30 June 2005

"Dangerous Incompetence"

In today's New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert addresses the quagmire by Iraq.

An excerpt:
The president who displayed his contempt for Iraqi militants two years ago with the taunt "bring 'em on" had to go on television Tuesday night to urge Americans not to abandon support for the war that he foolishly started but can't figure out how to win.
[Read the complete column.]

Excellent animation about oil dependency

The Rainforest Action Network has put together a very nice two-minute Flash animation about Americans and our ridiculously excessive use of petroleum.

[Watch the movie.] (For full effect, make sure that your computer's sound is turned on.)

Then click the link at the end of the movie to sign the Declaration of Independence from Oil.

And then please put your money where your mouth is and trade in your gas-guzzlin' SUV for a hybrid.

29 June 2005

The Supreme Court puts women in danger

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can refuse to enforce a restraining order and that they cannot be prosecuted if their inaction results in death.

From a press release issued yesterday by the National Organization for Women:
This is a truly outrageous decision—the U.S. Supreme Court just hung a 'shoot here' sign around the necks of battered women and their children all across the country," said NOW President Kim Gandy.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7 to 2 decision that police officers are exempt from legal action, even if their refusal to enforce a valid restraining order results in death. The decision in Castle Rock v. Gonzales said Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order issued against her abusive estranged husband. Gonzales sued the town of Castle Rock, Colo., after she repeatedly pleaded with police to enforce the restraining order against her husband, who had kidnapped their three young daughters. The girls were eventually found dead inside his truck.

"Abusers may feel they have a green light to ignore restraining orders, and police departments under budget restraints could see domestic violence enforcement as a 'no penalty' area to cut resources," Gandy said.
[Read the full release.]

So now a restraining order isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

For all the talk about homeland security, the U.S. homeland just became a lot less secure for women and children and anyone else who may feel threatened to the point of seeking a court-issued restraining order.

28 June 2005

Bush says that his greatest responsibility is to protect us. Now don't you feel safe?

In his televised speech this evening, George W. Bush started out by telling us that his greatest responsibility is to protect the American people.

Of course, to George W. Bush, protecting us means sitting in a classroom calmly reading My Pet Goat while terrorists are slamming airplanes into our buildings. (Don't you just feel all safe and secure?)

He painted a very rosy picture of how well things are going in Iraq.

He also kept mentioning 9/11 and Iraq in the same breath, as if the two were related.

And, predictably, he went on to tell us about how the terrorists "hate our freedom" and "do not understand America", and how we're nonetheless spreading democracy around the world.

And he told us how our great progress in Iraq will pose a problem for terrorist recruitment. (Never mind the fact that our so-called "progress" in Iraq is already interfering with our own military recruitment.)

He implied that his record-low approval ratings are because we are stupid or misguided. And he implied that we do not adequately support the troops, and that we're not "patriots". So, he says, we just need to shut up and "persevere".

His lame rhetoric was not a big deal; we're used to it. The big problem this evening was that he gave his speech at Fort Bragg, NC, surrounded by solders. Soldiers are his props. That says so much more than the drivel he recites from his speechwriters.

The Washington Post wakes up

Finally! Today's Washington Post features an interesting and in-depth article about the Downing Street Memo. [Read it.]

They're already rounding up the sick people

They wasted no time. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana was illegal, even in states that permit its use. Now already the feds are issuing indictments and raiding medical marijuana clubs. [Read story.]

Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden runs free. And the Supreme Court justices can enjoy their three-martini lunches.

27 June 2005

More fun with the Downing Street Memo

Almost two weeks ago, I promised to post transcripts here of any official minutes I could find of Congressman John Conyers' June 16th hearings on the Downing Street Memo.

So far, I haven't been able to locate any official (or even unofficial) transcripts of the session. (If you know if such transcripts online, please e-mail me at mary@maryshawonline.com with a link.)

In the meantime, to read a brief review of the hearings at the truthout.org site, click here.

More testimony from Istanbul (and it ain't getting better)

As the War Tribunal on Iraq continues in Istanbul, the testimony becomes even more heartwrenching.

A new excerpt:
"Snipers hunt people in the streets. People attempting to go to health centers are shot at," testified Eman Kmammas, an Iraqi translator. "There are many crippled children. There are thousands of widows and orphans. There are no police for security and there are no courts. Even hospitals are occupied and bombed and burned."
[Read more.]

So this is "liberation".

Wake up, America! George W. Bush is maiming babies, damn it!

Bush's pick for EPA job is a lawyer for corporate polluters

George W. Bush wants to put yet another fox in charge of a henhouse.

His nominee to lead the EPA's enforcement division, Granta Nakayama, is a lawyer who works for some of the world's biggest polluters, including W.R. Grace, BP, Dow Chemical, and DuPont. [Read story.]

It appears, as always, that Bush wants to make life as easy as possible for his corporate bedpartners, and will simply overlook or deny the possibility of any dire consequences. You see, it would inconvenience them to have to comply with effective environmental standards.

We must not sit back and let them get away with trashing our planet and destroying our health for selfish and irresponsible corporate gain. To take part in Amnesty International's campaign for corporate accountability, click here.

26 June 2005

More on the World Tribunal on Iraq

Truthout.org has just published a very good overview of the World Tribunal on Iraq, which is currently in session in Istanbul, Turkey. [Read story.]

The tribunal is exposing a long list of war crimes. But exposing the crimes is the easy part. The real challenge is in holding the perpetrators accountable, as far up the chain of command as necessary. But we must find a way.

The world community cannot allow the Bush administration to continue flouting the international rule of law and violating human rights with impunity.

World Tribunal for Iraq, culminating session testimony

The 26th of June is the annual United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Accordingly, I would like to share with you some words by Alaskan journalist Dahr Jamail, who testified at the World Tribunal on Iraq, which is currently in session in Istanbul, Turkey.

Jamail provided chilling testimony on prisoner abuse and the deplorable living conditions of most Iraqi civilians, based on his findings during his extensive time in Iraq since the start of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

An excerpt:
In May of 2004 I interviewed a man who had just been released from Abu Ghraib. Like so many I interviewed from various US military detention facilities who'd been tortured horrifically, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.

He began laughing when telling me how CIA agents made him beat other prisoners. He laughed, he said, because he had been beaten himself prior to this, and was so tired that all he could do to beat other detained Iraqis was lift his arm and let it drop on the other men.

Later, he laughed again as he told me what else had been done to him, when he said, "The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house."
[Read his complete testimony.]

25 June 2005

Washington finally admits to widespread torture

An anonymous UN source has said that Washington has finally made an acknowledgement of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. According to AFX News, the acknowledgment was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture.

"They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN," the Committee member told AFP.

[Read story.]

Unfortunately, the report will not be made public until May 2006. And the justification laid forth by Washington in the report is the tired old argument that the detainees in the "war on terror" are classed as "enemy combatants", and therefore do not benefit from the POW status set out in the Geneva Conventions.

In other words, George W. Bush can just pin a label on you and then he can do whatever he wants with you - even if it violates international law and basic standards of decency.

Or they can just blame it on a few "bad apples". (Those "bad apples" really get around!)

24 June 2005

U.S. doctors advised interrogators on how to make torture more effective

According to today's New York Times, former Gitmo interrogators have reported that military doctors assisted in their interrogations by providing advice on how to make torture more effective in order to "break" the subjects. [Read story.]

Hippocrates is spinning in his grave.

Farewell to the American dream

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that homes can be seized by private developers who might be able to generate more tax revenue from the property.

In other words, if someone decides that your private property would be a good spot for a pizzeria or a health club, your local government can render you homeless.

[Read story.]

Shame on the Court for undermining the property rights of average Americans! Now we can't even feel secure in our hard-earned home ownership.

"Downing Street is for Liars"

Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle is one of my favorite columnists. He has a real knack for using colorful prose and biting wit to expose the absurdities of government and other public and popular institutions.

This week he addresses the media's silence on the Downing Street Memo.

An excerpt:
Why isn't the media screaming about the latest proofs of Bush's war scams?

Don't you know?

BushCo survived the illegal sanctioning of inhumane torture. They survived a gay male prostitute acting as a journalist. They survived Enron and Diebold and the rigging of the first election and they will survive Downing Street simply because all the people who should be on the attack about these atrocities all work for the guys who committed them.
[Read entire column.]

23 June 2005

Congress cracks down on torture

It's about time!

Even as the Bush administration continues to deny any allegations of prisoner abuse, Congress has just banned the government from using any money in a newly passed State Department and Defense Department spending bills to render detainees to a country where they will likely be tortured or to subject any person in U.S. custody to torture. This is a good start.

In addition, this week Congressman Waxman (CA), together with Congresswoman Pelosi (CA), Congresswoman Harman (CA), and Congressman Skelton (MO), introduced a bill to establish an independent commission to investigate detainee abuse.

[Read more from Amnesty International.]

So, while the Bushies might think that Amnesty's concerns are absurd, it's nice to see that there are some responsible people in our government who insist on transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law.

Hopefully it's not too little too late.

22 June 2005

Are we at war with Iran?

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been a very vocal critic of the Bush administration's policy with regard to Iraq. And the Downing Street Memo and other evidence offer some solid proof of Bush's dishonesty in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Now, in an article published by Aljazeera, Ritter contends that the Bush administration is pulling the same stunt with Iran, and may have already begun military action.

Might World War III have begun?

In any case, Ritter's article gives us some good food for thought.

[Read story.]

Why won't Bush and Frist just give up on Bolton?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is having trouble securing enough votes to confirm John Bolton for UN Ambassador, and he's flip-flopping on how to proceed. Meanwhile, some are speculating that Bush will just bypass the whole thing and make a recess appointment. [Read story.]

Bush keeps saying that he wants to spread democracy around the world. However, going to great lengths to appoint an ambassador to the UN whom the Republican-run senate will not approve is hardly democratic -- it's just arrogant.

Hasn't enough damage already been done to our country's reputation around the world without sending to the UN a bully who has clearly indicated repeatedly that he has no respect for the UN or for the concept of diplomacy?

Why can't Bush simply withdraw the Bolton nomination and nominate someone who is appropriate enough for the job to win the approval of the Republican-run Senate?!

21 June 2005

Check out DFA's new Downing Street Memo video

Democracy For America has put together a very concise, informative video about the Downing Street Memo. It's just over a minute long, but it says a lot in that short period of time. [Watch the video.]

Be sure to pass it on to your family and friends. America needs to wake up and smell the lies that our tax dollars are funding.

Let's send Jenna and Barbara to Iraq

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert is one of my favorite op-ed writers. I admire how he uses his column space each week to stand up for human rights and social justice.

His most recent column, titled "Someone Else's Child", is one of his best ever.

An excerpt:
It has become clearer than ever that Americans do not want to fight George W. Bush's tragically misguided war in Iraq.

You can still find plenty of folks arguing that we have to stay the course, or even raise the stakes by sending more troops to the war zone. But from the very start of this war the loudest of the flag-waving hawks were those who were safely beyond military age themselves and were unwilling to send their own children off to fight.

It's easy to be macho when you have nothing at risk. The hawks want the war to be fought with other people's children, while their own children go safely off to college, or to the mall. The number of influential American officials who have children in uniform in Iraq is minuscule.
[Read entire column.]

20 June 2005

More fun with greenhouse gasses

Recent reports show that the Bush administration has been deliberately modifying environmental documents to remove and/or downplay references to the dangers of global warming. These papers also reveal that "the White House has withdrawn from a crucial United Nations commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions."

To take action to effectively curb greenhouse gas emissions and global warming would pose an inconvenience to Bush's corporate bedpartners. So they just event their own "truth".

[Read story.]

19 June 2005

Downing Street Memo article in "Stars and "Stripes"!

The current edition of the U.S. military magazine "Stars and Stripes" contains an article about the Downing Street Memo -- thereby informing the troops of Bush's deceptive lead-up to the war in Iraq! [Read story.]

Dubya gets down!

Bush goes hiphop with a new music video. Turn up the sound on your computer and check it out!

Warning: Contains some crude language. Not suitable for children.

Seymour Hersh: The U.S. government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib

The Bush administration continues to tell us that everything is going just fine in Iraq, that the insurgency is in its "death throes", and all our prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere are being treated like royalty.

Let's do a little reality check. I just stumbled upon a speech made last year by journalist and author Seymour Hersh (who uncovered the Abu Ghraib torture scandal) at the ACLU's 2004 Membership Conference.

Here is an excerpt regarding Abu Ghraib:
Some of the worst things that happened that you don’t know about. OK? Videos. There are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at [Abu Ghraib], which is about 30 miles from Baghdad - 30 kilometers, maybe, just 20 miles, I'm not sure whether it's - anyway. The women were passing messages out saying please come and kill me because of what’s happened. And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been [video] recorded, the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking. That your government has, and they’re in total terror it’s going to come out. It’s impossible to say to yourself, how did we get there, who are we, who are these people that sent us there.
[Read entire speech and watch video.]

But the Bush administration and its followers insist that we should be pointing fingers instead at Amnesty International.

17 June 2005

Amnesty International wins Buzzflash "Wings of Justice" award

Amnesty International is this week's BuzzFlash.com Wings of Justice honoree, "for correctly calling the Bushevik system of detention and torture camps a gulag." [Read more - with audio.]

16 June 2005

Greg Palast: The "Other Memos"

Just in time for the Downing Street Memo hearing, investigative journalist Greg Palast developed a timeline of "confidential skullduggery dug up and broadcast by [Palast's] own team for BBC Television and Harper's on the secret plans to seize Iraq's assets and oil." [Read story, complete with illustrated timeline and links.]

Shame on the Washington Post!

The Washington Post was instrumental in uncovering the Watergate scandal. Very cool.

So I wonder what happened over the past 30 years to make that newspaper compromise its journalistic integrity.

Apparently, a lot of citizens have been questioning why the Post (and other mainstream papers) never bothered to question the Bush administration's questionable motives for launching the war on Iraq, and why the media turned a blind eye to the Downing Street Memo.

A new article at Consortiumnews.com quotes a recent editorial in the Post as essentially asserting that everyone knew that Bush was lying about the reasons for waging war on Iraq, so they had no reason to state the obvious on their pages. [Read story.]


Thoughts as I watch the Downing Street hearing

As I write this, I am watching the Democratic hearing on the Downing Street Memo/Minutes and pre-war intelligence, which is being broadcast live on C-SPAN3 and streaming from the C-SPAN site.

The hearing is going very well. This is long overdue, but better late than never.

Later this week, I will try to dig up transcripts of this hearing, and will post a link on this blog if/when the transcripts are available online.

Meantime, I just discovered Congressman John Conyers' official blog, in which he discusses his admirable role in making this hearing happen and calling for answers from the Bush administration. [Check out the "ConyersBlog".]

Bush's day of reckoning

Today, the Bush administration will be held accountable for the lies that led into war. At 2:30 pm EST, Rep. John Conyers will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Memo, to determine whether a "high crime" (an impeachable offense) was committed.
[Read story.]

15 June 2005

Terri Schiavo's autopsy report released; results unsurprising

The results of the Terri Schiavo autopsy were released yesterday. Her brain was about half the size of a normal adult brain, she was indeed in a persistent vegetative state with no chance of recovery, and she was blind. [Read story.]

Some people owe Michael Schiavo an apology.

May Terri finally rest in peace.

Supreme Court overturns Texas death penalty conviction

With George W. Bush no longer running the state, it seems like we're finally seeing some checks and balances on that execution mill known as Texas. [Read story.]

14 June 2005

New Amnesty video on torture

Amnesty International has just finished producing a new Flash video to help build momentum in its call for Congress to appoint an independent commission to investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in U.S. detention facilities around the world.
[Watch the video and take action.]

13 June 2005

More on last Friday's PATRIOT Act hearing - from an Amnesty rep who was there

In a recent post, I highlighted the fiasco that broke out at Friday's Congressional hearing on the PATRIOT Act.

Chip Pitts, Board Chair of Amnesty International USA, was at the hearing to share Amnesty's concerns regarding the PATRIOT Act. In a very interesting article published yesterday by Truthout.org, Chip shares his perspectives on the hearing, the PATRIOT Act, and the U.S. government's treatment of detainees. [Read the article.]

12 June 2005

Stem cells: Some practical perspectives

The Democratic National Campaign Committee has been collecting testimonials from people all over the country who would benefit from stem cell research or know people who would. [Read the stories.]

I can't understand why some politicians oppose putting these cells to good use in research, when they would otherwise just be thrown away. Perhaps it's just another imaginary crisis for the conservatives to elevate to their soapbox and spin into an emotional controversy, to draw attention away from the real issues plaguing this country, like the fiasco in Iraq, the many American jobs being shipped overseas, and Tom DeLay's ethical violations.

11 June 2005

Losing my democracy

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the PATRIOT Act. At the hearing, some of the Republicans, most notably Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), behaved very rudely, not only towards House Democrats but also towards representatives of Amnesty International and other organizations who showed up to testify. [Read story.]

Dissent is a hallmark of democracy. Trying to stifle dissent and silence opposing points of view, as these House Republicans were doing, is surely not how our founding fathers envisioned the function of Congress.

I've seen kindergarten classes who behave in a more mature fashion.

10 June 2005

Democrats standing firm on Bolton issue

It's nice to see that the Democrats in the U.S. Senate have finally found the strength to stand up to the Republican majority instead of rolling over helplessly.

The Senate is four votes shy of the 60 needed for the Bolton nomination to go for a vote. Minority Leader Harry Reid is holding out until the White House hands over some records regarding controversial Bolton actions. Reid contends (reasonably enough) that the Senate needs to review the information in those records in order to make a fully informed decision on whether to approve Bush's nomination of Bolton for UN Ambassador.

The White House is tapdancing around the request for the documents. What is Bush afraid of?

[Read story.]

Star Wars: A message lost

Like most Americans, I was standing in line recently to see "Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith". Just ahead of me was a man with three young boys between the ages of 6 and 12. They were playing "Jedi" games, pretending to cut off each other's limbs with their imaginary light sabers, and squealing with delight about how "cool" it was to cut off arms, legs, and heads.

The father played along and encouraged it. He promised them that there would be some really good bloody scenes in the movie we were about to see.

There was no discussion of good vs. evil, of the Jedi practice of using violence only as a last resort in defense against the evil empire. No, as the children were playing, it seemed that there was only the simple delight in violence for its own sake, because cutting off limbs with light sabers is "cool". The bloodier the better. That, it seems, is entertainment.

Boys will be boys, and childhood war games are considered normal and acceptable in numerous cultures across this planet. It's a testosterone thing, I suppose. But if we are going to glamorize the violence, shouldn't we at least put it into a proper context, and (unlike our Star Wars dad) teach our children a bit about the moral and ethical aspects of violence and war?

If we fail to do so, and go on glamorizing violence and encouraging mock violence in play because killing and maiming seem so cool in the movies, do we risk the possibility of raising a generation of potential sociopaths?

Does this lead to the kind of adult personality that signs up for the military so that he can go to Iraq and "kill some towelheads"?

Does it foster the kind of mindset that led American soldiers to make necklaces from the ears of slain civilians during the Vietnam War?

Does it therefore become that much easier to justify killing, or even to enjoy it?

I don't know for sure the answer to any of these questions. But I do know that, if I were the parent of a young boy, I wouldn't want to take that chance.

Not even Darth Vader would kill for the glamour of it. When he fought and killed, he did so on principle, however dark and misguided his principles may have been. He didn't draw his light saber against Obi-Wan in order to be "cool".

I encourage all parents to take their children to see the new "Star Wars" film, if they believe their children are mature enough to handle the graphic violence in it. But please don't glorify the violence for its own sake. Use the film as an opportunity to teach them the principles of right vs. wrong, and the consequences that lay along the path to the "dark side".

As Yoda once said, "Ohhh. Great warrior. Wars not make one great."

09 June 2005

Bush thumbs his nose at Africa

On Tuesday, George W. Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. One of the items on the agenda was Blair's hope for a long-term U.S. commitment to help get Africa's economy back on its feet.

They reached a compromise that fell far short of what Blair had hoped for from Bush. [Read story.]

(We must keep in mind, of course, that Bush's priorities have always been aimed more at making rich corporations richer, not helping the less fortunate.)

Aid agencies are saying that Bush's compromise is inadequate. [Read reactions.]

How you can help:

The ONE campaign, led by Bono, has prepared a letter to President Bush asking him to seize the best opportunity we've had in decades to actually end extreme poverty. The ONE letter asks the President to support three bold commitments at the G8 summit of world leaders on July 6th: more and better international assistance, debt cancellation, and trade reform.

To sign the letter, click here.

08 June 2005

You get freedom of religion only if it's the right one

This news item is from a couple of weeks ago, but I just learned about it....

Here in the U.S., we are supposed to have a right to freedom of religion. According to an Indiana judge, however, you only have that right if you practice an acceptable religion. And the judge gets to dictate which religions are acceptable and which are not.

From the Indianapolis Star:
An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.
[Read complete story.]

Thomas Jefferson must be spinning in his grave.

07 June 2005

Supreme Court rules against medical marijuana

The bad news:

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana users even if they live in states where the use of medically prescribed marijuana is legal. [Read story.]

This is a huge loss to all the seriously ill people who find that medical marijuana eases their pain, helps them to hold food down, etc.

And the implications reach much farther.

Yesterday's ruling sets a precedent for medical issues (and whatever else) to be transferred from the states' control to the control of the federal government.

And our tax dollars can now be spent tracking down and prosecuting sick people instead of dealing with the real criminals who pose a threat to society.

The "good" news:

In their opinion, the Supreme Court Justices recognized that marijuana does have medical efficacy and may be necessary for some seriously ill patients. They said that it's up to Congress to change federal law.

To take action online and ask your congressperson to protect sick and dying patients, click here.

06 June 2005

Jon Stewart weighs in on Bush vs. Amnesty

Last week on "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, Jon Stewart featured a great bit about the Bush administration's response to Amnesty International's recent report.

Download it from the Comedy Central site here.

Bush administration flip-flops on Amnesty and shoots the messenger

On May 25, Amnesty International released its annual report on the state of human rights around the world, country by country. The U.S. didn't score very high because of the Bush administration's failure to fully investigate the facts surrounding the torture of detainees in the "war on terror" and its failure to prosecute anyone at the higher levels in the chain of command. The Bush administration continues to blame the prisoner abuse problems on "a few bad apples", as if Lynndie England could have thought the whole thing up on her own.

The official responses to Amnesty's report were interesting.

On May 31, in a Rose Garden news conference, George W. Bush described Amnesty's report as "absurd".

This mirrored an earlier statement by Vice President Dick Cheney, who had said, "For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously."

Then, on June 1, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that "those who make such outlandish charges lose any claim to objectivity or seriousness."

What an interesting change of heart! In the past, the Bush administration has cited Amnesty International's reports numerous times to back up its own claims of human rights abuses by other governments. Rumsfeld himself repeatedly cited Amnesty International's reports on human rights abuses by Saddam Hussein's regime to justify the war in Iraq. For example, in March of 2003, Rumsfeld said that "it seems to me a careful reading of Amnesty International or the record of Saddam Hussein, having used chemical weapons on his own people as well as his neighbors, and the viciousness of that regime, which is well known and documented by human rights organizations, ought not to be surprised." Rumsfeld cited Amnesty again on April 1, 2003, when he noted that "if you read the various human rights groups and Amnesty International's description of what they know has gone on, it's not a happy picture."

It appears that the Bush administration takes Amnesty International seriously when doing so might suit its own agenda, but not when members of the administration might be held accountable for their own questionable actions. This kind of defensiveness, and this "shoot the messenger" response to Amnesty's allegations, speaks volumes.

George W. Bush continues his practice of stubbornly and arrogantly refusing to admit to any possibility of ever having made a mistake. And, rather than submit to any kind of impartial investigation that might expose the true facts, his administration instead lashes out in a hostile attempt to discredit its critics.

It's time for the Bush administration to put up or shut up. At a June 1 news conference, Rumsfeld stated that "[T]here's so much transparency in Gitmo and so much oversight." But if there truly is transparency regarding the conditions at Guantanamo and other detention facilities, then why does the Bush administration refuse to allow Amnesty International and other independent organizations to inspect those facilities and see for themselves?

If the Bush administration is truthful in its claims of exemplary detention conditions, then what have they got to lose by allowing such inspections?

As Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Kahn observed, "Transparency is the best antidote to misinformation and incorrect facts." So, Mr. Bush, bring it on!

05 June 2005

U.S. soldiers come home to poverty

George W. Bush keeps telling us how much he appreciates the U.S. troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And how does he show his gratitude? By cutting veterans' benefits and letting them return to the U.S. only to live in poverty.

Iraq war vets are showing up in homeless shelters in alarming numbers. [Read story.]

Bush and his cronies point their fingers at those of us who question the war in Iraq and call us "un-American". But at least we care about the well-being of our troops.

Bush's gratuitous lip service means nothing when you look at how his administration sent our soldiers into a war based on lies, with inadequate equipment and no exit strategy. In my opinion, that is un-American.

04 June 2005

The smoking bullet in the smoking gun

As the mainstream media here in the U.S. use Michael Jackson and the runaway bride to cover up the egg on George W. Bush's face, the British press continues to paint a rather sinister picture of the lead-up to the Iraq war. First, there was the Downing Street Memo. Now we learn that a pre-war had been secretly launched in September 2002 - a month before Congress voted to give Bush the authority he used to invade Iraq, two months before the UN brought the matter to a vote, and more than six months before "shock and awe" officially began.

[Read story.]

And yet Bush's followers continue to dismiss any incriminating facts, and just blame everything that's wrong in the world on Bill Clinton. I don't get it.

03 June 2005

Amnesty responds to Bush's ridicule

Amnesty International has responded to George W. Bush's comment that Amnesty's recent report criticizing the administration's detention and torture policies is "absurd".

Here is an excerpt:
"The administration's response has been that our report is absurd, that our allegations have no basis, and our answer is very simple: if that is so, open up these detention centers, allow us and others to visit them," Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Zubaida Khan told a news conference.
[Read complete story.]

02 June 2005

Gitmo detainees were "sold like fish" (and let's please impeach Bush)

It's bad enough that we're holding so-called "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely and incommunicado without due process, and torturing them. But the story just keeps getting worse.

This week we learned that Afghan bounty hunters may have sold many of these people to the Americans based on false but lucrative allegations. [Read story.]

Last week it was the Downing Street Memo, then Bush thumbing his nose at Amnesty International's report, and now this.

Enough is enough! Won't somebody please impeach George W. Bush?

Sure, the Republican-dominated Congress is still in collective denial, so the chances that they'd actually start impeachment proceedings are slim. But remember that the Republicans turned against Richard Nixon once he crossed a certain line. Hasn't Bush done far more damage than Nixon ever did? We've got all this evidence (and no Iraqi WMDs). Now how can we wake them up?

01 June 2005

"Live 8" (and more) coming to Philly!

Live Aid, the great transcontinental concert for famine relief, was a tough act to follow. But that's not stopping Bob Geldof from launching a similar endeavor 20 years later.

Five "Live 8" concerts will take place on July 2nd, in London and Philadelphia (sites of the original Live Aid concert) and in Paris, Berlin, and Rome. [Read story.]

And the good stuff doesn't end there....

Two days later, on July 4th, Elton John (who will be performing in Europe for Live 8) will perform here in Philly along with Patti LaBelle to raise money for AIDS.

What a great time to live here in Philly.

Nothing impresses me more than rock stars and other celebrities who use their fame and fortune to help the less fortunate.