30 May 2008

On cluster bomb ban, the US vs. the civilized world

On Wednesday, representatives of 111 countries agreed to ban the use of cluster bombs.

Who voted against the ban? The primary makers or users of cluster bombs -- the US, Russia, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan.

What's wrong with cluster bombs? They're notorious for killing or injuring innocent civilians, including children. Cluster bombs are indiscriminate weapons, meaning that they cannot distinguish between an enemy solder and a civilian child. They kill whoever crosses their path. Furthermore, the clusters release numerous "bomblets" and at least 5% of them do not explode on impact. So they hang around and become de facto anti-personnel mines. Even worse, the bomblets are often brightly colored and look like toys to a child.

But the U.S. doesn't want to join the civilized world in banning the use of these cluster bombs. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. calls cluster bombs "an integral, legitimate part of its arsenal." Dead babies are simply dismissed as "collateral damage".

Shame on us!

29 May 2008

Does the Second Amendment have racist origins?

Pro-gun types argue that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to own guns in order to protect themselves, their families, and their property from thieves, enemies, and/or a government run amok.

But in an essay in Mother Jones, Stephanie Mencimer cites historical evidence that suggests that the Second Amendment was actually passed in order to placate southern slave owners with a guarantee of their right to use firearms to defend themselves against slave rebellions.

Sadly, this information underscores how slavery was accommodated by our founding fathers. And we're still living with too much residual racism. But at least we've made some progress.

>> Read Mencimer's article: Whitewashing the Second Amendment

28 May 2008

Supreme Court rules against age discrimination

Since I'm not getting any younger, I found yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in the case of Gomez-Perez v. Potter particularly delightful.

In this case involving a U.S. Postal Service employee, the Court decided that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to federal workers as well as the explicitly named private sector employees.

The Bush administration apparently disagrees. According to the Washington Post, "The Bush administration, which is backing workers in other age bias cases at the high court, said the ADEA does not afford federal workers protection from retaliation. It said Congress could have extended protections to federal workers, but didn't."

It's a good sign that the majority of the Supremes decided in favor of the workers rather than the Bushies.

Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia dissented.

>> Read the Supreme Court's full decision. (PDF)

27 May 2008

Why does McCain not support our veterans?

Much of Senator John McCain's popularity comes from his status as a Vietnam war vet and former POW. So you'd think that he'd be a serious champion for today's veterans.

But no. McCain believes that the new GI bill is too generous.

Think about it: McCain doesn't want our troops, who have risked their lives for Bush's agenda, to have full educational benefits. He thinks that's too generous a reward for their service.

Fortunately, the bill has passed both houses of Congress anyway, and is headed to Bush's desk. It appears that we may have a veto-proof majority. (Fingers crossed in hopes that the majority holds.)

This needs to be a big issue in the run-up to the November elections.

26 May 2008

Time for a new American Revolution

I am writing this on the Memorial Day holiday, which is dedicated to honoring America's war dead.

I marked this occasion with an early morning walk around Valley Forge National Park, which lies a few short miles from my suburban Philadelphia home. The park marks the site where George Washington's troops spent a very harsh winter during the American Revolution.

As I stared at the log huts that once housed Washington's soldiers, I thought about how they so bravely stood up against the injustices of King George.

And I thought about how we today are living under the injustices of a George who would be king.

Now we need another American Revolution. This one needn't be fought with cannons and muskets. This one can be fought with our voices, our pens, and our keyboards, and will culminate at the ballot box (or voting machines) this November.

We must overthrow the Bush legacy, and that legacy includes John McCain.

We must put a Democrat in the White House, and we must increase the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

Then perhaps we can begin to reclaim the freedoms and ideals that have been lost in Bush's disastrous "war on terror".

25 May 2008

The pros and cons of an Obama-Clinton ticket

The media seem to agree these days that Obama will be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. So now there is much talk in punditry circles about the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket in November.

I cannot quite decide whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing.

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons.

Pro: It would unite the Obama supporters and the Clinton supporters, many of whom have threatened to vote for McCain or Nader or the as-yet-unnamed Green Party candidate if their preferred Democrat didn't win the nomination.

Con: Chances are good that most Clinton supporters would ultimately rally around Obama, even if he chooses someone else as his running mate, rather than risk another four years of war, torture, corporate rule, and economic upheaval.

Pro: It would give us the best of both worlds: Obama's fresh promises of change and Clinton's hardened-yet-cynical pragmatism honed by decades of experience inside and outside the beltway.

Con: Obama is running on the promise of bringing change to Washington, bringing an end to politics as usual. To some extent, however, Clinton embodies the very kind of political gamesmanship that Obama seeks to overthrow.

Pro: It would combine Obama's high-road style of avoiding negative campaigning and meeting attacks with dignified rhetorical responses with Clinton's more seasoned ability to fight back as ferociously as she is attacked.

Con: Do we really need Clinton on the ticket in order to fight back? Didn't Obama respond quite adequately on his own when he addressed the Reverend Wright scandal with his powerful speech on race in America today? And don't we have MoveOn.org and other 527s to do the real dirty work when needed?

Pro: If they won, Clinton would beat out Condi Rice in the glass-ceiling wars.

Con: It shouldn't be a matter of electing a woman just for the sake of electing a woman. It should be a matter of electing the right person regardless of gender.

Pro: We'd have Bill Clinton back in the White House.

Con: We'd have Bill Clinton back in the White House.

Hence my dilemma. I encourage readers to share their thoughts with me on the issue.

But, whether or not Obama chooses Clinton as his running mate, one thing is certain: Any democratic White House would be far better for this country than a McCain-led continuation of the status quo.

It appears that Americans are ready for change. The remaining question is: How much change?

24 May 2008

Nukes, oil, and Bush's double standard

George W. Bush keeps shaking his fist at Iran. He keeps telling us that their nuclear program poses a serious threat, and that Iranians are now in Iraq fighting against U.S. soldiers and our allies.

But now he turns around and promises to give enriched uranium to Saudi Arabia.

Bush threatens Iran for aiding the Shia insurgents in Iraq, and he says that we don't negotiate with terrorists, but he overlooks the fact that most outside insurgents in Iraq actually come from Saudi Arabia.

I wonder if this double standard has anything to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia sits on the world's largest known oil reserves.

And I wonder if this double standard has anything to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia owns a big portion of the U.S. debt.

22 May 2008

Mentally retarded man was just executed on a technically

They did it. Last evening, Mississippi executed Earl Berry despite evidence that he was mentally retarded.

Of course, the Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally retarded persons in 2002, so how could this happen?

A technicality!

The Mississippi Supreme Court decided that Berry's former lawyers didn't file the evidence in a timely manner. And the U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal.

This is how our so-called "justice" system works.

21 May 2008

States crank up the death machines

Last month, the Supreme Court voted against banning the current three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. Pending the Court's decision, executions around the nation had been put on hold.

But the Supremes decided that it's fine to use a method that might cause unnecessary excruciating pain (and which is so questionable that it does not meet the minimum standards for veterinary euthanasia in most states). So now several states are wasting no time in readying the death chambers and rescheduling their executions.

Tonight, May 21, 6:00 PM EDT: Earl Wesley Berry is scheduled to be killed by the people of Mississippi, despite evidence that he is mentally retarded. (Judicial review of the evidence was denied because his former lawyers didn't file the evidence in a timely fashion.) Note that the Supreme Court banned execution of mentally retarded persons in 2002.

• May 22, 7:00 PM EDT: Samuel David Crowe is scheduled to be killed by the people of Georgia.

• May 27, 9:00 PM EDT: Kevin Green is scheduled to be killed by the people of Virginia.

• June 03, 7:00 PM EDT: Derrick Sonnier is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas.

• June 06, 6:00 PM EDT: David Mark Hill will be voluntarily executed, with his suicide assisted by the people of South Carolina.

• June 10, 9:00 PM EDT: Percy Walton is scheduled to be killed by the people of Virginia.

• June 11, 7:00 PM EDT: Karl Chamberlain is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas.

• June 17, 6:00 PM EDT: Terry Lyn Short is scheduled to be killed by the people of Oklahoma.

• June 17, 7:00 PM EDT: Charles Dean Hood is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas.

• June 25, 9:00 PM EDT: Robert Yarbrough is scheduled to be killed by the people of Virginia.

And there are many more deaths on the schedule through the end of the year, and several others on the soon-to-be-scheduled list.

The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that still use the death penalty. Most of the civilized world has rejected the death penalty as cruel and unusual.

The death penalty is not an effective deterrent. In fact, states without the death penalty have much lower murder rates.

And studies have shown that the sentencing process is racially biased, with an African-American defendant having a far greater chance of being sentenced to death than a white defendant, for the same crime.

To add insult to injury, most defendants in capital cases have inadequate defense counsel. Good lawyers cost money. So the so-called "justice" system is skewed in favor of the folks who can buy the good lawyers. You don't see many rich white guys on death row.

Still, 63 percent of Americans still support its use.

Why are Americans so bloodthirsty? Why not just lock up the bad guys for life (without parole), and let them spend every day thinking about it?

Why do so many Americans seek revenge over actual justice?

20 May 2008

U.S. military looking to rehab/release most detainees?

USA Today leads with word today that "Only one in five detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq are members of the main extremist groups fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces, while many of the rest can be reintegrated back into society, according to U.S. military statistics and interviews."

Marine Maj. Gen. Docuglas Stone is quoted as saying, "Our goal, really, is to release all of those who are no longer an imperative security risk."

I hope this is true, considering that many of these detainees have been held for five or six years without due process. And we have good reason to believe that many 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.

Frankly, I'm surprised that the current Powers That Be would be willing to admit that most of the detainees pose no threat, since they've been telling us all along that they are the "worst of the worst".

We shall see.

19 May 2008

Shining a light on the war profiteers

Halliburton/KBR, Blackwater, and the rest of the U.S. war profiteers continue to rape, murder, and generally pillage throughout Iraq and Afghanistan with impunity, while raking in huge profits (paid for by our tax dollars) for doing so.

So actor John Cusack is working on a new movie, War, Inc., set in a fictional Iraq-like country, about a military contracting company run amok. While the movie supposedly takes the issue to the absurd, sometimes that's just the kind of wake-up call the American people need.

And with an all-star cast including Cusack, his sister Joan Cusack, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Hilary Duff, and Marisa Tomei, perhaps the movie will prompt the average American to start thinking about the issue and the slippery slope that the status quo could possibly lead to if left unchecked.

I guess it will be a commercialized and glamorized version of Robert Greenwald's disturbing but excellent 2006 film Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.

In the meantime, I offer you the latest animation by political cartoonist Mark Fiore: Blackwater Business School

18 May 2008

No, George, diplomacy is not appeasement

On May 15, George W. Bush gave a speech to the Israeli Knesset in which he took an apparent swipe at Barack Obama's promise of diplomacy in foreign policy.

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush told his audience.

He added, "We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

He even dragged Hitler into the same speech, seeming to imply that Obama would have probably wanted to appease the Nazis.

This is a prime example of the Bushco strategy of twisting words, distorting their meanings, and exaggerating the resulting untruths to the point of absurdity.

No, George, diplomacy is not appeasement. And diplomacy has not been repeatedly discredited by history. In fact, diplomacy is what has made possible today's modern globalized civil society, imperfect though it may be.

But there are some things that surely will be discredited by history.

Like ignoring a daily briefing entitled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US."

Like using a national tragedy as an excuse to invade an oil-rich country that had nothing to do with that tragedy and which, at the time, posed no threat to the U.S. or our allies.

Like detaining our prisoners in the "war on terror" for years without due process, even though 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.

Like authorizing the use of torture in interrogations, even though it is illegal and immoral, and even though it doesn't work, and even as you look into the camera and tell the world, "We do not torture."

Like warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

Like outing a covert CIA agent -- one who, incidentally (and ironically), was responsible for ensuring that the bad guys (Iran, Iraq, etc.) did not get nuclear weapons.

Like vetoing a bill that would provide health care for children because it would necessitate a raise in cigarette taxes.

Like vacationing while New Orleans was drowning.

And like arrogantly refusing to engage in diplomatic discussions with anyone you disagree with.

These are the policies that will be discredited by history, George -- along with your entire presidency, which has already been discredited, as evidenced by your dismal approval rating, which has now fallen into the 20s.

You live in a glass house, George. Be careful where you throw those stones.

17 May 2008

UN says US economic mess is causing a worldwide crisis

I am on the mailing list of the United Nations News Service. And I received a news release from them this past week which speculated that the current U.S. economic downturn (primarily related to our housing crisis and the declining value of the dollar) has caused a worldwide economic emergency, most alarmingly illustrated by the current global food crisis.

This is a grave problem. And much of it is our fault.

Below is the full text of the UN news release:

The deepening credit crisis in affluent countries triggered by the continuing housing slump, the declining value of the United States dollar, persisting global imbalances and soaring oil and commodity prices pose major threats to economic growth around the world, according to a report released today by United Nations economists.

The economists add that the unfolding global food crisis is not only a grave humanitarian issue but also a threat to political and social stability in some developing countries and may reverse some of the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Today's report, issued by the UN’s Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA), predicts that world economic growth will fall steeply to 1.8 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent next year, down from 3.8 per cent in 2007.

The report says that much depends on developments in the US, which remains the prime driver of the global economy, and where a crashing housing market and finance and credit weaknesses set off the global downturn.

A worst-case scenario would see the "world economy come to a virtual standstill” if recent financial measures in the US fail to turn the economy around, and house prices continue to fall, blending with a severe tightening on credit.

To boost the global economy, the report calls for an internationally coordinated economic stimulus package to support US efforts, centred on the expansion of domestic demand in countries with savings surpluses – especially in Europe, the Arabian Gulf and East Asia.

To counteract inflation in food prices, the economists recommend improving supply and productivity through investment in irrigation techniques, infrastructure, improved seeds and fertilizer, and agricultural research and development. This would also help shore up rural economies where most of the world’s extreme poverty is located.

In addition to removing supply constraints on vital commodities, such as food, and to stimulating global demand, the report also says that deep reforms are needed in the mechanisms of international financial regulation and supervision if new problems are to be avoided. The mid-year report is entitled “World Economic Situation and Prospects 2008."

16 May 2008

California high court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

Good news: Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote, "In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples."


This nation was founded on the premise that it is a self-evident truth that all men are created equal -- not just the heterosexual ones. And our Constitution provides for equal protection under the law.

Hopefully this will set an example for other states.

After all, Massachusetts has permitted same-sex marriages since May of 2004, and that has not yet led to the end of civilization in that commonwealth as feared by the right-wing homophobes.

15 May 2008

Is the GOP self-destructing?

There's an interesting headline on the front page of today's Washington Post: After String of Losses, Republicans Face Crisis

It seems the House Republicans are in a panic after losing three House seats in special elections so far this year.

Didn't they see it coming?

Did the Republicans really think that the American people would continue to reelect the party responsible for almost eight years of war, torture, and warrantless eavesdropping?

Especially now, with all the home foreclosures and $4-per-gallon gasoline, did they really expect us to bend over and ask for more?

It's karma, baby.

And the American people have woken up.

14 May 2008

The problems with Hillary's campaign debt

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign hasn't been raising nearly as much money as Obama's huge grassroots operation. In fact, her campaign is now $20 million in debt.

This makes me uncomfortable for two reasons:

1. George W. Bush has dug this country deep in debt by spending money we don't have on his $12 billion per month war. We don't need another president who is comfortable with a borrow-and-spend strategy.

2. This underscores the fact that private money can buy a successful campaign, and I'd much rather see publicly funded presidential campaigns. The latter are less likely to find themselves beholden to special interests.

But this is America, where capitalism rules, and where candidates are bought and paid for.

But is it a real democracy?

13 May 2008

How can Obama be both a Christian and a Muslim?!

The Rovian-style campaign methods of fear mongering, truth stretching, and alarmist propaganda pushing seem to have worked in West Virginia -- and thus probably too in other (primarily rural) parts of the country.

An article in Sunday's Financial Times quotes a bunch of West Virginia voters on their fears about Obama:

"I heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife's an atheist," said one.

Others expressed concern about Obama's former (Christian) pastor Jeremiah Wright.

So they don't like Obama because he might be a Muslim, and they don't like Obama because of his choice of Christian churches. Does anyone see the logical shortcomings here?

And, of course, according to the article, there were the concerns about Obama's patriotism and his perceived elitism.

I have previously addressed the patriotism issue ad nauseum. (Is Bush patriotic when he wears his flag pin as he justifies torture, invades a country that posed no threat to us, and systematically dismantles our Constitution?)

So now let's move on to the charges of elitism. Is it elitist to be born black in America to a (white) unwed mother? Is it elitist to put yourself through college and law school via hard work and student loans, and then put your education to use as a low-salaried community organizer when you could instead rake in millions on Wall Street?

Will enough American voters see through this kind of nonsense?

Or will the swiftboaters claim another victory in November?

12 May 2008

Justice Stevens rethinks lethal injection

Last month, as you many recall, the Supreme Court voted against banning the current three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. Justice John Paul Stevens had voted with the majority.

But then the horse Eight Belles was euthanized after breaking two ankles at the Kentucky Derby. As the Associated Press reports, "Stevens told an audience of judges and lawyers that he checked into the procedure used to kill Eight Belles and was surprised to learn it is against the law in Kentucky to kill animals using one of the drugs in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail that many states, including Kentucky, use to execute prisoners."

I am suprised that Justice Stevens was surprised, considering that a group of veterinarians had filed a brief in that Supreme Court case asserting that the three-drug cocktail amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (In fact, that three-drug cocktail does not meet the minimum standards for veterinary euthanasia in most states.)

Nevertheless, it is good that he is now using his newfound wisdom on the subject to speak out publicly against the lethal injection method and against the death penalty in general. Every small step in favor of human rights is a positive step forward for society in general.

Since I don't expect to see more such epiphanies in the high court, let's hope that the next few justices are appointed by a Democratic president rather than a pro-torture Republican.

11 May 2008

Spoiled Americans fail the green test

A recent National Geographic survey ranked the environmental impact of consumer habits and lifestyles in 14 countries.

The U.S. ranked last.

People in Brazil, India, China, Mexico, Hungary, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Spain, Japan, France, and Canada were judged to be more environmentally responsible than Americans. Yes, you read that right. India. China. Mexico. Et cetera. All more proactively concerned than we are about saving this planet for our children and our grandchildren.

But this should come as no surprise. Whether we can blame it on ignorance, apathy, arrogance, or just laziness depends on the person, but I see it every day. Americans talk about global warming and they sound concerned. But that's as far as it goes. Talk is cheap. And so they continue to be part of the problem.

They grumble about high gasoline prices even as they continue to drive their big, bloated SUVs. They must have their status symbols.

They see themselves as heroes for recycling case after case of empty Aquafina bottles each week, perhaps not knowing (or perhaps not caring) that the production and transportation of their bottled water more than cancels the environmental benefit of their recycling. And, ironically, they don't seem to realize (or care) that many brands of bottled water actually come from the same source as public tap water. If you pay for it, it must be better than the free stuff. They must have their status symbols.

They congratulate themselves for turning down the thermostat when the weather gets chilly, but they use a wood-burning fireplace to compensate, perhaps not knowing (or perhaps not caring) about the fact that fireplaces contribute to pollution (and human respiratory problems). They must have their status symbols.

So I decided to do some first-hand research into the American consumer psyche. I asked an acquaintance why she clings to her SUV despite the soaring gas prices and despite the global warming crisis. "I like being up high when I drive," she explained.

So that's it. That is her priority.

And, when I tried to appeal to her sense of survival and responsibility, she rolled her eyes and drove away.

And I think this so perfectly illustrates the problem: Americans are spoiled. Americans like things the way they are accustomed to. They like to have what they want, and they don't want to sacrifice. They've never had to sacrifice much, and change is discomforting. And they don't want anyone suggesting that they change their ways.

In most cases, it is not a malicious thing. It's just the way it has always been.

And so here we are. Last place. Below India. Below China. Below Mexico.

And it's going to take more than a movie and a rock concert to make a difference.

But there is a good side. With the high price of gasoline, people are driving less, and SUV sales are down. People will change their habits when their wallets are affected. But it will take much, much more, and our elected officials must do their part.

We need strong incentives for the development of renewable energy alternatives.

We need to increase and improve the public transportation options in many of our cities and in rural areas. And we need to make those alternative modes of transportation comfortable enough that people will want to use them instead of cars.

And we need buy-in from the business community, be it be voluntary or imposed through fines and regulations.

If Brazil can do it, we can do it. But only if we care enough to create change.

10 May 2008

New Fiore animation: The United States of Guilt-By-Association

The media and the right-wing pundits (which become more and more indistinguishable from each other) will net let go of the Reverend Wright "scandal". They keep telling us that it's a big problem for Barack Obama.

I would like to ask these pundits if they agree with each and every word that their own pastors say. If not, do you find another church? If so, do you have time for anything other than constant church-hopping?

And what about that friend of a friend of a militant radical from back in the day? How many degrees of separation must you have between yourself and anyone who happens to not be perfectly and boringly politically correct in order to qualify for the presidency?

In his latest animation, political cartoonist Mark Fiore explores this issue in his usual witty and insightful fashion, and I thought it well worth sharing. Check it out:
The United States of Guilt-By-Association

09 May 2008

To the AFA, equality for all people = a violation of Constitutional freedoms

Homophobic right-wing zealots are not known for their logical thought processes, but here's an instance that really takes the cake.

In a recent action alert, Donald E. Wildmon of the American Family Association twists the intention of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) into something that he believes is a violation of the Constitution.

The ENDA would simply prohibit employment-related descrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But Wildmon apparently believes that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens and are not entitled to equal protection under the law. To treat gays and lesbians as human beings is a threat to Wildon's Constitutional rights, or so he would have us believe. And so he is calling on his sheep to tell their senators to vote for bigotry and hate.

Below is the text of Wildmon's message, along with my commentary:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has passed the U.S. House and Senator Edward Kennedy is now leading the push for a vote in the U.S. Senate. ENDA is aimed at providing heightened protections for a particular sexual behavior - homosexuality.
This is ridiculous. It's not about allowing gays to engage in homosexual sex in the workplace. It's not about man-on-man (or woman-on-woman) trysts in the copy room. It's not about behavior. It's about who you happen to be. It's about equality in the workplace, which has nothing to do with what anyone does in the privacy of his or her own bedroom outside of office hours. It simply protects all people from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.
It would grant special consideration on the basis of "sexual orientation" that would not be extended to other employees in the workplace.
Big myth. It's not about granting special privileges to gays. It's about treating them no differently than anyone else. It's about treating them as equals.
ENDA violates employers' and employees' Constitutional freedoms of religion, speech and association. The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from taking their deeply held beliefs into account when making personnel decisions. This would pose an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into people's lives.
So maybe we should bring back the Jim Crowe laws. After all, by this logic, the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from taking their deeply held racist beliefs into account when making personnel decisions. So wasn't that also an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into the lives of people who would prefer an all-white workplace?

Buy the way, the bill does include an exemption for religious organizations.
ENDA would approvingly bring private behavior considered immoral by many into the public square.
See above. This is not a call for public gay sexual activity in the workplace. This has nothing to do with sexual activity. It's only about treating all people equally regardless of what they do on their own time (and with whom).
By declaring that all sexual preferences are equally valid, ENDA would change national policy supporting marriage and family.
This has nothing to do with any declaration of sexual validity. It's only about the fact that all human beings are entitled to equal treatment and respect under the law. And there is nothing in the text of the ENDA legislation that threatens your heterosexual marriage or anyone else's. In fact, it specifically states: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a covered entity to treat a couple who are not married in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits." So what are you really afraid of?
It's obvious that the real agenda behind the innocuously named Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a push to enshrine homosexuality in national policy.
No, it is a push to enshrine equality and fairness in national policy.
This dangerous legislation would dramatically expand the government's reach into your work place and create unnecessary work-place conflicts and lawsuits. ENDA is a sweeping employer mandate to create special new legal protections based on "sexual orientation" (or "perceptions").
So instead let's just ban everyone from the workplace who might scare us. We'll start here with gays. Then maybe we can ban Middle Eastern people, because they might be terrorists. And of course we have to ban Mexicans and all the other brown-skinned people because they might be illegal immigrants. And then women, because shouldn't we stay at home like we used to, back in the good ol' days when we knew our place? And, as I said above, bring back those Jim Crowe laws.

Heck, look at what civil rights and women's rights have led to after all: A woman and an African American running for president! If this ENDA thing goes through, we might even end up with gays in the White House! What's a good ol' "Christian" white boy to do?

Best to nip it in the bud. Right, Mr. Wildmon?

08 May 2008

Ex-Gitmo prisoner carries out suicide attack; right-wing fallout expected

The Associated Press reported yesterday that a former Gitmo detainee from Kuwait carried out a recent suicide attack in Iraq.

According to the article, "The U.S. transferred al-Ajmi to Kuwaiti custody from Guantanamo in 2005. A Kuwaiti court later acquitted him of terrorism charges."

Now I'm waiting for the right-wingers to jump on this. I can hear it now:

"See? This is what happens when you let people out of Gitmo!"

"See? They truly are the worst of the worst."

Never mind the fact that many Gitmo detainees have been released and have not subsequently killed anyone.

And never mind the fact that 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;


• 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.

Never let the facts get in the way of your fear mongering.

07 May 2008

Pot-Kettle-Black: Laura Bush scolds rulers of Myanmar

According to an article from Agence France-Presse, First Lady Laura Bush criticized the military rulers of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) for failing to warn their citizens in time about last week's cyclone that killed more than 22,000 people:
"Although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path," [Laura] Bush said in an unusual appearance at the White House briefing room podium.
Wait a minute. What does this remind me of?

Oh yeah -- Hurricane Katrina, when our own so-called leaders went AWOL.

Instead of doing anything about the disaster, George W. Bush partied.

Condi Rice went shoe shopping.

And Brownie did a heck of a job.

So here again we have yet another Bush-related case of the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

06 May 2008

Will today's primaries make a difference?

Depending on how today's primaries go in Indiana and North Carolina, will this be a turning point in the Clinton and Obama campaigns?

According to a piece in today's New York Times, it depends. There are several scenarios that could play out, depending on who wins each state. But the final outcome will likely still rest with the superdelegates.

While this primary season has been very interesting to watch, I'm tired of it. I will say it again: It's time for the Dems to stop attacking each other and focus their energies against McCain. I'd rather see either one of the Dems win the nomination at this point than have the infighting continue.

Maybe today will mark a turning point. But then, I held the same hope on the day of the Pennsylvania primary.

With so much at stake, it's so hard to be patient.

While we're sitting on pins and needles, here's another piece worth checking out, from today's Washington Post: Eight Questions About Today's Primaries

05 May 2008

Why Hillary is so despised

Given the title of this piece, let me start by saying that I do not despise Hillary Clinton. In many ways I admire her.

However, I strongly disapprove of how her present presidential campaign has been run. The Democratic primary contest should be about the issues, and the candidates should save their attacks for the general election instead of undermining each other's own attempts to win the hearts and minds of the American voters. The most important thing is not whether Hillary or Barack wins the nomination. The most important thing is that the Democratic candidate beat John McCain in November. Making each other look bad at this stage of the game just gives the Republicans more talking points to use later in the summer and into the fall. And trust me -- they are taking notes.

That said, I worry about how gender and race have become issues in this campaign. And I recently gained some insight into why Hillary's very existence provokes such strong negative emotions in so many people.

I was reading an interview with crime novelist Sara Paretsky in the March 2008 issue of The Progressive. In the interview, Paretsky made the following observation:
People project on to Hillary because she is a woman. They either hate her for everything they hate about women or they long for her to be everything they want in a woman. It's an impossible burden.
Impossible indeed.

I just wish she would stop provoking further negative feelings via her negative campaign tactics. It helps no one but McCain.

04 May 2008

Exoneree on 60 Minutes tonight

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably know that one of my biggest issues is the wrongful conviction and imprisonment (and sometimes the possible execution) of innocent people by a flawed "justice" system.

Tonight CBS's 60 Minutes will feature the story of James Woodward, who spent 27 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. Woodward was released this past Tuesday after DNA evidence proved his innocence.

>> Read more.

03 May 2008

Bush again proves he's out of touch with us economically

Today in his weekly radio address, George W. Bush spoke about the economy. And he again proved that he has absolutely no idea what the average non-rich American is experiencing these days.

Here are some excerpts from today's address, with commentary:
My Administration has been clear and candid on the state of the economy.
Oh yeah? We can't know that now, because you shut down our access to key data. For some of us, ignorance is not bliss, Mr. President. And hiding the facts will not make them any less true.
This [tax rebate] package will help American families increase their purchasing power and help offset the high prices that we're seeing at the gas pump and the grocery store. It will also provide tax incentives for American businesses to invest in their companies, which will help create jobs. Most economic experts predict that the stimulus will have a positive effect on the economy in this quarter and even a greater impact in the next.
Which economic experts? Dick Cheney and Halliburton? Exxon Mobil? Yeah, that $600 rebate is going to erase all my financial worries. Now I can run out and buy a new TV to turn the economy right around, and then take it home and watch FOX News for further reassurance, right? Mission accomplished again.
While getting more money back in the hands of Americans is a good start, there are several additional steps that Congress needs to take to ease the burdens of an uncertain economy.
When all else fails, blame Congress.
Americans are concerned about energy prices. To increase our domestic energy supply, Congress needs to allow environmentally safe energy exploration in northern Alaska, expand America's refining capacity, and clear away obstacles to the use of clean, safe nuclear power.
Yeah, the answer to our energy crisis is to drill more holes in the now-pristine Alaskan wilderness and to build more nukes.
Americans are concerned about their tax bills. With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about the Federal government taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks. So Congress should eliminate this uncertainty and make the tax relief we passed permanent.
Um, except that your tax cuts primarily benefit the richest 1 percent. They're not the ones who are feeling the pain of this economic mess we're in.
America is now facing a tough economic period, but our long-term outlook remains strong.
Yeah, and you also told us in your radio address three weeks ago that "American and Iraqi forces have made significant progress" in Iraq.

But we know now that we cannot believe you.

And these are all reasons why a new CNN/Opinion Research poll has found that you are the most unpopular president in modern American history.

So please just stop it!

The real solution is to get a Democrat into the White House this fall and, even more importantly, to elect a much larger majority to both houses of Congress. We need a supermajority to get past the Republican Congressional roadblocks.

Otherwise, I fear, we can just look forward to more of the same.

02 May 2008

Nelson Mandela is on U.S. terrorist watch lists!

USA Today reports that "Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela is flagged on U.S. terrorist watch lists and needs special permission to visit the USA."


Mandela, who has become well-known, loved, and respected worldwide for his work in opposing South African apartheid, and for his work for human rights in general, is a hero to virtually all of us within the human rights community, and to countless others around the world. He hardly fits the profile of a terrorist.

But then, consider too that the NSA was caught spying on a group of peace-loving Quakers.

This is how our tax dollars are spent on "national security".

Don't you feel all safe and secure, knowing that our government is protecting us from Nelson Mandela and the Quakers?

01 May 2008

Five years later: What mission accomplished?

Today marks the fifth anniversary of George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech.

On May 1, 2003, Bush flew onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, stood beneath a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished", and announced:
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
So major combat operations in Iraq ended five years ago, but we've lost almost 4,000 more U.S. troops since then (and counting).

The Iraqi people -- the innocent civilian men, women, and children who have managed to survive thus far -- still have no security, few jobs, little electricity, and not much clean water.

And we've seen a dramatic increase in suicide bombings worldwide.

So how have we prevailed, Mr. President? What mission have we accomplished? Just humongous profits for Halliburton, Blackwater, and your other buddies in the war profiteering business?

That seems to be all.