31 October 2006

United States now ranks 53rd in world press freedom

So you think that the United States of America has freedom of the press?

Maybe you even believe those allegations of a liberal media bias?

Well, guess again.

Sure, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution dictates that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."

And they haven't.

But that doesn't keep journalists from being persecuted for challenging the White House's talking points.

The U.S. now ranks an embarrassing 53rd in the fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

According to this evaluation, Panama has more press freedom than the U.S. So do Trinidad and Tobago. So do Bosnia and Herzegovina. So does Estonia.

30 October 2006

Death of a President: Fiction that needs to stay that way

The controversial new movie Death of a President has received very mixed reviews. But I believe that every American should see it.

It's a work of fiction that needs to stay that way. It depicts the course of events that could very well happen if George W. Bush were to be assassinated before the end of his term.

In the movie, Bush's death provides an excuse for the further erosion of our Constitutional rights. Patriot Act 3 is passed, which would probably make me eligible for a one-way ticket to Guantanamo just for writing this. (What a shame that orange is not my best color.)

A Syrian Muslim is wrongly convicted of the assassination (an African-American suicide victim, who has just lost a son in Iraq, appears to be the real culprit), but Jamal is deprived of any opportunity to appeal his wrongful conviction. Under the circumstances, exonerating a Muslim would be unpatriotic.

And we can only guess at the other atrocities that might result from a Cheney administration (presumably with Rice as Vice President, although this wasn't clearly laid out in the movie).

Judging from recent history, these scenarios could well happen under the given circumstances. Or, there could be an even worse scenario. I hope we never have to find out.

We need a change in Washington. If we can restore the system of checks and balances with next week's mid-term elections, and keep the momentum going, we can save this country.

If not, I fear that this new movie -- or something very much like it -- could someday end up on the History Channel.

29 October 2006

Pope flip-flops on clergy sex abuse?

An article yesterday by the Associated Press tells us that "Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that the church must urgently rebuild confidence and trust damaged by clerical sex abuse scandals, which have created deep wounds."

The Pope is quoted as saying that "it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes."

Principles of justice???!!!! Since when?

Has he forgotten how, in 2002, when we still knew him as Cardinal Ratzinger, he discounted the issue, referring to the media coverage of clergy sex abuse as a plot to discredit the Church?

And has he forgotten how, just last year, he asked George W. Bush to grant him immunity for prosecution for covering up these kinds of crimes?

And, by the way, Bush complied. So Bush clearly doesn't care about the welfare of the young victims any more than the Pope does.

Everyone, especially Catholics, should see the new documentary film Deliver Us From Evil. It tells the true story of a priest who molested and/or raped countless children (including a nine-month-old baby) over the course of three decades. The Church, instead of taking the priest out of public service (and away from kids) and getting him some treatment, chooses instead to move him around from diocese to diocese. And, in each place, Father O'Grady treats himself to a fresh new crop of victims.

At the film's climax, two of O'Grady's victims, now grown, travel to the Vatican to hand-deliver a letter of protest to the Pope. The Pope refuses to see them.

Everyone, especially Catholics should be very, very angry.

And how would Jesus feel about this kind of behavior by those who supposedly represent Him on earth?

27 October 2006

Cheney confirms that detainees were tortured

He just doesn't call it that.

According to an article by McClatchy Newspapers and published on the Common Dreams site,

Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

In other words, it's not torture if the Bush administration redefines what constitutes torture.

Never mind the fact that everyone else in the world considers it torture, and a grave abuse of human rights, and prohibited under a long list of U.S. and international laws and treaties.

Fortunately, as the article demonstrates, people realize this:

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.

Graham, a military lawyer who serves in the Air Force Reserve, reaffirmed that view in an interview last week with McClatchy Newspapers.

"Water-boarding, in my opinion, would cause extreme physical and psychological pain and suffering, and it very much could run afoul of the War Crimes Act," he said, referring to a 1996 law. "It could very much open people up to prosecution under the War Crimes Act, as well as be a violation of the Detainees Treatment Act."

A revised U.S. Army Field Manual published last month bans water-boarding as "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

But the torture continues, and the Bushies make no apologies. Because Bush and Cheney believe that they are above the law. They think they can do whatever they please, as long as they tell us that they're doing it to protect the American people.

The truth, however, is that the Bush administration has made us less safe.

We cannot win the "war on terror" if we're regarded as aggressors and torturers.

26 October 2006

New Jersey Supreme Court rules in favor of equal rights for gay couples

... or something like that.

The ruling came down yesterday, and it basically mandates that the state's lawmakers must now legislate either for gay marriage or something like it (e.g., legally recognized civil unions).

On one hand, they wimped out for not ruling that banning gays from marriage is discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. After all, this country was built on the principle that all people - not just the heterosexual ones - are created equal. To deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry - and call it that - is to designate them as second-class citizens. That, I believe, is unconstitutional.

On the other hand, at least the Court recognized the need for equal benefits, so we should probably be grateful for this step forward.

Until 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in some of these United States. Now, almost 40 years later, nobody bats an eye, except perhaps in the most redneck of red states. Hopefully, in another 40 years, we'll be looking back at this in the same way.

25 October 2006

We're living beyond the planet's means

Apparently, our carbon dioxide emissions aren't the only way we're trashing the earth. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund, "People are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources."

We're consuming too much too quickly, and recycling too little too late.

Out-of-control population growth isn't helping.

We're spoiled and we're complacent. And our future generations will have to pay the price.

24 October 2006

Jesus Camp: It's child abuse

The documentary film Jesus Camp is now playing at a limited number of theaters around the U.S. At first, I resisted seeing it. I had seen the trailer, and I knew that the film would probably just raise my blood pressure and make me very, very angry.

Nevertheless, curiosity got the best of me, and I saw the movie yesterday. My presumptions had been correct.

Jesus Camp follows an Evangelical minister who brainwashes children and molds them into little "warriors for Jesus". Everything possible is done to try to ensure that these kids won't learn to think for themselves. Many of them are homeschooled, in order to shield them from science. They're programmed to accept and propagate extreme right-wing doctrine. We see 10-year-olds in tears, speaking in tongues, and then going out into the streets to try to "save" the public.

The movie is intense.

In watching it, I found myself thinking that this is nothing short of child abuse.

And it scared me to think about the armies of children being programmed to ensure the ongoing growth and political influence of the Radical Religious Right.

Why can't they just let these kids be kids?

To watch the trailer, click here.

To find out where Jesus Camp is playing near you, click here.

23 October 2006

Prisoners of conscience: They're not just for the third world any more

I spent the past weekend at Amnesty International's annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference. There, I was honored to meet two former prisoners of conscience (POCs), who bravely shared their stories.

Rebiya Kadeer had been imprisoned in China for advocating for human rights. The other POC, Carlos Mauricio, an innocent college professor, had been kidnapped and tortured by a Salvadoran death squad two decades ago.

These are typical of the kinds of cases that Amnesty International has been actively pursuing for the past 45 years -- to free people who are imprisoned (and possibly abused or even tortured) solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

However, for most of those 45 years, those cases have originated in faraway lands. Today we see the same things happening here in the U.S. -- people abducted and "disappeared", imprisoned and tortured, without due process. And the definition of "enemy combatant" keeps changing, broadening, so that it now could include someone like me, just for writing something like this that criticizes the government.

The U.S. has become the kind of country that we used to condemn.

22 October 2006

Security vs. Liberty: Specter says one thing, does another

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    -- Benjamin Franklin

A couple of days ago, they announced here in Philly that they are going to discard plans to build a big ugly fence around beautiful historic Independence Hall. In addition, they're going to remove some other unsightly barricades that were put in place after 9/11. They will also undo some post-9/11 compromises to the old Supreme Court Chamber, so that it will once again have the original, authentic look and feel. [Read story.]

In response, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) took advantage of a good media opportunity and said to the press, "You can have security and you can have freedom at the same time, and that's the great balancing act of America."

Oh, really? Then why didn't he think of that before he voted in favor of the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act?

Mark Fiore: Axis of Oops

The nuclear weapons issue is a complex thing. But, with his usual wit, insight, and amazing artistic talent, political cartoonist Mark Fiore nails it in a 90-second animation.

I just had to share it:

[Check it out.]

21 October 2006

Why the tide is turning on the voting machine issue

After the 2004 elections, when pundits questioned the integrity of the electronic voting machines, the Republicans responded by saying that the machines are accurate and everyone should just get over it. They were content because the results were in their favor.

But now they're changing their tune. Republicans appeared on cable news talk shows en masse yesterday to declare their discomfort with the voting machines, and to tell us that we need a paper trail.


Probably because of an article in yesterday's Washington Post, which reported that "[d]isks containing what appears to be software code used in Maryland's touchscreen voting machines in 2004 were delivered anonymously to a former state legislator."

That former state legislator just happens to be a Democrat.

Funny how things change when the shoe is on the other foot.

20 October 2006

The Saddam verdict -- A November surprise?

An article from The Nation tells us that "[t]he US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in the first trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5."

How convenient.

The article goes on to ask, "Why hasn't the mainstream media connected the dots between the Saddam's judgment day and the midterm elections?"


Saddam will surely be found guilty, and will likely get the death penalty.

Will that influence the American voters when they head to the polls two days later? And is the average American voter stupid enough to be swayed by something like this? (The latter, of course, is a rhetorical question.)

Karl Rove couldn't have done better himself.

Olbermann vs. the Military Commissions Act

"We slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing."

    -- Keith Olbermann

I've been a Keith Olbermann fan for a long time, but even more so in recent days, as he boldly exposes the atrocities of the Bush administration on his nightly show on MSNBC.

He gave us one of his best commentaries earlier this week, in response to Bush's signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

[Check it out.]

19 October 2006

Analyzing Bush and his Military Commissions Act

I keep pinching myself, hoping that I'll wake up and learn that the last five years were just a dream. So far, no luck.

Until that happens, I will continue to write about the ever-growing Constitutional crisis in this country, and share other people's writings on the subject.

The latest setback for human rights and the rule of law, of course, is the Military Commissions Act, which George W. Bush signed into law on Tuesday. Bush's comments upon signing the Act were almost as disturbing as the Act itself. I wonder if he actually believes his own twisted, distorted version of reality.

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, has done a pretty good job of analyzing Bush's comments from Tuesday. Check it out: Bush Betrays Democracy and Truth in Signing Military Commissions Act

And, if you don't believe what Rothschild is saying, I again present this press release from the human rights experts at Amnesty International, to back it up: Amnesty International Profoundly Disappointed By Congress' Passage of Detainee Legislation

18 October 2006

Bush trashed Carter's peace deal with North Korea

I'm surprised to learn this from the very-right-wing Fox News, but they're reporting that George W. Bush in 2002 trashed a deal that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had brokered, by which North Korea had agreed to stop pursuing nuclear weapons and even nuclear power.

Apparently, in 1994, "the late North Korean leader, Kim Il Sun, had agreed to every stipulation that Carter proposed, including a freeze of the weapons program, a halt to processing of nuclear fuel, a return of U.N. inspectors and bilateral talks with South Korea. Within weeks, Kim died, but his son and successor, Kim Jong Il, soon notified the Clinton administration that he would abide by the agreements."

Then came the 2000 elections, and George W. Bush's appointment to the Presidency by the so-called Supreme Court.

According to Carter, "All of that has been thrown in the wastebasket. [...] Within a year, the entire framework was destroyed, and North Korea was branded a member of the axis of evil."

[Read more.]

And, of course, North Korea has now resumed its nuclear ambitions as a direct response to Bush's arrogant and belligerent imperialist nonsense.

I have no reason to believe that the Bush administration will handle this in a way that best protects the interests (and safety) of most Americans.

The Last King of Scotland: An all-too-familiar glimpse into the psyche of a dictator

I recently saw the new film The Last King of Scotland. I highly recommend it. This movie gives the viewer a glimpse into the life and psyche of Idi Amin, the charming but ruthless dictator who was responsible for the execution of over 30,000 Ugandan people during his eight-year reign as President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979.

Forest Whitaker gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Amin. He seamlessly shifts Amin's persona from magnetic populist to vengeful tyrant, and back again, repeatedly.

And then you start to read between the lines, and you realize how someone like this, with the right combination of charm, resources, and political backing, can fool the populace into trusting him, into believing he is one of them, and that he wants what's best for the people.

You see how human rights and human dignity start to take a back seat to the leader's personal power agenda.

You see how those who follow without question are rewarded, but how cynics and dissenters start to disappear.

You see torture.

You see horrific examples made of those who "betray" the ruler, those who follow their hearts.

And you start to realize that this could happen anywhere, not just in some distant exotic third-world country.

And then you start to see the parallels in today's world. And in today's USA.

It's a timeless story. Shouldn't we, the voting populace, have learned from it by now?

17 October 2006

Children starve while Americans get fat

Today, October 17th is World Poverty Day, more formally known as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

According to UNICEF, 30,000 children in the world die each day due to poverty.

Even here in the U.S., the richest country on earth, 13 million children suffer from hunger or the risk of hunger due to poverty! They starve while the average American grows fat from a super-sized, sedentary lifestyle.

It's time to share.

Here is your homework for today:

1. Read these sobering statistics about poverty in today's world.

2. Then, on this World Poverty Day (or whenever you read this or think of this), please pass up that dessert or that side order of fries you don't need, and instead donate that dollar or two (or ten) to someone who really needs the calories. To make it easy, here are links to some good, reputable charities for the poor:

    • America's Second Harvest

    • Bread for the World

    • Oxfam

3. And, while you're at it, make an additional (free) click or two to support Amnesty International's campaign to demand justice for the poor and hungry victims of forced evictions in Zimbabwe.

It's the least you can do.

Thank you.

16 October 2006

U.S. Marine Corps shoots the messenger to cover up war crimes

You're investigating the prison conditions at Guantanamo Bay. You uncover clear evidence of torture and other forms of abuse. Gitmo guards even bragged to you about beating detainees. There is no question that laws have been broken.

So you're threatened. You must not reveal your findings, or you will be punished.

This is exactly what's happening today in the U.S. Marine Corps. According to an article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, this "has heightened fears among the military defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners that their careers will suffer for exposing flaws and injustices in the system."

According to an American University law professor quoted in the article, "In one fell swoop, the government is gagging a defense lawyer and threatening retaliation against a whistle-blower. It really points out what is wrong with the detainee legislation that Bush is scheduled to sign on Tuesday: It permits the abuse of detainees to continue, immunizes the wrongdoers and precludes the detainees from ever challenging it in court."

In other words, we have to shoot the messenger. To the Bush administration, this is apparently a preferable alternative to doing the right thing.

15 October 2006

More innocent people released from Gitmo

"There's nobody at Guantanamo that's there for no good reason."

    -- Conservative pundit Sean Hannity, on the Fox News show Hannity & Colmes, 02 March 2006

This past Thursday, 17 more prisoners were released from Guantanamo Bay after it was determined that they were falsely accused.

These men spent years in detention, were probably mistreated, and probably had no idea how long they'd be there or if they'd ever have an opportunity to challenge their detention.

At least these guys eventually did have the opportunity to have their cases reviewed. Many others, I fear, might not be so lucky.

And their situation may become even more hopeless now with the passage of the Military Commissions Act.

Our so-called leaders in Washington clearly don't care about justice. They just want power. They want control. They want to look tough. And they want us -- and the world -- to be very, very afraid.

14 October 2006

America will end on October 17 at 9:35 a.m.

I'm talking about the America that I had come to know and love -- the America that stands for human rights, moral values, goodness and decency.

On Tuesday, October 17, at 9:35 a.m., George W. Bush will sign the Military Commissions Act and abolish some important rights that our founding fathers had placed at the heart of our democracy.

Thereafter, Bush and his agents will have the power to arbitrarily decide that you may be a threat to this nation. They can then lock you up and throw away the key. They don't have to tell you why you're being detained. They can torture you, as long as they don't call it that. They don't have to reveal whatever evidence they might have against you, so there is no way that you'll ever be able to dispute that secret evidence or prove your innocence. You're at their mercy.

This sounds like the kind of thing that goes on in brutal third-world dictatorships. But soon it will be the new American way.

13 October 2006

Victims of fear

It started out as a routine visit to the local shopping mall to buy a couple of new fall blouses. Then came the tap on the shoulder. "Ma'am, would you come with me, please?" It was a very large security guard. He hustled me out of the store and into the corridor.

Very Large Security Guard informed me that another shopper had filed a complaint about me. This other shopper believed that I had been taking photos of her young daughters with the camera in my cell phone.

No sooner had he finished informing me of the charges against me when a hysterical woman approached us, wagging her finger at me and accusing me of being a criminal, or a pervert, or both.

Guilty until proven innocent.

I was stumped. I had never, ever used the camera in that cell phone. I didn't even want a camera in my cell phone. I have a nice digital camera for when I want to take photos. But the camera phone was actually cheaper than the ones without a camera, so I chose to pay less to get a feature that I'd probably never use. That'll teach me.

I looked at Very Large Security Guard and Hysterical Mom and told them that this was obviously a mistake, because I didn't even know how to use the camera in my cell phone. I did recall looking something up in my phone’s contact list a few minutes earlier. Since I wasn't wearing my reading glasses, I likely held the phone out at arm's length to read the display, which may have given the impression that I was taking a picture. But that explanation wasn't good enough.

By this point, Hysterical Mom had been joined by another woman and three young girls, all looking at me as if I'd just killed their puppy. Hysterical Mom gave me a very icy look and said, "She's lying." So I handed the phone to Very Large Security Guard and invited him to see for himself that there were no photos inside.

After what seemed like hours, Very Large Security Guard conceded that he had searched all through my phone and that there were no photographs. But that still wasn't good enough for Hysterical Mom: "She must have sent the picture to somebody and then deleted it!"

So Very Large Security Guard looked at my call history and found that the last call I had made from that phone was several hours earlier, before the mall had even opened.

Still not good enough for Hysterical Mom, who was now asking to get the local police involved, since mall security didn't have the power to arrest me. But, finally, Very Large Security Guard took my name and address, checked my driver’s license, and let me go.

And it occurred to me that this kind of thing is bound to happen - and happen a lot - given the climate of fear that's become so pervasive in our society. Every day we're told to be afraid. George W. Bush keeps telling us that the terrorists want to kill us. The cable TV news channels keep obsessing over the missing white girl du jour. Fear is thrown at us day in and day out, to the point that we're so busy looking over our shoulders and expecting the worst, that we can't just relax and realize that most people are good - even those scary middle-aged ladies fumbling with their cell phones.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Perhaps he had a point. In this post-9/11 world, it is wise to be cautious. But when caution grows into knee-jerk paranoia, it's a sign that something is very, very wrong with our society.

And it's a sign that the terrorists have ultimately won.

12 October 2006

U.S. troop levels in Iraq may not change until 2010 (at least)

According to an article published yesterday by the Associated Press, "[t]he U.S. Army has plans to keep the current level of soldiers in Iraq through 2010."

This, of course, is despite the fact that most Iraqis favor an immediate U.S. pullout.

What hubris!

Haven't we done enough damage?

Haven't we killed or injured enough of our troops?

Haven't we killed or injured enough innocent civilian men, women, and babies?

Think of how much more killing and destruction we can accomplish over four more years. Does it make you proud to be an American?

11 October 2006

For tobacco companies, profits are more important than human life and well-being

According to an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, those huge American tobacco companies are spending millions and millions of dollars to fight various proposed statewide smoking bans.

Big tobacco executives know that they produce an addictive product that causes cancer and death. But they obviously don't care. They will spend huge amounts of money to keep Americans addicted and sick. Profits are more important to them than the health and well-being of human beings.

If they had a conscience, these tobacco execs would find another line of work -- perhaps running companies that do cancer treatment research or alternative fuel development. Maybe then they could redeem themselves.

But I won't hold my breath.

10 October 2006

More deceptions from the Santorum campaign

As a Pennsylvanian, I've been paying close attention to the Santorum-Casey senatorial race, and have remarked previously about the Santorum campaign's deceptive and hypocritical spin tactics.

But Santorum's latest ad campaign takes the cake.

Fortunately, we have this video by the Lancaster-based NBC affiliate WGAL, in which that station's "Adwatch" team picks Santorum's ad apart sentence-by-sentence, claim-by-claim, and sets the record straight.

In summary: The whole thing appears to be false. The voters are being deliberately deceived.

I wish every voter in this commonwealth could see this video before election day.

09 October 2006

Cowboys and nukes

This morning North Korea defied the world and conducted a nuclear weapons test. We shouldn't be surprised. After all, North Korea has been waving nukes at us for years. But George W. Bush never seemed to want to do much about it. His priority instead was to attack Iraq, which did not possess WMDs, and did not pose a threat to us or to its neighbors.

And, to attack Iraq, Bush diverted troops from Afghanistan, which did support terrorists who wanted to do us harm.

Long story short: Bush gets all tough and aggressive when he's dealing with a harmless foe. But when he encounters a real threat, he's all talk. Especially when there's not a lot of oil involved.

So now the Bush administration (you know, the folks who "don't negotiate with terrorists") are pushing for multi-party negotiations with North Korea. Meantime, North Korea is saying that they're just trying to be prepared in case they need to defend themselves against an aggressive imperialist nation like the United States.

And people voted for Bush in the belief that only he could keep us safe.

08 October 2006

Insurgents are getting even better at killing and maiming our troops, but Bush doesn't care

According to an article in today's Washington Post, "[t]he number of U.S troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two years."

This is more than a year after Dick Cheney said, "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Still, George W. Bush keeps telling us that we're winning the war on terror, and that we're going to hang in there and win the war in Iraq.

And Bush keeps telling us that we're fighting in Iraq for some noble cause.

If the cause is so noble, why don't Jenna and Barb volunteer for a tour of duty?

It appears as though Iraqi oil is more precious to Bush than the lives of other people's children.

07 October 2006

Nancy Pelosi's beautiful plans

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has outlined her plans for her first 100 hours as the new House Speaker, if the Dems win the mid-term elections. And her plans are beautiful.

Day One: Break the link between lobbying and legislation.

Day Two: Enact all recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Day Three: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, cut the interest rate on student loans in half, allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients, and increase government funding of stem cell research.

And, above all, "drain the swamp".

So what's the alternative (i.e., if the Republicans retain control)? More of the same: More war, more lies, more bogus terror alerts, more torture, more government corruption, richer billionnaires, and less of everything for the poor and the middle class. Oh, and probably the end of what remains of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.

Shouldn't this be a no-brainer?

06 October 2006

Suing to save America

The bad news: Last month, Congress passed the disgusting detainee legislation that basically shreds the U.S. Constitution and allows George W. Bush to declare anyone an enemy combatant, detain that person forever, and torture them, without allowing them any opportunity to challenge their detention or prove their innocence.

The good news: Bush has not yet signed this new legislation into law (although one must wonder why, since he so aggressively lobbied for it). And this delay has allowed a couple of human rights attorneys the opportunity to file lawsuits in U.S. District Court asking federal judges to strike down key parts of the measure as unconstitutional.

There's a very good article in today's Christian Science Monitor that describes these lawsuits and the circumstances that prompted them. [Read it.]

Will they succeed in saving our Constitution and our long-held American values? I certainly hope so, but I wouldn't bet my next paycheck on it.

But at least something is being done, and that's a good start.

On a side note, I have to point out that it's just so absurd that it has come to this. Our Founding Fathers are surely spinning in their graves.

05 October 2006

War for fun and profit

Political cartoonist Mark Fiore's latest animation takes a clever look at the issue of war profiteering. [Check it out.]

But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The new full-length film Iraq for Sale takes a much deeper look at how corporations are becoming rich off the war (with our tax dollars) while compromising the safety and security of the Iraqi people, our troops, and even their own employees. We hear about it from people who were there -- and family members of those who died there so Dick Cheney can get richer. To learn more about Iraq for Sale, watch the trailer, find a screening near you, or buy the DVD, click here.

04 October 2006

Foley's excuses harm even more people

Yesterday, the lawyer for disgraced Florida congressman Tom Foley informed us that: 1) Foley is gay; and 2) Foley had been molested by a clergy member as a teenager. [Read story.]

What does either thing have to do with Foley's disgusting pedophilic tendencies? Probably not the kinds of parallels that some people might draw from these excuses. And that's what makes me so angry about these kinds of statements.

1) Being gay has nothing to do with being a pedophile. Most gay people are not child molesters. In fact, most pedophiles are actually heterosexual. But, of course, it's convenient to blame gays for all the world's evils.

2) I would think that someone who had been molested would understand the kinds of emotional damage that it can do, and would want to save others from the same kind of suffering, not cause more of it. Foley's lawyer seems to imply that Foley's own experience at being molested turned him into a molester. By that logic, if someone is a rape victim, I suppose she or he would be more likely to go out and rape another person. I don't think so.

Foley's lawyer told us that the congressman isn't making excuses for his behavior. So then what is this?

The implications of these statements are harming even more people. Aren't there already enough victims in this case?

03 October 2006

Pedophile in denial

I've been wanting to comment on the Mark Foley scandal, but it's all been said. The newspapers and the talk show hosts and the bloggers have already exposed the hypocrisy of the fact that this member of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children turned out to be a sexual predator himself. They've exposed the fact that Foley's pedophilic behavior may have been known to the GOP leadership for years, but that they covered it up to protect that Congressional seat. (Politics trumping the welfare of our children -- you know, one of those Republican family values.) And we've read the disgusting instant messages and e-mails.

So all I'll do today is let Foley speak for himself, in a stunning video clip in which he goes on America's Most Wanted and criticizes the "sickos" who prey on children. In other words, in this video he comes down hard on, um, himself -- as he should. [Check it out.]

02 October 2006

The U.S. vs. John Lennon -- and all dissidents

Over the weekend, I saw the new movie The U.S. vs. John Lennon. This documentary focuses on the Nixon administration's fear of Lennon's anti-war influence, and their efforts to deport him because of it.

While the movie provided a stirring trip down memory lane, with a soundtrack that features some of the best music ever written (mostly Lennon's solo stuff), the movie's message hits home today, more than 30 years later.

We see clips of Nixon admninistration officials accusing the Vietnam war protesters of being unpatriotic. We see them tapping Lennon's phone. We hear them lie to the American people about the war. And we hear them say that they're keeping America safe from the Communists.

The movie almost had a happy ending, when Lennon won his battle with the immigration officials and got his green card. And I can't help but think that if he had lost that battle, and had been sent back to England, he might still be alive today, and joining us in our protests against another unjust war. But that was not meant to be.

But we still have Lennon's music, and we still have his words. And, if there is a heaven, he's up there rooting for the good guys, singing "Give Peace a Chance".

For more information about the movie, click here.

01 October 2006

More fun with .50-caliber rifles

There's a shocking video at YouTube that describes the damage that can be done with a .50-caliber sniper rifle. [View it.]

But the most alarming thing about it is not just that it can cause so much damage and so much injury. The problem is not with military use of this military-grade weapon. The problem is that these same weapons can be easily purchased in the U.S. by virtually anyone. They can be easily purchased by you. They can be easily purchased by that weird guy down the street. And they can be easily purchased by any terrorist who wants to take out a few infidels.

They can be easily purchased because the NRA wants it that way. The NRA believes that taking .50-caliber sniper rifles off the streets will lead to a ban on all firearms. Kinda like how banning over-the-counter sale of morphine has led to a ban on all sales of aspirin, Tylenol, and all other OTC painkillers. Oh, wait. What was that logic again?