30 April 2008

More proof that Bush does not support the troops

In a news conference yesterday, George W. Bush once again proved that he really does not support our troops. He just wants to use them to advance his oily agenda.

Bush had requested $108 billion from Congress to continue funding his wars, but Congress wants to add some additional funds to increase education benefits for the troops who are lucky enough to return from Iraq.

Bush said he would veto any such add-ons.

He wants us to spend money only on war, death, and destruction, and not on any benefits for our returning veterans.

In Bush's world, the life of a soldier should involve all risk and no rewards.

29 April 2008

Homophobe Keyes passed over for Constitution Party presidential nomination

I generally don't like to see people fail. That is, unless the failure is on the shoulders of someone like, say, Dick Cheney or his ilk. Or a fiercely homophobic presidential wannabe who would reject his own daughter because of her sexual orientation.

In this case, I couldn't help but gloat when the Kansas City Star reported over the weekend that the Constitution Party gave its presidential slot to talk show host Chuck Baldwin, choosing Baldwin over Alan Keyes.

So is Keyes like Dick Cheney? Not quite. Keyes holds much less power.

But in one way, Keyes may be worse than Cheney. Cheney at least seems to accept his lesbian daughter Mary, to some extent. Not so Keyes, who threw his own lesbian daughter out of the house, stopped speaking to her, and refused to pay for her college tuition when she came out in 2005.

How ironic it is that Alan Keyes always tends to run on a "family values" platform.

Since when is it a family value to turn your back on your own child because of who she is and whom she happens to be attracted to?

28 April 2008

Why do the Republicans oppose fair pay?

On April 23, Senate Republicans blocked the Fair Pay Restoration Act from moving to an up or down vote.

To give credit where due, there were a few exceptions, with Republican senators Collins (ME), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), and Specter (PA) voting "Yea". But, unfortunately, they are a mere drop in the big greedy white male Republican bucket.

This legislation was prompted by the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear, in which the Supreme Court held that a worker has only a 180-day window in which to take action in pay discrimination cases. In other words, in the Ledbetter case, Lilly Ledbetter waited too long to sue. She would have had to take action within 180 days of when the pay discrepancy began. The problem: She didn't learn about it until several years later.

So, according to the current law upheld last year by the Supremes, you have to be a mind reader or else accept the lower wages.

The Democrats in Congress are trying to change that, so that women and other minorities can more easily sue in the event of pay discrimination.

But that, according to the Republicans, is apparently a bad thing. And that includes presumed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. McCain didn't show up for work that day, and so he didn't vote on the bill. But he did find time to tell reporters that he opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits!

In other words, your Republican presidential candidate doesn't want a law guaranteeing equal treatment for women because it might be enforced via the courts if necessary.

McCain himself admitted at the time that he wants more freedom than that for businesses. To hell with the little guy -- or gal.

Shame on him for choosing the rich corporate vampires over the regular working Americans who have suffered enough for the man!

I wonder what Cindy McCain thinks about the fact that her husband doesn't want to guarantee fair pay for their daughters, because their daughters might then be able to sue if they are paid unfairly.

Does she even care? And, if so, would it matter? Cindy McCain is a Budweiser heiress. So I'm sure that her daughters will be well taken care of no matter what.

But do the McCains care about the rest of us? That is the real question in this election year.

And Senator John McCain's opposition to the Fair Pay Act suggests that his answer is "Nay".

27 April 2008

Justice Dept. continues to insist that torture is OK

The U.S. Justice Department is misnamed. It would more aptly be called the Justification Department, at least where torture is concerned.

Today we get more evidence of this, as the New York Times leads with a story that the Justice Department sent a letter to Congress last month claiming that "American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law."

In other words, they can legally break the law.

Just because George W. Bush and the so-called Justice Department say so.

Imagine the outrage if Iran tried to justify torture the same way.

Imagine the outrage if Bill Clinton had tried to do so.

25 April 2008

Gitmo is not a joke

Today, the new film Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay will be released nationwide.

The film follows a couple of stoners who are accidentally suspected of terrorism and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay.

But it's a comedy.

So apparently this movie is going to portray the Gitmo experience as something that's hilarious.

The problem is that Guantanamo is a very serious matter, and the premise of this movie -- this comedy -- is therefore offensive at best.

It's not that I don't have a sense of humor -- I certainly do. But making a comedy about prisoners at Guantanamo seems to me no different than, say, making a comedy about your grandmother getting raped.

Some things are just not a joking matter.

And the worst part is that there are probably many stoner types and other non-thinkers who will see this movie, will find it funny, and will laugh not only at the movie but now at the whole Gitmo situation as well.

Gitmo is not a joke, people.

24 April 2008

FBI torture cover-up?

Yesterday, during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller on his agency's response to claims -- made by his own FBI agents -- that the CIA was torturing prisoners. According to an e-mail sent by Wexler to his supporters, Wexler "wanted to find out why, if the FBI's own agents had alleged illegal actions were taking place, there was no investigation into the CIA's illegal and immoral practices."

Yes, I'm curious, too.

This torture thing seems to have gotten overwhelming support (both in making it happen and in trying to cover it up) more widely than I ever imagined. It's astonishing that so many people would be willing to go along with the illegal and heinous practice of torture in this day and age, especially since we know it does not work.

So Wexler (RW) grilled Mueller (RM). Here is a partial transcript:
Robert Wexler: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Director, in January of 2006, the New York Times reported that the NSA wireless wiretapping program had produced thousands of leads each month that the FBI had to track down, but that no Al-Qaeda networks were discovered. During a July 17, 2007 briefing, FBI deputy director John Pistole indicated that the FBI was not aware of any Al-Qaeda sleeper cells operating in the United States. In August of 2007 Congress passed the Protect America Act, giving the intelligence community greater access to electronic communications coming into and out of the United States. I have two questions in this regard.

RW: Has the FBI found any sleeper cells yet? One…

RW: Two. Has the NSA's wireless wiretapping programs either before the Protect America Act or after led to the prosecution and conviction of any terrorists in the United States?

Robert Mueller: Well, as to your first question as to whether we have found affiliates or, as you would call them, cells of Al-Qaeda in the United States, yes we have. Again, I cannot get into it in public session, but I would say yes we have. With regard to the relationship of a particular case or individual to the terrorist surveillance program, again that is something that would have to be covered in a closed session.

RW: Alright, Mr. Director. An LA Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved” end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote “pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy” end quote.

RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn't you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

RW: So you can't tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don't you get involved; you can't tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

RM: I'll tell you we followed our own protocols.

RW: And what was the result?

RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

RM: I can't comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

RW: Why can't you comment on the actions of another agency?

RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you're saying?

RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

RM: I'm not certain what you mean.

RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique.

RM: There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice. Any interpretations of the laws given to us by the Department of Justice...
(talking over each other)

RW: But apparently your own agents made a determination that the actions by the CIA and the Department of Defense were illegal, so much so that you authorized, ordered, your agents not to participate. But that's it.

RM: I've told you what our protocol was, and I've indicated that we've adhered to our protocol throughout.

RW: My time is up. Thank you very much Mr. Director.
No straight answers from the FBI.

I am disgusted.

23 April 2008

Amnesty unveils waterboarding shock video

George W. Bush and his cronies don't want to admit that waterboarding is torture.

Waterboarding is where you drown a person by pouring water down his nose and through his esophagus, with water filling his lungs. Then, if he is lucky, you stop before he dies.

Not torture? Now you can be the judge.

Amnesty International has put together this new video that demonstrates the technique. Warning: It starts out looking pleasant enough, but the ending is anything but pleasant.

Torture? Yeah, I think so.

22 April 2008

Identity politics and the Pennsylvania primary

It's primary day here in Pennsylvania. Never one to procrastinate, I arrived at my Philadelphia suburban polling place at 7:30 a.m., about 30 minutes after the polls opened.

On the way, the local all-news radio station was reporting huge turnouts at polling locations throughout the city. Locally, however, the lines were not long. I had to wait behind two people, which wasn't unusual.

What was unusual about this voting experience was that people seemed much more energized than usual. There seemed to be an animated buzz in the room that I had never noticed in previous elections. The sound of hope?

As I was leaving the polls in my ethnically diverse neighborhood, I overheard a young African-American man talking to his African-American friend. As he motioned to me, he said, "She voted for Hillary."

He saw a middle-aged white woman in a pantsuit and assumed that I voted for Hillary. I'm Hillary's base, I suppose.

But no, I did not vote for Hillary.

And I've met a lot of other middle-aged white women who weren't planning to vote for Hillary.

And I've met a lot of African-Americans of both genders who weren't planning to vote for Barack.

On the other hand, I've met many others in both groups who did plan to vote as "expected".

The important thing is that it can't be taken for granted, and this pantsuit-wearing middle-aged white woman is a case in point. Hopefully most of us have evolved to the point where we understand that electing the right person is more important than electing a certain race or gender.

And so I reached into my purse, pulled out my "Obama 2008" button, flashed it at the two young men, and winked.

21 April 2008

Human rights are more than just words

In his recent speech at UN headquarters in New York, Pope Benedict XVI spoke at length about the importance of human rights. That's all well and good, and I'm sure that the pope is genuinely concerned about many of the human rights issues that currently exist in the world.

But when one stands on a soapbox for human rights, it may seem hypocritical if one's own human rights record is questionable.

To be an honest advocate for human rights, one should embrace all human rights, not just the convenient ones.

To be an honest advocate for human rights, one should embrace the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. According to Article 23(4) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), "Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests." But the Catholic Church has been fighting hard to deny that right to Catholic school teachers.

To be an honest advocate for human rights, one should apply those rights to all human beings, not just the ones who think and act the way you want them to. According to Article 2 of the UDHR, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." That means everyone, including gays and lesbians. Yet this notoriously homophobic pope has repeatedly instituted and enforced Church policies and practices that deprive non-heterosexuals -- and those who sympathize with them -- of their jobs, their dignity, and their right to fully practice their faith.

To be an honest advocate for human rights, one should stand up for the right of sexual abuse victims to obtain justice. According to Article 3 of the UDHR, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." That's everyone, including the victims of clergy sex abuse. That subject received a lot of lip service recently, with the pope's repeated call for healing in the wake of the Church's clergy sex abuse scandal. But actions speak louder than words. You see, we learned three years ago that this current pope, in his previous role as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked to obstruct inquiries into clergy sex abuse.

It is amazing how one's views can suddenly change so drastically when the spotlight goes on and political goals are at stake.

Or else it's just doublespeak.

Like when George W. Bush talks up human rights even as our prisoners are being tortured.

Human rights are more than just words.

We're talking about people here. We're talking about real human beings.

But, given the rhetoric vs. actions of the powers that be, you wouldn't know it.

20 April 2008

Patriotism or jingoism?

I am sick and tired of the media pundits pointing fingers at Barack Obama and questioning his patriotism because he does not wear a flag pin on his lapel. At the recent Democratic presidential candidates' debate here in Philadelphia, the issue came up again, and more time was wasted on it.

We are involved in an unpopular and very costly war in Iraq. We are torturing our prisoners. The U.S. Constitution is under siege by those who have sworn to protect it. Our economy is in a recession. The housing market just tanked. Our jobs continue to move to India and China. But the media would rather talk about flag pins.

It is ironic that flag pins are equated with patriotism. After all, the rules of flag etiquette imply quite the opposite. According to a flag etiquette summary at flag.com, you should "never use the U.S. flag as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, festooned, [or] decoration in general."

Furthermore, the rules continue, "Never use any part of the U.S. flag as a costume or athletic uniform. A flag patch may be affixed to uniforms of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations."

By patriotic organizations, I think they mean groups like the VFW, not members of a presidential campaign. The latter is not by definition a patriotic organization, it's a political one. Therefore, the flag pin becomes part of a political costume -- against the rules.

Now let's take a look at someone who does wear a flag pin as part of his political costume.

George W. Bush wore a flag pin in 2003 as he launched his war of aggression against a nation that posed no threat to us.

George W. Bush wore a flag pin as his inner circle approved the use of torture. And then he wore a flag pin as he looked into the camera and said, "We do not torture."

George W. Bush wore a flag pin as high-level White House officials outed a covert CIA agent.

George W. Bush wore a flag pin as he authorized the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

If that is patriotism, then patriotism is overrated.

But no, that is not patriotism. It is jingoism. And jingoism is something we should shun in a candidate for elected office.

Words speak louder than a flag pin. And actions speak louder than words. Let those be our guidelines in selecting our candidate of choice.

By the way, aren't those flag pins made in China?

18 April 2008

In 2008, U.S. women are still paid less then their male counterparts

A lot of time has passed since January 1, hasn't it? Well, if you're a woman in the USA, you've essentially been working for free all year until now.

Today, April 18, is Equal Pay Day. This is the day on which the average woman's wages finally catch up with what the average man earned in 2007.

It is outrageous that today, in 2008, women are still paid considerably less than men are paid for doing the same work. According to the National Women's Law Center, women in the U.S. are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to white men -- and the numbers are even worse for women of color, with African-American women earning 63 cents and Latinas earning only 52 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

Clearly this is not fair.

That is why Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Fair Pay Act (S.1843), which would "amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to clarify that an unlawful practice occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes."

To be fair to businesses, and to long-term and high-producing employees, the bill also "[a]llows payment of different wages under seniority systems, merit systems, systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production, or differentials based on bona fide factors that the employer demonstrates are job-related or further legitimate business interests."

Sounds reasonable to me.

The bill currently has 42 cosponsors.

A parallel bill has already been passed in the House of Representatives. Now we just need to get it passed in the Senate and signed into law.

Get involved:

>> Send an e-mail message asking your senators to support equal pay for women.

>> Learn more about the Fair Pay Act.

17 April 2008

Did the Supremes just undermine the Eighth Amendment?

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids the use of cruel and unusual punishment.

For that reason, two Kentucky death row inmates had challenged that state's three-drug lethal injection protocol, which some medical experts believe could cause excruciating pain if not administered properly. In fact, the lethal injection formula used by the states and federal government does not meet the minimum standards for veterinary euthanasia!

The case worked its way to the Supreme Court, and yesterday the Supremes essentially ruled in favor of excruciating pain.

[Read the Court's sadistic decision.]

The U.S. is the only Western democracy that still executes people. Couldn't we at least do it in a more humane way?

16 April 2008

McCain's tax cut plans are fiscally irresponsible

McCain is once again campaigning hard on a tax-cut platform. It's a tried-and-true Republican strategy. Just point the fingers at the Democrats and tell the voters that the Dems are going to raise your taxes. Then promise the voters that you would instead cut taxes. The tactic might be especially appealing during an economic recession. Right around April 15.

So McCain's latest promises were right on queue.

But, at the same time, McCain envisions an ongoing occupation of Iraq -- for 100 years or more.

And this war is costing us $12 billion per month and increasing our national debt to grossly irresponsible levels.

If we remain in Iraq, but cut taxes, won't we just speed up the increase of our national debt?

Domestic programs like education are already grossly underfunded, and further cutbacks would only hurt ordinary Americans without making much of a dent in our current borrow-and-spend regime.

Yet some people still maintain the old belief that Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Go figure.

15 April 2008

It's April 15th. Do you know where your tax dollars are going?

Today is April 15th -- Tax Day in the USA. This is the date on which our yearly income taxes are due.

So now that we've paid all that money to Uncle Sam, what is he doing with it?

Well, for starters, he's wasting almost $12 billion per month on the Iraq fiasco.

According to the National Priorities Project, over 40 percent of our 2007 federal income tax dollars went towards military spending, while education received just over 4 percent.

These are George W. Bush's (and Congress's) priorities.

14 April 2008

Dems sell out to the Christian right

Last night, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama participated in a forum on faith in public life.

The purpose seemed to be to prove that they are religious.

I wonder what happened to Article VI of the Constitution, which states, "[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

13 April 2008

Obama was right about some small towns

Over the past several days, Barack Obama has been criticized mercilessly by the Clinton campaign, the McCain campaign, and the media for some comments he made on April 6th about small-town America.

Among other things, Obama asserted the following:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
As someone who was born and raised in small-town Pennsylvania, I know what Obama was talking about. While his words surely don't apply to every person in every small town in America, they apply to the world I grew up in and the world with which I still have some contact.

From my perspective as a former small-town American, Obama spoke the truth.

In some rural parts of Pennsylvania, people live unimaginably difficult lives. Decent-paying jobs have been hard to come by for decades. And, without good jobs, the residents cannot afford to venture far from home. This breeds the kind of homogeneous, xenophobic culture that I grew up in and couldn't wait to escape. And it breeds bitterness and distrust of everything and everyone outside their tight-knit communities and their narrow worldview. So they live their lives more simply than most city folks can imagine. They go to church, because it gives them hope. They go hunting and target shooting because it gives them a diversion from the difficulties of everyday life. Some do both. This is the reality in which I was raised.

Hillary Clinton responded as though Obama's comments were an insult to small-town America. But I believe that Obama's words were intended to be sympathetic and motivational and hope-inspiring, not insulting. As a former small-towner, I was not at all offended.

Perhaps instead we may want to consider that Clinton's and McCain's criticism of Obama's observations reveal that they are the ones who are truly out of touch with those who are most strongly feeling the pain of this economy, this war, and the current state of America in general.

Now let's move on to the real issues.

12 April 2008

Condi the Domme and a few bad apples in the White House

ABC News recently reported what we in the human rights community have strongly suspected for years: The torture we've seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere was not the idea of a few low-level bad apples in the military. No, it was the idea of a few very high-level bad apples in the White House. And it turns out to be even worse than we thought.

From to the ABC News report:
In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.
So Bush's inner circle would sit around and lay out the detailed procedures for torturing people. That's just sick!

And Condi Rice chaired the meetings. Shame on her! Now I've got this mental image of Condi dressed in full dominatrix gear as she leads her male cohorts through their depraved agenda.

11 April 2008

Should "torture memo" author be allowed to instruct law students?

Last week I wrote about the 2003 "torture memo" that the Washington Post had finally obtained and published in full. The memo, as I pointed out, asserted that military interrogators could abuse detainees because Bush's ultimate authority as commander-in-chief trumps any laws that might prohibit such treatment.

In other words, the memo asserted that Bush can have people tortured and get away with it because he is the commander-in-chief.

In other words, the memo asserted that Bush can violate domestic and international laws against torture and get away with it because he is the commander-in-chief.

(Imagine the consequences if Bill Clinton had tried something like that while he was commander-in-chief.)

Anyway, the author of this memo was John Yoo. Yoo is now teaching law at Berkeley.

Yoo used semantic gymnatics to dismiss our obligations under international and domestic law and to clear the way for torture. And now he's teaching the next generation of lawyers.

I find this alarming.

So does the National Lawyers Guild, which has called for Yoo's dismissal.

So does the American Freedom Campaign, which has organized an e-mail drive aimed at Christopher Edley, Jr, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. Says the American Freedom Campaign: "John Yoo should not only be disqualified from ever serving in government again, but he should also be prohibited from spreading his distorted view of the law and the role of lawyers to young law students."


Below is the text of the American Freedom Campaign's pre-written e-mail to Dean Edley (which you can edit if you want before sending):
Dear Dean Edley,

In order to protect the reputation of your institution, I urge you to dismiss Professor John Yoo from your faculty. His demonstrated and fundamental lack of respect for the law makes him an entirely unqualified instructor and mentor for the future legal leaders of this country.

I need not fill you in on the details of his involvement in the development of the Bush administration’s torture policy. Almost single-handedly, he provided the legal justification the administration needed in order to give its interrogators free rein to ignore domestic laws and international treaties.

Although Professor Yoo is a tenured member of your faculty, I believe that his dismissal is entirely justified. This is not a matter of firing someone with unpopular views. This is a situation where a member of your faculty twisted the law in order to sanction what is highly likely to be considered a war crime.

As a strong supporter of the Constitution, I appreciate that every American citizen is entitled to a proper legal defense. Thus, the involvement of a professor in a case where crimes are alleged to have been committed would not give rise to a call for dismissal. But here we have a situation where one of your professors aggressively encouraged illegal behavior before the fact.

John Yoo is a stain on your law school and should be dismissed immediately.
Send this message now: Ask Dean Edley to stop John Yoo from corrupting our next generation of lawyers.

I just did.

10 April 2008

Pope's actions speak louder than words in the clergy sex abuse scandal

According to a recent Associate Press article, "Pope Benedict XVI recognizes the damage and pain caused by clergy sex abuse and will seek to heal wounds during his U.S. pilgrimage next week."

That sounds good. But talk is cheap.

After all, we learned three years ago that this current pope, in his previous role as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked to obstruct inquiries into clergy sex abuse. (Isn't obstruction of justice a sin?)

If I were a victim of clergy sex abuse, I would not be impressed by the pope's new promises.

09 April 2008

Four more years of this, unless...

I've been reading more about General Petraeus's testimony yesterday at the Senate hearings.

Democratic senators and even some Republican senators expressed a lot of frustration over Petraeus's lack of straight answers regarding how we will know when it's time to leave, and "what the end is going to look like."

So the military has no answers. George W. Bush is in it for the long haul (until he can leave office and pass the whole mess on to his successor). And Republican presidential candidate John McCain envisions us staying in Iraq for 100 years.

And so it is likely that an ongoing, endless war in Iraq will be inevitable unless:

• We elect a Democrat to the White House;


• We get a larger Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

As of this writing, 4028 American troops have died in Iraq so far, and 29,628 have been wounded. How many more of our brave young people will have to suffer and die for the Bush-McCain agenda?

The way Barack and Hillary's campaigns have been going at each other, I hope they don't cancel out each other's chances of beating McCain.

After all, four years of a McCain presidency will mean four more years of war, torture, and eroding civil liberties. It will mean four more years of corporatocracy, and an economy that benefits the rich and punishes the poor and the middle class. And it will mean many more American casualties in Iraq. In other words, it will be four more years of what we've been suffering under the Bush administration, and it will likely continue to steadily worsen as it has over the past seven years.

And it could embolden the right wing to take their agenda even farther. After all, McCain would probably want a second term, and would likely be willing to do whatever it takes to please the base.

That must not happen.

Meantime, I am nervous and scared.

08 April 2008

Hillary socks it to McCain at Iraq hearing

Today, General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, along with Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, went to Capitol Hill to testify in hearings about the mess in Iraq.

Of course, the three presidential candidates took advantage of the PR opportunity.

As of this writing, I have not yet learned much about Barack Obama's performance at this hearing (which I assume was delivered with his usual wisdom and panache). So here I shall limit my comments to the other two.

John McCain, as expected, kissed war-mongering ass. He did his usual song and dance touting all the progress that he thinks we've been making in Iraq. He said that the Dems' calls for withdrawal "at the moment when [we] are succeeding" (huh?!) is a "failure of political and moral leadership."

So now this is the moment when we are succeeding in Iraq, Mr. McCain? Kind of like the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" back in May of 2003?


At least Hillary Clinton was more reality-oriented. Her response:
"I just want to respond to some of the statements and suggestions that have been made leading up to this hearing, and even during it, that it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership to advocate withdrawing troops from Iraq in a responsible and carefully planned withdrawal. I fundamentally disagree. Rather, I think it could be fair to say that it might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again."
Exactly. It reminds me of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that Hillary is not my first choice for the Dem nomination. But in this case she was right on the mark.

07 April 2008

Girls taken from polygamist ranch: Kidnap or rescue?

In recent days, law enforcement agents have raided a compound belonging to the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) -- Warren Jeffs' operation -- and removed nearly 200 girls and women from the premises.

I was discussing it with a neighbor, who told me that this amounted to kidnapping. "These girls were forcibly removed from their homes," he explained. "The girls had done nothing wrong, yet they must feel like they're being punished -- being ripped from their homes, from their families."

Well, that's one way of looking at it, but a very simplistic one. The situation inside the compound was anything but simplistic, as chronicled in the memoirs of a few rare escapees.

In normal society, when it is discovered that a child is being abused at the hands of her parents, the authorities intervene, if the child is lucky, and the child is removed from the abusive environment.

The recent activity at the FLDS compound is no different. The authorities simply removed those girls and women from an abusive environment.

Some are probably too young to realize that they are being rescued, and all must be very frightened by the abrupt change of course that their lives have taken. But such is probably the case for just about anyone who is rescued from a dangerous home life.

While I don't personally have a problem with polygamy, if it's between consenting adults, girls who are raised in the FLDS are not willing participants. They are forced, when very young, to marry whomever the church leaders deem appropriate.

Imagine being a young girl forced to marry a man old enough to be your father -- or perhaps even old enough to be your grandfather. You are treated like breeding stock. Your purpose in life is to have lots of children and to obey your husband. Those are your keys to heaven. That is how you are measured.

You have no control over your own life, your own body, or your own children. All the decisions are made by your husband and by the church leaders on behalf of "God".

You are powerless. You have to ask permission to make even the smallest of decisions.

The only decision you can make, the only power you can gain, is to win your husband's favor through sex and thereby perhaps have some minimal influence on things. And, of course, this leads to backstabbing and rivalry amongst wives.

And then there is the abuse by husbands, other wives, and the community.

No one will help you. No one will listen.

Imagine the effects that kind of life must have on a girl's self-esteem.

These girls are prisoners. They are trapped in this cult with no way out. They are, essentially, slaves.

They are brainwashed and told that the outside world is "evil", so that they won't dare try to escape. Besides, to reject or even question these practices, they are told, is to defy the very word of God. Do so and you're hellbound.

It is hard to believe that this is happening in the 21st century, but then I live near Pennsylvania's Amish country. But at least Amish children are given a choice.

The girls and women of the FLDS have no choice. All they have is their cruel duty.

If I am ever treated that way at home, would someone please "kidnap" me?

06 April 2008

Promoting equality = Buying into the "homosexual agenda"?

The right-wingers certainly do like to exaggerate and twist things -- especially when it comes to sex. For some reason, they love to worry about what consenting adults are doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms, and they want to dictate whom you can love and whom you cannot.

So now Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association is accusing McDonald's of buying into the "homosexual agenda". Why? Because the fast food giant has contributed money to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which "promotes hate crimes [legislation], the ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act]."

Therefore, says Wildmon, "[T]hey're dedicated to pushing the homosexual agenda."

Wait a minute. This seems to imply that McDonald's is doing something wrong by supporting organizations that support non-discrimination legislation. In other words, Wildmon is telling us that it is wrong to support equality for all our citizens.

In other words, Wildmon is telling us that discrimination is right, and equality is wrong.

Apparently, he believes that some people are worthy of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, but other people are not. And he believes that he is qualified to judge who is, and who isn't. How arrogant is that?!

Apparently, he believes that gays and lesbians should be treated as second-class citizens, because for some odd reason he feels threatened by the private bedroom activity of others.

Apparently, he believes that any person, or any corporation, who supports fairness, equality, and love is "buying into the homosexual agenda".

But what is the homosexual agenda?

It is the right to be treated the same as anyone else, and to enjoy the same protections and freedoms as anyone else. The homosexual agenda is about equality and respect for all people, regardless of whom they sleep with.

The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

"All men are created equal." All. Not just the heterosexual ones. And those rights are unalienable.

That, quite simply, is the homosexual agenda -- as bought into by Thomas Jefferson.

05 April 2008

Biden responds to Bush: Troop surge in Iraq was a failure

Today, in his weekly radio address, George W. Bush again tried to put a positive spin on the Iraq disaster.

Bush spoke to us from Europe, where he's taking advantage of more photo ops. He talked about how "forces from Albania and Macedonia are ... serving in Iraq, where they're helping the Iraqi people build a society that rejects terror and lives in freedom."

Wow. If anything, it looks like the Iraqi people are rejecting the U.S. occupation (but I suppose that could be considered "terror"). And, given that there is virtually no personal security right now in Iraq, I can't see that anyone has been helping the Iraqi people to "build a society that lives in freedom". A day of purple fingers is meaningless if the rest of the year is a living hell.

Fortunately, we have Joe Biden (R-DE) in the Senate. Senator Biden has a lot of good foreign policy experience. And today he delivered the Democratic response to Bush's radio address. He astutely pointed out that the surge hasn't worked. He said:
The purpose of the surge was to bring violence in Iraq down so that its leaders could come together politically. Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together. The country remains terribly divided among Sunni, Shi'a and Kurds. There is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.

He explained that we're back to where we were before the surge started. And he enumerated the price we're paying:
* The continued loss of the lives and limbs of our soldiers – every day;

* The emotional and economic strain on our military families due to repeated, extended tours – lasting up to 15 months;

* The drain on our Treasury – $12 billion every month that we could be spending on housing, education or healthcare here at home;

* The impact on the readiness of our armed forces -– tying down so many troops that we don't have any leftover to deal with a new emergency;

* The inability to send enough troops to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan -– the real central front in the war on terror;

* And finally: the damage done to America's standing in the world.
Huge prices to pay, for sure. Too high a cost.

Biden concluded:
I believe the President has no strategy for success in Iraq. His plan is to muddle through -– and hand the problem off to his successor. Our troops and their families deserve better than that. We owe them a strategy worthy of their sacrifice.

We Democrats understand that this war must end so that America can regain the credibility to lead around the world and the flexibility to meet our challenges here at home. That's what the American people want – and it's what America’s security needs.
Indeed. And it will take a long time to regain that credibility, given all the damage done over the past 7+ years.

But it must be done.

And so the Democrats must defeat John McCain this November. Otherwise, we will just continue the downward spiral.

04 April 2008

947 Years: New campaign to free the innocent from prison

I have written before about people I've met, and the many more I haven't met, who have served time in prison -- some on death row -- for crimes they did not commit.

The lucky ones eventually got freed based on DNA or other evidence. But many others are not so lucky.

Many are trapped in our prisons knowing they are innocent, and knowing there is evidence available to prove their innocence, but the courts won't admit the evidence. In other words, they are denied justice.

The Innocence Project is a lawyer-led organization working to exonerate wrongfully convicted people. And this week they launched a new campaign -- "947 Years: In their prime. In prison. Innocent." -- to educate and engage youth in preventing wrongful convictions.

This new campaign focuses on people who were wrongfully imprisoned when they were just kids. As a campaign announcement tells us, "One-third of the people exonerated by DNA testing nationwide were arrested between the ages of 14 and 22. They served a combined total of 947 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit."

That's 947 wasted years that these people will never get back.

Learn more:

>> Watch a two-minute video on the subject and learn more.

Take action:

>> Sign a petition for access to post-conviction DNA testing that can prove innocence.

The petition calls on state lawmakers to pass legislation ensuring that all people convicted of crimes can appeal for DNA testing when it has the potential to overturn their conviction.

03 April 2008

Memo confirms that Bush and his minions are above the law

The big news yesterday was the release of a 2003 memo sent from the Justice Department to the Pentagon asserting that military interrogators could abuse detainees because Bush's ultimate authority as commander-in-chief trumps any laws that might prohibit such treatment.

So, according to the memo, Bush, as commander-in-chief, is above the law. And so are his minions and anyone to whom he gives direction.

International law be damned. The Constitution be damned. Human rights be damned. Civility and niceness be damned. It's open season.

God bless America. (Or else maybe they'll torture Him too. Oh, wait, they already have).

Read the full memo, courtesy of the Washington Post website:
>> Memorandum: Part 1 (PDF)
>> Memorandum: Part 2 (PDF)

02 April 2008

In defense of Chelsea

During some of Chelsea Clinton's appearances on behalf of her mother's campaign, some people have had the nerve to ask Chelsea about her father's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

I find this appalling.

First of all, you do not ask the children about their parents' sex lives. It's just plain inappropriate.

Second, I don't see what it has to do with Hillary's credentials to be president. (If anything, it shows that she can handle a deeply crushing and humiliating situation.)

Chelsea had a good answer each time: She told the questioners that it was none of their business.

Nevertheless, some pundits are finding fault with Chelsea's answer. They apparently want to hold the daughter (not just the wife) responsible for the sins of the father.

What does this say about people's priorities for this nation?

01 April 2008

Earth Hour made a difference (Let's keep the momentum going)

This past Saturday evening, did you observe Earth Hour? I did. Turning off the lights, the televisions, the radios, and the computers for an hour was easy.

And it appeared as though many others participated as well. I looked out the window and didn't see many lights on in the neighborhood. It felt good.

And, worldwide, it seems to have made a difference, however small.

From The Daily Green:
Did Earth Hour Make a Difference?
Worldwide Event Credited with Carbon Reduction

According to some initial results, it appears that Earth Hour not only inspired people around the world to have some creative fun in the dark, but also tamped down pollution that fuels global warming.

Earth Hour, organized this year by the environmental group WWF, asked governments, businesses and individuals to shut off their lights for one hour Saturday night. The exercise was meant to show people how little actions could make a difference in the fight against global warming, to reinvigorate community-centric activity ... and, yes, to actually make a small difference in the rate of emissions of carbon dioxide.

By switching off lights, Chicago saved an estimated 420 tons of carbon dioxide, according to the local utility, ComEd. Because most U.S. electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, especially coal, reducing electricity use reduces pollution by reducing the amount of fuel burned.
If we can make a difference like this in one hour, think of the difference we could make each day just by being more energy conscious and taking steps to use less electricity.