31 August 2005

Sexphobic wackos: Hurricane was punishment for decadence

This would be funny if these people weren't serious.

From Repent America:
Just days before "Southern Decadence", an annual homosexual celebration attracting tens of thousands of people to the French Quarters section of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina destroys the city.


New Orleans is also known for its Mardi Gras parties where thousands of drunken men revel in the streets to exchange plastic jewelry for drunken women to expose their breasts. This annual event sparked the creation of the "Girls Gone Wild" video series.

"Let us pray for and help those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.

"[God] sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)
[Read more.]

Racism in media: Black people "loot", white people "find"

Check out these photo captions. The black people are described as "looting", while the white people are described as "finding" stuff.

Very disturbing.

And here is another, with the white person "shopping".

Bush admits the war is for oil

From today's Boston Globe:
President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.
[Read more.]

And for info about other cute little Bush family oil scandals and other seedy dealings, click here.

The Petition of Redress

BuzzFlash is sponsoring a great petition:
I demand that George W. Bush's daughters, and his eligible nieces and nephews, serve in Iraq to prove their support of Bush's 'noble war for a noble cause.' If the Bush family does not believe in 'sacrificing' for the war and is not willing to put their lives on the line, then Bush must bring the troops of middle class and poor Americans home now.
[Read more, or sign the petition.]

It probably won't make a difference, but it makes a good point.

30 August 2005

The new Nero

I just learned how George W. Bush spent his day yesterday.

While people were suffering and drowning and cities were being destroyed in three "red states" by Hurricane Katrina, George decided to go golfing. Apparently, he felt that this would be the best use of his time.

The Gulf Coast was being devastated, and he was having a delightful afternoon at the country club.

What a leader! What a Christian! What a guy!

Does Bush really care about the hurricane victims?

My heart goes out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast yesterday and caused unthinkable devastation.

George W. Bush has pledged federal support for the victims, and that's a good thing. But it's not enough.

Bush continually refuses to take steps to curb global warming, because it would inconvenience big corporations and cost them money to curb their emissions. But a recent MIT study offers compelling evidence that hurricanes "have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the last three decades due in part to global warming."

Corporate greed, and Bush's ongoing support of that corporate greed, will continue to cause escalated death and devastation to regular Americans as long as regular Americans put up with it.

We have to fight back.

29 August 2005

States crack down on reproductive rights

From the Washington Post:
This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.
[Read more.]

Way to go, guys.

This isn't just about abortion, folks -- this is about contraception. This is about a woman's right to sovereignty over her own body. And this is about rolling back women's rights to, say, 1952. We're all supposed to be Donna Reed. We're all supposed to be barefoot and pregnant and pretty and aproned and "yes, dear, here are your slippers."

By limiting a woman's right to terminate or even prevent a pregnancy, we're inviting -- no, we're forcing -- countless unplanned and unwanted babies into this world.

Speaking from my own experience as the product of one of those unplanned and unwanted pregnancies of the 1950s, you all might want to think twice about this.

Will you governors and legislators provide good homes for all of these surprise babies?

Will you ensure that they all have adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and cell phone minutes, just as you would for the children you might bring into this world by your own biological means?

Will you ensure that they will all find families who will treat them with the love and dignity that every child deserves, and not just auction them off to any couple who holds up a religious banner but really just "needs" a kid for selfish or egotistical reasons for which the child will ultimately suffer?

Will you do that?

Pro-life has to be more than just pro-birth.

Another film for human rights

From Amnesty International:
Amnesty International is proud to be supporting the new film The Constant Gardener, based on the John LeCarre bestseller and from the Oscar nominated director of City of God, Fernando Meirelles. This timely film portrays the realities that define life in modern Africa, and the challenges and dangers faced by those trying to address them.

When the activist wife (Rachel Weisz) of a British diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) dies under mysterious circumstances in Northern Kenya, the intricate politics that enmesh big business, poverty, aid, and diplomacy begin to be revealed.

Although the corporation in the film is fictitious and the human rights abuses depicted are dramatized, many multinational corporations operate in complex human rights environments. Amnesty International calls on corporations and businesses across the globe to promote, protect and uphold human rights in every aspect of their operations. As an organization that has been defending human rights for over four decades, Amnesty International believes that socially relevant films are important in educating people about human rights and mobilizing activists to work for the cause. This is why we encourage our members to see this film when it opens nationally on August 31st.

We commend Fernando Meirelles, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Focus Features and all those involved with The Constant Gardener for this brave and compelling work that addresses human rights issues.


Bonnie Abaunza
Director, Artists for Amnesty
Amnesty International USA

28 August 2005

Sean Penn in Iran

Well, as it turns out, Sean Penn is not only a talented actor but a gifted writer and serious journalist to boot.

In June, Penn and two friends traveled to Iran. Later, he shared his experiences and observations via a five-part series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Click to read all five installments. It's a lot of reading, but well worth it.

Christian Exodus: Making me so glad that I don't live in South Carolina

From the Los Angeles Times:
It began, as many road trips do, with a stop at Wal-Mart to buy a portable DVD player.

But Mario DiMartino was planning more than a weekend getaway. He, his wife and three children were embarking on a pilgrimage to South Carolina.

"I want to migrate and claim the gold of the Lord," said the 38-year-old oil company executive from Pennsylvania. "I want to replicate the statutes and the mores and the scriptures that the God of the Old Testament espoused to the world."

DiMartino, who drove here recently to look for a new home, is a member of Christian Exodus, a movement of politically active believers who hope to establish a government based upon Christian principles.

At a time when evangelicals are exerting influence on the national political stage - having helped secure President Bush's reelection - Christian Exodus believes that people of faith have failed to assert their moral agenda: Abortion is legal. School prayer is banned. There are limits on public displays of the Ten Commandments. Gays and lesbians can marry in Massachusetts.

Christian Exodus activists plan to take control of sheriff's offices, city councils and school boards. Eventually, they say, they will control South Carolina. They will pass godly legislation, defying Supreme Court rulings on the separation of church and state.
[Read more.]

"The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation"

From Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times:
Another week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?

We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.

It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chávez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator.

In the wake of Ms. Sheehan's protest, the facts on the ground in America have changed almost everywhere. The president, for one, has been forced to make what for him is the ultimate sacrifice: jettisoning chunks of vacation to defend the war in any bunker he can find in Utah or Idaho. In the first speech of this offensive, he even felt compelled to take the uncharacteristic step of citing the number of American dead in public (though the number was already out of date by at least five casualties by day's end). For the second, the White House recruited its own mom, Tammy Pruett, for the president to showcase as an antidote to Ms. Sheehan. But in a reversion to the president's hide-the-fallen habit, the chosen mother was not one who had lost a child in Iraq.

It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.

When the war's die-hard cheerleaders attacked the Middle East policy of a mother from Vacaville, Calif., instead of defending the president's policy in Iraq, it was definitive proof that there is little cogent defense left to be made. When the Democrats offered no alternative to either Mr. Bush's policy or Ms. Sheehan's plea for an immediate withdrawal, it was proof that they have no standing in the debate.

Instead, two conservative Republicans - actually talking about Iraq instead of Ms. Sheehan, unlike the rest of their breed - stepped up to fill this enormous vacuum: Chuck Hagel and Henry Kissinger. Both pointedly invoked Vietnam, the war that forged their political careers. Their timing, like Ms. Sheehan's, was impeccable. Last week Mr. Bush started saying that the best way to honor the dead would be to "finish the task they gave their lives for" - a dangerous rationale that, as David Halberstam points out, was heard as early as 1963 in Vietnam, when American casualties in that fiasco were still inching toward 100.

And what exactly is our task? Mr. Bush's current definition - "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" - could not be a better formula for quagmire. Twenty-eight months after the fall of Saddam, only "a small number" of Iraqi troops are capable of fighting without American assistance, according to the Pentagon - a figure that Joseph Biden puts at "fewer than 3,000." At this rate, our 138,000 troops will be replaced by self-sufficient locals in roughly 100 years.
[Read more.]

Tonight: CBS's "60 Minutes" to report on Darfur

From the Save Darfur Coalition:
On Sunday, August 28, the CBS television news magazine "60 Minutes" will report on the crisis in Darfur. Please check your local listings.

THE KILLING IN SUDAN -- The horrible images of genocide are captured for a report on the mass murder and subsequent refugee crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. Scott Pelley reports.

You can find more information about the program on the 60 Minutes web page.

Bush becoming unglued

It appears that John Bolton isn't the only member of the Bush administration who could benefit from some anger management classes.

From Capitol Hill Blue:
While President George W. Bush travels around the country in a last-ditch effort to sell his Iraq war, White House aides scramble frantically behind the scenes to hide the dark mood of an increasingly angry leader who unleashes obscenity-filled outbursts at anyone who dares disagree with him.

“I’m not meeting again with that goddamned bitch,” Bush screamed at aides who suggested he meet again with Cindy Sheehan, the war-protesting mother whose son died in Iraq. “She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned!”

Bush, administration aides confide, frequently explodes into tirades over those who protest the war, calling them “motherfucking traitors.” He reportedly was so upset over Veterans of Foreign Wars members who wore “bullshit protectors” over their ears during his speech to their annual convention that he told aides to “tell those VFW assholes that I’ll never speak to them again is they can’t keep their members under control.”
[Read more.]

John Bolton already causing problems at the UN

It was just a matter of time, and he didn't waste any. He has even managed to turn the UK against us!

In mid-September, the UN will meet to review the progress of its millennium development goals (to eradicate poverty), and to work on issues of poverty, climate change, genocide, etc.

John Bolton, however, wants to tear the whole thing up, with a list of 750 changes that "would leave the plan in tatters". [Read more.]

So Bolton doesn't want to eradicate poverty. He doesn't want to address climate change or genocide. He wants little children to continue dying of poverty and violence.

And he is "our top diplomat".

This is an atrocity and an embarrassment. And we saw it coming.

27 August 2005

The Walter Reed strawman

As I've written in the past, I'm not happy about the Pentagon's decision to close a lot of the military bases around the U.S. The move will leave many people unemployed and lots of small business in dire straits in towns where bases will close. [Read story.]

But some opponents are attacking the Pentagon's strategy by pointing to the closing of Walter Reed Army Hospital as evidence that the Pentagon and the Bush administration don't support our troops.

I could (and probably someday will) write a whole essay illustrating how the Bush administration does not adequately support our troops. But I don't think the Walter Reed thing is an issue here.

You see, it's not closing, it's just moving. It will be merged with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, to create an expanded, and more modern, facility. [Read more.]

Or am I missing something here?

26 August 2005

Go to the movies and help stop war profiteers!

From Amnesty International:
Amnesty International USA is proud to announce its support of Lord of War, a film starring Academy Award-Winner Nicolas Cage that illustrates the deadly impact of the uncontrolled global arms trade. The national release is September 16, 2005. The film follows the story of Yuri Orlov (Cage), a New York-based arms broker who traffics weapons to dictators and human rights abusers, and the efforts of the Interpol Agent (Ethan Hawke) trying to stop him. The movie is written and directed by Andrew Niccol and co-stars Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ian Holm and Ethan Hawke.

Small arms kill approximately 800 people a day around the world. And every year, hundreds of thousands more are maimed, tortured, or forced to flee their homes because of weapons in irresponsible hands. See the film, join Amnesty International, and act to save lives. Amnesty International USA is actively engaged in the Control Arms Campaign, an international campaign organized by AI, Oxfam, and the International Action Network on Small Arms. Join us!
[Read more and take action.]

25 August 2005

Jon Stewart on Pat Robertson

By now, if you've been paying attention to the news, you know that on Monday's broadcast of The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

An excerpt from Robertson's rant:
You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.
[Read story and play video.]

How Christian of him! What a man of God! Thou shalt not kill, unless there's oil involved. Who needs justice, anyway?

So the next day Jon Stewart addressed the issue on The Daily Show. It's definitely worth checking out. [Watch the clip.]

24 August 2005

"Promoting democracy one pint at a time."

Last evening, I attended my first Drinking Liberally event in Philadelphia. Present were former Congressman Joe Hoeffel, along with bunches of prominent bloggers from Philly, some major bloggers from out of town, and lots of other amazing people. It was a fun and very interesting evening, albeit a bit smoky.

I've partied with liberals. I've partied with conservatives. Trust me: Liberals are more fun. I think that's because liberals like to engage in critical thought and intellectual discussion, all with a healthy dose of humor and compassion. And they don't just blindly (and boringly) follow the crowd.

If you seek a weekly oasis where you can meet and mingle with interesting, intelligent, progressive thinkers with lots of energy, then you need to find a chapter near you. (They currently have 91 chapters in 38 states plus DC.)

On the other hand, if you are the type of person who prefers to sit on your couch, close your mind, and absorb whatever FOX News spews forth, because it's easier than thinking and/or because someone says so, then this isn't the crowd for you. (But maybe it would do you some good.)

23 August 2005

Who would lie to send our nice young men to war?

Yesterday I talked with a military mom. Her 18-year-old son wanted to exercise his independence, and he wanted to seem "tough", and so he joined the Marines.

He's now being shipped off to Iraq.

His mother is distraught. He son has been pampered and spoiled all his life, and he has no idea what he's gotten himself into. But he's stubborn, so he's going to have to learn this particular lesson the hard way. Hopefully he will live to learn from it.

And she asked a poignant question: What kind of person would lie to send other people's children into war?

Perhaps the same kind of person who would merrily aim his bicycle in order to crush the symbolic graves of our fallen troops in Arlington West? [Read more.]

Note to Sheryl Crow: Will you dump him for this, or are you trying to compete with the Dixie Chicks?

22 August 2005

The crusade backfires

Saddam Hussein is not a nice guy. He is a monster, and Amnesty International and other organizations have published countless reports on his human rights abuses.


Under Saddam, Iraq had a secular government. Women had rights. Women went to school, held professional careers, could marry whomever they wanted to, and didn't have to cover their hair. (By the way, Iraq's secularism was a major reason why Osama bin Laden had no interest in Iraq prior to the current war.)

But George W's mission to "spread freedom" has now resulted in a new Iraqi constitution that declares that country an Islamic Republic, beholden to Sharia law -- a condition to which the Bush administration has yielded. [Read story.]

Sharia law is not kind to women.

Under Sharia law, it will really suck to be a woman in Iraq. Women will not have any of the rights that Bush bragged about bringing to Iraq. For instance, if you are raped, you could be stoned to death for your "sin" (or else subject to an "honor killing" by the men in your family), while your rapist goes free.

Way to go, George. Way to spread freedom and democracy and human rights for all.

I wonder how Laura feels about this. (Would someone please dig her head out of the sand?)

"The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan"

From Frank Rich's column in yesterday's New York Times:
Cindy Sheehan couldn't have picked a more apt date to begin the vigil that ambushed a president: Aug. 6 was the fourth anniversary of that fateful 2001 Crawford vacation day when George W. Bush responded to an intelligence briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" by going fishing. On this Aug. 6 the president was no less determined to shrug off bad news. Though 14 marine reservists had been killed days earlier by a roadside bomb in Haditha, his national radio address that morning made no mention of Iraq. Once again Mr. Bush was in his bubble, ensuring that he wouldn't see Ms. Sheehan coming. So it goes with a president who hasn't foreseen any of the setbacks in the war he fabricated against an enemy who did not attack inside the United States in 2001.

When these setbacks happen in Iraq itself, the administration punts. But when they happen at home, there's a game plan. Once Ms. Sheehan could no longer be ignored, the Swift Boating began. Character assassination is the Karl Rove tactic of choice, eagerly mimicked by his media surrogates, whenever the White House is confronted by a critic who challenges it on matters of war. The Swift Boating is especially vicious if the critic has more battle scars than a president who connived to serve stateside and a vice president who had "other priorities" during Vietnam.
[Read more.]

Cindy Sheehan guilty of committing first-degree, premeditated citizenship

From Daniel Ruth's column in yesterday's Tampa Tribune:
This may come as something of a shock to some of those yahoos down in Crawford, Texas, who are so upset with antiwar Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside the president's Godforsaken ranch, but if they were to look real close they'd discover she is committing first-degree, premeditated citizenship.

You see, we have this nagging, irritating, troublesome document called the U.S. Constitution. It's all the rage - or at least those dead bodies in Arlington National Cemetery thought so.

There, right at the top of the Constitution, there's this thing called the First Amendment.

Stop Drooling And Read

And if some of you goobers who have been shooting shotguns in the air to intimidate Sheehan and trampling white crosses in the ground honoring the dead troops who have sacrificed their lives for George W. Bush's war in Iraq could stop drooling for just a moment, here's what the First Amendment states:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the FREEDOM OF SPEECH, or of the press; or the RIGHT OF PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES."

Sheehan has a grievance - her son Casey died in Bush's war and thus she has petitioned the Clausewitz of Skull and Bones to explain why, especially since the administration's alibis for invading Iraq turned out to be more bogus than Burt Reynolds' hair, more than 1,800 American families had to lose a loved one.

Alas, the MacArthur of Arbusto has been busy, busy, busy on his vacation, riding his bike with Lance Armstrong, attending chi-chi big-ticket fundraisers with silk-stocking GOP types and chopping brush.

We're talking way big fun.

At any rate, with that kind of breakneck pace of relaxation, the Wellington of Waco simply has been unable to find a few moments to spend with a grieving mother.

Great Country

The problem, obviously, in meeting with Sheehan is that the Commander-In-Sleep might possibly be exposed to someone who disagrees with his policies, an occurrence even more rare with this president than a Texas Air National Guard flight physical.

Irony abounds.
[Read more.]

21 August 2005

Genocide, oil, and George W. Bush

From TomDispatch:
A war of the future is being waged right now in the sprawling desert region of northeastern Africa known as Sudan. The weapons themselves are not futuristic. None of the ray-guns, force-fields, or robotic storm troopers that are the stuff of science fiction; nor, for that matter, the satellite-guided Predator drones or other high-tech weapon systems at the cutting edge of today's arsenal.

No, this war is being fought with Kalashnikovs, clubs and knives. In the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, the preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape - carried out by Arab militias riding on camels and horses. The most sophisticated technologies deployed are, on the one hand, the helicopters used by the Sudanese government to support the militias when they attack black African villages, and on the other hand, quite a different weapon: the seismographs used by foreign oil companies to map oil deposits hundreds of feet below the surface.

This is what makes it a war of the future: not the slick PowerPoint presentations you can imagine in boardrooms in Dallas and Beijing showing proven reserves in one color, estimated reserves in another, vast subterranean puddles that stretch west into Chad, and south to Nigeria and Uganda; not the technology; just the simple fact of the oil.

This is a resource war, fought by surrogates, involving great powers whose economies are predicated on growth, contending for a finite pool of resources. It is a war straight out of the pages of Michael Klare's book, Blood and Oil; and it would be a glaring example of the consequences of our addiction to oil, if it were not also an invisible war.
[Read more.]

20 August 2005

The voting problem is back (with proof that Gore won 2000 election)

From Paul Krugman's latest column in the New York Times:
By running for the US Senate, Katherine Harris, Florida's former secretary of state, has stirred up some ugly memories. And that's a good thing, because those memories remain relevant. There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn't change the outcome. And the next election may be worse.

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a US correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.
[Read more.]

19 August 2005

Good summary of lies leading to Iraq war

From Marjorie Cohn at truthout.org:
Cindy Sheehan is still waiting for Bush to answer her question: What noble cause did my son die for? Her protest started as a small gathering 13 days ago. It has mushroomed into a demonstration of hundreds in Crawford and tens of thousands more at 1,627 solidarity vigils throughout the country.

Why didn't Bush simply invite Cindy in for tea when she arrived in Crawford? In a brief, personal meeting with Cindy, Bush could have defused a situation that has become a profound embarrassment for him, and could derail his political agenda.

Bush didn't talk with Cindy because he can't answer her question. There is no answer to Cindy's question. There is no noble cause that Cindy's son died fighting for. And Bush knows it.

The goals of this war are not hard to find. They were laid out in Paul Wolfowitz's Defense Policy Guidance in 1992, and again in the neoconservative manifesto - The Project for a New American Century's Rebuilding America's Defenses - in September 2000.

Long before 9/11, the neocons proclaimed that the United States should exercise its role as the world's only superpower by ensuring access to the massive Middle East petroleum reserves. To accomplish this goal, the US would need to invade Iraq and establish permanent military bases there.

If Bush were to give an honest answer to Cindy Sheehan's question, it would be that her son died to help his country spread US hegemony throughout the Middle East.

But that answer, while true, does not sound very noble. It would not satisfy Cindy Sheehan, nor would it satisfy the vast majority of the American people. So, for the past several years, Bush and his minions have concocted an ever-changing story line.

First, it was weapons-of-mass-destruction and the mushroom cloud. In spite of the weapons inspectors' admonitions that Iraq had no such weapons, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, and Bolton lied about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Bush even included the smoking gun claim in his state of the union address: that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger. It was a lie, because people like Ambassador Joe Wilson, who traveled to Niger to investigate the allegation, had reported back to Cheney that it never happened.

The Security Council didn't think Iraq was a threat to international peace and security. In spite of Bush's badgering and threats, the Council held firm and refused to sanction a war on Iraq. The UN weapons inspectors asked for more time to conduct their inspections. But Bush was impatient.

He thumbed his nose at the United Nations and invaded anyway. After the "coalition forces" took over Iraq, they combed the country for the prohibited weapons. But they were nowhere to be found.

Faced with the need to explain to the American people why our sons and daughters were dying in Iraq, Bush changed the subject to saving the Iraqis from Saddam's torture chambers.

Then the grotesque photographs emerged from Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad. They contained images of US military personnel torturing Iraqis. Bush stopped talking about Saddam's torture.

Most recently, Bush's excuse has been "bringing democracy to the Iraqi people." On June 28, 2004, he ceremoniously hailed the "transfer of sovereignty" back to the Iraqi people. (See Giving Iraqis What is Rightly Theirs). Yet 138,000 US troops remained in Iraq to protect US "interests."

And Iraq's economy is still controlled by laws put in place before the "transfer of sovereignty." The US maintains a stranglehold on foreign access to Iraqi oil, private ownership of Iraq's resources, and control over the reconstruction of this decimated country.
[Read more.]

Bob Herbert: 'Blood runs red, not blue'

Bob Herbert again reinforces his position as my favorite New York Times columnist.

Here is an excerpt from his latest piece, in yesterday's paper:
You have to wonder whether reality ever comes knocking on George W. Bush's door. If it did, would the president with the unsettling demeanor of a boy king even bother to answer? Mr. Bush is the commander in chief who launched a savage war in Iraq and now spends his days happily riding his bicycle in Texas.

This is eerie. Scary. Surreal.

The war is going badly and lives have been lost by the thousands, but there is no real sense, either at the highest levels of government or in the nation at large, that anything momentous is at stake. The announcement on Sunday that five more American soldiers had been blown to eternity by roadside bombs was treated by the press as a yawner. It got very little attention.

You can turn on the television any evening and tune in to the bizarre extended coverage of the search for Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba in May. But we hear very little about the men and women who have given up their lives in Iraq, or are living with horrific injuries suffered in that conflict.

If only the war were more entertaining. Less of a downer. Perhaps then we could meet the people who are suffering and dying in it.

For all the talk of supporting the troops, they are a low priority for most Americans. If the nation really cared, the president would not be frolicking at his ranch for the entire month of August. He'd be back in Washington burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to get the troops out of the terrible fix he put them in.

Instead, Mr. Bush is bicycling as soldiers and marines are dying. Dozens have been killed since he went off on his vacation.

As for the rest of the nation, it's not doing much for the troops, either. There was a time, long ago, when war required sacrifices that were shared by most of the population. That's over.
[Read more.]

How low can they go?!

This is beyond ridiculous.

Bush's sheep seem to have no souls, no conscience. They have no empathy. After all, their own kids are safe and spoiled.

Cindy Sheehan asks George W. for a brief meeting, so that she learn from him exactly what was this "noble cause" that her son Casey died for. But Bush can't take five minutes out of his five-week vacation to meet with her. Give me a break. What the hell is Mr. "Bring 'em On" Tough Guy afraid of?

And the conservative media pundits jump to their president's aid by launching a smear campaign against this grief-stricken, soft-spoken middle-aged woman with a heart of gold who sacrificed her son to Bush's oily agenda and wants some closure.

Families like the Sheehans have to deal with watching their loved ones go off to Iraq. Some come home whole, some with missing limbs, and some in flag-draped coffins that we're not allowed to see.

While those kids are off in Iraq experiencing horrors that we can't begin to imagine, Jenna Bush spends her time comfortably pounding down Bud Lites at happy hour.

But Cindy Sheehan is the parent to be criticized.

This shows us how desperate and insecure the pro-war factions are. They are reduced to attacking a grieving mother because they have nothing else to stand on. How sick and pathetic!

And now I suspect that it's going to get even worse.

Yesterday, Cindy left Crawford to tend to her 74-year-old mother, who had become ill. [Read story.]

How long will it take FOX News and those types to tell us that Cindy's political involvement is what caused her mother to have a stroke?

18 August 2005

Treasury Dept. fines humanitarian organization for providing food and medicine to Iraqi civilians in need

It's like they're suing Mother Teresa.

Voices in the Wilderness delivered food and medicine to Iraqi civilians who were dying because of sanctions. In return for their generosity, bravery, and dedication to humanity, the U.S. government slaps them with a $20,000 fine.

Is this how we win hearts and minds?

From The NewStandard:
Standing by earlier assertions, a humanitarian organization that aided several Americans’ travel to Iraq and facilitated the distribution of medical supplies to Iraqi civilians announced that it has no intention to pay a $20,000 fine levied by the Treasury Department and upheld by a federal judge last week.

Voices in the Wilderness, a Chicago-based anti-war organization that, since 1996, had been fighting the former economic sanctions against Iraq, on Sunday criticized US Federal District Judge John Bates’s finding that the group is legally required to pay the $20,000 Treasury-imposed fine.

"Judge Bates agrees that it was lawful and proper for the US government to deny needed drugs and medical supplies to Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens, despite the evidence that several hundred thousand innocent children were dying because of brutal economic sanctions," the group said.
[Read more.]

17 August 2005

We killed another Abu Ghraib detainee

From the Sidney Morning Herald (since the "liberal" American media are unlikely to prominently feature this story):
A detainee was killed in a suspected homicide at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, the US military says.

The 20-year old man was found unconscious by fellow inmates in the prison on Monday, the military said in a statement. He was taken to a US military hospital and pronounced dead.
[Read more.]

And for a really great comic strip that does good job of satirizing this problem and exposing the ridiculous nature of the Bush administration's spin, click here.

Crawford resident invites Cindy to move closer to Bush ranch

From the New York Times via truthout.org:
Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has set up a vigil near President Bush's ranch, said Tuesday that she was "very disturbed" that a local resident had mowed down hundreds of small crosses bearing the names of other dead American soldiers, and that her now 10-day protest was "only the beginning" of what she described as a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war.

Ms. Sheehan also said she would soon be moving her increasingly crowded roadside encampment, named Camp Casey after her son, to a large tract even closer to the president's ranch. "A kind gentleman from down the road offered us the use of his property," Ms. Sheehan told reporters on Tuesday night. Ms. Sheehan identified the man as Fred Mattlage, whom she described as a distant cousin of Larry Mattlage, a local resident who fired a shotgun across the road from the encampment on Sunday afternoon.
[Read more.]

"Justice Sunday Reloaded"

More Christian-style hate, intolerance, and power mongering from the so-called Religious Right.

From yesterday's New York Times:
As if the first Justice Sunday weren't disturbing enough, the extreme right produced an angry sequel last Sunday - another church-based rally railing against judges. It was offensive on many levels, from the inflammatory and inaccurate attacks on "activist" judges to the fact that it was held in a tax-exempt church. If the event's speakers ever got control of the legal system, the nation would be in real trouble.


The rally's speakers had some scary, and ludicrous, proposals. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, questioned the Supreme Court's power to strike down laws passed by Congress if they are not constitutional, a practice that dates to the early days of the Republic. William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, argued that the Supreme Court should be able to overturn a Congressional enactment only by a unanimous vote. That is a terrible idea, one that would undo the system of checks and balances designed by the founders.
[Read more.]

16 August 2005

Bush supporter desecrates the dead troops

This is what we've come to.

From truthout.org:
His name is Larry Northern, and he is a wretch.

The Arlington West cemetery has been growing for more than a year. Begun in California by activists seeking to honor those soldiers killed in Iraq, and also seeking to highlight in an unavoidably searing way the price we are paying for the invasion of Iraq, the cemetery is made up of small grave markers made of simple wood. There are crosses, and crescents, and stars of David. Each one represents a dead American soldier.


Some time around 10:00 p.m. on Monday night, Larry Northern of Waco, Texas, drove his pickup truck down to the Crawford protest site. He got out, went around back to the tailgate, and attached a pipe and a chain to the rear of the truck. He got back in and proceeded to drive his truck through the Arlington West cemetery, grinding and smashing through the grave markers. Five hundred of them were knocked down, and 100 of them were totally destroyed.
[Read more.]

Plame prosecutor inclined to enforce perjury laws?

From the Los Angeles Times via truthout.org:
When Al Qaeda operative Wadih El-Hage blamed false testimony he had given to a federal grand jury on confusion and jet lag, then-assistant US Atty. Patrick J. Fitzgerald was not impressed. "I submit to you," Fitzgerald told jurors at El-Hage's 2001 trial in New York, "you heard 10 of the most pathetic excuses of perjury ever known."

El-Hage, once Osama bin Laden's personal secretary, is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole - convicted of perjury, among other things.

Things tend to work out that way when Patrick J. Fitzgerald is prosecuting a case.

Fitzgerald, 44, has a history of invoking perjury laws and related statutes to buttress his investigations.

So it may not be surprising that he is considering perjury charges in his current assignment - as a special prosecutor investigating whether anyone in the Bush administration illegally leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists.
[Read more.]

Let's hope that Fitzgerald doesn't cave in now that he's playing in the big league. We need accountability. No one is above the law -- not even King George or Queen Karl.

White House scrambles to do Cindy Sheehan damage control

It appeared as though the Karl Rove spin machine was so heavily preoccupied by the Plamegate scandal that the Cindy Sheehan movement was able to slip in and capture both the attention of the media and the imagination of the American public. It's about time.

But now the White House is fighting back, and they got this piece into the current issue of Newsweek:
'I'm So Sorry'

In emotional private meetings with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush offers solace—and seeks some of his own.

By Holly Bailey and Evan Thomas

Aug. 22, 2005 issue - The grieving room was arranged like a doctor's office. The families and loved ones of 33 soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were summoned to a large waiting area at Fort Bragg, N.C. For three hours, they were rotated through five private rooms, where they met with President George W. Bush, accompanied by two Secret Service men and a photographer. Because the walls were thin, the families awaiting their turn could hear the crying inside.

President Bush was wearing "a huge smile," but his eyes were red and he looked drained by the time he got to the last widow, Crystal Owen, a third-grade schoolteacher who had lost her husband in Iraq. "Tell me about Mike," he said immediately. "I don't want my husband's death to be in vain," she told him. The president apologized repeatedly for her husband's death. When Owen began to cry, Bush grabbed her hands. "Don't worry, don't worry," he said, though his choking voice suggested that he had worries of his own. The president and the widow hugged. "It felt like he could have been my dad," Owen recalled to NEWSWEEK. "It was like we were old friends. It almost makes me sad. In a way, I wish he weren't the president, just so I could talk to him all the time."

Bush likes to play the resolute War Leader, and he has never been known for admitting mistakes or regret. But that does not mean that he is free of doubt. For the past three years, Bush has been living in two worlds—unwavering and confident in public, but sometimes stricken in private. Bush's meetings with widows like Crystal Owen offer a rare look inside that inner, private world.

Last week, at his ranch in Texas, he took his usual line on Iraq, telling reporters that the United States would not pull out its troops until Iraq was able to defend itself. While he said he "sympathized" with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, he refused to visit her peace vigil, set up in a tent in a drainage ditch outside the ranch, and sent two of his aides to talk to her instead.

Privately, Bush has met with about 900 family members of some 270 soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The conversations are closed to the press, and Bush does not like to talk about what goes on in these grieving sessions, though there have been hints. An hour after he met with the families at Fort Bragg in June, he gave a hard-line speech on national TV. When he mentioned the sacrifice of military families, his lips visibly quivered.
[Read more.]

Yeah, that's nice. He meets with the families. But he doesn't even know their names. ("Who we'all honorin' today?")

Now below is some background on Cindy Sheehan's meeting last year with Bush. Compare it to the spin.
George W. Bush hauled stakes for Texas and a vacation a few days ago. Cindy Sheehan followed. She got off a bus Saturday afternoon and started walking to the Crawford ranch. She wanted some answers and was going to get them.

Sheehan had met Mr. Bush once before. On April 4, 2004, just shy of a year after Bush stood on an aircraft carrier beneath a banner that read "Mission Accomplished," Cindy Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey A. Sheehan, was killed in Iraq when his unit was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. He was 24 years old.

After Casey's death, Cindy Sheehan was invited to the White House for a visit with Mr. Bush in June of 2004. Her first memory of Bush's appearance that day was when he walked into the room and said in a loud, bluff voice, "Who we'all honorin' today?"

"His mouth kept moving," Sheehan later recalled of her meeting with Bush, "but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells." Bush called her "Ma" or "Mom" throughout the whole meeting, and never got around to learning her name.

"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting," Sheehan said later. "designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn't even know our names. I just couldn't believe this was happening. It was so surreal and bizarre. Later I met with some of the other fifteen or sixteen families who were at the White House the same day and, sure enough, they all felt the same way I did."
[Read more about Cindy's audience with King George.]

If you read nothing else about the Cindy Sheehan matter, you have to read this.

From Will Pitt at truthout.org:
They are sunburned and storm-lashed. They sleep in tents that sit along the muddy earth of drainage ditches by the side of the road. They have been heckled by "counter-demonstrators" who chanted "We don't care!" during a rendition of "God Bless America." They have been attacked by fire ants and hassled by local health inspectors. On Thursday morning, at about 5:30am, they were blasted awake by a fourteen-car convoy of Secret Service SUVs which roared through the camp at high speed while leaning on their horns the whole time.

They have been jolted with fear when a local resident fired his weapon into the air several times to make them go away. When the shooter, one Larry Mattlage, was asked why he was firing his gun, he said, "We're going to start doing our war and it's going to be underneath the law. We're going to do whatever it takes." It is safe to say, therefore, that their lives have been threatened.

The thing is, they've already won.

Cindy Sheehan and her ever-growing band of supporters intend to stay in those ditches outside Bush's Crawford "ranch" until he comes out to talk or until August 31st, whichever comes first. If he does not come out by the end of the month, she intends to follow him to Washington and camp out in front of the White House. She and the others have been there for more than a week now, garnering more and more attention from the national and international press. Yes, they are tired. Yes, they are uncomfortable. Yes, they have already won.

The nearly 2,000 crosses, crescents and Stars of David that make up the Arlington West cemetery, erected by the demonstrators a few days ago to represent all the fallen American soldiers in Iraq, stretch almost a mile down the country road. Bush had to drive past that on Friday when he went to his fundraising shindig at the Broken Spoke Ranch. 54 crosses have been added to the cemetery since he first showed up for his vacation at the beginning of August. It takes a while to drive past them all. This man, who cannot abide hearing or seeing anything in the way of dissent or disagreement, saw those crosses whistle past his window. That is a victory.

Over the weekend, as the camp prepared for the arrival of the counter-demonstrators, a huge diesel pickup truck rumbled into camp with its nose menacingly pointed towards the tents. It sat for a while, and everyone waited to see what would happen. Ann Wright, the main organizer of camp activities, finally approached the truck and met the driver. He was a father, Wright discovered, and his son had been killed in Iraq.

He did not agree with this protest, he said, but wanted to know if his son's name was on one of the crosses in the Arlington West cemetery. Ann Wright invited the man to walk the rows of crosses and find his son's name. They found it. Ann and the man from the truck sat down in front of the cross, wrapped their arms around each other, and wept. Later, the man shared a beer with Cindy Sheehan and told her he loved her. That is a victory, one that surpasses any sort of mean politics.


The funny part is that Bush almost certainly could have maintained the public fantasy with one simple act. He could have jumped into his pickup truck last Saturday, when Cindy Sheehan was alone except for her sister in that ditch, and driven down to see her. He could have invited her into the shotgun seat and driven her around the neighborhood for a few minutes. He could have then gone back up to the "ranch" and told the press corps that he met with her, and that they had looked into each other's hearts. That would have been the end of it.

He did not do that. Now, his generals are at loggerheads with the public line coming from the White House about getting out of Iraq. Unnamed officials are going on the record to state that the whole plan was hare-brained from the word "go," and that the entire deal sits now in the ashes of its own utterly ruined failure. Bush has to keep explaining why we have to stay, why rearranging the deck chairs on this Titanic is a noble and worthwhile process. Meanwhile, the whole world mocks him for hiding from one woman and her broken heart.

Cindy Sheehan has done this with one act of conscience. She has managed to do what no other protest or action or statement has been able to do. She has knocked the wheels right off this absurd applecart. She has called the man to account. She can hang her own "Mission Accomplished" banner above her tent in that ditch. She has already won.

Her son would be very, very proud.
[Read more.]

15 August 2005

Plamegate: More corruption in the Bush administration

From the Village Voice:
Justice Department officials made the crucial decision in late 2003 to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame in large part because investigators had begun to specifically question the veracity of accounts provided to them by White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to senior law enforcement officials.

Several of the federal investigators were also deeply concerned that then attorney general John Ashcroft was personally briefed regarding the details of at least one FBI interview with Rove, despite Ashcroft's own longstanding personal and political ties to Rove, the Voice has also learned. The same sources said Ashcroft was also told that investigators firmly believed that Rove had withheld important information from them during that FBI interview.
[Read more.]

Of course, we all know that Ashcroft is such a devout Christian that he would certainly have recused himself at the slightest hint of any impropriety, lest he stray from Jesus's message of truth, love, humility, and virtue.


Amnesty calls for release of another conscientious objector

From Amnesty International:
USA: Prisoner of conscience, Kevin Benderman
AI Index: AMR 51/123/2005

09 August 2005

UA 208/05 Prisoner of conscience

USA Kevin Benderman (m), aged 40, US army sergeant

On 28 July, a US court-martial sentenced Sergeant Kevin Benderman to 15 months' imprisonment, after he refused to return for a second tour of duty with the US army in Iraq. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his conscientious objection to the war in Iraq.

Kevin Benderman has served as an army mechanic for 10 years. He served in Iraq from March to September 2003 but refused to deploy to Iraq a second time, citing his moral and religious objections to the war in Iraq, which developed in response to his experiences as a soldier in Iraq.

In his conscientious objector application filed on 28 December 2004, Kevin Benderman explains how his religious studies of both the Bible and the Qu’ran, coupled with his experiences, led him to develop objections to the war. He described the devastation he witnessed as his unit drove to their destination:

"Homes were bombed, people lived in mud huts and drank water from the mud puddles. I could not ignore the little girl standing by the side of the road with her mother. Her arm was burned to her shoulder, and she cried in pain. To be aware of the mass graves throughout the area that we were in, full of bodies of women and children and men, all who had died by the hand of war, maybe not our war, but war."
[Read more.]

And the following is from an open letter to President Bush from Sergeant Benderman's wife:
Dear Sirs:

As I am certain you are all aware, my husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, was sentenced to 15 months confinement, loss of rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge last week, the charge being "Missing Movement" or failure to get on a plane.

In actuality, the charge was "filing a Conscientious Objector packet against the recommendation of his commander, who had no intention of allowing my husband to follow his conscience, and therefore serving notice to the rest of our military that they should not follow suit."

I need to assure you that I do not make this statement out of anger, but rather by simply pointing to the facts. Not only did my husband's commander address this in a public comment to the media, the prosecutor used this in his closing statements, and the military representative was adamant about this in his public comments to the media immediately following my husband's court martial.

I am not writing out of anger. I am writing to request the opportunity to meet with one of you to discuss my husband's case from our point of view, as this has not been allowed to this point. Even in my husband's court martial, he was not allowed to discuss his beliefs, his reasons, or the fact that he has given 10 years of honorable service to his country, including a combat tour in Iraq, for which he received two Army commendation medals for meritorious service.

My husband's case for Conscientious Objection was brushed aside and mishandled so that his entire career of service came down to a meeting with his Command Sgt. Major that lasted less than one hour. My husband's testimony regarding this meeting has remained unchanged, as has my witness to that meeting. The Command Sgt. Major's testimony was re-written and sworn to on at least 5 separate occasions, each testimony contradicting another, even as they were presented in my husband's court martial.

In fairness to each of you, to the U.S. Army, to the people of this country and mostly to my husband, who is paying the price for being falsely charged, I am respectfully requesting that the appeal process for his case be allowed to proceed without delay, and that he be given fair treatment not only in a re-presentation of the facts surrounding his court martial, but that he also be given the opportunity to have his application for Conscientious Objector status reconsidered as well.

We are all living in difficult times. My husband served in this war, and the effects it had on him will live with him for the rest of his life. We do not intend to dishonor the service of all the military personnel still serving, each will have to make the choice for themselves of how to live with their beliefs and their conscience. We will not say that the beliefs of those still fighting are wrong. We can only say for certain that what my husband was ordered to continue to believe, by his command, is very wrong for him.

This is the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Sirs, my husband freely volunteered to serve in the United States Army because he believed it was right. He gave ten years of honorable service because he believed it was right for him. After seeing war firsthand, he knew that he could not participate any longer; because he knew war was the wrong choice for him. The stand he has taken, to say no to war and to lay down his weapon in the face of so many who do not understand, is what I believe gives him the right to live in this "home of the brave," as one of the bravest.
[Read more.]

Given how Bush has ignored Cindy Sheehan and others who disagree with him, I do not expect Monica Benderman to get a substantial response from him. But Amnesty will not give up the fight until he is released.

14 August 2005

Santorum: Enabler of Medicare/Medicaid fraud and patient mistreatment/endangerment?

A nursing home in the Pittsburgh area has gotten busted repeatedly for Health Department and Medicare/Medicaid violations, including 19 incidents involving serious harm to patients.

Senator Rick Santorum, who describes himself as a devout "Christian", went to bat for the nursing home and got them an unprecidented fourth inspection to delay funding cuts. In the meantime, more patients died.

Now let's look at Santorum's campaign records: Gee whiz, believe it or not, Santorum's 2001 reelection campaign records show a nice contribution from Martha Bell, that nursing home's former administrator, who has been accused of ordering employees to cover up evidence of patient deaths from negligence!

[Read story.]

Yeah, "Christianity" at its finest! Jesus would be so pleased, right?

Iraq: It's over, George

New York Times columnist Frank Rich has a very interesting editorial in today's paper.

Some excerpts:
Like the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.

But our current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Mr. Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout "don't ask, don't tell" and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.


The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.
[Read more.]

The Cindy Sheehan matter: What would Jesus do?

Cindy Sheehan's vigil continues outside George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. This mother of a fallen soldier simpy wants a few minutes of Bush's time, and an explanation of his "noble cause" that her son died for.

But Bush refuses to meet with her. In fact, on Friday, Bush's motorcade rushed right past Cindy and her supporters without stopping. Cindy was holding a sign that read: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?" [Read story.]

Bush calls himself a devout Christian, and tells the press that Jesus is his favorite philosopher. But would Jesus cruise by and ignore a grieving mother? Or would he stop and comfort her?

Talk is cheap, George.

13 August 2005

They make the Cindy Sheehan thing sound so black-and-white, so here's what it boils down to

OK, I know I've been focusing a whole heck of a lot on Cindy Sheehan's mission in Crawford, Texas. And I know that there are a whole lot more human rights/social justice issues going on in the world, and so I usually try to mix it up pretty well.

But please indulge me for this:

1. Read this column by Marjorie Cohn about Cindy Sheehan, et al: The Murder of Casey Sheehan

2. Then, depending on your own personal leanings, do one of the following:

       2a. If you support Cindy, visit the Gold Star Families for Peace site to see how you can help.

       2b. If you think that Cindy is an ignorant and/or misguided tool of Michael Moore and/or the radical whatever, then please demonstrate your support for the war in Iraq by enlisting in the military (if you are under the age of 35), or enlisting one or more of your children (if you are too old to enlist yourself).

So there you go. It's black or white. You're with us or you're against us. No lame-ass wussy excuses accepted.

Thank you, and have a nice day.

New Iraqi government employs Osama's buddy

From Newsweek:
A former Washington-area man accused in court papers of being the "American contact" for an Osama bin Laden "front organization" is now believed to be working for the new Iraqi government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two US law-enforcement officials and a longtime associate of the man tell NEWSWEEK.
[Read more.]

Yeah, things are going really well in Iraq, and our soldiers are dying in droves for a "just cause". Just ask Dubya.

Homeland insecurity

In his 2004 campaign for reelection, George W. Bush won the support of "red state" voters by touting 9/11 and the "war on terror" and convincing them that only he could keep America safe. A vote for Kerry would be a vote for the terrorists.

Today, the Bush administration and its right-wing pundits insist that we're making progress in the "war on terror", even in the wake of the recent terrorist bombings in London. They insist that their strategies are the right ones, even though the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq has more than doubled in the past year, since Bush stood under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished" and proclaimed that major combat operations had ended. They claim the moral high ground even though all of their original justifications for attacking Iraq have been proven false. And they keep telling us that their policies have made us safer.

Why, then, do polls show that a majority of Americans do not feel safer? Are Americans finally waking up to find that their emperor has no clothes?

Consider the following:

1. Today, almost four years after 9/11, our airline cargo is still not screened. Security officers go through my suitcase, fondle my underwear, and spill my toiletries in the name of "security", but they don't bother to check those mysterious boxes and bags that find their way into the airplane's cargo hold.

2. The authorities have still not secured our ports. With all the resources spent on sniffing our shoes at airport security checkpoints, why do we not enforce a similar level of scrutiny on the more than 20‚000 cargo containers that pass through U.S. ports each day?

3. Our power plants are vulnerable. While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has strengthened its regulations regarding security at nuclear power plants, critics contend that further measures are needed, and the NRC itself concedes that there are still some concerns to be addressed. Last year, a drunken pilot flew his small plane dangerously close to the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant near Philadelphia. Imagine the potential consequences had the pilot been a terrorist rather than a stray drunk.

Billions of our tax dollars have been spent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq - a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to the U.S. The Bush administration keeps telling us that we're bringing freedom and security to the Iraqi people. But Bush's Texas-tough-guy tactics have not led to security in Iraq, and they have not made Americans feel any safer either.

Bush keeps telling us that "we are fighting the enemy there so we won't have to fight them here." But 9/11 and the more recent London bombings have shown us otherwise.

Consider how much safer we might feel if that money had instead been spent on security here at home.

Consider how much safer we might feel if our military had stayed focused on capturing Osama bin Laden rather than Saddam Hussein.

And consider how much safer we might feel if we had not stirred up a hornet's nest in Iraq, giving rise to a new generation of terrorists and putting ourselves at greater risk of retribution by killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and torturing our prisoners.

I strongly urge all of our elected representatives to stop wasting money in Iraq and allocate sufficient funds to secure the homeland. Develop a reasonable exit strategy for our troops. Empower and enable the Iraqi people to rebuild their country, since we're not doing a very good job of it. Enlist the United Nations to manage the peacekeeping there. And focus on making us safer here at home.

Until that happens, homeland security is merely a sound bite and a dream.

12 August 2005

White guy found with bomb at airport

Yesterday, a Philadelphia-bound man was arrested at an Oklahoma airport when a bomb was discoveredin his carry-on bag.

As it turns out, this would-be terrorist is a 24-year-old white guy with a WASPish-sounding name! [Read story.]

This is a good example of why racial profiling doesn't work.

11 August 2005

American Bar Association speaks out against the PATRIOT Act

Some lawyers do have integrity.

From Reuters:
The president-elect of the nation's largest lawyers group on Monday said some of the federal government's investigative powers included in the anti-terrorism Patriot Act are a threat to constitutional rights.

Michael Greco criticized aspects of the act, passed to bolster security after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, at the American Bar Association convention, where U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged the U.S. Congress to renew it.

"We support the (Bush) administration in its efforts to secure the nation but we have taken policy positions, four or five of them, where we think due process has not been followed," Greco said in an interview with Reuters.

He criticized exceptions the law makes to the constitution's privacy protections that give law enforcement the power to search a home without the homeowner's knowledge and without a judge-approved search warrant.

"The ABA position is that some of these provisions are so invasive of individual liberties that there has to be a sunset provision. They're offensive, I think, to democracy," Greco said.
[Read more.]

Interview with Cindy Sheehan

From BuzzFlash:
Direct from the drainage ditch, the intrepid protester says "Our spirits are great," but Bush "doesn't have enough courage to face someone who actually disagrees with him ..."


Cindy Sheehan and others are at Bush's Crawford, Texas, vacation location, bringing a message to Bush that it's time to bring the troops home. She is a cofounder of Gold Star Families for Peace and the mother of Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, killed in Baghdad April 4, 2004.

Intrepid, courageous, and effective. Cindy Sheehan has brought the war against war to George Bush during his frustratingly insensitive 5-week-long vacation in Crawford, Texas. BuzzFlash emailed her today, and is happy to share her responses with our readers and the world.

BuzzFlash: Is it true as reported on Daily Kos that you have been warned you will be arrested on Thursday? How do you feel about going to jail? Would it be a first?

Cindy Sheehan: Yes. It would be the first time, and I am ready to go. The only way they will get me out of there is if he meets with me, [or] the end of August, or when I am arrested."

BuzzFlash: How do you see this protest ending?

Cindy Sheehan: With either our arrests, or the end of August. But if I get arrested and I am let out before the end of August, I will go back.

BuzzFlash: How many peace activists are participating with you there in the Crawford peace protest?

Cindy Sheehan: Right now, about three dozen. More are coming from all over the country.

BuzzFlash: Did Bush's spokespersons, who came out to talk to you, address your key questions: What is our "noble cause"? And how do we "complete the mission"?

Cindy Sheehan: Yes, but they gave the standard baloney line.

BuzzFlash: Why do you think Bush isn't meeting with you now, when he did in June, 2004?

Cindy Sheehan: In June my entire family was invited, along with 15 other families. I believe that back in June we were used as political tools. I believe he's not meeting with me now because he doesn't have enough courage to face someone who actually disagrees with him and would dare to call him on his lies.
[Read more.]

All Cindy wants is for Bush to meet with her for a few minutes and explain to her what exactly is this "noble cause" that her son died for. But he won't. Or he can't.

Thanks to George W., Iraq is a mess, it's a quagmire, it's a human rights crisis, and each week more American soldiers die. Have a nice day.

Another voice from the trenches -- er, ditches (in Crawford)

From BuzzFlash:
A Report from the Vigil in Crawford.

by Amy Branham

This morning I sit at my keyboard in awe of the events of this past weekend. Cindy Sheehan's trip to Crawford to talk to President Bush started out as just a small idea Wednesday evening. None of us thought for even a minute that it would snowball into the media and historic event that it has now become. Cindy, Dede and I thought the journey would be made by the three of us and maybe some veterans from the Veterans for Peace convention we were attending.

Saturday morning we boarded the VFP [Veterans for Peace] Impeach Bush bus, along with a platoon of vets sent by VFP to go with us. A caravan of cars followed behind, filled with vets and others who had come to support us. The vets on that bus are some of the most inspiring, honorable and heroic men I have ever met. They inspired me and helped to heal my broken heart. These are people I had to explain nothing to because they know how I feel. They've been there. They've buried their buddies and seen the worst of humanity. I will forever have a warm spot in my heart for them.

When we arrived at the Peace House in Crawford we were so happy to see even more supporters waiting for us! People from Code Pink came out in droves, people who had heard about what we were about to do on the radio came to support us. The media, the mainstream media that hardly reports on these things, came to see us, to see Cindy. When I stepped off that bus, I was in tears, so grateful for the support from so many strangers.

I want to extend a special thanks to Crawford House and the wonderful people who run it. They are amazing people who give freely of their time and their lives. They are supporting Cindy's vigil and giving her a safe place to be if and when she needs it.

The local Sheriff of Crawford escorted us to the location for our demonstration. The events have been reported throughout the world, so all of you know what happened. They made us walk in the bar ditch in knee high weeds full of bugs, fire ants (really nasty little things) and possibly snakes. The walking was hard. The sun beat down on us in the 100 degree Texas heat in the middle of the day. Conditions were miserable. But we pushed on. Cindy, Dede and I were in the front, leading our supporters. I don't know for sure how far we walked, and I've heard various reports from a half a mile to a mile.

I couldn't help but feel we were the peasants going to the castle to ask for an audience with King George, only to be stopped and told the King wouldn't see us.
[Read more.]

MoDo is back: Maureen Down speaks out about Cindy Sheehan

From the New York Times:
W. can't get no satisfaction on Iraq.

There's an angry mother of a dead soldier camping outside his Crawford ranch, demanding to see a president who prefers his sympathy to be carefully choreographed.

A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans now think that going to war was a mistake and that the war has made the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism. So fighting them there means it's more likely we'll have to fight them here?

Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged yesterday that sophisticated bombs were streaming over the border from Iran to Iraq.

And the Rolling Stones have taken a rare break from sex odes to record an antiwar song called "Sweet Neo Con," chiding Condi Rice and Mr. Bush. "You call yourself a Christian; I call you a hypocrite," Mick Jagger sings.

The N.F.L. put out a press release on Monday announcing that it's teaming up with the Stones and ABC to promote "Monday Night Football." The flag-waving N.F.L. could still back out if there's pressure, but the mood seems to have shifted since Madonna chickened out of showing an antiwar music video in 2003. The White House used to be able to tamp down criticism by saying it hurt our troops, but more people are asking the White House to explain how it plans to stop our troops from getting hurt.

Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.

The president met with her family two months after Casey's death. Capturing W.'s awkwardness in traversing the line between somber and joking, and his love of generic labels, Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.

The Bush team tried to discredit "Mom" by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.
[Read more.]

Wonder why there's an insurgency?

Those "liberated" Iraqis are getting fed up with the fact that they still don't have clean water or reliable electricity -- two and a half years after we bombed their infrastructure to bits (in violation of international humanitarian law, I might add).

And the high unemployment rate in Iraq compounds the unrest. You see, we bring in Chinese contractors instead of hiring Iraqis to rebuild their country. ("Outsourcing: It's not just for Detroit anymore.")

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Iraqis thirst for water and power

Lack of basic services is prompting growing protest aimed at Iraqi officials.

By Dan Murphy
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BAGHDAD – This summer, the third since the fall of Baghdad, has been the worst yet when it comes to basic services. Interruptions to electricity and water supplies - caused by both decay and sabotage - are driving up the frustrations of millions of Iraqis.

While last summer public anger was directed at the US government, today it's as likely to be aimed directly at Iraq's interim government and officials.

Last Sunday in the Shiite town of Samawa 150 miles south of Baghdad, protests over joblessness and limited electricity and water supplies turned into a riot outside the governor's office in which about 1,000 residents overturned and burned a police van. The riot ended when police opened fire, killing one.
[Read more.]

I certainly do not condone the violence caused by the insurgents. But one man's insurgent is another man's freedom fighter.

10 August 2005

Did John Roberts defend domestic terrorism?

From the Washington Post:
A prominent abortion rights group launched a television ad yesterday that accuses Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. of siding with violent extremists and a convicted clinic bomber while serving in the solicitor general's office, an accusation that Roberts's supporters immediately condemned as a flagrant distortion.

The ad, sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice America, focuses on Roberts's role in a case involving whether a 19th-century anti-Ku Klux Klan statute could be used to shut down blockades of health clinics by abortion protesters. The solicitor general's office filed a friend-of-the-court brief siding with the clinic protesters, including Operation Rescue. The high court ruled 6 to 3 against the health clinics in January 1993.
[Read more.]

Bush is afraid to face a dead soldier's mom, so he'll have her arrested

From the Daily Kos:
Cindy Sheehan phoned me from Texas a few minutes ago to say that she's been informed that beginning Thursday, she and her companions will be considered a threat to national security and will be arrested.
[Read more.]

We've created a monster

From the Australian Broadcasting Company:
Iraqi soldiers fear leaving training base

Members of the new Iraqi army being trained by US troops in the safe confines of Taji military base, fear setting foot outside.

Taji, an old Iraqi military base just north-west of Baghdad, lies in the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency against the new, Shiite-led Iraqi Government and its US backers.

"We're all afraid. I can't go outside the base wearing these military clothes," says Sergeant Abbas, listing colleagues who have fallen victim to relentless insurgent attacks in the dusty towns and highways north of Baghdad.

"We all know soldiers who notice people photographing them with mobile phones and being followed," says the Shiite Muslim from Amara in relatively calm southern Iraq.

He does not give his full name for fear of reprisals.
[Read more.]

In other words, unlike Bush's promises, we're haven't exactly been welcomed with sweets and flowers.

09 August 2005

Rumsfeld sued for cruel confinement of "enemy combatant" in U.S.

More info about how our "Christian" leaders are treating people. I think Jesus would not be pleased.

From Human Rights Watch:
(New York, August 8, 2005)—A lawsuit filed today against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reveals the gratuitous cruelty inflicted on a foreign student held without charges for more than two years as an "enemy combatant" in a South Carolina naval brig, Human Rights Watch said. Although three men have been confined in the United States after being designated "enemy combatants" by President George Bush, the complaint by Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri provides the first look into the treatment of any of them in military custody.

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who had been studying in Peoria, Illinois, before his arrest, asked the federal district court in South Carolina to declare unconstitutional the severe and unnecessary deprivations and restrictions to which he has been subjected since he was placed in military custody in June 2003. Al-Marri had already initiated habeas proceedings challenging the legality of his detention as an enemy combatant. That case continues.

"It is bad enough that al-Marri has been held indefinitely without charges and incommunicado," said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program. "Now we learn that his life in the brig has also been one of cruelty and petty vindictiveness. Whatever the Bush administration believes he has done or wanted to do, there's no excuse for how they are treating him."

Al-Marri's complaint describes virtually complete isolation from the world. He has been confined round the clock in a small cell with an opaque window covered with plastic. He has not been allowed to speak to his wife or five children. He is allowed no newspapers, magazines, books (other than the Koran), radio or television. He is allowed no personal property. His cell contains a steel bed, a sink and a toilet. During the day, the mattress on his bed has been removed.

Out-of-cell time has been limited to three showers and three short periods of solitary recreation a week — but al-Marri has frequently been denied that out-of-cell time. Once he went 60 days without being permitted to leave his cell at all. When bad weather prevents him from going outside, he must remain in hand cuffs and leg irons during his indoor recreation. Leg irons and handcuffs are placed on him when he goes to the shower.

Al-Marri alleges that on occasion he has been denied basic hygiene products such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and toilet paper. When not provided with toilet paper, he has had to use his hands to clean himself after he defecates, and it has taken more than an hour before soap was brought to him so that he could wash his hands. The water in his cell has frequently been turned off. He has been denied socks or footwear for months at a time, including during the winter months. Officers at the brig often lower the temperature in his cell until it becomes exceedingly cold, but they do not give him extra clothes or blankets to keep warm.

According to al-Marri's complaint, he has not been formally interrogated for almost one year. He states, however, that when he was interrogated, government officials threatened he would be sent to Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where they told him he would be tortured and sodomized and his wife would be raped in front of him.
[Read more.]

History repeats itself: "The War Prayer", by Mark Twain

The more I read of Mark Twain's work, the more impressed I am with his genius and his insight.

He wrote the following during the Spanish-American War, when he was under exclusive contract with Harper's Bizarre. Harper's rejected it as being too radical, and it wasn't published until after Twain's death. It is particularly timely today, in light of the imperialistic chickenhawk Bush administration.

It's not easy reading, but it's worth taking the time to do so.

If this were to be published today under a pen name, surely Karl Rove would label it "unpatriotic".


The War Prayer
by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams – visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! – then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation – "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory.

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal," Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said

"I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two – one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this – keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer – the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.