31 March 2008

Are Clinton donors trying to buy a candidacy?

I just found a disturbing article from last Thursday's New York Times titled "Clinton Donors Warn on Super Delegate Fight".

The article starts out like this:
Leading contributors to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton intensified their effort to keep the Democratic presidential contest alive on Wednesday and urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stay out of the superdelegate fight, admonishing her for suggesting that the candidate ahead in pledged delegates - now Senator Barack Obama - should become the nominee.

"This dynamic primary season is not at an end," said a letter to Ms. Pelosi, which was signed by 21 top Democratic fund-raisers. "Several states and millions of Democratic voters have not yet had a chance to cast their votes."

The letter, which carried threatening overtones in noting that many signatories were major Democratic donors, highlighted the deepening rift inside the party among supporters for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. While Ms. Pelosi has declared her neutrality in the race, she has said that she believes that the party's superdelegates should not overrule the will of the voters and should back the candidate with the most pledged delegates.
I was particularly struck by a few words in the third paragraph:
... threatening overtones in noting that many signatories were major Democratic donors.
This seems to imply that these Democratic money sources are trying to blackmail Pelosi and the party in general in order to secure a Clinton candidacy.

This is not how a democracy is supposed to work.

30 March 2008

Bush does more bragging about his economy

When I heard George W. Bush's latest weekly radio address, I wanted to throw up.

Of course, that's my usual reaction to our president's condescending-though-language-challenged propaganda, but I continually marvel at how stupid he apparently thinks we are.

This time, he once again talked up the tax rebates we'll be getting. $600 per person. $1200 per couple. This, he suggests, will send us all out shopping for new video game systems and large-screen TVs, and will save this country from the looming recession. It's the familiar old shopping cure. Like after 9/11. And during Katrina. Works every time. Or so he would have us believe.

And then he told us how he put on his red cape and saved American homeowners from foreclosure by championing a refinancing program. What would we do without his heroic efforts on behalf of lower-income Americans and the middle class?! (Note: Facetious rhetorical question.)

George W. Bush, as a failed businessman, drove a string of companies into the ground. And, for some reason, apparently the American electorate believed twice that he wouldn't do the same with this country. Go figure.

So now does anyone really believe that their forthcoming $600 check will save this nation from a recession?

29 March 2008

Reminder: Earth Hour tonight at 8:00 pm

It started last year in Sydney, Australia, when businesses and private citizens turned off their lights and other non-essential appliances, leading to a 10.2% energy reduction across the city.

This year, Earth Hour is going global.

Tonight (Saturday, March 29) at 8:00 pm, turn everything off for one hour. No lights. No televisions. No radios. No microwaves. Just chill out and feel the movement growing as the world unites in a small but powerful step to draw attention to our energy and environmental crises.

Tell your family, friends, and neighbors.

And learn more at the Earth Hour website: www.earthhour.org

28 March 2008

Chomsky stands up for what's best for the Iraqis

According to Bush, we went into Iraq to "liberate" the oppressed Iraqi people. And now they're even more oppressed.

And our troops must stay there, and the status quo must remain the same, because Bush wants to save face. And, as MIT Professor Noam Chomsky points out, it's obviously an aggressive imperialistic thing.

In this video, Chomsky (one of my all-time heroes) speaks the truth about the neocon agenda vs. what's best for the Iraqi people. Bush doesn't listen to what the Iraqis want. Instead, he tells us what he wants us to believe they need. And that, along with everything else (like the true consequences and the true war crimes), is subject to the spin machine.

Check out this video and share it. And get mad and get active.

27 March 2008

This Saturday, 8:00 pm: Participate in Earth Hour

This Saturday, March 29, at 8:00 pm, concerned people around the world will make a powerful environmental statement.

For that one hour, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm, we will turn off all our lights and non-essential appliances. No computers, no televisions, no radios, no microwaves. If a million people participate, think of all the energy we'll save in just that one hour.

From to the Earth Hour website:
Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

It started with an Earth Hour in Sydney Australia last year, and now it's grown worldwide. Let's make it big, and let's keep growing it each year (and every day).

About Earth Hour

On March 31 2007, for one hour, Sydney made a powerful statement about the greatest contributor to global warming - coal-fired electricity - by turning off its lights. Over 2.2 million Sydney residents and over 2,100 businesses switched off, leading to a 10.2% energy reduction across the city. What began as one city taking a stand against global warming caught the attention of the world.

In 2008, 24 global cities will participate in Earth Hour at 8pm on March 29. Earth Hour is the highlight of a major campaign to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to take the simple steps needed to cut their emissions on an ongoing basis. It is about simple changes that will collectively make a difference – from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty, to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby.
As of this writing, 225,409 people have signed up for Earth Hour 2008, and 16,216 businesses have signed up.

>> Sign up to participate, sign up your town/city, or just learn more.

26 March 2008

In presidential politics, what is true strength?

I was talking informally with a small group of people when the subject of this year's presidential race came up (as it usually does in conversations these days).

They expressed their disappointment and disgust with how the Clinton and Obama campaigns have been attacking each other. And they said that McCain's advantage is that he appears strong -- even more so these days with the Dems acting like children.

They may have a point. However, McCain's strength is an illusion.

I respect McCain's past military service to his country, especially for the time he served as a POW in Vietnam. That took strength. But his political career is another matter, especially in recent years.

McCain, once considered a "maverick" for ignoring the will of the Republican party to legislate for what is right, has since sold his soul to the base. He wants a 100-year war with Iraq. And McCain, a torture survivor himself, voted against a bill that would forbid the CIA and other U.S. agents from engaging in torture. That's not a sign of strength. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

What is true strength?

It takes strength to stand up against the use of torture.

It takes strength to stand up for an end to our involvement in Iraq.

It takes strength to stand up for the rights of the middle class, the working class, and the poor in a government that's been so corrupted by an unhealthy relationship with big business and the monied special interests.

And it takes a lot more strength to run for president as a woman or an African-American than it does as a white man.

25 March 2008

Chris Matthews blames the Clintons for our 4,000 dead troops in Iraq

MSNBC talking head Chris Matthews may be from Philadelphia, but he doesn't show a lot of brotherly love. On his show Hardball, he routinely talks over his guests, rarely giving them time to complete a thought. And his rants are not always well thought out.

And now he has outdone himself. As Media Matters for America reports, Matthews made an appearance on the March 24th edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe and proceeded to imply that the Clintons are to blame for our 4,000 dead U.S. troops in Iraq:
We're stuck in Iraq; 4,000 people are dead now because of decisions made by politicians like the Clintons.
Sure, Hillary voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq as a last resort. But Hillary didn't insist that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and neither did Bill. Bush and the neocons did.

Hillary didn't claim that Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, and neither did Bill. Bush and the neocons did.

Hillary didn't suggest that Iraq had ties with al-Qaeda, and neither did Bill. Bush and the neocons did.

Matthews didn't mention Bush or the neocons. Just the Clintons.

I haven't been too pleased with the Clintons these days because of all the negative campaigning they've been doing. But don't blame them for things they're not responsible for. It's not fair, and it's just plain lazy.

24 March 2008

The death toll hits 4,000 (Is that patriotic?)

On Easter Sunday we reached the newest grim and disgusting milestone in Iraq: 4,000 dead U.S. troops.

This is George W. Bush's legacy -- along with the high price of oil, the tanking economy, torture, illegal spying, and a Constitution in tatters.

And they call me unpatriotic because I don't like it.

This is not the America that I was raised to believe in.

23 March 2008

Christian Action League protests a policy against bullying gays at school

What would Jesus do? If Jesus saw a bunch of kids bullying a gay child at school, do you think Jesus would cheer the bullies on?

I don't think so.

But some of Jesus's self-proclaimed followers are standing up for the bullies.

In a recent article on the website of the Christian Action League (CAL), titled Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Approve Pro-Homosexual Anti-Bullying Policy, the organization criticized an anti-bullying policy passed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolia that includes the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

According to the CAL article:
This is nothing but the pro-homosexual agenda working to brainwash our kids, to have them believing that these odd behaviors should be billed as normal.
So what do they think is "normal"? Beating kids up because they don't meet someone's subjective standards of gender-based appearance or behavior?

It goes on:
"What the policy does is that it really ties the hands of anybody who might disagree (with the homosexual agenda)," [Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of the North Carolina Education Alliance] said.
Yes, it ties the hands of anyone who wants to punch out their gay classmate. But these so-called Christians seem to think that this hand-typing deplorable.

The article continues:
Further troubling is the policy's requirement that the superintendent "create trainings and other programs" to educate students about bullying, an easy way for CMS to roll out the red carpet to pro-gay groups.
Heavens, no! We can't teach tolerance in our classrooms! If we do, all our children will decide to be gay.

At least that's what these clowns seem to fear.

I feel bad for their children. How confusing it must be for the straight kids. And how unfair it is for the gay kids. This is the kind of social pressure that causes the Ted Haggards and the Larry Craigs to live out their true sexual identity in secret for as long as they can, and then crash and burn when the truth comes out as a scandal.

So what are these so-called Christians really so afraid of?

22 March 2008

Three U.S. troops died in Iraq today; the 4K milestone approaches

Today, three more U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. This brings the total of U.S. troop fatalities in the current Iraq war to 3,996.

We're four deaths away from the grim milestone of 4,000. Unfortunately, it is likely that we'll reach that number within the next few days.

Don't forget that the American Friends Service Committee and their partner organizations are coordinating events and vigils that will be held across the U.S. on the day after the 4,000th death is announced.

>> Find an event near you, or organize one.

According to a recent CBS poll, 64 percent of Americans believe that the results of this war were not worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq. We can drive the point home by supporting and attending these vigils.

The presidential candidates (especially McCain) need to see how we feel.

21 March 2008

Cast your votes for this year's inductees to the Corporate Hall of Shame

The online polls are now open to elect this year's inductees to the Corporate Hall of Shame.

According to Hall of Shame sponsor Corporate Accountability International, this year's nominees "made headlines for breaking the law, influencing elected officials, undermining democratic decision-making and outright endangering the environment and public health."

Voters can log on and select the three companies that they believe are the most abusive corporations of the year. This year's nominees are:
Ø ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), for helping make Indonesia the world’s third worst contributor to global warming through its clearing of endangered forests and wildlife habitat for palm oil plantations.

Ø Blackwater Worldwide, for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians, hiring paramilitaries trained under military dictatorships, and using its close political and financial ties with the Bush Administration to secure lucrative contracts.

Ø Countrywide, for predatory mortgage lending to elderly and non-English-speaking borrowers, and for gouging minority borrowers with discriminatory rates and fees.

Ø Mattel, for producing tens of millions of lead-contaminated children's toys, and aggressively lobbying against bans on other highly toxic chemicals

Ø Nestlé, for numerous labor violations — including child exploitation — contributing to the obesity epidemic, and threatening community water supplies with its bottled water brands.

Ø Toyota, for aggressively lobbying against increased fuel economy standards and state measures to reduce global warming gas emissions while hypocritically spending millions to advertise its environmental “leadership” and popular Prius hybrids.

Ø Wal-Mart, for displacing local businesses, failing to cover employees under the corporation's health plan, and opposing legislation that would increase homeland security.

Ø Wendy's, for its contribution to the growing childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, and for refusing to meet nutritional labeling regulations.
>> Vote now!

The polls close July 4th, and the three new inductees will be announced the following week.

This Corporate Hall of Shame is not just some worthless hype. Sometimes it actually shames the "winning" companies into bettering themselves. In 2006, for example, Waste Management worked its way out of the Corporate Hall of Shame by drastically reducing its national lobbying and political expenditures.

>> Vote now!

20 March 2008

Will Obama's race speech backfire?

I've been thinking more and more about the excellent speech that Barack Obama gave here in Philly on Tuesday.

He dragged the race issue out into the open, and that needed to be done. He did so eloquently and reasonably. This was a good way to handle the pastor problem.

That said, I'm wondering if it could backfire.

Ironic as it might seem, will Obama's new focus on racial issues remind the less open-minded voters that he is half-black?

Could this ultimately cause another setback, on top of the related pastor issue (which itself was mostly just a case of projected guilt-by-association, blown out of proportion by the media)?

Time will tell, but I'm afraid it could indeed happen, if a new Reuters/Zogby poll released yesterday is any indication.

According to Reuters, "Democrat Barack Obama's big national lead over Hillary Clinton has all but evaporated in the U.S. presidential race, and both Democrats trail Republican John McCain, according a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday."

The survey was likely completed before Obama's Tuesday speech, and it probably reflects some fallout from the pastor scandal. Where it goes from here, time will tell. But I'm getting nervous.

This is all very disturbing. This is supposed to be the 21st century. Why is race still an issue?

19 March 2008

5 years after U.S. invasion, Amnesty says Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world

Today, March 19, marks the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Back then, George W. Bush told us that he was going to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's evil regime. He told us that the Iraqi people would finally have freedom and democracy.

So, five years later, what do Bush's "freedom" and "democracy" look like in Iraq?

According to Ammesty International (AI), "Five years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the country is still in disarray. The human rights situation is disastrous, a climate of impunity has prevailed, the economy is in tatters, and the refugee crisis continues to [escalate]."

AI goes on to say that "despite the heavy presence of US and Iraqi security forces, Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world."

Bombings, suicide attacks, kidnappings, and torture are commonplace. Private security contractors are exercising excessive force and killing innocent civilians indiscriminately and with impunity. And the Iraqi criminal justice system is a joke, with hundreds of people having been sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials.

This is Bush's liberated Iraq -- now one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

AI has compiled a 28-page report on this ongoing crisis, which should be read by everyone, especially Americans. This catastrophe in Iraq is what we've bought with billions of our tax dollars and thousands of American lives.

>> Read a summary of the report, or download the full report: Iraq: Carnage and despair: Iraq five years on

18 March 2008

In Philly, Obama speaks out about race in America and the pastor problem

Today, here in Philly, Barack Obama gave a stirring speech about racism in America and why he cannot disown his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, even in light of Wright's recently revealed inflammatory comments.

Obama made sense. He repeated his unequivocal condemnation of Wright's offensive sermons. And then he went on to demonstrate his emotional maturity by explaining:
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
A human being is much more than his or her occasional slips of the tongue. We all make them. And a church community is more than just one or two poorly constructed sermons.

As Obama said today:
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
And he went on to observe that Rev. Wright's comments have brought front-and-center the issue of race in this country. He said:
... race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
He continued:
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

>> Read or watch Obama's speech.

The excerpts above are just a tiny sampling of the excellent points he made today. It's well worth checking out the whole speech.

This should go down in history of one of the truly great speeches in modern American politics.

Georgia might execute a possibly innocent man

Imagine that you are convicted of a murder that you did not commit, and are sentenced to death in a trial in which you had inadequate defense.

Imagine that new evidence is available that could prove your innocence, but the courts deny you a new trial. For whatever incomprehensible reason, they don't want to entertain the possibility that you are innocent.

Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis may be living such a nightmare.

Yesterday, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Davis, despite significant doubts about his guilt.

According to Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), "The case has been tainted from the start, with a questionable police investigation, a lack of funding to ensure adequate defense, and an increasingly restrictive appeals process, which has thwarted attempts to present new evidence in the case."

No murder weapon was found and no physical evidence linked Davis to the crime.

AIUSA goes on to say, "Troy Davis was convicted of murder solely on the basis of witness testimony, and seven of the nine non-police witnesses have since recanted or changed their testimony, several citing police coercion. Others have signed affidavits implicating one of the remaining two witnesses as the actual killer."

Below is the full text of an AIUSA news release about the case:
USA: Amnesty International Decries Ruling in Troy Davis Case

GA Supreme Court Decision is 'Simply Stunning;' U.S. 'Has Shrugged Off the Very Notion of Justice at Every Level' in Davis Case

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) decried today's Georgia Supreme Court decision to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, who has been on death row for more than 16 years despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. The human rights organization, which has collected more than 60,000 petition signatures while campaigning for Davis, said the ruling demonstrates a blatant disregard for justice, and asserted that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles must grant clemency in his case.

"The claim that evidence in Davis' favor was not sufficient to reopen his case is simply stunning," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "In turning a blind eye to the realities of the case, the legal system has shrugged off the very notion of justice at every level, from Savannah to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Board of Pardons must recognize that a blind adherence to technicalities cannot trump a concerted search for the truth, especially when a human being's life is at stake."

The Georgia State Supreme Court decided 4-3 against a new trial or evidentiary hearing, with the majority ruling that the Savannah trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Davis' extraordinary motion for new trial without first conducting a hearing.

Amnesty International maintains that the case has been tainted from the start, with a questionable police investigation, a lack of funding to ensure adequate defense, and an increasingly restrictive appeals process, which has thwarted attempts to present new evidence in the case. In the wake of the state Supreme Court decision, the human rights organization is once again calling for the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles to commute the death sentence for Davis due to the troubling facts of the conviction.

Troy Davis was convicted of the murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail in 1991. Davis was convicted solely on the basis of witness testimony, and seven of the nine non-police witnesses have since recanted or changed their testimony. No murder weapon was found and no physical evidence linked Davis to the crime. Several cited police coercion, and others fear of one of the remaining two witnesses, whom they allege actually committed the crime.

"With this decision, the Supreme Court is ignoring the fundamental flaws that underlie the death penalty in Georgia and in Troy Davis's case," said Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Director of AIUSA. "As a result, we will continue to advocate for a re-examination of his sentence and of Georgia's use of capital punishment. Officer MacPhail's life was cut tragically short, and his family and the people of Georgia deserve justice. This will not be accomplished by executing a man with a strong case of innocence."
Cases like this always astound me. If there is a possibility that he is innocent, why deny him a new trial? If he is proven guilty in the new trial, then Georgia can rest assured that they probably have the right guy in custody. However, if he does turn out to be innocent, you can put an end to his needless suffering and that of his family.

The lesson learned in this case: Don't get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in Georgia, no matter how innocent you are.

Take Action:

>> Tell the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles to commute the death sentence for Davis.

17 March 2008

Coming soon: The Iraq war's 5th anniversary and the 4,000th dead U.S. troop

What a disgusting coincidence:

This week, on Wednesday, March 19, we will mark the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Also this week, we might find ourselves marking the 4,000 death of a U.S. troop in the current Iraq war. As of this writing, the total number of U.S. troop deaths in the current Iraq war has reached 3,988. We're 12 deaths away from the 4,000 milestone.

Even with the reduction in U.S. troop deaths in recent months, any death is one death too many. We were tricked into this war, and our brave young men and women in uniform are paying the price for Bush's nonsensical agenda.

Sadly, with the ongoing infighting between the Clinton and Obama camps, the possibility of a McCain presidency grows stronger and stronger. Consider that McCain wants to keep us in Iraq for 100 years.

I haven't felt this anxious or desperate since the 2004 presidential election. I hope the results this time will be better.

16 March 2008

Obama's pastor problem and the lessons learned

Barack Obama's latest campaign challenge is the recent revelation of tapes showing Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, engaged in strong anti-American and otherwise inflammatory rants during some of his sermons over the past few years.

"God damn America," rails Rev. Wright on tape. And it goes downhill from there.

I am a staunch supporter of freedom of speech, so why do I find these comments inappropriate? The answer is simple: Because they were said from the pulpit.

This is a lesson in the consequences of mixing religion and politics. We should have already learned those lessons from the other side, with the rise to political power of the so-called "religious right" over the past decade. Preaching politics from the pulpit is wrong no matter which side of the political fence you're on.

This nation's founding fathers were well aware of the problems that can arise when you mix politics and religion, and they deliberately worked to separate the two, for the preservation of both.

And, principles aside, a church risks losing its tax-exempt status if its words or actions get too political.

For all these reasons, and because of the effect his behavior could have on the Obama campaign, Rev. Wright should have known better.

That said, the media's thinly-veiled suggestion of guilt by association will be a challenge for the Obama campaign. So far, Obama is handling it well.

On the Huffington Post website recently, Obama wrote:
[...] Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.
That is good enough for me. After all, a church is more than just its pastor -- it's a community. And, when you have a 20-year history with a community, your ties to that community transcend the occasional off-color remark by one church leader.

I know very few churchgoers who will agree 100% with every word of every sermon. Don't Obama's critics feel the same way, or are they mindless sheep who blindly and unquestioningly accept, and live by, every word that they hear from the pulpit of their choice?

Now, in closing, here is the good news: With these questions about Obama's brand of Christianity, maybe the right wing (and the Hillary campaign) will have to stop suggesting that Obama is a Muslim.

15 March 2008

Bush says his tax cuts have worked

On Wednesday, March 12, George W. Bush spoke to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Even as he admitted that we are going through a challenging time, Bush had the nerve to tell the audience that his economic strategy has worked.

He set it up by saying, "I remember meeting with some right after the [9/11] attacks and we were wondering whether or not our economy could withstand a terrorist attack -- after all, a recession was in place just as I came into office, then the terrorists attacked, then we had corporate scandals."

So, first the excuses, and now the lies:

Bush went on to say, "And a lot of folks were wondering whether or not this economy would be resilient enough to withstand those pressures. And it turns out it was. And I want to thank you very much for supporting the tax cuts plans that had good effect on small businesses all across the United States during that period of time. I think when people take a look back at this moment in our economic history, they'll recognize tax cuts work. They have made a difference."

Yes, George, your tax cuts have made a difference.

Your tax cuts have increased the gap between the rich and the poor in this country. Your tax cuts have helped the rich get richer, at the expense of the poor and the working class and the middle class.

Yes, George, your tax cuts have made a difference.

Just look at the precariousness of the stock market. Just look at the stagnant wages of the middle class, with our standard of living steadily declining due to inflation. Just look at the housing foreclosures. Just look at all our jobs being shipped overseas. Just look at the growing national debt resulting from your very expensive and unnecessary war in Iraq.

Yes, George, your tax cuts have made a difference.

And yes, George, history will have something to say about it. But by then you'll be comfortably retired on your Texas faux-ranch, and you will no longer have to pretend to care.

And maybe you will no longer have to pretend to be a Christian, because I really don't believe that the biblical Jesus would feel good about all this. Please reread the Sermon on the Mount:

Your Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Your Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

And your Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."


14 March 2008

Amnesty Intl case study: U.S. held and tortured a Yemeni in secret prisons for three years

Amnesty International (AI) published a report today on the case of Khaled al-Maqtari, a 31-year-old Yemeni national who was recently released after spending three years in secret CIA custody and tortured.

He was never charged with any crime.

According to AI, "His account contains numerous allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. These include prolonged isolation, repeating beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, as well as sensory deprivation and overload with bright lighting and loud music or repeated sound effects."

He was never charged with any crime.

While he is now free, he "suffers the effects of psychological and physical torture and other ill-treatment."

He was never charged with any crime.

Our tax dollars at work.

He has not received any reparation from U.S. authorities, "who have yet to even acknowledge his detention."

God bless America.

>> Download the report: USA: A case to answer. From Abu Ghraib to secret CIA custody: the case of Khaled al-Maqtari

13 March 2008

Gov. Spitzer's biggest sin

Yesterday, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation effective Monday the 17th, as a result of the prostitution scandal that erupted over the past few days.

It was wrong for him to cheat on his wife with prostitutes.

It was disgusting that he allegedly spent as much as $80,000 on very expensive call girls.

And it was stupid of him to use the shady financial maneuvers that got him caught -- the same kinds of money-laundering schemes that he used to crusade against.

But, in my own opinion, those are not the worst of his crimes.

I was most taken aback when I read in an Associated Press article that Spitzer preferred not to wear a condom while having sex with prostitutes.

That is worse than just cheating on his wife. It is recklessly endangering the health and well-being of his wife and anyone else he has sex with.

I am sure that his wife realizes this, and that Gov. Spitzer will have hell to pay. As well he should.

12 March 2008

Oklahoma State Rep says gays are more dangerous than terrorists

Last week, Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern gave a speech in which she said that the "homosexual lifestyle" is "the biggest threat to our nation, even more so than terrorism."

For some reason, the story didn't seem to get much (if any) mention in the mainstream press. I just learned about it when I stumbled up a statement by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in response to Kern's remarks.

Here are GLAAD's wise words:
"This type of hateful and defamatory language from our public officials is completely unacceptable," said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano. "GLAAD calls on its members and allies to stand together to hold elected officials like Kern, pledged to serve all the people, accountable for promoting hatred and bigotry. Media have a responsibility to cover Kern's ugly remarks, not only to hold her accountable for her misinformed, inaccurate claims about gay and lesbian people, but also to bring to light the anti-gay attitudes and beliefs that are still all too common in our country, Kern's hateful assertions highlight the need for media to examine how the anti-gay attitudes of elected officials impact their diverse constituencies."

If Kern runs for re-election, I hope the citizens of her district will remember this and vote against this kind of hate speech and the bigotry and intolerance that drive it.

11 March 2008

FOX "news anchor" tries to set the women's movement back 50 years

On FOX "News" recently, some bantering broke out during which a male co-anchor started ridiculing the wearing of pantsuits, in an obvious attempt to ridicule Hillary Clinton.

A young female co-anchor then said, "Here at FOX we like to be feminine, so we don't wear the pants."

>> Watch the video.

Note that she did not say, "We don't wear pants." She said "We don't wear the pants."

Of course, "wearing the pants" is a figure of speech that refers to being in control, being in charge, being strong, and running things.

Apparently this FOX "news anchor" doesn't believe that a woman can be feminine and still be in charge.

Her remark suggests that she believes women should be subservient to men.

And apparently she wants to be considered an ornament rather than a serious career woman.

That is her prerogative. But what kind of message is she sending to young girls?

10 March 2008

Who do you want choosing the next round of Supreme Court Justices?

With the Pennsylvania primaries coming up in April, I had until now remained undecided on whether to vote for Clinton or Obama. Both have their strong points and their weaker points, but both are capable of running this country better than what we've seen over the past eight years.

In recent days, however, I have been favoring Obama, primarily because the Clinton campaign has been playing too dirty. The last straw for me was when Clinton praised McCain for having more experience than Obama. That's something the Republicans are going to have a field day with if Obama gets the Democratic nomination. Clinton should know better. She seems to care more about her own career path than the path that this nation is on. That is not a strong leadership quality.

And then I got to thinking about the fact that the next President will get to choose some Supreme Court Justices. Who do we want to do that -- a fresh, positive President with real grassroots experience; or a Washington insider who puts politics above the people?

09 March 2008

Amnesty Int'l responds to Bush's veto of waterboarding ban

Why does George W. Bush have such a strong need to torture people, even though intelligence experts have shown that torture doesn't work?

Apparently Bush just has to torture people.

Yesterday he vetoed a bill that would limit interrogation techniques by U.S. agents (including the CIA) to the standards set out in the Army Field Manual. Those standards (and international law) prohibit the use of waterboarding, sexual humiliation, dogs, and other techniques that amount to torture and abuse.

Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, responded to Bush's veto with the following statement:
President Bush's veto, in essence, spat on domestic and international law and compromised human rights to justify illegal, ineffective, and immoral practices.

The Bush administration continues its stubborn and reckless disregard for basic decency and values the United States should model. The president's action further compounds the incalculable damage to United States' standing at home and abroad.

While Amnesty International applauds the U.S. House and Senate for rejecting the bogus arguments validating torture as an interrogation tactic, Congress needs finally to shoulder its responsibility to immediately mandate an independent investigation into the heaps of highly credible evidence of illegal and inhumane actions in the war on terror, and then prosecute those responsible promptly.

While asserting that the United States 'does not torture,' as he vetoes anti-torture legislation, President Bush's rhetoric rings more hollow than ever.

08 March 2008

Take action on International Women's Day: Ask your Senators to support IVAWA

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day.

So I think this is a good time to take action on behalf of women worldwide, and urge your Senators to co-sponsor S.2279, the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

Below is some info on the bill from the National Organization for Women (NOW), along with a couple of links you can click to take action online.
Urge Your Senators to Co-Sponsor International VAWA
Help End Violence Against Women Worldwide

Action needed: Please contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

IVAWA (S. 2279) was introduced by Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) last fall, and is pending in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Take Action NOW!


According to the World Health Organization, one in three women in the world experiences some violence in her lifetime. It is stated U.S. policy to promote women's civil and human rights and opportunities throughout the world and to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The International Violence Against Women Act addresses gender-based violence in its many forms -- including rape, domestic violence, sexual violence, genital mutilation, forced and child marriage, "honor" killings, dowry related violence and human trafficking -- both directly and comprehensively.

This legislation streamlines federal efforts by centralizing all U.S. policy and programs related to international women's issues in a new Office for Women's Global Initiatives at the State Department. The bill requires the department to develop a five-year comprehensive strategy to fight violence against women in 10 to 20 countries. It authorizes an annual funding stream of $175 million to support coordinated programs in the areas of legal reform, health care, economic empowerment, educational opportunities and public awareness. The bill also strengthens the protection of women and girls when violence is used as a weapon of intimidation and abuse in situations of armed conflict.

Women around the world are counting on the U.S. government to take the lead in the international effort to end violence against women. What can you do?

Thank your senators if they are already sponsors and urge others to sign on right away! Our automated system will provide the appropriate sample message, which you can edit if you wish.

Take Action NOW!

07 March 2008

South Pasadena vs. freedom of speech

This past week, the first week in March, was declared by the City Council of South Pasadena, California, as "Cuss Free Week".

This past week, anyone caught using "offensive" language in South Pasadena wouldn't likely be thrown in jail just for that. But, according to the Associated Press, "you could be shamed into better behavior by the unsettling glares of residents who take their reputation for civility seriously."

I think this is ridiculous.

This is 2008. The American culture has evolved to where it's much more relaxed than it used to be in many ways. And people cuss more liberally than they used to. While I think most civilized Americans have the good sense to avoid using four-letter words in the presence of young children and business clients, do we really have to worry about the possibility of offending the little old lady from Pasadena?

In today's more relaxed society, many people cuss without even thinking about it. You stub your toe and a four-letter word automatically flies out of your mouth. You'd better hope you don't stub that toe in South Pasadena.

Will South Pasadena also ban cable television? After all, a single episode of the award-winning series "The Sopranos" typically features more four-letter words than a boat full of drunken sailors. It's art imitating life.

I'm not saying that we should all strive towards frequent cussing. I agree that it's probably overdone in today's society. And, while it can be a dramatic way of verbally punctuating a point, it's often also a sign of rhetorical laziness and a lacking vocabulary.

However, outlawing it is not the answer.

This is America, and the First Amendment supposedly guarantees freedom of speech. Sure, there are some situations in which you have to curb it, like when your speech would incite dangerous or illegal behavior.

But if I automatically utter a four-letter word upon stubbing my toe, I am not endangering anyone's wellbeing, and I am not calling for criminal behavior. I'm simply venting.

South Pasadena sees cussing as a threat to its reputation for civility. But what is true civility?

Instead of worrying about people who might be offended by words, perhaps South Pasadena should be worrying about the effects of censorship and intolerance. I find the latter much more offensive.

Hey, South Pasadena, repeat after me: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Not even the four-letter kind.

06 March 2008

When activists give activists a bad name

The Earth Liberation Front made headlines recently when they burned down three Seattle-area homes because they believed the homes were being falsely advertised as "green" (i.e., environmentally friendly).

I cannot condone any act of violence, vandalism, or arson. Those actions are simply wrong. And, it is cases like this that make people think of activists in general as a bunch of wild-eyed, unreasonable extremists.

Actions like this do not help the cause.

In my 30 years as an activist, I have learned that words and peaceful action are so much more effective.

But some people apparently never learn.

05 March 2008

Hillary's campaign picks up steam (hopefully for the right reasons)

The Obama Express seems to have hit a speed bump.

In yesterday's primaries, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in three out of four states.

I was a bit surprised by this, because the Obama campaign had gained so much momentum, it seemed almost unstoppable.

If people voted for Clinton for positive reasons, then that's fine. This is democracy at its most interesting.

I'm just hoping that this upset wasn't a result of all the recent ridiculous smear campaigns aimed at Obama from both the McCain and the Clinton camps.

04 March 2008

Take action: Tell Bush - Don't veto torture ban

On February 13, the U.S. Senate followed the lead of the U.S. House and gave final approval to a bill that limits interrogation techniques by U.S. agents (including the CIA) to the standards set out in the Army Field Manual.

Those standards (and international law) prohibit the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

But George W. Bush plans to veto the bill.

If he does veto the bill, Bush will be telling the world that it's U.S. policy to torture people. How repugnant is that!

Furthermore, by vetoing the bill, Bush is telling our enemies that it's OK to use torture, so of course our enemies will be even more inclined to torture any captured U.S. troops or other captured U.S. citizens. Way to go, George.

I don't know if we have enough votes in Congress to overturn the veto. But, in any case, I can't keep quiet about this. You shouldn't either.

So below is a call to action from the American Freedom Campaign. Click one of the links below to send an email to Bush expressing your disgust.
Believe it or not, sometime this week, President Bush is expected to authorize the CIA to torture and abuse detainees and prisoners. Seriously. Presented with a bill -- passed by Congress -- that would make it clear that the CIA cannot waterboard detainees, force prisoners to perform sexual acts, or employ many other objectionable interrogation "techniques", Bush has pledged to veto the legislation.

What are you going to do to express your outrage? We at the American Freedom Campaign Action Fund encourage you to take two steps. First, follow the link below to send an email to the president expressing your disgust.

[Click here to take action.]

Then, use our "tell a friend" option -- which will appear automatically after you send your email to Bush -- to encourage friends and family members to add their voices to yours.

On February 13, following the lead of the U.S. House, the Senate gave final approval to an intelligence authorization bill that included a provision forcing the CIA to follow the interrogation and detention standards set out in the Army field manual. The Army field manual is more restrictive than the law under which the CIA currently operates -- the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 -- which more generally prohibits "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment."

By vetoing this bill, Bush will be saying to the CIA that it is OK to beat, electrocute, and burn prisoners. It will be OK to hood prisoners and put duct tape across their eyes. And it will be OK to perform mock executions and subject detainees to hypothermia.

This is the message George W. Bush is about to send to the world. Once he does, it will underscore the growing misperception that we as a nation approve these techniques. Moreover, it will send the signal that we believe it is acceptable for these same techniques to be used against U.S. soldiers and citizens held by foreign intelligence agencies.

We must do everything we can to stop President Bush before he vetoes this bill. Please send an email to the White House today by clicking on this link:

[Click here to take action.]
Bush might not care what we think, but he needs to know that we're not going to sit back and quietly accept his nonsense. We need to raise hell.

03 March 2008

Take action: Tell the Wall Street bosses that unionbusting doesn't pay

Not all Wall Street types are the embodiment of heartless greed. I've known many who were actually quite nice.

On the other hand, it will likely come as no surprise that some of them really do seem to care more about profits than people. Like the folks at a big Wall Street Firm called Lazard, who are currently engaged in unionbusting. They are threatening, intimidating, and even firing employees of the Lazard-owned Atria Senior Living facility for trying to organize a union.

It's not only mean and heartless, it's in violation of international human rights standards.

Those of you who read my stuff on a regular basis probably already know that Article 23 (4) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that "Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

Unions protect workers from corporate tyranny.

But the rich guys at Lazard apparently don't care about that.

What are they afraid of? (That's not just a rhetorical question.)

In any case, below is a call to action from the group American Rights at Work. Please read this sad story and then click one of the links below to tell the Wall Steet execs at Atria and Lazard to stop unionbusting and play fair.
Radika Munna didn't have much to show for 10 years of work caring for elderly residents at Atria Senior Living. She had a basement apartment, earned about $300 a week, and had no health insurance. But after Radika tried to change her future by organizing to form a union, she finally did get something: a pink slip on Thanksgiving.

Workers at Atria barely make ends meet, yet the highly successful senior living chain is owned by a big Wall Street firm called Lazard that has the means to support them. It's time to give these Wall Street execs an earful!

Tell the Wall Steet execs at Atria and Lazard to stop unionbusting and play fair.

For more than a year, Radika and her co-workers have tried to get a voice on the job. Atria employees deserve a living wage, affordable healthcare, and the training and support they need to do their jobs well. But instead of partnering with their staff to improve the quality of resident care, Atria's Wall Street execs chose to fight.

According to government accusations, Atria supervisors have threatened, harassed, and intimidated pro-union workers. And now Atria has hired one of the top unionbusting law firms in the country, Jackson Lewis, to help them do all they can to avoid the workers' union.

Atria's employees feed, bathe and provide all kinds of care for thousands of seniors every day. We trust them to take care of and protect our loved ones, and yet these workers aren't taken care of by Atria and their Wall Street execs.

Let's fight back for Radika and her co-workers. Click here to email the Wall Street execs.

Thank you for standing up for workers everywhere.

02 March 2008

A president so out of touch

I think most Americans now realize that George W. Bush lives in a very different reality that we do. Listening to any of his speeches will make that very clear.

Still, I was taken aback a few days ago when that fortunate son, who years ago ran some oil companies (ran them into the ground, that is), demonstrated that he doesn't have a clue about how much money we are spending at the pump.

We need a president who understands how real people live and the problems we face.

And we need a president who cares about the welfare of the people over the welfare of big business.

Meantime, with all the home foreclosures taking place, I'm wishing that we could foreclose on the White House. We just can't afford for Bush to occupy it any longer.

01 March 2008

European Court reaffirms absolute probition of rendition and torture

Remember when the United States of America stood for good things like opportunity, freedom, and human rights?

In the past seven years, of course, our reputation has changed. We're now known world-wide as a nation that captures people, holds them indefinitely without charge and with no legal recourse except maybe a rigged military tribunal, and tortures them.

And, of course, sometimes we send our prisoners to other countries to do the torturing for us, because they know even more unspeakable techniques.

While many Americans, and many in Congress, have been calling for an end to the use of torture by U.S. agents, the Bush administration continues to tapdance around the issue with rhetoric and doublespeak. And we continue to torture. Our tax dollars at work.

Meantime, Europe is taking a more civilized approach in response to an attempt by our ally the U.K. to justify sending a man to a country where he would likely be tortured.

On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights reaffirmed the absolute prohibition on torture and any return to the practice thereof, including in the so-called "war on terror".

Below is a press release from Human Rights Watch on this Court ruling:
(Strasbourg, February 28, 2008) – The European Court of Human Rights today reaffirmed that the ban on deporting people to countries where they are at risk of torture or ill-treatment is absolute and unconditional. The judgment in Saadi v. Italy is being hailed as a major reassertion of the importance of the rule of law by 11 international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, the AIRE Centre, Human Rights Watch, INTERIGHTS, the International Commission of Jurists, JUSTICE, the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, Open Society Justice Initiative, REDRESS, and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).

This judgment comes at a time when deportation to states known to practice torture and ill-treatment is occurring with troubling frequency in the name of the "war on terror." The court reaffirmed the longstanding rule that no circumstances, including the threat of terrorism or national security concerns, can justify exposing an individual to the real risk of such serious human rights abuses.

Today's unanimous judgment by the Grand Chamber of the court was handed down in the case of Saadi v. Italy, which concerns the decision of the Italian authorities to deport Nassim Saadi, a Tunisian national lawfully residing in Italy, to Tunisia. In his absence, Saadi had been convicted in Tunisia of terrorism-related offenses, and was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. Before the European Court, Saadi claimed that he would be at risk of torture and ill-treatment in Tunisia, where mistreatment of alleged terrorists is routine and well-documented.

The government of the United Kingdom intervened in the case to try to overturn the absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment. It argued that the right of a person to be protected from such treatment abroad should be balanced against the risk he posed to the deporting state. In the 1996 case of Chahal v. United Kingdom, the court rejected this argument and held that the European Convention prohibited expulsion to countries where there is risk of torture and ill-treatment in all circumstances. This conclusion has been consistently reaffirmed by the court in its subsequent judgments.

The UK government's intervention in Saadi replicates its intervention -- together with the governments of Lithuania, Portugal, and Slovakia -- in another case still pending before the court: the case of Ramzy v. the Netherlands, which involves deportation to Algeria. These attempts to undermine fundamental human rights with assertions that national security and public safety are under threat are often based on information that the governments seek to keep secret even from the individual affected.

Today the European Court was resolute in upholding the approach established by its earlier decisions and followed by other international courts and bodies. The judgment reaffirmed that the transfer of individuals to countries where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment is prohibited absolutely, and that the law cannot allow for exceptions. The court recognized that “States face immense difficulties in modern times in protecting their communities from terrorist violence. It cannot therefore underestimate the scale of the danger of terrorism today and the threat it presents to the community. That must not, however, call into question the absolute nature of Article 3 [of the European Convention, prohibiting torture and other ill-treatment]."

The judgment also addressed the issue of “diplomatic assurances" and whether a state's duty not to deport where there is a risk of torture or ill-treatment can be mitigated by promises of humane treatment from the state to which the individual is to be deported. The court held that such assurances do not automatically offset an existing risk, emphasizing “that the existence of domestic laws and accession to treaties were not sufficient to ensure adequate protection against the risk of ill-treatment." The court left open whether assurances might “in their practical application" provide a sufficient guarantee against the risk of ill-treatment. In practice, once such a risk is established, the court has never found assurances capable of displacing it. A growing number of international actors -- including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights -- hold that diplomatic assurances againsttorture and ill-treatment are inherently unreliable and practically unenforceable, and thus do not provide an effective safeguard against torture and ill-treatment.

To view the text of the European Court's judgment, please visit: www.echr.coe.int/echr/