But, excuse me, how would you think President Bush would feel if we said to him, 'Okay, let's have your Secret Service detail be taken over by the United Arab Emirates? If it's okay for all of us, let's have the Arabs protect you, and just hope that ticking sound is Dick Cheney's pacemaker.'
- - Bill Maher
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
America is headed for a soft dictatorship by the end of Bush's second term. Whether any American has civil rights will be decided by the discretionary power of federal officials. The public in general will tolerate the soft dictatorship as its discretionary powers will mainly be felt by those few who challenge it.
The congressional elections this coming November is the last chance for for Americans to reaffirm the separation of powers that is the basis of their civil liberties. Unless the voters correct their mistake of putting both the executive and legislative branches in the hands of the same party and deliver the House or the Senate to the Democrats, there is nothing on the domestic scene to stand in the way of more power, and less accountability, being accumulated in the executive.
The Democrats have been a totally ineffective opposition and might not inspire any voter response other than apathy. Rather than vote for a cowardly party that is afraid to defend the Constitution, voters might simply not vote at all.
In this unfortunate event, the only check on the Bush regime is its own hubris.
I guess Roberts is calling the dictatorship "soft" because most people aren't even noticing that it's happening. But it doesn't feel "soft" to me. It feels just horrible. And I wonder what's going to happen to those of us who have spoken out during this transition. I truly fear for our country if the Democrats don't take back either the House or the Senate later this year.
The Earth's temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to the United Nations' team of climate experts.
A draft of the next influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will tell politicians that scientists are now unable to place a reliable upper limit on how quickly the atmosphere will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase. The report draws together research over the past five years and will be presented to national governments in April and made public next year. It raises the possibility of the Earth's temperature rising well above the ceiling quoted in earlier accounts.
Such an outcome would have severe consequences, such as the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and disruption of the Gulf Stream ocean current.
The shift in position comes as Tony Blair is expected to pledge today to work towards a date for stabilising international greenhouse gas emissions when he meets Stop Climate Chaos, the climate change equivalent of Make Poverty History. The group is campaigning for a target date of 2015 for stabilisation, saying a later date would endanger the planet.
The IPCC's removal of the upper temperature estimation is posited on new predictions about how the atmosphere would react to the carbon blanket wrapped around it. The three previous reports assumed that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase average global temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5C. Since then, computer models have foreseen increases as high as 11C, and some scientists wanted the naturally conservative IPCC to raise the upper end of the range. Others said such a move would be increase would be misleading and alarmist.
According to sources who have seen it, the draft now assumes a doubling of carbon dioxide would cause a likely temperature rise of between 2 and 4.5C, but says higher increases are possible.
The shift follows several high profile studies convincing some scientists the atmosphere may be much more sensitive to greenhouse gases than they had thought. Peter Cox, a leading climate expert at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Winfrith, Dorset, said: "The scientific agenda has moved from improving the predictions to thinking about what are the chances of something awful happening."
Something awful has already happened and it's only going to get worse. I think we need to reconcile ourselves to the likelihood that humans will become extinct at some point during this century. I have certainly read that prediction before and all the news coming out about climate change indicates that it is a distinct possibility.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Jack Cafferty, CNN's resident curmudgeon, is drawing some flak for his rhetorical bombshells.
In a typical rant, Cafferty, a New York local anchor for two decades who now delivers his short bursts on "The Situation Room," said of the Bush administration: "Who cares if the Patriot Act gets renewed? Want to abuse our civil liberties -- just do it! Who cares about the Geneva conventions? Want to torture prisoners -- just do it! Who cares about rules concerning the identity of CIA agents? Want to reveal the name of a covert operative -- just do it!"
It's from Howard Kurtz's column at the Washington Post. Scroll down to where it says, "Caustic Commentator."
Friday, February 24, 2006
WASHINGTON — The United States raised concerns with the United Arab Emirates seven years ago about possible ties between officials in that country and Osama bin Laden, according to a section of the Sept. 11 commission's report that details a possible missed opportunity to kill the al-Qaida leader.
Republicans and Democrats alike are raising concerns this week about the Bush administration's decision to let a UAE-operated company take over operations at six American ports, in part citing ties the Sept. 11 hijackers had to the Persian Gulf country.
President Bush has called the UAE a close partner on the war on terror since Sept. 11, and his aides have listed numerous examples of the country's help.
The Sept. 11 commission's report released last year also raised concerns UAE officials were directly associating with bin Laden as recently as 1999.
The report states U.S. intelligence believed that bin Laden was visiting an area in the Afghan desert in February 1999 near a hunting camp used by UAE officials, and that the U.S. military planned a missile strike.
Intelligence from local tribal sources indicated "bin Laden regularly went from his adjacent camp to the larger camp where he visited the Emiratis," the report said.
Later the article says this:
At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat, asked Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt if he was aware of the 9-11 commission's assertion that the United Arab Emirates represents "a persistent counterterrorism problem"for the United States.
Kimmitt replied that administration figures involved in the decision to approve the deal "looked very carefully" at information from the intelligence community.
"Any time a foreign-government controlled company comes in," Kimmitt said, "the intelligence assessment is of both the country and the company."
"Just raise your hand if anybody talked to the 9-11 commission," Levin told the administration representatives at the witness table. Nobody raised a hand.
Nobody talked to the 9-11 commission. How smart is that? The same commission that told us the UAE represented a counterterroism problem. Unfreakinbelievable. And that's putting it politely.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Thursday defended his administration's decision to allow a company from an Arab country to operate six major U.S. ports, saying, "People don't need to worry about security."
"This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America," Bush told reporters during a Cabinet meeting.
It's not just an company from an Arab country. It is a company owned by the state. That puts a foreign government in charge of our ports. That is simply beyond outrageous.
Critics of the deal have raised concerns about the company's status as a state-owned venture, accusing the UAE of having ties to terrorism. Two of the hijackers involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks came from the Persian Gulf country, and most of the money for the plot was funneled through the banking center of Dubai.
Critics also note that Dubai was a key transfer point for illicit nuclear technology sales to North Korea, Iran and Libya that were led by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
"At a time when we're faced with this terror threat, we should not be surrendering any port to any foreign government, let alone the UAE," said Baltimore, Maryland, Mayor Martin O'Malley, whose city is one of the ports involved in the deal.
And now look at a comment I found on AMERICAblog:
It's funny that now Bush says "people don't need to worry about security" - after fearmongering us to death for the last 5 years!
That's right. Which is it, Mr. President? Are you telling us to be afraid, be very afraid? Or that we don't need to be? And to think, you called Kerry a flip-flopper.
Was getting rid of Saddam worth it? An affirmative seems to be the last defense of those still supporting the inept and corrupt Bush administration.
Yes, Saddam WAS a bad man. But removing him did NOT make the world a better place, and it did NOT make Iraq a better place.
You cannot cannot cannot create a stable, long-term democracy by forcing it on a people from the outside.
It's a cultural, historical, societal process -- if it doesn't come from the "bottom up", from the will of the people, it will fail.
Iraq is a tragedy of immense proportion, and most Americans can't even wrap their minds around just how awful it is, and just how much of their blood is on our hands.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
And so, under BushCheney, we've become an America that has codified torture in official state policy, that admits it went into a war under false premises but continues to keep our targeted troops there anyway, that spies on its citizens without court orders, that is willing to out a covert CIA agent (one who was probing the extent of Iran's nuclear program) for reasons of political retaliation, that "disappears" American citizens into military jails and doesn't permit them any contact with the outside world, that flies suspects in its care to secret prisons abroad and "renders" others to countries that use even more extreme torture measures, that passes laws permitting police agents to "sneak and peek" into citizens' homes, phone records, computer databases, library requests, e-mails and medical records without permission or even informing those whose privacy had been violated, that neuters the Congress by saying it will listen to "suggestions" but that the ultimate decisions are to be made by the Chief Executive, that emasculates the political opposition in Congress by cutting them out of the key decision-making processes, that declares the president has the right to violate the law whenever he so chooses and Congress and the courts have no role to play in reining in that power-grab, that keeps America on a permanent war footing in a never-ending battle against a tactic (terrorism), and on and on.
It's from an article by Bernard Weiner entitled, "Slicing away liberty: 1933 Germany, 2006 America". Reading the whole article is a chilling experience. But I recommend it.
Political writer Fred Barnes' new book, Rebel-in-Chief, includes a remarkable vignette. Barnes notes that early last year, Karl Rove arranged a private audience between the president and novelist Michael Crichton, whose novel, State of Fear , had portrayed global warming as an unproven theory publicized by whacko environmentalists."
Bush is a dissenter on the theory of global warming," Barnes notes. He and Crichton "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement." Unfortunately, Barnes' anecdote carries the ring of truth.
The president actually does appear to buy into the "scientific" arguments put forth by a writer of fiction. (The White House press corps has not yet queried whether the president also believes there are dinosaurs running about a popular theme park.)
Shades of Nancy Reagan and the astrologers! This incident would be laughable if the consequences weren't so dire.
The Crichton caper explains a lot about why the president and his administration have adamantly refused to take any steps to limit the heat-trapping emissions linked to global warming. This isn't just a matter of the president opposing Kyoto. He and his administration have resisted literally any limit on global warming pollution and are even going to war against states such as California that are trying to limit those emissions.
The excerpt above is from an article by Frank O'Donnell entitled, "Jurassic president". In case you're wondering about the title, Crichton is indeed the one who wrote Jurassic Park.
Now, any chance you saw 60 Minutes last Sunday? Another excerpt refers to that program:
Just last week we learned, for example, that Greenland's glaciers are melting faster than anyone expected --something that not only portends dramatically rising sea levels, but could set a chain reaction in motion. On Sunday, "60 Minutes" described the process now underway: "As snow and ice melt, they reveal dark land and water that absorbs solar heat. That melts more snow and ice, and around it goes." It could, as ABC News put it last week, become "a slow-motion time bomb," as even more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by thawed-out tundra. The grim--and increasingly obvious--results range from the potentially-endangered polar bear (which can't survive if all the Arctic ice melts) to more catastrophic storms like Katrina, the storm fury fed by warmer waters.
I am utterly pessemistic about this issue. Our scientists are like Cassandra of Greek mythology: cursed with the ability to see the future only not to be believed.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
So what is this really about? Consider the following:
Witnessing the Bush administration's drive for an attack on Iran is like being a passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel. Reports of impending doom surfaced a year ago, but now it's official: under orders from Vice President Cheney's office, the Pentagon has developed "last resort" aerial-assault plans using long-distance B2 bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles with both conventional and nuclear weapons.
How ironic that the Pentagon proposes using nuclear weapons on the pretext of protecting the world from nuclear weapons. Ironic also that Iran has complied with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing inspectors to "go anywhere and see anything," yet those pushing for an attack, the USA and Israel, have not.
In the eyes of the Bush administration, however, Iran's worst transgression has less to do with nuclear ambitions or anti-Semitism than with the petro-euro oil bourse Tehran is slated to open in March 2006. Iran's plan to allow oil trading in euros threatens to break the dollar's monopoly as the global reserve currency, and since the greenback is severely overvalued due to huge trade deficits, the move could be devastating for the US economy.
So we remain pedal to the metal with Bush for an attack on Iran.
But how does Bush plan to get public support for such a war?
This is absolutely chilling. And do you think for a moment that the Bush administration is incapable of engineering just such a "terrorist" attack in order to further its agenda? Please realize that they place no value on the lives of the little people - not here, not overseas. They have no morals. I think it is only a matter of time.
A domestic terrorist attack would do the trick. Just consider how long Congress went back and forth over reauthorizing Bush's Patriot Act, but how quickly opposing senators capitulated following last week's nerve-agent scare in a Senate building. The scare turned out to be a false alarm, but the Patriot Act got the support it needed.
Now consider the fact that former CIA Officer Philip Giraldi has said the Pentagon's plans to attack Iran were drawn up "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States." Writing in The American Conservative in August 2005, Giraldi added, "As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States." [link]
Chew on that one a minute. The Pentagon's plan should be used in response to a terrorist attack on the US, yet is not contingent upon Iran actually having been responsible. How outlandish is this scenario: another 9/11 hits the US, the administration says it has secret information implicating Iran, the US population demands retribution and bombs start dropping on Tehran.
Do click through and read the whole article if you have time. It is important for us to inform ourselves of the real implications of war with Iran. At least then we will not be surprised when the consequences start to play out.
Monday, February 20, 2006
As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become victims of the darkness.
- Justice William O. Douglas
The vice president shoots you in the heart and in the face. Then you apologize for all the trouble it's caused him. That's what it means to be a Republican.
Despite almost hysterical warnings the president stays asleep at the wheel. He does nothing about terrorism and 9/11 happens. He responds by running away to Nebraska. Three days later he makes a supposedly impromptu speech with a bull horn on the rubble of the World Trade Center. He is universally cheered as a hero. That's what it means to be a Republican.
The president puts together false claims to go to war with the wrong country. His party universally supports him. That's what it means to be a Republican.
The administration mismanages the war in Iraq so that it creates chaos, a breeding ground for terrorists and political opportunities for Islamic fundamentalists. Along the way, the reasons for going to war are exposed as false. The president runs on national security as his main issue. He is re-elected. That's what it means to be a Republican.
The president cheerfully gives away the surplus to the richest people in the country. Then he runs up record debts, just to throw more money their way. He claims it has helped America's economy. People act like they believe him. That's what it means to be a Republican.
There's more. That's right. Sadly, there's more.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Starting from 2012, the process of global cooling will start on the Earth and by the middle of 21st century the whole planet will be captured by low temperatures, an expert from the Russian Sciences Academy Observatory was quoted by NewsRu.com as saying Monday.
The cause of the expected global cooling is a decrease in the flow of the Sun’s radiation, Khabibulo Absudamatov says.
“We have already witnessed a cooling of the kind in Europe, in North America and Greenland in 1645-1705, with canals freezing in Holland, and people abandoning settlements because of nearing glaciers in Greenland. This is what we are expecting again in some decades,” he said.
Analysis of the Sun’s radiation fluctuations that influence the climate on Earth shows that the planet at the moment is on the peak of the global warming process, Absudamatov said. Now, with the decrease in the Sun’s radiation, global temperatures are going to decrease, too.
“In 20th century, the Sun’s activity could be characterized by a general increase in the amount of radiated energy, and global warming was a result of this process. Global warming is by no means an anomaly, but a normal phenomenon. Global warmings, as well as global coolings, have happened before.”
According to Absudamatov, the global cooling will start in 2012 or 2013. By 2035 the Sun’s radiation will reach its minimum, and 15 years later a deep cooling of the Earth’s climate should be expected.
If this is reliable science, why haven't mainstream western scientists picked up on it? All I can say is, I hope Absudamatov is right.
UPDATE: I just came across the website of The Union of Concerned Scientists and I commend to you this page on the science of global warming. Here's a quote from it:
The overwhelming majority of scientific experts, whilst recognizing that scientific uncertainties exist, nonetheless believe that human-induced climate change is already occurring and that future change is inevitable.
I recommend exploring the site and particularly the FAQ page.
Is Osama Bin Laden winning after all? Until recently I would have derided such a thought. How could a tinpot fanatic who is either dead or shut in some mountain hideout hold the world to ransom for five years? It would stretch the imagination of an Ian Fleming.
Now I am beginning to wonder. Not a day passes without some new sign of Bin Laden's mesmeric grip on the governments of Britain and America. His deeds lie behind half the world's headlines. British policy seems obsessed with one word: terrorism. The West is equivocating, writhing, slithering in precisely the direction most desired by its enemy. He must be roaring with delight.
On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al-Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro-Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting Bin Laden as a cosmic threat.
Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicised and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over-reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilised values. Bin Laden's intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over-reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right.
America asks the world to believe itself so threatened as to require the kidnappings of foreign citizens in foreign parts, detention without legal process, the curbing of free speech and derogation from all international law. It asks the world to believe that it must disregard the Geneva conventions and employ foreign dictators to help it to torture at random. It uses the same justification for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The world simply refuses to agree. Only cringeing Britain appeases such actions and calls them merely "anomalous". There are madmen aplenty, but they do not constitute a war.
And, of course, we're going after Iran next. I honestly think that will spell our doom. I simply do not think the world will sit by and allow us to attack other countries at will pre-emptively. At some point enough other nations will rise up to stop us that another world war will be triggered. I hope I am wrong. But I think it's unlikely that I am.
And now we wait.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Today I want to share an article with you by Paul Craig Roberts entitled, "Our leader über alles: Conservatives endorse the Fuhrer Principle". Here's how it gets started:
This is very worrying. Here's something else Roberts says:
Last week's annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.
Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, who led the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton, reminded the CPAC audience that our first loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to a leader. The question, Barr said, is not one of disloyalty to Bush, but whether America "will remain a nation subject to, and governed by, the rule of law or the whim of men."
The CPAC audience answered that they preferred to be governed by Bush. According to Dana Milbank, a member of the CPAC audience named Richard Sorcinelli loudly booed Barr, declaring: "I can't believe I'm in a conservative hall listening to him say Bush is off course trying to defend the United States." A woman in the audience told Barr that the Constitution placed Bush above the law and above non-elected federal judges.
These statements gallop beyond the merely partisan. They express the sentiments of brownshirtism. Our leader über alles.
Only a few years ago this same group saw Barr as a conservative hero for obtaining Clinton's impeachment in the House. Obviously, CPAC's praise for Barr did not derive from Barr's stand on conservative principle that a president must be held accountable if he violates the law. In Clinton's case, Barr's principles did not conflict with the blind emotions of the politically partisan conservatives demanding Clinton's
In opposing Bush's illegal behavior, Barr is simply being consistent. But this time, Barr's principles are at odds with the emotions of the politically partisan CPAC audience. Rushing to the defense of Bush, the CPAC audience endorsed Viet Dinh's Fuhrer Principle over the rule of law.
Why do people want this? I understand the so-called "conservative" point of view although I do not agree with it. What I don't understand is what the right wingers see in Bush.
There are only two reasons for Bush to refuse to obey the law. One is that he is guilty of illegitimate spying for which no warrant would be issued by the FISA court. The other is that he is using "national security" to create unconstitutional powers for the executive.
Civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate writing in the Boston Phoenix says that Bush's grab for "sweeping, unchecked power in direct violation of a statute would open a Pandora's box of imperial possibilities." In short, it makes the president a dictator.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Vice President Dick Cheney, who was forced to leave Yale University because his penchant for late-night beer drinking exceeded his devotion to his studies, and who is one of the small number of Americans who can count two drunk driving busts on his record, was doing more than hunting quail on the day that he shot a Texas lawyer in the face.
The vice president has admitted that he was drinking on the afternoon of the incident. He claims it was only a beer, according to the transcript of an interview with Fox New Wednesday. But the whole discussion about how much drinking took place on the day of the fateful hunt has been evolving rapidly since Katherine Armstrong, the wealthy Republican lobbyist who is a member of the politically connected family that owns the ranch where Cheney blasted his hunting partner, initially claimed that no one was imbibing before the incident.
Armstrong later acknowledged to a reporter from the NBC investigative unit that alcohol may have been served at a picnic Saturday afternoon on the dude ranch where Cheney shot Harry Whittington.
According to the report, which appeared briefly Tuesday on MSNBC, Armstrong peddled the line that she did not believe that alcohol played a part in the shooting accident. But, she admitted, "There may be a beer or two in there, but remember not everyone in the party was shooting."
The MSNBC story, which appeared only briefly before the website was scrubbed for reasons not yet explained, has been kept alive by the able web investigators at TheRawStory and other progressive blogs. And so it should be, as the prospect that alcohol may have been a factor in the shooting incident takes the story in a whole new direction.
Cheney's admission that he was drinking, along with Armstrong's clumsy attempts to downplay the alcohol issue raises more questions than it answers about an incident involving a Vice President who, like George W. Bush, was a heavy drinker in his youth, but who, unlike Bush, never swore off the bottle.
As with her over-the-top efforts to blame Whittington, the victim, for getting in the way of Cheney's birdshot blast, Armstrong's line on liquor smells a little more like an attempt to cover for the Vice President than full disclosure.
This is where the hunting accident "incident" becomes a serious matter. The role played by the Secret Service in preventing questioning of Cheney on the evening of the shooting takes on new significance when drinking is at issue. If Cheney was in any way impaired at the time of the shooting, it was certainly to the Vice President's advantage to put off the official investigation until the next morning.
Cheney claims that he downed beer hours before he shot Whittington. But he now has a lot more explaining to do than what was seen during the "softball" interview on Fox News, the Administration's house network, which the White House crisis management team arranged for him to do Wednesday.
When legitimate questions arise regarding the role that the Secret Service might have played in undermining the investigation of a shooting in order to protect the vice president from embarrassment, and possible legal charges, those issues have to be addressed fully and completely. And they must be addressed in a setting where reporters are able to press the notoriously cagey Cheney to actually answer all of the questions that are asked.
The whole thing smells fishy to me. I wonder if we'll ever really know the truth. Of course, drunks are notorious for saying they've only had one or two beers as this article from the Washington Post reports.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I'm linking you here to an article entitled, "Democrats, Like Cheney, Are Shooting Their Own" that talks about this situation. Here's an excerpt:
Cheney can’t tell a quail from a Republican, which may be understandable from an intellectual point of view, but the Democratic Party’s killing off of progressive Congressional candidates is something more treacherous: suicide. Dick Cheney may have demonstrated his ability yet again to go after the wrong target when he bagged his hunting companion instead of his quarry, but the Democratic Party leadership is proving to be even more treacherous in the field than Deadeye Dick.
Party leaders, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently pressured Cindy Sheehan not to mount a primary campaign against California Senator Diane Feinstein, a woman who has betrayed party principles, such as they are, at almost every turn and deserves to go down to defeat. (It was only after Sheehan said she was considering a primary fight that Feinstein announced she would support a filibuster on Alito.) Now they've killed the campaign of Paul Hackett, an Iraq War vet and sharp critic of the war and the president and a candidate who had a strong shot at snatching a Senate seat for the Democrats this fall in Ohio.
For months, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), have been working behind the scenes to undermine Hackett's campaign in favor of Rep. Sherrod Brown. When Hackett announced his intention to run, he met with party leaders, and with Ohio Rep. Sherrod Brown, and won a commitment from Brown not to enter into a primary fight for the Democratic senate nomination. Later, the party leadership undercut him and had Brown go back on his promise, forcing a primary battle. The undermining effort continued and Hackett finally decided Monday he didn't want the fight.
Saying he had been betrayed by his country when he was sent to Iraq, and now by his party, Hackett, a Marine reservist and a lawyer, said he was quitting politics in understandable disgust, but would continue to speak out against the war. I'm sorry he decided not to fight, but understand his disgust.
Only a few days ago, I received a call from a fund-raiser for the DNC asking me to help the party elect a Democratic Congress in 2006. I told the woman she was wasting her time, and that I would not give a penny to a corrupt and self-destructing organization that was so afraid to be a genuine opposition party that it would sabotage its own best candidates. She indignantly asked me who the DNC had sabotaged and I ran a whole list by her, from Cynthia McKinney to Cindy Sheehan. Now we can add Paul Hackett to the list.
Paul Hackett was a dream of a candidate. He ran an amazing race in heavily Republican territory against Jean Schmidt and made her fight for her life. He almost won and he was running against enormous odds.
To learn more about how the party screwed him over read the AP article "Iraq Vet Abandons Ohio Political Bid".
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.
New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.
Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period.
It makes me sick that my tax dollars are going to line the pockets of the already fantastically profitable oil companies. This is true fascism - the union of government and corporations.
PETA is taking aim at Dick Cheney.
The high-profile animal-rights group has sent a letter to the vice-president, who accidentally shot a lawyer while the two men were quail hunting.
“I hope that the man you mistook for a quail is doing well. I also hope that this brush with tragedy will convince you to rethink your recreational activities,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter to Cheney obtained by The Scoop. She went on to suggest that Cheney “put down your guns and pick up a tennis racket” — which, she adds, would be better for his heart.
“Mr. Cheney, there is so much violence in the world that is beyond our control,” Newkirk concluded, “but you can avoid hurting innocent animals (and well-connected lawyers) by putting down your guns and taking up a nonviolent sport.”
You know, it wasn't even a fair fight. Those were stocked quail - not the wild variety. And Cheney was hunting from a car. Something serious sportsment disdain. I also wonder if Cheney had been drinking. Was that the reason they waited so long to report the incident?
Ms. Armstrong says Whittington should have announced himself upon approaching Cheney. That is right. At the same time, Cheney, as a shooter, has an obligation to be aware at all times of the whereabouts of the dogs (who don't announce themselves) his fellow hunters, the guides, dog handlers, etc. I've been on hunting parties of ten men, and it's the obligation of the shooters to know where each of them is, and to be sure they are safe. Cheney knew Whittington was chasing a bird. If he could not see Whittington, if he was not 100 percent sure of his whereabouts, he should not have taken a shot. No bird is worth it.
That's just common sense. Of course there's more to this incident and if you want to know more about it, go on over to Smirking Chimp where there are several articles explaining why the official story sounds really fishy.
The guy who got gunned down, he is a Republican lawyer and a big Republican donor and fortunately the buck shot was deflected by wads of laundered cash. So he's fine. He took a little in the wallet.
-- David Letterman
Sunday, February 12, 2006
The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.
Robert Grenier, head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, was relieved of his post after a year in the job. One intelligence official said he was “not quite as aggressive as he might have been” in pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and networks.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”
Grenier also opposed “excessive” interrogation, such as strapping suspects to boards and dunking them in water, according to Cannistraro.
Porter Goss, who was appointed head of the CIA in August 2004 with a mission to “clean house”, has been angered by a series of leaks from CIA insiders, including revelations about “black sites” in Europe where top Al-Qaeda detainees were said to have been held.
In last Friday’s New York Times, Goss wrote that leakers within the CIA were damaging the agency’s ability to fight terrorism and causing foreign intelligence organisations to lose confidence. “Too many of my counterparts from other countries have told me, ‘You Americans can’t keep a secret’.”
Goss is believed to have blamed Grenier for allowing leaks to occur on his watch. Since the appointment of Goss, the CIA has lost almost all its high-level directors amid considerable turmoil.
Almost all its high-level directors, huh? You can't tell me that's not about partisan loyalty rather than competence. And isn't that a terrible security risk - losing all our top CIA guys like that? That's quite a talent drain. And please notice that they're getting rid the people who have a conscience.
We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.
This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point.
The editorial then goes on to talk about domestic spying, the prison camps, and the war in Iraq. Then it ends like this:
Like many other administrations before it, this one sometimes dissembles clumsily to avoid embarrassment. (We now know, for example, that the White House did not tell the truth about when it learned the levees in New Orleans had failed.) Spin-as-usual is one thing. Striking at the civil liberties, due process and balance of powers that are the heart of American democracy is another.
Finally, the New York Times is finding its true voice again after shilling for the administration in the lead up to the war in Iraq. Let's hope it continues to speak from a position of integrity.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
The editor of a Norwegian Christian newspaper has apologised to Muslims for publishing cartoons lampooning Prophet Muhammad that triggered a furore including the burning of Norway's embassy in Syria.
Vebjoern Selbekk, who initially defended his 10 January publication of the cartoons in Magazinet as an expression of press freedom, shook hands after his apology with a Muslim leader in Norway who said he considered the controversy over.
"I address myself personally to the Muslim community to say that I am sorry that your religious feelings have been hurt," Selbekk told a news conference on Friday.
"It was never our intent to hurt anyone.
"I, as editor, did not fully understand how hurtful the publication of the facsimile was. I would like to apologise for that today."
He also said he "deeply regretted" upsetting Muslims.
While I sympathize with the free speech argument, I'm also aware that we in the west would be deeply offended if holocaust deniers were to be given credibility by prominent newspapers or if cartoons were printed that depicted black people with huge lips eating watermelons. Those things could be defended as "free speech" as well but we wouldn't. We would be appalled.
I've said it again and again and again -- and I guess I'll have to keep saying it: the Democrats will never become the majority party until they can convince the American people that they can keep the country safer than the Republicans. All together now: It's the national security, stupid! And if I sound like a broken record, so should the Democrats.
Of course, many Democratic leaders do grasp this basic concept, but, according to the Times, have "not yet figured out how to counter the White House's long assault on their national security credentials."
Again, at the risk of turning blue in the face, let me help them out: they should follow Jack Murtha's lead and, as he's done in letters to Congress and to the president, how how Bush's imperial adventure in Iraq has had devastating consequences on the real battle at hand -- keeping us safe and secure.
The evidence is everywhere: neglected ports and railways. Underfunded first responders. A tripling of terror attacks worldwide. Poor and failing grades from the 9/11 Commission. Osama still on the loose. Iraq as a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists. Al-Qaeda making a comeback in Afghanistan. Depleted troops. Shaky allies. Emboldened enemies.
How to counter the Bush-as-protector myth? Aggressively and unrelentingly. Go after his supposed strength (indeed, his only remaining strength) and show it's actually his greatest vulnerability. The Democratic strategy must follow the old sports truism: the best defense against attacks that they are soft on terror is a great offense against the architects of the bungled response to the war on terror.
You know, this stuff is so obvious. The Republicans won (okay, I know they stole the election but it was close enough for them to steal) by going after Kerry's strength. We know that's how they do it. So why don't we do the same? Once more, it's obvious.
UPDATE: On this subject, I really have to let you know what Ken Mehlman is up to. The article is entitled, "GOP chairman questions Democrats' ability to protect Americans" and here's the pertinent excerpt:
WASHINGTON - Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, declared Friday that Democrats who have condemned the Bush administration's controversial eavesdropping program may not be suited to safeguard Americans against terror attacks.
"We do not and we never should question these Democrat leaders' patriotism, but we do question their judgment and we do question their ability to keep the American people safe," he said. "These are people we know love their country, the question is: Can they protect it?"
We need to answer this and answer it forcefully. Why oh why are the Democrats taking this stuff lying down?????
But then I announced that I needed to speak out on behalf of the many women present in the crowd, including myself, who had had abortions, and the women whose daughters might need one in the not-too-distant future — people who must know that teenage girls will have abortions, whether in clinics or dirty backrooms. Women whose lives had been righted and redeemed by Roe vs. Wade. My answer was met with some applause but mostly a shocked silence.
Pall is a good word. And it did not feel good to be the cause of that pall. I knew what I was supposed to have said, as a progressive Christian: that it's all very complicated and painful, and that Jim was right in saying that the abortion rate in America is way too high for a caring and compassionate society.
But I did the only thing I could think to do: plunge on, and tell my truth. I said that this is the most intimate decision a woman makes, and she makes it all alone, in her deepest heart of hearts, sometimes with the man by whom she is pregnant, with her dearest friends or with her doctor — but without the personal opinion of say, Tom DeLay or Karl Rove.
I said I could not believe that men committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women. I thought about all the photo-ops at which President Bush had signed legislation limiting abortion rights, surrounded by 10 or so white, self-righteous married men, who have forced God knows how many girlfriends into doing God knows what.
Once again for the record: I think abortion is tragic in any situation. I would rather there would be none at all. But I truly believe that in some situations it is the lesser of evils and, regardless of the relative merits of the desired good that is to come from having an abortion, it needs to be the woman involved who decides. We will not stop abortions by criminalizing them. We will merely drive them underground where they will not be safe and countless numbers of women will die or be rendered infertile as a result. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions, we will do something about improving the social conditions that are often so untenable that desperate women resort to desperate measures in order to survive.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Following civil rights leader Coretta Scott King's January 7 funeral, numerous media figures highlighted the purportedly "partisan" nature of the event, in some cases describing it as a "Democratic pep rally," a "Bush bashathon" and a "Democratic convention." The controversy stems primarily from tributes delivered by civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter, which included a reference to prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and what many interpreted as Carter's reference to President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. But many of those same media figures accusing speakers of politicizing the King funeral did not show the same aversion to the politicization of the 2004 death of a figure of a different political stripe: former President Ronald Reagan. Nor did they apparently think it worth noting that the Reagan funeral included no Democratic speakers, but a long roster of Republicans, including President Bush, who was running for re-election and was reportedly trying to attach himself to the Reagan legacy.
Held near Atlanta and attended by 15,000 people, King's funeral included speeches from four U.S. presidents -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Carter -- as well as numerous civil rights leaders and friends.
I really recommend that you take the time to click through and then to scroll down and read what some members of the right wing press have to say about the funeral. Here's a sample:
*National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne said, "Liberals don't seem to be able to keep politics away from funerals." [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2/7/06]
*Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that "the Democratic party now crashes funerals ... trying to pick up votes" and said, "I think Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King -- if there was to be any anger from above looking down at that -- it would be from them." [Fox News' Your World, 2/8/06]
*Fox News host Sean Hannity said the comments were "inappropriate" and "designed to stick it to George W. Bush and to embarrass the president." [Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, 2/7/06]
*MSNBC host Tucker Carlson described the comments as "rude as hell" and "completely graceless." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/7/06]
*Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said, "When I die, I don't want my demise to be used as a political rally, and that's what happened yesterday." [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 2/8/06]
*Wall Street Journal opinionjournal.com editor James Taranto called Carter's comment a "moment of true malice."
*National Review Online editor-at-large and Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg noted Carter's "mildly ghoulish exploitation of Coretta Scott King's funeral."
Two points: First, this was one public event in which Bush's handlers were not able to require loyalty oaths from those in attendance and so he had to listen to what a lot of normal people really think of his policies.
Secondly, what seems to be overlooked is the patronizing racism of the right-wing criticism. Who do they think they are to tell black people what their funerals should be like? Mrs. King's entire life was about political struggle. And they think her funeral service shouldn't have mentioned that? So the wing-nuts wanted a staid, solemn, "neutral" (read: white) occasion, did they? The ultimate control-freaks were not able to control this event. That's why they're so enraged.
The Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzalez testified before the senate about the domestic spying program. But first there was a big fight about whether or not to place him under oath. Ultimately they decided not to place him under oath. See, baseball players, they have to be under oath. But the attorney general, no.
There is no sign of intelligence or accurate reporting on Iran in the newspapers, on television or even over PBS radio. It is never made clear that Iran's "defiance" is one orchestrated by the U.S. government, or that the "defiance" is limited to Iran's development of nuclear energy, not a weapons program. When Americans hear "nuclear defiance" over and over, they conclude that Iran is making nuclear weapons. Instead of informing the people, the media drive them toward acceptance of another war.
Bush has been picking a fight with Iran for a long time. He declared Iran to be part of an "axis of evil." He constantly demonizes Iran and threatens Iran with sanctions and military attack. Israel announced that if Bush doesn't attack Iran, Israel will. Bush disrupted Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors have found no weapons program in Iran. The media misreport it all as Iran's bad behavior, bad behavior that reflects bad intentions.
The explosive situation in the Middle East needs to be defused, not aggravated. The United States gains nothing by confirming its image as the hegemonic Great Satan.
Nothing is gained by the deaths and maiming of thousands and tens of thousands more people whose lives are thrown away to the purposes of blind propaganda.
Nothing is gained by the U.S. wasting more hundreds of billions dollars that are desperately needed for important and legitimate purposes.
Nothing is gained by the U.S. pressuring with threats and bribes other countries to line up with what they know to be a wrong and dangerous policy.
Nothing is gained by endangering oil flows and a Western transportation system dependent on the internal combustion engine.
But he's going to do it anyway. We can only wait and watch and hope that the consequences turn out to be not as utterly horrible as they very well might be.
As another year begins without any significant progress toward containing global warming, I find myself wondering if this isn't the perfect real-life example of the Tragedy of the Commons.
In the parable, as told by the ecologist Garret Hardin in his influential 1968 essay of the same name, herders sharing free use of a pasture invariably end up destroying it. Each finds that it pays to increase his or her herd as much as possible because s/he will get the full benefit of the additional animals, while bearing only a fraction of the cost of overgrazing, which is shared by all. Eventually, as each herder reaches the same conclusion, and continues to add animals, the pasture is ruined.
The reason the outcome is inevitable is that it is in the herders' rational self-interest to do what they do. It doesn't matter if one or two far-sighted herders refrain from acquiring additional animals. The others will only pick up the slack, so to speak, and the pasture will still be destroyed, though possibly over a longer period of time.
Of course, in real life, the outcome is open, not inevitable, because people can manage the pasture through rules or payment schemes. The challenge is coming up with an effective system and getting enough herders to agree to it. Hardin called the solution "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon."
In addition to resource exploitation, the parable also applies to pollution. In the pollution scenario, instead of withdrawing resources from the commons, the rational company discharges harmful things into it. Again, this happens because the benefit (cheap disposal of wastes) goes all to the polluter, while the cost (fouled air or water) is shared by all.
Now, if instead of companies, we think in terms of countries, we have a pretty good explanation for the current impasse in international efforts to deal with global warming. The United States and China are the herders who insist on acting in their own rational self-interest. As long as they stick to their guns, there's nothing other countries can do. Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon, is impossible because the United States and China don't agree and are too strong to be coerced. That leaves other countries with the voluntary self-restraint option, which can slow the process, but not change the outcome -- or can it?
The author then talks about the possibility of cooperation being in everybody's self-interest by analyzing the situation using game theory. It's an interesting approach and if you have time, click through and read it all. In the meantime, I truly believe that slowing the progress of global warming is worth it. Everytime I choose not to make an unnecessary trip in the car I'm helping. Everytime I turn out the lights or recycle my newspapers I'm helping.
While you're on the NRDC website, go to the action page and engage in email activism. It's quick and easy and it does make a difference. If thousands of emails pour in on a given issue, you bet politicians take notice.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Amid concerns that global warming is melting away the icy habitats where polar bears live, the federal government is reviewing whether they should be considered a threatened species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that protection may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act, and began a review process to consider if the bears should be listed.
If the polar bear were listed as a threatened species, federal regulatory agencies would be required to consider how their decisions affect polar bears.
A listing could affect industries seeking permission to release greenhouse gases or decisions such as setting fuel economy standards for vehicles, [spokesperson Kassie] Siegel said.
I heard a report on NPR this morning about a group of evangelical leaders who have broken with the most influential evangelicals today (such as Dobson and Robertson) and are expressing real concern about global warming. One of them considers it a justice issue in that the world's poor are going to be most adversely affected - and the soonest. That was truly heartening.
The grand showdown between the Dems upset at Bush's illegal wiretapping fizzled out as soon as Arlen Specter -- the two-faced Bush go-fer of the GOP -- not only ruled that Gonzales didn't have to testify under oath, he pretended -- as scripted -- to prohibit the Attorney General of the United States from doing what most Americans are required to do in a Court of Law or before Congress (unless they are from the White House or CEOs of big oil companies).
It was at that point, once again, that the Democrats became merely bit players in a script once again written by the White House. For many years, and most recently in several editorials, BuzzFlash has lamented that the Dems don't understand that these hearings are soap operas -- and that the Bush/Rovian propaganda staff writes very effective soap opera scripts.
In this case, the goal of the soap opera was to allow Gonzales not to testify under oath, so that he wouldn't be likely to be charged with perjury. After that point, everything else just became a big muddle. And, the White House knows, in a situation like this, they win if the hearing turns out to be inconclusive and stalemated.
We had to laugh through our tears for democracy when Arlen Specter boasted that he was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and no Attorney General was going to decide for himself to testify under oath, as Gonzales pretended that he wanted to be sworn in (but, of course, knew in advance that it would never happen, so he could lie with impunity). Oh, my Lord, you couldn't get hack Hollywood scriptwriters to do a better job!
But, as we've always said, between the Coasts, Americans believe what they see. And, once again, you had the appearance of an earnest man claiming he wanted to testify under oath because it wouldn't change what he would say.
At that moment, the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee should have taken charge of the scriptwriting and left the room in protest after ranking member Senator Patrick Leahy made the following statement:
"Mr. Chairman, if we ask athletes who testify about steroid use to be sworn in, if we ask citizens in courtrooms around this land to be sworn in, if we ask civil servants who testify before Congress to be sworn in, we surely think that it is unacceptable that the Attorney General of the United States cannot provide testimony under oath.
"I was a prosecutor and I would ask no less of the highest law enforcement official in the land than I would of someone who enters an American courtroom.
"There is no reason to hold a hearing if the Attorney General of the United States won't do what we ask of our citizens, which is to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- and be subject to legal jeopardy if he does not."
But what happened? The Democrats decided to go along to get along - again - and the Republicans gained the upper hand - again.
Here's an "afternote" from BuzzFlash:
Why should anyone have to testify under oath in a United States court room when the Attorney General of the United States won't? And the President and Vice-President wouldn't before the 9/11 Commission (when Bush wouldn't even talk with them without Dick Cheney by his side)? And Condoleezza Rice wouldn't be sworn in before the 9/11 Commission?
Oh, we could go on, but we won't. The Bush Administration knows that once they have to tell the truth, their goose is cooked.
Who's going to hold them accountable if the opposition party won't? But silly me. We don't have a bona fide opposition party. We have the spineless Democrats.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Scientists on Monday painted a gloomy picture of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, warning of melting ocean ice, rising oceans, thawed permafrost and forests susceptible to bugs and fire.
"A lot of the stories you read make it sound like there's uncertainty," said Jonathan Overpeck, a professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona. "There's not uncertainty."
Scientists predict the summertime Arctic could be ice free before the end of the century, opening up northern sea routes but threatening the existence of polar bears, a marine mammal that depends on sea ice to live.
Other scientists ticked off the effects of warming on fish, forests and tundra.
Shrubs have thrived in the greater warmth and in turn accelerate warming. Like open water in the ocean, shrubs darken what otherwise would be a mostly white, reflective snow-covered environment, Sturm said.
If warming trends continue, Overpeck said, the globe eventually will get a nasty message from the Arctic: a rise in sea levels. Higher oceans will flow into low-lying parts of the world such as New Orleans, making recovery in that hurricane-ravaged city moot.
"It's hard to imagine why we're wanting to rebuild if we're going to allow global warming," Overpeck said.
It's had for me to believe that we're just going about our business as if none of this were happening. The ability of the human psyche to engage in denial cannot be exaggerated.
While we're on the subject, take a look at the title of another article: "Global warming threatens Tibet rail link". Here's an excerpt:
BEIJING (Reuters) - Global warming could threaten the new Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest, within a decade, a Chinese researcher said in remarks published on Sunday.
Wu Ziwang, a frozen soil specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the official Xinhua news agency his research over three decades revealed large areas of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau showed signs of shrinking, as they were frozen less of the time.
This could threaten the new railway, which is to start operations this year, Wu said.
"Fast thawing of frozen soil in the plateau might greatly increase the instability of the ground, causing more grave geological problems in the frozen soil areas where major projects such as highways or railways run through," Wu added.
A separate report by the academy's desert institute showed that temperatures on the plateau have been rising markedly since 1984 and that winter temperatures could rise by another 1-2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
It relieves me to know that I'll be dead by then. But of course, that's a selfish attitude, really. The children being born today will be very much alive. Do we not care what happens to them? Bush's future grandchildren will be in their prime in 2050. Is he not interested in what kind of planet they will inherit?
The last time 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV saw his body armor, he was lying on a stretcher in Iraq, his arm shattered and covered in blood.
A field medic tied a tourniquet around Rebrook's right arm to stanch the bleeding from shrapnel wounds. Soldiers yanked off his blood-soaked body armor. He never saw it again.
But last week, Rebrook was forced to pay $700 for that body armor, blown up by a roadside bomb more than a year ago.
He was leaving the Army for good because of his injuries. He turned in his gear at his base in Fort Hood, Texas. He was informed there was no record that the body armor had been stripped from him in battle.
He was told to pay nearly $700 or face not being discharged for weeks, perhaps months.
Rebrook, 25, scrounged up the cash from his Army buddies and returned home to Charleston last Friday.
"I last saw the [body armor] when it was pulled off my bleeding body while I was being evacuated in a helicopter," Rebrook said. "They took it off me and burned it."
John Aravosis of AMERICAblog is so incensed about this that he's set up a Pay Pal account to take donations to send to Rebrook. If you want to donate, go here.
The British government will today [6 Feb. '06] publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.
Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.
Critics of America's aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services - or that simply tell women where to find them.
The "global gag" rule, as it has become known, was imposed by President George Bush in 2001. It requires any organisation applying for US funds to sign an undertaking not to counsel women on abortion - other than advising against it - or provide abortion services.
The UK will today become the founder donor of a fund set up specifically to attempt to replace the lost dollars and increase safe abortion services.
Women's low status in many poor countries makes them vulnerable to sexual coercion, abuse and exploitation, says the report. Almost 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or less.
The death and injury toll is highest in countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted, as in Kenya, where some 30% to 50% of maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortion.
The Family Planning Association of Kenya, an [International Planned Parenthood Federation] member, chose to forfeit US funds rather than sign the "global gag" clause. It was forced to close three reproductive health clinics, scale back others and slash outreach programmes.
I like something the director of IPPF said:
What I've never been able to figure out about American policy is why they persist in cutting down funding to organisations that are about preventing unwanted pregnancies.
I can't figure it out either.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Maybe a lifetime in the news business makes one paranoid. Or maybe it was just a matter of timing.
The story showed up in Tuesday's Press-Telegram, as I was reading "Night," Elie Wiesel's horrifying autobiography of a teenager in Buchenwald and Auschwitz.
Appearing on page A5, the story said the federal government had awarded a $385 million contract for the construction of "temporary detention facilities." These would be used, the story said, in the event of an "immigration emergency."
Jamie Zuieback, an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), explained such an emergency like this: "If, for example, there were some sort of upheaval in another country that would cause mass migration, that's the type of situation that the contract would address."
Considering what took place in Nazi Germany, as well as the shameful incarceration of Japanese-Americans in 1942, no detention camp should be built without the widest possible public scrutiny.
Bottom line: The contract cries out for greater attention. So far, the government's expressed reason for building them is insufficient and ill-defined. And even if the camps do relate to illegal immigration, their purpose could be changed overnight.
This is an instance in which we could be well served by our representatives in Congress. They need to look at this and give constituents a better picture of what is going on.
Let's not have it said, years from now, that no one ever questioned this.
Question for those of you who watch television news: Was this reported on the nightly news? I'm just wondering if our mainstream press is doing its job in calling this to our attention. What makes me suspect that it isn't?
Oh, and by the way, guess who's building these facilities? Why Halliburton, of course.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
During the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Christian Coalition founder and 700 Club host Pat Robertson reiterated his call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
When co-host Alan Colmes asked Robertson, "[I]f he [Chavez] were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?" Robertson answered, "I think South America would." When Colmes later pressed Robertson, asking, "Do you want him [Chavez] taken out?" Robertson retorted, "Not now, but one day, one day, one day." Earlier, Colmes had asked, "Should Chavez be assassinated?" Robertson explained that "one day," Chavez will "be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across the Gulf [of Mexico] isn't going to be [Hurricane] Katrina, it's going to be his nukes." Co-host Sean Hannity agreed that "the world would be better off without him where he [Chavez] is, because he is a danger to the United States."
Let's call it what it is. The man is advocating terrorism.
It is a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing in Iraq. What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.
-- Nelson Mandela, 2003
And now Bush is drumming up support for war against Iran. I suggest we all get our affairs in order and prepare for the worst. Here's what one reader on Smirking Chimp thinks will happen:
A war with Iran would be a worldwide calamity. A catastrophe of the worst kind.
From the start it would immediately disrupt the worldwide oil supply. Merely on a psychological basis the price of a barrell of oil could jump to well over $100 a barrell and well over $6 a gallon. It would basically shut down our economy and it would be worse that the other two oil disruption of the 70's when we had gas lines of a half mile long, no driving on Sundays, a run on gas cans, siphoning gas as a routine crime, and the odd/even license plate number system to determine when you could buy gas.
Many businesses would just shut down. Delivery costs would skyrocket. Heating costs coupled with across the board inflation would send millions into bankruptcy (which is now not available to many thanks to Bush) and home foreclosures would become common as many families just had to move in with each other in order to survive financially.
The pharmceutical and health insurance companies would jump on the price gouging wagon and rasie their prices to astonomical rates making health insurance almost unaffordable to all but the most wealthy (and the most healthy) which is just the way the insurance company wants it. Bush would probably award a no-bid, non negotioation program for medications to placate the masses of the ignorant and to shore up the drug industry profits.
The automobile industry would collapse. $35,000 SUV's would become dinosaurs, overnight.
Like in the 70's, wood burning stoves, bicycles, mo-peds, solar energy panels, would take off in popularity.
Bush might just bring us to the brink of war with Communist China over who gets the scare oil supplies and also to divert the attention of the American people from his failures and to whip up a patriotic frenzy of his conservative base hoping to bring along with it much of the sheeple.
Yes, Iran, with its population of 57 million, with all its oil, and with its ties to Europe and China would be about the most iditotic thing Bush could ever do. Of course, who knows what goes on inside the brain of an idiot.
Bush obviously thought Iraq was going to be a piece of cake, like his Daddy's original Desert Storm.
A war with Iran would in all liklihood have to be a war with Syria too, and then with Lebanon, and of course a civil uprising in Gaza and the West Bank and a possible overthrow of the Government of Pakistan with its nuclear weapons which we would have to attack almost immediately, for fear of them falling into the hands of an unfriendly, terrorist sympathizing Pakistani government.
A hostile Pakistani Government could unleash its nuclear missles on India in order to take back Kashmire. China would get involved and use the opportunity to finally attack Taiwan. By this time Bush wouldnt be able to hide out in Crawford and the moronic boy wonder would lash out in all directions with illogical military decisions and we will have World War III.
I'm hard pressed to argue with any of this. I dearly hope none of this happens. But I think it is likely that a lot of it will happen.
In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances.
Look, don't think me so naïve that I suppose this hasn't already happened. Of course, it has. But this article makes it clear that the administration is determined to be blatant about it - to have summary executions actually accepted by the American people.
We are turning into something quite monstrous, you know. And the rest of the world is going to rise up to stop us soon; it will, you know it will. And then the outcome will simply be beyond horrific.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine and a former president of the National Organization for Women, praised Friedan's legacy.
Friedan, she said, "was a giant for women's rights and a leading catalyst of the 20th century whose work led to profound changes improving the status of women and women's lives" worldwide. "The Feminine Mystique" helped to "define the lesser status of women," she said.
"That book changed women's lives," said Kim Gandy, current president of NOW, which Friedan co-founded. "It opened women's minds to the idea that there actually might be something more. And for the women who secretly harbored such unpopular thoughts, it told them that there were other women out there like them who thought there might be something more to life."
In the racial, political and sexual conflicts of the 1960s and '70s, Friedan's was one of the most commanding voices and recognizable presences in the women's movement.
As the first president of NOW in 1966, she staked out positions that seemed extreme at the time on such issues as abortion, sex-neutral help-wanted ads, equal pay, promotion opportunities and maternity leave.
But at the same time, Friedan insisted that the women's movement had to remain in the American mainstream, that men had to be accepted as allies and that the family should not be rejected.
I'm deeply saddened by the death of Betty Friedan because it seems that all she worked for is beginning to be threatened. The religious right has nothing but scorn for feminists and they are gaining more and more power every day. Alito will see to it that our reproductive freedom is destroyed and the right-wingers have gone on record as wanting to destroy Title IX. Still, let us not lose heart and let us continue to fight to protect the rights and freedoms of every human person regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. It's what Friedan worked for her whole life. Let her work not have been in vain.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Kind of off topic, but has anyone else noticed the World War 3 is quickly evolving and we're being bullshitted into thinking that it's not?
And here's what John Aravosis said later:
Rummy is setting the stage for us to attack Iran
by John in DC - 2/04/2006 01:28:00 PM
I still say, fine, let him. With what Army? All the soldiers we have in Iraq on the 2nd and 3rd tour? That should be interesting. What Bush is doing is setting the stage for a surgical strike against Iran's nuclear plants - hoping that Iran won't retaliate by invading Iraq. But then what do they think Iran will do? They'll have to do something to respond. Blow up a few embassies in Europe? Some suicide bombers in the US?
And here's an excerpt from the article John links to above:
Rumsfeld said that the world needed to prepare itself for a long fight against Islamic terrorists who he said wanted to set up a global Islamic empire.
"They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist Islamic empire," he said. "As during the Cold War, the struggle ahead promises to be a long war."
Washington and its allies were doing everything possible to ensure that terrorists did not get hold of weapons of mass destruction, which he described as a nightmare scenario.
"The world would change overnight if a handful of terrorists managed to obtain and launch a chemical, biological, or radiological weapon," he said.
That's right, Rumsfeld. Do everything you can to terrify the American people so we'll let you take away our freedoms and thank you for it. And who's to say that the Bush administration won't launch such a weapon itself and blame it on "the terrorists"? Bush and Co. have already demonstrated that they have no morals. It will give them exacly what they want: an excuse to declare martial law. Look, I hope I'm wrong. I really, really so hope I'm wrong. But just don't be surprised when it happens.