Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sowing the seeds of destruction

Here's an article by Sean Gonsalves, entitled "Military Creating 'Rods from God'", about our plans to weaponize space. It's a very worrying issue. Here are pertinent passages:

''Full-Spectrum Dominance'' comes right out of U.S. military doctrine as outlined in documents such as ''Full Spectrum Dominance and Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan FY06,'' which states that the U.S. military goal is to fight war ''in, from and through'' space, based on the Rumsfeld logic that whoever controls space will dominate earth.
As you read this, defense officials are developing plans to put weapons in space, things like hypervelocity rod bundles, which insiders call ''Rods from God,'' whose purpose is to penetrate subterranean targets.

Our policy planners and so-called leaders are provoking China and Russia in their pursuit of God-like powers to dominate the earth, which is the most dangerous form of idolatry imaginable.

Meanwhile, most Americans have never heard of this stuff, even from the ''liberal'' media, as conservative Christians, who seem to be hogging the national microphone, debate about same-sex marriage and stem-cell research.

If it's ''the kids'' and future generations we're really concerned about, we had better get more acquainted with ''full-spectrum dominance'' and re-acquaint ourselves with words like proportionality, priorities and moral discernment.

What's ironic, as the article points out, is that the defense systems proposed are demonstrably unworkable. And I am very disturbed by the name, "Rods from God". The hubris is breathtaking.

A courageous newspaper

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a scathing editorial for Memorial Day. It's entitled, "Memorial Day/Praise bravery, seek forgiveness" and speaks to the issue of the Downing Street Memo that has been relatively ignored by the mainstream press. Here's an excerpt:

In exchange for our uniformed young people's willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.

The "smoking gun," as some call it, surfaced on May 1 in the London Times. It is a highly classified document containing the minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting at 10 Downing Street in which Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair on talks he'd just held in Washington. His mission was to determine the Bush administration's intentions toward Iraq.

At a time when the White House was saying it had "no plans" for an invasion, the British document says Dearlove reported that there had been "a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington. "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The (National Security Council) had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

It turns out that former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill were right. Both have been pilloried for writing that by summer 2002 Bush had already decided to invade.

Walter Pincus, writing in the Washington Post on May 22, provides further evidence that the administration did, indeed, fix the intelligence on Iraq to fit a policy it had already embraced: invasion and regime change. Just four days before Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, Pincus writes, the National Security Council staff "put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims" about Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. The call went out because the NSC staff believed the case was weak. Moreover, Pincus says, "as the war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs." But no one at high ranks in the administration would listen to them.

If the press would just do its job, this fixing of intelligence would be seen for the impeachable offense it is. But the Washington Post buried the Pincus story on page 26. Shameful.

Monday, May 30, 2005


If you are able,
Save a place for them
Inside of you.
And save one backward glance
When you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say that you loved them,
Though you may not have always.
Take what they have left,
And what they have taught you
With their dying
And keep it your own.
And in a time
When men decide and feel safe
To call war insane,
Take one moment to embrace
Those gentle heroes
You left behind.

Written by Major Michael Davis O'Donnell, helicopter pilot; 1 January 1970, KIA, Vietnam, on March 24, 1970

Military realities

This Memorial Day I'm linking you to an article by Paul Krugman entitled, "Too few, yet too many" about deployment realities in our military. Here's some of what Krugman says:

One of the more bizarre aspects of the Iraq war has been President Bush's repeated insistence that his generals tell him they have enough troops. Even more bizarrely, it may be true - I mean, that his generals tell him that they have enough troops, not that they actually have enough. An article in yesterday's Baltimore Sun explains why.

The article tells the tale of John Riggs, a former Army commander, who "publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan" - then abruptly found himself forced into retirement at a reduced rank, which normally only happens as a result of a major scandal.

The truth, of course, is that there aren't nearly enough troops. "Basically, we've got all the toys, but not enough boys," a Marine major in Anbar Province told The Los Angeles Times.
[O]ur all-volunteer military is based on an implicit promise that those who serve their country in times of danger will also be able to get on with their lives. Full-time soldiers expect to spend enough time at home base to keep their marriages alive and see their children growing up. Reservists expect to be called up infrequently enough, and for short enough tours of duty, that they can hold on to their civilian jobs.

To keep that promise, the Army has learned that it needs to follow certain rules, such as not deploying more than a third of the full-time forces overseas except during emergencies. The budget office analysis was based on those rules.

But the Bush administration, which was ready neither to look for a way out of Iraq nor to admit that staying there would require a much bigger army, simply threw out the rulebook. Regular soldiers are spending a lot more than a third of their time overseas, and many reservists are finding their civilian lives destroyed by repeated, long-term call-ups.

You know, I actually take that ubiquitous injunction to "support our troops" seriously. Supporting them means treating them fairly. We're simply not doing that. It's no wonder the military is not able to meet recruiting goals. And that reality is fast becoming a real crisis.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I'm afraid it has happened

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.

--- Abraham Lincoln (Nov. 21, 1864 in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins)

The other abuse photos

Here's an article by the AP entitled, "Judge: Public Has Right to See Abuse Photos". This is really important, I think, and will have a big impact if the administration doesn't somehow appeal and manage to continue suppressing the photos. Here's an excerpt from the article:

A federal judge has told the government it will have to release additional pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq''s Abu Ghraib prison, civil rights lawyers said.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein, finding the public has a right to see the pictures, told the government Thursday he will sign an order requiring it to release them to the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawyers said.

The judge made the decision after he and government attorneys privately viewed a sampling of nine pictures resulting from an Army probe into abuse and torture at the prison. The pictures were given to the Army by a military policeman assigned there.
[ACLU lawyer Megan Lewis] said the judge's findings likely would clear the way for the release of other pictures of detainees taken around the world by U.S. authorities.

"I do think they could be extremely upsetting and depict conduct that would outrage the American public and be truly horrifying," she said outside court.

The judge ordered the transcript of comments made during his viewing of the pictures sealed. He did not disclose his findings in court, but said his order "will lead to production (of the pictures) or further proceedings."

"Further proceedings" presumably referred to possible appeals by government lawyers, who declined to comment as they left the hearing. A message left with a government spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

I do hope the photos make it to the light of day and that they do cause massive outrage. It's time the American public woke up to what is being done in our name.

Sins of omission

I want to share with you an article by Normal Solomon entitled, "The Silent Media Curse of Memorial Day". Solomon looks at what the news media doesn't tell us about war. Here is just one example:

Aldous Huxley observed about "triumphs of propaganda" long ago: "Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth." I thought of that comment the other night while watching a TV network. No, it wasn't Fox or MSNBC or CNN. It was PBS -- the "Frontline" show, airing a report about Iran's nuclear program. Every word of the May 24 broadcast may have been true -- yet, due to the show's omissions, the practical effect was to participate in laying media groundwork for a military attack on Iran.

"Frontline," let's remember, is supposed to be a quality show on a quality network. But predictably, the reporting bypassed key elements of nuclear proliferation dangers in the Middle East: No mention of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, now estimated at more than 200 warheads. No mention of Mordechai Vanunu, imprisoned for 18 years by the Israeli government for exposing Israel's stockpile of nuclear bombs, now facing the prospect of a return to prison for daring to speak to journalists. No mention of the U.S. government's plunge forward with development of new nuclear weapons, in violation of the same Non-Proliferation Treaty that Iran is now condemned for skirting.

High-tone media outlets claim to excel at providing context. But context is exactly what "Frontline" did not offer the viewers of its report on Iran's nuclear development. Such "silence about truth" is a prerequisite for the kind of self-righteous hypocrisy that's likely to propel a military assault on Iran.

We will be subjected to this dynamic over the Memorial Day weekend: reports that are true in what they do say but deceptive because of what they don't say. I suggest that we all pay attention and repeated ask the question: What is not being said here?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

JFK in his own words

Theodore C. Sorensen, former special counsel to President Kennedy, has published a little article in the Boston Globe entitled, "What JFK Might Tell our Leaders". These are sensible, civilized, informed words. The kind of words we are so lacking today. Here are a few samples:

To President George W. Bush on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea: ''The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. This generation of Americans has had enough -- more than enough -- of war." (American University commencement, 1963)

To President Bush on stem cell research: ''For those of us who are not expert ... we must turn, in the last resort, to objective, disinterested scientists who bring a strong sense of public responsibility and public obligation." (National Academy of Sciences, 1961)

To Vice President Dick Cheney on international organizations, alliances, and consultations: ''The United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. We are only 6 percent of the world's population . . . we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind." (University of Washington, 1961)

To Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on terrorism: ''If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." (Inaugural address, 1961)

To United Nations ambassador-designate John Bolton on diplomacy: ''Civility is not a sign of weakness. The United Nations [is] our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace." (Inaugural address, 1961)

To Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on space: ''We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding. This new ocean must be a sea of peace, [not] a new terrifying theater of war." (Rice University, 1962)

To House Majority Leader Tom Delay on fund-raising: We need ''men of integrity whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust." (Massachusetts farewell, 1961)

I still miss him.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Not really a victory

Look, I've been trying to see the positive side of the filibuster "compromise" but I've been uneasy about it from the moment we got the news of what it entails. Today I came upon an article by David Morris entitled, "The Filibuster Compromise: It's No Victory" and I have to say that I agree with him. Here are his conclusions:

The Democrats chose to make the fight on Bush's judicial nominees about saving the filibuster rather than stopping right-wing extremists from being given lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Indeed, in the last two weeks we heard nary a word about the deficiencies and the dangers of the nomination of the Gang of Three: Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen.

At stake, the Democratic Party encouraged us to believe, was not the future of the federal judiciary but the future of the Senate.
Minority Leader Harry Reid said he had 49 votes against changing the rules to eliminate the filibuster. If the Democratic Party hadn't blinked, could they have picked up two more moderate Republicans who were unwilling to see the very structure of the Senate shredded in order to pack the judiciary with extremists? We'll never know.

What if the Democrats had lost that vote? Were they then weaponless? Of course not. With unity comes power. They had threatened, vaguely, to "shut down the Senate" if the filibuster were eliminated. That was clearly within their capacity. Each Democratic Senator has at least an hour to speak on any amendment, any bill, any procedural call. That means 44 hours of every week could be spent on just a single motion.

But to shut down the Senate and gain the nation's support, the Democrats first must educate Americans that what they are fighting against are evil ends, not unfair means. The filibuster fight did not serve that educational purpose.

Only when the Democratic Party exhibits real backbone, only when it demonstrates that it is willing to take large individual and collective political risks, only when it is willing to do everything within its power to stop evil, only then will it rally the country to the task of stopping the nationwide lurch toward fanaticism.

I would so like the Democrats to manifest some fighting energy. But we're so caught up with making sure we appear civilized that we don't do what's necessary to combat the way the rabid right habitually takes us hostage. When are we going to start acting like the opposition party we are meant to be?

What the president said

See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.

All right, all right. So he meant "counteract".

But what he said was "catapult".

Freud lives.

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's another picture of Tux Rains who lives in the Paul and Adrienne Rogers household.
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Texas bigotry

Please click through and read the column by Molly Ivins entitled, "Duck and cover time: Texas lege enshrines anti-gay provision in state constitution". It reproduces part of the speech of Senfronia Thompson, a black representative from Houston, as she protests the ammendment making it constitutional to discriminate against gays. It is both inspiring and depressing at the same time. Here's an excerpt:

I have served in this body a lot of years, and I have seen a lot of promises broken... So... now that blacks and women have equal rights, you turn your hatred to homosexuals, and you still use your misguided reading of the Bible to justify your hatred. You want to pass this ridiculous amendment so you can go home and brag -- brag about what? Declare that you saved the people of Texas from what?

Persons of the same sex cannot get married in this state now. Texas law does not now recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, religious unions, domestic partnerships, contractual arrangements or Christian blessings entered into in this state -- or anywhere else on this planet Earth.

If you want to make your hateful political statements then that is one thing -- but the Chisum amendment does real harm. It repeals the contracts that many single people have paid thousands of dollars to purchase to obtain medical powers of attorney, powers of attorney, hospital visitation, joint ownership and support agreements. You have lost your way. This is obscene...

But I really encourage you to read the whole article. It's not very long. And it demonstrates just where we're headed as a country. The ammendment was passed.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A telling observation

Here's something Harry Reid said today:

As of this month, more time has passed since 9-11 than the time between Pearl Harbor and the defeat of Japan. During those three years and eight months – sixty years ago – we invaded North Africa and Normandy. We freed people from the Philippines to France. Hitler lay dead and Tojo was in chains. We had defeated fascism around the world and had begun to build the new United Nations.

But today Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, our homeland is still not secure, we’re still not energy independent, and – in many ways – Americans are less safe than we were before 9-11.

If you want to read the whole speech it is here.

Amnesty's report

I've been a supporter of Amnesty International for many years and participate in their email activism program. I've paid attention to what has been written about the organization and I have every reason to trust its overall integrity. So when Amnesty sends a warning to America's leaders, I take that very seriously. The article I want to call to your attention is by John Riley and is entitled, "Amnesty takes aim at Gitmo". Here's how it gets started:

Amnesty International Thursday called the U.S. military's anti-terror prison at Guantanamo Bay the "gulag of our times" and warned that American leaders may face international prosecution for mistreating prisoners."

When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity," said Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan at a London news conference releasing the group's annual report on global human rights, a blistering, 308-page survey.

The influential human-rights monitoring group has criticized U.S. detention practices before. But Tuesday marked its first call to close Guantanamo, and the group used unusually sharp language in demanding an independent investigation of torture and abuse of prisoners there and at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If U.S. officials don't act, other countries will, warned Amnesty's U.S. director, William Schultz. "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera, because they may find themselves under arrest," he said.

Perhaps that's what we need - for U.S. officials to be afraid to leave the country because they may be apprehended and prosecuted for crimes against humanity. The closer I get to my trip to Ireland this summer, the more I feel ashamed to be an American traveling abroad. Our image has been so justifiably tarnished, it's tragic.

"Just the facts, Ma'am"

A commenter on Smirking Chimp posted these facts about what we have in America:

55 million with no health care insurance.

9 million unemployed.

11 million long term unemployed.

A minimum wage of $5.15 an hour or $10,000 a year.

3 million illegal immigrants entering each year.

A $500 billion deficit.

400,000 jobs lost in the textile industry recently.

1,000,000 jobs outsourced to China, India and Central America.

A $220 billion drug industry that spends most of its profits on cartoonish TV commercials.

A Federal no bid contract with the drug companies that awards them an extra $500 billion in revenue.

$300 billion spent in Iraq.

$1.2 billion spent every week in Iraq.

1650 dead American soldiers killed looking for WMD

100,000 dead Iraqis killed as "collateral damage" to liberate them.

A war with no end in sight.

An educational system that is pitiful.

Depressing isn't it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Newsweek the scapegoat

There are lots of articles out there about Newsweek still and I want to bring you one by John Atcheson entitled, "Laundered, Spun and Hung Out to Dry: The Real Lesson from Last Week's Riots". It continues to dismay me that Newsweek caved in and didn't defend the accuracy of the content of its story even though the source it cited couldn't be substantiated. Here's part of what Atcheson has to say:

Just as with the Dan Rather affair, the balance of evidence suggests that Newsweek’s story was accurate, even if the sourcing was sloppy. The mistreatment of the Koran had been widely reported previously by several newspapers, and verified by US interrogators, former prisoners, the International Red Cross, and others.

When conservatives succeed -- again and again -- in making the manner in which a story critical of their interests is reported the main issue, rather than whether the story is true or not, then careless sourcing is the least of our problems.

The plain fact is, the riots and the anger that sparked them was the inevitable result of the President's policies, not a single one paragraph story in Newsweek. And letting the White House and the conservative talk meisters get away with making Newsweek the fall guy for the consequences of this administration's policy failures is an offense against the journalistic canon far more serious than how news is sourced, and far more damaging to the media’s credibility.

Let's look at the context, and the truths embedded within it. The Bush administration discarded the Geneva Convention and the rule of law in our dealings with Muslims. We’ve been guilty of torturing Arab prisoners; conducting illegal kidnappings under the rubric of "extraordinary rendition"; launching preemptive wars under false pretenses; assaulting the world with sanctimonious and arrogant lectures from the likes of General my-God-can-beat-up- your-God Boykin; and offering hypocritical support of corrupt Arab regimes in the face of high blown rhetoric about championing freedom and democracy. We have abandoned Afghanistan to war lords and drug lords, and our failures in Iraq have allowed that country to descend into chaos, and in the minds of many Arabs, turned us into occupiers, not liberators.

Newsweek is just the latest victim in this administration's desperate attempt to find a scapegoat for their botched war on terror. The fact is, the so-called war on terror is ultimately a battle for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world, and Mr. Bush’s strategy for waging that war is a policy fiasco of epic proportions.

As the Defense Policy Board said in a report released in September of 2004, outlining the failure of the US to win the war of ideas in the Muslim world, "Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies."

The right wing spin machine is determined not to let the current administration be held accountable for the mess we're in. So far, the press is letting them get away with it.

History repeats itself

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

~Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, 1933-1945

The sanitized war

Here's an article by Ed Naha entitled, "Don't look now!" about how unreported the war is. I despair sometimes of the press in this country.

Here's an excerpt:

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone but...there's a war going on and Americans are dying. I know, it's hard to believe, but trust me on this one. We can all go back to watching Michael Jackson news in a minute.

As I write this, 1,636 American troops have died in Iraq, 49 this month alone, and over 12,000 have been injured. And how is America responding to this? With a big yawn. Last week "The Los Angeles Times" printed the results of a study it conducted, tracking six newspapers and two news magazines on their coverage of the Iraq invasion from the period of September 1, 2004 to February 28 of this year. Just how many photos of American casualties had been shown to our fellow citizens during that time period?

Newsweek: 0. Time: 0. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 0. Los Angeles Times: 0. New York Times: 0. St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 0. Washington Post: 0. Seattle Times: 1.

1,636 American men and women killed in action. Almost no photographic coverage. I guess the MSM has followed the lead of Barbara Bush who, back in '03, said: "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths...? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
Anyone who reads wire service stories coming out of Iraq after a battle or a car-bombing always encounters a sentence beginning with a phrase along the lines of "an AP photographer at the scene, stated." So, assuming these photographers are armed with cameras, why is it that Americans never see the war up close and personal?
War is supposed to be upsetting.

If enough people found wars upsetting, perhaps there'd be less of them.

And that's why the press censors itself: to be the propaganda arm of the pro-war forces. As long as we think of war as a santized video game we won't be appalled enough to demand a stop to it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The filibuster "compromise"

Personally, I think that the filibuster compromise is just one more example of the Democrats caving in. What good is the filibuster if the Democrats can't use it? They agree only to use it in extreme circumstances. Well, the nominees for which the Democrats were threatening to use it are already extreme. So I don't see this as a victory.

However, the fact that hard right Republicans are outraged consoles me a little. I want to share with you a report from the Los Angeles Times by Richard Simon and Mary Curtius entitled, "Compromise in the Senate: Conservative groups accuse senators of sellout". Here's an excerpt:

Under the agreement, reached between seven Democrats and seven Republicans, three of five judicial nominees that have been blocked by Democratic-led filibusters would get floor votes, while Democrats would retain the ability to use judicial filibusters under "extraordinary circumstances."
Some liberal interest groups lobbied Democrats against making major concessions, but their reaction to the deal was tempered by their fears that they might lose the showdown.

People for the American Way called the compromise a "major defeat for the radical right" but expressed concern that it "could lead to confirmation of appeals court judges who would undermine Americans' rights and freedoms." Ralph G. Neas, the group's president, said the agreement "sends a clear and unmistakable message to Bush to consult with the Senate and send up a candidate who deserves bipartisan support" the next time he chooses a judicial nominee.

Neas said the group would continue to press for the defeat of some appellate court judges, but he said he believed that "there was enormous pressure within the Senate" to avoid another filibuster confrontation.

Of course, the Republicans can always trot out the "nuclear option" whenever it looks as if the Democrats are going to make use of the filibuster - no matter how "extraordinary" the circumstances. So what have we really gained?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Wanting a stronger safety net

Here's Paul Krugman's latest entitled, "America wants security". Krugman asserts that American's are not really happy with the administration's determination to weaken the social safety net:

It was a carefully staged Norman Rockwell scene. The street was lined with American flags; a high school band played "God Bless America."

Then, under the watchful gaze of Wal-Mart's chief operating officer, Maryland's governor vetoed a bill that would have obliged large businesses to spend more on employee health care.

The news here isn't that some politicians wrap their deference to corporate interests in the flag. The news, instead, is that Maryland's State Legislature passed a pro-worker bill in the first place. In fact, the bill passed by a veto-proof majority in the Maryland Senate, and fell just short of that margin in the House.

After November's election, the victors claimed a mandate to unravel the welfare state. But the national election was about who would best defend us from gay married terrorists. At the state level, where elections were fought on bread-and-butter issues, voters sent a message that they wanted a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.

Later Krugman explains why:

There's a very good reason voters, when given a chance to make a clear choice, increasingly support a stronger, not a weaker, social safety net: they need that net more than ever. Over the past 25 years the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure. Jobs come without health insurance; 401(k)'s vanish; corporations default on their pension obligations; workers lose their jobs more often, and unemployment lasts much longer than it used to.
At a gala dinner in his honor, Tom DeLay cited his party's recent achievements: "bankruptcy reform, class-action reform, energy, border security, repealing the death tax." All of these measures are either irrelevant to or actively hostile to the economic security of working Americans.

Yet as Mr. DeLay boasted, many Democratic members of Congress also voted in support of these measures. In so doing, they undermined their party's ability to claim that it stands for something different.

Once again I must voice my disappointment in the Democrats. We need a true opposition party in this country. Sadly we don't have one. Nevertheless, I don't recommend giving up on the Democratic Party since, really, it's our only hope. Rather I think we need to make our voices heard and insist that the party leaders grow some spine.

Krugman ends by predicting another severe depression. Remember, he is an economist. A prediction like that coming from him is very worrying indeed.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

When the President talks to God

This was sent to me by Paul Rogers. It's really something:

This is great. I don’t know how he got away with it but I bet somebody’s in serious trouble with the network heads.

I don't know who Bright Eyes is, but he performed this amazing, powerful protest song on Jay Leno's Tonight Show a few nights ago. What's amazing is not the quality of the performance, but that the performance was allowed at all. (My understanding is that he was slated to sing a different song, but unexpectedly did this instead).

Here are the lyrics:

"When The President Talks To God"

When the president talks to God
Are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our women’s' rights
And send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike
When the president talks to God?
When the president talks to God
Are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God say ever change his mind
When the president talks to God?
When the president talks to God
Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed
When the president talks to God?
When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
We should find some jobs. the ghetto's broke
No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't
Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke
That's what God recommends
When the president talks to God
Do they drink near beer and go play golf
While they pick which countries to invade
Which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess god just calls a spade a spade
When the president talks to God
When the president talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the president talks to God?
I doubt it
I doubt it

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Scott Ritter on Galloway

Scott Ritter, UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998, has written an article entitled, "In the Belly of the Beast" about British politician George Galloway. Here's a sample:

And now [Galloway] has done something that no other British politician has been brave enough to do: cross the Atlantic and confront the United States over the lies spread about the reasons for war with Iraq, the oil for food agreement and the failure of US lawmakers to do their own job when it comes to the rule of law.

George Galloway...stared down the US Senate subcommittee on homeland security and government affairs, and its notoriously partisan chairman Norm Coleman, and blasted as totally unfounded the committee's allegations that he had profited from oil vouchers in exchange for his anti-war stance. He emerged from the hearing victorious. If only more politicians, British and American alike, were able to display such courage in the face of the atmosphere of neoconservative intimidation prevalent in Washington these days.

Galloway is now the darling of the American left, and has fed punch lines for late-night comics and generated headlines like the New York Post's "Brit fries senators in oil". But mainstream America still seems unable to digest the horrific reality that the MP's testimony underscored: that Senator Coleman's McCarthy-like hearings are but a smoke screen for a crime of horrific proportions.

Galloway has nevertheless had the courage to stand up to unjust charges and an unjust war - and that is the only way that opinion will shift. Two years ago I wrote that the accusations of corruption against Galloway were too convenient, designed to silence one of the Iraq war's harshest critics. The honorable member for Bethnal Green and Bow has entered the lair of a conservative American political body to confront it head-on about a war and occupation that many on both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and public alike, seem only too willing to sweep under the carpet. So, Mr Galloway, please accept from this American three cheers for a job well done.

If only our own Democrats had as much courage of conviction.

These are not reasonable people

I'm simply flabergasted that the Democrats are talking about compromise on the filibuster issue. So is Nick Johnson who explains his position in an article entitled, "Are Democrats making deals with the devil?" We need an opposition party that will hold fast - not one that repeatedly caves in.

Here's an excerpt:

What baffles me is why Democrats are attempting to reason with Republicans and make deals over this. These are not rational, reasonable human beings they're dealing with, so why try to make deals? Rick Santorum with his usual wisdom has already compared Democrats to Hitler, saying "It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942." I'm not making this up.
The filibuster is a desperately needed rule of Senate order. It forces the majority party to deal with the minority party's concerns, even (and especially) when they don't want to. It prevents the Senate from going too extreme in either political direction. Republicans have filibustered when they were the minority party, and in fact led the first-ever filibuster of a judicial nominee, that of Abe Fortas in 1968.

It's especially important with regard to judicial nominees. Judges are meant to be independent, without their own political agendas. Yet the Bush administration wants radical judges that their own people have criticized as right-wing activists. These are exactly the type of nominations that should be filibustered. Judges with clear political agendas, regardless of their party affiliation, should be blocked from the bench by the minority party if necessary. That's all that's happening here: exactly what should be happening.

Yet now the spineless Democrats are caving in to the Republicans, effectively agreeing to their rule breaking. It reminds me of junior high all over again, playing volleyball during PE; when one side is convinced that it isn't the other side's turn anymore because of some rule breach, but the other side doesn't believe there was a rule breach-- each side keeps grabbing the ball and serving, convinced that it is their serve. The Republicans are breaking the rules, and now the Democrats are there "negotiating" allowing them to do it. And you know if the roles were reversed, the Republicans would be crying "foul."

I keep giving money to the Democratic Party. And I keep being disappointed by their lack of spine.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Worst. President. Ever.

Here's an article by Stephen Pizzo entitled, "Bush: Worst president ever?". Personally, I wonder why Mr. Pizzo included the question mark. He gives seven reasons why he puts Bush in the "worst ever" category. I list them for you here with a brief excerpt from the article on each reason. Click through and read the whole article if you want to see how Mr. Pizzo develops each point:

America the Disgraced

President Bush's actions and policies have destroyed America's image as a nation that adheres to a set of core values, such as the rule of law, humane treatment of prisoners, presumed innocence, trial by jury and respect for international laws.

George's Vietnam

Then there's the war that is largely responsible for that drop in our international image. President Bush really screwed this one up. First, veryone not drinking the neocon Kool-Aid tried to warn George not to pull that trigger. Then Army chief of staff, Gen. Shinseki, warned Bush that a war in Iraq would not be the "cake walk" his neocon Rasputin, Paul Wolfowitz, promised. Instead, he warned, we would need a lot of troops in Iraq for long time. For that piece of advice he was first publicly embarrassed by his boss then shown the door...

...Now we are stuck in another Vietnam-type war thousands of miles from home. All the Vietnam trappings are here for anyone who cares to notice -- indigenous insurgents, driven by a fanatical ideology, upported and supplied by "spoiler" nation-states with their own anti-U.S. agendas, thousands of dead civilians, American soldiers dying by the gross week in and week out, with no end in sight.

Sovietization of America

One of the Republican party's proudest boasts is that Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet Evil Empire. The irony is they are now recreating pieces of that police state here at home now
Little by little this administration has chipped away at state powers by transferring them to Washington. And nowhere has this process been more pronounced than in the area of law enforcement and the courts. The FBI, which once had to defer to local and state law enforcers when on their turf, can now barge right in and take charge. All they have to do is [declare] an investigation a "national security" or "homeland security" matter.

Peasantization of Workers

Over the past five years we have seen the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of money. The already wealthy have become mind-numbingly rich under George Bush. Where did the money come from? It came right out of the pockets of working Americans and the poor.

Deflating Inflation

The administration likes to boast that it has kept inflation in check. Yes they have, at least somewhat. But the reasons inflation remains low are all bad reasons that will result in very bad news down the road.Over the past five years we have seen the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of money. The already wealthy have become mind-numbingly rich under George Bush. Where did the money come from? It came right out of the pockets of working Americans and the poor.
Inflation is not as benign as the government figures pretend. This is because of how they calculate inflation on individual items in the CPI and can fiddle with the facts. For example, if HP replaces a printer with a new model that might include a few modest enhancements over it's predecessor which sold for $100, but prices the new model $125, government economists can claim the price really did not go up because the new model is better than the old model.

Trouble is you can't buy the old model any longer, but never mind that. Even though you have to pay more for basically the same printer, the price did not go up -- because "they" say so.

Keeping Up Keeping Up

If things are so bad, why hasn't the economy slipped back into recession? Because it's been running on credit. During Bush's first term the economy perked up because Bush pumped $1.6 trillion in tax rebates into it. That was like giving a dying patient an injection of meth and then claiming he was cured because he was up and jerking around in bed.

Christian Jihadists

I will not belabor this point, except to say that, at the very time Bush liberates religious fundamentalists abroad, he has breached the wall between religion and state here at home. He has jimmied open this Pandora's Box and there will be hell to pay for it eventually -- as there has been everywhere on earth where this was done
Herbert Hoover may have triggered the Great Depression, but he didn'tinvade another nation on false pretenses, authorize torture of prisoners, or try to stack the courts. Franklin Roosevelt did try to stack the courts but Congress said "no" and he said "OK," and went on the save the world from fascism and secure the lives of America's elderly by creating Social Security -- which Bush now wants to subvert.

Johnson and Nixon did fight an illegal and immoral war but Johnson lifted millions out of poverty and got the Civil Rights Act passed, much to his own party's detriment. Nixon tried to subvert the Constitution but was caught and thrown out of office before he could succeed.

But I fear it's too late to stop George W. Bush and his band of right-wing revolutionaries. We have let them get too far along now to stop them. We have let them neutralize too many constitutional checks and balances. And once they deep-six the filibuster it truly will be game over.

Game over, huh? Sounds pretty dire, doesn't it. The trouble is, I don't think he's wrong. Look, I know it seems pointless in Oklahoma, but do call your senators and tell them you don't approve of eliminating the filibuster. I have done this. At least I know I've done what I could. And if you happen to be reading this somewhere from other than Oklahoma, it's even more important because you probably don't have as rabidly right wing senators as we have.

Death of the First Ammendment

You think we don't have an established religion in this country? Think again and read this Los Angeles Times commentary about what's going on at the Air Force Academy. The article is by Jonathan Chait and it's entitled, "Off we go, into the Christian yonder":

Conservatives have been arguing for years that the religious right is simply misunderstood. These vilified godly folks don't want to impose their beliefs on anybody else, we're told. They simply want to defend their traditional beliefs and practices against the aggressive impositions of a secular culture. Therefore any suggestion to the contrary is liberal hysteria or, worse, discrimination against "people of faith."

So how do conservatives explain what's been going on at the Air Force Academy?

As a number of newspapers have documented, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., has essentially established evangelical Christianity as its official religion.

The examples are legion. Last season, the football coach hung a banner in the locker room laying out a "Competitor's Creed," including the lines "I am a Christian first and last" and "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

And here are other examples among those noted in an April report by the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Campus chaplains have encouraged proselytizing among the students, and younger cadets who skipped out on prayer services have been forced by their seniors to march back to their dorms in a ritual called "heathen flight." On one occasion, every seat in the dining hall was covered with a flier advertising a showing of "The Passion of the Christ," including the tagline, "This is an officially sponsored USAFA event."

These are just a few examples among many. Non-evangelicals have described an atmosphere of pervasive religious pressure. A top academy chaplain was discharged for speaking out against this state of affairs.

Chait then develops the point that this is what the radical religious right intends to do with regard to the country as a whole. Non-christians and non-evangelical Christians are now suffering outright persecution in this country. How long before the goons target you or me?

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's Henry sitting in my lap.
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Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wise observation

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

-- Winston Churchill

Our cultural insensitivity

Here's an article that painstakingly tries to explain to Americans why the desecration of the Quran is such a big deal. The article is by M. A. Muqtedar Khan and is entitled, "Quran Desecration: Far Worse than Abu Ghraib". Here's a substantial excerpt:

The reports in the media that Americans at Guantanamo facility allegedly desecrated the Quran to torture prisoners has unleashed an intense wave of anti-Americanism in the Muslim World, which has already caused 16 deaths. This is worse than Abu Ghraib; Abu Ghraib represents the physical and psychological torture of a few Muslims, Quran desecration represents a spiritual, emotional and psychological torture of all Muslims. Even if it turns out that the Newsweek report was false, most people will see it as a cover up and another American attempt to eschew accountability.

For Muslims the Quran is the literal word of God, it is the living and eternal miracle of Prophet Muhammad, it is their direct link to the divine, it is the source of their faith, their values, their identity and it is without doubt the most important symbol of their religion. Americans, who have a rather cavalier attitude towards things religious, may not understand this, but for Muslims things that are sacred are indeed sacred.

The US government has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to improve US image in the Islamic World, commissioning initiatives that include radio programs, Satellite TV, youth magazines and civil society empowerment programs. But all the gains from these expensive initiatives are dramatically undermined by a periodic display of civilizational insensitivity that reeks of acute disregard for Muslim sentiments.

The use of the word 'Crusades' by President Bush to describe his war on terror, the continuous revelations about the torture and abuse of Muslim prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Guantanamo, Cuba, the reluctance to punish General Boykin for his Islamophobic bigotry are examples of how periodically the US government seeks to remind Muslims of its callous attitudes towards their rights and their religion.

The thing that hurts the most is that while there is verbal recognition of these problems there is no accountability. In a testimony to the Senate and House Armed Services Committee on May 7, 2004, Secretary Rumsfeld said that he took 'full responsibility' for what happened in Abu Ghraib. One would have thought that a resignation letter would follow. Nothing happened. It is still a mystery as to what Secretary Rumsfeld meant by 'full responsibility'. I have since met several leaders from the Muslim World and media persons who have remarked that Rumsfeld's words are just indicative of how empty and meaningless are the current administrations respect for religion, law and human rights.

You know, the our national narcissism really depresses me sometimes. We seem to have the idea that we Americans are the measure of all things and that the world revolves around us. The arrogance is truly appalling. How about a little collective humility for once?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Great snark

Newsweek had to retract a report about the Koran. The article caused violent anti-U.S. rioting in Muslim countries. And that's too bad because up until now they really loved us.

--Conan O'Brien

The death of privacy

Big Brother is thoroughly here by an act of Congress. The article I'm calling to your attention is, "They Really Are Watching You" by Mark Morford. I'll give you the subtitle too because it really nails what is happening: "Ready for your own all-new, sinister ID card, courtesy of Homeland Security? Shudder". Here's what it's all about:

It's called Real ID. It is, in short, a new and genetically mutated type of driver's license for all Americans, replacing your current license and replacing your Social Security card and replacing your sense of well being and privacy and humanity and part of a new, uniform, deeply sinister, national uniform card system whereby every person living and breathing in these paranoid and tense times shall henceforth be much more traceable and watchable given how we will all soon be required by law to carry this super-deluxe computerized ID card with us at all times, packed as it will be with more personal, digitized info about you than even your mother knows.

Real ID is coming very soon. The legislation was passed with little outcry and zero debate by both House and Senate just last week because lawmakers snuck it into a massive $82 billion military spending bill, and therefore no one was really paying much attention and this is the way you get thorny disturbing culturally demeaning bills to pass without resistance from smart people who should know better.

The new law will, according to the Wired News story linked above, require everyone to hand over not one, not two, but fully four types of documentation to renew their driver's license, such as a photo ID, a birth certificate, proof that their Social Security number is legit and something that validates their home address, like a phone bill. DMV employees will then have to verify the documents against giant teeming federal databases and store the documents and a digital photo of you in a database.
Make no mistake: Real ID, in short, takes us one happy step closer to a total surveillance state, where everyone is stamped and everyone is watchable and everyone is traceable and unless you live way, way off the grid out in the increasingly nonexistent hinterlands, you cannot escape the spazzy and twitchy and paranoid eye of Homeland Security.
This is what's happening now. With Real ID (and who knows what else), the government is cracking down and creating a new and improved and far more devious and exploitable system to monitor its citizens because, well, because we let them. Because millions of us have been pummeled so successfully by the fear-mongering Right. Because we have never been so lax, so blinded by warmongering and dread, so numbed to what might become of us.

Why aren't we in the streets with torches and pitchforks over this one? Oh well, it was Ben Franklin who said something to the effect that those who trade freedom for security deserve neither. I grieve when I see what is happening to my beloved country.

Newsweek again

I want to share one more article with you about the Newsweek incident. This one is an editorial from the Boulder Daily Camera entitled, "Misplaced Outrage: Newsweek is not the Issue; Abuse of Detainees Is". Here's how it ends:

And while Newsweek was wrong to claim that military investigators had confirmed the incident, numerous other sources have reported over the past two years that guards at Gitmo have flushed, kicked, and otherwise conveyed disrespect for the Quran. Official records from Abu Ghraib and other locations indicate that the abuse of Islam is nothing new for American interrogators, who have forced inmates to eat pork, poured liquor down their throats and heaped obscenities and abuse on their religious beliefs, among other tactics.

No one has stepped forward to declare that the Quran incident is a fiction. More generally, no one can pretend any longer that the U.S. military simply would not engage in abuse and torture — not after the conviction of several participants in the Abu Ghraib atrocities, at least two dozen deaths attributed to torture, and plain evidence that the White House condones tactics prohibited by the Geneva Conventions when dealing with "unlawful combatants."

After all that, do Bush administration officials and their allies really believe that a magazine has damaged America's standing in the world? The Newsweek report could provoke such fierce reaction only because the past actions of the United States had made the allegations credible.

The American government diminishes this country's standing in the world, and its capacity to wage war against terrorism, when it resorts to physical and mental cruelty against detainees. That's an outrage. Don't blame the media for trying, however imperfectly, to shine a light on it.

I SO agree.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Scapegoating Newsweek

I've come across several articles today about the Newsweek situation but the one that is really concise and biting is by Molly Ivins. Entitled, "Don't Blame Newsweek", the article was picked up by Common Dreams.

I think it is disgusting how the riots are being blamed on Newsweek. I don't think for a minute that the story about desecrating the Koran isn't true and neither does Ms. Ivins:

Uh, people, I hate to tell you this, but the story about Americans abusing the Koran in order to enrage prisoners has been out there for quite some time. The first mention I found of it is March 17, 2004, when the Independent of London interviewed the first British citizen released from Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner said he had been physically beaten but did not consider that as bad as the psychological torture, which he described extensively. Jamal al-Harith, a computer programmer from Manchester, said 70 percent of the inmates had gone on a hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy of the Koran. The strike was ended by force-feeding.

Then came the report, widely covered in American media last December, by the International Red Cross concerning torture at Gitmo. I wrote at the time: "In the name of Jesus Christ Almighty, why are people representing our government, paid by us, writing filth on the Korans of helpless prisoners? Is this American? Is this Christian? What are our moral values? Where are the clergymen on this? Speak up, speak out."

The reports kept coming: Dec. 30, 2004, "Released Moroccan Guantanamo Detainee Tells Islamist Paper of His Ordeal," reported the Financial Times. "They watched you each time you went to the toilet; the American soldiers used to tear up copies of Koran and throw them in the toilet. ..." said the released prisoner.
The New York Times reported on May 1 on the same investigation Newsweek was writing about and interviewed a released Kuwaiti, who spoke of three major hunger strikes, one of them touched off by "guards' handling copies of the Koran, which had been tossed into a pile and stomped on. A senior officer delivered an apology over the camp's loudspeaker system, pledging that such abuses would stop. Interpreters, standing outside each prison block, translated the officer's apology. A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans."

So where does all this leave us? With a story that is not only true, but previously reported numerous times. So let's drop the "Lynch Newsweek" bull. Seventeen people have died in these riots. They didn't die because of anything Newsweek did -- the riots were caused by what our government has done.

I agree. This whole flap about the Newsweek story has Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. Undoubtedly he is responsible for the unsubstantiated source in the first place in order to discredit the story later by discrediting the source. But like Dan Rather's report on Bush's military record, the basic story is true.

Jay Leno quote

The Pentagon announced they are closing more than 150 military bases around the country. If the Bush administration wants to close military bases, how about we start with the ones with Iraq?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Battle for the soul of PBS

Smirking Chimp this morning is simply amazing. Every single article is worth reading and if you have time, I encourage you to go there and read them all. But I want to call your particular attention to three articles on the efforts by the right wing to take over public broadcasting. First we have a New York Times article by Stephen Labaton entitled, "A battle over right-wing programming at National Public Radio". It starts out this way:

Executives at National Public Radio are increasingly at odds with the Bush appointees who lead the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In one of several points of conflict in recent months, the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which allocates federal funds for public radio and television, is considering a plan to monitor Middle East coverage on NPR news programs for evidence of bias, a corporation spokesman said on Friday.

The corporation's board has told its staff that it should consider redirecting money away from national newscasts and toward music programs produced by NPR stations.

Top officials at NPR and member stations are upset as well about the corporation's decision to appoint two ombudsmen to judge the content of programs for balance. And managers of public radio stations criticized the corporation in a resolution offered at their annual meeting two weeks ago urging it not to interfere in NPR editorial decisions.

The corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, has also blocked NPR from broadcasting its programs on a station in Berlin owned by the United States government.

Next we have an article by Michael D. Sorkin entitled, "Moyers defends PBS, takes aim at radical right". I admire Bill Moyers so much. He is simply not going down without a fight. He's at the age when he could reasonably just be retired and sit on the porch all day and nobody would fault him for it but he is passionately and fiercely defending the principles on which this nation was founded. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Bill Moyers denounced on Sunday the right wing and top officials at the White House, saying they are trying to silence their critics by controlling the news media.

He also took aim at reporters who become little more than willing government "stenographers." And he said the public increasingly is content with just enough news to confirm its own biases.

Moyers spoke in St. Louis at a conference on media reform. His reports have appeared on the Public Broadcasting System since the 1970s. He was an aide to President Lyndon Johnson and is a former newspaper publisher.

Moyers said those in power - government officials and their allies in the media - mean to stay there by punishing journalists "who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable."

Moyers described those officials as "obsessed with control" of the media. He said they are using the government "to threaten and intimidate.
"The more compelling our journalism, the angrier became the radical right of the Republican Party," he said."

That's because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth."

Finally, I give you an article from The Nation - also on the speech by Bill Moyers. The article is by John Nichols and is entitled, "Bill Moyers fights back".

Recalling former President Richard Nixon's failed attempt to cut the funding for public broadcasting in the early 1970s, Moyers said, "I always knew that Nixon would be back -- again and again. I just didn't know that this time he would ask to be the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

That was a pointed reference to Tomlinson, a Republican party stalwart, who contracted with an outside consultant to monitor Moyers's weekly news program for signs of what Tomlinson and his allies perceived to be liberal bias. Moyers ridiculed the initiative first by reading off a long list of conservatives who had appeared on NOW, then by reading a letter from conservative U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, praising the show, and finally by noting that Tomlinson had paid a former Bush White House aide $10,000 to do the monitoring."

Gee, Ken, for $2 a week you can pick up a copy of TV Guide," he joked, before suggesting that the CPB chair could have "watched the show."

"Hell, Ken," Moyers finally said. "you could have called me collect and I would have told you."

Moyers said he wasn't buying Tomlinson's claim that the results of the monitoring were not being released to protect PBS's image. "Where I come from in Texas, we shovel that stuff every day," said the man who came to Washington as a press aide to former President Lyndon Johnson and was present when the Public Broadcasting Act was written in the 1960s.

Moyers revealed to the crowd of 2,000 media reform activists that he had written Tomlinson on Friday, suggesting that the pair appear on a PBS program to discuss the controversy. He also revealed that he had tried three times to meet with the full CPB board but had been refused. Expressing his sense that the board had "crossed the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out," Moyers said, "I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt, but I can't."

Ah, it's beautiful. When Bill Moyers does "snark", he does it so very, very well.

I don't know what we can do but email PBS and NPR and scream about this loudly. Whether it will do any good is impossible to tell. As for me, I no longer trust public broadcasting for accurate, objective news. There's already too much pandering to the right.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Laura Bush and the press

I guess I ought to weigh in on Laura Bush's stand-up performance in which she told jokes about male strippers and milking a male horse. Now the jokes don't really bother me. I'm not a prude. I just know the same jokes would have caused outrage had they been told by Democrats. But our lap dog press just laps it up. David Rossie, in his article, "Bush league media behave like lap dogs" discusses the issue:

Imagine, if you will, Teresa Heinz Kerry or Hillary Clinton going on national television and telling a joke about her husband masturbating a horse.

And had that happened, imagine the reaction of some of our more ardent moral preceptors such as Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Falwell, Dobson, Savage and Bennett. The outpouring of pious flapdoodle would have been of tsunami proportions.

But since it was Laura Bush who laid that shopworn gag on the crowd at the White House Correspondents' Association's annual dinner, it was acceptable, because, well, because she and her husband go to church regularly, and because Republicans are exemplars of moral values, the odd off-color joke notwithstanding.

Rossie then proceeds to describe the reality of our mainstream press today:

As Robert Kennedy Jr. pointed out in a recent Vanity Fair article, the far right not only has control of the legislative and executive branches of government, it has virtual control of most of the mass media. The extreme right controls talk radio. Conservative corporations control the purse strings of the major television news operations, not just Fox News, which is an unabashed organ of the Republican Party.

It was not by chance that Bob Schieffer was named moderator of the final presidential debate last fall. As Kennedy noted, Schieffer asked not a single question about the environment, concentrating instead "on abortion, gay marriage and the personal faith of the candidates, an agenda that could have been dictated by Karl Rove."

And who's to say it wasn't?

He ends with a quote by Bill Moyers:

We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people.

It's going to be hard to turn the tide in this country without a truly free press and with suspect voting machines. Here's where we need reform the most. Let me close by recommending the website Media Matters. It's a wonderful watch dog for the lap dogs. Media Matters regularly exposes factual inaccuracies, omissions and the blatant bias of the mainstream press. As far as the voting machines go, I think the only thing to do is hound the Democratic National Committee about it. Until they raise hell and keep raising it, nothing will happen.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Civil war in Iraq

Well, it's a Canadian newspaper calling attention to what our own press has largely ignored. The Toronto Star has published an article entitled, "`America kept in dark' as carnage escalates" and the subtitled is: "U.S. TV accused of ignoring situation; Iraq on brink of civil war, analysts say". But then our mainstream news media is in bed with the administration, isn't it?

Here's the main point of the article:

"We are on the edge of civil war," said Noah Feldman, a New York University professor and chief U.S. adviser to Iraq on the writing of the country's new constitution.

Yet, somehow this sharp surge in deadly bombings, assassinations and kidnappings in Iraq has occurred largely under the radar in the United States.

No public figures have risen this week to decry this most recent carnage, no one is breaking into regular programming on cable news shows.

Perhaps Americans have simply become numb to the background hum of Iraqi violence.

Perhaps the lack of graphic images on television mean that medium doesn't know how to cover the story. Perhaps, more cynically, Iraqis killing Iraqis is not as compelling a story.

The left-leaning American Progress Action Fund said in a statement yesterday [that] America's most important foreign policy venture is teetering on the edge of civil war, but it is being ignored by television networks.

"Television media — still the primary source of news for most Americans — is failing miserably," it said. "America is being kept in the dark."

While American TV viewers turn to runaway brides, fast-food fingers and the daily Michael Jackson aberration, they are missing the story of an increasingly massive foreign policy failure.

The number of car bomb attacks in Iraq jumped from 64 in February to 135 in April, a record, according to U.S. military statistics. Insurgents are reported to have stockpiled car bombs and the attacks are becoming more brazen as Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters try to provoke civil war with the Shiite majority.

As long as the press is owned by the big corporations, it will continue to neglect to do its job.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Mark Kharas gave me this wonderful cat a few years ago for Christmas.
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The puppet President

I want to share an article today entitled, "Bush Dances to Sour Music" by Joyce Marcel. It is about how Bush has played into Osama Bin Laden's hand and what is likely to happen next. Ms. Marcel reports that she tried to explain matters to a friend from another country:

He was a wastrel youth of enormous privilege and arrogance, I said, propped up by his family's money and his father's connections, a man who went bust at everything he tried to do on his own, yet who, somehow, always emerged unscathed. After he got himself elected - or after the first of two elections was stolen for him, if you will - it became obvious that he was a puppet whose strings were held by many masters.

Dick Cheney holds one string, with his dreams of the golden crown of empire. The Bush family holds another, with its hatred of the Kennedy dynasty and its determination to have one of their own. Karl Rove holds one, with his dream of an endless one-party (conservative Republican) state. The inheritors of immense wealth hold another, with their dreams of reversing the New Deal and returning the populace to its "rightful" place as peasants. The oil industry holds one, and so does the nuclear power industry, although they often pull in tandem. The coal and logging industries share one. So do the rabid pro-Israel neoconservatives and the equally rabid Christians who believe they are the favored ones of God.

But as I talked, I realized that it was not a stretch to say that another string is held by the rogue Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, and that Bush is also dancing to his tune.
[Bin Laden] wanted to destroy the American economy by luring it into a vast, expensive, unwinnable war. He wanted to prove that America and the West were corrupt imperialists with nothing but scorn for the Muslim world. He wanted to create political turmoil in the Middle East. He wanted to create a huge uprising of young, idealistic Muslim terrorists who would fight to the death against Western culture and religion.
Americans have died [in Iraq] every day, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and the American wealth that isn't being stolen there is being squandered instead. A full-scale insurgency against the United States has been mounted. New terrorists have been created. Bin Laden must be proud.
Because America cannot find enough soldiers or money to start another ground war in Iran, it is a strong possibility that Bush will use nuclear weapons there. And if Bush does not use American nukes, he will likely support the Israelis when they use theirs.

The country I love will be a pariah among nations for centuries to come.

Somewhere in the world, bin Laden is still alive and free and laughing.

This is my overriding concern. Bush loves power and violence so much that I believe he truly wants to use nuclear weapons. It is imperative that we all make our voices heard that we strenuously oppose this possibility.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

This year's Fahrenheit 9/11

The Guardian this morning has a report on a new documentary that has been taken to the Cannes Film Festival. It's called "The film US TV networks dare not show" and the heading of the article goes like this: "Adam Curtis has recut his explosive war on terror documentary The Power of Nightmares into a feature film - and is taking it to the festival. But he's no Michael Moore, he tells Stuart Jeffries." Here are some excerpts:

Curtis does not care for the Moore parallel. "Moore is a political agitprop film-maker. I am not - you'd be hard pushed to tell my politics from watching it. It was an attempt at historical explanation for September 11. You see, up to this point nobody had done a proper history of the ideas and groups that have created our modern world. It's weird that nobody had done before me."
His documentary took as its starting point the year 1949, when two men who would prove massively influential to the establishment of Islamic terror groups and to the neo-Conservative American tendency that now dominates Washington were both in the US. One was an Egyptian school inspector called Sayyid Qutb whose ideas would directly inspire those who flew the planes on the attacks of September 11. Qutb's summer visit to Colorado revolted him so much - he could see nothing there but decadent materialism - that he went home thinking that modern liberal freedoms were eroding society's bonds and that only a radical Islam could prevent its destruction. Meanwhile, in Chicago, an obscure political philosopher called Leo Strauss was developing a similar critique of western liberalism (though without the Islamic answer to individualism's purported ills). He called on conservative politicians to invent national myths to hold society together and stop America in particular from collapsing into degraded individualism. It was from such Straussian reflections that the idea that the US's national destiny was to tilt against seeming foreign evils - be they the Soviet bloc or, later, fundamentalist Islam - was born.

But the film is even more incendiary for its analysis of what Curtis controversially insists is the largely illusory fear of terrorism in the west since 9/11. Curtis argues that politicians such as Bush and Blair have stumbled on a new force that can restore their power and authority - the fear of a hidden and organised web of evil from which they can protect their people. In a still-traumatised US, those with the darkest nightmares have become the most powerful and Curtis's film castigates the media, security forces and the Bush administration for extending their power in this way. "It has really touched a nerve with people who realise something is not quite right with the way terrorism has been reported."

For these reasons, one might well think that The Power of Nightmares would provide a usefully chastening corrective to the prevailing orthodoxy if it were shown on US television. But it seems extremely unlikely that it will be...

I hope the film becomes available here on DVD. It sounds fascinating. And important.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The election was stolen

A while back I blogged on an article called, "The Silent Scream of Numbers". Today I've found another article I want to share with you on election fraud. (Actually, I have a whole folder on the subject in my bookmarks file.) This article is by Jane Stillwater and is entitled, "To err is human, but to ALWAYS err in Bush's favor? C'mon". Here's the pertinent section:

Suppose 95% of all election errors -- from funky gerrymandering to lost voter registration forms to people denied absentee ballots to people not allowed to vote on election day due to lack of equipment to "faulty" exit polls to Rove's weird statement that bases come out to vote en mass at the last minute to illegal campaign contributions to long lines only in Democratic precincts to suppression of the African-American vote to destroyed provisional ballots to inept supervision to corrupt public officials to "trade secret" court rulings not in the public interest to tampered-with source codes to impossibly skewed results -- suppose that 95% of all election errors were in Bush's favor, what would you think?

I would be amazed at the odds of this happening. And I would immediately assume that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!" Or Florida. Or New Mexico. Or Ohio.

I asked a statistician about the odds of this happening. "Ten million to one," he replied. The Bush Brothers should go to Las Vegas!"

To err is human." To err that extensively is election fraud.

Why the Democrats aren't SCREAMING about this is beyond me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Church and State: Keep them separate

With the steady erosion of the separation between Church and State taking place in this country, I thought the following collection of quotes to be worth pondering:

"As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
-- Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams (the original language is by Joel Barlow, U.S. Consul)

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises."
--Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Miller, 1808

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

"In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot ... they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose."
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814

"Religion I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another."
--Benjamin Franklin

"The Civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the TOTAL SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE."
--James Madison

"One of the embarrassing problems for the early nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was that not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian."
--The Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1968

Monday, May 09, 2005

Scientists with backbone

Smirking Chimp has picked up an AP article that I thought I'd call to your attention. It's called, "Scientists boycott Kansas evolution hearings":

TOPEKA, Kan. - Scientists have refused to participate in state Board of Education hearings this past week on how the theory of evolution should be treated in public schools, but they haven't exactly been silent.

About a dozen scientists, most from Kansas universities, spoke each day at news conferences after evolution critics testified before a board subcommittee. They expect to continue speaking out as the hearings wrap up on Thursday."

They're in, they do their shtick, and they're out," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University geologist. "I'm going to be here, and I'm not going to be quiet. We'll have the rest of our lives to make our points."

The scientists' boycott was led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Kansas Citizens for Science, which believe the hearings are rigged against the teaching of evolution.

Sometimes the best thing to do with people who are determined to get into immature debates is to say, "Sorry, I won't play."

You might like to click through and read the whole article if only for the many comments at the end. One person said this: "Good idea; don't give these idiots the benefit of a debate. That'll take away some of the fundies' claims of legitimacy." I so agree.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The numbers don't lie

So, how're we doing after four years of Bush? Here are some numbers that are an eye-opener:

The numbers below are for 2000-2004.

The Financial markets
S&P 500 -15%
Dow Jones -5.3%

Consumer income and expenses and Standard of Living
Price of a Gallon of Gas +46%
Real Value of the Minimum Wage -7%
Median Household Income -4%
Average cost of 4-year public college +24%
Poverty Rate +11%
Americans filing for Bankruptcy +33%
Annual Increase in Prescription Drug Prices (from 4.1% t0 6.8%) +68%
Number of Americans without Health insurance +18%

Federal Finances
Federal Debt +39%
Monthly Trade Deficit +75%
Annual Trade Deficit +53%

The dollar
Dollar versus Euro -30%
Dollar versus Yen -11%Consumer

Home Mortgage Borrowing +100%
Total Outstanding Consumer Debt +28%
Household Debt as a Percentage of Assets: 20%
Household Debt as a Percentage of GDP +21%

I got these numbers from Daily Kos - here.

Now can we do something about getting these destructive Republicans out of office?????

Church ousts Kerry supporters

Just in case this story hasn't come to your attention, I want to make it available to you here. The Asheville Citizen-Times (North Carolina) has published a story by Andre A. Rodriguez entitled, "Members Say Church Ousts Kerry Supporters". Here's the gist of it:

Nine members of a local church had their membership revoked and 40 others left in protest after tension over political views recently came to a head, church members say.

About 20 members of the 400-member East Waynesville Baptist Church voted the nine members out at a recent deacon meeting, which turned into an impromptu business meeting, according to congregants.

Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist, had been exhorting his congregation since October to support his political views or leave, said Selma Morris, a 30-year member of the church.

“He preached a sermon on abortion and homosexuality, then said if anyone there was planning on voting for John Kerry, they should leave,” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard something like that. Ministers are supposed to bring people in.”

Repeated phone calls to Chandler went unanswered Friday, and he was not available at the church or his home to comment. Those members supposedly voted out also could not be contacted Friday.
It’s not clear whether the church’s tax-exempt status could be jeopardized.

The Internal Revenue Service exempts certain organizations from taxation including those organized and operated for religious purposes, provided that they do not engage in certain activities including involvement in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Valerie Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service, said she could not comment on the East Waynesville situation, but said “in general if a church engages in partisan politics, it could put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy.”

As far as I'm concerned, this is simple: If an organization is going to campaign for a particular party or candidate, it needs to pay it's taxes. What this story says about the climate in this country is very disturbing.

A really powerful Mother's Day message

The article is called, "Watch out: Becoming a Mother Changes Everything" and it's by Mary Babic. Here's a sample:

It seems like the U.S. has taken a big crayon and drawn all over the world: here are the bad guys, we can bomb them; here are the good guys, we'll send them more bombs of their own. Black and white, evil and liberty, wrong and right.

Well, I'll tell you what I see: mothers and children. Sometimes, I see American mothers here at home: waiting and praying for their children to come back from wars on foreign soil; watching the news and wondering how much longer their sons can dodge the snipers' bullets. So many years of wiping tears and making macaroni and mending pants - to be canceled by what? A man in his own land, with his own government, who does not want to be occupied any longer. Who sees her son as an enemy. The kid who played with super hero dolls and sang in the choir. And sometimes, I see Iraqi mothers, and their children. They endured Saddam Hussein; they endured a war to oust him; they are now enduring scarce resources and ongoing violence, the daily losses of life and limbs.

So what I want for Mother's Day this year: a commitment to peace. A commitment to find a way to get our troops out of Iraq, and to let the Iraqis create their own future. As a mother, I want to protect my children; and the children in other countries.

I've given you the gist of it but the whole article is worth a read. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Those Patriotic Magnets

Yes, they irritate me. And yes, they're usually on humongous SUVs. So it was interesting to find an article that made just that point - and more. It's by Richard Joseph and is entitled, "Those patriotic magnets". Here's some excerpts:

As the war in Iraq perpetuates, and American casualties increase, so does the popularity of the slogan "Support Our Troops." These three words are highly visible on American roads, and can be readily found on the rear-bumpers of vehicles, as part of that familiar ribbon logo. But with this war of multiple dimensions, I've often wondered: "why would someone place a statement of support on an object of cause?"
So why is it then, that the "Support Our Troops" logo appears on so many vehicles nowadays? More paradoxically, why do some of the largest passenger vehicles on American roads -- ones that get the worst gas mileage of all possibilities on the market -- also confidently display "Support Our Troops" logos? This is a question that boggles my mind. Frankly, I've spent many a day behind the wheel trying to figure this enigma out.

Could it be that many of us have forgotten all the years of oil-induced U.S. involvement in the Middle East? Might memories of the gas shortages of the seventies, or burning oil fields in the first Gulf War be long forgotten? Is it possible that we've become completely distracted from the deeper cause-and-effect relationships intertwined within this current conflict in Iraq? I mean, it's not exactly brain surgery to connect the dots after considering that the world's second largest oil reserve -- next to that of Saudi Arabia -- is under Iraqi soil. The natural progression of these dots arrives to the notion that "if we turn our backs and bring the troops home now, then there is no predicting what would eventually become of that petrol supply. But if we stay, and mold the new Iraqi government into American allies, we will have ultimately secured another vital source." Whether this is an explicit goal or not, it's still a very important factor that keeps our military engaged in the fight.

Therefore, it's a mistake to place a "Support Our Troops" logo on the back of an object that is preventing those troops from coming home right now. How are any of us supporting the troops if, by using our vehicles, we maintain the daily demand for 8.7 million barrels? Let's not kid ourselves. Through indifference to our oil dependence, we are keeping the troops rooted in place, and fortifying a formidable barrier in their quick return. This gesture of "Support Our Troops" when placed on the back of any vehicle is a paradox of the most disheartening of natures.

Now I want to share an interesting experience I had yesterday. I was driving home on Harvard and got behind a pickup truck with several red, white and blue bumper stickers. I assumed they’d be pro-Bush and was preparing to be disgusted. When we came to a stop and I got close enough to read the bumper stickers, they were all liberal. One said, “Church – State: keep them separate.” Another said, “The greatest threat to freedom: The Radical Religious Right”.

And I truly repented of my assumptions about people who drive pickup trucks!

UPDATE: This article was picked up by Smirking Chimp and I just read a comment by Thalia that I must share with you:

My clients are all upper middle class Stepford wives and husbands who live in McMansions in a very Republican/conservative town, not a common thing in Massachusetts.

They are, for the most part, two SUV owning households, and these magnets abound in this town.

By far the majority I've spoken to support the war in Iraq and love George W. Bush. However...

Not one has a kid graduating from high school and heading over to Iraq. The kids in this town have one of the best school systems in the state, and it is taken for granted that they will go to college, college is indeed where these kids are heading come the fall.

I do not know of even one kid in this town with plans on joining the military, no parents who are insisting their son or daughter contribute to a war they ferociously defend in support of a murderous president they ferociously defend.

There is a total disconnect from reality for so many Americans. They buy the SUV advertisements thinking they too will somehow suddenly be rugged off-roading adventurers instead of what they really are: soccer moms who need an SUV to get to the beauty parlor once a week and their tennis matches 4 days a week.

They convince themselves that other people's sons and daughters voluntarily, and for the pure patriotism and joy of it, joined the military, no consideration of their economic or other circumstances need enter the minds of these clones. They also are completely unable to make the connection between what would be their own horror and terror at their own kids going off to war and the fact that other mothers are actually experiencing these terrible emotions and worries.

For these insulated, overprotected robots living in suburbia, the magnets, in their minds, are the equivalent of fighting in Iraq. It makes them one of the troops, in their deluded minds.

Reality plays no role.


I just found an article on Common Dreams entitled, "An Open-Letter to CEO of Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford, Jr." that is about those magnets, gas-guzzling SUVs and the reason for war. It is written by a mother whose son was killed in Iraq. I recommend it.