31 March 2006

Jill Carroll got getter treatment than our own detainees

I was right.

In her statement to the press upon her release yesterday, kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll said that her captors treated her well. They never hit her, and they never threatened her. She had a room with a window and a bathroom. [Read story.]

What Jill's kidnappers did was very wrong, but at least they didn't abuse her, and I was so relieved to hear that news.

Now compare that with how the U.S. treats its own detainees.

So who are the real barbarians?

30 March 2006

Great news: Journalist Jill Carroll freed in Iraq!

I awoke this morning to the good news that journalist Jill Carroll has been freed in Iraq. She had been kidnapped on 07 January.

[Read story.]

I look forward to hearing her story.

I am thinking it likely that her captors treated her better than we treat our detainees.

Lobbying coincidence?

I was struck by two headlines that hit the news yesterday:

1. Corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison. [Read story.]

2. The Senate passed a lobbying/ethics reform bill. [Read story.]

What an intriguing coincidence.

29 March 2006

U.S. soldiers fleeing to Canada

I can't blame them. I probably would do the same.

In my opinion, these brave soldiers are heroes, for standing up to the corrupt Bush administration and its violations of the rules of war.

From The Guardian (UK):
Hundreds of deserters from the US armed forces have crossed into Canada and are now seeking political refugee status there, arguing that violations of the rules of war in Iraq by the US entitle them to asylum.

A decision on a test case involving two US servicemen is due shortly and is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border. At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003.

Ryan Johnson, 22, from near Fresno in California, was due to be deployed with his unit to Iraq in January last year but crossed the Canadian border in June and is seeking asylum. "I had spoken to many soldiers who had been in Iraq and who told me about innocent civilians being killed and about bombing civilian neighbourhoods," he told the Guardian.

"It's been really great since I've been here. Generally, people have been really hospitable and understanding, although there have been a few who have been for the war." He is now unable to return to the US. "I don't have a problem with that. I'm in Canada and that's that."

Mr Johnson said it was unclear exactly how many US soldiers were in Canada but he thought 400 was a "realistic figure". He had been on speaking tours across the country as part of a war resisters' movement and had come across other servicemen living underground.

Jeffry House, a Toronto lawyer who represents many of the men, said that an increasing number were seeking asylum. "There are a fair number without status and a fair number on student visas," he said, and under UN guidelines on refugee status they were entitled to seek asylum.
[Read more.]

Bush appears to have nothing but disdain for international laws and conventions, which were designed to protect our troops. With each passing day, the rest of the world respects us a less and less. And I suppose we deserve it.

28 March 2006

Freedom not so good after all for Afghan Christian convert?

As it turns out, the saga of the Afghan man who had been sentenced to death for converting to Christianity might not yet have such a happy ending, even though he has now been freed.

Many fundamentalists are calling for his beheading, so I fear for his safety.

He is seeking asylum outside Afghanistan, but that could take time.

[Get an update.]

Fingers crossed that he remains safe.

Nice "democracy" you've created in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush.

More evidence that Bush was determined to invade Iraq no matter what

We now have even more proof that George W. Bush took us to war on false pretenses.

He was determined to invade Iraq regardless of WMDs or anything else.

[Read story.]

So many people have died, or have been injured or maimed, for no good reason.

And Bush still sits there in office. Go figure.

27 March 2006

Scalia says detainees have no rights

One of our Supreme Court justices is letting his personal life and his emotions get in the way of his pledge to uphold the Constitutional rights of prisoners within U.S. jurisdiction.

From Newsweek:
The Supreme Court this week will hear arguments in a big case: whether to allow the Bush administration to try Guantanamo detainees in special military tribunals with limited rights for the accused. But Justice Antonin Scalia has already spoken his mind about some of the issues in the matter. During an unpublicized March 8 talk at the University of Freiberg in Switzerland, Scalia dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions, adding he was "astounded" at the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to Gitmo. "War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by NEWSWEEK. "Give me a break." Challenged by one audience member about whether the Gitmo detainees don't have protections under the Geneva or human-rights conventions, Scalia shot back: "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy." Scalia was apparently referring to his son Matthew, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq. Scalia did say, though, that he was concerned "there may be no end to this war."
[Read more.]

Hey, Justice Scalia: Can you say "conflict of interest"?

Better yet: Can you say "I recuse myself?"

26 March 2006

Government won't let meat packer test for mad cow disease

The Bush administration keeps talking about keeping us safe. Meantime, they ignore drowning black people in New Orleans, they try to sell our ports to the UAE, and now they refuse to let meat packers adequately test for mad cow disease.

Bush has no conscience.

And I think I'll remain a vegetarian.

From the Associated Press via the Star-Telegram:
A Kansas meatpacker sued the government on Thursday for refusing to let the company test for mad cow disease in every animal it slaughters.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef says it has Japanese customers who want comprehensive testing. The Agriculture Department threatened criminal prosecution if Creekstone did the tests, according to the company's lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

"We're not in any way saying that U.S. beef isn't safe; we believe it's the safest beef supply in the world, but that's not the issue," chief executive John Stewart said at a news conference.

"We're talking about consumers, and consumers want the product tested," Stewart said.

Testing for mad cow disease in the United States is controlled by the department, which tests about 1 percent of the 35 million cattle, or about 350,000, that are slaughtered each year. The department is planning to reduce that level of testing.

Stewart said he was surprised at the plan to scale back testing. "Given the concerns internationally, I'm not so sure that's the right thing to do."

Private companies certified by the department make screening tests used to detect mad cow disease. The department says it has sole authority over the sale and use of the tests.
[Read more.]

Yale gives scholarship to Taliban member

John Walker Lindh was arrested, imprisoned, and abused for his association with the Taliban. Meanwhile, this other Taliban guy gets a Yale scholarship.

From the OpinionJournal:
Something is very wrong at our elite universities. Last month Larry Summers resigned as president of Harvard; today Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi will speak by video to a conference at Columbia University that his regime is cosponsoring. (Columbia won't answer questions about how much funding it got from Libya or what implied strings were attached.) Then there's Yale, which for three weeks has refused to make any comment or defense beyond a vague 144-word statement about its decision to admit Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi--a former ambassador-at-large of the murderous Afghan Taliban--as a special student.

The three backers of the foundation that, along with Yale, is subsidizing Mr. Hashemi's tuition have told the Yale Daily News that they are withdrawing their support. But the university remains mute and paralyzed. "The intelligentsia haven't told Yalies what to think yet, because even they haven't made up their minds," says Daniel Gelernter, a Yale freshman whose father is a Yale professor. He clearly has: He calls the Taliban "an evil and macabre terrorist group. . . . The fact that Hashemi didn't do actual killing does not absolve him. Goebbels didn't shoot anyone either."

Universities are places where free inquiry, debate and information sharing are supposed to be guiding lights. In reality, the ivory towers too often now resemble dark castles, which raise their drawbridges at the first hint of criticism or scrutiny. Never has the moat separating elite universities from the rest of America been wider than in the case of Yale's Taliban Man.

In justifying its grant of a place to Mr. Hashemi, Yale has cited his approval by the State Department. And Yale's sole official statement says it hopes "his courses help him understand the broader context for the conflicts that led to the creation of the Taliban and to its fall. . . . Universities are places that must strive to increase understanding." That justification is unsettling to two women who will join voices at Yale tonight. Natalie Healy lost her Navy SEAL son Dan in Afghanistan last year when a Taliban rocket hit his helicopter. Ms. Healy, who notes that her son had four children of his own, is appalled at Yale's new student. "Lots of people could benefit from a Yale education, so why reward this man who was part of the group that killed Dan?" she told me. "I want to tell [Yale President] Richard Levin that his not allowing ROTC on campus is one thing, but welcoming a former member of the Taliban is deeply insulting to families who have children fighting them right now."

Ten days ago Ms. Healy met Malalai Joya, a member of Afghanistan's parliament, when she spoke near her home in Exeter, N.H. Tonight, Ms. Joya will speak at Yale on behalf of the Afghan Women's Mission. She is appalled that many people have forgotten the crimes of the Taliban, and was surprised to hear that Mr. Hashemi, who, like her, is 27 years old, is attending Yale. "He should apologize to my people and expose what he and others did under the Taliban," she told me. "He knew very well what criminal acts they committed; he was not too young to know. It would be better if he faced a court of justice than be a student at Yale University."
[Read more.]

Hey, didn't George W. Bush go to Yale?

Breaking news: Afghanistan might not execute Christian

It seems that there are some new developments in the case of the Afghan man who was sentenced to die for converting to Christianity.

[Read the update.]

Perhaps the international outpouring of outrage did some good.

Perhaps this should give us hope that we can stop other injustices.

(Or perhaps I'm just naive.)

Iraqi children continue to be main victims Of U.S. occupation

The children don't matter. It's only the oil that matters. Oil, power, and greed.

From a piece by Dr. Cesar Chelala at Information Clearing House:
One of the most tragic consequenes of the Iraq war has been its effect on children. The war continues to claim them among its main victims, while the health of the majority of the population also continues to deteriorate. In the 1980s, Iraq had one of the best health care systems in the region. Following the 2003 invasion by the coalition forces, an ongoing cycle of insurgent violence and occupation forces’ counter-attacks have significantly damaged the basic health infrastructure in the country. As a result, Iraq’s health system cannot respond to the most basic health needs of the population.

In 1991, there were in Iraq 1,800 health care centers. A decade and a half later, that number is almost half and almost a third of these require major rehabilitation. This is paralleled by the country’s fall in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index from 96 to 127, one of the most dramatic declines in human welfare in recent history.

According to Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s special expert on the right to food, the rate of malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in April 2003. Today, at 7.7 percent, Iraq’s child acute malnutrition rate is roughly equal to that of Burundi, an African nation ravaged by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than the rates in Ugand and Haiti, countries also devastated by unrelenting violence.

The population health problems are dramatically different than those facing young Iraqis a generation ago, when obesity was one of the main nutrition-related public health concerns. High rates of malnutrition started in the 1990s as a result of the U.N.-imposed sanctions to punish the Saddam Hussein regime for invading Kuwait in 1990.

Lack of dependable electricity and shortages of potable water throughout the country have led to the deterioration of the population’s health, resulting in outbreaks of typhoid fever, particularly in southern Iraq. The collapse of the water and sewage systems is probably the cause of outbreaks of hepatitis particularly lethal to pregnant women. According to the Iraq Living Conditions Survey of 22,000 households, a joint effort of the Iraq government and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme,) some 47% of urban households and only 3% of rural households have a sewage connection.
[Read more.]

FEMA breaks promise on Katrina contracts

Contractors doing Hurricane Katrina recovery work have wasted millions of our tax dollars. So what happens to them? They get rewarded for "good performance", of course, because they're politically connected.

From the Associated Press via MSNBC:
FEMA has broken its promise to reopen four multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts for Hurricane Katrina work, including three that federal auditors say wasted significant amounts of money.

Officials said they awarded the four contracts last October to speed recovery efforts that might have been slowed by competitive bidding. Some critics, however, suggested they were rewards for politically connected firms.

Acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison pledged last fall to rebid the contracts, which were awarded to Shaw Group Inc., Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor Corp. Later, the agency acknowledged the rebidding wouldn’t happen until February.

This week, FEMA said the contracts wouldn’t be rebid after all. In fact, they have been extended, in part because of good performance, said Michael Widomski, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
[Read more.]

FEMA, you're doing a heck of a job.

25 March 2006

Bush shuns PATRIOT Act requirement

Once again, Bush shows us that he thinks he's above the law.

If a law gets in the way of his having absolute unchecked power, he has Gonzales find a loophole to ignore and bypass the law.

He has done this so that he can torture people.

And he keeps doing this so that he can spy on us whenever he wants to without telling anyone.

Bush believes that he can do whatever he wants and not be held accountable to Congress or to We The People. He believes that it is up to him, and only him, to interpret the laws that he may or may not choose to follow.

From the Boston Globe via Common Dreams:
When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it "a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a "signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would "impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote: "The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law.

After The New York Times disclosed in December that Bush had authorized the military to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without obtaining warrants, as required by law, Bush said his wartime powers gave him the right to ignore the warrant law.

And when Congress passed a law forbidding the torture of any detainee in US custody, Bush signed the bill but issued a signing statement declaring that he could bypass the law if he believed using harsh interrogation techniques was necessary to protect national security.

Past presidents occasionally used such signing statements to describe their interpretations of laws, but Bush has expanded the practice. He has also been more assertive in claiming the authority to override provisions he thinks intrude on his power, legal scholars said.
[Read more.]

Now let's take a peek at the dictionary:

n : a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)


Now consider the following:
"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace."

-- George W. Bush, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly, 21 September 2004


23 March 2006

Death sentence for Afghan Christian shows hollowness of Bush's democracy

You know how Bush keeps bragging about the budding "democracy" in Afghanistan that he created?

Well, now he has to tapdance around the fact that the Afghan government is killing Christians, and that country's Constitution (which Bush praises so frequently) condones it!

From News Hounds:
Nothing gets Fox News' dander up like a persecuted Christian, but what happens when the persecuting is coming from a brand spanking new democracy that their pet president has enshrined? Fuzzy journalism, that's what happens.

The "Dayside" couple Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick on Tuesday (March 21, 2006) tried to deal with the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghani who faces death because he converted to Christianity. Jerrick correctly pointed out that capital punishment for rejecting Islam is permitted under the constitution of the "government we helped put in place" to replace the Taliban.


But the case should come as no surprise to Americans. The Constitution that the Bush administration has been bragging about as a great step forward for the Middle East is founded on Islamic law.


So while the Bush administration was telling Americans that Afghan was a democracy, what they weren't saying was that it was a democracy with no protections for minority rights -- sort of the same kind of democracy they would like to install here at home, just pure majority rule. where those with the most votes run rough shod over their opponents.

Sure, article 2 [of the Afghan Constitution] says followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith, but only "within the limits of the provisions of law." And "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," according to Article 3, otherwise known as Catch-22.

Bush was so anxious to prove that he had installed a "democracy" in Afghanistan that he has never paid much attention to the details. When people have questioned the success of this new democracy, Bush has resorted to phony claims that his critics don't believe people in the Middle East are capable of self-government.
[Read more.]

22 March 2006

It's World Water Day! (So why is Halliburton giving our troops contaminated water?)

Today, 22 March, is the annual World Water Day. This date was established in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly to promote public awareness about issues related to clean water resources.

Coincidentally, an investigation appears to be in the works regarding allegations that Halliburton has knowingly distributed contaminated water supplies to our troops and civilians in Iraq.

From an Associated Press article via Yahoo! News:
The Pentagon's official watchdog will investigate allegations by Halliburton Co. water experts that their company endangered U.S. troops in Iraq by failing to provide safe shower and laundry water.

The most serious allegation came from the company's water treatment manager in the war zone whose internal report said troops and civilians in Iraq were left vulnerable to "mass sickness or death."

A former Halliburton water expert who found contamination at the Ar Ramadi base a year ago said he was told by superiors not to advise the military or senior company officials of his discovery.
[Read more.]

As usual, they shoot the messenger, and the whistleblower suffers for the sins of the corporation.

Heck of a way to support the troops, you guys!

21 March 2006

An Iraqi woman tells what it's really like there

A group of Iraqi women are currently touring the U.S. and telling their tales.

One of these women, a hospital pharmacist, delivered a very moving speech on Saturday about the deplorable state of health care in Iraq.

Basically, it's gotten a whole lot worse under the U.S. occupation than it was under Saddam.

"Liberation" doesn't mean what it used to.

Some excerpts, via AlterNet:
I came on this speaking trip to the U.S. because when I was home in Baghdad, I watched on TV what President Bush was telling the American people about democracy, freedom, security, and the help that the U.S. is giving the Iraqi people, and I couldn't believe the lies. So I decided to take the risk to come to the U.S. and share with you what's really going on. I do not represent any political organization or ethnic group. I come only as a mother of five, a pharmacist and a human being.

I work in one of the largest hospitals in Baghdad. I stood by helplessly during the 13 years of sanctions and watched my people -- especially children -- die from lack of medicines and poor sanitation. UNICEF estimated that over 200 children died everyday as a direct result of sanctions.

Many people thought that after the U.S. occupied our country and the sanctions were lifted, the health care of the Iraqi people would improve. But the occupation has made it worse. Many of the Iraqi hospitals in cities like Baghdad, Al-Qaim, and Fallujah were bombed and destroyed. Many ambulances were attacked and health workers killed, despite the fact that it is illegal under international law to attack hospitals, ambulances and health workers.

After our hospitals were bombed and looted, millions of dollars were given to contractors to repair them. We suggested that this money be used to buy things that we urgently need, but the contractors refused and instead bought furniture and flowers and superficial things. Meanwhile, we suffer from a critical shortage of medicines, emergency supplies and anesthesia, and there is no sterilization in the operation rooms. As the director of the pharmacy department in my hospital, I refused to sit on a new chair while there were no sterile operating rooms.

Diseases that were under control under the regime of Saddam Hussein, diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, polio, have now returned to haunt the population, especially the children. Death due to cancer has increased because treatment programs stopped and medicines are not available. The health of the Iraqi people is also devastated by environmental contamination due to the destruction of our water and sewage systems.

The health of women, particularly pregnant women, has deteriorated. Many pregnant women suffer from malnutrition. When it comes time to give birth, many women prefer to give birth at home because they fear being shot on their way to the hospital and they know the bad conditions in the hospitals. As a result, more women are dying in childbirth, and more babies are dying.

Before the occupation, with all the problems we had under sanctions, Iraq ranked number 80 in the worldwide list of deaths of children under 5. Today, we have jumped up to number 36. UNICEF has said that the rate of severe malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since the occupation.


I remember one day in the hospital we started talking about the Americans and asking if they had brought us anything good. No, we said, with all their wealth and knowledge, they haven't shared their great technology, they haven't given us new equipment, they haven't even given us basic medicines. "Yes, they have given us something," said one doctor. "They brought us cold storage for the corpses."

The U.S. invasion has killed our people, destroyed our lives, ruined our health care system. I want the U.S. troops to get out of my country. I want them to go home now. I think that if the Americans leave, we Iraqis will have more of a chance to come together to heal our wounded nation.
[Read more.]

20 March 2006

Les Payne: Preventive war grasps at straws

Yesterday, on the three-year anniversary of the start of Bush's war of aggression in Iraq, editorial pages around the world were chock-full of war-related commentary.

One of the best was a piece by Les Payne in Newsday.

An excerpt:
The preventive war strategy of President George W. Bush was entrenched last week with his doctrine of shoot first - don't worry about aiming - and ask questions later. Apropos of this president, the updated security plan is, alas, a cowboy doctrine drafted not by a fair-minded sheriff but by an hombre outside the law.

As the Iraq war moves into its fourth year this week, the 54-page White House plan reminds us that Bush is unrelenting in pursuit of this ill-advised strategy at the expense of American resources, tax dollars and blood. While the media gags itself with evenhandedness, Jay Leno and Jon Stewart are playing this reckless Bush doctrine for guffaws. Meanwhile, the eggheads debate themselves to a standstill as the White House handmaidens over at Fox News wade in with alibi Bush gibberish.

Those who truly care about the honor and reputation of this great country should take the time to read the National Security Strategy of the United States. It is a chilling document that cuts to the heart of Bush's execution of preventive war. The scenario gets even scarier when one considers that Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have forfeited all checks and balances on this self-proclaimed "war president" of the lone, unchallenged superpower with the technology to destroy the world.

This war started with the president of the United States ordering a direct, personal assassination of another head of state. What is more, the White House had concocted a false rationale for crossing this most deadly of all Rubicons. The false scare that the dictator had weapons of mass destruction had seriously dissipated, lest we forget, even before the U.S. invasion. Grasping at other straws, the Bush White House pointed with alarm at the danger posed to the continental United States by Iraq's drawing-board missiles with a range of 93 miles.

The section of the new security report on weapons of mass destruction lays out what can only be described as a policy of breast-beating one's way to an alibi.
[Read more.]

To read the text of the National Security Strategy of the United States, click here.

19 March 2006

Unhappy anniversary

Today, 19 March 2006, is the 3-year anniversary of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.

At the time, Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq did not pose a threat to the United States. And Iraq did not have ties to al-Qaeda (although it does now, thanks to George W).

Nevertheless, Bush went in and destroyed that country, killed and tortured the people, and called it "liberation".

Today -- 3 years, 248 billion dollars, and 2,318 dead American troops later -- the Iraqi people still do not have jobs, clean water, reliable electricity, or security. This is liberation?

Today, I am embarrassed to be an American.

18 March 2006

Bush's humor: The joke is on us

To George W. Bush, everything is a joke. He jokes about the Iraq fiasco. He jokes about Hurricane Katrina. And now he's joking about Cheney's shooting accident.

He is laughing and having fun while people are being injured and killed.

This is the leader of the free world.

From an article at PERRspectives:
A sense of humor has always been an invaluable tool for presidents. Self-deprecating humor helped endear John F. Kennedy to the press and allowed Ronald Reagan to disarm his critics. But for George W. Bush, humor provides only a occasional glimpse of the truth and a rare window into the dark soul of a man who apparently views his fellow citizens with disdain. President Bush's performance Saturday at the Gridiron Club was no exception.

Bush used the roast last night to poke fun at his Vice President. Bush delighted in Cheney's friendly fire quail hunting accident, declaring of Cheney's middle initial (Richard B. Cheney) that "B. stands for bulls eye." The light-hearted Bush also jokingly scolded the press "Good Lord, you'd thought he shot somebody or something."

The President's ribbing of Cheney, the supposed man behind the throne, extended to Bush's own disastrous mishandling of the Dubai ports deal and his calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush claimed that it is in fact Lynne Cheney who is the woman behind the man behind the man. Bush went on to the punchline:

"Lynne, I think you're doing a heck of a job. Although I have to say you dropped the ball big time on that Dubai deal."

Bush's attempts at comedy might actually be funny if there weren't so, well, tragic.
[Read more.]

17 March 2006

Blair on Iraq: "I'd do it all again"

Shame on British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Before he jumped into bed with George W. Bush 3+ years ago, I actually kind of admired the guy. That was then.

From today's Independent (UK):
Unrepentant and unmoved in spite of the rising death toll, Tony Blair has declared that if he was faced with the same circumstances, he would support the invasion of Iraq all over again.

As the Prime Minister uttered his conviction that he would "do it all again", US war planes were already on the move in what the Bush administration described as the biggest onslaught that Iraq has witnessed since the war

More than 50 aircraft and 1,500 Iraqi and US troops attacked insurgents in Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the golden dome of one of Shia Islam's holiest shrines was destroyed by the insurgents last month.

The White House is also completely unapologetic about the decision to use force to tackle the supposed threat of Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, despite signs that Iraq is now headed for a full-scale civil war.

According to official figures, 103 British troops have been lost in the conflict, while the Americans have suffered 2,311 fatalities. There is no official record of the Iraqi deaths.

Yesterday, US troops launched "Operation Swarmer" near Samarra, which has long been an insurgent stronghold. Residents said they could hear loud explosions and see Iraqi and American troops on the move. An increased use of air power may indicate a shift in tactics in order to reduce US casualties. It is also likely to lead to increased Iraqi civilian casualties.

The insurgents seldom defend fixed positions after they suffered heavy losses when US Marines stormed Fallujah in November 2004, the last major American offensive against them.

Mr Blair, who believes he will be judged by God over the Iraq conflict, will fly to the US next month for talks with President George Bush.
[Read more.]

Mark Fiore: NeoConMen

Sunday, 19 March, will mark the three-year anniversary of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Political cartoonist Mark Fiore's latest animation will help you put the whole thing in its proper perspective.

[Check it out.]

16 March 2006

Pfizer makes list of worst corporate evildoers

Surprise, surprise!

It appears that some drug company executives are more interested in selling drugs that will make them rich rather than selling drugs that will make people well.

From YubaNet:
On January 3, 2006, Global Exchange, the international advocacy group for human rights, released a report naming the top fourteen "Worst Corporate Evildoers" in the world for the year 2005. Pfizer, one of the most profitable drug companies on earth, with sales over $52 billion in 2004, made the list of Evildoers.

Pfizer's participation in the cover-up of the deadly side effects of Bextra surely contributed to its membership. Because the drug was promoted and sold off-label for so many unapproved uses, the company made hundreds of millions of dollars in pure profits during Bextra's short life on the market. However, experts predict that when all is said and done, the total amount of the drug's damage to consumers will be in the billions.

Bextra belongs to the same class of drugs as Vioxx and Celebrex, known as Cox-2 inhibitors. Millions of people world-wide have taken these drugs.

It is now apparent that Pfizer knew Bextra was associated with extremely harmful side effects long before it was yanked off the market. However, Pfizer had good reason to stall its inevitable removal after Vioxx was recalled.
[Read more.]

Despite third case in the U.S., USDA intends to scale back testing for mad cow disease

I don't need another excuse to remain a vegetarian, but this would be a very good one.

[Read story.]

This is more proof that the Bush administration really does not care about the safety and welfare of the American people. Testing more cows would not be cost effective. They obviously feel that it would be more cost effective to spend that money to continue to killing in Iraq. This way, everyone dies!

15 March 2006

Iraq: U.S. military shoots five children, two men, and four women

This is what George W. Bush calls "liberation".

From Reuters:
Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a U.S. raid on Wednesday, police and witnesses said. The U.S. military said two women and a child died during the bid to seize an al Qaeda militant from a house.

Television pictures showed 11 bodies in the Tikrit morgue -- five children, two men and four women. A freelance photographer later saw the bodies being buried in Ishaqi, the town 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad where the raid took place.


Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said U.S. forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children.
[Read more.]

"Roe v. Wade for men"

Even as women's abortion rights are being undermined in the U.S., men are suing for the right to refuse child support.

In their ideal world, if a woman gets pregnant, it's her own problem. She must not have an evil abortion, but she also must not expect any support from the baby's father.

From BBC News:
Men's rights activists in the US are to argue in court that fathers do not have an obligation to pay money towards raising a child they did not want.

The National Center for Men is fighting the case on a behalf of a man who says his ex-girlfriend had his child after telling him she could not get pregnant.
[Read more.]

Army dog handlers compete in torture contest

They found a few more "bad apples". How can these monsters sleep at night?

From the Associated Press via NBC News 11 in Atlanta:
An Army dog handler charged with using his animal to terrify Abu Ghraib prisoners laughingly claimed he was competing with a comrade to frighten detainees into soiling themselves, according to testimony Tuesday at his court-martial.

The testimony on the second day of the trial was the most damaging evidence yet against Sgt. Michael J. Smith.

The witness, Sgt. John H. Ketzer, was an interrogator at the prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

He testified that one night, he followed the sounds of screaming to a cell where Smith's black Belgian shepherd was straining against its leash and barking at two cowering, teenage boys.

Ketzer said Smith laughingly told him afterward: "My buddy and I are having a contest to see if we can get them to (defecate on) themselves because we've already had some (urinate on) themselves."
[Read more.]

George Clooney: "I am a liberal. There, I said it!"

Actor George Clooney is more than just another pretty face.

The proof lies within the two movies he made in 2005 (Good Night, and Good Luck, which dealt with journalist Edward R. Murrow's battle with Joe McCarthy, and Syriana, which dealt with corruption in the oil industry), as well as an article he published in the Huffington Post a couple of days ago.

An excerpt from that article:
I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it.

Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's a dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.

This is an incredibly polarized time (wonder how that happened?). But I find that, more and more, people are trying to find things we can agree on. And, for me, one of the things we absolutely need to agree on is the idea that we're all allowed to question authority. We have to agree that it's not unpatriotic to hold our leaders accountable and to speak out.
[Read more.]

14 March 2006

Is the government spying on you? Find out!

I wanted to pass along this cool thing from People for the American Way:
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), anyone has the right to request information from the government. Last strengthened by Congress in response to the Watergate scandal, FOIA gives citizens a way to demand transparency from the Bush administration -- and take the government to court if necessary.

The Bush administration is trying to keep the details of its illegal domestic surveillance program under wraps, even refusing to say how many Americans they've eavesdropped on. Many Americans -- especially those with family and friends abroad -- are wondering whether government agents have been listening to their phone conversations or reading their email.

If you're worried this has happened to you, People For the American Way has created a new tool:


You can file a Freedom of Information Act request quickly, accurately, and easily.

We can't guarantee that the Bush administration will disclose all this information in compliance with the law, but we can help you through the process. By filing a FOIA request, you will send a strong signal that American citizens believe in the rule of law and aren't afraid to stand up to the President when he violates the Constitution!


Google vs. Big Brother

I have another new hero -- Google!

Today, Google will be in court fighting for our privacy. You see, the U.S. government wants to snoop around in Google's databases to see what we've been doing online. Google wants to keep our search records private. [Read story.]

Kudos to Google for standing up for our freedom and our privacy.

Yahoo should take a lesson or two from Google.

13 March 2006

David Sirota: Bush, pundits, & Dems feign 'concern' for national security

A recent blog post by the great David Sirota does a great job at exposing more Bushite hypocrisy.

An excerpt:
With the termination of the Dubai ports deal, President Bush now says he is "concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, especially in the Middle East." This line has been parroted by the punditocracy, which claims that legitimate questions of national security are "ethnic profiling" (aka. "racial profiling"). The hypocrisy is as thick as a milkshake - Suddenly, we're expected to believe George W. Bush and the pundits who pushed the Iraq War deep down really cares about the messages America is sending to the rest of the world. What an incredibly insulting joke.

Where was this so-called "concern" when Bush authorized the use of torture? Where was this "concern" when Bush decided to ignore the Geneva Conventions with respect to detainees? What about the "broader message" we sent to the world when Bush deliberately fabricated the perception of an "imminent threat" of WMD and used that perception as a justification to invade Iraq? Or, what about the "broader message" that Bush sent when he cracked a joke immediately after telling the press 30,000 Iraqis - many innocent bystanders - have been killed since the war began? Or what about the "broader message" that continues to be sent when Bush holds White House events to publicly fawn all over the most oppressive dictators on Earth? What kind of message does that send to the millions of ordinary citizens oppressed by those same dictators?
[Read more.]

The real face of war

I want everyone in the U.S. to click the following link, especially if you support Bush's war on Iraq:

[Is the war worth this price?]

Soldier quits British army in disgust at 'illegal' American tactics in Iraq

I have a new hero.

This man is truly brave.

It takes much more courage to stand up for one's convictions, as this guy has done, than to stand in front of a camera and say "bring 'em on", while sending other people's kids to do your dirty work.

From yesterday's Telegraph (UK):
An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.

After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.

He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human.

The decision marks the first time an SAS soldier has refused to go into combat and quit the Army on moral grounds.

It immediately brought to an end Mr Griffin's exemplary, eight-year career in which he also served with the Parachute Regiment, taking part in operations in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

But it will also embarrass the Government and have a potentially profound impact on cases of other soldiers who have refused to fight.

On Wednesday, the pre-trial hearing will begin into the court martial of Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a Royal Air Force doctor who has refused to return to Iraq for a third tour of duty on the grounds that the war is illegal. Mr Griffin's allegations came as the Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, visiting Basra yesterday, admitted that Iraq was now "a mess".

Mr Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military's "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.

Mr Griffin eventually told SAS commanders at Hereford that he could not take part in a war which he regarded as "illegal".
[Read more.]

12 March 2006

Lessons from Dubai

As of this writing, it appears that the Dubai Ports World controversy is dying a welcome death.

But we must not dismiss the issue prematurely.

The devil, of course, is in the details, as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has pointed out.

And our future depends on the lessons learned.

So let's review a few of the lessons to date, lest they be forgotten:

We learned that the apologists for George W. Bush will not hesitate to play the race card, accusing Bush's critics of anti-Arab discrimination in an attempt to shift blame and cloud the issue. It is interesting to note that these are many of the same folks who defend the practice of racial profiling in airport security.

We learned that the contract to manage our ports was awarded in a very tight and secretive process, in which some highly qualified U.S.-based companies were never invited to make a bid.

We learned that our ports are still highly vulnerable, almost five years after 9/11. Of the more than 20‚000 cargo containers that pass through U.S. ports each day, only five or six percent are inspected. We learned that greater scrutiny of port cargo would be very expensive to implement. And we learned that our government believes that the money is better spent propagating the quagmire in Iraq, and on tax cuts for the rich.

We learned that the some of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks used the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an operational and financial hub.

We learned that the Emir of Dubai, and the head of the family that owns Dubai Ports, is an associate and hunting companion of Osama bin Laden.

We learned that the UAE has been an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

We learned that the UAE is one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

We learned that Dubai Ports World is actually owned by the government of the UAE, meaning that our ports would have been controlled by a foreign government with known ties to al-Qaeda. In wartime, had the deal gone through, that foreign government could control all access to our ports -- including access by our own military (or the enemy).

We learned that George W. Bush, whose 2004 reelection campaign centered around his allegations that only he could properly protect us, will invariably trade our security in favor of Arab oil interests every time.

And we learned that the Republicans in Congress would finally stand up to the Bush administration when the plummeting approval ratings made it clear that the people weren't going to take it any more.

How convenient.

Please, let that be the final lesson.

11 March 2006

Molly Ivins: The progress myth in Iraq

In a recent column at Truthdig, my hero Molly Ivins takes on Donald Rumsfeld et al, and the rosy picture they like to paint of the situation in Iraq.

Her reality check is well worth reading.

An excerpt:
It was such a relief to me to learn we are making "very, very good progress" in Iraq. As the third anniversary of our invasion approaches, I could not have been more thrilled by the news reported by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a Sunday chat show. Vice President Dick Cheney's take was equally reassuring: Things are "improving steadily" in Iraq.

I was thrilled—very, very good progress and steady improvement, isn't that grand? Wake me if anything starts to go wrong. Like someone bombing the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra and touching off a lot of sectarian violence.

I was also relieved to learn—via Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, so noted for his consistently accurate assessment of this war—that the whole picture is hunky-dory to tickety-boo. Since the bombing of the mosque, lots of alarmists have reported that Iraq is devolving or might be collapsing into civil war. They're sort of jumping over the civil war line and back again—yep, it's started; nope, it hasn't—like a bunch of false starts at the beginning of a football play.

I'm sure glad to get the straight skinny from Ol' Rumsfeld, who has been in Iraq many times himself for the typical in-country experience. Like many foreign correspondents, Rumsfeld roams the streets alone, talking to any chance-met Iraqi in his fluent Arabic, so of course he knows best.

"From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation," Rumsfeld said. "We do know, of course, that Al Qaeda has media committees. We do know they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media. They do this regularly. We see the intelligence that reports on their meetings. Now I can't take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an Al Qaeda media committee meeting. I am not able to do that at all."

No horsepoop? Then can I ask a question: If you're able to monitor these media committee meetings, how come you can't find Osama bin Ladin?
[Read more.]

I want to be Molly Ivins when I grow up.

Mark Fiore: Nuclear success

The latest animation from political cartoonist (and insightful genius) Mark Fiore cleverly addresses the timely issue of nukes.
[Check it out.]

10 March 2006

NOW vs. ABC on "mommy wars" and childcare alternatives

In late February, ABC's Good Morning America aired a series on the "mommy wars", propagating an unnecessary battle between working mothers and stay-at-home moms.

In response, NOW President Kim Gandy sent a letter to ABC and series host Diane Sawyer in which she sets the record straight.

The "mommy wars" are a false dichotomy. The truth is that the issue is not black and white. Some women today have more alternatives. Others do not, and that's usually a bad thing.

(And, for the record, I want to note that one of the best parents I've ever met was a stay-at-home dad.)

I am disappointed in Diane Sawyer.

Below is the text of Gandy's letter to ABC:
Diane Sawyer, Anchor
Ben Sherwood, Executive Producer
Good Morning America

Dear Ms. Sawyer and Mr. Sherwood:

ABC's Good Morning America recently aired a series on the so-called "Mommy Wars" reported by Diane Sawyer (Feb. 22-23). As a mother of two daughters, a feminist and president of the National Organization for Women, I am deeply disappointed that you are promoting a "war" between employed mothers and stay-at-home mothers. It was a transparent bid to increase ratings, but you could have done that by talking about the real issues mothers and caregivers face.

From start to finish, this feature offered much heat but little light. The "Mommy Wars" title was the first clue that the story would pit one group of hard-working women against another. Having promised a "red hot" debate, ABC proceeded to create a provocative piece that had little substance and even fewer solutions.

The choice of retired Brandeis law professor Linda Hirshman as the inspiration and framework for the segments was obviously intended to be inflammatory. The position she takes—that all well-educated mothers will be leading "lesser lives" if they don't work outside the home—is a minority viewpoint. Repeating it sure stirs the pot but it doesn't lead to a productive discussion about the work/family balancing act that most parents face.

The three women who appeared on the program following Hirshman seemed uncomfortable with being dragged into a "which choice is better" debate. One of the stay-at-home moms even protested that she didn't want to tell other mothers what they should do. But that statement wasn't in keeping with the confrontational nature of the segment, so Diane Sawyer prodded her to tell the mother who worked outside the home just what she was missing by not being with her kids during the day.

It's not surprising that in the 24 hours between the first and second parts of the series, ABC received many emails from fired-up viewers. Good Morning America claimed that these two groups of mothers are "pointing fingers" at each other and exchanging "dirty looks"—but it is shows like this that seek to pit women against each other. In reality, women are uniting to find solutions to the challenges that affect us all.

One large segment of the "mommy" world completely ignored by ABC and Sawyer are the mothers who live at or near poverty, forced into a 40-hour work week by a "reformed" welfare system that fails to address their basic needs. What are moms who must work to put food on the table supposed to think about a debate that manages both to exclude and scold them?

Forty years after the founding of NOW—the organization that coined the phrase "Every Mother is a Working Mother"—it is disheartening to see a respected news organization perpetuate such outdated arguments. Years of feminist-led progress have resulted in more options for women, but segments like the "Mommy Wars" imply that we still can't trust individual women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

The futile search for a one-size-fits-all solution to parenting only distracts us from the real issues that impact all mothers, and experienced journalists should recognize that fact and be brave enough to speak about what is really happening to women in our country. I find myself wondering whether there were any poor mothers, single mothers, stay-at-home mothers or employed mothers of young children at the news table when these insulting segments were being pitched and developed.

Here's a compelling topic for a future feature: How can our society better support mothers and caregivers so that they can choose to work either outside or inside the home—whether it's full-time or part-time—without additional guilt, financial strife or other barriers? How can workplaces, educational institutions, the public service sector and our government make caregiving a more respected and less stressful endeavor? Paid family leave, recognition of the work of caregivers by providing disability and unemployment insurance, Social Security credits, group health insurance, respite care services, public transportation and early childhood education in every community come to mind, but there are many others.

It is also crucial to talk about men's role and responsibility in parenting. Women need to know that they don't have to do it all. For example, men who choose to stay at home with their children are often ridiculed or overlooked, rather than supported.

NOW suggests that ABC do a "real" series on the economic and childrearing challenges facing today's parents and we would be happy to provide resources from our Mothers and Caregivers Economic Rights Committee and also recommend spokespeople who can address the truly relevant issues involved in this struggle. A dialogue on these concerns would be far more challenging to develop than the bogus "Mommy Wars," but it would better serve your viewers and the women of this nation.

I look forward to your reply.


Kim Gandy
[View it on the NOW site.]

09 March 2006

NYT editorial cites cases of innocent people hopelessly detained at Gitmo

An editorial in yesterday's New York Times outlines how innocent people have been swept up in the proverbial nets in the "war on terror" and wrongly imprisoned at places like Gitmo with no legal recourse.

An excerpt, via truthout:
This has been our nightmare since the Bush administration began stashing prisoners it did not want to account for in Guantanamo Bay: An ordinary man with a name something like a Taliban bigwig's is swept up in the dragnet and imprisoned without any hope of proving his innocence.

A case of mistaken identity's turning an innocent person into a prisoner-for-life was supposed to be impossible. President Bush told Americans to trust in his judgment after he arrogated the right to arrest anyone, anywhere in the world, and toss people into indefinite detention. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld infamously proclaimed that the men at Guantanamo Bay were "the worst of the worst."

But it has long been evident that this was nonsense, and a lawsuit by The Associated Press has now demonstrated the truth in shameful detail. The suit compelled the release of records from hearings for some of the 760 or so men who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. (About 490 are still there.) Far too many show no signs of being a threat to American national security. Some, it appears, did nothing at all. And they have no way to get a fair hearing because Gitmo was created outside the law.

Take the case of Abdur Sayed Rahman, as recounted in Monday's Times. The transcripts quote Mr. Rahman as saying he was arrested in his Pakistani village in January 2002, flown to Afghanistan, accused of being the Taliban's deputy foreign minister and then thrown into a cell in Guantanamo Bay. "I am only a chicken farmer in Pakistan," he said, adding that the Taliban official was named Abdur Zahid Rahman.

Other cases included prisoners who owned a particular kind of cheap watch supposedly favored by Al Qaeda.


Some of the prisoners proudly proclaimed their allegiance to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. But far too many seemed to be innocents or lowly foot soldiers simply caught up in the whirlwind after 9/11.
[Read more.]

08 March 2006

Pentagon vows to continue propaganda campaign in Iraq

It's official: The U.S. military will continue to publish propaganda in Iraqi newspapers so that the Iraqi people will know how well things are going. General Casey considers doing so a "responsibility".

From the Los Angeles Times:
The U.S. military plans to continue paying Iraqi newspapers to publish articles favorable to the United States after an inquiry found no fault with the controversial practice, the top U.S. general in Iraq said Friday.

Army Gen. George W. Casey said the internal review had concluded that the U.S. military was not violating U.S. law or Pentagon guidelines with the information operations campaign, in which U.S. troops and a private contractor write pro-American articles and pay to have them planted without attribution in Iraqi media.

"By and large, it found that we were operating within our authorities and responsibilities," Casey said, adding that he had no intention of shutting the program down.

The program has been criticized both inside and outside the military as detrimental to U.S. credibility and contrary to the principles of a free press in a nascent, embattled democracy.

Though the final report by Navy Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk is not complete, Casey's comments are a clear sign that the U.S. military sees the propaganda effort as a critical tool for winning hearts and minds in Iraq.

Van Buskirk's report could pave the way for the Pentagon to replicate the practice -- which would be illegal in the United States -- in other parts of the world.
[Read more.]

Congress extends the PATRIOT Act

They just keep chopping away at our civil liberties.

Our founding fathers would not approve.

And where will it end?

From today's Washington Post:
Congress renewed a four-year-old anti-terrorism law yesterday that makes it easier for federal agents to secretly obtain Americans' records and communications, even as some lawmakers warned that voters are growing increasingly concerned about protecting civil liberties during the fight against terrorism.

Renewal of the USA Patriot Act marks a victory for President Bush at a time when he is defending a program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping conducted by the National Security Agency. Congress has scheduled several hearings on the NSA program, and the Senate intelligence committee created a subcommittee yesterday to scrutinize it.

The House voted 280 to 138 to approve a Senate-passed measure that makes several changes to the Patriot Act, which was enacted shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Both chambers earlier approved another bill extending the act's provisions that were scheduled to expire, and Bush is expected to sign the measures as a package.

The law makes it easier for federal agents to secretly tap phones, obtain library and bank records, and search homes of terrorism suspects. Bush has called it a vital tool in protecting the country. But numerous civil libertarians and librarians said it allows abuse of innocent Americans' privacy, and lawmakers agreed last year to add several safeguards before renewing provisions that were scheduled to expire.

One change involves National Security Letters, which are subpoenas for financial and electronic records that do not require a judge's approval. Libraries functioning in their "traditional capacity" will no longer be subject to such letters. Also modified are "Section 215 subpoenas," which are granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. Recipients will have the explicit right to challenge the subpoenas' nondisclosure or "gag order" requirements.

The reauthorization makes permanent all but two of the Patriot Act's provisions.
[Read more.]

Senate panel blocks eavesdropping probe

Senate Republicans have decided that they don't want to step on Bush's toes while he's spying on us. They have chosen "to reject confrontation in favor of accommodation."

Don't they care about their own privacy? Or do they feel that they and their families are safe from government probes because they're not Quakers or vegetarians or other "suspicious" types.

From today's Washington Post:
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted along party lines yesterday to reject a Democratic proposal to investigate the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program and instead approved establishing, with White House approval, a seven-member panel to oversee the effort.

Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told reporters after the closed session that he had asked the committee "to reject confrontation in favor of accommodation" and that the new subcommittee, which he described as "an accommodation with the White House," would "conduct oversight of the terrorist surveillance program." The program, which became public in December, has allowed the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between U.S. residents and suspected terrorists abroad without first obtaining warrants from a secret court that handles such matters.

The panel's vice chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), took a sharply different view of yesterday's outcome. "The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House through its chairman," he told reporters. "At the direction of the White House, the Republican majority has voted down my motion to have a careful and fact-based review of the National Security Agency's surveillance eavesdropping activities inside the United States."


Also yesterday, legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), a member of the intelligence committee, drew support from two other key GOP panel members, Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.). It would permit warrantless surveillance of calls between the United States and another country involving "a designated terrorist organization" for 45 days, after which the government can stop the eavesdropping, seek a warrant, or explain to Congress why it wants to continue without a warrant.
[Read more.]

Kate Michelman: Pro-family, pro-choice, pro-women

Today, 08 March, is International Women's Day.

In observance of this day, I want to share an interesting, scary, but inspirational op-ed by Kate Michelman, a former president of NARAL, in which she lays out the challenges facing American women's right to privacy and reproductive freedom.

An excerpt:
After all the plotting and planning, the time was thought to be propitious. It was to be the conclusion of a carefully crafted, long-term effort that had been the right's fundamental ideological objective for decades.

These opponents of reproductive rights were poised to for their grand moment—the evisceration of a woman's right to privacy and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.


No, 1989.

Republicans held the Senate and the White House. In reviewing Webster, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. As the Court seemed poised to roll back privacy rights nationwide, anti-choice activists passed measures criminalizing abortion in Louisiana and Utah.

But none of that came to pass, and what had seemed a watershed moment for abortion opponents turned into a key rallying point for the pro-choice community across the country.

The situation today is perhaps even grimmer. Conservatives control the White House and all of Congress; they have just appointed two clearly anti-choice justices in John Roberts and Samuel Alito; and their activists are charging hard in a number of states.

Two weeks ago, South Dakota lawmakers passed a ban of all abortions and defined life as beginning at fertilization. Now it sits on the governor's desk awaiting signature. In Kansas -- as well as Indiana and Ohio -- state officials are trying to gain access to the medical records and personal information of women who have abortions.

And the Supreme Court has agreed to review a 2003 federal ban on so-called "partial birth" abortion. If this ban were upheld, it would result in a chill across the whole practice of reproductive medicine. The standard is so broad that doctors will find it difficult to know what is legal and what is not. It would ban a range of abortion methods used as early as 12-15 weeks of pregnancy; and it offers no exception for the life or health of the woman, or in the case of severe birth defects. In short, it would eviscerate a woman's right to privacy without requiring the Court to overturn Roe.

The similarities to 1989—down to the surname of the president—are quite striking.

Then, pro-choice Americans feared quite rightly that a woman's right to privacy was about to be taken away. And we reacted.

The pro-choice movement went back to its roots, into the streets and onto the airwaves. We spoke strongly, clearly and confidently. And we made the issue of choice -- "Who Decides?" -- one of the central questions of the day.

The results speak for themselves: in 1989, two new Democratic governors, Doug Wilder of Virginia and Jim Florio of New Jersey, were elected to succeed Republicans. The election of several key pro-choice senators in the mid-term election of 1990 severely weakened President George H.W. Bush and led the Democrats to recapture the Senate. And, after the unpleasant but galvanizing spectacle of the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992.

But as women's rights leaders consider how to make lightning strike twice, there are key differences we need to keep in mind.
[Read more.]

07 March 2006

Bush declares war on freedom of the press

Capitol Hill Blue is reporting that the Bush administration is setting out to prosecute reporters who have written articles unfavorable to Bush's actions in the "war on terror".

They are taking their "shoot the messenger" stuff way too far -- persecuting (and possibly prosecuting) those who expose the administration's own transgressions. And, in doing so, they threaten one of our fundamental freedoms.

Our founding fathers must be spinning in their graves.

An excerpt from the Capitol Hill Blue story:
Using many of the questionable surveillance and monitoring techniques that brought both questions and criticism to his administration, President George W. Bush has launched a war against reporters who write stories unfavorable to his actions and is planning to prosecute journalists to make examples of them in his "war on terrorism."

Bush recently directed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to use "whatever means at your disposal" to wiretap, follow, harass and investigate journalists who have published stories about the administration's illegal use of warrantless wiretaps, use of faulty intelligence and anything else he deems "detrimental to the war on terror."

Reporters for The New York Times, which along with Capitol Hill Blue revealed use of the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and emails of Americans, say FBI agents have interviewed them and criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department admit they are laying "the groundwork for a grand jury that could lead to criminal charges."
[Read more.]

06 March 2006

Amnesty report reveals thousands are being denied basic human rights in post-Hussein Iraq

Yesterday, Amnesty International released a report revealing that thousands of detainees held by the U.S.-led Multinational Force in Iraq are being denied their basic human rights.

The report reveals that "not only has the Iraqi government failed to provide minimal protection for its citizens, it has actively pursued a policy of rounding up and torturing innocent men and women."

[Read an Amnesty press release about the report.]

[Read the report.]

Pentagon releases names of Gitmo inmates

Well, this comes as a pleasant surprise. I thought that the Bush administration would find a way to sidestep the court order requiring them to release the identies of Guantanamo detainees.

But, lo and behold, they complied! [Read story.]

Now some families will finally learn why their loved one never returned home from that trip to the convenience store.

And maybe this is the beginning of a new era of accountability (although I won't hold my breath).

05 March 2006

Spike Lee to Condoleezza Rice: "Condi, stop smoking that crack."

On this Academy Awards Sunday, the New York Daily News offers an interesting little piece in which filmmaker Spike Lee lets loose on Condi Rice. [Read it.]

Oscar gets political

This year's Academy Awards extravaganza will happen this evening. [Check out the buzz.]

Right-wing pundits are grumbling about the fact that all five nominees in the "Best Picture" category have social messages that they don't like.

What are they afraid of? Do they fear that America will go to the cineplex to be entertained and instead end up really thinking about the issues and coming to the conclusion that perhaps racism, homophobia, and greed are not really so good for our society?

For the record, I've seen all five of the "Best Picture" nominees. Everyone should see all of them. Then maybe the world would be smarter, kinder, and more peaceful.

Would that really be so bad?

03 March 2006

Gonzales's goons claim exceptions to torture ban

They keep moving the goalposts and changing the rules as it suits them.

After Bush threatened to veto the McCain amendment outlawing torture, he eventually caved in and signed it. But that doesn't matter. Gonzales can simply decide that the law doesn't apply in cases that might be inconvenient or contrary to their torturous agenda.

Think about it: They're going out of their way to torture people.

This is how our tax dollars are being spent.

From today's Washington Post via truthout:
Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in US custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."


US District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive US military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and possibly against US and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language, detainees at Guantánamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.
[Read more.]

Iraq war vet: "I trusted my country"

The Iraq war is taking a toll on our troops in more than just the obvious ways.

Below, courtesy of truthout, is an excerpt from the written testimony of Garret Reppenhagen, returned Iraq War Veteran, submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs:
Thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony on issues concerning Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs. I joined the Army in August of 2001 and became a Cavalry/Scout at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. I was indoctrinated into a military that I was proud of and had the courage to serve because I trusted that the government of the United States would use me in a responsible and necessary manner.

I was on leave from a deployment in Kosovo when the Iraq War began. I watched in dread, waiting for a layover flight at Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, when the ultimatum for Saddam and his sons to surrender ran out. Bradleys crossed the line into Iraq, and Baghdad was exploding on the televisions. Surrounding me were a crowd of people cheering like the Cowboys just won the Super Bowl. I started to feel like the reality of war and the policies of the administration were not as honest as they appeared.

In February of 2004, it was my turn to go to war. I was with 2-63 AR 1st Infantry Division stationed in Baquba, Iraq, as a Sniper in a six-man team. During my year there, I saw a lack of effort by our government to provide the US Soldier with the ability to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. As events unfolded, like Abu Ghraib and the battles in Fallujah, a growing resentment of the Iraqi people swelled the support for the insurgency. Our mission there became impossible.

We turned all our missions into surviving Iraq for a year. Missions like counter ambush, counter mortar, road clearing and house raids. No longer were we able to attempt reconstruction operations. The alienation of the people we were supposed to be trying to hand democracy to increased and the Improvised Explosive Devices, Rocket Propelled Grenade Ambushes and mortar attacks increased.

I left Iraq, eventually was honorably discharged after a ten month involuntary extension, and returned home to begin working for veteran advocacy. I have a growing network of friends who are veterans and deal with all the major veteran organizations. I frequently visit Walter Reed and speak to a dozen veterans struggling with PTSD and other forms of mental illness. It is a constant frustration to see these men and women treated without proper care and respect. And the problem is only growing.

These soldiers are returning and overcoming the most unimaginable physical and mental disabilities. But the question they all eventually begin to ask is "Why?" With the growing public opinion being that war was not only wrong, but also based on lies, the soldier who was sent to fight has a conflict with the fact that his sacrifice had no meaning. The lack of meaning ultimately creates a breakdown of character that is fundamental in a soldier's degradation of mental health. Because the war is so "wrong," it can create not just a guilt of the traumatic experience in Iraq, it also makes the soldiers shameful of the people they have become.
[Read more.]

02 March 2006

Bush further endangers mine workers

Remember George W. Bush's speeches after the recent mining disasters, in which he pretended to care?

Well, actions speak louder than words. The Bush administration has actually been decreasing fines for mine safety violations, again siding with the corporations at the expense of worker safety.
[Read story.]

Don't expect to see Jenna and Barb applying for jobs as mine workers.

Al-Qaeda infiltrated UAE security as far back as 2002

... and soon the fox will be guarding the henhouse that is our ports.

[Click for story.]

Ray McGovern: "I do not wish to be associated with torture"


Today, Ray McGovern, who worked for 27 years as a CIA analyst, returned an award medallion to the CIA in protest of torture.

Below, courtesy of truthout, is an excerpt from his letter that accompanied the returned medal:
As a matter of conscience, I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for "especially commendable service" during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery - intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.

Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing. Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney - dubbed by the Washington Post "Vice President for Torture" - descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment's ban on torture. Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation.

The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country - not to mention those tortured and killed. That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment. How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture - letting some people get away, literally, with murder - and square that with your conscience?
[Read more.]

The new Katrina scandal: What does it prove?

On 01 September 2005 (three days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast), George W. Bush said "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

And, of course, the big news today is that the Bush administration really did know in advance that Hurricane Katrina could have a devastating effect on the Gulf Coast, and could possibly breach the levees. [Read story.]

Bush spokesperson Trent Duffy is scrambling to do damange control. He said, "I hope people don't draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing. He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times."

So Bush was completely engaged at all times. Yeah, he was fully engaged in a few rounds of golf while New Orleans drowned.

So what this proves is that they:

a) are totally inept; or
b) just didn't care; or
c) all of the above.

01 March 2006

Execution irony

Today, March 1, is Death Penalty Abolition Day, marking the anniversary of the date in 1847 in which the state of Michigan became the first English speaking territory to abolish capital punishment.

In honor of this occasion, I offer the following tidbits of irony:

• From The Times (UK): "A meticulous paper trail alleged to link Saddam Hussein to the execution by hanging of 148 Iraqis was shown to a Baghdad court today as his trial resumed for a brief but unusually well-mannered session."

• From the New York Review of Books: "George W. Bush during his six years as governor of Texas presided over 152 executions, more than any other governor in the recent history of the United States."

Supreme Court makes it legal to threaten and harrass medical workers and desperate pregnant women

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that federal extortion and racketerring laws cannot be used to ban protests by violent anti-choice wackos.

[Read story.]

NOW's Reaction

Here is the text of a very good press release by the National Organization for Women (NOW) regarding this ruling:
February 28, 2006

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that could add to the increasing difficulty women face in obtaining reproductive health services. If the Court's 8-0 decision in Scheidler, et al., v. National Organization for Women (NOW), et al. and Operation Rescue v. NOW, et al. ushers in a return to clinic violence in the United States, NOW stands ready to fight in every jurisdiction.

For two decades, NOW has pursued every legal strategy, including three Supreme Court cases, to stave off the violent attacks that gripped this country from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. This case, brought under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, was one of the most successful long-term strategies. The federal jury found unanimously that these defendants had engaged in a nationwide criminal enterprise to close women's health clinics through extortion, violence and threats of violence, and specified over a hundred acts in furtherance of their efforts.

The filing of this case and the resulting injunction, which protected clinics nationwide, contributed to the dramatic reduction in clinic violence that we have witnessed in recent years, and we will continue to use every legal tool at our disposal to protect women's right to obtain abortion services.

This case was never about protests or pickets—it was about violence and extortion. But without strong protections against clinic assaults, the legal right to abortion could become meaningless. If women are too terrified to walk into clinics and healthcare providers are too terrified to keep their doors open, then we will have lost the fight for reproductive freedom even with Roe v. Wade still on the books.

We will not let that happen. NOW helped to draft and enact the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 1994, and we will use that law to its fullest extent in pursuing those who would use violent means to prevent women from making their own reproductive decisions. As Susan Hill (president of the National Women's Health Organization and owner of the two clinics that joined NOW in the lawsuit) said, "[w]e cannot allow anti-abortion extremists to take this decision as a signal to once again increase violent activity aimed at clinics and clinic staff."

In the coming weeks, our attorneys will make available a FACE kit that local clinics and lawyers can use to enforce the FACE act in their communities. We must do whatever is necessary to protect doctors and patients, or our legal right to abortion will be a hollow shell.

Joseph Scheidler, Randall Terry and other leaders of the self-described "pro-life mafia" had vowed to stop abortion "by any means necessary," and the ensuing attacks included arson, bombings, violent blockades, death threats and even murder. By vacating the injunction on narrow, technical grounds, the Supreme Court sided today with thugs and bullies, not peaceful protesters.
[View it on the NOW site.]