capable of modifying all records, audit logs and counters kept by the voting machine, ensuring that a careful forensic examination would find nothing wrong.

The programs were able to modify vote totals or cause machines to break down, something that could alter the course of an election if machines were located in crucial polling stations.

It was also possible to design a computer virus to spread malicious programs to multiple machines by piggybacking on a new software download or an election information file being transferred from machine to machine, Felten said.

I'm afraid I'm very pessimistic about this whole picture. The article says that 80 percent of American voters are expected to use some kind of electronic voting machines in the upcoming election.

UPDATE: Here's a video made at Princeton University that illustrates the problem described above. If it doesn't make you sick, you just don't get it.

And now look at this. It's only 35 seconds. It'll give you chills:

The 2004 election was stolen. No doubt about it.

Fear mongering ads

As I was driving to the Center this morning, I heard a program on NPR reporting on the negative ads that are part of the current election campaign. I actually heard the one described by the article entitled "Front-Group PFA Echoes Republican "Freedom, Security and Survival" Themes". Take a look:

The Republican “527” front-group Progress for America has reemerged, and is running a TV advertisement that echoes and amplifies the “be afraid” election campaign theme launched by President Bush. The ad is currently running in Missouri and nationally on cable TV.

The ad, titled “The War on Terror,” is not even a little bit subtle, marketing pure fear.

“There are people who want to KILL … US!” it shouts in a horror-movie-advertisement voice, as dark-skinned, Middle-Eastern faces appear on the screen.

Just as President Bush did all last week (political campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day), the ad conflates different groups like al Queda, Islamic Jihad, and Hezzbollah together as if they are one group. The ad reinforces the Bush administration and surrogate’s repeated claim that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack. Referring to “the evil” that happened five years ago while showing a plane hitting the World Trade Center, the ad then says President Clinton “took little action” against al Queda and says that “after 9/11 we destroyed al Queda terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Also, echoing current Party talking points, the ad claims there are those who want to “cut and run” from the war on terror.

Reflecting another campaign point advocating warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the ad goes on to say “we have narrowly escaped another 9/11, using proven surveillance that some would stop” – even though it was British law enforcement that caught those involved, using warrants.

Finally, the ad closes saying “the war on terror is a war for our country’s freedom, security and survival.”

What's really disgusting is that 527 groups are tax-exempt. Read the article and you'll get the whole scoop.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And this from a Republican

His name is Christopher Buckley and yes, he's William F. Buckley's son:

Who knew, in 2000, that 'compassionate conservatism' meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research? A more accurate term for Mr. Bush's political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism....

Despite the failures, one had the sense that the party at least knew in its heart of hearts that these were failures, either of principle or execution. Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles. George Tenet's WMD 'slam-dunk,' Vice President Cheney's 'we will be greeted as liberators,' Don Rumsfeld's avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves 'neo-conservative' (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others' throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000 -- with no end in sight. But not to worry: Democracy is on the march in the Middle East....

Well, glad you're finally getting it, Mr. Buckley. All I can say is, you voted for them, chum. Now you're waking up to the consequences.

(The original article can be found here.)

Good point

Here's a comment I found on AMERICAblog about the ABC 9/11 movie:

It's rather obvious to anyone with opposable thumbs and a brain stem:

To make Dems look bad they have to lie.

To make Repigs look bad they have to tell the truth.

So true. So, so true.

They have it, they exploit it.

So weird - NOT!

I'm telling you, it's enough to make me very cynical:

It's so WEIRD: the closer we get to midterms, the lower gas prices go.

-- Grant Gerver

Still more on the ABC 9/11 movie

Maybe you're tired of hearing about it but I think it's very ominous indeed that such a blatant piece of shameless propaganda was aired and that it's being disseminated to the public schools. So this morning I want to call your attention to an article in The Nation entitled "ABC 9/11 Docudrama's Right-Wing Roots" by Max Blumenthal. It's a substantial article and a bit complicated so I recommend that you read it all if you have time but I'll give you one detail here that alarmed me:

Before The Path to 9/11 entered the production stage, Disney/ABC signed David Cunningham as the film's director. Cunningham is no ordinary Hollywood journeyman. He is in fact the son of Loren Cunningham, founder of the right-wing evangelical group Youth With A Mission (YWAM). According to Sara Diamond's book Spiritual Warfare, during the 1980's YWAM "sought to gain influence within the Republican party" while assisting authoritarian governments in South Africa and Central America. Cunningham, Diamond noted, was a follower of Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme current of evangelical theology that advocates using stealth political methods to put the United States under the control of Biblical law and jettison the Constitution. Cunningham instilled his radical ideology in young missionaries by sending them to "Discipleship Training School." A former student of Cunningham's school claimed "similarities between cult mind controlling techniques and the [Discipleship Training School] program instituted by YWAM."

When the young Cunningham entered his father's ministry, he helped found an auxiliary group called The Film Institute (TFI). According to its mission statement, TFI is "dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Television industry." Cunningham has placed over a dozen interns from Youth With A Mission's
Discipleship Training School in film industry jobs "so that they can begin to impact and transform Hollywood from the inside out," according to a YWAM report.

Last June, Cunningham's TFI announced it was producing its first film, mysteriously titled Untitled History Project. "TFI's first project is a doozy," a
newsletter to YWAM members read. "Simply being referred to as: The Untitled History Project, it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!" (A web edition of the newsletter was mysteriously deleted last week after its publication by the blogger Digby, but has been cached on Google at the link above).

The following month, on July 28, the New York Post
reported that ABC was filming a mini-series "under a shroud of secrecy" about the 9/11 attacks. "At the moment, ABC officials are calling the miniseries 'Untitled Commission Report' and producers refer to it as the 'Untitled History Project,'" the Post noted.

Early on, Cunningham had recruited a young Iranian-American screenwriter named
Cyrus Nowrasteh to write the script of his secretive Untitled film. Not only is Nowrasteh an outspoken conservative, he is also a fervent member of the emerging network of right-wing people burrowing into the film industry with ulterior sectarian political and religious agendas, like Cunningham.

I am seriously worried about the likelihood of a Christain Taliban emerging in the United States. I think it's clear that the Reconstructionists are infiltrating our institutions and are engaged in subversive activities designed to undermine and eventually destroy the Constitution. I believe we ignore this grave threat to our peril.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bill Maher rules!

Take a look:

I maintain that ridiculing this president is now the most patriotic thing you can possibly do. Wait. Let the word go forth to our allies and our enemies alike. Let them know that there's a whole swath of Americans desperate to distance themselves from George Bush. And that's just Republicans running for re-election.

-Bill Maher

Too good not to share

More on that movie

and other Republican "dirty tricks" (and they are vile). I want you to go read the entire article by Robert Parry entitled "9/11's Dark Window to the Future". For now I will give you this brief excerpt:

As the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks unfolds, it has come to look less like a sad remembrance of the past and more like a troubling glimpse into the future, a window to a new-age totalitarianism that looms before the United States, where a powerful right-wing government tells lies aided and abetted by friendly media corporations.

So, even as the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee finally acknowledge some of the many Iraq War falsehoods told by George W. Bush and his senior advisers, Bush's misfeasance and malfeasance are obscured by Disney's ABC-TV "docu-drama" pinning most of the blame for the 9/11 catastrophe not on Bush, but on Democrats.

With Disney's selection of a right-wing director and with the secrecy that surrounded the project - that gave Democrats little time to react - "The Path to 9/11" also had the sickening feel of a collaboration between a giant corporation and the Republican government in power.

So, less than two months before a pivotal national election, with Americans increasingly wondering how the nation got into the mess it faces today, this joint project of Disney and pro-Bush operatives provides a narrative that focuses not on Bush blowing off CIA warnings of an impending attacks in 2001 but on events dating back to 1993.

"The Path to 9/11," which ABC touted as a public service shown "with no commercial interruptions," makes some of its right-wing judgments with sneering asides from characters, such as wondering if Attorney General Janet Reno had "any balls," and others by mixing real and fabricated events to put Democrats in the worst possible light.

When the mysterious project finally was unveiled to mainstream media reviewers and when Democrats started complaining about fabricated scenes, the right-wing media responded with a counter-attack accusing the protesting Democrats of threatening the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

In other words, at a time when Republicans control the White House, the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and increasingly the American media, the Democrats still get transformed into the ones threatening free speech, for protesting their harsh and at times false depiction in events that led to the deaths of almost 3,000 people.

There's more about how the Republicans plan to stay in power through the upcoming mid-term elections. And it's depressing.

The president's job

"My job is to protect you," he says. Take a look:

Matt Lauer: And yet you admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities. OK?

President Bush: So what? Why is that not within the law?

Matt Lauer: The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law.

President Bush: Well, we just disagree with him. Plus, my job is to protect you. And most American people, if I said [to them] that we had who we think is the mastermind of the 9/11, they would say, “Why don’t you see if you can’t get information without torturing him,” which is what we did.

Matt Lauer: I don’t want to let this “within the law issue” slip though. I mean, if, in fact, there was water boarding used with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and for the viewers, that’s basically when you strap someone to a board and you make them feel as if they’re going to drown by putting them underwater, if that was legal and within the law, why couldn’t you do it at Guantanamo? Why did you have to go to a secret location around the world?

President Bush: I’m not going to talk about techniques. And, I’m not going explain to the enemy what we’re doing. All I’m telling you is that you’ve asked me whether or not we’re doing things to protect the American people, and I want the American people to know we are doing so.

No, you uneducated, lying, disingenuous fraud. Your job is not and has never been to protect us. Your job is to preserve, protect and defend the CONSTITUTION! Why don't any of these reporters confront him about that?