31 August 2007

New Jersey parents want to shield their kids from reality

Across the river from my hometown of Philadelphia (the City of Brotherly Love), some parents in New Jersey find it "horrifying" that a local elementary school wanted to show its students a film titled "That's A Family".

According to a report by KYW Newsradio reporter Hadas Kuznits, "The film was narrated by children who come from various types of families -- single parent families, ethnically mixed families, families with adopted children, and those with gay moms and dads. That didn't sit well with some parents."

Apparently, these disgruntled parents want to shield their children from the real world. In the real world, we have all those kinds of families and more. But it seems that these parents want our children to be taught to believe that the only valid families are the ones that resemble a 1950s TV show like "Father Knows Best" or "The Donna Reed Show" -- with two straight white parents (a dominant, successful, professional father and a beautiful, subservient housewife mom) caring for two perfect blond children.

But the real world doesn't look like that. And children will discover this fact sooner or later. And the later they discover it, the more confused they will be.

Schools exist to help children develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the real world. Schools do not exist to paint a picture that some bigoted parents might find a more suitable alternative to reality.

30 August 2007

Kenneth Foster's death sentence commuted (in the nick of time)

Not too long ago, I wrote about the plight of Kenneth Foster, who was scheduled to be executed today in Texas for a murder that he did not commit.

Foster was found guilty of driving his friend away from the scene where the friend had committed a murder. Foster was not aware that the murder had taken place, but that doesn't matter in Texas. Under Texas "justice", he should have known. Under Texas "justice", you have to be able to read minds or die.

But today there is good news: At the proverbial 11th hour, Texas Governor Rick Perry commuted Foster's death sentence. Instead of dying today, Foster will spend the rest of his life in prison for the crime of driving a car.

This is a step in the right direction, but there is still something very wrong with this picture, with Foster being locked up forever although he played no intentional role in the crime. I am not a lawyer, but isn't intent supposed to be a big factor when evaluating guilt vs. innocence?

I hope this case will spark some meaningful and effective debate on the Texas "law of parties".

Mark Fiore on health care in New Orleans

Two years ago, New Orleans was drowning.

Now, in his newest animation, political cartoonist Mark Fiore takes a look at the state of health care today in the Big Not-So-Easy.

Check it out: The Doctor Is In

29 August 2007

Black balloons: making CO2 real

The Alliance for Climate Protection has created this 45-second video that illustrates the contribution that each household is making towards climate change.

After watching the video, go to www.climateprotect.org/ah12 to learn more.

But first, please turn that air conditioner down a few notches.

28 August 2007

Why do we have poverty in the U.S.?

Today the media are reporting that the U.S. poverty rate has dropped. Sounds good, right?

Then we look at the numbers and see that the percentage of Americans living in poverty has gone down from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 in 2006. A whopping .3 percent.

Meantime, the number of people without health insurance has increased.

Why do we have any poverty at all in the richest, fattest country in the world? How can we have children who go to sleep hungry, and children who can't afford health care?

I'm sure some Americans throw more food in the trash than others have to eat in a given day.

And there are pets in this country that eat better than some of our children.

Unfortunately, those with the power to do something about it are too busy stuffing their own pockets and don't seem to care about their neighbors in need.

It is said that a society is judged by how it treats its weakest members.

How then will we be judged?

27 August 2007

Gonzo's resignation gives Bush an excuse for more partisan spin

Today we learned that Alberto ("Torture Boy") Gonzales has resigned as Attorney General. This is great news for those of us who believe that human rights and the rule of law are more than just words.

But George W. Bush used this occasion to generate more political spin. In a statement this morning, Bush told us that "[Gonzo's] name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."

Um, no George.

Gonzo's name was dragged through the mud because he supported torture.

Gonzo's name was dragged through the mud because he supported warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

Gonzo's name was dragged through the mud because of the firing of all those U.S. attorneys for political reasons.


The Democrats were not the ones with the political motives here.

And, speaking of political motives, let's hope that Bush doesn't replace Gonzo with a recess appointment.

26 August 2007

A reality check on Women's Equality Day

Today, August 26, is Women's Equality Day. It marks the anniversary of the passage in 1920 of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave U.S. women the right to vote.

We've come a long way in the past century, but we've still got a long way to go before we can enjoy full equality with our male counterparts.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) offers the following list of areas we need to work on:

On average, women still only make $.77 for every dollar a man makes; for women of color the percentage is even less. The boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies are still overwhelmingly male. Working women have no guaranteed medical leave for childbirth, and are often discriminated against in promotions and salary.

A woman's right to safe, accessible, legal abortion is threatened as never before -- as is the availability of birth control and family planning services. One in six U.S. women is a victim of sexual assault, and for many women violence is a part of their daily lives.

Although the proportion of women in elected office is growing, we're still a far cry from parity in policymaking roles. Women make up just 16 percent of our representatives in Congress, 18 percent of governors, and only 23.5% of state legislators across the country.

Articles 1 and 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights assert that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights ... without distinction of any kind, such as ... sex."

But here in the U.S., women are still second-class citizens in many ways.

And as long as the vast majority of power in this country is controlled by white men, I fear that we will remain second-class citizens for a long time to come.

25 August 2007

Iraq fraud whistleblowers vilified -- and tortured

More from the "shoot the messenger" files:

Not only does the White House get to break laws and get away with it, apparently the U.S. military and civilian contractors in Iraq are enjoying the same lack of accountability.

And anyone who dares to blow the whistle can expect to be persecuted -- and prosecuted. Maybe even tortured.

From the Associated Press:

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.

Or worse.

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.


He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers -- all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.

The seller, he claimed, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co.

"It was a Wal-Mart for guns," he says. "It was all illegal and everyone knew it."

So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq.

For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.

And Donald Vance is just one example of many. Many others have been "fired or demoted, shunned by colleagues, and denied government support in whistleblower lawsuits filed against contracting firms."

[Read the full article.]

So the good guys are the ones being punished, while the bad guys get away with their misdeeds.

This is Bush's "liberated" and "democratic" Iraq.

And this is our tax dollars at work.

24 August 2007

More White House secrecy

Nobody should be surprised.

In George W. Bush's ongoing quest to remain above the law and operate in secrecy, with no accountability to the taxpayers who employ him, his handlers are now claiming that "the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers," according to an article in yesterday's Washington Post.

This comes after the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit in May seeking information about the missing e-mails.

Ironically, as CREW pointed out in response, the White House's argument in this case "is contradicted by its own actions and statements. On the White House's own website, the OA is designated as one of the few components in the Executive Office of the President subject to the FOIA. The website also provides a link to the OA's FOIA regulations and identifies an OA FOIA officer."

But, as we have seen, Bush never lets the facts get in the way of his agenda.

With no checks or balances, a spineless Congress, and Bush as arrogant as ever and with nothing to lose, I'm sure we can only look forward to more and more of this.

Remember: This is our tax dollars at work.

Make some noise.

23 August 2007

Foreign policy experts say the U.S. is losing the "war on terror"

I've been saying it for years: Bush's cowboy approach to the "war on terror" is doing more harm than good.

Waging a war of aggression against an unarmed nation that posed no threat to us.

Arbitrarily labeling people as "enemy combatants" and then locking them up forever without charge and with no legal recourse.

Spying on Americans here in the U.S. without having to get a court warrant to certify due cause.

Torturing people.

And so on.

George W. Bush keeps telling us that he has to do these things in order to keep us safe. But, ironically, his tactics are making us much less safe.

My opinion is merely my opinion. However, a group of distinguished foreign policy experts appear to agree.

From yesterday's Christian Science Monitor:
The US is losing the war on terror. That's the assessment of the nation's top foreign-policy, intelligence, and national-security leaders from across the ideological spectrum. In this year's Terrorism Index, a survey released Monday by Foreign Policy magazine, 84 percent of these experts believe the nation is losing the war on terror, while more than 90 percent say the world is growing more dangerous for Americans.

That's prompted a variety of leaders to call for a complete rethinking of the nation's strategy. And some are looking back to the cold war's battle against communism to find models for the ideological struggle against terrorism.
>> Read the full article.

Yes, we need to rethink the nation's strategy. But all the rethinking in the world is not going to change Bush's mind. As of this writing, we're stuck with him for another 1 year, 5 months, and 1 day. That's enough time for him to do a lot more damage.

And I'm not optimistic that Congress will start doing their job any time soon.

God bless America.

Have a nice day.

22 August 2007

Nuclear hazards in Tennessee were kept hidden from the public

According to an article by the Associated Press, "A three-year veil of secrecy in the name of national security was used to keep the public in the dark about the handling of highly enriched uranium at a nuclear fuel processing plant -- including a leak that could have caused a deadly, uncontrolled nuclear reaction."

The plant is located in Tennessee. The public was never told about the danger, until now. Why not?

Well, as the article explains, "In 2004, the government became so concerned about releasing nuclear secrets that the commission removed more than 1,740 documents from its public archives -- even some that apparently involved basic safety violations at the company, which operates a 65-acre gated complex in tiny Erwin, about 120 miles north of Knoxville."

In other words, they're so afraid of terrorism that they're overreacting and keeping important nuclear hazard information from the public. They think they're protecting us from terrorists, but they're really just keeping us in the dark about some real dangers facing us.

Don't the people living near that plant have a right to know about any hazards that exist in their backyards?

If you lived near a nuclear power plant (as I do), wouldn't you want to know if something went wrong?

21 August 2007

New surveillance powers are worse than we thought. (Thanks a lot, Congress.)

In a hurry to get home for a nice, long vacation, Congress voted earlier this month to give Bush expanded authority to conduct warrantless surveillance, under the ironically named "Protect America Act". And now, according to The New York Times, these new powers "could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include -- without court approval -- certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans' business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said." [Read the full article.]

And remember: They are no longer required to get a court warrant to justify their actions. (Of course they ignored that requirement in the past anyway.)

No accountability. No checks or balances. Just the Bush administration doing whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it chooses. And there's nothing stopping them from someday perhaps choosing you.

Hold Congress accountable:

>> See how your Senators voted.

>> See how your Representative voted.

>> Let them know how you feel about their voting records.

And keep it in mind the next time they're up for reelection.

20 August 2007

Republican for the wrong reasons

While many who read my writings tend to assume that I'm a partisan Democrat, I was registered Independent for most of my adult life. I'm not one to follow any crowd.

However, I did switch to Democrat a few years ago, so that I could vote in the 2004 primary elections in 2004. Now I think it's time to switch back to Independent status, given how the new Democratic majority in Congress have shirked their mandate and sold out to the Bush regime.

In choosing a party affiliation, I believe that it's important to consider what each party really stands for. That takes some serious research and critical thought, since actions speak louder than words (especially where politicians are concerned).

Apparently, however, some people give it very little thought, if any at all.

I recently spoke with four Republicans about why they registered Republican and why they staunchly vote along party lines in just about every election. It's clear that they're Republican for the wrong reasons, yet they cling strongly and stubbornly to that label because of what they think it means.

First let's look at the case of Tara, whose husband owns and manages a small pub in a rural area in northern Pennsylvania. Tara explained that they vote Republican, "of course", because they're business owners. What Tara is too naive to realize, though, is that the Republican Party (or at least in its most recent forms) is about big business, not small businesses. The Bush administration in particular works to line the pockets of the richest CEOs who so generously fund the Republican Party. With small businesses, George W. Bush talks a good game, but talk is cheap. Bush and his Republican cronies are no friends to small business. Still, Tara refuses to think about it.

Next, I talked with Sally. Sally has spent the past two decades working in the banking and investment industries. Sally is a Republican because, "As everyone knows," she tells me, "the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility." Oh, really? I asked her, then, to explain the fact that President Clinton left this nation with the largest budget surplus in history, which George W. Bush promptly turned into the largest deficit in history.

When I pointed this out to Sally, her only response was a very defensive warning that Hillary Clinton, if elected, will raise our taxes. As if "tax-and-spend" democrats are somehow worse than the "borrow-and-spend" Republicans of today. I didn't waste my time pointing out that Bush's tax cuts benefit primarily the very, very rich. While Sally is making a comfortable living, she is certainly not one of those who would benefit from Bush's tax agenda. Still, Sally refuses to think about it.

Republican #3 is Emilio, a Cuban-American and a successful salesman for a small company in a large U.S. city. Emilio told me that he is a Republican because "all Cuban-Americans are Republican." However, Republicans seem to be the ones campaigning against immigration to the U.S. by Latinos. When I pointed this out, Emilio brought up Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, as if there were some connection.

And the Lewinsky affair appears to be the defense of choice for Republicans whenever they are confronted with the horrible truths about the real nature of the GOP.

Consider my fourth Republican subject, Bill. Bill supports the GOP because, he tells me, "It's the party of family values." Clinton's affair again. But, like many, he turns a blind eye to the many indiscretions of his Republican heroes. Allow me to cite just a few:

- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, married three times, not only had affairs but also served his first wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer treatments.

- Former Congressman Mark Foley spent a lot of his time hitting on teenage male pages.

- Rev. Ted Haggard, evangelical minister to George W. Bush, was busted for a three-year sexual relationship with a male "massage therapist".

And these cases are merely the tip of the iceberg.

But, to the Republican loyalists, it all pales in comparison to Bill Clinton's acts of consensual adult extramarital fun.

It is said that democracy requires an educated electorate. But clearly we don't have that to the extent that we should. And, therefore, I'm afraid we do not have a true democracy.

17 August 2007

Padilla found guilty on terrorism charges; Amnesty Intl responds

Yesterday, Jose Padilla (U.S. citizen and "enemy combatant" formerly known as the "dirty bomber") was convicted of terrorism-related charges along with two others. The "dirty bomb" was never found. Nor was it part of the trial.

Those who engage in terrorism (or active support thereof) should certainly be prosecuted and punished. But this case was not handled well.

Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, issued the following statement in response to the verdict:

The trial, part of which an Amnesty International observer attended, failed to address a key issue which poses a great threat to all Americans -- detention of a U.S. citizen without charge, as well as alleged torture and ill-treatment during detention. The timing of the U.S. government's addition of Mr. Padilla to the existing conspiracy charge in the south Florida case raises questions. Mr. Padilla's indictment in a U.S. federal court ensured that the circumstances of Mr. Padilla's incommunicado military detention without charge would not be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This verdict, if it stands, cannot be seen as an endorsement of a regime of unreviewable executive detention. President Bush should not take today's ruling as permission to continue to hold Americans outside the law at his whim.

16 August 2007

Gonzo given even more power over life and death

Since the first DNA exoneration took place in the U.S. in 1989, 142 people have been freed via DNA evidence after being wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. Many more have been exonerated via other kinds of late-coming evidence.

Some of those innocent people were freed from death row. These folks are the "lucky" ones, because they had a chance to prove their innocence before they were put to death. How many have not been so lucky? We cannot know.

But do we really want to risk that kind of mistake?

Even if you're in favor of the death penalty, surely you want to take every precaution to ensure that the condemned prisoner is truly guilty, and that you're not killing the wrong person. And often that takes time.

Nevertheless, time may not be an available luxury for prisoners in the future, even those condemned to die.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be getting "expanded powers to hasten death penalty cases under regulations being developed by the Justice Department."

The Post goes on to say that these new rules "would give Gonzales the authority to approve "fast-track" procedures by states in death penalty cases, enabling them to carry out sentences more speedily and with fewer opportunities for appeal if those states provide adequate representation for capital defendants."

There are a lot of things wrong with these new rules. For example, as cited in the article, they do not provide enough oversight to ensure that defendants are receiving adequate legal counsel. They "allow states to ... claim they have a capital representation case that is functional, when in fact it might not be functional at all" and "It may not prevent people from being wrongfully sentenced to death."

The article also contends that "the underlying legislation is faulty because it allows Gonzales, who is the nation's chief prosecutor, to effectively determine the pace of executions."

And there are more reasons to believe that Gonzales is the wrong person to do this. (Click here to read about Gonzales's horrific track record on death penalty cases in Texas.)

It is obvious that these new rules will make it easier for innocent people to be executed. And even one wrongful execution is too many.

How would Gonzales feel if one of his family own members were on death row, wrongfully accused of a crime that he or she did not commit? Does he believe that it could never happen? Or would that be somehow different?

15 August 2007

Abuse of Jose Padilla in U.S. detention led to severe mental health issues

George W. Bush keeps telling us that the U.S. does not torture people. However, two psychiatrists and a psychologist are saying that Jose Padilla's extended detention and interrogation took him past the breaking point, and left him with severe mental disabilities from which he might never recover.

According to The Christian Science Monitor:
Padilla's psychological condition is important because his situation marks the first time an enemy combatant in the war on terror is in a position to present a verifiable claim of abuse at the hands of US interrogators. Padilla's mental health itself is a form of evidence, mental-health experts say, and it strongly suggests that -- at least in Padilla's case -- the government's harsh interrogation and confinement tactics went too far.
Of course, the Defense Department is denying any wrongdoing. They care more about covering their asses than doing what's right.

>> Read the complete article in The Monitor.

14 August 2007

Kenneth Foster sentenced to death in Texas for a murder that his friend committed

Picture this: You're in your car with a friend. The friend jumps out of the car and tells you to wait. 20 minutes later, he comes back and you drive off. Later you learn that your friend had just killed someone. Then you are sentenced to die for that murder, because the jury decides that you "should have anticipated" that your friend would commit that murder.

Sound stranger than fiction? It should, but it's real. And later this month, Texas will execute Kenneth Foster for driving that car unless Governor Rick Perry takes action to stop the execution.

What you can do:

>> Write to Gov. Perry and ask him to stop the execution of Kenneth Foster.

>> Read more about the case.

13 August 2007

Richardson blows it on gay question (no pun intended)

I was a big fan of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. I thought he'd make a fine president, or at least a good vice president. He's got a good background in international relations, energy-related issues, and executive leadership -- all important these days.

But he knocked the pedestal out from under himself last week during a Democratic candidates' forum on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues.

Here is an excerpt:

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?

GOV. RICHARDSON: It's a choice. It's --

MS. ETHERIDGE: I don't know if you understand the question. (Soft laughter.) Do you think I -- a homosexual is born that way, or do you think that around seventh grade we go, "Ooh, I want to be gay"?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I -- I'm not a scientist. It's -- you know, I don't see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. You know I don't like to categorize people. I don't like to, like, answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don't understand.

A choice? With all the persecution that gays face in our society, why the hell would anyone choose too be gay?

On the flip side of the coin, when and how did Gov. Richardson make the choice to be a heterosexual?

I can only shake my head and sigh.

>> Read more about the forum and Richardson's subsequent attempts at damage control.

>> Download some video excerpts from the forum.

12 August 2007

Beijing Olympics: To boycott or not?

One year from now, the 2008 Summer Olympics will be taking place in Beijing, China. The media have already started covering the preparations and glamorizing the whole affair.

But, hidden away from the eyes of the world, far away from the glitz and the pageantry, is a much uglier side of China -- its long and horrible record of human rights abuses.

In a recent press release, Amnesty International (AI) charges that "time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of promoting human rights as part of the Olympics legacy." In the same press release, AI cites a number of key human rights areas that it has urged the Chinese authorities to address prior to the Olympics. These include the death penalty, detention without trial, persecution of human rights activists, and restrictions on media freedom (including Internet communication).

To make matters even worse, it appears that increased detentions without trial are being used to "clean up" Beijing in preparation for the Olympic Games. In other words, the Chinese authorities may be using the Games as an excuse for further human rights abuses.

Some people have called for a U.S. boycott of the Olympics. To that end, a resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing unless China stops engaging in serious human rights abuses.

At first, a boycott may sound appealing. After all, a boycott by the U.S. would certainly focus a lot of media attention on the reasons behind the boycott. And, if a number of other nations followed suit, the resulting economic and political pressures on Beijing might lead the Chinese authorities to reconsider their policies lest they risk further global isolation.

Upon further analysis, however, a U.S. boycott of the Games could create more problems -- for us -- than it solves.

First, it could backfire on Wall Street, due to China's growing influence on the U.S. economy. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, China is now our second-largest trading partner, our fourth-largest export market, and our second-largest source of imports. As the report also points out, "Inexpensive Chinese imports have increased the purchasing power of U.S. consumers. Many U.S. companies have extensive manufacturing operations in China in order to sell their products in the booming Chinese market and to take advantage of low-cost labor for exported goods. China’s purchases of U.S. Treasury securities have funded federal deficits and helped keep U.S. interest rates relatively low." Imagine the effects if China wanted to retaliate for an Olympic boycott.

Second, and more important from a moral standpoint, the U.S. is in no position to point the finger at China with regard to human rights. Yes, China has a horrible human rights record. But our own human rights record has become deeply stained in recent years with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and an Attorney General who thinks the Geneva Conventions are "quaint".

Yes, China needs to stop its human rights abuses and change the policies that lead to those abuses. And I hope that people around the world will be raising their voices about it before, during, and after the 2008 Olympics -- for as long as it takes.

But for the U.S. to boycott the Games would be the height of hypocrisy, and the world knows it. Until the U.S. cleans up its own act, its criticism of China amounts to nothing more than the pot calling the kettle black.

10 August 2007

Steak shortage is good for the environment (and good for you)

Earlier this week, The New York Sun reported that several New York steak houses are being forced to change their menus due a shortage of some classic cuts of prime beef.

According to The Sun, "The production of ethanol, which is made from corn, is one major reason classic cuts of prime beef are becoming more and more expensive."

As the article goes on to explain, "Corn is the primary feed for cattle that produce USDA-grade prime beef. Corn is also the main ingredient for what many believe is the fuel of the future, ethanol. The production of ethanol has not only increased the demand for corn, it has made harvests more profitable for farmers, who receive the fruits of government subsidies when it is sold to ethanol producers."

But is this so bad?

Using the corn for ethanol will help the environment by producing cleaner fuel. Over time, it will also reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

And do we really need to raise so many cows for beef? After all, cows are pretty cool creatures, but they are not so good for the environment. A United Nations report indicates that approximately 18% of all greenhouse gases are passed into the environment by burping cattle. (In defense of the cows, I would imagine that the cud chewing would make anyone emit some nasty stuff.)

Furthermore, eating less meat may be even better for the environment than driving a hybrid car. Scientists at the University of Chicago have discovered that a typical American meat eater is responsible for nearly 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide per year than a vegan, due to the environmental impacts of animal agriculture.

Beyond that, of course, cutting back on the steak is good for your health, since meat consumption has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer and other diseases.

Nevertheless, surely some die-hard carnivores will still want their routine pound of flesh -- grilled, broiled, baked, or fried -- just as we still see all those big, bloated SUVs on the road. (And I would guess that there's probably a good-size overlap of the two factions.) But just as the SUV drivers are willing to pay a small fortune each week to fuel their gas-guzzling vehicles, let them pay a little more for their prime cuts of steak. Maybe then they'll start to care (even if not for the right reasons).

09 August 2007

Mark Fiore: "Aye, Spy!"

In this week's animation, political cartoonist Mark Fiore takes a look at the new wiretap legislation that gives the Bushies more power to spy on you. After all, you may be talking to terrorists.

Check out Fiore's witty yet poignant look at the issue: "Aye, Spy!"

We need this kind of humor and sarcasm to help keep us sane under the circumstances, as our Constitutional rights keep flying down the proverbial drain.

God bless America.

08 August 2007

From the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction files: Air Force charges victim in her own rape

Being raped is bad enough. No person deserves it.

But if you're a member of the U.S. Air Force, it could be just the beginning of an unthinkable nightmare. You could face charges for your own rape.

The story goes like this: A female member of the U.S. Air Force was raped by three of her felllow airmen, and she is now being blamed and could possibly be punished and then publicly registered as a sex offender.

Sounds stranger than fiction, doesn't it? Especially here in the good ol' USA?

Read the full story at Feministing.com: Air Force Charges Victim in Her Own Rape

06 August 2007

Pentagon loses 190,000 guns (which may have fallen into the hands of our enemies)

Remember how Bush and Cheney got re-elected in 2004 because they convinced red-state America that a vote for Kerry would be a vote for the terrorists?

And you know how the Bushies keep telling us that the war in Iraq is an essential element in keeping us safe in the "war on terror" (fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here)?

Well, according to a recent Washington Post article, it seems that our great protector and his cronies in the Pentagon have lost track of some 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols that they had given to Iraqi security forces, "raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq."


It is clearer than ever that this war in Iraq is not making anyone safer. It's only making everyone -- we Americans and our allies, as well as the Iraqi people -- much less safe.

Now will Congress please stop funding this fiasco and bring our troops home? (Sadly, it's just a rhetorical question.)

05 August 2007

In Bush vs. the rule of law, Congress once again votes for Bush

Last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay and affirmed the protections of the Geneva Conventions for prisoners in the "war on terror", George W. Bush responded by convincing Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Congress covered for Bush by making his illegal acts "legal". The Act turned bad policy into bad law.

And now Congress has done it again.

Late Friday, the Senate voted 60-28 in favor of legalizing George W. Bush's warrantless domestic spying program. Then yesterday the House of Representatives followed suit with a vote of, 227-183.

Obviously, Congress cares more about keeping Bush happy than they care about you, your privacy, or your vote. Why force Bush to have to get a court order to spy on you (and thereby have to demonstrate reasonable grounds)? Obviously, they feel it's better to just write Bush a blank check. Let him do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to whomever he wants.

03 August 2007

DiFi approves bigot for Mississippi appellate court

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tries too hard to appear moderate or centrist. In her apparent fear of being labeled with the "L-word", she often crosses over into dangerous territory.

She did it again yesterday, when she voted in favor of Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a known racist and homophobe, for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Mississippi.

According to an article by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, "Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a former Mississippi state court judge nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, has provoked serious concern from civil rights groups who say that his record calls into question his commitment to equal justice and his willingness to protect the rights of workers, consumers and other vulnerable parties."

The article outlines several cases that demonstrate Southwick's troubling record. Read it and be outraged: Leslie Southwick: Another Attempt at Judicial Activism

Mississippi does not need another bigot in power.

Sen. Feinstein should be ashamed of herself.

02 August 2007

More executive privilege: Is this a democracy or a dictatorship?

Today, as expected, Karl Rove ignored a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee and was a no-show for today's hearings regarding the U.S. attorney firings. At the same time, Rove aide J. Scott Jennings did show up but refused to answer any questions. Bush says they don't have to answer. Executive privilege. Talk to the hand.

This "executive privilege" nonsense is getting old, and it's making me angry. This is clearly nothing more than the Bush administration telling the Senate (and, by extension, the American people) that the Bushies can do whatever they want, and that they don't have to account for any of it.

In other words, the White House is above the law.

It's been said that democracy requires a well-informed citizenry. But how can the citizenry be informed if the White House keeps everyone (and everything) in the dark?

Is this a democracy or a dictatorship?

Mark Fiore on achieving peace through -- bombs???

In his newest short animation, political cartoonist Mark Fiore exposes the absurdity of the Bush administration's plans to sell billions of dollars worth of advanced weaponry Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other countries in that volatile part of the world.

Fiore's cartoon characters are able to say very candidly, and with clever irony, what many of us have been thinking (or wish we had thought of).

Check it out: Travels with Smarty

01 August 2007

Gonzales impeachment is on the table

For years, Alberto Gonzales has bent over backwards using semantics to tapdance around the rule of law and any kind of accountability for the Bush administration. Because of this, Americans have been spied on without warrants; U.S. attorneys have been fired for nebulous (and likely political) reasons; and, perhaps most disgusting of all, the U.S. tortures people with impunity.

Will Gonzales ever face justice? Perhaps now there's hope.

Yesterday, six Congressmen who were once prosecutors introduced a resolution directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Gonzales should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) authored the resolution, which reads as follows:


Directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate
whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the
United States, should be impeached for high crimes and

1 Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall
2 investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the
3 House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales,
4 Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes
5 and misdemeanors.

Will this resolution get anywhere? Will Gonzales finally be held accountable, and will this be a first step towards returning this country to the rule of law?

Time will tell. Fingers are crossed.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls for closure of Guantanamo prison

Closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay is something that Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have been calling for for some time. It is a glaring symbol of U.S. disregard for human rights and the rule of law.

Unfortunately, however, the issue hasn't shown up much in the mainstream media. Hopefully that is starting to change. Yesterday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle calling for immediate closure of the Gitmo prison. A few excerpts:

On July 26, Lt. Col. Stephen E. Abraham testified on Capitol Hill that the Bush administration's legal system at Guantanamo -- used to determine which detainees should be held indefinitely as enemy combatants -- relied on shaky evidence and pressured officers to rush hundreds of hearings.

This is profoundly damaging to the United States' reputation around the world.


The practices described by Abraham would not pass muster in a U.S. District Court, but they appear to be acceptable procedures at Guantanamo. A system that sets a double standard for detainees, holding them indefinitely on flimsy or nonexistent evidence, is inherently unfair and highly suspect. This is damaging, because it goes against America's legal traditions and values, which are a model for the rest of the world.

Such a system does nothing to make America safer. In fact, it makes the world a more dangerous place for Americans, increasing the odds our troops will be denied their rights when captured on foreign battlefields.


Detainee abuses reported during the early years at Guantanamo are presumably a thing of the past. But the continued operation of this separate system of justice contributes to the sustained erosion of America's international reputation.

You do not have to be a lawyer to see Guantanamo for what it is: An evasion of U.S. and international law.


Make no mistake: We must track down, prosecute and punish terrorists. But we must never forget we are a nation of laws. This makes us strong, not weak. The Bush administration's failed legal experiment at Guantanamo hurts the United States around the world every day. The time has come to close it down.
>> Read the complete article.