Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reverse Trick or Treat

I have to confess that I'm handing out ordinary commercial big business chocolate tonight. But not next year. I've taken this article to heart. It's called "Thousands of Kids Will Give Chocolates Back Tonight, With a Message" and here's how it gets started:

NEW YORK - Traditionally, it’s the kids who receive sweets from the elders on Halloween, but that years-old ritual is getting a makeover this year in hundreds of communities across North America.

Anti-poverty activists say thousands of children will go door-to-door tonight handing out chocolates to adults in some 300 cities across the United States and Canada.

Their decision to turn the ritual on its head is part of an international campaign to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of children who are forced to work on cocoa plantations instead of going to school in developing countries.

Campaigners said on Halloween costumed children would fill streets to hand out samples of “Fair Trade Certified” chocolates as a reminder to local communities that there exists an alternative to traditional chocolates, which usually rely on child labor or other abusive processes abroad to grow and harvest the cocoa for their candies.

Calling their campaign “Reverse Trick-or-Treating,” activists said it would address the persistent problems of chronic poverty in cocoa-growing communities, abysmal working conditions, and the massive abuse of child labor in the West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire in particular, where 40 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced.

The campaign is sponsored by human rights advocacy groups including Global Exchange, the International Labor Rights Fund, Co-op America, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, along with Fair Trade chocolate companies Equal Exchange, Sweet Earth, and Theo Chocolate to raise awareness among children and grown-ups about Fair Trade Certified chocolate as a solution to labor abuses in the cocoa industry.

Fair Trade Certified farmers are required to abide by international labor laws that prohibit illegal child labor. In addition, the Fair Trade system ensures that farmers receive a fair, stable price for their cocoa and that environmentally sustainable farming practices are applied.

Sounds like the right thing to do to me. Someone needs to speak up for the children of the world. And if the parents got a fair wage for their labor, the children wouldn't have to work.

All Hallow's Eve

Tonight, beloved, the veil between the worlds is very thin. This is the night to remember our blessed dead, to realize that their lives have "changed, not ended" and that they remain a part of our awareness and experience if we welcome them and give them hospitality in our hearts.

Whatever our belief system, we can perform a ritual of thanksgiving for their contribution to who and what we are. And, if this is in keeping with our convictions, we can do prayers and meditations for their benefit as they continue to grow and develop in the next life.

So let us remember, let us give thanks, and let us celebrate!
May all beings be happy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The earth

We need to pay attention to this:

The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and those who are killing it have addresses and names.

--Maria Gilardin

Presidential coup?

Abortion and the law

Let's get one thing clear: I'm against abortion. I think it's a tragedy no matter what the circumstances. I definitely think it is the taking of a life. But I don't think women should be punished by having to put their lives or their fertility at risk in order to have one. And because I think abortion is the taking of a life I want to support what will really reduce the number of abortions - not what will make abortion foes feel self-righteous about it all.

It has clearly been demonstrated that abortion rates are lowest where it is legal and where birth control is easily available.

Now it is also clear that criminalizing abortion does not make it less likely to happen. It does, however make it less likely to be safe. Take a look at this article called "Abortion rates same whether legal or not":

LONDON - Women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where it is legal, according to research published Friday.

In a study examining abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, experts also found that abortion rates are virtually equal in rich and poor countries, and that half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe.

The study was done by Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute in the United States and colleagues from the World Health Organization. It was published in an edition of The Lancet medical journal devoted to maternal health.

“The legal status of abortion has never dissuaded women and couples, who, for whatever reason, seek to end pregnancy,” Beth Fredrick of the International Women’s Health Coalition in the U.S. said in an accompanying commentary.

Maternal mortalityAbortion accounts for 13 percent of maternal mortality worldwide. About 70,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. An additional 5 million women suffer permanent or temporary injury.

“The continuing high incidence of unsafe abortion in developing countries represents a public health crisis and a human rights atrocity,” Fredrick wrote.

Five MILLION women suffer injury from unsafe abortions EVERY YEAR. And 70,000 die. That is truly an atrocity. Let's keep abortions safe, legal, and rare.

Priorities, people. Priorities.

The CNN website has an article up entitled "Cheney hunting trip under fire for Confederate flag". Take a look:

UNION VALE, New York (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney spent about eight hours hunting Monday at a secluded Hudson Valley gun club where well-heeled enthusiasts shoot ducks and pheasants.

It was Cheney's second visit to Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club in Dutchess County, about 70 miles north of New York City. The previous trip was in fall 2001.

Although a heavy police presence kept the media and curious local residents at a distance, Cheney's visit did stir up a bit of controversy when a New York Daily News photographer snapped a picture of a small Confederate flag hanging inside a garage on the hunt club property.

The photo was shown to New York City civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, who issued a statement demanding that the vice president "leave immediately, denounce the club and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate and murder to black people."

Look, I agree with Al Sharpton, okay? But where's the outrage about the suffering of the poor ducks and pheasants? Notice it's a "gun club" where people "shoot ducks and pheasants" - not where they hunt them. The poor birds don't have a chance. Cheney likes so-called "canned hunts" where the birds are domestically raised and then released just to be shot. The cruelty is simply beyond horrible. People who are so callous about the suffering of non-human sentient beings are also likely to be cavalier about humans as well. That's not just my opinion. It's been validated by psychological research.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The need for National Health Care

When I presented at the Emergency Room of St. Francis Hospital with acute appendicitis back in late August, I was told there would be a seven and a half hour wait. I actually only waited about five hours because I collapsed on the floor and couldn't get up even though someone on staff demanded that I sit in a chair while I waited.

The reason for the wait, of course, is because emergency rooms, by law, are not allowed to turn anyone away and are therefore used as a primary care facility for the uninsured. Most of the cases seen there are not true emergencies. Or many would not have been if the patients had received appropriate medical care before the situation had progressed to a state of urgency.

Who can claim that such is a desirable state of affairs? Even the rich sometimes have to use emergency rooms.

I want to call your attention to an article called "Say Yes to National Health Care" by Michael Hochman and David Himmelstein. Here's part of what it says:

As doctors at an urban hospital, we see uninsured patients in the emergency room with serious illnesses that easily could have been prevented with appropriate preventive care. We waste countless hours filling out unnecessary insurance forms. And we listen to patients complain about the complexities and hassles of navigating the health care system.

This is why an increasing number of us on the front lines have started calling for meaningful change in the form of a single-payer system in which the government funds health care.

Next weekend, proponents of single payer will gather in Washington for the annual convention of Physicians for a National Health Program. Our group has proposed giving every U.S. resident a health care card entitling him or her to all medically necessary services. The new program would be funded by an increase in taxes, but that would be fully offset by savings from abolishing insurance premiums and many out-of-pocket health care costs. Those wanting cosmetic and other medically unnecessary services could still pay out of pocket.

Opponents of a single-payer system argue that single payer could be even more inefficient and bureaucratic than the current system. They point to other countries, such as Canada, that have national health insurance and yet have long wait times to see doctors.

But research supports the opposite conclusion. For example, a 2003 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the average overhead of U.S. insurance companies is 11.7 percent, compared with 3.6 percent for Medicare and 1.3 percent for Canada’s national health insurance program. And the waits in Canada are a result of Canada’s low level of health spending - on a per capita basis, about half that in the United States. The efficiency of Canada’s national health insurance program coupled with our current high level of health funding would yield the world’s best health care system.

These are doctors talking. We need to listen.

One positive result of a National Health Care system is that emergency rooms would finally return to being used only in bona fide emergencies. And that way, people in severe pain would be seen quickly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Christian embarrassment

Yeah, no kidding:

Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

- St. Augustine

This is from Augustine's work, De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim.

And while I'm quoting Augustine, let me add the followings one about justice:

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

This second statement is quoted by William Sloane Coffin in The Heart Is a Little to the Left.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why I bother

I have a friend who completely agrees with me politically and is horrified by what is happening in this country but who has quit paying attention and who says, "There's nothing I can do about it anyway."

Here's something written by Chris Floyd that explains why I still care and still, in my own small way, keep sounding the alarm:

Yet we must keep sounding the alarm, even in the face of almost certain defeat. What else is our humanity worth if we don't do that? And if, in the end, all that we've accomplished is to keep the smallest spark of light alive, to help smuggle it through an age of darkness to some better, brighter time ahead, is that not worth the full measure of struggle?

Maybe there's nothing I can do in terms of making results happen but I can keep the tyrants who have arisen in this country from making me just give up. And that, too, is worth the struggle.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Faith in the Constitution

I'm watching Bill Moyers Journal right now and there was a clip of Barbara Jordan saying these words:

My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.

Surely she is now turning in her grave.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Paul Rogers

Please, please, please watch this.

Yes, it's a bit lengthy but it's SO important:

Face it people: fascism is here

Here's some more Naomi Wolf. It's from her article "Fascist America, in 10 easy steps":

The ten steps

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
2. Create
secret prisons where torture takes place.
3. Develop a thug
caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
4. Set up an internal surveillance system.
5. Harass
citizens' groups.
6. Engage in
arbitrary detention and release.
7. Target key individuals.
Control the press.
9. Declare all
dissent to be treason.
10. Suspend the
rule of law.

Click through to the article for details about how each step is being manifested in the U.S.

You might also want to consider reading her new book The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.

You know, many people - not just Naomi Wolf - are sounding the alarm. I don't understand why they aren't really being heard. How is it that Bush and Cheney can have such low approval numbers and still be supported the way they are? It just doesn't make sense.

The rule of law

How can we so easily forget this?

. . . the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law OUGHT to be King; and there ought to be no other.

-- Thomas Paine

Sit down for the Constitution

Frank Ford has sent me a Naomi Wolf article entitled "Taking it to the Streets":

All right: Blackwater and other contractors have four BILLION dollars in US funds and, the New York Times reports today, almost no oversight in Iraq; wildfires are consuming acres of Southern California and many counties have been declared to be in a state of emergency — and nothing at all but a whisper of popular opposition and a prayer — nothing legal — would prevent Bush today from declaring that the National Guard is overstretched and that it is Blackwater’s torturers and murderers, recruited from Salvadoran, Ecuadoran and Nigerian paramilitaries, who will be 'maintaining order' in the 'public emergency' that is Southern California; and Mukasey has informed Congress that he has no idea what waterboarding is — which professed cluelessness alone should disqualify him from service — and that the President does not actually need to obey the law of the United States of America — which alone should alert us that if he is confirmed the game is over. Once Congress confirms someone to decide the law of the land who holds that the President is exempt from the law of the land (which assertion was, notably, an historic tipping point when Hitler asked his Reichstag to confirm a similar position about his powers in regard to the law and the constitution) it is open season on all of us.

It is time to take to the streets.

Many of you have asked about a national strike. This is the next step in a democracy movement. We need to hold monthly strikes — a word that is too scary for some, and we want to be inclusive, so rather we will urge people of all walks of life to participate in mass-action Constitution Days.

I don't know if this is going to work. There needs be a groundswell-type movement behind the idea - not just a suggestion from a few people. But something has got to happen or our constitutional government is going to be rendered a quaint bit of history.

An interesting observation

I found this comment about an article on the CNN website:

Call me a cynic but when New Orleans was drowning, FEMA and the White House were AWOL. Now a predominately wealthy Republican enclave in California experiences disaster and President Bush and his cohorts move heaven and earth to help them.

This comment was written by someone named Christopher Harris.

Christopher, I agree with you. And don't forget: During Katrina the governor of Louisiana was a Democrat. The governor of California is a Republican. It smells to high heaven as far as I'm concerned. But how many people in the media are going to point that out?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Part of why California is a tinderbox

This is from a comment on Common Dreams:

On October 23rd, 2007, an essay in the Los Angeles Times by Dorothy Green and Jamie Simons said that “agriculture uses about 80% of California’s developed water.” According to “Plant Roots” by Rex Bowlby, 80% of that 80% goes to support animal agriculture.

Eating meat wastes huge amounts of water. It takes 4,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of California beef. Feeding the average meat eater requires approximately 4,000 gallons of water a day. A vegetarian diet needs 1,200 gallons of water a day. For vegans, it is only 300 gallons of water a day.

Eating less meat or, better yet, no meat at all is a major step in the right direction.

Yes, it is - for all sorts of reasons. And don't forget: livestock is one of the primary producers of greenhouse gases.

We've got a psychotic at the helm

No, it's not from some radical blog. It's from the L.A. Times. The piece is entitled "Straitjacket Bush" and is subtitled "The president's warmongering remarks on the Iranian threat suggest he is psychotic. Really." I actually agree. Here, take a look:

Forget impeachment.

Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Because they've clearly gone mad. Exhibit A: We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war.

That would be with Iran, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the war drums. Last week, Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." On Sunday, Cheney warned of "the Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power . . . [we] cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions." On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."

Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.

Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 20, Fareed Zakaria, a solid centrist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, put it best. Citing Bush's invocation of "the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon," Zakaria concluded that "the American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. . . . Iran has an economy the size of Finland's. . . . It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are . . . allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

I have a sense of sick dread about all this.

If you read the rest of the article, you'll see what Cheney's role is in the situation.

Dumber than dirt

Oh dear. You really must read Mark Morford's column entitled "American kids, dumber than dirt; Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history". Here's a sample:

I have this ongoing discussion with a longtime reader who also just so happens to be a longtime Oakland high school teacher, a wonderful guy who's seen generations of teens come and generations go and who has a delightful poetic sensibility and quirky outlook on his life and his family and his beloved teaching career.

And he often writes to me in response to something I might've written about the youth of today, anything where I comment on the various nefarious factors shaping their minds and their perspectives and whether or not, say, EMFs and junk food and cell phones are melting their brains and what can be done and just how bad it might all be.His response: It is not bad at all.

It's absolutely horrifying.

My friend often summarizes for me what he sees, firsthand, every day and every month, year in and year out, in his classroom. He speaks not merely of the sad decline in overall intellectual acumen among students over the years, not merely of the astonishing spread of lazy slackerhood, or the fact that cell phones and iPods and excess TV exposure are, absolutely and without reservation, short-circuiting the minds of the upcoming generations. Of this, he says, there is zero doubt.
Now, you may think he's merely a curmudgeon, a tired old teacher who stopped caring long ago. Not true. Teaching is his life. He says he loves his students, loves education and learning and watching young minds awaken. Problem is, he is seeing much less of it. It's a bit like the melting of the polar ice caps. Sure, there's been alarmist data about it for years, but until you see it for yourself, the deep visceral dread doesn't really hit home.

He cites studies, reports, hard data, from the appalling effects of television on child brain development (i.e.; any TV exposure before 6 years old and your kid's basic cognitive wiring and spatial perceptions are pretty much scrambled for life), to the fact that, because of all the insidious mandatory testing teachers are now forced to incorporate into the curriculum, of the 182 school days in a year, there are 110 when such testing is going on somewhere at Oakland High. As one of his colleagues put it, "It's like weighing a calf twice a day, but never feeding it."

But most of all, he simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens' decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words "agriculture," or even "democracy." Not a single student could do it.

Look, I can't do the article justice with these excerpts. Please go read the whole thing. Read it and weep.

Today's QuickVote (from CNN)

Take a look:

Do you think climate change is avoidable?

Yes - 33%

No - 67%

Well, it's a bit hard to interpret this. I guess the 67% of people know that climate change is happening. I hope that they don't also think there's no point in trying slow it down and then stop it. Likewise, I hope that the people who do think it's avoidable realize that we have to take radical action.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ice melts, seas rise

It's happening folks:

ILULISSAT, Greenland (CNN) -- From the air, Greenland's ice sheet, the second largest on Earth, appears to be perfectly still.

But below the surface, the ice sheet is in constant motion, as ice built up in the interior pushes toward the coast in the form of massive glaciers. During warmer months, ice from these glaciers melts into the ocean.

It's an age-old process that scientists say has speeded up in recent decades because of global warming.

The fear is that melting ice from Greenland and other Arctic areas could cause sea levels to rise enough to flood low-lying cities, such as Shanghai, China, and New York City, displacing millions of people in the process.
[Climate scientist, Dr. Konrad] Steffen hopes his prediction of a three-foot rise in global sea level by 2100 won't become a reality. But he warned that even if we are able to reduce the world's carbon output from cars and power plants, it will take a long time for Earth's climate to stop warming and seas to stop rising.

"Even if we reduce our carbon dioxide output, the climate will continue to warm," he said. "So even by stopping the increase of carbon dioxide today, we will have a warming, we will have sea level increase."

We are reaping what we have sown.

Leno again!

Dripping sarcasm, no?

And a new study says that screeners at L.A. International Airport” missed “75% of the fake bombs that were sent through the lines. It’s unbelievable. However, they did confiscate 100% of people’s water bottles. So you have to go buy a new one at the airport gift shop for five bucks a piece. They did get that.

- Jay Leno

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


This is an English translation of a Polish poem:

Nothing has changed.
The body is a reservoir of pain;
it has to eat and breathe the air, and sleep;
it has thin skin and the blood is just beneath it;
it has a good supply of teeth and fingernails;
its bones can be broken; its joints can be stretched.
In tortures, all of this is considered.

Nothing has changed.
The body still trembles as it trembled
before Rome was founded and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are just what they were, only the earth has shrunk
and whatever goes on sounds as if it’s just a room away.

Nothing has changed.
Except there are more people,
and new offenses have sprung up beside the old ones–
real, make-believe, short-lived, and nonexistent.
But the cry with which the body answers for them
was, is, and will be a cry of innocence
in keeping with the age-old scale and pitch.

Nothing has changed.
Except perhaps the manners, ceremonies, dances.
The gesture of the hands shielding the head
has nonetheless remained the same.
The body writhes, jerks, and tugs,
falls to the ground when shoved, pulls up its knees,
bruises, swells, drools, and bleeds.

Nothing has changed.
Except the run of rivers,
the shapes of forests, shores, deserts, and glaciers.
The little soul roams among those landscapes,
disappears, returns, draws near, moves away,
evasive and a stranger to itself,
now sure, now uncertain of its own existence,
whereas the body is and is and is
and has nowhere to go.

-- Wislawa Szymborska

(Thanks to Frank Ford who sent me this cartoon.)

Jim Hightower speaks out

Not that he hasn't been speaking out all along. But now he sounds the alarm with urgency. The article is entitled "Is a Presidential Coup Under Way?" and here's part of what it says:

Separation of powers. Rule of law. Checks and balances. These may seem to us moderns to be little more than a set of dry, legal precepts that we had to memorize in high-school history class but need not concern us now. After all, the founders (bless their wigged heads!) established these principles for us back in 17-something-or-other, so we don't really have to worry about them in 2007. Think again. These are not merely arcane phrases of constitutional law, but the very keystones of our democracy, essential to sustaining our ideal of being a self-governing people, free of tyrants who would govern us on their own whim. The founders knew about tyranny. The monarch of the time, King George III, routinely denied colonists basic liberties, spied on them and entered their homes at will, seized their property, jailed anyone he wanted without charges, rounded up and killed dissidents, and generally ruled with an iron fist. He was both the law and above the law, operating on the twin doctrines of "the divine rule of kings" and "the king can do no wrong."

(Alert: Ready or not, the following is a high-school refresher course on American government. There will be a test.) At the front of the founders' minds was the necessity of breaking up the authority of their new government in order to avoid re-creating the autocracy they had just defeated. The genius of their structure was that legislating, administering, and judging were to be done by three separate but coequal branches, each with powers to check the other two, and none able to aggregate all three functions into its own hands (a result that James Madison called the very definition of tyranny). Just as important, to deter government by whim, all members of the three branches were to be subject to the laws of the land (starting with the Constitution and Bill of Rights), with no one above the law. As Thomas Paine said, "The law is king."

These were not legal niceties but core restraints designed to protect citizens from power grabs by ambitious autocrats. Such restrictions also make our country stronger by vetting policies through three entities rather than one. This balanced authority helps avoid many serious policy mistakes (or at least offers a chance to correct them later), and it is intended to prevent the one mistake that's fatal to democracy -- allowing one branch to seize the power to rule unilaterally.
Now, however, come two arrogant autocrats like we've never seen in the White House. George W and his snarling enabler, Dick Cheney, are making a power grab so unprecedented, so audacious, so broad and deep, so secretive, so stupefying, and so un-American that it has not yet been comprehended by the media, Congress, or the public. The dictionary defines "coup" not just as an armed takeover in some Third World country, but as "a sudden and decisive action in politics, especially one affecting a change of government illegally or by force."

Constantly waving the bloody flag of 9/11 and swaggering around in commander-in-chief garb, the BushCheney duo are usurping authority from Congress, the courts, and the people, while also asserting arbitrary power that does not belong to the presidency. Their coup is changing our form of government, rewriting the genius of the founders by imposing a supreme executive that functions in secret and insists that it is above the law, unaccountable either to congressional oversight or to judicial review.

Go read the rest of the article (which Frank Ford called to my attention) and find out why this situation is so much worse than previous abuses of power by the executive branch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sent to me by Tom Vinson

Today's QuickVote (from CNN)

I think this is really interesting. People know. They really do.

Do man-made chemicals in plastics or textiles pose a threat to your health?

Yes - 86%

No - 14%

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We really ARE all in it together

The article is entitled "Whose Values?" and here's an excerpt:

For too long, the Right wing has peddled us-versus-them values, pitting all of us against each other to distract us from the real problems. The problem in our society, we’re told, is the gay folks or the Muslims or the immigrants. The solution is to wall ourselves up, launch endless wars, abolish Affirmative Action.
Maybe it’s time we start talking about real American values, where we take care of each other and respect each other and recognize that we’re all in it together. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. That is the way the world is made.” He didn’t exclude immigrants or gay people or people of color from that web. Nor did Jesus. “Have we not all one father, has not one God created us?” The passage doesn’t read, “We all have one creator and are equal except for this list which I shall now read…” The Right wing has force-fed us the idea that we must compete with each other, that your rights infringe on my rights, that justice is a zero-sum game.

But the Right is wrong. The story of America is, and has always been, that we’re all in it together. Native communities spoke of the interconnected web of community long before Martin Luther King. The pioneers built their communities not through go-it-alone individualism but communal wagon trains and cooperation. Most everything that anyone has ever achieved in our country has been with the help of others, from the family and community that support us to the government which educates us, paves our roads, provides our drinking water. American values are based on mutual need and mutual respect. These are the values we should be talking about — and making the candidates listen!

Whether the so-called conservatives want to believe it or not, we are all in it together. If we destroy the middle class, there will be nobody to buy the goods made by all the outsourced jobs the wealthy classes have shipped overseas so as to maximize profits. If we destroy the earth, even the rich will have no place to live. You know, I can understand selfishness (even if I don't approve of it.) What I can't understand is stupidity. You would think simple enlightened self-interest would motivate the people in power to support cooperation and sustainability.

A tiny ripple of hope

I hope this is true:

Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

~ Robert Kennedy ~

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Plame on 60 Minutes tomorrow night

I'm linking you to an article entitled "CBS confirms 2006 Raw Story scoop: Plame's job was to keep nukes from Iran". Now just take a look:

CBS News has confirmed, in advance of a 60 Minutes interview with outed CIA agent Valerie Plame to be run this Sunday, that Plame "was involved in operations to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons."

"Our mission was to make sure that the bad guys, basically, did not get nuclear weapons," Plame told 60 Minutes. Plame also indicated that her outing in 2003 had caused grave damage to CIA operations, saying, "All the intelligence services in the world were running my name through their databases" to see where she had gone and who she had met with.
CBS states further that Plame "was involved in one highly classified mission to deliver fake nuclear weapons blueprints to Tehran. It was called Operation Merlin, and it was first revealed in a book by investigative reporter James Risen."

Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Robert Novak ought to be prosecuted for treason.

Not just in Jena

Oh, this is really, really horrible. I did not know this:

When he reached his third-story workstation at a construction site near Pittsburgh two weeks ago, Errol Madyun saw the noose -- thick, neatly knotted and strong enough to hang a man.

"It was intimidating," said Madyun, a black ironworker.

More than 400 miles south in
North Carolina, Terry Grier, superintendent of Guilford County Schools, saw the same type of noose last month at predominantly black T.W. Andrews High near Greensboro.

"It was huge," Grier, who is white, said of a noose he discovered hanging from a flagpole, one of four nooses placed at the school. "I became very angry. Part of what you think is it's a copycat of Jena."

Law enforcement authorities, including the
Justice Department, are expressing concern over a recent spate of noose sightings in the aftermath of events in Jena, the small Louisiana town that has been engulfed by racial strife and was the scene of a recent civil rights demonstration.

Nooses have been looped over a tree at the
University of Maryland, knotted to the end of stage-rigging ropes at a suburban Memphis theater, slung on the doorgknob of a black professor's office at Columbia University in New York, hung in a locker room at a Long Island police station, stuffed in the duffel bag of a black Coast Guard cadet aboard a historic ship, and draped around the necks of black dolls in the Pittsburgh suburbs. The hangman's rope has become so prolific, some say, it could replace the Nazi swastika and the Ku Klux Klan's fiery cross as the nation's reigning symbol of hate.

"I think the noose is replacing the burning cross in the minds of many white people as the primary symbol of the Klan," said Mark Potok, editor of Intelligence Report, a magazine published by the
Southern Poverty Law Center that examines hate groups.

The above excerpt is from a Washington Post article found here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday cat blogging!


Another good one from Jay!

Oh, this is rich:

Isn't that amazing, Obama and Cheney related? Dick Cheney now has more blacks and gays in his own family than in the entire Republican Party.

--Jay Leno

Climate change and the bottom line

Have the people in power never heard the expression "penny wise, pound foolish"?

Here's something from an article called "Economic Costs of Climate Change ‘Will Affect Every American’":

NEW YORK - Independent economists and environmentalists are warning of dire consequences for the U.S. economy if policy makers fail to take urgent action on climate change.

“Climate change will effect every American economically in a significant and dramatic way,” said Matthias Ruth, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Environmental Research.

In a new study released this week, Ruth observed that further delays in tackling climate change would not only cause greater damage to the U.S. economy, but would also raise the future cost of dealing with natural disasters.

The authors of the study, entitled “The U.S. Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction,” say their efforts to analyze the economic research done in the past and pull in other relevant data make the study the first of its kind.

The costs of climate change inaction is likely to be much higher than the required spending on cuts in carbon emissions, the report’s authors said, adding that the United States can expect to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to its infrastructure, agriculture, and manufacturing sector if more isn’t done soon to slow climate change.

I just hope these idiots live long enough to see the damage they've done by their incredibly stupid policies. Knowing them, however, they'll probably find a way to blame the consequences on somebody else.

Neo-conservative Sermon on the Mount

Found in a comment on Alternet:

Blessed are those rich in arms,
for they can take the kingdoms with oil.

Blessed are those who kill,
for they shall make the "others" mourn.

Blessed are the powerful,
they shall take over the earth.

Blessed are those with money and influence,
they can buy what they want.

Blessed are the conquerors,
for they shall obtain all the oil.

Blessed are the pure in words only,
for they see male prostitutes on the sly.

Blessed are the warmongers,
for they shall be called Republicans.

-- Rhonda J. Greenhaw Wood

More on the fundies and the military

It's an Alternet story called "Building God's (Christian) Army". And it's very disturbing. Here are some samples:

At Speicher base in Iraq, U.S. Army Spec. Jeremy Hall got permission from a chaplain in August to post fliers announcing a meeting for atheists and other nonbelievers. When the group gathered, Specialist Hall alleges, his Army major supervisor disrupted the meeting and threatened to retaliate against him, including blocking his reenlistment in the Army.

Months earlier, Hall charges, he had been publicly berated by a staff sergeant for not agreeing to join in a Thanksgiving Day prayer.

On Sept. 17, the soldier and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed suit against Army Maj. Freddy Welborn and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, charging violations of Hall's constitutional rights, including being forced to submit to a religious test to qualify as a soldier.
Col. David Antoon (ret.), [an] alumnus of the [Air Force Academy] and now a 747 commercial pilot, says his heart was broken when he took his son, Ryan, to an orientation at the academy in the spring of 2004. An overt evangelistic approach during part of the orientation so upset them, he says, that they decided his son would reject the treasured appointment and instead go to Ohio State University.

"My son had dreamed of doing what I had done, but it was no longer the institution I went to," Colonel Antoon says, his voice cracking with emotion.
Weinstein -- an intense, voluble attorney who prizes blunt, no-holds-barred language -- has struck more than one nerve with his bird-dogging. He says numerous threats have been made on his life. Last week, the front window of his house was shot out for the second time. After the lawsuit was filed, talk of "fragging" (killing) Specialist Hall surfaced on some military blogs. The Army is investigating.
Several conservative Christian ministries publicly proclaim an evangelistic aim "to transform the nations of the world through the militaries of the world," and they are active at US military installations in many countries.

Yeah, like it's really "Christian" of them to issue death threats and shoot out people's windows.

Look, if Jesus had wanted us to spread the gospel through military conquest, he wouldn't have told Peter to put away his sword and he would have established a military-style organization. These people are not Christians. They may be Christianists but they are not followers of the Prince of Peace.

Your tax dollars at work

This is just stupid. And another example of Democratic spinelessness:

DEMOCRATIC leaders are right to contest President Bush’s veto of their bill to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance program. But sadly, their “bipartisan compromise” will leave millions of young Americans vulnerable to sickness and suffering of the most preventable kind.

To entice Republicans to support the bill, the House of Representatives agreed to increase money for abstinence-only sex education by $28 million, to a total of about $200 million a year. Abstinence-only courses, the only form of federally financed sex ed, teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to cause psychological and physical harm.

If that were true, our health care system would be not only broken, but besieged. A 2002 survey found that 93 percent of American adults had had premarital sex by the age of 30.

In addition to provoking shame about a nearly universal activity, abstinence-only sex education is ineffective and dangerous. Last April, a 10-year study found that students who took abstinence-only courses were no more likely to abstain from sex than other students. Previous studies revealed that abstinence-only students avoid using contraception.

Programs in public schools teach patently false information like “the chances of getting pregnant with a condom are one out of six” and H.I.V. “may be in your body for a long time (from a few months to as long as 10 years or more) before it can be detected.”

The results are tragic. The United States has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world (about the same as Ukraine’s), and the highest abortion rate in the Western world. Sexually transmitted infections like syphilis and gonorrhea are on the rise for the first time since the 1980s, and chlamydia is being diagnosed twice as often as it was a decade ago.

Look, my religion teaches me not to hate. But I really have to WORK not to hate these people!

By the way, the above passage is from a New York Times op-ed piece entitled "Abstinence 1, S-Chip 0".

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oh, this is wonderful!

Great, great snark:

According to legend, while running for the presidency, Adlai Stevensen was approached by a supporter who said, "Mr. Stevenson, every thinking American supports you!" Stevenson is said to have replied: "That's not good enough, ma'am. We need a majority!"


And a good one, too:

How can one defend a system that creates wealth by making the majority poor?

--Henry C. K. Liu

Democrats disappoint AGAIN

Now, if you think I'm turning cynical just take a look at this:

A Democratic attempt to push through new restrictions on government eavesdropping collapsed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, after Republican opponents launched a ploy that would have forced the bill's supporters to cast a vote seeming to side with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Democrats cried foul and pulled the bill from consideration. They vowed to press on, but Republicans quickly claimed victory, predicted the measure was dead and called for a bipartisan rewrite.

Bush had also lobbied aggressively against the measure, warning that it would weaken the United States in the fight against terrorists.

"It's sort of that Pavlovian instinct, every time the president says you're soft on terror, they (the Democrats) roll over and play dead," said Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Man, it's enough to make a saint swear.

Silence must be heard

The REAL reason for that veto

Well bully for him:

Defending his rejection of a popular children's health program expansion, Bush said his veto power gives him leverage. "That's one way to ensure that I am relevant," he said. "That's one way to ensure that I am in the process. And I intend to use the veto."


How many children will suffer and die so that Bush can feel "relevant"?

The whole story is in an article from the Washington Post called "Bush Declares That He Remains Relevant".

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"A grave injustice"

I agree with this:

When crack cocaine possession means 24 years in prison and manslaughter means only 3, you know something is seriously wrong with the U.S. criminal justice system.

Read all about it here.

Now Bush is targeting birth control

You would think that abortion opponents would be highly motivated to make contraception easily available (and affordable) to everybody, wouldn't you. But no. Take a look at this excerpt from an article called "Bush taps birth control critic to head family planning programming":

President Bush's choice for heading family planning programming within the Department of Health and Human Services is a critic of birth control.

"Susan Orr, most recently an associate commissioner in the Administration for Children and Families, was appointed Monday to be acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs," reports the
Washington Post. "She will oversee $283 million in annual grants to provide low-income families and others with contraceptive services, counseling and preventive screenings."

Orr was quoted in a 2001 article in the Post as supporting a Bush proposal to end a requirement that health insurance plans for federal employees contain coverage for birth control. "We're quite pleased," she said about the plan at the time, "because fertility is not a disease."

"It’s not a medical necessity that you have it," Orr said of contraception.

She is also a former senior director with the
Family Research Council, a conservative organization promoting abstinence education programs and standing against federal funding for contraception.

What can I say? (Deep, deep sigh....)


This is from All Hat No Cattle:

Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, 24%, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

So why don't the Democrats pounce? You know the Republicans would if the situation were reversed. Very troubling and very bewildering.

Bush has "diminshed" America

Lou Dobbs

Okay. I'm no fan of Lou Dobbs - mainly because of his irrational stand against immigration. But just take a look at what he says in a CNN article entitled "Beware the lame duck":

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Diehard GOP faithful, the dwindling number of Bush loyalists and political pundits of every stripe and medium seem obsessed these days with defining or discerning the "legacy of George W. Bush."

Frankly, I spend more time worrying about whether or not the United States can survive the remaining 15 months of his ebbing presidency.

There is little mystery about what future historians will consider to be the legacy of the 43rd president of the United States. Those historians are certain to describe the first presidential administration of the 21st century with terms such as dissipation and perversion.

Bush campaigned for the Republican Party's nomination eight years ago, styling himself as a compassionate conservative. He's amply demonstrated that he is neither.

Although many conservatives refuse to accept the reality, George W. Bush is a one-world neo-liberal who drove budget and trade deficits to record heights while embracing faith-based economic policies that perversely require only blind allegiance to free markets and free trade, without regard for consequence.

This president pursues a war without demanding of his generals either success or victory and accepts the sacrifice of our brave young men and women in uniform while asking nothing of our people or the nation at a time of war.

Sadly, this president has diminished a great nation and may diminish it further.

Although Lou Dobbs and I disagree on the specific reasons for this (read the rest of the article to see what I mean), we do agree that Bush has diminished the United States. Seriously and dangerously.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The best Leno remark yet

This is exactly right:

President Bush said that Congress needs to give him more power to spy on Americans by making changes to the Protect America Act. Did you ever notice they always give these pieces of legislation names you can't disagree with? The Protect America Act. ... Give it a fair name. At least call it the Ignore The Constitution Act.

--Jay Leno

PLEASE don't shop at Wal-Mart

Just watch it. It's only a few seconds long:

Pure evil

I'm talking about CAFTA which Costa Rica just ratified by a razor thin margin.

Did you know that the terms of the treaty require that Costa Rica basically dismantle their public sector which would mean the total de-nationalization of medicine, social services and agriculture?

Did you know that Bush threatened Costa Rica with economic reprisals (which he did not have the power to do) if they did not support the treaty? And that even after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wrote to the ambassador from Costa Rica assuring him that such reprisals could not happen, that Bush repeated his threats right before the referrendum.

Please take a look at this excerpt from a page on the Public Citizen website:

That Sunday’s referendum resulted in narrow passage is not surprising given considerable intervention by the Bush administration and a massive, well-funded campaign for the pact led by Costa Rica’s president and pushed heavily by the corporate sector and much of Costa Rica’s media. The Bush administration repeatedly threatened to remove Costa Rica’s existing Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade preferences if the public rejected CAFTA, even though the program was made permanent in 1990 and only an act of Congress could terminate it. (A tiny percentage of Costa Rica’s U.S. exports enjoys duty-free benefits under a CBI add-on program that was approved in 2000. The tremendously popular program, which covers nearly two dozen countries and cannot be removed for rejection of an FTA, is set for renewal next year.)

“Right now, we see the same duplicity with the proposed NAFTA expansion to Peru, where proponents claim that implementing the Peru agreement is critical to building a positive U.S. image in the region,” Wallach said. “Yet if these agreements are good foreign policy, why did the Bush administration also threaten to remove existing Andean trade preferences to force the deal over the opposition of the Peruvian public as well as its religious, indigenous and labor leaders?”

The U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Mark Langdale, was slammed with a rare formal denunciation before Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal in August after he waged a lengthy campaign to influence the vote on CAFTA. As part of that, Langdale employed misleading threats and suggested there would be economic reprisals if CAFTA were rejected. In response, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in late September demanding the cessation of Langdale’s interventions. “Even the perception of such interference harms the U.S. image in a region already suspicious of our intentions,” Sánchez wrote. “If we are to be seen as respecting democracy, sovereignty, and economic development, we must not interfere in any way with the historic popular referendum on CAFTA in Costa Rica, the region’s oldest and strongest democracy.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in late September sent a letter to Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States correcting Langdale’s false threats that Costa Rica would lose its CBI trade preferences if the public rejected CAFTA. “Participation in CBI is not conditioned on a country’s decision to approve or reject a free trade agreement with the United States, and we do not support such a linkage,” Pelosi and Reid wrote. Despite this, Bush’s U.S. Trade Representative renewed the threats on Thursday, and the White House issued a statement repeating the threats on Saturday – just hours before the vote.

“Only two years after CAFTA squeezed through Congress on a one-vote margin, the narrowest margin ever for a trade deal, nearly half of Costa Rica’s public took a strong stand, in the face of campaign trickery and lies, against the damaging agreement,” said Todd Tucker, research director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division and author of the CAFTA Damage Report. “No more countries should be subjected to the damaging policies imposed by overreaching ‘trade’ agreements.”

Can you imagine the DEATHS that are going to result from this? The displacement of peasant farmers? The denial of medical care? How DARE we demand that another country dismantle its social safety net? How DARE we?

UPDATE: CAFTA threatens Costa Rica's rice industry.

UPDATE 2: Costa Rica’s CAFTA “Si” vote called into question

Notice how Bush insisted on protections for the U.S. sugar industry but demanded that protections be eliminated for Costa Rica's rice industry.

Kids and health care

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gothic literature and reality

I just want to steer you to a short but insightful piece by Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield called "Gothic America". Here's a sample:

Gothic literature was a response to the prevailing Enlightenment Rationalist principles upon which our country was founded. ER assumed not only that “all men are created equal”, but that this is a reasonable and agreeable, rational observation. Further, our Founding Fathers separated church and state because kings rule by divine right, which was considered not rational. If I say, for example, that God told me to fully fund health insurance for everyone in the country, you’d be hard pressed to argue rationally against my conviction. So we keep the worlds separate; secularism for the government, and religion on our private time.

Gothic writers saw a problem with that: they, being some of the first psychological writers, assumed that humans are composed of two sides: rational and irrational, secular and religious, scientific and superstitious. Further, they declared that the more one tries to run away from one’s ‘other side’, the more one runs into it-what Freud later called the “Return of the repressed”.

So gothic explains not only Larry Craig but the war in Iraq. For the former, it says that when one condemns gays, one will (in some form) produce the very gayness in oneself that one is trying to flee via condemnation. On a national level, call other people “terrorists” and deny that you are a terrorist (in some form), and produce the very terrorism you are trying to eradicate. In short, as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” Or, as (Bill) Clinton said, there is no longer an us and a them, there is just an us.

Go read the article for the conclusion. It won't take but a minute. And it's good.

Vigil for children sent me the following message today:

When President Bush decided to veto children's health care, the family of MoveOn member Virginia T. in Pennsylvania was among the millions affected:

My daughter is 16 and is in Advanced Placement classes in high school. She has children's health insurance because she's a Type 1 diabetic. Without this insurance, we would have to pay $728 per month just on her meds. Bush vetoed MY child. Should we forfeit her meds and let her die so he can afford another bomb?

This week, Congress will vote on whether to override Bush's veto. On Tuesday, we're holding candlelight vigils around the country to highlight the stories of real people and urge Congress to do the right thing. Can you attend a local Vigil to Save Children's Health Care in Sand Springs this Tuesday at 6:00 PM? Here are the details and a link to RSVP:

WHAT: Vigil to Save Children's Health Care in Sand Springs
WHERE: Sand Springs Triangle
WHEN: Tuesday, Oct 16 2007, 6:00 PM
RSVP—Click here.

A veto-proof majority has already voted for kids' health care in the Senate. To win in the House, we need to keep the votes we have and pressure several more members to switch sides. Now is the time to ratchet up the pressure on every member of Congress to override Bush's veto.Media have already shown interest in reporting on local events that highlight this important issue—so we need good crowds at Tuesday's events. If you have kids, bring them! We'll hear stories from families affected by kids' health insurance and light candles in their honor. Afterward, we'll pass out fliers to the public—asking them to call Congress.Here are some more examples of MoveOn member stories we'll hear at Tuesday night's vigils:

Poor children are not disposable. My cousin died at age 16 from a 'cold and cough'...and my aunt's inability to obtain an x-ray that would have shown the tumor crushing his lungs and heart. Despite poverty, his three brothers grew up to be good, productive, and intelligent tradesmen. Who knows what he would have accomplished if he was insured?

Christine R., Somerville, MA

Several years ago my cousin John, then in his early teens, was diagnosed with bone cancer. Today he is 'living strong' and cancer free. Without the Colorado children's health insurance program, he would not be here today. SCHIP provides to poor and working families the hope that children who get sick can have access to quality care and most importantly can get well. Congress should immediately override the president's veto and should pass the children's health insurance program—our kids deserve it.

Geraldine M., Alexandria, VA

There are literally millions of stories like these. Together, we can pressure every member of Congress to do the right thing and stand up to President Bush on behalf of America's children.
Now, if you are reading this from outside the Tulsa area, just go to the Moveon website and I'm sure you'll find details for a vigil in your area.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Contempt For The Rule of Law

I want to recommend an article called "The Beltway Establishment’s Contempt For The Rule of Law". It makes me almost as sick as the article about the Naomi Klein book I posted about below. Take a look:

The Washington Post’s Editorial Page, in the establishment-defending form of Fred Hiatt, today became but the latest Beltway appendage to urge the enactment of a special law providing amnesty to our nation’s poor, put-upon, lawbreaking telecoms:

"There is one major area of disagreement between the administration and House Democrats where we think the administration has the better of the argument: the question of whether telecommunications companies that provided information to the government without court orders should be given retroactive immunity from being sued. House Democrats are understandably reluctant to grant that wholesale protection without understanding exactly what conduct they are shielding, and the administration has balked at providing such information. But the telecommunications providers seem to us to have been acting as patriotic corporate citizens in a difficult and uncharted environment."

Let’s leave to the side Hiatt’s inane claim that these telecoms, in actively enabling the Bush administration to spy on their customers in violation of the law, were motivated by the pure and upstanding desire to be “patriotic corporate citizens” — rather than, say, the desire to obtain extremely lucrative government contracts which would
likely have been unavailable had they refused to break the law. Leave to the side the fact that actual “patriotism” would have led these telecoms to adhere to the surveillance and privacy laws enacted by the American people through their Congress in accordance with the U.S. Constitution — as a handful of actual patriotic telecoms apparently did — rather than submit to the illegal demands of the President. Further leave to the side that these telecoms did not merely allow warrantless surveillance on their customers in the hectic and “confused” days or weeks after 9/11, but for years. Further leave to the side the fact that, as Hiatt’s own newspaper just reported yesterday, the desire for warrantless eavesdropping capabilities seemed to be on the Bush agenda well before 9/11.

And finally ignore the fact that Hiatt is defending the telecom’s good faith even though, as he implicitly acknowledges, he has no idea what they actually did, because it is all still Top Secret and we are barred from knowing what happened here. For all those reasons, Hiatt’s claim on behalf of the telecoms that they broke the law for “patriotic” reasons is so frivolous as to insult the intelligence of his readers, but — more importantly — it is also completely irrelevant.
And our opinion-making elite is eagerly defending this — insisting that while the poor irrelevant souls who buy and sell drugs near the corners of their offices are real criminals and those people belong in prison, our nation’s telecoms and other high officials, when they get caught breaking the law, should have special laws written decreeing that they are immune from all consequences.

Our collective denial as a nation is very, very disturbing. Where is it going to end? Will it end at all? I shudder when I speculate about these things.

The price of so-called "freedom"

A colleague of mine asked me to join him as we were both out for a walk during a break at clergy conference last week and he told me all about Naomi Kleine's latest book, Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. (Please click through and read the description, reviews and excerpt.) Today I came across an article in New Statesman that outlines her thesis. Here's how the article starts:

How can Naomi Klein top No Logo, the most influential political polemic of the past 20 years? Her first book forensically studied the bloodstains that have splashed from the developing world’s factories and “export processing zones” on to our cheap designer lives - and it spurred the creation of the anti-globalisation movement. Today, she has produced something even bolder: a major revisionist history of the world that Milton Friedman and the market fundamentalists have built. She takes the central myth of the right - that, since the fall of Soviet tyranny, free elections and free markets have skipped hand in hand together towards the shimmering sunset of history - and shown that it is, simply, a lie.

In fact, human beings consistently and everywhere vote for mixed economies. They want the wealth that markets generate, but they also want them to be interbalanced by strong government action to make life in a market economy liveable. (Even Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were not permitted by their electorates to tinker with anything but the outer fringes of social regulation and the welfare state.) The right has been unable to accept this reality, and unable to defeat it in democratic elections. So in order to achieve their vision of “pure capitalism, cleansed of all interruptions”, they have waited for massive crises - when the population is left reeling and unable to object - to impose their vision.

Klein’s story begins with the market fundamentalists’ showroom: Chile. Milton Friedman, the apostle of pure unfettered capitalism, sent many of his finest students to Chile for years to spread the message that markets must be allowed to work their pristine logic unhindered by government. They persuaded virtually nobody. Their parties were thumpingly defeated, and the democratic socialist Salvador Allende was elected instead. So the CIA backed an anti-democratic coup by the fascist general Augusto Pinochet - and Friedman swiftly stepped in to design “the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere”, as Klein puts it.

And here's how it ends:

Klein’s account of this “disaster capitalism” is written with a perfectly distilled anger, channelled through hard fact. She has indeed surpassed No Logo. Today, this brilliant book should stir a tsunami of shame - and of political action by us to finally stop the shock “therapy”.

Now go read what's in between. You won't regret it.

Now what are we going to do about it?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mikey Weinstein in Tulsa

You know, the fundamentalist take-over of the Air Force Academy had dropped off my radar screen quite a while back. But it's just come back on due to an article in today's Tulsa World. The article is innocuously entitled "Author to speak Monday on religious freedom in the military". Take a look at what it's about:

A man who sued the U.S. Air Force over religious liberty issues will speak at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Temple Israel, 2004 E. 22nd Place.

Mikey Weinstein is author of "With God on Our Side" and founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, based in Albuquerque, N.M., where he lives.

He has appeared widely in the national media, advocating for his cause: the prevention of what he calls the takeover of the military by fundamentalist Christians.

Weinstein, who is Jewish, comes from a three-generation military family. He, his father, two sons and a daughter-in-law all attended U.S. military academies. A lifelong Republican, he was a military lawyer, and a White House lawyer during the Reagan Administration.

"This is absolutely not a Christian-Jewish issue," he said. "It is, however, a fundamentalist versus the Constitution issue.

"I'm at war," he said. "You're talking to a guy with the gun smoke in his face.

"We're not at war with Christianity, and not at war with evangelical Christianity.

"We are at war with a small subset of evangelical Christianity . . . premillenial, dispensational, reconstructionist, dominionist, evangelical fundamentalist Christianity, about 12.6 percent of the American public.

"Our focus is trying to stop them from completely gaining control of our honorable and noble U.S. military. We're close to losing our military," he said.

"We're talking about a national security threat internally to this country every bit as powerful and formidable in width and breadth as that which is now challenging this country externally with a resurgent Taliban and an Al-Qaida . . . that is at least as strong as it was on 9/11.

"We battle the Christian Taliban."

Those are amazingly strong words for a Republican, no less.

Now take a look at how Weinstein takes on Rush Limbaugh. What Rush said is below Weinstein's open letter so scroll on down. It's completely revolting, needless to say.

Then please read this interview with Buzz Flash to learn how a Jewish veteran was treated in a VA hospital. They took away his pain meds because he objected to being evangelized by a fundamentalist chaplain while he lay there helpless. I really didn't know these people could stoop so low.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Meditation matters

Here's a report from Georgetown University:

Several dozen concerned students gathered in Red Square on Wednesday for a candlelight vigil in support of Burmese monks, after many monks have been imprisoned or killed for taking part in demonstrations against the government in Myanmar.

Monks and many others have rallied against the military junta in recent weeks.
Laurence Freeman, a Christian monk and the director of the John Main Meditation Center, then spoke to the crowd before leading them in meditation. “It may seem strange to take a time of meditation when we do nothing and we say nothing, at a time when we are very concerned about the social and political suffering in Burma, but I think if we think about it for a moment we can see that this kind of meditation deepens our commitment to the cause of truth,” Freeman said.

If there's anything we desperately need in this troubled world, it is assuredly truth.

Lincoln the "infidel"

I rather like this:

Sandburg's retelling of Lincoln's attendance at an evangelist rally led by Peter Cartwright in 1846, in response to accusations by Cartwright's followers that he was an "infidel" - Cartwright was his opponent in his race for Congress:

In due time Cartwright said, "All who desire to lead a new life, to give their hearts to God, and go to heaven, will stand," and a sprinkling of men, women, and children stood up. Then the preacher exhorted, "All who do not wish to go to hell will stand." All stood up — except Lincoln. Then said Cartwright in his gravest voice, "I observe that many responded to the first invitation to give their hearts to God and go to heaven. And I further observe that all of you save one indicated that you did not desire to go to hell. The sole exception is Mr. Lincoln, who did not respond to either invitation. May I inquire of you, Mr. Lincoln, where are you going?"

And Lincoln slowly rose and slowly spoke. "I came here as a respectful listener. I did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance. I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness: I am going to Congress."

He went.

And more power to him, too.

This in from CNN:

Former Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work to raise awareness about global warming.

In a statement, Gore said he was "deeply honored," adding that "the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

I hope this helps persuade the naysayers to listen to his message.

Keep abortion safe

In my mind, this is the number one reason we need to keep abortion legal:

LONDON, England (AP) -- Women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where it is legal, according to research published Friday.

In a study examining abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, experts also found that abortion rates are virtually equal in rich and poor countries, and that half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe.

The study was done by Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute in the United States and colleagues from the World Health Organization. It was published in an edition of The Lancet medical journal devoted to maternal health.

"The legal status of abortion has never dissuaded women and couples, who, for whatever reason, seek to end pregnancy," Beth Fredrick of the International Women's Health Coalition in the U.S. said in an accompanying commentary.

Abortion accounts for 13 percent of maternal mortality worldwide. About 70,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. An additional 5 million women suffer permanent or temporary injury.

The best way to lower abortion rates is to address poverty and promote contraception.

Thursday, October 11, 2007