31 January 2008

Rudy, 9/11, and a nation tired of the terrorism hype

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani officially dropped out of the 2008 presidential race, after not doing so well in Tuesday's Florida primary.

Rudy's poor primary results came as a surprise to some people, because last year he had been considered a front-runner.

A lot of pundits are blaming it on the fact that Rudy didn't bother to court the early primary states, waiting to focus instead on Florida.

But I'm hoping that there's another explanation.

I'm hoping that people ignored him at the polls because they're sick and tired of hearing about 9/11 and how frightened they should be.

You see, Rudy ran on a 9/11 platform. As Senator Joe Biden had so cleverly observed, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb, and 9/11."

Rudy seemed to believe that 9/11 had enabled him to prove his fitness as a leader in the "war on terror", and that this was reason enough to elect him.

George W. Bush won reelection in 2004 on a similar platform -- by touting 9/11 and terrorism, and convincing the sheep that only he could keep us safe.

I like to think that America has woken up and can see through that kind of scare-mongering now.

I like to think that Americans are tired of being frightened into supporting bad politics and bad politicians.

I like to think that this is another reason why Rudy lost his White House bid.

And I hope that this voter lucidity will last through November, and that Americans will this time not vote against their own (and the country's) best interests.

30 January 2008

Greg Palast: One Bush left behind

Investigative reporter Greg Palast has some interesting perspectives on Monday night's State of the Union address.

In this excerpt, see how Palast exposes Bush's war on education for poor inner-city kids:
Here's your question, class:

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here's your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, "In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them."

So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 "Pell Grant for Kids," as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they'll have to wake up quickly.
>> Read more.

29 January 2008

Obama's excellent response to the State of the Union address

Last night, Senator Barack Obama provided a powerful response to Bush's State of the Union address.

In his response, Obama got down to the real roots of the issues and how to solve them.

>> Watch the video.

Democratic response to the State of the Union: An agenda of hope which will fall on deaf ears

Last evening, George W. Bush delivered his last annual State of the Union address.

It was basically more of the same old song and dance, same spin, same head-in-the-sand jargon, same scare mongering, same insults to our intelligence.

But Congress clapped, because applause is customary.

I could only shake my head.

But my disgust turned to cautious hope when Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius delivered the Democratic Party's response.

Some excerpts:
We know that we are stronger as a nation when our people have access to the highest-quality, most-affordable health care. When our businesses can compete in the global marketplace without the burden of rising health care costs here at home.

We know that caring for our children, so they have a healthy and better start in life, is what grown-ups do. Governors in both parties, and a large majority of the Congress are ready, right now, to provide health care to 10 million American children, as a first step in overhauling our health care system.

Join us, Mr. President, sign the bill and let's get to work.


You and I -- stand ready -- ready to protect our environment for future generations, and stay economically competitive. Mayors have committed their cities to going green; governors have joined together, leading efforts for energy security and independence; and the majority in Congress is ready to tackle the challenge of reducing global warming and creating a new energy future for America.

So we ask you, Mr. President, will you join us? It's time to get to work.

Here in the heartland, we honor and respect military service. We appreciate the enormous sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.

As governor of Kansas, I am the commander in chief of our National Guard. Over the past five years, I have seen thousands of soldiers deployed from Kansas. I've visited our troops in Iraq, attended funerals and comforted families and seen the impact at home of the war being waged.

We stand ready in the heartland and across this country, to join forces with peace-loving nations across the globe and to fight the war against terrorists, wherever they may strike. But our capable and dedicated soldiers can't solve the political disputes where they are, and can't focus on the real enemies elsewhere.

The new Democratic majority of Congress and the vast majority of Americans are ready -- ready to chart a new course. If more Republicans in Congress stand with us this year, we won't have to wait for a new President to restore America's role in the world, and fight a more effective war on terror.

The last five years have cost us dearly -- in lives lost, in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same, in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere. America's foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies.

Join us, Mr. President, and working together with Congress to make tough, smart decisions, we will regain our standing in the world and protect our people and our interests.
>> Click here to read the full text of the response or watch the video.

Governor Sebelius makes a lot of sense, but it will take more than her polite invitations for George W. Bush to abandon his oily agenda and do what's right for America.

To George W. Bush, "bipartisanship" means both parties doing things his way.

28 January 2008

Amnesty Intl launches new campaign to hold military and security contractors accountable

Blackwater and other security contractors have been involved in numerous crimes in Iraq and elsewhere, but have yet to be held accountable. And that is just wrong.

So Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) has launched a new "Counter Terror with Justice" campaign to do something about it.

Below are some excerpts from an e-mail I received from Larry Cox, Executive Director of AIUSA, about the new campaign:
Imagine you're a security contractor dispatched to Iraq - a place where your greatest fear is being hit by a roadside bomb. But mere days after you arrive, you are gang raped by co-workers... and then pressured by company management to "get over it" or lose your job.

This is the story of 23-year-old American Jamie Leigh Jones, who recently recounted her personal horror in Iraq two years ago as an employee of KBR, Halliburton's former subsidiary, before a House subcommittee.

There are an estimated 180,000 private contractors working in Iraq, yet they seem to operate above the law both in Iraq and the U.S. This culture of impunity allows abuse and killings to thrive - with little recourse for the victims. Amnesty International is working to stop this. [...]

It's been more than 4 years since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Even though the Army's internal reports indicated contractor involvement in the abuses and the Department of Justice (DOJ) established a "Detainee Abuse Task Force" in 2004, it has not prosecuted a single contractor for abuses in Iraq to date. When pressed for answers, DOJ has simply said these cases remain "open" and that investigations are continuing.

Through our new "Counter Terror with Justice" campaign, Amnesty is working to reverse these injustices that further denigrate our nation's reputation around the world. All companies and contractors have an obligation to respect human rights at home and abroad. And the business community as a whole has a wider responsibility -- moral and legal -- to use its influence to promote respect for human rights.

With the stakes growing higher every day, we must move quickly to stop these egregious abuses in the "war on terror." [Through this campaign, Amnesty will:]

• Pressure the Justice Department to expedite investigations and prosecute cases of clear human rights violations by contractors.

• Pressure the Senate to pass a loophole-free version of the Security Contractor Accountability Act, a bill that would ensure that private military and security contractors are not above the law. A similar bill has already passed in the House. [...]

• Drive increased media and public attention to the U.S.'s illegal practices in the war on terror.
I am so pleased that AIUSA is going to step up its work on these issues by launching a whole new program to deal with them.

How you can help:

>> Tell Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate military contractors who torture and kill.

27 January 2008

BBC program about lethal injection (and action items from AIUSA)

The BBC recently ran a program about the problems with lethal injection, and execution in general. The program is aptly titled "How to Kill a Human Being".

If you care about human rights and true justice (not mere revenge):

>> Watch clips from the show.

>> Read more about the death penalty and human rights from Amnesty International USA (AIUSA).

>> Take action on the AIUSA site to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

25 January 2008

Mark Fiore: Buy America

Worried about the U.S. economy? Me too, but it's Friday, so let's have a little fun with it.

In his newest animation, political cartoonist Mark Fiore takes an amusing look at the current economic crisis and the great investment bargains available to oil-rich countries.

As he explains, "The time to buy American has passed. Now is the time to buy America!"

Check it out: Buy America

24 January 2008

Illegal immigration is the #1 issue for California Republicans

According to a new Field poll, "The issue that the largest proportion of [California] GOP voters rates as being most important to them in deciding whom to support for president is illegal immigration (40%)."


As the poll results go on to tell us, "Next in order of importance among Republican's (sic) likely to vote on February 5th is the terrorist threat (37%), followed by the war in Iraq (33%) and jobs/the economy (33%)."

So, in a nutshell, Republicans in the Golden State are more fired up about undocumented Mexican immigrants than they are about terrorism, the Iraq war, or the failing economy -- even though people have been immigrating illegally from Mexico for centuries.

So illegal immigration is nothing new; but now, all of a sudden, it's the Number One issue.

Never mind the fact that our troops are in harm's way in Iraq, fighting a war based on lies and oil. Never mind that the economy is tanking. Those things don't matter to California Republicans as much as the perceived threat posed by that Hispanic-looking fellow you might see on the street.

I can't understand this.

Furthermore, I can't help but wonder how many respondents actually employ illegal immigrants as their housekeepers, gardeners, lettuce pickers, or factory workers.

The evidence would suggest that it's not just a few.

23 January 2008

Obama's speech at MLK's church

This past weekend, to mark Martin Luther King Day, Senator Barack Obama gave a speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. This church is the site where Dr. King began his ministry and his campaign for civil rights and social justice.

I am not a religious person, but I was greatly impressed.

An excerpt:
Unity is the great need of the hour -- the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I'm not talking about a budget deficit. I'm not talking about a trade deficit. I'm not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I'm talking about a moral deficit. I'm talking about an empathy deficit. I'm taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother's keeper; we are our sister's keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we're still sending our children down corridors of shame - schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can't afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.
If you have not yet heard or read the entire speech, click one or both of the links below to catch up and be inspired.

>> Watch the video.

>> Read the full text of the speech.

22 January 2008

Roe v. Wade and the state of reproductive rights today

Today, January 22, is the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, which recognizes at a national level a woman's right to control over her own body.

Today, there is growing concern over whether the Supreme Court, which is now leaning farther to the right, will uphold Roe v. Wade. Indeed, if the Republicans win the White House in the upcoming presidential election, we may well find ourselves reliving the days of back-alley butcher-style abortions and do-it-yourself coat-hanger surgery. That is not what I call pro-life.

But I'm just speculating.

On a more academic note, to mark today's Roe v. Wade anniversary, the American Constitution Society (ACS) has published a new issue brief in which Professor Dawn Johnsen, of the Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington, shares her analysis of the state of reproductive liberty in the U.S. and offers an agenda for the future.

Johnson concludes, "although there is some reason for hope, those who seek to overturn Roe and criminalize abortion have much to celebrate: they have succeeded in making abortion services less available to growing numbers of women and they have changed the public discourse."

>> Download the full issue brief.

21 January 2008

MLK's words about war still ring true

Today, January 21, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While his actual birthday is January 15, the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January each year, to give some workers a nice long weekend.

And it is a well-deserved holiday.

I wish Dr. King were alive today to witness Barack Obama's political success. I think he would be proud of the progress we've made over the past 40 years, but also disappointed at the fact that race is still an issue in the United States today.

But Dr. King is not here, and so we would all do well to mark this holiday by pondering King's words and what he stood for.

To that end, I read and listened to MLK's speech of April 4, 1967, regarding Vietnam, and the relationship between civil rights and peace. And it occurred to me that much of what he said applies to our situation today, as we're trapped in another unwinnable war, sacrificing more American lives, and more civilian lives and livelihoods, for reasons that are not so honorable.

Some excerpts:
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.


What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.


Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.


At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.


If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.


We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
>> Read and/or listen to the full speech.

I am not a Christian, but I am continually disgusted by how today's so-called "Christian" leaders throw Jesus's name around while beating the war drum and hating those whom they fear or don't understand.

Dr. King, on the other hand, was a true Christian, whose words and actions really did reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ.

20 January 2008

Take action: 2 million Native Americans deserve better health care

Haven't Native Americans suffered enough in this country over the past 400 years?

We came over from Europe, stole their land, killed a lot of them, and put the rest of them on reservations, where many remain today in poverty.

The least we can do is ensure that they get good health care, and the Senate could vote as early as Tuesday, January 22, on legislation that would dramatically improve health care for Native Americans.

To that end, the Friends Committee on National Legislation has issued the following message and call to action:
Your senators could vote Tuesday on legislation that would dramatically improve health care for nearly 2 million Native Americans. But the Senate has only scheduled a few hours to consider this legislation. It's possible that opponents of the bill will try and block a final vote, as they have several times over the past five years. Your senators need to hear from you that you want them to make this bill a top priority to pass.

The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (S. 1200) would provide services long available to the rest of the country to American Indians and Alaska Natives. These programs include mental health services, long term care and hospice. Senate approval of this legislation would permit the first modernization of Native American health care in 15 years and save lives.

Take Action

Please contact your senators and urge them to vote for final passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (S. 1200) next Tuesday. Ask them to let you know how they voted. Ask them to oppose all amendments that would weaken the legislation and jeopardize vital improvements to the current health care system.


National Indian Health Board Fact Sheet (PDF)

Latest Information on Modernizing Indian Health Care System

19 January 2008

Take action: Oppose the glamorization of torture in pop culture

I am not a "Trekkie", but I received the following action alert from a colleague at Amnesty International who is involved with this "Trekkies Against Torture" campaign.

You don't have to be a Trekkie to be repulsed by the glamorization of torture in pop culture. And you don't have to be a Trekkie to click the link below and sign the petition. I did.
I would like to ask for your help in an effort to draw attention to the fact the popular culture in the US continues to feature the glorification or -- justification -- of torture. Shows like "24" and "Alias" are feeding into the culture of fear which has been manipulated by this administration to help allow glaring infringements upon civil rights and justify human rights violations.

Please sign the petition at:

More info:

We all know as activists that how the mainstream media portrays human rights violations affects our ability to organize people to fight against such violations.

The web site I have made directs its efforts at one of the most popular (currently) and successful producer/directors in Hollywood: J.J. Abrams. Many of his shows also feature the glorification of torture. He is currently producing and directing the new Star Trek movie. I think this presents a perfect opportunity to pressure him to change his tactics since Star Trek is known for its pro human rights message. Therefore, I am trying to kick off an action using Star Trek as a vehicle. I hope to enlist more mainstream support.

I am working on getting coverage with BBC's The World and am even talking to Stephen Colbert about covering this, but I desperately need more signatures on my online letter to Abrams.

PLEASE come to http://trekkies.againsttorture.com and sign the letter, and then -- just as important -- please forward the request to everyone you know.

You don't need to be a Star Trek fan -- just someone opposed to the glorification or justification of torture in art or pop culture.

18 January 2008

Bill O'Reilly denies that there are homeless vets in the U.S. -- but you can set him straight

I am all for freedom of speech, and I will defend that right for anyone, regardless of whether or not I agree with what they say.

But, at the same time, the public has a right to know the truth. So, if you lie, I want the public to know about it -- especially if you're lying about a problem as big as the plight of our homeless veterans, and especially if you're using the media to tell those lies to a large audience.

As noted in a report by Media Matters for America:
Bill O'Reilly again baselessly challenged John Edwards' claim that "200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously as veterans will go to sleep under bridges and on grates," telling radio host Ed Schultz, "[W]e're still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, Ed. So if you find anybody, let us know. ... They may be out there, but there are not many of them out there." Schultz replied: "Well, they're out there, Bill, don't kid yourself." According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, they are, in the approximate numbers Edwards asserted.
O'Reilly has a pretty sizeable audience, with some 2.3 million people tuning in each weeknight. And many of these people might not do their own research and learn that O'Reilly is either lying or in denial.

But we know. And we need to set O'Reilly straight. And then O'Reilly needs to set the record straight.

And the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA) is going to make it easy for you:

Click here to sign an open letter to O'Reilly, telling him that he needs to set the record straight as soon as possible.

As IAVA so diplomatically puts it, O'Reilly has a great opportunity to help homeless veterans by bringing more attention to the issue, and you can urge him to be part of the solution.

Personally, I suspect that O'Reilly's ego will not let him correct his mistakes, but I'd love to be proven wrong on that score. The more signatures we can get on IAVA's letter, the more pressure we will put on him. We can't let him think that he can get away with his lies and denials.

Our veterans deserve better.

17 January 2008

Tell your senators to vote against torture

Sadly, some Americans, including our new Attorney General, don't want to admit that waterboarding is torture, and therefore illegal, and therefore beneath us as a nation.

These people refuse to condemn or stop the use of waterboarding even though it is forbidden by the Army Field Manual and was broadly condemned when it was used by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.

We're America. We're supposed to be better than that.

But apparently we're not.

So, since we won't be moral for its own sake, Congress will have to legislate morality for those in our government who insist on brutally torturing people in our name.

From Amnesty International USA, here is a call to action. Please click one of the links below and ask your senators to support an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization conference report that would restrict all US agents to the interrogation techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual.
In December, the House voted for an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization conference report that would restrict every agency and US agent, even the CIA, to the interrogation techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual. The manual specifically prohibits several of the techniques alleged to have been used by the CIA in secret prisons, including waterboarding, sexual humiliation and the use of dogs.

With the use of waterboarding by the CIA being publicly confirmed, and the refusal of the Attorney General to state that simulated drowning is torture, a favorable Senate vote for this amendment is critical to stopping the use of torture by any US agent, anywhere in the world.

Write your Senators and ask that they vote to end the use of interrogation techniques that amount to torture or ill-treatment.
>> Take Action Now.

16 January 2008

Huckabee wants to "amend the Constitution" to "God's standards"

Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told an audience that he wants to "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards."

Of course, Huckabee will surely put himself in charge of determining God's standards.

Never mind the fact that the President of the United States must take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And never mind the fact that the Constitution he must protect includes the First Amendment, which explicitly states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

You see, Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who says on his campaign website, "My faith is my life - it defines me. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives."

How is this not a conflict of interest?

How is Huckabee's religious platform not unconstitutional?

Can Huckabee win the Republican nomination and the presidency? Prior to 2004, I would not have thought so. But then the American people reelected George W. Bush.

And, if Huckabee did win the presidency, would Congress roll over and do his bidding, as they have for Bush, lest they be labeled ungodly?

This would be particularly frightening.

15 January 2008

Gulf News: How the Arab world really feels about Bush

George W. Bush is in the Middle East, allegedly to drum up support for a peace deal.

So what does he do to promote peace? He sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, of course!

But that's not all he's doing to promote peace. He is also trying to convince various Arab countries to side with him against Iran. (Never mind that pesky little NIE report that indicated that Iran had long since halted its nuclear program.)

Bush managed to fool a lot of Americans for way too long. But he's not fooling the folks in the Middle East.

In a January 10 editorial, Gulf News published an editorial that started out like this:
Dear Mr. President;

Lest you forget. Invasion of Iraq. Thousands of dead. Looting the National Museum. Disbanding the Iraqi army. Donald Rumsfeld. Shock and Awe. Jay Garner. Paul Bremer. Inciting sectarianism. Abu Ghraib. Thousands of detainees without charges. Torture. Oil. Ghost WMDs. The Niger connection. Halliburton. Blackwater. Deadly security contractors. Mercenaries. Fallujah. Haditha massacre. Blind support of Israel. Instigating the suffering of Gaza. Ignoring the expansion of illegal colonies. Defying United Nations resolutions. Securing "a Jewish State". Allowing Israelis to extend the destruction of Lebanon in the 2oo6 war. Providing Israel with new Bunker Buster bombs to attack Lebanese towns. The War on Terror. "The Crusade". Clash of civilisations. Where is Osama Bin Laden? Afghanistan. Bagram massacre. Bombing media offices. Guantanamo Bay. Kangaroo courts. Indefinite detention. Presidential orders to ignore Geneva Conventions. "Unlawful enemy combatants". Illegal National Security Agency wiretapping. Fingerprinting visitors. Black prisons. Kidnapping foreign citizens on foreign lands. Khalid Al Masri. Abu Omar. Maher Arar. Central Intelligence Agency. "Aggressive interrogation techniques". Destroying the torture tapes. Iran tension. Isolating Syria. Embracing Syrian opposition Iraq style. The Chavez coup. Denial of global warming. Rejecting Kyoto Protocol. Marginalisation of the United Nations. John Bolton. Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank. Carl Rove. Alberto Gonzales. Firing attorneys. Nepotism. False democracy promises. Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney.
And later it goes on as follows:
Mr President;

It has been reported that you are here to "lecture" us on democracy and human rights. But with a record like yours, you will not be very convincing. The people you are addressing have greater respect for human rights and dignity.
>> Read the full editorial.

14 January 2008

Appeals court rules that Gitmo detainees are not "persons" (and that torture is to be expected)

Just when I thought I couldn't be more disgusted with the torture being done in our name and with our tax dollars, another sickening news report comes along:

According to McClatchy Newspapers, a federal appeals court in D.C. "threw out a suit by four British Muslims who allege that they were tortured and subjected to religious abuse in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a ruling that exonerated 11 present and former senior Pentagon officials."

Why? Because "the detainees captured in Afghanistan aren't recognized as 'persons' under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they were aliens held outside the United States."

Furthermore, the court rejected other claims "on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were 'foreseeable.'"

So, according to the court, the Gitmo detainees are not persons, and the torture should have been foreseeable (in other words, torture is to be expected). In fact, the court said that "the interrogation tactics, which Rumsfeld first authorized in 2002, were 'incidental' to the duties of those who'd been sued." Ouch.

Whether or not the court sees the detainees as persons, they are human beings. As such, they have human rights, and those human rights were violated.

I hope the Supreme Court will set things straight. But I shall not hold my breath.

13 January 2008

Musharraf says U.S. needs to stay out of the war on terrorism in Pakistan

Is Osama bin Laden still alive? This came into question recently when it was finally revealed that the late Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto had told David Frost in an interview on Nov. 2, 2007, that Omar Sheik had killed bin Laden. (Watch the YouTube video. Her statement on the subject starts at around 6:10.)

But I suppose that's neither here nor there. Osama bin Laden apparently doesn't matter, even though it is believed that he and his al-Qaeda terrorist network were behind the 9/11 attacks. No big deal, bro. George W. Bush feels bin Laden is not worth spending much time on.

On the other hand, I happen to believe that we (Americans) are in much less safe since the Bushies took their eye off the ball in Afghanistan in 2002 in order to instead invade Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 and which (at the time) had no significant ties to terrorism.

So now al-Qaeda is indeed in Iraq, because we are there.

And, according to our own CIA, they've been building major training camps in Pakistan.

Remember Pakistan? Run by Pervez Musharraf, whom George W. Bush refers to as "a loyal ally in fighting terrorists"?

In fact, Musharraf is such a loyal ally in fighting terrorists that he is now saying that "U.S. troops are not welcome to join the fight against al-Qaida on Pakistani soil."

It really doesn't matter whether Osama is dead or alive. We have easily created enough angry Muslims to pose a sufficient threat without Osama's leadership.

And we blew it to the point where we're not going to get any cooperation from Pakistan (or anyone else) to get to the heart of the terrorist base.

And, sadly, Pakistan is probably right. Look at what messes we've made in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We attacked Iraq just under five years ago, and the poor Iraqi civilians are still reeling. Many insist that their lives were better under Saddam.

No wonder Pakistan wants us to keep our distance.

Still, Pakistan is harboring al-Qaeda, and we probably would need Musharraf's support to do anything about it.

You see, the answer isn't necessarily a military one, at least not by itself. We need to get back to the practice of diplomacy, which in the long run would be much more effective than unilateral troop surges in addressing the threat of terrorism.

Even though Bush doesn't waste any time on it, we should, and the next president should.

Only then can we have any positive influence in the world. Bush's policy of "might makes right" just hasn't cut it.

11 January 2008

Take action: Defend science from politics

Ever since the Bush administration took office seven long years ago, it has been manipulating, suppressing, and distorting science to fit its own corporate and ideological agendas.

Now the Union of Concerned Scientists wants to ensure that this nonsense is not carried forward with the next administration.

You can help.

Below is some background info and a call to action from the Scientific Integrity Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

[Please] take just five minutes to defend science from political interference.

In February 2004, 62 leading scientists -- including many Nobel laureates and former presidential science advisors dating back fifty years -- issued a statement to bring attention to the Bush administration's manipulation, suppression, and distortion of science. In the years since, more than 12,000 scientists from all fifty states have endorsed the statement. A complimentary citizens' call-to-action, which echoes the scientists' concerns, has earned support from tens of thousands of non-scientists.

We know that the misuse of science won't end unless the next administration understands the importance of independent science to informed decisions about our health, safety, and environment. That's why we're kicking off 2008 by shifting the focus from the misdeeds of this administration to the responsibilities of the next one.

Here's how you can help:

If you're a scientist, engineer, or advanced health professional, please sign the scientist statement on scientific integrity today.

If you're a non-scientist, you can still help! Sign the citizens' call-to-action.

We'll be using both documents to encourage presidential candidates to commit to restoring scientific integrity to federal policy making. Your last chance to sign the scientist statement on scientific integrity or the citizens' call-to-action is January 25, 2008.

Once you’re done, please tell your friends and colleagues about this last chance opportunity—scientists and non-scientists alike.

Science has been misused on issues as diverse as global warming, childhood lead poisoning, prescription drug safety, endangered species, and air pollution. The scientist statement and the citizens' call-to-action have put the problem of political interference in science on the public radar -- and have served as the foundation of our efforts to restore scientific integrity to federal policy making. Now it's time to look toward the next administration.

Please help us start off the new year on the right foot by signing the scientist statement on scientific integrity or the citizens' call-to-action. Remember, the deadline for signing is January 25, 2008.

10 January 2008

Reader feedback: John Yoo should be disbarred

In response to my earlier post about Jose Padilla's lawsuit against former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, a reader sent me the following information on how citizens can file a complaint to have John Yoo disbarred in Pennsylvania, and asked me to pass it along anonymously.


So far, it appears that no one (that includes every lawyer in Pennsylvania) has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board to get John Yoo disbarred for failure to support and defend the Constitution or for knowingly or negligently providing incorrect advice (otherwise known as malpractice) to the Justice Department.

As a member of the Pennsylvania bar, Yoo swore to defend and support the U.S. Constitution. The allegations in the Pedilla (sic) litigation, if proved, would form a clear basis for disbarment proceedings against Yoo. John Yoo's Pennsylvania Bar membership number is: 69500

Filing a complaint is easy: Instructions are available at http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/faqs/report_consumer.php and forms are available at http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/forms/consumer.php[.]

Since Yoo is a resident of California, the complaint is best filed in the Philadelphia district office of the Board (the instructions direct filings depending upon place of residence in Pennsylvania, provide no instructions for out of state residents, but indicate that wherever filed they will be forwarded to the correct office for investigation):

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Disciplinary Board
District 1 Office
16th Floor, Seven Penn Center
1635 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Providing your readership with this information would be a great public service.

I am not a lawyer, so I cannot speak to whether or not Yoo's actions are just cause for disbarment.

I would be interested in hearing from any attorneys who might want to comment on this.

Jose Padilla is suing John Yoo over detention and torture

Jose Padilla, the American who was convicted last summer of terrorism conspiracy, is suing John Yoo, a former Bush administration official who played a big part in developing the legal "justifications" for detention without charge, torture, and other atrocities that Padilla has suffered during his years in custody.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the lawsuit is seeking only $1 in damages, "seeking mainly a judgment declaring that the policies violated the Constitution."

"This is ultimately about right and wrong, not money," said Padilla attorney Jonathan Freiman, a professor at Yale Law School.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in northern California.

Might we see justice? Or will the Bush administration resort to its usual tactic of touting "state secrets" to protect Yoo and avoid any kind of accountability under the law?

09 January 2008

Musharraf blames Bhutto for her own assassination

I was sickened by the news a few days ago that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is blaming the late opposition leader Benazier Bhutto for her own assassination.

Musharraf told CBS's 60 Minutes show that Bhutto was to blame because she was standing up in a car when it happened, allegedly making herself an easy target. Musharraf said that his government did everything he could to provide security for Bhutto.

Musharraf said, "For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers."

OK then. So, according to Musharraf, it's all Bhutto's fault, not the fault of the gunman who shot her. She apparently deserved to die for the crime of wanting to stand up and connect with the people.

Meantime, Bhutto's widower has called for a U.N. investigation into the assassination; but, of course, Musharraf has said he doesn't need any help with the investigation.

According to Musharraf, it's settled.

This is Musharraf's idea of justice.

08 January 2008

Guantanamo: Six years of injustice -- and counting

January 11, 2008, will mark the sixth anniversary of the first arrival of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

While some of Gitmo's residents probably are terrorists who want to kill Americans, we have reason to believe that many others are actually innocent of any ties to terrorism and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were arrested due to an unfortunate language misinterpretation, or were arbitrarily sold to U.S. troops by bounty hunters.

And, as of this writing, only 10 Gitmo detainees have ever been charged with any crime.

In fact, a study by Seton Hall University found that 55 percent of Gitmo detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

According to the same study, only eight percent were characterized as al-Qaeda fighters. 40 percent of the remaining detainees have no definitive connection with al-Qaeda at all, and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban!

Imagine being an innocent person locked up in a 6.5' x 8' cage and mistreated for six years straight -- 2,191 days -- without charge, and with no real means to challenge your detention or prove your innocence -- just an unfair military tribunal system that has been condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights groups as a travesty of justice. But, you see, the Bushies say that the Gitmo detainees are "the worst of the worst" and therefore don't deserve basic human rights.

In other words, they're presumed guilty until proven innocent -- but they have no opportunity to prove their innocence. Catch-22.

Imagine the helplessness, hopelessness, and despair that the innocent detainees must feel. And think of their families. These innocent detainees are not just numbers; they are fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, and friends. And some of them were just kids when they were arrested.

Congress blessed this horrific system when it passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which turned a really bad policy into really bad law.

Congress should be ashamed. And Congress should waste no more time in correcting that mistake.

We need to close Guantanamo -- a national embarrassment -- and give each detainee a fair trial, in accordance in international law. Sort them out in a credible court of law, release the ones found innocent, and punish the true bad guys.

Why is a fair trial so unacceptable to the Bush administration -- and to Congress?

FOX News cites African-Americans who have not contributed to Obama campaign

FOX News has stooped to a new and ridiculous low in its role as the official propaganda instrument of the right wing.

Here is a summary from Media Matters for America, with the details:

FoxNews.com headline: "Obama: No Cash From Denzel, Spike, Motown, Despite Oprah Backing"

Summary: A January 6 FoxNews.com Fox411 blog post featured the headline, "Obama: No Cash From Denzel, Spike, Motown, Despite Oprah Backing," and listed several persons it described as "heavy hitting black celebrities" who had not "join[ed]" talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in donating to Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) presidential campaign.

>> Read the full story.

07 January 2008

Minorities and the American electorate

This is an historic election year in the U.S. For the first time ever, the pool of Democratic presidential candidates includes a woman, an African American, and a Latino. And, better yet, the first and third spots in the Iowa caucuses went to the African American and the woman, respectively.

Recent polls show Obama and Clinton in first and second place as we move towards Tuesday's New Hampshire primaries. And, as the campaigns move on from there, it will be interesting to see how the two will fare in the various demographic regions of this great nation, particularly in the conservative south.

I couldn't imagine this happening 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Until now, white men have run this nation.

I vaguely remember Shirley Chisholm running for president in 1972, and Geraldine Ferraro running as the vice-presidential candidate with Walter Mondale in '84. But those campaigns were unsuccessful novelties. On the other hand, Obama's current success, and Clinton's, don't feel like novelties.

This could be a major step forward for social progress in the U.S. -- or not.

It is a good sign that Obama won the majority of votes in the very white state of Iowa. Some are touting this victory as proof that the United States is no longer as racist as it was in previous years.

But is this really the case? Has America finally become a color-blind nation?

Some reports have attributed Obama's success to the youth vote. Unfortunately, though, we've still got a lot of old racists around.

I have friends in the U.S. south, and I read the newspapers, and I know that racism is still alive and well in much of the U.S., particularly south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

I recently saw a corporation's advertisement rejected because it depicted a white hand and a brown hand shaking in partnership. The picture had to be dropped from the ad campaign because it would likely offend the company's southern customers.

And, of course, we've got the Jena Six as probably the most visible case of race-based violence in the American south today, preceded by the Jasper, Texas, case of 1998 in which a black man was tied to a truck and then dragged for two miles to his death -- because he was black.

Given these blatant examples of modern-day racism, we cannot assume that Obama will win every state. And those same states that hold blacks as second-class citizens also seem to have a problem with the concept of women in power. (A recent comment from a Georgia-based acquaintance regarding women in business or politics: "We don't let our women work.")

Hopefully these red-state mindsets are shrinking. And hopefully the rest of the nation will make up for those archaic attitudes.

But it's not going to be a free ride. If Obama or Clinton wins the Democratic presidential nomination, he or she will have to face the right-wing smear machine as well as die-hard prejudices.

Hopefully the public at large -- inside and outside of Dixie -- will see through it all.

06 January 2008

Uzbekistan abolishes the death penalty

Amnesty International has documented countless egregious human rights violations in Uzbekistan.

However, Uzbekistan is ahead of the U.S. in one human rights area: On January 1, Uzbekistan abolished the death penalty in that country.

Here at home, 36 states in the U.S. still engage in state-sanctioned killing of prisoners using citizens' tax dollars. So do the U.S. government and the U.S. military.

So, in that sense, we are less civilized than Uzbekistan.

05 January 2008

From bad to worse? China to switch from firing squads to lethal injection for executions

China has decided to phase out the traditional firing squads in favor of lethal injection for future executions.

They think lethal injection is more humane.

However, here in the U.S., recent evidence suggests that lethal injection often does not work as expected, and can cause a slow, excruciatingly painful death.

As a result, executions have been put on hold in many states in the U.S. pending a decision by the Supreme Court as to whether or not lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment. The case (Baze v. Rees, No. 07-5439) will be argued on Monday, January 7.

China will not reveal its actual lethal injection protocol, so we can't determine whether it's "better" or "worse" than what we've been using here in the U.S. But can any form of execution really be considered humane? The human rights community doesn't think so.

In response to this development in China, Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific director for Amnesty International, said, "The extension of the lethal injection program flies in the face of the clear international trend away from using the death penalty and ignores the problems inherent in this punishment."

Baber continued, "Arbitrary application, miscarriages of justice, including executing the innocent, and the cruel and inhumane nature of the death penalty cannot be solved by changing the method of execution."


We need to stop this state-sanctioned killing worldwide. We have to stop the absurd practice of killing people who kill people in order to show people that killing people is wrong.

The death penalty constitutes revenge, not justice.

04 January 2008

John Edwards' amazing Iowa speech

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards took second place in the Iowa caucuses last night.

And then he gave a truly inspiring speech about health care, poverty, and other injustices in the U.S. today.

>> Watch the video.

03 January 2008

New Jersey assemblyman says blacks should thank the Lord for slavery

Today, January 3, a committee of the New Jersey Assembly will begin considering a bill that would make Jersey the first northern U.S. state to issue a formal apology for the state's historic role in slavery.

This measure would be purely symbolic.

According to an article by the Associated Press, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican, is not in favor of the bill. He said, "If slavery was the price that a modern American's ancestors had to pay in order to make one an American, one should get down on one's knees every single day and thank the Lord that such price was paid."

In other words, according to Assemblyman Carroll, the blacks should be thanking the Lord for the fact that their ancestors were slaves, because that's how they came to be Americans. If not for slavery, they'd still be in Africa. Praise Jeeeeeesus!

Just when I thought the right wing couldn't stoop any lower....

02 January 2008

2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq

The end-of-year numbers are in. 2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq since this war first began in 2003.

U.S. troop deaths in Iraq in 2007 added up to a very sad total of 901.

These are not numbers, folks -- they are people. They are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, nephews, nieces, cousins, and friends.

And now they are dead.

And for what?

01 January 2008

U.S. troops on standby to seize Pakistan's nukes

It's not enough that the U.S. military is overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's not enough that Dick Cheney is itching to attack Iran.

Now we might have to intervene in Pakistan -- with nuclear implications.

According to an article in yesterday's edition of the British newspaper The Herald, the U.S. already has special forces "on standby to seize or disable Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the event of a collapse of government authority or the outbreak of civil war following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto."

This is allegedly to prevent Pakistan's nukes from falling into the hands of terrorists who might use them against Israel or against U.S. interests in the region.

So apparently now we have the right to invade any country in which the slightest threat might (or might not) exist, funded by your tax dollars and mine, in the name of the "war on terror".

This is getting ridiculous.