30 September 2005

Ashcroft ordered to testify in lawsuit over detentions

Bravo to Judge Gleason for having the strength and integrity to stand up for human rights and hold government officials accountable.

From Thursday's New York Times via truthout.org:
A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other top government officials will have to answer questions under oath in a lawsuit that accuses them of personally conspiring to violate the rights of Muslim immigrants held in a federal detention center in Brooklyn after 9/11.

The officials had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed without testimony, arguing in part that they had governmental immunity from its claims, that the court lacked jurisdiction because they live outside New York State, and that the Sept. 11 attacks created "special factors" outweighing the plaintiffs' right to sue for damages for constitutional violations.

But the judge, John Gleeson, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, rejected those arguments, allowing the case to proceed - and opening the door to depositions of Mr. Ashcroft and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, by lawyers for the two plaintiffs: Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian immigrant who ran a restaurant in Times Square, and Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani immigrant whose Long Island customers knew him as "the cable guy."

The lawsuit charges that, solely because of their race, religion or national origin, the two men were physically abused and deprived of due process while being detained for more than eight months in the harsh maximum-security unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

The men, who eventually pleaded guilty to minor criminal charges unrelated to terrorism and were deported, charged that they were repeatedly slammed into walls and dragged across the floor while shackled and manacled.

They said they were kicked and punched until they bled, cursed as "terrorists" and "Muslim bastards," and subjected to multiple unnecessary body-cavity searches, including one in which correction officers inserted a flashlight into Mr. Elmaghraby's rectum, making him bleed.

"Our nation's unique and complex law enforcement and security challenges in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do not warrant the elimination of remedies for the constitutional violations alleged here," Judge Gleeson wrote in his decision.
[Read more.]

Here come da judge

Yesterday, as expected, the Senate confirmed Judge John Roberts as the new Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, after which he was promptly sworn in. [Read story.]

The voting roll was predictable -- 78 yeas and 22 nays, with everyone voting pretty much as I would have expected.

To see how each senator voted, click here.

So Bush has replaced one right-wing idealogue with another.

Will he fill the remaining empty seat by replacing one moderate with another? Might Bush realize that his administration is in a rather precarious position at this point and that he therefore might do better to nominate a consensus candidate? Don't hold your breath.

29 September 2005

Nailing The Hammer

Is this a sign that the tide is turning, the nation is waking up. and the evildoers in the Bush administration will finally be held accountable for their crimes?

Yesterday, Tom ("The Hammer") DeLay was indicted in a Texas fundraising probe. Because of this, he was required to step down "temporarily" as House Majority Leader.

To read MSNBC's coverage of this story, click here.

To view the official indictment, click here.

For a timeline of DeLay's ethical problems, click here.

28 September 2005

Signs seen at last Saturday's anti-war rally in Washington, DC

Stop Mad Cowboy Disease

Bush--A Category 5 Disaster

No More BU--SH--

Texas Homegrown Dope

The Rich Lie--The Poor Die

Leave No Billionaire Behind

Bush--International Terrorist

Make Levees Not War

War is Terrorism with a Bigger Budget

War is Not Pro-Life

The best speech from Saturday's rally in DC

The NBA’s Etan Thomas (the Washington Wizards' Power Forward) delivered a very moving speech at the anti-war rally this past Saturday in Washington, DC.

Below is the transcript, courtesy of Common Dreams:
“Giving all honor, thanks and praises to God for courage and wisdom, this is a very important rally. I'd like to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding a tremendous problem that we are currently facing. This problem is universal, transcending race, economic background, religion, and culture, and this problem is none other than the current administration which has set up shop in the White House.

In fact, I'd like to take some of these cats on a field trip. I want to get big yellow buses with no air conditioner and no seatbelts and round up Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Trent Lott, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Bush Jr. and Bush Sr., John Ashcroft, Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, Katherine Harris, that little bow-tied Tucker Carlson and any other right-wing conservative Republicans I can think of, and take them all on a trip to the ‘hood. Not to do no 30-minute documentary. I mean, I want to drop them off and leave them there, let them become one with the other side of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare, have scare tactics run through them like a laxative, criticizing them for needing assistance.

I’d show them working families that make too much to receive welfare but not enough to make ends meet. I’d employ them with jobs with little security, let them know how it feels to be an employee at will, able to be fired at the drop of a hat. I’d take away their opportunities, then try their children as adults, sending their 13-year-old babies to life in prison. I’d sell them dreams of hopelessness while spoon-feeding their young with a daily dose of inferior education. I’d tell them no child shall be left behind, then take more money out of their schools, tell them to show and prove themselves on standardized exams testing their knowledge on things that they haven’t been taught, and then I’d call them inferior.

I’d soak into their interior notions of endless possibilities. I’d paint pictures of assisted productivity if they only agreed to be all they can be, dress them up with fatigues and boots with promises of pots of gold at the end of rainbows, free education to waste terrain on those who finish their bid. Then I’d close the lid on that barrel of fool’s gold by starting a war, sending their children into the midst of a hostile situation, and while they're worried about their babies being murdered and slain in foreign lands, I’d grace them with the pain of being sick and unable to get medicine.

Give them health benefits that barely cover the common cold. John Q. would become their reality as HMOs introduce them to the world of inferior care, filling their lungs with inadequate air, penny pinching at the expense of patients, doctors practicing medicine in an intricate web of rationing and regulations. Patients wander the maze of managed bureaucracy, costs rise and quality quickly deteriorates, but they say that managed care is cheaper. They’ll say that free choice in medicine will defeat the overall productivity, and as co-payments are steadily rising, I'll make their grandparents have to choose between buying their medicine and paying their rent.

Then I'd feed them hypocritical lines of being pro-life as the only Christian way to be. Then very contradictingly, I’d fight for the spread of the death penalty, as if thou shall not kill applies to babies but not to criminals.

Then I’d introduce them to those sworn to protect and serve, creating a curb in their trust in the law. I’d show them the nightsticks and plungers, the pepper spray and stun guns, the mace and magnums that they’d soon become acquainted with, the shakedowns and illegal search and seizures, the planted evidence, being stopped for no reason. Harassment ain’t even the half of it. Forty-one shots to two raised hands, cell phones and wallets that are confused with illegal contrabands. I’d introduce them to pigs who love making their guns click like wine glasses. Everlasting targets surrounded by bullets, making them a walking bull's eye, a living piñata, held at the mercy of police brutality, and then we’ll see if they finally weren’t aware of the truth, if their eyes weren’t finally open like a box of Pandora.

I’d show them how the other side of the tracks carries the weight of the world on our shoulders and how society seems to be holding us down with the force of a boulder. The bird of democracy flew the coop back in Florida. See, for some, and justice comes in packs like wolves in sheep's clothing. T.K.O.'d by the right hooks of life, many are left staggering under the weight of the day, leaning against the ropes of hope. When your dreams have fallen on barren ground, it becomes difficult to keep pushing yourself forward like a train, administering pain like a doctor with a needle, their sequels continue more lethal than injections.

They keep telling us all is equal. I’d tell them that instead of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing corporate mergers and leading us into unnecessary wars and under-table dealings with Enron and Halliburton, maybe they can work on making society more peaceful. Instead, they take more and more money out of inner city schools, give up on the idea of rehabilitation and build more prisons for poor people. With unemployment continuing to rise like a deficit, it's no wonder why so many think that crime pays.

Maybe this trip will make them see the error of their ways. Or maybe next time, we'll just all get out and vote. And as far as their stay in the White House, tell them that numbered are their days.”
[View it with editorial intro at the Common Dreams site.]

27 September 2005

Lynndie England convicted

Yesterday, Army Pfc. Lynndie England (the dominatrix of Abu Ghraib) was convicted on six of seven counts for her part in the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. [Read more.]

Now, I do believe that England should be reprimanded for her actions. However, the abuse was not her idea. She is a follower, not a leader, and she believed that she was following orders from military intelligence.

Meantime, those in the Bush administration who orchestrated the methods by which they would skirt the Geneva Conventions, like Alberto Gonzales and John Roberts, are rewarded with promotions.

God bless America.

26 September 2005

More than 1,000 prisoners to be freed from Abu Ghraib!

From Reuters via truthout.org:
More than 1,000 prisoners held at Abu Ghraib jail will be released this week after a request by Iraqi authorities for a goodwill gesture to mark Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, the U.S. military said on Monday.

The release will take place in stages over the coming week, with 500 prisoners to be set free on Monday, a statement said.

"These detainees were selected for release following a careful and thorough review of their files by a special Iraqi-led review board which determined they had not committed serious crimes," the military said.


About 4,200 are currently held at Abu Ghraib, which is notorious for the images of U.S. soldiers mocking, physically abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners that emerged last year.
[Read more.]

Bush's cronies profit from hurricanes with hefty no-bid contracts

War profiteering isn't enough. Now they're profiting from the hurricane disasters.

From today's New York Times via truthout.org:
Topping the federal government's list of costs related to Hurricane Katrina is the $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company with ties to Mississippi's Republican governor. Near the bottom is an $89.95 bill for a pair of brown steel-toe shoes bought by an Environmental Protection Agency worker in Baton Rouge, La.

The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. Most of those were for clearing away the trees, homes and cars strewn across the region; purchasing trailers and mobile homes; or providing trucks, ships, buses and planes.

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.

"Most, if not all, of these people down there were trying to do the right thing," he said. "They were under a lot of pressure and they took a lot of shortcuts that may have resulted in a lot of waste."

Congress appropriated $62.3 billion in emergency financing after Hurricane Katrina struck. So far, a total of $15.8 billion has been allocated from a FEMA-managed disaster relief fund, of which $11.6 billion has been committed through contracts, direct aid to individuals or work performed by government agencies.

An examination of the contracts granted to date and interviews with state and federal officials raised concerns about some of the awards.

Some industry and government officials questioned the costs of the debris-removal contracts, saying the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed a rate that was too high. And Congressional investigators are looking into the $568 million awarded to AshBritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
[Read more.]

New reports of detainee abuse show that mistreatment was routine

From the Washington Post via truthout.org:
Two soldiers and an officer with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division have told a human rights organization of systemic detainee abuse and human rights violations at U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, recounting beatings, forced physical exertion and psychological torture of prisoners, the group said.

A 30-page report by Human Rights Watch describes an Army captain's 17-month effort to gain clear understanding of how US soldiers were supposed to treat detainees, and depicts his frustration with what he saw as widespread abuse that the military's leadership failed to address. The Army officer made clear that he believes low-ranking soldiers have been held responsible for abuse to cover for officers who condoned it.

The report does not identify the two sergeants and a captain who gave the accounts, although Capt. Ian Fishback has presented some of his allegations in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Their statements included vivid allegations of violence against detainees held at Forward Operating Base Mercury, outside Fallujah, shortly before the notorious abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison began. The soldiers described incidents similar to those reported in other parts of Iraq - such as putting detainees in stress positions, exercising them to the point of total exhaustion, and sleep deprivation.

They also detailed regular attacks that left detainees with broken bones - including once when a detainee was hit with a metal bat - and said that detainees were sometimes piled into pyramids, a tactic seen in photographs taken later at Abu Ghraib.

"Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid," an unidentified sergeant who worked at the base from August 2003 to April 2004 told Human Rights Watch. "This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement."

And like soldiers accused at Abu Ghraib, these troops said that military intelligence interrogators encouraged their actions, telling them to make sure the detainees did not sleep or were physically exhausted so as to get them to talk.
[Read complete article.]

[Read the Human Rights Watch report.]

Military judge bars release of Abu Ghraib photos

Out of sight, out of mind.

From Reuters via truthout.org:
A day before the trial of Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier who held an Iraqi prisoner on a leash at Abu Ghraib prison, a military judge on Tuesday barred the release of photos which have already been published around the world.

At a final pre-trial hearing, Judge Col. James Pohl also expressed skepticism about the central defense argument that England, 22, was overly compliant toward authority figures and could not always make reasoned judgments for herself.

"You are painting a picture of a woman who cannot think for herself in almost all circumstances," Pohl told lead defense lawyer Capt. Jonathan Crisp.

"She does have to look to the authority figures around her and glean what to do," said Crisp.

England is pictured in some of the most notorious Abu Ghraib photographs. In one image, she points and jeers at the genitals of a naked prisoner; in another, she poses with the father of her baby, Charles Graner, in front of a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners.

The publication of the photos a year and a half ago caused global outrage and was a major setback to the Bush administration, which had angered many nations by declaring war on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Because the Abu Ghraib photos are so widely known, the order barring their release will have a limited impact. They will not be shown to the public attending the trial, but rather will be shown on computer screens to the officers on the jury.

"They'll be sealed until an appellate court says they won't be sealed," said Capt. Cullen Sheppard, a spokesman for the prosecution. "Many of the photos that are protected are photos that you have seen."

Some photos have not been made public. For example, one charge since dropped against England alleged she had been photographed engaging in fellatio with Graner, the abuse ringleader who is serving a ten-year prison sentence and who has since married a woman who pled guilty in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Pohl's order could however affect what is released under a 2003 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain information on the treatment of U.S.-held detainees.
[Read more.]

25 September 2005

Best sign from yesterday's anti-war march and rally in DC

"No Iraqis left me on a roof to die."

Glad to see that I was wrong

Unlike the Bush administration, I will admit to my mistakes. And I'm delighted to point out the error in my assumption that yesterday's anti-war march and rally in Washington, DC, would probably not get front-page news coverage.

While most of today's papers lead with the hurricane coverage (and rightly so), the march/rally did end up on the front page of today's Washington Post. [Read it.]

And, as exected, C-SPAN provided live television coverage of the march yesterday, and replayed it early this morning.

"Patriotic Dissent": Cindy Sheehan's speech at yesterday's rally in DC

Courtesy of truthout.org:
Ahhhh, I love the smell of Patriotic Dissent in the afternoon!

As we stand here on the grounds of a monument that is dedicated to the Father of our Country, George Washington, we are reminded that he was well known for the apocryphal stories of never being able to tell a lie. I find it so ironic that there is another man here named George who stays in this town between vacations, and he seems to never be able to tell the truth. It is tragic for us that our bookend presidents named George have two completely different relationships with honesty.

I also find it ironic and heartbreaking that my son, Casey, who was a brave person, tall and proud, who loved his country and was honest beyond measure, could be sent to his death by someone who is even too cowardly to meet with a broken-hearted mom, let alone go and fight in the illegal and immoral war of his generation. We are losing our best and our brightest in a country that we are destroying, that was no threat to the United States of America. Iraq was and still is no danger to our safety and security, or to our way of life. The weapons of mass destruction and mass deception reside in this town: they are the neocons who pull the strings and the members of Congress who have loosened the purse strings with reckless abandon and have practically given George and company a blank check to run our country into monetary and moral bankruptcy. We are out here in force today to take our country back and restore true democracy and sanity to our political process. The time is now, and we are here because we love our country, and we won't let the reckless maniacs destroy her any further.

We, as a young colony of Great Britain, broke from another tyrant, King George the Third. Well, I wish our George the Third were here today to see us out here in force protesting against his war and against his murderous policies. George is not here, though, because he is out galavanting around the country somewhere pretending that he cares about the people who are in the path of hurricane Rita. We know that he cares nothing for the people of America: Katrina, Iraq, and his idiotic response to 9/11 are evidence of that. He is just out and about play-acting like a President whose country is in crisis, just like he pretends to be a Commander in Chief and a Cowboy (I wonder if before he took off to Texas or Colorado or wherever he went, he watched a movie like Independence Day to see how that other fake president acted?). The reason he is out today is that his handlers told him that he got a little flak for playing golf and eating birthday cake with Senator McCain while some of his employers were hanging off rooftops and treetops in New Orleans. He swaggers around arrogantly like he is a macho dictatorial tyrant who doesn't have to answer to his employers, the people of the United States of America. Those days are over George, we are here today to tell you that we are a majority and we will never rest until you bring our young people home from the Middle East, and until you start putting money into rebuilding OUR communities: the ones natural disasters destroy with your help, and the ones which your callous and racist war economy are decimating. We won't allow you to take anymore money out of social programs to finance Halliburton to rebuild the Gulf States: there is no money. Our bank account is empty. George, this is our rainy day and you have failed us miserably. Stop pouring money into the pockets of the war profiteers and into building permanent bases in Iraq ... It is time to bring our billions of dollars home from Iraq too!!!

One thing the Camp Casey movement that hunkered down in Crawford, Texas, this past August taught us is that we the people of America have the power and we can and should name our national policy and make sure it is carried out. I constantly get asked if we are making a difference and if we think (like we're naïve boobs) that we will actually stop the war. Well, looking back at how Vietnam was ended and looking back in the history of our country, most notably in the suffragette, union, and civil rights movements, we the people are the only ones who have been able to transform history and affect true and lasting change here in America: so to those people who question if we are making a difference: I tell them to go back to school and read their history books!! And another thing these questioners overlook is that WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!! And we are here to tell the media, Congress, and this criminal and criminally negligent administration: WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY!!!

We in the peace movement need to agree on one thing: yes we need an exit plan, but it is not a strategy, it is a command. The command should be: have all of our military personnel and paid killer mercenaries out of Iraq within 6 months, and the generals carry out the command. Simple, it's not brain surgery, and I think it is so easy even George Bush can sign the order. We can't give the homicidal maniacs any wiggle room or long-term strategy sessions. For one thing, when our leaders strategize, we are put in even more jeopardy - they have proven that they are not too bright or even a little compassionate. But the most important thing is that people die every day in Iraq for absolutely no reason and for lies. We have to say NOW because the people on the other side are saying NEVER. We can't compromise, we can't say please, and we can't retreat. If we do, our country is doomed. We have to honor the sacrifices of our loved ones by completing the mission of peace and justice. It is time. Bring our troops home, NOW!
[Go to original.]

24 September 2005

Another chance for FEMA?

As Hurricane Rita wreaks havoc in Louisiana and east Texas, I watch the radar maps on TV and hope that my friend and her husband were able to leave their home in western Louisiana and get to someplace safer. And I hope that FEMA will do a better job at managing the effects of this storm than they did with Katrina.

Last week, the New York Times ran a lengthy article about FEMA's failures in responding to Katrina. An article at Blah3 boils it down to a few key points. While I don't necessarily accept the conspiracy theories proposed at the end of the Blah3 piece, the fact list is alarming. [Read it.]

Despite the screwups, there are some good people working in the FEMA rank and file (including a Philadelphia fireman -- the brother-in-law of a close friend of mine -- who happens to be a true hero). And the new director is said to have strong credentials. But it will take a while before the new director can turn things around. And, to do so, he'll need cooperation from the Bush administration and he'll need federal funding. Good luck to him.

And good luck to all affected by Hurricane Rita.

Let's hope that al-Qaeda is gracious enough to hold off on any more attacks on U.S. soil until FEMA has a chance to get its act together.

23 September 2005

Peaceniks compete with Mother Nature

This Saturday, September 24, there will be a massive march on Washington to bring the troops home now from Iraq. Cindy Sheehan will headline the event. Given Bush's all-time-low approval ratings and the public disapproval of the war, this may well be the biggest anti-war demonstration since Vietnam.

I wish I could be there to be part of this historic march. However, duty calls here at home. Go if you can. Details here.

That said, I was a bit taken aback by a comment posted to some e-mail discussion group earlier this week. The writer pointed out that Hurricane Rita would probably interfere with the rally's media coverage, delegating the peaceniks to page 2, while Rita gets page 1 in all of the Sunday papers.

I see two things wrong with this person's attitude:

1. Most mainstream media are not likely to lead with a peace rally story in the first place, hurricane or not. I'm not defending the media, just stating the obvious. They're starting to wake up and smell the corruption in the White House, but there are rallies almost every day in Washington, DC. It's not what most mainstream media would consider a leading story.

2. This isn't a competition. We cannot compete with Mother Nature. And would you really want a newspaper's readers to learn about a march of healthy activists before hearing of thousands of hurricane victims whose lives have just been devastated to a degree that you probably couldn't begin to imagine? Have a heart! (And aren't you the same people who criticized the Bush administration for brushing off the last big hurricane?)

Please don't undermine the anti-war movement by resorting to Bush-like tactics of seeking out your own photo ops at the expense of hapless victims.

Bush's Words on Iraq echo LBJ in 1967

From the Associated Press via Yahoo! News:
Bush officials bristle at the suggestion the war in Iraq might look anything like Vietnam. Yet just as today's anti-war protests recall memories of yesteryear, President Bush's own words echo those of President Johnson in 1967, a pivotal year for the U.S. in Vietnam.

"America is committed to the defense of South Vietnam until an honorable peace can be negotiated," Johnson told the Tennessee Legislature on March 15, 1967. Despite the obstacles to victory, the president said, "We shall stay the course."

After 14 Marines died in a roadside bombing on Aug. 3, Bush declared: "We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. And the job is this: We'll help the Iraqis develop a democracy."

The two wars were waged quite differently even though they shared similar aims.

About 500,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam in 1967 after a three-year buildup, compared with about 140,000 in Iraq today. Heavy aerial bombing was a primary U.S. strategy in Vietnam while Iraq, after the initial campaign of "shock and awe," has been mainly a ground war. The U.S. negotiated for peace in Vietnam, but there is no single entity with which to negotiate in Iraq.

"The differences are so notable that it would take too long to list them," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld remarked recently.

Knowing the long, painful and divisive Vietnam War ended with an unceremonious U.S. withdrawal and the fall of South Vietnam, administration officials have blanched at comparisons with Iraq. The administration declined to comment on comparisons between the rhetoric of Johnson and Bush.

Johnson's main arguments were much like those Bush has employed: War was justified to protect the U.S. and to encourage freedom everywhere. When faced with mounting losses on the battlefield, both presidents offered the dead as a reason to keep fighting.

"When a war is long-lived and the outcome is not demonstrably positive, the lines of argument available to a president are seriously constrained," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "Democrat or Republican, 1960s or early part of the 21st century, you're going to hear a common rhetoric."

South Vietnam, politically unstable because of internal violence and corruption, stumbled toward elections to adopt a constitution and to select officials — not unlike the process Iraq is undergoing.

"Our nation was not born easily. There were times in those years of the 18th century when it seemed as if we might not be born at all," Johnson said in a speech on Aug. 16, 1967.

"Given that background, we ought not to be astonished that this struggle in Vietnam continues," Johnson said. "We ought not to be astonished that that nation, wracked by a war of insurgency and beset by its neighbors to the north, has not already emerged, full-blown, as a perfect model of two-party democracy."

Bush, too, has compared Iraq's difficulties in determining its political future to postcolonial America's.

In his radio address on Aug. 27, Bush said: "Like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion — not at the barrel of a gun."

Bush has often linked the security and freedom of the United States to the war in Iraq. On Aug. 4 he told reporters: "We're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. We're defeating the terrorists in a place like Iraq so we don't have to face them here at home. And, as well, we're spreading democracy and freedom to parts of the world that are desperate for democracy and freedom."

A secure and free America was tied to the fight in Southeast Asia, Johnson maintained. "What happens in Vietnam is extremely important to the nation's freedom and it is extremely important to the United States' security," he said from the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 15, 1967.

The question of progress amid a rising death toll dogged Johnson as much as it has Bush. In part, Johnson measured progress by the number of enemy soldiers killed and the much smaller number of U.S. troops dying in Vietnam. Other Americans in uniform would carry on, the president pledged.

"Be assured that the death of your son will have meaning," Johnson told the parents of a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor during a Rose Garden ceremony on April 6, 1967. "For I give you also my solemn pledge that our country will persist — and will prevail — in the cause for which your boy died."

Speaking to military families in Idaho on Aug. 24, Bush said: "These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country, and now we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission."

Bush remains optimistic about the outcome of the war though just four out of 10 of those polled favor his handling of it.

A loss of public confidence overwhelmed Johnson. By March 1968, he had decided someone else needed to see the war to its conclusion — and startled the nation by announcing he would not seek another term.
[Go to original.]

22 September 2005

Philadelphia pedophile priests get away with child abuse

From KYW 1060 news radio in Philly:
A grand jury in Philadelphia has that found scores of priests sexually assaulted hundreds of children over decades and the archdiocese -- including Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua and other church officials -- covered it up by transferring priests and enabling the abuse to continue.

But, KYW's Tony Hanson reports, no charges will be filed -- in large part because the statute of limitations has expired.

The scathing report, released Wednesday by Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham, follows the nation's longest-running grand jury probe into priest abuse.

It names 63 priests "whose abusive behavior," it says, "was well-documented in archdiocese files and by witnesses who testified" before the grand jury.

Among the findings of the grand jury are that a priest once got an 11-year-old girl pregnant and took her for an abortion, that a teenage girl in a hospital bed was groped by a priest, and that a 12-year-old boy attempted suicide after being raped and sodomized by a priest. Today, as a man, he remains hospitalized in a mental institution.

The report says, "To protect themselves from negative publicity or expensive lawsuits -- while keeping abusive priests active -- the cardinals and their aides hid the priests' crimes from parishioners, police and the general public."

The DA concedes it's a travesty of justice -- that predator priests and those who covered up the crimes will not face the criminal penalties they deserve.

The grand jury recommends that the statute of limitations be abolished for crimes against children.
[Read more.]

God's censors

Christian conservatives are whitewashing blockbuster films. Out of sight is out of mind. Control the public by not exposing them to anything judged "unholy".

From The Independent via SmirkingChimp.com:
What are decent-minded middle-American Christian conservatives to do if they abhor sex, bad language, illicit drug use and gut-spilling violence but still have an urge to see Saving Private Ryan? Or Goodfellas? Or The Amityville Horror? The beginnings of an answer came a few years ago with the advent of CleanFlicks, a kitchen-sized Utah company that decided to offer videos and DVD for rental - after they had been edited to remove all content likely to be offensive to the local Mormon population.


From a cultural point of view, though, the debate has left several questions unanswered. One, if people really don't like watching films where characters behave badly, drink alcohol, have sex or slice each other with carving knives, why don't they simply avoid them altogether? Two, aren't they conflating the very different issues of protecting children from Hollywood inanity and mauling the work of genuine film artists who have a specific vision to express, and a specific way to express it? And three, if Christian fundamentalists are really so sensitive about entertainment products featuring distinctly non-Christian behaviour, how come the Bible Belt watches television shows like Desperate Housewives - about a group of bored, drug-addled, adulterous suburban women - more avidly than any other region in the country?
[Read more.]

21 September 2005

Protect Head Start from Bush's "faith-based" discrimination

Unlike George W. Bush, I do not believe that a loving god would want to deprive some children of top-notch teachers simply because those teachers might not practice the "right religion" in the privacy of his/her own private life.

In fact, that kind of discrimination seems to me like one sure-fire way to piss off Jesus.

From the American Civil Liberties Union:
President Bush has been promoting his “faith-based initiative” since the day he took office. It is a plan to funnel hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to religious institutions even as those government-funded programs practice blatant discrimination.

This week votes are planned that could make the Head Start program a victim of federally funded religious discrimination. There will be an amendment to the Head Start re-authorization bill that would repeal existing current civil rights protections.


Thousands of Head Start teachers could lose their jobs if they fail their employers’ religious tests. Countless parents would furthermore be blocked from climbing the ladder out of poverty that has already allowed thousands of parents to go from being a parent volunteer to being a trained and paid Head Start teacher simply because they do not share the federally funded employer’s religious beliefs.


We need you to take action now because the Bush Administration has made it clear that it will allow religious organizations that receive federal funds to discriminate against applicants based on their religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, HIV status or any other characteristic that the religious organization may find objectionable.
[Read more and take action.]

20 September 2005

Women's groups speculate on the next Supreme Court nominee

Maybe it could ultimately be a good thing that Bush chose Roberts as his nominee to replace Chief Justice Renquist. After all, he's simply replacing one right-wing idealogue with another.

And this frees up the spot formerly occupied by the more moderate Sandra Day O'Connor.

With Bush's ratings at an all-time low, would he dare to nominate another ultra-conservative, rather than a moderate, preferably female, alternative that might win back a lost popularity point or two?

OK, yes, you're right, he probably would nominate an extremist wacko. But perhaps circumstances are precarious enough that the Democrats might finally grow a spine and evolve into something other than a lame-ass, wimpy rubber stamp for the neocon agenda?

Anyway, we can dream about the possibilities.

From Women's eNews:
With John Roberts a virtual shoo-in as the next chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, many observers of the High Court are now turning their attention to a question of greater suspense: Who will President Bush name to replace the first woman ever to serve, the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor?

O'Connor played a crucial role of consensus builder and many times her vote determined cases of intense concern to women and minority men. Thus, her replacement will be key to whether the court will preserve and even expand a wide spectrum of precedents, ranging from legal abortions to affirmative action.

Most women's rights leaders contacted by Women's eNews said they considered it quite possible that Bush will nominate a woman to succeed O'Connor. Martha Burke, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, put the odds at 50-50.

Burke doubted, however, that such a female nominee would come with a similar legal profile as O'Connor. "The chance of another moderate woman replacing her is fairly low," Burke said.

The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times have all reported recently on rumors that several female judges with strong conservative leanings might be under consideration for O'Connor's seat. They include federal appellate judges Priscilla Owen, Edith Clement and Edith Jones; all sitting on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Other possibilities include Judge Karen Williams of the 4th Circuit; Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; and Michigan state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.

Some believe these lists ignore a significant cadre of other potential nominees.

Drucilla Stender Ramey, president of the bipartisan National Association of Women Judges in Washington, says that Bush could select from a long list of highly experienced female judges with moderate views to name a woman to the Supreme Court. "While the president obviously has the right to appoint someone of quite a different stripe than his predecessor, the current president has a large field of extremely capable, experienced women judges who would fit the description."

Below are brief biographies of those mentioned by Stender Ramey, leaders of women's bar associations, advocacy organizations and others watching the process.
[Read more.]

Bush official arrested in corruption probe

From today's Washington Post:
The Bush administration's top federal procurement official resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday, accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government. It was the first criminal complaint filed against a government official in the ongoing corruption probe related to Abramoff's activities in Washington.

The complaint, filed by the FBI, alleges that David H. Safavian, 38, a White House procurement official involved until last week in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, made repeated false statements to government officials and investigators about a golf trip with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002.

It also contends that he concealed his efforts to help Abramoff acquire control of two federally managed properties in the Washington area. Abramoff is the person identified as "Lobbyist A" in a 13-page affidavit unsealed in court, according to sources knowledgeable about the probe.

Until his resignation on the day the criminal complaint against him was signed, Safavian was the top administrator at the federal procurement office in the White House Office of Management and Budget, where he set purchasing policy for the entire government.


Abramoff's allegedly improper dealings with Indian tribes -- which netted him and an associate at least $82 million in fees -- prompted the federal probe. But investigators have found that his documents and e-mails contain a trove of information about his aggressive efforts to seek favors for clients from members of Congress and senior bureaucrats.
[Read more.]

John Kerry speaks out on the Katrina revelations

Last evening, Senator John Kerry gave a solid speech at Brown University about the Bush administration's incompetence in responding to Hurricane Katrina, and how it fits a broader pattern.

Some excerpts:
The incompetence of Katrina's response is not reserved to a hurricane. There's an enormous gap between Americans' daily expectations and government's daily performance. And the gap is growing between the enduring strength of the American people -- their values, their spirit, their imagination, their ingenuity, and their willingness to serve and sacrifice -- and the shocking weakness of the American government in contending with our country's urgent challenges. On the Gulf Coast during the last two weeks, the depth and breadth of that gap has been exposed for all to see and we have to address it now before it is obscured again by hurricane force spin and deception.

Katrina stripped away any image of competence and exposed to all the true heart and nature of this administration. The truth is that for four and a half years, real life choices have been replaced by ideological agenda, substance replaced by spin, governance second place always to politics. Yes, they can run a good campaign -- I can attest to that -- but America needs more than a campaign. If 12 year-old Boy Scouts can be prepared, Americans have a right to expect the same from their 59 year-old President of the United States.

Katrina reminds us that too often the political contests of our time have been described like football games with color commentary: one team of consultants against another, red states against blue states, Democratic money against Republican money; a contest of height versus hair - sometimes. But the truth is democracy is not a game; we are living precious time each day in a different America than the one we can inhabit if we make different choices.

Today, more than ever, when the path taken last year and four years earlier takes us into a wilderness of missed opportunities -- we need to keep defining the critical choices over and over, offering a direction not taken but still open in the future.

I know the President went on national television last week and accepted responsibility for Washington's poor response to Katrina. That's admirable. And it's a first. As they say, the first step towards recovery is to get out of denial. But don't hold your breath hoping acceptance of responsibility will become a habit for this administration. On the other hand, if they are up to another "accountability moment" they ought to start by admitting one or two of the countless mistakes in conceiving, "selling", planning and executing their war of choice in Iraq.

I obviously don't expect that to happen. And indeed, there's every reason to believe the President finally acted on Katrina and admitted a mistake only because he was held accountable by the press, cornered by events, and compelled by the outrage of the American people, who with their own eyes could see a failure of leadership and its consequences.

Natural and human calamity stripped away the spin machine, creating a rare accountability moment, not just for the Bush administration, but for all of us to take stock of the direction of our country and do what we can to reverse it. That's our job -- to turn this moment from a frenzied expression of guilt into a national reversal of direction. Some try to minimize the moment by labeling it a "blame game" -- but as I’ve said - this is no game and what is at stake is much larger than the incompetent and negligent response to Katrina.

This is about the broader pattern of incompetence and negligence that Katrina exposed, and beyond that, a truly systemic effort to distort and disable the people's government, and devote it to the interests of the privileged and the powerful. It is about the betrayal of trust and abuse of power. And in all the often horrible and sometimes ennobling sights and sounds we've all witnessed over the last two weeks, there's another sound just under the surface: the steady clucking of Administration chickens coming home to roost.

We wouldn't be hearing that sound if the people in Washington running our government had cared to listen in the past.

They didn't listen to the Army Corps of Engineers when they insisted the levees be reinforced.

They didn't listen to the countless experts who warned this exact disaster scenario would happen.

They didn't listen to years of urgent pleading by Louisianans about the consequences of wetlands erosion in the region, which exposed New Orleans and surrounding parishes to ever-greater wind damage and flooding in a hurricane.

They didn't listen when a disaster simulation just last year showed that hundreds of thousands of people would be trapped and have no way to evacuate New Orleans.

They didn't listen to those of us who have long argued that our insane dependence on oil as our principle energy source, and our refusal to invest in more efficient engines, left us one big supply disruption away from skyrocketing gas prices that would ravage family pocketbooks, stall our economy, bankrupt airlines, and leave us even more dependent on foreign countries with deep pockets of petroleum.

They didn't listen when Katrina approached the Gulf and every newspaper in America warned this could be "The Big One" that Louisianans had long dreaded. They didn't even abandon their vacations.


The administration is recycling all their failed policies and shipping them to Louisiana. After four years of ideological excess, these Washington Republicans have a bad hangover -- and they can't think of anything to offer the Gulf Coast but the hair of the dog that bit them.


Katrina is a symbol of all this administration does and doesn't do. Michael Brown -- or Brownie as the President so famously thanked him for doing a heck of a job - Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what George Tenet is to slam dunk intelligence; what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what Tom Delay is to ethics; and what George Bush is to “Mission Accomplished” and "Wanted Dead or Alive." The bottom line is simple: The "we'll do whatever it takes" administration doesn't have what it takes to get the job done.

This is the Katrina administration.

It has consistently squandered time, tax dollars, political capital, and even risked American lives on sideshow adventures: A war of choice in Iraq against someone who had nothing to do with 9/11; a full scale presidential assault on Social Security when everyone knows the real crisis is in health care - Medicare and Medicaid. And that's before you get to willful denial on global warming; avoidance on competitiveness; complicity in the loss and refusal of health care to millions.

Americans can and will help compensate for government's incompetence with millions of acts of individual enterprise and charity, as Katrina has shown. But that’s not enough. We must ask tough questions: Will this generosity and compassion last in the absence of strong leadership? Will this Administration only ask for sacrifice in a time of crisis? Has dishonesty in politics degraded our national character to the point that we feel our dues have been paid as citizens with a one-time donation to the Red Cross?
[Read the complete speech.]

If only Kerry had been this candid and outspoken a year ago.

19 September 2005

Bishops of the Church of England criticize U.S. over foreign policy and war on terror

From the British newspaper The Guardian:
A group of Church of England bishops issued a report today criticising American foreign policy, the US war on terror and some American Christians' use of biblical texts to support a political agenda in the Middle East, and accuses the US of using illegitimate and dangerous rhetoric.

The attack comes in a 100-page report issued by the church, drawn up by a working party of four diocesan bishops for the church's executive archbishops' council, exploring ways to counter terrorism in the post 9/11 world.

It argues that churches have a vital role to play in combating the threat and promoting Christian principles in a world characterised by power and violence.

The bishops are also critical of European and American policy towards Iran and its nuclear development, saying that the EU ought to offer a "suitably attractive incentive package" in order to dissuade Tehran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

The report argues that respect for human dignity should be an underlying moral principle for relationships between states just as much as between individuals: "It is a moral principle that is expressed through the establishment of international law and its observance."

The report continues: "So international order is to be built not on brute power and fear but on law that is ultimately grounded in the divine wisdom ... When national interest is interpreted in a narrow or short-term way that excludes or ignores the flourishing of other communities, this is incompatible with a proper understanding of what is in our interest."
[Read more.]

"Focus On Solutions" -- Sierra Club responds to Hurricane Katrina

From the Sierra Club:
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has given us a lot to think about. In addition to being a human and economic tragedy, Katrina is an environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions. But it is also a wakeup call. The technology and the ideas for making our cities safer, more sustainable, and healthier exist today. As we support the people of the Gulf Coast, all Americans must continue challenging our leaders to support the real solutions listed below.
[Read more.]

Bobby Kennedy Jr. on Bush and the environment

From a speech by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., delivered at the Sierra Summit 2005, San Francisco, 17 September 2005:
Two of my most poignant memories as a child involved Justice Douglas. One of them was when I was 11 years old I did a 20 mile hike with my little brother David and with Justice Douglas and my father, which was a bird watching hike on the C & O Canal which he played a critical role in protecting. We started at four o’clock in the morning and walked all day. Then I did a 10 day pack trip with him. He took my whole family up to Olympic Range and the San Juan Peninsula and went camping for almost two weeks when I was eight years old.

Justice Douglas had a very strong relationship with my family. My grandfather brought Justice Douglas into public life and gave him his first job at the SEC as his deputy and then got Franklin Roosevelt to appoint him to run the SEC and played a critical role in getting him appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court. He said that his relationship to my grandfather was a father son relationship. When my father was 18 years old Justice Douglas took him for a walking tour of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, all the Asian Soviet Republics. They were the first Westerners to enter Soviet Asia after the 1917 revolution and they had an extraordinary trip and Justice Douglas wrote a book about it.

He had a very, very close relationship with my family and as an attorney the case that was the most important case, he was our greatest environmental jurist and the most important case was Sierra Club vs. Morton where he actually said that he believed the trees should have standing to sue [applause]. And there is nobody in American history than I more admire than him. What he understood which is what I think more and more people are understanding is that protecting the environment is not about protecting the fishes and the birds for their own sake but it’s about recognizing that nature is the infrastructure of our communities and that if we want to meet our obligation as a generation, as a civilization, as a nation which is to create communities for our children that provide them with the same opportunities for dignity and enrichment and good health.

As the communities that our parents gave us, we’ve got to start by protecting our environmental infrastructure, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the public lands, the fisheries, the wildlife, the public areas that connect us to our past, that connect us to our history, that provide context to our communities that are the source ultimately of our values and virtues and character as a people. Over the past 22 years as an environmental advocate, I’ve been disciplined about being non-partisan and bipartisan in my approach to these issues. I don’t think there is any such thing as Republican children or Democratic children.

I think the worst thing that could happen to the environment is it becomes the province of a single political party. It was mentioned that I have a book out there that is very critical of this president and that’s true but it’s not a partisan book. I didn’t write that book because I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican. If he were a Democrat, I would have written the same book. I’m not objecting to him because of his political party and I’ve worked for Republicans if they’re good on the environment and democrats on the same level but you can’t talk honestly about the environment in any context today without speaking critically of this president. This is the worst [applause].

This is the worst environmental president we’ve had in American history.

If you look at NRDC’s website you’ll see over 400 major environmental roll backs that are listed there that have been implemented or proposed by this administration over the past four years as part of a deliberate concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental law.

It’s a stealth attack.

The White House has used all kinds of ingenious machinations to try to conceal its radical agenda from the American people including Orwellian rhetoric. When they want to destroy the forests, they call it the Healthy Forest Act. When they wanted to destroy the air, they called it the Clear Skies Bill.

But most insidiously, they have put polluters in charge of virtually all the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution.
[Read more.]

Philly firm making oil from garbage!

It's worth keeping an eye on this, if it's real.

From Political Soundoff:
In an industrial park in Philadelphia sits a new machine that can change almost anything into oil. Really. "This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company that built this pilot plant and has just completed its first industrial-size installation in Missouri. "This process can deal with the world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming." Pardon me, says a reporter, shivering in the frigid dawn, but that sounds too good to be true.

"Everybody says that," says Appel. He is a tall, affable entrepreneur who has assembled a team of scientists, former government leaders, and deep-pocketed investors to develop and sell what he calls the thermal depolymerization process, or TDP. The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for manufacturing.

Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water. While no one plans to put people into a thermal depolymerization machine, an intimate human creation could become a prime feedstock. "There is no reason why we can't turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil," says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that.

"The potential is unbelievable," says Michael Roberts, a senior chemical engineer for the Gas Technology Institute, an energy research group. "You're not only cleaning up waste; you're talking about distributed generation of oil all over the world."

"This is not an incremental change. This is a big, new step," agrees Alf Andreassen, a venture capitalist with the Paladin Capital Group and a former Bell Laboratories director.

Andreassen and others anticipate that a large chunk of the world's agricultural, industrial, and municipal waste may someday go into thermal depolymerization machines scattered all over the globe. If the process works as well as its creators claim, not only would most toxic waste problems become history, so would imported oil. Just converting all the U.S. agricultural waste into oil and gas would yield the energy equivalent of 4 billion barrels of oil annually. In 2001 the United States imported 4.2 billion barrels of oil. Referring to U.S. dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East, R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and an adviser to Changing World Technologies, says, "This technology offers a beginning of a way away from this."

But first things first. Today, here at the plant at Philadelphia's Naval Business Center, the experimental feedstock is turkey processing-plant waste: feathers, bones, skin, blood, fat, guts. A forklift dumps 1,400 pounds of the nasty stuff into the machine's first stage, a 350-horsepower grinder that masticates it into gray brown slurry. From there it flows into a series of tanks and pipes, which hum and hiss as they heat, digest, and break down the mixture. Two hours later, a white-jacketed technician turns a spigot. Out pours a honey-colored fluid, steaming a bit in the cold warehouse as it fills a glass beaker.

It really is a lovely oil.

"The longest carbon chains are C-18 or so," says Appel, admiring the liquid. "That's a very light oil. It is essentially the same as a mix of half fuel oil, half gasoline."

Private investors, who have chipped in $40 million to develop the process, aren't the only ones who are impressed. The federal government has granted more than $12 million to push the work along. "We will be able to make oil for $8 to $12 a barrel," says Paul Baskis, the inventor of the process. "We are going to be able to switch to a carbohydrate economy."

Making oil and gas from hydrocarbon-based waste is a trick that Earth mastered long ago. Most crude oil comes from one-celled plants and animals that die, settle to ocean floors, decompose, and are mashed by sliding tectonic plates, a process geologists call subduction. Under pressure and heat, the dead creatures' long chains of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon-bearing molecules, known as polymers, decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons. However, Earth takes its own sweet time doing this-generally thousands or millions of years-because subterranean heat and pressure changes are chaotic. Thermal depolymerization machines turbocharge the process by precisely raising heat and pressure to levels that break the feedstock's long molecular bonds.

Many scientists have tried to convert organic solids to liquid fuel using waste products before, but their efforts have been notoriously inefficient. "The problem with most of these methods was that they tried to do the transformation in one step-superheat the material to drive off the water and simultaneously break down the molecules," says Appel. That leads to profligate energy use and makes it possible for hazardous substances to pollute the finished product. Very wet Waste -- and much of the world's waste is wet -- is particularly difficult to process efficiently because driving off the water requires so much energy. Usually, the Btu content in the resulting oil or gas barely exceeds the amount needed to make the stuff.
[Read more.]

18 September 2005

Bolton visited Judith Miller in jail

OK, so this blog is not a gossip column, but I thought that that tidbit was worth passing along.

From Editor & Publisher:
Increasingly overlooked or forgotten by the media in recent weeks, jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miler has still received plenty of upclose and personal support. According to a document, exactly 99 friends or supporters (or former sources) visited her between her July 6 detention and Labor Day. Among them, confirming earlier rumors, was John R. Bolton, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Others on the list: Tom Brokaw, film director Irwin Winkler, Richard Clarke and two of his former aides, Iraqi weapons hunter Charles Duelfer, Bob Dole, publisher Mort Zuckerman, Sen. Arlen Spector, and famed book editor Alice Mayhew. Many more are turned away, as Miller and an assistant to her lawyer manage the flood of requests.

"She's very popular, and it's kind of hard to get on the schedule," longtime friend Ellen Chesler, who visited Miller in July but has not been able to get back in since, told the Washington Post, which obtained the document.

One court official familiar with her schedule told the Post: "She's running an office down there."
[Read more.]

Bye-bye to all the human rights gains of the last century?

By virtually all accounts, John Roberts is a shoo-in for the role of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

His testimonies to the Senate during his confirmation hearings were evasive and inconclusive. But his record speaks for itself, and suggests a disregard for voting rights, women's rights, environmental rights, privacy rights, and reproductive rights.

While we could probably do much worse (e.g., Alberto Gonzales), Roberts has me scared.

Supreme Court Watch, a project of the Alliance for Justice, has compiled a ton of information about Roberts, his judicial history, and the issues. [Click for the info.]

17 September 2005

A Bush changes his tune when the scandal hits home

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's 21-year-old son was arrested yesterday in Texas, charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest.

Jeb's statement to reporters: “My son’s doing fine. It’s a private matter. We will support him. We’re sad for him. But I’m not going to discuss it on the public square with 30 cameras.”

Gee, Jeb. The Terri Schiavo case was a private family matter, too. But that didn't stop you from turning it into a media circus.

The Constitution, John Roberts, and the little guy

From Capital Hill Blue:
It's been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad month. And it's not even over.

With hundreds of thousands of people uprooted, their lives in turmoil, their misery unfathomable, we now have the spectacle of politicians caviling over what went wrong, who's to blame, what to do next, how much to spend. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

And we've had the John Roberts hearings. They have brought out the worst and the ugliest aspects of Capitol Hill. Rancor, suspicion and distrust are so legion that even our smartest and ablest can't talk to each other without malice. They don't even hear each other.

Thomas Kean, the mild-manner former Republican governor of New Jersey and former chairman of the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, fretted the other day: "Extreme partisanship is a sickness in this country today. I've personally never seen it as bad as it is now."


There are as many opinions, I'm sure, as there are members of Congress, callers to radio talk shows, newspaper readers and White House pollsters.

Feel free to turn the page, but here are mine, culled from several decades of watching Washington at work. Or not.

We all love the flag, the national anthem (even if we can't sing it), our starry history, the amazing physical breadth of our country, our can-do spirit, our friendliness and compassion, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, even our increasingly rampant materialism.

But we don't love our government. Even more important, we don't agree at all on what our government is supposed to do for us, to us or with us. Some of us want government to punish our neighbor, validate our personal beliefs and leave us alone, especially when times are good.

More than anything, that's what the Roberts hearings showed. Yes, tedious they often were, with senators talking to hear themselves talk, and Roberts talking to chew up time and show off his humble modesty. (Memo to spouses: If you're on TV while your partner is talking in baseball cliches, no painfully obvious yawning behind him/her.) But the shorthand was this: Government is no longer about the little guy.

Time after time, Democrats meandered around the notion that the laws Congress passes are supposed to help the downtrodden, the afflicted, the disabled, the poor, the uneducated, the discriminated-against, the victim. That's why they're so frustrated that Roberts wouldn't hail such congressional efforts such as the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

Finally, on the third day, he said it. Sometimes, abiding by the Constitution means the little guy won't win, and the big guy does.
[Read more.]

16 September 2005

British press: New Orleans will be environmentally unsafe for a decade

Nice try, George.

In your well-rehearsed photo op in the French Quarter last evening, all smiles, you told me about how New Orleans was going to be right back. [Read official White House transcripts.]

Now, I know that you're not the type to ever let environmental constraints get in the way of your agenda and/or corporate profits, but what about this:

From The Independent:
Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.

In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analysed. "Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work.
[Read more.]

British Press: Global warming 'past the point of no return'

From The Independent:
A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.


If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.
[Read more.]

US derails UN attemps to curb nuclear proliferation

From Agence France Presse, via CommonDreams.org:
Kofi Annan has called it a disgrace and Australian Prime Minister John Howard termed it a major disappointment.

After months of wrangling, world leaders were shaking their heads over the dumping of proposed UN reforms to check nuclear weapons proliferation and disarmament.

Despite increasing concerns over illicit nuclear weapon networks and terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction, negotiators working for months on a reform package to beef up the United Nations failed to agree on how to revamp global non-proliferation rules.

They adopted a watered-down package of reforms to be endorsed by the leaders of the world attending the 60th anniversary meeting of the global body.

Proposed new rules on nuclear weapons proliferation and disarmament were completely disregarded.

"It's a real disgrace," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, lamenting the omission, which reportedly came after Washington gave only lukewarm support for the reforms.

He blamed "posturing" for the failure to find a common approach to the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Annan called nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament "our biggest challenge, and our biggest failing," citing a similar failed effort at a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference earlier this year.

Diplomats said the United States had vehemently objected to focusing on disarmament by major powers rather than on the spread of nuclear weapons among rogue states and terrorists.
[Read more.]

And Bush can't even pronounce "nuclear".

15 September 2005

U.S. losing ground in education

From the Associated Press via CommonDreams.org:
The United States is losing ground in education, as peers across the globe zoom by with bigger gains in student achievement and school graduations, a study shows.

Among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. is ninth among industrialized nations in the share of its population that has at least a high school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh, with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.

By both measures, the United States was first in the world as recently as 20 years ago, said Barry McGaw, director of education for the Paris-based Organization for Cooperation and Development. The 30-nation organization develops the yearly rankings as a way for countries to evaluate their education systems and determine whether to change their policies.

McGaw said that the United States remains atop the "knowledge economy," one that uses information to produce economic benefits. But, he said, "education's contribution to that economy is weakening, and you ought to be worrying."
[Read more.]

700 women

Nicole Brown Simpson. Laci Peterson. And, more recently, Philadelphia pregnant mother Latoyia Figueroa.

All beautiful, vibrant young women, cut down in the prime of their lives by men they had loved.

And most people probably don't realize that these high-profile cases represent only the tip of the iceberg. For each case that happens to catch the attention of the mainstream media, thousands more go unnoticed, mourned only by their families and neighbors within their own communities.

Yes, thousands.

In fact, more than 700 women are abused or sexually assaulted by their partner each day in the U.S.

And four are murdered. That's more than the average number of U.S. troops killed daily in Iraq.

The fate of these women and their families could become even worse if Congress does not act quickly to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is set to expire at the end of September 2005.

VAWA cannot bring Nicole, Laci, or Latoyia back, but it can make a world of difference for survivors of domestic violence. And it can show the world that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are crimes that our society will not tolerate.

Because of VAWA, we have funding for more shelters and hotlines. We have enhanced medical and counseling services. And we have specialized resources for immigrant, rural, disabled, and older women, and for Native American women living within sovereign Indian nations.

Because of VAWA, we have new statutes addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, to fill in jurisdictional gaps in prosecuting these crimes. We have increased training for police, prosecutors, and court officials, so that justice can be served and victims no longer have to suffer in silence.

And it's working.

Since the passage of VAWA in 1994, rates of domestic violence incidents have dropped by almost 50 percent, and incidents of rape are down by 60 percent.

We must not lose this momentum.

With the reauthorization of VAWA, Congress has a unique opportunity not only to continue so many vital and successful programs, but also to expand on 10 years of progress to further the safety and security of survivors of domestic violence, to crack down on perpetrators of these crimes, and to do a better job of preventing violence against women.

And, with the reauthorization of VAWA, Congress has a unique opportunity to make life so much better for more than 700 women each day.

This is America. All women should have the freedom to feel safe and secure in their homes and in their communities.

Therefore, reauthorization and expansion of this law must be a high priority for Congress in September. No excuses.

We owe it to Nicole Brown Simpson. We owe it to Laci Peterson. We owe it to Latoyia Figueroa. And we owe it to the hundreds of thousands of other victims whose names and faces never make it onto our television screens.

To sit back and allow VAWA to expire is unthinkable. After all, the next victim could be your own daughter, sister, mother, or niece.

14 September 2005

Pledge of Allegiance ruled unconstitutional

Breaking news: A federal judge has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional. [Read story.]

Whoopsi Gras

Mark Fiore's latest animation starts out funny, and then packs an emotional wallop. To view it, click here.

Mark Morford: "The Storm That Ate The GOP"

Another example of why SFGate's Mark Morford is one of my favorite columnists:
Can you hear that? That low scraping moan, that painful scream, that compressed hissing wail like the sound of an angry alligator caught in a vice?

Why, it's the GOP, and they're screaming, "No, no it can't be, oh my God, please no, this damnable Katrina thing is just an unstoppable PR disaster for us!"

After all (they wail), who woulda thought dissing all those poor black people and letting so many of them die in filth and misery in the Superdome while our pampered CEO president enjoyed yet another vacation would cause such an ugly backlash, such harsh criticism of the glorious, rich-über-alles GOP creed?

Who knew it would lay bare our deeply inbred agenda of social injustice and civil neglect, and our systematic abuse of the country? This storm thing is so not the thing we need right now because, oh my God look, just look! We've been so golden! We've had the run of the candy store! We have been gods among swine!

Can you hear them? Hastert to DeLay to Frist to Santorum to Rove to Cheney to Bush himself, across the board and all down the snickering party line they keen, "It's not fair! We've been planning this regime, this overthrow for 40 years! We've worked so damn hard to drive a wedge into the culture and an ice pick into the heart of the nation, working like demons on meth to mangle this country's economy and sense of pride so as to boost corporate profits and lock down our wealth and empire!"

And now Katrina. And now a furious backlash we never predicted that could very well spell the death of our wanton free-for-all gluttony. Damn you, Mother Nature! Damn you, uppity female!

Just listen. Isn't that Dick Cheney, lying awake at night as the leeches drain his soul, muttering his woes to a well-narcotized Lynne? "Dammit, Lynney, what went wrong? We've got the House locked up and the Senate locked up and we can cram through any law or any referendum or toxic Patriot Act we like with next-to-zero outcry and no discussion on the floor ..."

We're successfully stuffing the lower courts with hundreds of homophobic neoconservative misogynist appointees and now we even own the Supreme Court -- the Supreme Court, pudding-thighs! -- and even the increasingly impotent California governor is more in our back pocket than we imagined. We've had the whole goddamn country under our thumb for five years, squirming like a stuck rat as we make out like robber barons.

What a run we've had! We've threatened major media into numb compliance and we run the FCC the way a pimp runs a cheap hooker and we've got a loudmouth right-wing pundit manning nearly every ideological outpost in every corner of the media globe while millions of stupefied 'Murkins still believe Fox News is a genuine source of integrity and honesty. Look at us go!

And don't forget, to back it all up and shore up the base, we've got so many hate-spitting pseudo-religious bonk jobs broadcasting their bile across roughly 1,600 militant Christian Midwestern talk-radio shows it would make Jesus himself cringe in pain, and even that soulless cretin Pat Robertson is comfy enough to start suggesting we assassinate foreign leaders who dare to dis BushCo.

Look what we've accomplished! We launched two brutal, devastating, unwinnable wars. We've let Osama bin Laden run happy and free for over four years, and counting. We just passed an obscene $12.3 billion energy bill that ensures our heroin-like dependency on foreign oil for the next two decades while misinformed 'Murkin GIs die in Iraq protecting us from $5 gallons of gas. Damn, we're good!

We torture innocent detainees in Iraq and abuse inmates at Guantánamo and chip away at women's rights and demonize homosexuals, and we strip the forests and gut the Clean Air Act and pollute the water and devastate the economy and cut welfare spending (whew!), and still the lemming people think we're gods because we keep them wrapped in fear and a whole pile of carefully orchestrated Rove-ian lies. We are, in short, f--ing geniuses.

But now, this. Now BushCo's spineless Katrina response and our party's obvious contempt for lazy poor people who don't own SUVs and Lockheed-Martin portfolios means Dubya's ratings have plummeted below 40, as many of his precious pet agenda items head for the Dumpster, including the gutting of Social Security and the gutting of Medicare and even more tax cuts for his wealthy cronies. Damn you, Mother Nature!
[Read more.]

"Bush Is Fooling Nobody Now" -- Could it be?

From Robert Scheer at The Nation:
There's never a terrorist around when you need one. Even a couple of suspicious-looking foreigners playing soccer near the Superdome as Katrina began to make landfall might have done the trick to get this easily distracted President focused. The war on terror is, after all, George W. Bush's obsession, obliterating any other consideration of the nation's well-being.

With a terrorist sighting, Bush likely would not have lingered on his Crawford ranch vacation, which he interrupted only for politicking and fundraising opportunities. Nor would Condoleezza Rice have gone shoe shopping while the world witnessed the sorry spectacle of the Gulf Coast in deadly disarray. And surely Donald Rumsfeld, who blithely attended a San Diego Padres game as New Orleans was filling with water, wouldn't have dithered for days before sending in troops to aid desperate Americans.

Even if our high officials bothered to care about the poor, mostly black victims of Katrina enough to change their schedules, the Administration would probably have bungled the relief effort anyway, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now run by political hacks appointed by Bush who know zilch about disaster relief.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," the President said to Michael Brown a few days before the FEMA chief was relieved of his oversight of the relief efforts after massive public pressure over the agency's response to the hurricane. Brown, who reportedly doctored his unimpressive résumé and didn't have a background in emergency management, resigned Monday. He had secured this plum job because he was a college buddy of his predecessor, Joe Allbaugh, who managed Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.

During the Clinton years, FEMA was turned into a model of efficiency, as demonstrated after the Northridge earthquake and the Oklahoma City bombing. How bizarre, then, that in the wake of 9/11, the Administration handicapped FEMA by axing its Cabinet-level status, turning it back into what some call a "turkey farm" for patronage jobs and slashing its budget because, as Allbaugh complained, it had become "an oversized entitlement program."

Then there is the fact that the first-responder corps has been vastly depleted by Bush's misadventure in Iraq. Visiting New Orleans on Monday, Bush argued that "it is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there weren't enough troops" to help with hurricane relief. Oh yeah? Tell that to the nearly 35 percent of Louisiana's Army and Air National Guard forces and 37 percent of Mississippi's National Guard troops deployed abroad, mostly in Iraq. "Had [they] been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the National Guard Bureau's chief, referring to the critical first hours of the disaster.
[Read more.]

"The Other America"

From Newsweek:
It takes a hurricane. it takes a catastrophe like Katrina to strip away the old evasions, hypocrisies and not-so-benign neglect. It takes the sight of the United States with a big black eye—visible around the world—to help the rest of us begin to see again. For the moment, at least, Americans are ready to fix their restless gaze on enduring problems of poverty, race and class that have escaped their attention. Does this mean a new war on poverty? No, especially with Katrina's gargantuan price tag. But this disaster may offer a chance to start a skirmish, or at least make Washington think harder about why part of the richest country on earth looks like the Third World.

"I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the hurricane," Sen. Barack Obama said last week on the floor of the Senate. "They were abandoned long ago—to murder and mayhem in the streets, to substandard schools, to dilapidated housing, to inadequate health care, to a pervasive sense of hopelessness."

The question now is whether the floodwaters can create a sea change in public perceptions. "Americans tend to think of poor people as being responsible for their own economic woes," says sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University. "But this was a case where the poor were clearly not at fault."
[Read more.]

13 September 2005

Bush takes responsibility for hurricane fiasco -- sort of

From NBC10 TV in Philly:
President George W. Bush says Hurricane Katrina exposed "serious problems in the response capability at all levels of government."

He told reporters that to the extent the federal government didn't "do its job right," he takes responsibility.
[Read more.]

"A Nation of Fools"

From Charles Sullivan via Information Clearing House:
My entire family is being played for fools by the power brokers in Washington; and they don't even have a clue about how they are being manipulated. I am embarrassed for them. The truth is out there; but no one is bringing it to our door step. You have to look hard. You have to want to know the facts. You have to care about social justice; and that requires effort; it requires living with a troubled conscience and trying to set things right. It requires that you inform yourself and make an effort to change things. The trouble is that most Americans don't want to know the truth because it would make them uncomfortable. So they turn their heads the other way and allow themselves to be distracted from their civic and patriotic duties. It is easier to display the flag and plaster their cars with 'Support our troops' stickers. This mode of being requires no real effort; nor accountability.

Their government is murdering millions of innocent people all around the planet, torturing people and toppling both democratic and progressive governments; it is committing acts of terror against the world's working poor; it is plundering their homelands and stealing their wealth. How can any person of conscience remain indifferent toward these acts? How can we wave our flags and support our troops when this is what they are doing? Is this their idea of liberation? Is this their perception of Democracy? Is this the kind of nation we want to be?

While this is going on they are concerned only about shopping, mindless consumption, and watching American Idol. As citizens, they have been rendered totally useless. Fascism flourishes where citizens are inactive and uninformed. Where there is apathy there is fascism.

When will the people learn that the interests of big business and multinational corporations; the interest of the ruling class-are not our interests? When an American president-it doesn't matter which one-talks about protecting American interests, whose interest do they mean? They mean the interest of the ruling class-the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Murdochs, the Cheneys and the Bushes. They mean the interest of General Electric, Halliburton, Bechtel, Boeing, Wal-mart, Northrup-Grumman; Raytheon, Exxon-Mobil; Shell Oil and Texaco. These are not my interests. Nor are they the interests of ninety-nine percent of the populace. And they certainly are not noble causes to fight and die for.

Most of my fellow citizens would be as angry as I am about all of this if they knew what I know. But they don't want to know, damn them! It would threaten their comfortable existence. It might even activate some spark of hidden conscience that would force them into action.
[Read more.]

Roberts vs. Justice

From Information Clearing House:
When Senate hearings convene this week for Supreme Court candidate John Roberts, let’s hope that they focus on the hunger strike taking place at Guantanamo Bay. It was Robert’s ruling in Rumsfeld vs. Hamdan that hastened a massive 200-man hunger strike that is now in its second month and has hospitalized at least 15 inmates. The prisoners are demanding that they be given the opportunity to challenge the terms of their detention in a court of law, a principle that Roberts does not support. He ruled in the Hamdan case that the President was not constrained by international law and that “the Geneva Conventions do not create judicially enforceable rights.”

Roberts ignores the fact that the United States is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions and must comply with its provisions for the humane treatment of prisoners as well as offering prisoners the Convention’s protection “until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.” Rumsfeld’s handpicked military courts do not meet these requirements, and have been rejected by prominent legal organizations and human rights groups alike.

Let’s be clear -- the 500 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are innocent. That is not my contention, but the belief of everyone who still accepts the fundamental principle of American jurisprudence, that men are “innocent until proven guilty.” The inmates have been deprived of due process of law, so we must presume that they are innocent. The language invented at the Defense Department -- “terrorist”, “enemy combatant”, “insurgent” -- should not cloud our reasoning or undermine our commitment to fair play. The prisoners should be allowed to defend themselves according to internationally accepted standards of justice.

Roberts does not believe that captives in the war on terror have any rights whatsoever. His ruling in Rumsfeld vs. Hamdan confers absolute authority on the President to imprison suspects indefinitely without any legal process in place to challenge their imprisonment. But, if this is true, than why do we need courts or judges at all? Why not simply resolve these issues by executive fiat?
[Read more.]

DANGER: Don't take a rape victim to a Catholic hospital

It's not about so-called "morality". It's about control.

From Women's eNews:
My wife, Victoria Velinski, is involved with a marvelous rape crisis advocacy group called Rape Victim Advocates. Two weekends a month she is on call for a number of Chicago-area hospitals in case a survivor is admitted after a sexual assault. When she's called, I offer my assistance by giving her a ride and remaining in the waiting room while she helps people get through what is often the worst night of their lives.

Victoria was paged recently to a familiar hospital near Chicago's West Side. After we arrived, she went into triage and I settled into the waiting room to read. Droning in the background was a TV program about lowering blood pressure and a doctor was going over treatments; diet, exercise, stress reduction, etc. . . I paid little attention until he mentioned the most important method of treatment, "Trust in God."

My head snapped up so fast I nearly sprained my neck. I watched in amazement as anecdotes played on the screen proclaiming how prayer brought the hypertensive back from death's door. While prayer, meditation and pet ownership have all been shown to lower blood pressure, I was amazed that the doctor's primary prescription was prayer. I wondered what my reaction would be if my physician treated me by saying, "Pet your dog and call me in the morning."

I looked to see if anyone was paying attention but was mostly met with uninterested wandering stares; anxious people with little-to-no health insurance waiting for their numbers to be called. That's when my wife came out of the treatment area with a look that would've melted stone.

"We might have to give her a ride," she said.

"Sure, how come?" I asked.

"They're now a Catholic hospital."

Things suddenly became clearer. It seemed that, since we were last there in early 2004, a chain of Catholic hospitals had taken over this previously secular institution. The choice in programming started to make sense but was no less bizarre. As my wife went back to treatment, Pat Robertson welcomed me to The 700 Club, mainstay of Christian evangelistic television.

Changes in Access

A lot happens when a Catholic conglomerate takes over a hospital. Some of the widespread changes center on abortion services and contraception access and education. For example, if abortion was previously performed at the clinic it is no longer offered. Affiliated clinics that perform abortion are usually forced to become independent and if any affiliated clinic offers contraception or contraception education, it may be required to stop or become independent.

But one of the most important changes is that in cases of sexual assault, emergency contraception, known as Plan B, is typically not given by the hospital.

In such a case, a doctor may give a prescription for EC, but the survivor must make the trip to the pharmacy.

The trip to the pharmacy is not only difficult after a traumatic sexual assault, there's also cause to believe that once there, a rape victim wouldn't be able to get her prescription filled. Across the country, pharmacists are refusing to dispense birth control for religious reasons. It seems disturbingly plausible that a Catholic hospital, refusing to offer emergency contraception for religious reasons, could make referrals to a pharmacy or pharmacist that also refuses to give contraception for religious reasons.

While this scenario played out in my head, The 700 Club welcomed John Tesh, former Entertainment Tonight host turned Christian crooner. I'll refrain from making a judgment on the humaneness of subjecting captive ER patients to John Tesh in general. Of interest was the message in the music he played, which was: Jesus was in control, we were to trust in that control and He was behind every event--working things out for our best interests.
[Read more.]