March 28, 2006

The Sunnis Made the Trains Run On Time

A new analysis from posits the question of whether the United States is actually now undermining the Shiites in what might be called a "Second Betrayal." Some of them actually accuse the US of wanting civil war. After reading this, and reading what Juan Cole has to say about it all in his entry today (March 28), it makes one wonder.

In contrast to the last three years of anarchy, incompetence and bumbling attempts at democracy, could it be that the Bush regime is now looking fondly on the level of stability and peace which Saddam Hussein and his Sunni minority once maintained?

To be sure, events are still unfolding. But the ultimate purpose of the Bush government in Iraq -- namely the strategic placement of American troops next to Iran and Syria, within view of the Saudi oil fields, and near central Asia's pipelines -- will be served by whatever developments the Bush government sees working in its favor. If it takes a military regime to control the country, so be it. That is what will happen. It really doesn't matter who the personalities are in power if they are serving our national interests.

"Dangerous Prosecution"

No matter where you come down on the Middle East conflict and the US relationship with Israel, the Bush government's basis for its trial against two former AIPAC staff members has huge import for anyone concerned about open government, a free press, academic freedom, and the tradition of lobbying the government (which, in and of itself, is a good one).

AIPAC is known as the Israel lobby and, as you may know, two of its staff have been charged by the government for receiving and disseminating classified information, and the Defense Department official who gave them the information has plea bargained his case.

But the primary basis for the government's case against the two AIPAC staffers rests on, according to the Washington Post in an editorial on March 23, "an old and vaguely worded law that prohibits people in possession of such information from disclosing it further."

The Post continues:

The reach of this law, which dates from the World War I era, has never been clear. By its terms, it would seem to require every person to protect the government's secrets -- a principle hardly in keeping with the American system of robust public debate. While it is reasonable for the government to demand that its employees and contractors protect the information it entrusts to them, it's not okay to criminalize discussions among people who do not work, directly or indirectly, for the government.

Like the Washington Post, I do not defend the alleged actions of the AIPAC staffers who the government has accused of knowingly receiving classified information from Franklin and passing it on to the Israeli embassy. But the government is not trying to prove spying charges in this case. "Instead, prosecutors have proceeded under a legal theory that must alarm anyone who values open debate."

I guess what it comes down to is whether the government can unilaterally create an Official Secrets Act like the Brits have, and bypass Congress. I believe they should not be allowed to do so. As a writer and blogger, among other things, I recognize what an enormously chilling effect this would have on any conversation between government officials and private citizens. Wouldn't this also effectively dissuade many government whistleblowers who possess any kind of classified information from talking about wrongdoing at all to anyone? And given the inclinations of this government to classify far more documents than it predecessors did, it makes it even more difficult to imagine the free exchange of ideas between government officials and journalists.

I find it particularly ironic that this government is bringing this charge in court while it is sending messages to Congress like this one:

Message to the Congress of the United States on Information Sharing

December 16, 2005


"The robust and effective sharing of terrorism information is vital to protecting Americans and the Homeland from terrorist attacks. To ensure that we succeed in this mission, my Administration is working to implement the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) called for by section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). The ISE is intended to enable the Federal Government and our State, local, tribal, and private sector partners to share appropriate information relating to terrorists, their threats, plans, networks, supporters, and capabilities while, at the same time, respecting the information privacy and other legal rights of all Americans."

What "tribal" leaders, what "private sector partners" are going to have access to the "plans, networks, supporters and capabilities" of terrorists? How can the White House announce that it will share this kind of information, much of which must be classified, with private citizens and yet, at the same time, bring prosecution against people for merely "receiving" such classified information?"

Among the many organizations that are seriously concerned with the government's attempt to limit discourse and dialogue, the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News has spoken clearly on this issue:

As for Secrecy News' interest in the case, it stems from the fact thatwe also gather and disseminate "national defense information," a term that encompasses both classified and unclassified defense information. We have "unauthorized" conversations with government officials. Sometimes we deliberately pose questions about matters that we knowto be classified ("Psst...How big was the total intelligence budget 50 years ago?"). If the government's unbounded new interpretation of the espionage statutes were to prevail, much of our research and publication activity could arguably be considered illegal.

For the sake of full disclosure, I worked for AIPAC in the 1970s. I was hired by the founder of AIPAC, Si Kenen, and I spent a significant amount of time talking to people inside and outside the government, as well as with foreign governments. Our stock in trade was "information."

Had this kind of government pall existed then, no one would have talked to anyone. Journalists, academicians, lobbyists, whistleblowers -- all would have effectively been muzzled if what the Bush government is trying to do now was in place back then.

March 27, 2006

Michael Schiavo Speaks

Last night, on Dateline NBC, Matt Lauer interviewed Michael Schiavo, who spoke publicly for the first time at any length about his wife Terri Schiavo and the battle with her family over her fate. It was not an overly friendly interview, by any means. Lauer never failed to bring up the accusations made against Michael by Terri's family, at every point possible.

Essentially, what it all came down to was that Michael Schiavo was accused of wanting to murder his wife by disconnecting the feeding tube so that she would die and never revive to tell everyone how he tried to kill her in the first place all those years ago. Terri's family was willing to keep her vegetative life going by artificial means for as long as possible, in spite of there being no hope whatsoever for her recovery. In fact, in one instance of family testimony in court, Michael reported that her father said that if she developed gangrene he would be willing to cut off all her limbs to keep her alive.

What made all the family accusations into hideous lies, however, was Michael's obvious, long-term commitment to Terri. He never left her. He continued to care for her right to the end. He took all the money ($750,000) awarded to her from a lawsuit against the doctor who was treating Terri for failing to diagnose her for bulimia and set up a fund to continue her care. He was there at the end when she died. It was obvious he loved her and wanted the best for her.

Michael Schiavo was in charge of the money. He could have found a way to use it to his benefit. He did not. Michael Schiavo could have turned his wife's legal care over to her family, and gotten on with his life. He did not. And yet, he was accused of the most horrible crimes by wanting to disconnect her feeding tube after 15 years, and let her die in peace, according to her own wishes.

What was also striking about the coverage on Dateline NBC was the section which recounted how President Bush and Congress got involved. It was with alacrity. Bush actually cut short his vacation and came immediately back to Washington to deal with the issue.

What a contrast to see his fervent, almost fanatic, response to Terri Schiavo, in comparison to his stuporific, leaden response to hundreds of thousands of Americans threatened by Katrina.

Perhaps the most irritating thing was Matt Lauer's disbelief (it actually felt like he was objecting) that a 22-year old woman could utter words expressing to her husband that she would not want to live like a vegetable (referring to the state her uncle was in at the time.) In fact, it is such a likely thing for people, young or old, to say to their spouses when they see someone in that condition: "Don't let me live like that." Lauer was just trying to find one more issue on which to question Michael Schiavo's veracity. He did his best to take up the family's cause against him.

Throughout the interview, Michael Schiavo's love for Terri and his commitment to her came through. It contrasted starkly with Terri's family's response which was all about their beliefs, about what they wanted. At one point, in court, family members said that were it true that Terri said she would not want to be kept alive under these conditions, they would have done it anyway. This was all about them. Michael was able to keep this about Terri.

March 25, 2006

Andrew Young Becomes Private Dancer for Wal-Mart

Andrew Young, aide and close confidante to Martin Luther King, long-time civil rights activist, and former Mayor of Atlanta, has gone to work for Wal-Mart.

It's so embarrassing I have a hard time expressing how much. That Andrew Young is pals with these first class oppressors and exploiters of the world's impoverished is enough to make Martin Luther King roll over in his grave. He should be on the front line of protest against them, describing to the American people what is wrong with this corporate robber baron, rather than bending over for their cash, kidding himself and trying to make me believe he can really accomplish a damn thing. He should be ashamed. He has basically flushed whatever legacy he might have had right down the toilet.

I don't care how much he rationalizes it. I don't care how much he explains and defends his actions. It is simply beyond reason for him to believe that he will have the slightest effect on a corporation that thrives on the low wages it pays its workers and on the products that slave labor makes for its customers.

I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
And any old music will do

From Tina Turner's Private Dancer, composer, Mark Knopfler

(image: Ric Feld/A.P. March 22, 2006. Decatur, Ga. Via YahooNews, via BagNewsNotes. Thanks to BAGnewsNotes for the inspiration)

The Foxes Guarding the Hen House?

Is there something someone is not telling us about the Bush administration?

How can an administration that wears the American flag on its sleeve figuratively and on its lapel permanently be the same administration that hires a Middle East country that supported the Taliban and has had ties to Osama bin Laden to administer America's ports?

It's the same American government, the same flag-waving, uber patriotic White House that now proposes, through a no-bid contract, to hire a Hong Kong company, based in Communist China, to direct the use of nuclear inspection equipment for cargo coming to the United States through the Bahamas.

Is there some odd tear in the time-space continuum that I haven't heard about?

How is it that this administration, that has spoken uncountable words about how it is indispensable when it comes to protecting Americans, can so faciley, on two separate occasions, hire foreign corporations to "protect" America, corporations that might reasonably be perceived by many thinking Americans as somewhat suspect?

Were there no alternatives to looking foolish?

Overworked and Dumbed Down

I'd have to get a grant and take a year off if I were to list and describe all the ways that corporate America is overworking and dumbing down Americans and ruining the country. But I do have the help of Molly Ivins and Barbara Erhenreich who, in recent columns, have summarized two of the more egregious ways corporations are keeping us uninformed and distracted.

Barbara starts us off with a piece entitled Those Corporate Homewreckers by describing how corporations underpay millions of Americans, force them to work overtime (often unpaid), force them to seek extra jobs, and, as a result, now install the American worker ahead of their Japanese counterparts as the world's top (unwilling) workaholics. In the process, our family lives suffer.

The irony is that these corporate policies are supported wholeheartedly by right-wing politicians, knee-jerk pundits like Kate O'Beirne, and Christian fundamentalists like Focus on the Family's James Dobson -- all uncaring about how effectively these corporate muggers are robbing the American family. Ehrenreich concludes:

From 1979 to 2000, Japan reduced the average annual hours worked by 305, whereas the United States reduced its annual hours by a whopping total of four, according to The State of Working America, 2004-2005. All variety of things suffer when work expands to fill evenings and weekends -- health, for example, and citizenly participation. How can you frame an opinion on the issues if you never get a chance to read or have long discussions with friends?
But families -- and especially children -- take the worst hit. It's just not possible to be a responsible and responsive parent or spouse if your work leaves you with barely enough time to shower.

This brings us to Molly Ivins' column entitled The Slow Death of Newspapers which chronicles the decline in the amount of news in our "newspapers." Molly describes the recent acquisition of Knight Ridder by McClatchy Co. and lets us in on how profitable newspapers actually are -- "In 2005, publicly traded U.S. newspaper publishers reported operating profit margins of 19.2 percent, down from 21 percent in 2004, according to The Wall Street Journal." Not a bad profit margin.

But she also reminds us that Wall Street is not high on the newspaper business, and that's why McClatchy Co. got Knight Ridder "for a song". And why is Wall Street not excited about newspapers? Because circulation is down 2% in 2004, and 13% since the 1985 peak.

So what is the corporate world doing to stem the tide of newspaper readership, Molly asks?

So we're looking at a steady decline over a long period, and many of the geniuses who run our business believe they have a solution. Our product isn't selling as well as it used to, so they think we need to cut the number of reporters, cut the space devoted to the news and cut the amount of money used to gather the news, and this will solve the problem. For some reason, they assume people will want to buy more newspapers if they have less news in them and are less useful to people. I'm just amazed the Bush administration hasn't named the whole darn bunch of them to run FEMA yet.

What better solution to the circulation problem than to reduce the amount of news coverage in newspapers? One of the brilliant advantages to this is that fewer people will actually know what's going on in the world and thereby reduce the risk that someone might actually get ticked off by what the corporatocracy is doing to us at home and overseas.

The exact same thing is happening in television and cable news. How can anyone not notice that there is less news, more ads, and more advertorial, entertainment, and product stories on both cable and network news shows?

Why inform when you can sell more ads?

So there you have it. Exhausted, underpaid American workers, unhealthy and overeating, flopping themselves down in front of television, watching tone-deaf idiots sing, ignoring television news unless there's a good story about Jessica Simpson, and only looking at newspapers for the store coupons.

Corporate America wins, the American family loses. Freedom of the press and democracy decline.

March 23, 2006

The Real Story Behind Jill Carroll

Charlotte Dennett, freelance journalist and former reporter for the Beirut Daily Star, reports this story in the current March issue of Vermont Woman .

The story that most of the mainstream press has not told the American people about Jill Carroll's kidnapping has been told by one "lonely Associated Press writer by the name of Charles Hanley..."

Television networks, for instance, have pounded us with stories about the desperate plight of Jill Carroll, and the pleas of her family and friends, as well as stories about her natural affinity for the Iraqi people and her sympathy for their situation. They have also told the American people about the kidnappers demands: release of all women prisoners in Iraq.

What the networks and most of the mainstream press have not reported is that the United States military has taken captive two wives of suspected insurgents as "bait to get the insurgents to turn themselves in."

This puts an entirely different light on the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, doesn't it? There is greater context to the story than simply a journalist kidnapped.

As Dennett reports, Iraq has become an awful killing ground for journalists and Jill Carroll may become yet another fatality in the long list. But the least our television and other mainstream news outlets can do is give us some greater understanding of why Jill Carroll, in particicular, may have been taken. Knowing about the Iraqi wives of suspected insurgents being held by the American government as bait is important information that Americans ought to know about.

March 22, 2006

Sniffing Our Shoes Does Not Make Us Safe

Airport security makes certain you give them your shoes to sniff, but they haven't a clue what's happening to our bags.

USA Today reports that 10,000 bags a day were lost by airlines last year. That means over 30 million bags were mishandled by the airlines. About 240,000 never made it back to their owners at all. I can only assume this means either these bags were stolen or somehow never identified

Think about it. 30 plus million bags gone astray. We don't know where. We know someone has them. What are they doing with them? What could they be doing with them? One thing for sure -- if the airlines don't know where they are, and transportation security people don't know where they are, they can't possibly know whether they are secure or not. In the end, this means that 30 plus million bags a year are potentially insecure.

What about the 200,000 bags that don't get back to their owners? How many of these are as a result of theft? One thing the article did not address, and I had a hard time getting any statistics on, is pilferage of luggage, airline employees who steal personal belongings out of our luggage. So while we know that crooks are taking possessions out of luggage, I would like to know what they might be able to put into bags without anyone knowing. Doesn't that bother anyone?

How can we possibly feel safe if the airlines and TSA have no idea where 3.5 million bags are during the course of the travel year? How can Americans feel safe if thieves are able to get into baggage at airports around the country without any surveillance of any kind?

Don't even get me started on the huge amount of airline freight that sits below our seats that is not ever inspected.

March 21, 2006

9 Years Without a Pay Raise

In the past nine years, workers making the minimum wage have not gotten a single raise.

Not one.

In the meantime, the President and Congress of the United States have given the ownership class hundreds of billions in tax breaks. The reasoning has been that all that money all those rich people will be saving is going right back into the economy and is helping all those low income, poor, and other working American stiffs to have a better life. Can't you feel it? Can't you just see how your savings account is filling up? how much more secure you feel in your employment? how your credit card debt is shrinking? how your children's college fund is growing?

Can the lie of this reasoning get any more obvious? We only have to look at Americans earning the minimum wage as example.

While the wage of $5.15 an hour has stayed the same, its value has dropped dramatically because of inflation, putting workers further and further behind. Worse, the minimum wage ties millions of other low income workers to a wage floor that is a national disgrace.

It’s long past time for Congress to do something about it. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act, and you can help by signing on as a citizen co-sponsor of the bill.

Since 1997, Congress has voted eight pay raises for itself but not one dime for workers making the minimum wage. Think about that.

The annual salary for members of Congress has gone up by $31,600 in that time, while a minimum wage employee working full-time has continued to earn just $10,700 a year.

Just this year, Congress gave itself a $3,100 raise.

It’s time for Congress to stop working for itself and start working for America’s families. Sign on today to be a co-sponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in three steps:

$5.85 60 days after enactment.
$6.55 one year later.
$7.25 one year after that.

Even so, raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour would mean only an additional $4,370 a year for a full-time worker. But that would be enough to pay an average of nine months of rent, pay 18 months of heat and electricity, or a full year’s tuition for a community college degree. While an extra $31, 600 for members of Congress has probably meant that they can fly first class more often, or take nicer vacations, or have more expensive dinners in Washington DC, $4,370 more for low income workers can make a huge difference in the quality of their lives. And this increase would have an immediate, direct impact on more than 7 million workers and an indirect impact on millions more, because the "floor" would be raised.

Right now, there are 37 million Americans—including 13 million children—living in poverty in America, and raising the minimum wage is the easiest thing we can do to stop the rising tide of poverty.

Please take action today and sign on to become a citizen co-sponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

Take Action Now

Thanks to

March 20, 2006

On The Third Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

Close to half of Iraqis are unemployed.

Iraqis must keep away from their "liberators," the Americans, because they are all too often killed by American troops afraid of anyone who gets too close to them.

Everything is expensive.

Malnutrition and infant mortality are still disturbingly high.

Baghdad has only 5.8 hours of electricity each day.

Iraq is producing 700,000 barrels a day less than before the invasion.

There is less water, less sewage control, and less gas at gasoline stations than before the invasion.

People are terrified of the enormous rise in criminal activity.

Even though most Iraqis are still happy that Saddam Hussein is gone, there is an abiding anger at the American "liberators" and what they have and have not done in the last three years.

[Thanks to a story filed by John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor, on his first trip back to Iraq since 1991.]


George Bush's comments on the third anniversary. So much that he left unsaid that the American people, not to mention the American troops, need to hear from him. He is letting all of us down as he buries his head deeper and deeper.

The former Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said yesterday:

We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more - if this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.

According to Iraq Body Count, On 1 March 2006, it put the total number of civilian dead at 31,599 to 35,712 and the number of police dead at 1,914. The number of civilian dead is more than 5,000 higher than in February, partly because data from the Baghdad morgue for 2005 has been included.


Retired US Army Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training Iraqi military forces from 2003 to 2004, described Mr Rumsfeld as "incompetent" and urged him to resign.

March 19, 2006

Orwell's Grave Interviewed By South Dakota Newspaper

Perhaps this is a little self-promotion, but I bring to your attention an article in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper, which interviewed yours truly for a piece published in today's Sunday edition.

Nestor Ramos, Argus Leader reporter, who says he reads my blog, has a good wrap-up entitled Abortion Lands S.D. in Nation's Psyche. Here is how he reports his interview with me:

Like every political Web log worth it's [sic] links, "Orwell's Grave" took note of South Dakota's new law. Steven [sic] McArthur, who writes the left-leaning blog from his home in Montpelier, Vt., said he was familiar with the concept of tarring whole states over an issue. His home state's image recently took a hit when right-wing commentators took issue with what they thought was a light sentence for a convicted pedophile, he said. Vermont was casually referred to in some circles as "the pedophile state."In South Dakota, McArthur said, "I haven't seen as much reaction, but if the left is doing the same thing as the right did on Vermont, then they're just as stupid as the right are."McArthur, unlike many bloggers, says he is not going to condemn the whole state."There are people of good faith in South Dakota who believe they are doing the right thing," he said.

I said this last in the context of talking about how every state projects many sides to an issue and that we should not condemn an entire state on the basis of just one side, or one group of people. I also talked about how the South Dakota abortion law was the creation of a small group of men in the South Dakota Senate and House, pushed by radical interest groups, who want to control women's lives and women's health choices. They may believe they are doing the right thing, but that does not make them right.

Ramos asked me what I thought about some people's image of South Dakota swinging far to the right with this decision and how it might make South Dakota look bad if Roe v Wade is overturned. I said that if the people of South Dakota fail to invalidate the law through the referendum process this November and it ends up in the Supreme Court and Roe is actually overturned, then South Dakota will go down in history as the state that started the ball rolling towards a catastrophe for women's rights. I said it would be an inescapable conclusion, although if it weren't South Dakota it probably would be some other state that sparked such a Supreme Court reversal.

I asked Ramos if he was aware of the Purity Ball 2006 which is taking place on April 7 in Sioux Falls. He was not, but promised to look into it. I referred him to my piece in Orwell's Grave.

March 18, 2006

America's Medical Delivery System Mediocre

How many times have you heard the mantra from the right, from conservatives, from corporate medical and pharmaceutical interests that "socialized" medicine, government-controlled medicine -- the national health insurance programs of Canada and Europe -- cannot deliver the high quality of care that American medicine does? How many times have you heard the corporate health interests claim that American medicine is far superior to any nationalized system anywhere?

"Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health care quality suggests that Americans -- rich, poor, black, white -- get roughly equal treatment, but it's woefully mediocre for all." [my emphasis added]

This is the opening sentence from a front-page article in my local paper, the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, written by Jeff Donn of the Associated Press about a survey reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The article goes on:

The survey of nearly 7,000 patients, reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered only people in urban areas who sought treatment, but it still challenged some stereotypes: Blacks and Hispanics in the study actually received slightly better medical treatment than whites.

On the other hand, the findings don't counter previous studies that found wide disparities in access to health care for minorities and low-income people.

While researchers who conducted the newest study acknowledged separate evidence that minorities fare worse in some areas of expensive care and suffer more from some conditions than whites, their study found that once in treatment, minorities' overall care appears similar to that of whites.

"It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, white or black, insured or uninsured," said Dr. Steven Asch, who helped conduct the study for the Rand Health research institute in Santa Monica, Calif. "We all get equally mediocre care."

...The survey examined whether people got the highest standard of treatment for 439 measures ranging across common chronic and acute conditions and disease prevention. It looked at whether they got the right tests, drugs and treatments.

Overall, patients received only 55 percent of recommended steps for top-quality care — and no group did much better or worse than that. A well-functioning health-care system should provide recommended levels of care 80 to 90 percent of the time [my emphasis added], the study's authors said.

Americans cannot have a sensible conversation about revolutionizing our health care system unless we understand the inequities of the current system. We cannot begin to reform our health care system until we loosen the death-grip of the corporate interests on human health. As long as profit is the central motivating factor for delivery of health care, Americans won't receive what they deserve.

21 Airports Fail Security Test

NBC has just reported that government investigators got homemade bomb making materials through the security checks at all 21 airports they tested.

I, for one, felt some sense of safety and security going through all the hassle of the airport security process, led to believe that my fellow passengers were fully screened and that somebody was not going to jump up with a bomb or gun and take over the plane. And even though I knew that the freight below my seat was not fully screened, I had some increased sense of security since 2001. I could rationalize the freight.

But how does this news make you feel now? Do you feel alot safer knowing George Bush, The Incompetent, is at the helm? Doesn't America feel so much safer with this faker running things?

March 16, 2006

Why I Saved My First Kiss for Marriage

In honor of the small group of men who have made abortion illegal in South Dakota, the Abstinence Clearinghouse is sponsoring A Celebration of Purity for Daughters and Fathers , April 7 in Sioux Falls. This organization, which supports state anti-abortion legislation, opposes all birth control efforts of any kind, and fights against women's choices in health care, is ecstatic with the new law. For them, it lays the groundwork for overturning Roe v Wade. And because the anti-abortion movement has always been about controlling women, this group also works against any family planning because its idea of contraception is indoctrinating young women against kissing before marriage. Yes, I said "kissing" before marriage.

Here is the message on the brochure promoting the Purity Ball 2006:

Studies show fathers hold the key to a better future for their daughters. Showing your love today will help her be a better-adjusted person, with a successful life and family tomorrow. This night is a dinner and ballroom dance event which celebrates your "little girl" and her gift of sexual purity. This night will help you impress upon your daughter that abstinence until marriage is the expected standard of behavior. It is a lifechanging, life-shaping experience!

Who should attend?

This event is for fathers and daughters aged 11 and older. Stepfathers, uncles, godfathers, grandfathers and other significant male figures may bring the young lady in their life.

Think about that. All these men, some of them "significant male figures" (does that mean brothers, boyfriends, pastors?) are bringing their "little girls" to a dance to celebrate (perhaps "worship" is a better word) her "gift of sexual purity." I don't know about you, but that gives me the creeps. (As a friend of mine has noted, for the astonishingly large number of girls who have been abused by fathers, step-fathers, uncles, brothers, grandfathers, godfathers, and other significant males, the idea of all these men bringing their 11-years olds to a "Purity Ball" that focuses on their little girl sexuality is quite more than creepy.)

Amber Davidson is the keynote speaker whose address is entitled Why I Saved My First Kiss for Marriage. Apparently, abstinence now includes kissing. No more cute little boys kissing little girls on the cheek at birthday parties. No more making out anywhere at all for anyone not married. It's a world of imagination and a perversion of reality that boggles the mind.

I wonder if anyone at this conference is going to answer the question I can't seem to get an answer for from anti-abortion activists: namely, if they are successful in overturning Roe v Wade, what kind of criminal penalties do they propose for all the tens of thousands of women who will continue to find ways to have abortions, in violation of federal and state laws? I doubt the subject will even come up.

Will any of these daughters ask their father why a young woman who is raped by her father or uncle or brother or grandfather, or even by a stranger, should be forced to carry such a fetus to term, why she should have no choice, why men do the choosing for her?

Will any of these daughters ask their fathers, or uncles, or grandfathers about why young men are not being held responsible for their behavior, why young men don't have purity balls?

Will any of these daughters wonder why their mother was not invited to celebrate their sexual purity? why the men in their lives have left out the very person on whom most 11-year old girls depend?

Will any of these girls ask why it is mostly men who are telling them what they can do with their bodies, how they should behave, and what kinds of health choices they can make?

Organizations like Abstinence Clearinghouse are the ones which will rejoice when Roe v Wade is overturned. It is one of the organizations which will find comfort in a world where girls and women are behaving as they should in a patriarchal dominated society. "Purity" will be the driving force in a world where girls and women are judged harshly for not conforming, a world where intact hymens are sacrosanct, where men are able to direct their daughter's lives and development to suit their own aims, where "purity" will be the only measurement of young women's lives. A world not unlike the one the Taliban built.

It is not an accident that organizations like Abstinence Clearinghouse concentrats its efforts on young women, not young men. Even the artwork on their main page reflects this focus: a pretty young woman, large and clear, with an unfocused smaller young male image in the background. There is the female, right up front. She is the one responsible, she is, foremost, the one who must conform and carry the pure and chaste image. It's also revealing how they have a website with a link, for members only, to what they call their War Room, sounding much like any fundamentalist jihadist organization. Their war on women is as real as it gets. Their advertising slogan says Networking people for abstinence, but it is clear their target is girls, not "people."

This is the fundamentalist Christian idea of how to make society work. If you can control the women, in this case girls, you can make the Christian family (read: the American family) work the way they think it should.

Who sits on the Advisory Council of the Abstinence Clearinghouse? Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women of America, Heather E. Cirmo of Family Research Council, and Peter Brandt, of Focus on the Family are among the many right-wing, fundamentalist, Christian and dogmatic leaders of organizations that work against women's rights.

Isn't it time that Americans, who believe in democracy and freedom, send a message to these reactionary forces that we will not allow them to wage war on women's rights and legislate their religious beliefs? The anti-abortion movement in this country has always been about controlling women. This "Purity Ball" is an outrageous example of a male patriarchy at work.

Crocodile Tears for H&R Block

This morning, on American Morning, Andy Serwer, CNN's unbiquitous business commentator, brought us the story of H&R Block being sued by New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer for "fraudulent business practices involving IRA accounts marketed to its tax preparation customers."

"The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks $250 million in fines in addition to refunds from the Kansas City, Mo.-based accounting firm for steering approximately 500,000 customers into IRA accounts that were "virtually guaranteed" to lose money."

So, half a million innocent Americans may have been seriously hurt financially by this corporation which purports to be watching out for American taxpayer money and what does Andy Serwer say? -- It's "tough-sledding" for H&R Block. Tough sledding! Oh, the poor guy. Mr. Block, the corporate personhood that he is, must be really upset and we should feel sorry for him because he is having such a hard time. Forget the half million people who lost god-knows how much money. But let's shed tears for the corporate "person" who is in trouble.

Now there is a perfect example of how corporate personhood gets reported, gets distorted, and has become perhaps the most dangerous reality in our lives.

March 14, 2006

What Went Wrong?

The Guardian (UK) reports on a series of memos from Britain's top envoy in which he paints the American administration in Iraq as "an unbelievable mess." John Sawers, Prime Minister Blair's envoy in Baghdad in the aftermath of the invasion, sent a series of confidential memos to Downing Street in May and June 2003 that described the US failures.

According to the Guardian, the mistakes include:

· A lack of interest by the US commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase.

· The presence in the capital of the US Third Infantry Division, which took a heavyhanded approach to security.

· Squandering the initial sympathy of Iraqis.

· Bechtel, the main US civilian contractor, moving too slowly to reconnect basic services, such as electricity and water.

· Failure to deal with health hazards, such as 40% of Baghdad's sewage pouring into the Tigris and rubbish piling up in the streets.

· Sacking of many of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, even though many of them held relatively junior posts.

Part of his description of the American presence, in one report entitled "What's Going Wrong?" includes these words:

No leadership, no strategy, no coordination, no structure and inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis.

The buck stops with George Bush. Let's hold him accountable by throwing out his stooges in Congress this November. Let's make it clear to Bush and his incompetent appointees that their mistakes have cost American lives, American prestige, and American economic solvency.

Rumsfeld Has It Both Ways in Iraq

From Informed Comment

Young Shiite nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr said Monday that Iraq is in a state of civil war.

He responded to guerrilla provocations against Sadr City, with bombings and mortars having killed over 50 persons there Sunday, by ordering his Mahdi Militia not to engage in reprisals.

Like many Iraqi and Arab observers, Muqtada was shocked when US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said last week that the US military would not intervene in an Iraqi civil war, leaving that to Iraqi forces.

' "May God damn you," Sadr said of Rumsfeld. "You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere." '

Cole says: I have to admit, it is hard to see what use it is to have US soldiers in Iraq if they won't be deployed in a genuine national emergency.

Truly, just what kind of thinking does it take to hold those two positions simultaneously?

Rumsfeld chides Americans at home who are pressing for troop withdrawal that if American troops withdraw, Iraq will break into civil war. And yet, faced with the fact that Iraq is now breaking into civil war with US troops there, he says our troops will not intervene. And all the while, Rumsfeld is incapable of giving the American people any kind of timetable for withdrawal.

So, Mr. Rumsfeld, just what the hell are Americans dying for now? What new reason is there for our being there? Hurry, quick, think of something.

March 13, 2006

A Self-Righteous Evil

The attack on women's reproductive health and choice is heating up with the appointments of Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Challenges to Roe v Wade are increasing everywhere, in almost every state.

When women are forced, once again, into backroom abortions, the fanatics will make them all criminals. Women's choice will be destroyed by a dogmatic Christian patriarchy, woman's health care will diminish, and women who are raped by strangers or male family members will no longer have any choice. Women whose lives are threatened by a pregnancy will die, because self-righteous men say they will die.

This woman, at left, died before she could be arrested.

These men, and most of them are men who are casting the votes, will have muscled their way into women's lives yet again, controlling them, bending them to their will, all in the name of some god who drives them to this self-righteous evil.

Thanks to Tennesse Guerilla Women

March 11, 2006

Coal Industry Has No Shame

As it has persistently since the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was created, the mining industry, the National Mining Association and its corporate thugs are again trying to reduce or eliminate inspections, or even eliminate the MSHA itself. What might be their interest in doing so? Increased safety for the miners? Or might it have something to do with profits?

The West Virginia Gazette has the story.

More miners have died this year in two and half months than all of last year put together. You'd think the mining industry would lay low for a bit. But instead, it has gone on the offensive, almost as if those deaths have not happened. Just when you think one corporate segment of the ruling elite has been cowed by its own failures, you find out it only emboldens them to go on the offensive. It's the Bush strategy: when you look like a cad, like an incompetent, like a real screwup, don't apologize, or appear humbled by it, go on the offensive and be even more self-righteous and arrogantly predatory.

Kurt Vonnegut Speaks

“Well,” says Vonnegut, “I just want to say that George W. Bush is the syphilis president.” The students seem to agree. “The only difference between Bush and Hitler,” Vonnegut adds, “is that Hitler was elected.” “You all know, of course, that the election was stolen. Right here.”

“I’m lucky enough to have known a great president, one who really cared about ALL the people, rich and poor. That was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was rich himself, and his class considered him a traitor."

“We have people in this country who are richer than whole countries...They run everything."

“We have no Democratic Party. It’s financed by the same millionaires and billionaires as the Republicans....So we have no representatives in Washington. Working people have no leverage whatsoever."

“I’m trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending! It’s becoming more and more uninhabitable because of our addiction to oil...Bush used that line recently, I should sue him for plagiarism.”

Things have gotten so bad, he says, “people are in revolt again life itself.”

Our economy has been making money, but “all the money that should have gone into research and development has gone into executive compensation. If people insist on living as if there’s no tomorrow, there really won’t be one."

“War is a very profitable thing for a few people. Jesus used to be so merciful and loving of the poor. But now he’s a Republican."

“Our economy today is not capitalism. It’s casino-ism. That’s all the stock market is about. Gambling."

“You meet saints every where. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.

“I’m going to sue the cigarette companies because they haven’t killed me.”

He says his son lived out his dream to be a pilot and has spent his career flying for Continental --now they’ve “screwed up his pension.”

“You’re all perfectly safe, by the way. I took off my shoes at the airport. The terrorists hate the smell of feet. "

From the Columbus Free Press (via Buzzflash)

House of Representatives Bends Over Again

In case you missed it, the House of Representatives bent over yet again for corporate interests, this time, the food industry.

The House voted to eliminate all state food safety laws in favor of one national weak law written by food industry lobbyists. In yet another act of treason against the American people, members of the House of Representatives surrendered their pledge to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by offering, yet again, to hand power over to corporate personhood, to greed, and to those who would directly hurt Americans.

Here is yet another reason we need to concentrate on throwing these anti-American, undemocratic bums out in November.

Sandra Day O'Connor Warns of Dictatorship

What must Sandra Day O'Connor have been thinking over these past few months, as one Republican after another praised her service, speaking about her in glowing terms, all the while salivating at her departure?

Here is (thanks to links from Poetic Justice through Huffington Post to Raw Story linking to NPR) what she thinks about them.

Supreme Court justices keep many opinions private but Sandra Day O’Connor no longer faces that obligation. Yesterday, the retired justice criticized Republicans who criticized the courts. She said they challenge the independence of judges and the freedoms of all Americans. O’Connor’s speech at Georgetown University was not available for broadcast but NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg was there.

Nina Totenberg:

In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O’Connor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O’Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors, as she put it “really, really angry.”

But, she continued, if we don’t make them mad some of the time we probably aren’t doing our jobs as judges, and our effectiveness, she said, is premised on the notion that we won’t be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts. The nation’s founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But, said O’Connor, as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don’t protect judicial independence, people do.

And then she took aim at former House GOP leader Tom DeLay. She didn’t name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case. This, said O’Connor, was after the federal courts had applied Congress’ onetime only statute about Schiavo as it was written. Not, said O’Connor, as the congressman might have wished it were written. This response to this flagrant display of judicial restraint, said O’Connor, her voice dripping with sarcasm, was that the congressman blasted the courts.

It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn’t help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with. She didn’t name him, but it was Texas senator John Cornyn who made that statement, after a Georgia judge was murdered in the courtroom and the family of a federal judge in Illinois murdered in the judge’s home.

O’Connor observed that there have been a lot of suggestions lately for so-called judicial reforms, recommendations for the massive impeachment of judges, stripping the courts of jurisdiction and cutting judicial budgets to punish offending judges. Any of these might be debatable, she said, as long as they are not retaliation for decisions that political leaders disagree with.
I, said O’Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

Either we listen to the warnings by patriots like Dwight Eisenhower, Cindy Sheehan, John Murtha, and Sandra Day O'Connor, and we act on them, or we are doomed to the fate worked on us by men like Delay, Cornyn, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush.

Listen up, America, or surrender.

In The Name of God

Watch This Video

Thanks to Poetic Justice.

Read his poem from March 10, "Undone Trembling."

March 08, 2006

Persuasion Needed for 2006, Not Impeachment

Lots of people are talking about impeachment.

Garrison Keillor proposes it, saying "Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence."

We see articles almost every day by very thoughtful people on AlterNet, CommonDreams, Truthout, Buzzflash and other websites and blogs advocating impeachment.

In my home state of Vermont, five towns (we just had town meeting day) voted to impeach Bush. Lewis Lapham at Harper's magazine has editorialized in favor of impeachment. And, of course, Rep. John Conyers has been leading the effort in Congress to demand the House of Representatives investigate impeachable offenses by the President. The list goes on and on. There are alot of people working on this issue. Way too many.

No doubt there are sufficient reasons to believe that this administration has committed impeachable offenses which need to be investigated. No doubt the alleged offenses committed by this Bush/Cheney government far exceed the alleged offenses the Republicans used to stampede the Congress into impeaching Bill Clinton and put him on trial in the Senate.

"No one died when Clinton lied" pretty much sums up the difference between the two cases. But I worry that this campaign to impeach Bush looks a little too much like "tit for tat," that too many Americans are going to feel like it is partisan revenge. Let's put away the nuclear option for now and persuade Americans why we must overturn Bush's control of Congress. There are enough good and justifiable reasons to do so. We need persuasion, not impeachment. We need to win in November, not feel moralistic and virtuous.

A letter to the International Herald Tribune says that if Bush were the CEO of a corporation, he'd have been out of the job a long time ago. Wishful thinking, at best. Bush is the CEO of the United States government and he has delivered astounding profits and benefits to the corporate syndicate that owns and operates this country, otherwise known as the shareholders of the government. Bush's allies in Congress appreciate all he has done for their clients. They are not going to impeach Bush.

The Senate can't even get one committee to hear evidence about alleged illegal wiretapping by the NSA. Does anyone really believe that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and United States Senate are going to impeach George Bush and then put him on trial with this current Congress?

Stand up, go directly to the House and Senate candidate you can support, give money, make calls, get your friends together to work with you, walk the precincts, get out the vote, register people, put up signs, host fundraisers, talk to undecided voters, talk to Republicans who have concerns about Bush, persuade, persuade, persuade.

America Crashes into the Race Issue

"The majority of whites are probably genuinely convinced that America is a color-blind society, and that equal opportunity is a reality."

Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes about Crash, the Oscar winner for Best Movie, and contends that it deserved to win because it forces both blacks and whites to confront our racial stereotypes. He claims what makes the picture unique is the black perceptions of the stereotypes. He says:

If many whites think racial equality is a reality, that's more proof to many blacks that whites are in deliberate racial denial. But many whites don't claim blacks are treated equally simply to mask their racial hostility to blacks. They no longer see "Whites only" signs and redneck Southern cops unleashing police dogs, turning fire hoses on and beating hapless black demonstrators. Whites turn on their TVs and see legions of black newscasters and talk show hosts, topped by TV's richest and most popular celebrity, Oprah Winfrey.

He expands on this with more descriptions of black successes and then offers an alternate view of the world of white people:

On the other hand, many blacks erroneously assume that whites live an Ozzie-and-Harriet life of bliss and are immune to personal and social angst. They are puzzled when middle-class whites shoot up their suburban schools, and neighborhoods, bludgeon their children in their homes, use and deal drugs, have high suicide rates and commit bizarre anti-social acts. They don't hear and see whites' pain.

While I understand he is writing solely about the complexity of black-white relations, Hutchinson does leave out the Latino and Asian characters in the film who also are victims of racial stereotyping and conflict. He doesn't actually come out and say it, but my conclusion is that whites and blacks, along with Latinos and Asians --poor, low income, and middle class -- are both being subjected to common pressures by a world that is not very generous to them, a corporate and political world that inflicts pain on them in ways that ought to unite them.

Hutchinson concludes:

A mix of economic slippage, political cynicism and personal alienation, not blind racial hatred drives much of white anger toward blacks. An equal mix of personal alienation, false perception and distrust drives much of black anger toward whites. That's the not-so-subtle message of "Crash."

There is a compelling interest for the ruling corporatocracy to keep us divided, preserving as many racial, social and religious divisions as possible. As long as we are not united in our opposition to corporate economic and political hegemony, we will be fighting the wrong battles.

March 07, 2006

Frist Threatens to "Restructure" Senate Intelligence Committee

Senator Bill Frist is doing all he can to make certain the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn't do all it can to investigate alleged illegal intelligence activities of the Bush administration. Frist thinks that "oversight" and "threat assessment" have nothing to do with potential wrongdoing in the intelligence activities conducted by this administration. As Bush lapdog, there is nothing that this administration could do that would justify Frist supporting any investigation by the US Senate. He understands that the last thing Republicans need between now and November is an investigation of these potentially explosive issues. Of course, Frist's motivations have nothing to do with politics.

"I am increasingly concerned that the Senate Intelligence Committee is unable to carry out its critically important oversight and threat assessment responsibilities due to stifling partisanship that is exhibited through repeated calls by Democrats on the committee to conduct politically-motivated investigations," wrote Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in a March 3 letter to Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid. Language in Frist's letter clearly threatens to "restructure" the committee if it does not behave the way he believes it is supposed to behave.

Instead of looking into illegal intelligence activities, which one would think is a germane issue for this committee, Frist wants the committee to turn a blind eye and take up matters relating to the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, the military buildup of China, and Islamic radicalism. And there is the familiar refrain from Republicans when they get into trouble: while the Democrats want to undertake "politically motivated" witch-hunts, the Republicans want to continue to defend this country from evil.

"I agree with Senator Frist," Senator Reid replied, "the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has been bogged down by partisanship."

"When faced with strong evidence that the Bush Administration has misused intelligence..., time and again the Senate Intelligence Committee has ducked its responsibilities and refused to hold the Administration accountable. The recent record of the Republican-controlled committee is most notable for its abdication of authority and responsibility," Sen. Reid said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote on March 7 (today) on a proposal by Senator Rockefeller to conduct an investigation of the NSA warrantless surveillance activity. After having felt the uncomfortable and uncompromising strong-arm of the White House, Republican Senators and members of the Committee, Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel, have vowed to vote with the Democrats to make sure the hearings happen. The open question then will be whether Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Committee, will find ways to work with Frist and other Republican leaders to delay and even effectively stop the hearings, or whether he will acquiesce to the will of the majority of the Committee and hold the hearings.

The ultimate question: Just how far will Frist and the White House go in trying to sabotage any hearings? If the Majority Leader decides to restructure the Committee, how long will that take and what consequences will that have for Senate "oversight" and "threat assessment."

[Thanks to Federation of American Scientists -- Secrecy News]

March 06, 2006

Fake Virginity

Perhaps the ultimate in Orwellian rewriting of history is the relatively new surgical technique known as hymenorraphy (hymenoplasty), or hymen repair surgery. It takes 45 minutes to perform and recovery for women takes six weeks. The surgery is particularly popular in cultures where there is a social and religious imperative for brides to have an intact hymen before marriage. There are a dozen or so American medical clinics and physicians who offer the procedure and it costs anywhere from $2000 to $5000.

For most women who don't sit around all day preserving the status of their hymens, living sedentary lives careful not to place any stress on their groins, the odds of their having intact hymens by the time they marry are not good anyway, even if they have never had sexual intercourse. Research has shown that many women, through normal ordinary physical activity, -- not to mention the increased numbers of young women around the world involved in sports, yoga, dance, horsebackriding, etc. -- tear or rupture their hymens long before they are betrothed. Tampon use is another frequently cited cause for lack of intact hymens.

In cultures governed by strict religious and social beliefs and practices, it can be a matter of life and death for a young woman whose hymen is not intact. To varying degrees, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism all have formalized beliefs and teachings regarding virginity.

In India and Egypt, for instance, husbands or family members of either the husband or the bride sometimes feel justified to murder the bride if it is discovered that she has no hymen. Although outlawed in most countries, and condemned by religious authorities as well, there are cultural and social compulsions that drive male members of some families to punish their brides or daughters, sometimes fatally. No questions asked, just death. In some rare cases, more than one member of the family joins in.

Happily, however, in 1996, the English medical journal, The Lancet, reported that there was an 80% decrease in the death of brides in Eygpt because of the availability of hymen repair surgery. How fortunate that young women in Egypt don't have to die because they have lost their hymen sometime during their youth, in most cases through no fault of their own. They can now undergo corrective surgery, because of a patriarchal demand that they be pure and clean, judged only by the physical health of their hymens.

In countries like Egypt and Turkey, the procedure is very expensive and is out of reach for most poor women, who, of course, continue to be the women most often suffering the consequences. Because the consequences of not bleeding during first sexual intercourse on the marriage night can be so severe, many hymenoplasty procedures, especially in Muslim and Hindu countries, involve the attachment of a small sack of red liquid to simulate bleeding so that the husband can be reassured of his bride's virginity on his wedding night.

Naturally, there is no test to determine whether a man is a virgin before marriage, nor any requirement, social or otherwise that he be a virgin. The hymen, by the way, is named after a man, a mythical one at that, but nevertheless a male. Hymenaeus is the Greek god of weddings and marriage. He leads the wedding procession and prepares the marriage feast. He is the brother of Priapus, the bastard son of Aphrodite (the father is unknown) and the god of virility and fertility. In many parts of the world, marriage, therefore, is definitely a male event. Priapism in today's sexual lingo is both a medically defined long-term, painful erection, but also has become a sign of tremendous male virility -- the never-ending erection. Look out, girls!

Women are murdered around the world for many reasons -- failing to conceive, failing to conceive males, failing to submit to prostitution, failing to obey a husband or male family member, failure to provide a large enough dowry. Not having a hymen is yet another way women fail in the eyes of the patriarchy. And how fortunate for some physicians, who now have yet another way to make money off of women's "imperfections."


Here's a Wikipedia entry about "honor killings" that has many sources and other links, as well as a list of some countries that explicitly and implicitly permit or forgive or punish lightly men who murder their wives.

Troops Want to Come Home in 2006

From Zogby International, from the Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll

Released: February 28, 2006


-- 72% of the troops say they would like to see an end to US involvement in the war in 2006;

-- just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed;”

-- while 58% say the US mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy;

-- a plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown;

-- almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks;

-- a majority of the troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation;

-- a plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment.

The Global Idiot Smiles Superciliously

Of emergency funding for a program that provides energy assistance (home heating) to the elderly, Trent Lott stood up and said, according to Bob Geiger: "What is it we are not going to give people for free? Is there any limit? Is there any limit to the amount of money?" asked Lott, adding snidely "I thought we were having global warming."

From Evan Derkasc

March 04, 2006

A Chilling Story

If you did not hear or see this on Democracy Now! , read the interview here with a Veteran's Affairs nurse in New Mexico who was investigated by the FBI for sedition for writing a letter criticizing the Bush administration's failures with the Katrina response and with its Iraq war policy. Her letter to a local alternative newspaper, written by her at home, calls on the American people to "act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."

She goes on to describe how intimidated she has felt by this action, and how her co-workers feel the intimidation, too. The logical conclusion to this kind of government response would be to investigate every American who writes about or speaks about acting forcefully to remove this President. Acting forcefully for most Americans is organizing to vote, promoting a groundswell for impeachment, letter writing campaigns about Bush's lies and deception, mass exposure of the Bush/Cheney government's illegal actions, speaking out in every forum available to bring light on this corrupt government, and writing in every newspaper, blog, magazine, and other vehicle available about the need to replace this government with one that supports the American people.

I hereby declare myself among the millions of other Americans, including members of Congress who want to act forcefully to remove this President through impeachment. I further declare that I want to act forcefully to remove Republican members of Congress in November 2006. Furthermore, I want to act forcefully to overthrow the corporate rule that has undermined and limited our democracy. Bring it on, FBI. Come investigate me and millions of other Americans for SEDITION.

Here's the real crime:

This Bush/Cheney government can't protect our ports because it's spending billions waging war in Iraq, but it does have the personnel and time to investigate some Veteran's Affairs nurse in New Mexico for speaking out against them.

[Thanks to AlterNet]

March 03, 2006

Parade Magazine Warns America

Almost 34 million Americans receive Parade Magazine as inserts in their Sunday newspapers. Somehow I missed this front-page article Are They Taking Away Our Freedoms?.

It is well worth reading and considering that what is usually an inoffensive newspaper stuffer that usually features movie actors on the cover, stories about heroic police officers, and photo contests involving pets, has warned Americans that their freedoms are eroding because information is being increasingly withheld from them by their government.

One highlight:

There are more than 4,000 people scattered across the federal government with the authority to classify documents, from those in the Pentagon and CIA to the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency. In 2004 alone, 15.6 million documents were classified—about 125 documents a minute—costing more than $7 billion of your tax dollars.

The article contains a sample list of some of the information that is classified or "restricted." Here is one example:

Thousands of boxes of documents captured in Iraq. Many of these came from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Intelligence Service and may contain information on insurgents fighting today. For the most part, they remain unclassified. Nevertheless, the new office of the Director of National Intelligence is resisting their release and examination, even though some experts believe they could help our forces in Iraq as well as point to what U.S. intelligence got right and wrong before the war.

It's a big thing that this normally neutral and innocuous national magazine has explicitly warned the American people about such an erosion of their freedoms.

Anonymous Speaks

The thing I like least about Blogger is that people get to post comments anonymously. I would much prefer to have a dialogue with people who have the courage of their convictions sufficient to identify themselves, especially when they write in opposition to your ideas.

I recently wrote a piece entitled Denying the Holocaust and Satirizing Muhammad which resulted in the following comment on an entirely different post, but which responded directly to this one.

Anonymous said:

I just read an article where you referred to Irvin's [sic] views as 'hideous'..... here is the reality... as I see it and I've been investigating the subject for about a month .... even though the allies captures tons of Nazi documents and intercepted secret communications... there is zero documentary evidence of a 'final solution'.... there is zero physical evidence of gas chambers at Auschwitz (there is one gas chamber 'reconstructed' by the Soviets) and zero evidence of bodies at Treblinka ... all there is forced confessions and survivor testimony ... much of which is absurd on its face ... e.g. Elie Wiesel's 'Night' which has no mention of gas chambers although he was at Auschwitz.. he says the Nazis killed the Jews by burning them in pits.. absurd on its face....

This guy has been investigating the "subject," I presume he means the Holocaust, for a whole month and he is such an expert now that he can declare there is zero documentary evidence of a 'final solution' physical evidence of gas chambers at Auschwitz...and zero evidence of bodies at Treblinka." He also claims that it is "absurd on its face" that Nazis killed Jews by burning them in pits." On this last one he is probably closer to the truth because the Nazis usually shot people in the back of the head and pushed them into pits before burning them.

Here is my response to Anonymous' comment:

To Anonymous -- As opposed to Austria, in this country you can say something as evil and stupid as you have and not be prosecuted for it. You don't even have to remain anonymous to say such things. You can use your real name. But I understand why, after having written what you did, that you might not want to identify yourself. It's ok, anonymous, Americans put up with your kind of hateful garbage all the time.

Now, in response, Anonymous, employing every ounce of his vast intellectual prowess, has responded to me by peppering my blog with one repeated comment, as follows:

You're an idiot.

That's it. That's the sum total of his cognitive and forensics skills.

But the whole point of my piece, in the first place, was that Anonymous is a prime example of the concept of free speech and how we tolerate almost anything in this country, no matter how immature and ignorant.

March 02, 2006

"A Corporate Citizen of Florida"

In response to a letter from Rep. Henry Waxman to Florida Governor Jeb Bush about his involvement in a no-bid selection of Carnival Cruise Lines, based in Florida, as supplier of three cruise ships to house refugees from Katrina, one of his spokespeople, Russell Schweiss, responded this way:

"The governor's involvement was merely facilitating contact with a corporate citizen of Florida that was seeking to provide immediate housing relief," Schweiss said. "Any assertion the governor had to do with any contracting negotiations or further action by FEMA is unfounded."

Don't you just love the use of "corporate citizen" in this context? It's like Jeb Bush had a whole bunch of "citizens" to choose from and he chose this one so this particular "citizen" could get in on the action, in the amount of $236 million of taxpayer money. The fact that this "citizen" has been a solid corporate donor to his campaign made little difference in his choice, of course. The fact that Carnival is a convicted corporate citizen criminal bore little influence on the decision either.

Carnival Cruise Lines has lied about its involvement in housing the Katrina victims being revenue neutral. In fact, during this time when normal paying passengers would be aboard, there would be an additional 800 employees that Carnival would normally be paying whom they are not paying while the refugees are aboard. So Carnival is actually making additional millions in profit. Did anyone think Carnival was doing this out of the goodness of its heart?

There were probably not many cruise lines that might have been able to benefit from the taxpayer money, but the least the government could have done is gotten some bids from other cruise lines, other so-called "corporate" citizens, on behalf of the American taxpayer, all of whom are also "citizens," last time I checked.

March 01, 2006

The Last Refuge of A Scoundrel

Chickenhawk Cheney, who gets more bellicose and snarling as he gets older, has issued a challenge to Washingtonians, Democrat and Republican alike. Here is what he said when he addressed the 46th Annual American Legion Conference in Washington yesterday:

Here in Washington, if any believe America should suddenly withdraw from Iraq and stop fighting al Qaeda in the very place they have gathered, let them say so clearly. If any believe that America should break our word and abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, let them make it known. If any believe that America should be safer -- or would be safer with men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of Iraq, let them try to make that case.

This is the core of the Bush/Cheney government's argument. Quitting is cowardly, leaving Iraq would be a disaster, stopping our fight against Al-Queda in Iraq would be surrender, breaking our word and abandoning Iraq would be sentencing them to death and prison, America will be very unsafe if bin Laden and Zarqawi take over in Iraq. If you disagree with any of this, you are a cowardly, anti-American supporter of terror and you probably applauded after 9/11.

The direct message of Cheney's challenge is that he and Bush are the only ones who know how to protect us, and that any and all critics should just shut up.

This is the last refuge of this administration. Everything else around them is wreckage of their bumbling incompetence and greed, and they are making their last stand with their American flags on their lapels and their incessant war speeches.

This is what must be thrown back into Cheney's face at every opportunity:

1. You shut up, you fake patriot;
2. No one is advocating surrendering to Al-Queda;
3. No reasonable critics are advocating "sudden" withdrawal from Iraq;
3. You lied about reasons for the invasion of Iraq;
4. You lied about al-Queda being in Iraq;
5. You are wasting our troops and our country's future in Iraq;
6. You are fighting the wrong war on terror;
7. You are bankrupting America;
8. You are guaranteeing our country's future dependence on Saudi Arabia for oil;
9. You are ignoring the fact that the largest opposition, by far, to the US presence in Iraq is Iraqi, not al-Queda;
10. Only 18% of the American people support you, Cheney;
11. America will be safer when you are gone.
12. We have had enough of you. Go shoot something.

There, you want someone to speak up, Mr. Cheney? That's what people in Washington need to say to you, you phony, flag-waving, small-minded bully.

Bush: Don't Know Much About Nuttin'

This is directly from the official White House transcript and records the conversation between President Bush and a student at Kansas State University who wanted to know about the $12.7 billion in cuts in the education budget and how that was going to help "our" futures.


Q Hi, I just want to get your comments about education. Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education, and I was just wondering how that's supposed to help our futures? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Education budget was cut -- say it again. What was cut?
Q Twelve point seven billion dollars was cut from education, and I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our --
THE PRESIDENT: At the federal level?
Q Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that -- I don't think we've actually -- for higher education? [LAUGHTER] Student loans?
Q Yes, student loans.
THE PRESIDENT: Actually [LAUGHTER], I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We're not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure it works better. Part of the reconciliation package, I think she's talking about. Yes, it's a reform of the program to make sure it functions better. It is -- in other words, we're not taking people off student loans, we're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. And so I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so. And, secondly, on Pell grants, we're actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget.
But, great question. I think that the key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century. And I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs, so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world.
But I'm -- I think I'm right on this. I'll check when I get back to Washington. But thank you for your question. (Applause.)


The official White House transcript leaves out several places where there is not applause, but actual laughter [which I have inserted]. Bush's discomfort with the question is obvious and his turning behind him to someone there to help him out is pretty funny. He is literally tongue-tied so he asks the student to repeat the question. It's as if no one ever told him he might get a question about education cuts if he went to a university to speak. Bush finally gathers himself and delivers a stream of gobbledygook about making the student loan program more "efficient," the standard word used by corporate hatchet men to justify cutting people's jobs, eliminating their livelihoods, and shrinking their opportunities. Our hatchet-man-in-chief ends by saying he'll check it all out when he gets back to Washington, like cutting the education budget is not something he really knows much about. Is it really all that important?

Perhaps the oddest thing he said, without meaning to be funny, was:

And I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs, so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world.

I can imagine how reassured American students must be that the hatchet-man-in-chief turned professor-in-chief is actually going talk about math, science and engineering. If they listen hard to George Bush, maybe they'll have enough credits to graduate.

If you want to see and hear what actually happened at the January 23rd event, here is video of it. [Thanks to]