30 September 2008

George W. Bush's legacy

1. The attacks of 9/11, which may have been stopped if the president had not ignored the daily briefing titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US."

2. The invasion of Iraq, a then-unarmed nation that posed no credible threat to us at the time, followed by an endless and very costly occupation.

3. Torture as U.S. policy.

4. Hurricane Katrina, in which 1,836 people suffered a horrible death and countless others were displaced, while Bush partied with McCain and Condi Rice went shoe shopping.

5. Unjustified spying on U.S. citizens.

6. The sorry state of our economy.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

How much more damage can he do in the almost four months remaining? October surprise, anyone?

January 20th cannot come fast enough.

29 September 2008

My superstition is better than your superstition

By now you may have heard about the Kenyan Pastor, Bishop Thomas Muthee, who blessed Sarah Palin in a special ceremony designed to protect her from "witchcraft". Palin has said that his spiritual intervention had helped her to become governor of Alaska. (So his God controls the voting machines?)

It seems that this same Bishop Muthee had led a witch hunt back in Kenya, accusing a woman called "Mama Jane" of witchcraft and eventually driving her out of town. I would leave too. But Muthee calls it "spiritual warfare".

Once all this weird stuff leaked out to the press, people started commenting.

And so now the Catholic League is jumping on the right-wing defensive bandwagon, with the League's president Bill Donahue accusing the "chattering class" of ridiculing Palin's faith and demanding that we respect Muthee's (and Palin's) belief in witchcraft because "Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa". Whatever.

So why did we not see that kind of respect when Dennis Kucinich admitted that he may have seen a UFO? Kucinich at the time was ridiculed, even though Ronald Reagan was apparently obsessed with the prospect of an alien invasion, Ronald and Nancy Reagan both consulted an astrologer before making major decisions, and George W. Bush believes that God speaks through him?

Oh, yeah -- Kucinich is a Democrat. Hence the double standard.

28 September 2008

Veterans group challenges McCain's debate assertions

In the first presidential candidates' debate on Friday, John McCain repeatedly touted his support for our troops and our veterans.

But talk is cheap.

While McCain apparently doesn't want to let the facts get in the way of his political agenda, some of us do like to do our homework and check the facts. Because we care.

And when it comes to our troops and veterans, no one cares more about them than the people at VoteVets.org, a nonpartisan group of veterans, military families, and other patriotic Americans.

And they didn't hesitate to post the following response on their website to McCain's cheap talk about his support for our troops and veterans:
McCain Overstretches his Support of Veterans and Troops

by: Brian McGough

In [Friday's] debate John McCain said "I know the veterans, I know them well, and I know that they know that I'll take care of them, and I have been proud of their support and their recognition of my service to the veterans, and I love them, and I'll take care of them, and they know that I'll take care of them."

Truth be told, this is not the case. McCain has a lackluster voting record when it comes to veterans' issues, and America's veterans know it. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have given McCain a grade of "D" when it comes to voting in their interest. The Disabled American Veterans have given McCain a 20 percent rating when it comes to voting in the interest of disabled veterans.

McCain has voted 29 times against veterans' medical benefits. In April 2006, McCain joined only 13 other senators in voting against an amendment that would increase funding for the VA to provide outpatient care and treatment. Earlier that year, McCain voted against increasing funding for military and veterans' hospitals. This was money that could have been used to fix the problems at Walter Reed before it became a national disgrace.

McCain was a staunch opponent of the bipartisan Webb/Hagel GI Bill. This bill would have provided better educational opportunities to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. McCain called this bill "too generous" and tried to introduce his own watered down bill. McCain didn't even bother to show up to vote for the bill. After it passed the two staunchest opponents of the GI Bill, President Bush and John McCain, tried to take credit for its passage.

McCain has an equally bad record when it comes to supporting our active duty soldiers. McCain opposed the Webb/Hagel Dwell time amendment. This amendment would have ensured that for every day troops were deployed, they would spend one day at home. This time would have allowed troops to decompress from combat stress and to focus on maintaining the equipment necessary to fight a war. Our troops and equipment are now dangerously overstretched.

McCain opposed the Bayh amendment that would have provided $360 million for the procurement of up-armored humvees at a time when roadside bombs were killing American troops.

McCain voted to kill the Reed Amendment. This amendment would have begun to increase the size of the active army in 2003 and focused on stability operations.

McCain voted against the Dodd amendment that would provide an additional $320 million in protective gear for our troops in harms way.

McCain also voted against a Landrieu amendment that would have given our National Guard and Reserve troops the equipment they needed to survive on the battlefield.

There is a distinct pattern in these votes, and that pattern shows that John McCain is no friend to veterans on Capitol Hill. He may say all he wants that he is, but that doesn't change the fact that he votes time and time again against the needs of veterans and active duty soldiers.

27 September 2008

Grumpy old man

One of the things I found most interesting about the Obama-McCain debate on Friday night was the contrast in demeanor.

McCain came across as combative and crotchety. And his overplayed smirk was eerily Bushlike. He presented himself as a grumpy old man.

Obama, on the other hand, came across as smart, clearheaded, even-tempered, and well prepared. He looked presidential.

Who would you trust with his finger on the button?

26 September 2008

Donate to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name

"Desperate times, brilliant measures," read the subject line of the e-mail from a friend informing me of a very creative response to Sarah Palin's war on women's rights.

The e-mail went on to describe a truly brilliant campaign: Make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name.

Donations to Planned Parenthoood are tax deductible, and Planned Parenthood will send a card to Governor Palin telling her that a donation was made in her honor.

Here's how:

Go to www.plannedparenthood.org. Click "Donate" and then click "Honorary or Memorial Donations". The minimum amount for an honorary donation is $5.

You'll need to enter an address where Planned Parenthood should send the acknowledgment card. This campaign is recommending that we use the address for McCain's campaign headquarters:

First Name: Sarah
Last Name: Palin
Address: c/o McCain for President
Address Line 2: 1235 S. Clark Street, 1st Floor
City: Arlington
State: Virginia
Zip: 22202
Country: United States

After submitting my own donation, I called Planned Parenthood to get their reaction to the campaign. "Response has been tremendous," said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Tait Sye.

Sye pointed out that this campaign did not originate with Planned Parenthood, but rather at the grassroots level. "This indicates that people are very concerned about the issues," he observed.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall at McCain headquarters when the cards start pouring in.

25 September 2008

Hasn't McCain done enough for the economy?

John McCain is now seeking to postpone Friday's presidential debate in order to focus on the financial crisis.

OK, so he incapable of multitasking. A president needs to be able to juggle multiple high-priority items at a time. But that is not my biggest concern.

My biggest concern is McCain's track record on our economy. I think he's done enough.

He has admitted that he doesn't understand economics as well as he should (although he has since denied that he ever said that, suggesting that he was either lying or extremely forgetful).

And his lack of understanding was quite apparent when he told us last week that the nation's economy was "fundamentally strong" (which he has also tried later to tap-dance around).

But even without a good understanding of economics, McCain has taken it upon himself to play in that sandbox in order to appease the special interests.

He's been a staunch supporter of the kind of deregulation that has contributed to our current financial crisis.

One of McCain's top economic advisors, Phil Gramm, may be more responsible than any other single individual.

This, by the way, is the same Phil Gramm who said that the current recession is "mental" and that America is a "nation of whiners" for complaining about the economy.

And this, by the way, is the same Phil Gramm who has been mentioned as a possible Treasury secretary in a McCain administration.

Another top McCain economic advisor, Donald Luskin, would like us to believe that the economy is booming.

And now for the icing on the cake: The New York Times recently reported that Freddie Mac paid $15,000 per month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Rick Davis, who happens to be McCain's campaign manager.

According to the Times, "[sources] said they did not recall Mr. Davis's doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than to speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis's firm, Davis Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of his close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House."

So there you go.

This is what the McCain team has been doing for our economy.

Thanks, Senator McCain, but I think I'd rather have you focusing on the debate.

24 September 2008

Supreme Court issues last-minute stay of execution for Troy Davis (with a catch)

On Tuesday afternoon, less than two hours before Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed by the state of Georgia despite compelling evidence of his innocence, the Supreme Court stepped in and issued a stay of execution.

However, it is temporary, and there is a catch. The Supremes are going to meet on Monday, September 29, to decide whether to hear Davis's appeal.

Here, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is what happens next:
In its order, the U.S. Supreme Court said if the justices decline to hear Davis’ case, "this stay shall terminate automatically." If the court agrees to hear the case, the stay will remain in force until the high court issues its ultimate ruling, the order said.
That's quite a snag.

After all, Davis's trial was flawed, and many of the witnesses have since recanted or contradicted their stories. There is no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and his conviction was based solely on that questionable testimony by witnesses. In other words, there is reasonable doubt as to Davis's guilt. And there's no excuse to execute someone when there's reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

Hopefully the Supremes will see this and will agree to hear the case.

Meantime, the Pope has called for clemency for Troy Davis. So have Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter and countless private citizens. Could we all be wrong in calling for a new evaluation of the case in light of the new evidence in Davis's defense?

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) issued the following statement regarding the stay:
"For reasons that are unfathomable, Chatham County officials seemed doggedly determined to ram this execution through before justice could fully run its course," said Larry Cox, executive director for AIUSA. "We are grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court has shown the foresight to stay the execution. We hope that it takes up the case and looks at it with fresh eyes, marking the first time that evidence pointing to Davis' innocence will have been heard in a court of law."

Meantime, Davis has been sitting on death row since 1991 for a crime he probably did not commit. Imagine what that must be like.

And imagine how he must feel today. And know that it could be you.

23 September 2008

Congrats to Ben Jealous, new NAACP President

A big shout-out and mega-congrats to Ben Jealous, who was recently named as the new President and CEO of the NAACP.

I know Ben from his days at Amnesty International, where he directed the U.S. Domestic Human Rights program, which addressed the human rights issues that developed here in the U.S. after 9/11. You know, repression and unfairness in the name of homeland security. "Be afraid."

Back then, Ben and I did some work together to expose the evils of racial profiling, including a most memorable workshop that we co-presented with another great racial justice activist, Matthew Fogg (a Chief Deputy US Federal Marshall who runs the Bigots with Badges website).

I cannot think of anyone who is better suited to serve as President and CEO of the NAACP at this point in time.

Below is the text of a recent email announcement from the NAACP about Ben's new gig, dated (coincidentally) September 11, 2008:
Next week a new chapter will begin at the NAACP when Benjamin Todd Jealous, 35, becomes only the 17th President of the NAACP in its 99-year history. Mr. Jealous has spent his professional life working for the very social justice concerns for which the NAACP advocates. We believe that he is a perfect match, and I think you will agree.

A life-long community activist, Mr. Jealous organized his first voter registration drive at age 14, with a determination that stemmed from being raised in a family that has actively supported the NAACP for five generations.

He began his career as a community organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund working on issues of healthcare access in Harlem. At age 21, Jealous moved to Mississippi to work as a field organizer as part of a successful campaign to stop the state's plan to close two of its three public historically black universities, and convert one of them into a prison.

During that time, he took a job at Mississippi's Jackson Advocate newspaper investigating human rights abuses. His reporting for the frequently firebombed weekly paper was credited with exposing corruption amongst high-ranking officials at notorious Parchman State Prison. His investigations also helped to acquit a black small farmer who had been wrongfully and maliciously accused of arson.

He soon became Managing Editor at the Advocate, and eventually went on to serve as Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of more than 200 black community newspapers. While at the NNPA, he rebuilt its 90-year old national news service and launched a web-based initiative that more than doubled the number of black newspapers publishing online.

His career path has also included leadership positions at Amnesty International, where he directed the U.S. Domestic Human Rights Program and published their widely acclaimed 2004 report, Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States, leading efforts to rebuild public support against racial profiling post 9/11.

Most recently, Mr. Jealous served as President of the Rosenberg Foundation, an independent institution that supports civil and human rights advocacy related to the economic interests of working people.

A Rhodes Scholar as well as an accomplished activist, Mr. Jealous is one of the best and brightest of his generation; and he represents a new generation for the NAACP. To learn more about him, visit the NAACP website.

I hope you will join me in welcoming Benjamin Todd Jealous to our organization. I know we can expect great things from his leadership.
To the guy who, back in the day, so wittily helped us all remember his email address by speaking out the prefix, "bjealous": Way to go, Ben. You deserve this.

22 September 2008

Michael Moore's new film available free after midnight tonight

Michael Moore's new feature-length film "Slacker Uprising" will be available to download for free after midnight tonight -- no strings attached. It's Moore's contribution to help get out the vote for this year's elections.

Here is how Moore describes the movie:
"Slacker Uprising" chronicles the 62-city tour I did leading up to the 2004 election. It is electrifying to see the tens of thousands of young people who were ready then for the uprising -- and who, this year, are actually making it happen. This is my concert film tribute to the young voters who are going to save this country from four more years of Republican rule.
I saw the trailer some time ago, and it does seem to be an inspirational film.

You have until October 13th to take advantage of this free download. Here are the download details, as outlined in an email announcement that Moore distributed this morning:
1) Blip.tv will provide standard resolution streaming, free of commercials and advertising.

2) Amazon Video on Demand will provide a high quality version of the above stream.

3) iTunes will make it easy for you to download "Slacker Uprising" on your iTunes, iPod, or Apple TV, and view it there or transmit it to your television. This way, the film can be portable as well as for home viewing.

4) Hypernia is providing bandwidth, servers and management to host "Slacker Uprising" online, so you can download the film and view it at any time or burn it onto a DVD.
And for anyone who doesn't (or cannot) download the movie, you can order a DVD for only $9.95.

>> Read more about the film on Moore's website.

>> Watch the trailer and get more info at the film's official website.

21 September 2008

Will racism cost Obama the election?

Most Americans believe that this nation is on the wrong track. We want change.

Why then are Barack Obama and John McCain running neck-and-neck in the polls?

Do people not realize that McCain has voted with George W. Bush 95 percent of the time? That shows you where his priorities lie -- with the neocon agenda and the oil executives.

Or is race an issue, even here in the 21st century?

Sadly, I suspect that it is.

I grew up in a small redneck town in rural north-central Pennsylvania. From the little bit of news I still receive from back there, I can tell that it still harbors the same closed xenophobic culture in which I grew up feeling like a fish out of water.

They don't like outsiders. They don't like anyone or anything that differs from the mundane white Christian blandness that they are accustomed to. Their worldview is very limited, and any expansion of it seems daunting and is therefore dismissed with anger. And so, as Obama so famously observed, they cling to their guns and religion.

I remember walking through that town on a weekend home from college 30 years ago, just after word got out that I had dated a black guy at school. Hostile shouts of "n____ lover!" were hurled at me by the people I had gone to high school with. Just because I had dated someone with a superficial difference. Someone whom they would never get to know as the smart, funny, congenial man that he was -- because of an irrational prejudice.

And, to this day, I will bet that most of those people will not vote for Barack Obama simply because of the color of his skin.

And so they will instead vote against their own best interests.

Despite the fiasco in Iraq and its cost in dollars and in lives.

Despite the sorry state of our economy.

Despite the price of gasoline.

Despite the fact that some 47 million of us have no health insurance coverage.

And despite all those American jobs being shipped overseas by companies who want to take advantage of the tax breaks that McCain helped to enable.

And it's not an issue just in my old hometown. I frequently talk with people all across this nation who recognize that there are a lot of American voters -- not just the rednecks -- who will not vote for a black man.

In fact, a new AP-Yahoo poll reveals that "one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks -- many calling them 'lazy,' 'violent,' responsible for their own troubles." One-third!

And there may also be those who will tell the pollsters that skin color makes no difference; but, when they're alone in the voting booth, with the curtain drawn, can they vote with their brains and not with their fears and prejudices?

I hope so. But I am not optimistic.

20 September 2008

Troopergate: Just what we need - more impunity in our government

It's starting to look like Sarah Palin will fit right in at the White House. After all, we've become used to a government that ignores the law and gets away with it. And Governor Palin seems to be following suit.

By now you have probably heard of "Troopergate". It involves allegations that Governor Palin abused her power by trying to get the state's Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in an ugly divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister. When Monegan refused, Palin ask him to resign.

A bipartisan committee of the Alaska state legislature has called for an independent investigation, which is currently in progress. But it isn't going so well. That is because Todd Palin (the governor's husband) and other witnesses are refusing to testify in the investigation.

This is so reminiscent of the Bush administration's refusal to let its own key players testify in investigations into their own misconduct -- Karl Rove, Harriett Miers, Josh Bolton, and whoever else.

Those who have sworn an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the law of the land seem to believe that they are somehow above it.

On election day, I hope the American people will decide that they've had enough of this.

19 September 2008

Mark Fiore: Fundamentals

When things get very, very bad, sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying, or to keep from losing your mind.

So it is with this financial crisis we're experiencing. And it is indeed a crisis, no matter what John McCain might tell you.

So today I am turning this soapbox over to the great political cartoonist Mark Fiore. With much cleverness, and just the right amount of humor, his newest animation brilliantly explores our economic crisis and John McCain's lack of a clue.

Check it out: Mark Fiore: Fundamentals

18 September 2008

More from death row: Statement from death row inmate Kevin Cooper on the Troy Davis case

I have written a few posts in recent weeks about the case of Troy Davis, who is scheduled for execution by the State of Georgia later this month despite evidence that he may be innocent.

Davis's execution is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on September 23rd (next Tuesday). Last week, Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to overturn his death sentence, even though there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and even though seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted.

Justice? How can we be so sure in the presence such reasonable doubt?

By the way, Troy Davis is black.

Meantime, Kevin Cooper, also black, sits on death row at San Quenton. He has released the following statement on the Troy Davis case, along with blanket permission to forward it around as much as possible. His statement is presented here unedited.

As you read this, keep in mind the fact that minorities are executed at a much higher rate than white defendants who are convicted of similar crimes here in the good ol' USA.
By Kevin Cooper

I have never personally met my cultural brother Troy Davis. Yet I know him as I know myself. This kindred spirit is in a different part of this country, yet we are experiencing damn near the same things.

I have seen Mr. Davis photograph, and he looks nothing like me, or me like him, yet he is my brother. His black skin is the only thing that makes us resemble each other, and as far as I know our skin is different shades of black. But in america, black skin is enough of a reason to find ones self in a fight for your very life, because in america, or certain parts of it, black skin is unforgivable!

Like Troy Davis I was once 'saved or spared' from being first tortured, and then murdered by a state government... if only temporarily. This happened to me on February 9th, 2004, when I came within 3 hours and 42 minutes of being tortured and murdered by the state of california before I was granted a stay of execution. I await the final outcome of the 9th circuit court of appeals decision on my case, which can happen any day. I do so knowing and understanding from experience the emotional stress, mental anguish, and psychological torture that my brother and his family are currently going through.

This unjust criminal justice system does not care about truth, or justice, it and the people who work within it for the most part care only about upholding the will of the status quo. These people have no right to take from us what they did not give us...our lives. Not only do they have no moral right, despite what they claim they have no god given right, or any other type of right to kill people. Not even a legal one, because their law is not only arbitrary, it's sick, it's inhumane and it doesn't work, just to state a few reasons why this madness must be stopped!

My connection to and with Troy Davis and his family is not only personal because of our circumstances, it's also historical because there has never been a time within this country that we black men and our families have not been more connected to each other because of our deaths at the hands of the white supremist power structure than we have been as everyday human beings. While this is a damn shame, it's the real truth!

I am being realistic, and trying not to be pessimistic in this reality that is fatalistic in the fact that I am maybe about the lose another brother, who like many of my brothers and sisters are innocent. Yet our innocence doesn't seem to matter to the sons and daughters of american hypocrisy!

17 September 2008

Alaskans protest Palin (with great slogans)

The McCain campaign likes to tout Sarah Palin's high approval rating in Alaska. So there's probably no way that Obama can win Alaska.

But not everyone in Alaska is a Sarah Palin fan.

The Washington Post recently ran an article about an anti-Palin protest rally in Anchorage.

A little girl waved a sign reading Don't Ban My Books, referring to Palin's mayoral inquiries about banning books from the Wasilla library.

A woman in a polar bear suit proclaimed Polar Bear Moms Say: No Palin, referring to Palin's opposition to listing polar bears as an endangered species because doing so would pose "a significant threat to [oil and gas] development."

Another protester wielded a hockey stick scrawled with the slogan Hockey Mama for Obama.

Other great signs:
Bush In A Skirt
Jesus Was a Community Organizer
Palin: Thanks But No Thanks
Smearing Alaska's Good Name One Scandal @ a Time
Candidate To Nowhere
Rape Kits Should Be Free
Barbies for War
Give Palin Your Vote AND Your Draft Age Child
Sarah Palin: So Far Right She's Wrong
Sarah Palin, Undoing 150 Years of American Feminism
And my personal favorite:
Coat Hangers for McCain

16 September 2008

Dow down 504 points on Monday while McCain says economy is strong

The U.S. economy is not what it used to be. How I long to go back to those eight years of relative peace and undeniable prosperity under Bill Clinton's administration! Ahhhhh!

But that was then, and this is now.

Now we have the Republicans in charge -- you know, the "party of fiscal responsibility". And, not coincidentally, we have gas prices hovering at around $4 per gallon. And, not coincidentally, we have the mortgage crisis. And, not coincidentally, the economic chickens have come home to roost, so to speak.

And so yesterday the Dow closed down 504 points. There goes my 401(k). And probably yours too.

That's a big deal.

So is the fact that the Bank of America just bought Merrill Lynch in what the British newspaper The Telegraph calls "an act of desperation".

So is the fact that Lehman Brothers is going bankrupt.

So are AIG's woes.

And so is this nonsense with John McCain telling us that the economy is fundamentally strong.

Does he think we are all stupid?!

Of course, this is the same John McCain who admitted to us last year, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should."

Duh! No kidding.

And what could he possibly know about the financial struggles of the average American today? McCain can't even remember how many houses he owns!

And yet McCain's trained monkeys have the nerve to accuse Obama of elitism! (Yes, that same elitist Obama who just recently finished paying off his student loans.)

It's just too cute. And disturbing. And scary as hell when you consider that McCain might actually be elected to the presidency of the United States of America.

Heaven help us.

15 September 2008

Is Sarah Palin a racist?

It sure sounds that way.

After Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries, Governor Palin laughingly exclaimed, "So Sambo beat the bitch!"

This is the woman who might soon be a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States of America.

14 September 2008

Katha Pollitt: Lipstick on a Wing Nut

Today is Sunday, so I'm am going to rest. While I'm really concerned about Sarah Palin, I won't write anything original today. Instead, I will turn this soapbox over to Katha Pollitt, who wrote an excellent piece about the Republican vice presidential candidate for the September 29 edition of The Nation.

She starts out with some general observations about Republican double standards and hypocrisy:
John McCain chose the supremely under-qualified Sarah Palin as his running mate partly because she is a woman. If you have a problem with that, you're a sexist. She talks incessantly about being a mother of five and uses her newborn, Trig, who has Down syndrome, as a campaign prop. If you wonder how she'll handle all those kids and the Veep job too, you're a super-sexist. "When do they ever ask a man that question?" charges that fiery feminist Rudy Giuliani. Indeed, Palin, who went back to work when Trig was three days old, gets nothing but praise from Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson and the folks at National Review, who usually blame all the ills of modern America on those neurotic, harried, selfish, frustrated, child-neglecting, husband-castrating working mothers. Even stranger, her five-months-pregnant 17-year-old, Bristol, gets nothing but compassion and respect from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and others who have spent their careers slut-shaming teens for having sex--and blaming their parents for letting it happen.


The Republicans bashed Barack Obama as a "celebrity," but now they've got a star of their own, so naturally the rules have changed.

Later comes the best part, where she lists the questions that the media should be asking Governor Palin (but aren't):
§ Suppose your 14-year-old daughter Willow is brutally raped in her bedroom by an intruder. She becomes pregnant and wants an abortion. Could you tell the parents of America why you think your child and their children should be forced by law to have their rapists' babies?

§ You say you don't believe global warming is man-made. Could you tell us what scientists you've spoken with or read who have led you to that conclusion? What do you think the 2,500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are getting wrong?

§ If you didn't try to fire Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Baker over her refusal to consider censoring books, why did you try to fire her?

§ What is the European Union, and how does it function?

§ Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance. John Goodman, who has advised McCain on healthcare, has proposed redefining them as covered because, he says, anyone can get care at an ER. Do you agree with him?

§ What is the function of the Federal Reserve?

§ Cindy and John McCain say you have experience in foreign affairs because Alaska is next to Russia. When did you last speak with Prime Minister Putin, and what did you talk about?

§ Approximately how old is the earth? Five thousand years? 10,000? 5 billion?

§ You are a big fan of President Bush, so why didn't you mention him even once in your convention speech?
... and more.

Kudos to Katha for this insightful, thought-provoking, eye-opening, and entertaining piece of work.

>> Read the complete article.

13 September 2008

No clemency for Troy Davis

A few days ago, I wrote about Troy Davis, who is scheduled for execution by the State of Georgia later this month despite evidence that he may be innocent.

Yesterday, September 12, Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to overturn Davis's death sentence, even though seven of the nine witnesses against him have since recanted.

Davis's execution is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on September 23rd.

So, 10 days from now, unless the governor or a high court chooses to intervene, Georgia will execute a man who might be innocent, rather than go through the trouble of giving him a new trial (or just keeping him in prison until they can sort it all out).

There are many reasons to oppose the death penalty. To me this is the strongest reason of all.

12 September 2008

Palin's disturbing interview

Sarah Palin gave an interesting interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, which aired last evening.

I have to give Gibson credit: He asked some tough questions about her lack of foreign policy experience.

Gibson: "Have you ever traveled outside the country prior to your trip to Kuwait and Germany last year?"

Palin: "Canada, Mexico." [And then lots of bragging about traveling to Kuwait last year to meet with the troops.]

Gibson: "Have you ever met a foreign head of state?"

Palin: "I have not." [And then lots of doublespeak and excuses for why it doesn't matter.]


She tapdanced around each and every question, often citing her experience with "energy". (In Palin's lexicon, it seems that "energy" is a euphemysm for the oil industry.)

And then the part that really got me steamed: When Gibson questioned her about the situation in Georgia, Palin chastised Russia for "invading a smaller democratic country unprovoked."

This is the same Sarah Palin who is 100% in favor of continuing our occupation of Iraq -- you know, that smaller country that we had invaded unprovoked.

It's just another one of those right-wing double standards.

Then, as if my blood pressure could afford to go even higher, Gibson asked Palin about a hypothetical scenario in which Israel might feel so threatened by Iran that it decides it must take out Iran's nuclear facilities. Her take on it: "We are friends of Israel, and I don't think that we should second-guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security."

>> Watch the interview. (But take my advice and pour yourself a stiff drink first.)

11 September 2008

9/11 became an excuse

As I write this on the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my heart goes out to those who lost loved ones on this date in 2001. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for them to face this date each year, with memories of their loved ones fading farther and farther into the past.

And my thoughts wander to how this country's leadership responded -- not with revenge on the attackers, at least not for very long, but rather through revenge on a then-unarmed country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

And then I become angry.

Because 9/11 became an excuse.

We started out on the right foot. We invaded Afghanistan, where the Taliban had allegedly been supporting al-Qaeda, and where Osama bin Laden was supposedly hiding out. We took down the Taliban. And we had Osama cornered at Tora Bora. All good. So what did we do next?

We took our eye off the ball and changed our game plan.

We let bin Laden escape.

And, for reasons that all turned out to be lies, we diverted our troops to Iraq, where we've so far lost 4,155 (and counting).

So now Osama bin Forgotten remains on the loose, where he pops up from time to time to thumb his nose at us in a video. Neener-neener-neener.

Way to go, George W.

But that's just the beginning. The Bush administration was on a roll, so they continued to use 9/11 as an excuse.

They used 9/11 as an excuse to use racial profiling and other forms of discrimination against Muslims and Middle Eastern people. Guilty until proven innocent.

They used 9/11 as an excuse to detain terror suspects indefinitely without charge and without legal recourse. Guilty until proven innocent.

They used 9/11 as an excuse to curtail the civil rights of U.S. citizens. Probably guilty until proven innocent.

And they used 9/11 as an excuse to torture. Guilty or not.

And all the while they tell us that it's for our own good, our own protection, our own safety. After all, the terrorists hate our freedoms. Be afraid.

I am so tired of the politics of fear and lying. And when it's done in the name of 9/11, it dishonors those who lost their lives in the attacks.

And finally I wonder what I'll be writing next year on this anniversary. What will the "war on terror" look like under the next administration?

It will certainly be very different depending on who wins the White House this November.

We'll either have a continuation of the arrogant politics of fear and aggression, or else we'll have a new foreign policy based on a strong-yet-fair system of international diplomatic engagement and cooperation.

The choice is ours.

10 September 2008

Will Georgia execute an innocent man?

Troy Davis is scheduled for execution by the State of Georgia on September 23rd, despite evidence that he may be innocent.

Below is a summary of the Davis case from Equal Justice USA. It contains links to a site where you can send a message to the Georgia Board of Pardons & Paroles asking them to stay the execution.

Davis's trial was flawed, and many of the witnesses have since recanted or contradicted their stories. There is no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and his conviction was based solely on that questionable testimony by witnesses. In other words, there is reasonable doubt as to Davis's guilt. And there's no excuse to execute someone when there's reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

Note that Davis's clemency hearing is scheduled for September 12th, so act now!
In Georgia, Troy Anthony Davis may be executed on September 23rd, despite evidence of his innocence. We need your help to convice Georgia to stop Davis' execution and give him the new trial he deserves. Click here to take action now!

Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. According to Amnesty International, the case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony that contained inconsistencies, even at trial. Since then, all but two of the state's nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced into testifying or signing statements.

The case of Troy Davis reminds us that so long as the death penalty exists, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eradicated. We need your help to tell the Georgia Board of Pardons & Paroles to give Troy Davis clemency. His clemency hearing is September 12th, so act now!
More info about this case is available at the Amnesty International USA site here: Troy Davis: Finality Over Fairness

09 September 2008

Hillary vs. Sarah = "cat fight"?

This morning, the Boston Globe is featuring this headline:

On trail for Obama, Clinton avoiding Palin 'cat fight'

The article says that Hillary Clinton has been avoiding taking on Sarah Palin directly.

Two things about this are disturbing to me:

1. Why is it automatically called a "cat fight" if a woman is going to publicly disagree with another woman? When men do it, it's called "debating" or "challenging" one another.

2. Hillary Clinton didn't waste any time attacking Obama and her other rivals during the primary season. Why is she now going soft on Palin? Now, more than ever, we need Sen. Clinton's "attack dog" talents on our side. And we need Sen. Clinton to point out to her feminist supporters that voting for the wrong woman is much worse than voting for a man who has their best interests at heart.

08 September 2008

Vietnam vet speaks out against a McCain presidency

Whenever John McCain is asked a tough question in his campaign for president, he seems to tout his experience as a POW in Vietnam as the answer. It absolves him of any accountability, it would seem.

In a recent piece posted on the website of The Nation magazine, Robert Greenwald's organization Brave New Films spells it out:
John McCain has been exploiting his prisoner of war experience every chance he gets. He has used this story to justify everything from not knowing how many homes he has to his healthcare plan to his marital infidelities to his taste in music. The McCain campaign is even using his POW story in paid ads. But now a veteran who was a prisoner with McCain in Vietnam is explaining loud and clear that being a POW does not qualify McCain to lead our country.
Dr. Phillip Butler, shown in this video, spent eight years as a POW. And he explains why "the POW experience is not a good prerequisite for President of the United States."

In fact, he makes some good arguments as to why McCain's POW experience should probably disqualify McCain -- most notably his bellicose nature and his volatile temper.

07 September 2008

What Sarah Palin didn't tell us

On September 3rd, Republican VP candidate and current Alaska Governor Sarah Palin gave a very impressive acceptance speech. She seemed strong, bright, poised, and confident.

Her speech seemed to fire up the audience. Lots of applause. Standing ovations. And, based on interviews by the television reporters on the convention floor, Palin even seemed to win over some moderate pro-choice Republican women. It was that easy.

But that was just one speech, and it was written to strategically touch on talking points that would win points with the audience, and ignore others.

And the points they chose to ignore could make all the difference in voters' minds.

Here are just a few:

Governor Palin told us that she had "stood up to the ... big oil companies." She did not tell us that she had strongly supported Big Oil's efforts to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. And she did not tell us that she had opposed listing polar bears as an endangered species because doing so would pose a "significant threat to [oil and gas] development."

Governor Palin told us that she had "championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress." She did not tell us that she herself had taken advantage of a whole lot of federal earmark spending. According to the Washington Post, "Palin helped secure almost $27 million in projects for her tiny hometown of Wasilla, Alaska."

Governor Palin said that she had told Congress "thanks, but no thanks" for the Bridge to Nowhere. She did not tell us that she had supported the bridge before she opposed it. In other words, she flip-flopped.

Governor Palin told us that Barack Obama "has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate." She did not tell us that Obama, along with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), authored S. 2566, which passed in 2007, to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. She did not tell us that Obama, along with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), authored the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, to require full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving Federal funds. And she did not tell us that, this year alone, Obama sponsored many more Senate bills than his opponent, John McCain -- 70 to 22.

Governor Palin told us that Barack Obama wants to raise taxes. She did not tell us that Obama would actually cut taxes for over 95% of American families. Those who would have to pay more taxes under an Obama administration are the richest handful of Americans who are currently enjoying Bush's tax breaks for the very wealthy -- tax breaks that Obama would stop so that the rich will have to pay their fair share just as you and I do.

Governor Palin told us that Barack Obama "wants to forfeit" a victory in Iraq. She did not recognize that you cannot win an occupation (as was so astutely noted on a sign held by Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh the following night at the RNC).

Governor Palin told us, "This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer." What she is missing is the fact that the world community fared better when the U.S. did serve as its organizer. America's role in the world community changed for the worst when George W. Bush adopted his unilateral cowboy-style foreign policy. And, rather than make us safer, the Bush-McCain war policy has actually fueled an increased terrorist threat.

And while it seems obvious that McCain chose Palin as his running mate in an attempt to win over disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, Governor Palin did not mention her extremist views that are pretty much the opposite of Senator Clinton's views on women's issues. She did not tell us, for instance, that she opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

Finally, while the right wing may criticize Barack Obama's former ties to Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Governor Palin did not mention the fact that her own church recently heard a sermon professing that terrorist attacks on Israel amount to divine judgment on Jews for refusing to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.

So, when all these things are considered, this election would seem like a shoo-in for the Democrats, right?

Wrong! Unfortunately.

Unlike some of us, the average American does not take the time to research political issues and dig between the lines. Politics is not everyone's hobby. The average American has just enough time to absorb what they can from a few minutes each day of cable or network news, and they trust that they are sufficiently informed.

Yet, even as the right wing decries the so-called "liberal media", the mainstream press does little more than just pass along the partisan talking points.

They say that true democracy requires an informed electorate. This is a problem today, as too many voters rely on too little information, or distorted information, to make their decisions.

This is why those of us who do obsess with politics need to spend every spare minute knocking on doors, literally and figuratively, and sharing the truth. This is going to be a very close election, and so much hangs in the balance. We must do all we can to counteract the swift boaters and the disinformation machine in general.

Heaven help us if we fail.

06 September 2008

Disturbing U.S.-Iraqi agreement leaked

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has obtained a draft U.S.-Iraqi agreement regarding what will happen next year after the current United Nations mandate for a multinational military presence in Iraq expires. The agreement is dated August 6th, 2008.

AFSC staff translated the agreement from its original Arabic into English, and it is now posted on the AFSC website. This is the first known public English translation of the agreeent.

The agreement includes some disturbing provisions:

• Withdrawal of combat troops only.

• Permanent U.S. military bases with troop presence indefinitely.

• Full immunity from arrest, detention, or legal accountability for actions by US troops and contractors inside and outside U.S. bases.

Our presence of Iraq has fueled an increased terrorist threat. And so we want to stay there indefinitely. Where is the logic in that?

Oh, wait, I get it: The logic is buried somewhere beneath all those oil fields.

05 September 2008

Unemployment rate just jumped to 6.1 percent

USA Today reports that the unemployment rate in this country "zoomed to a five-year high of 6.1% in August as employers slashed 84,000 jobs."

This is George W. Bush's economy. And, based on John McCain's speech last night, it sounds like McCain will continue the same economic policies that got us here if he is our next president.

Have a nice weekend.

04 September 2008

1968 all over again: Police brutality at the RNC

It brings back memories of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Now, 40 years later, we've got an unpopular president, and unpopular war, an arrogant offense-oriented foreign policy, and domestic issues on the line that make this the most important election of my adult life.

And, 40 years later, protesters and the press have shown up en masse at this year's Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. And again the police have gotten out of control.

In fact, they have been violently abusing and arresting innocent journalists who are just there to report on what's happening.

Among the journalists manhandled and arrested are my hero Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and two of her producers.

These journalists did nothing violent or threatening. They were just there to do their job -- to report on the convention and related activity. For that, they were arrested.

The Bush administration has trashed our Fourth Amendment rights with all their illegal spying on us. Now they want to ignore our fundamental freedom of the press.

I no longer recognize my country.

Amy Goodman arrested at the RNC, along with 2 producers

Amy Goodman describes the arrests on Free Speech TV

03 September 2008

Palin, new surprises, and the "patriotic" card

The media have been exposing more and more interesting surprises about John McCain's new running mate Sarah Palin. All these issues prompted the New York Times yesterday to question how thoroughly she had been vetted.

One of the new tidbits of information that caught my eye in particular was the claim that Palin had previously been a member of the Alaska Independence Party, which has, as the "number one plank" in their platform, the question of possible secession of Alaska from the U.S.


Supporting the secession of one's state from the union doesn't sound like the height of American patriotism.

It seems a whole lot less patriotic than, say, Barack Obama not always wearing his flag pin.

So now not only can McCain no longer play the experience card against Barack Obama, since his new running mate Sarah Palin has less national government experience than Obama. It seems that now he can no longer play the "patriotic" card either.

The best resource I've found on this secession issue so far is a post at the Daily Kos site that contains more info, videos, links, etc., here: Successionist Sarah: VP pick Sarah Palin and the Alaska Independence Party

While Sarah Palin's issues are all interesting, and many of them are somewhat alarming, the biggest issue in my opinion is what this says about McCain and his own judgment. What does it say about him when he chooses such a controversial candidate, one with so little relevant experience, to be one heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States of America?

02 September 2008

Another McCain double standard -- the children

The big news now this morning is that Sarah Palin's unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant. I guess that right-wing abstinence-only approach doesn't work so well after all.

A McCain campaign spokesperson said that McCain considers this to be a private family matter. I agree that the children should be off-limits when it comes to campaign politics and media coverage.

However, McCain didn't seem to care about protecting the privacy of politicians' children back in '98:
"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.”
–- Sen. John McCain, speaking to a Republican dinner, June 1998
Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the quote.

01 September 2008

Bush's Labor Day hypocrisy

Today, the first Monday in September, is Labor Day in the USA -- a holiday set aside to celebrate the American worker.

And, as is customary, George W. Bush dedicated his latest weekly radio address to "the contributions of hardworking Americans all across our country - from teachers, farmers, and health care professionals, to firefighters, police officers, small business owners, and workers on the assembly line."

As if he has a clue what life is like today for American workers.

As if he cares.

Talk is cheap. The facts paint a very different story. Under Bush, unemployment as of August 1 had risen to 5.7 percent. And those of us who still have jobs are working harder for lower pay.

If Bush truly cared about the American worker, he wouldn't give tax breaks to corporations that outsource American jobs to cheaper (often slave-wage) labor markets in places like China and India.

And if Bush truly cared about the American worker, he would give working and middle-class families the real tax breaks and force the richest 2% to pay their fair share.

Of course, he spins the truth to make it sound like that's what he's doing. In Saturday's radio address, he went on to tell us that those cute little tax rebate checks are doing as intended and saving the economy.

"Many Americans who received tax rebates are spending them," he boasted. "Businesses are taking advantage of tax incentives to purchase new equipment this year. And there are signs that the stimulus package will continue to have a beneficial impact on the economy in the second half of the year."

He continued, "Our economy is showing that it is resilient. And our Nation is the most industrious, creative, and prosperous on earth."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah.

Tell that to the 5.7 percent of Americans who don't have jobs.

Tell that to the Americans whose companies traded them for cheap Chinese sweatshop labor.

Tell that to the middle class families who now cannot afford a summer vacation.

Bush was elected -- twice, mind you -- because the average American fell for his fake down-home style. He was the candidate they'd most want to have a beer with.

Well, folks, your beer buddy got us into this mess.

And, with folksy old John McCain, it will be more of the same.

People need to realize that the folksy talk is just their way of talking down to you.