31 October 2008

Did Texas just execute an innocent man?

Earlier this month, the State of Georgia was set to execute Troy Davis despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. Unbelievably, the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. Fortunately, the federal appeals court in Atlanta issued a last-minute stay of execution, pending their review of the new evidence that could potentially exonerate Davis.

But over in Texas, Gregory Wright wasn't so lucky.

Yesterday, the State of Texas executed Wright for a 1997 murder. All along, Wright had maintained his innocence. But don't just take his word for it. Don't even consider the lie detector test that backed up his claims of innocence. Instead, let's turn to science. Let's take a look at the physical evidence.

And... Voila! We have DNA evidence that suggests that Wright is innocent.

But, despite this evidence, the Supreme Court turned its back on Wright's case in the eleventh hour, as it did with Davis.

But, unlike Davis, Wright didn't have a lower court come to his rescue with a new legal angle. He just wasn't that lucky.

So Wright has received the ultimate, irreversible punishment for a crime that the DNA suggests he had nothing to do with.

Do the courts think that DNA is useful only when it proves guilt, not innocence?

Or perhaps they believe in the old motto "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

In any case, it is clear that justice wasn't served here.

How can these judges sleep at night?

30 October 2008

Farewell to the "ownership society"

In his first term as president, George W. Bush talked about an "ownership society", in which everybody in America can own their own home.

And then the housing bubble burst.

According to RealtyTrac, the foreclosure rate has increased 71% over the past year.

And for those who have been able to scrape by and keep their homes, ownership is a mixed blessing. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly one in six homeowners owes more on a mortgage than the home is worth.

Also during the Bush administration, our national debt has grown to over $10 trillion.


No. I think it all helps to prove that modern conservatism has failed this country.

And we literally cannot afford for this trend to continue.

29 October 2008

Terrorists for McCain

McCain supporters like to point a finger at Barack Obama and call him a terrorist, or accuse him of palling around with terrorists.

But when it comes to the real terrorists, the ones responsible for 9/11 and the ones who still want to bring down this country, McCain is apparently the candidate of choice, as evidenced by McCain's recent endorsement by al-Qaeda supporters.

They like him so much that they might even try a pre-election attack in hopes of swaying voters.

The British newspaper The Telegraph reported last week:
Supporters of al-Qaeda have said they would prefer Republican candidate John McCain to win the US election because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


[T]he group said that if al-Qaeda wants to exhaust the US militarily and economically, the "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate is the better choice.

"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," the message said.

"Then, al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."

"If al-Qaeda carries out a big operation against American interests," it said, "this act will be support of McCain because it will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda then will succeed in exhausting America till its last year in it."
In other words, they recognize that McCain would continue to play the same old game of cat and mouse that we've seen under George W. Bush.

And, like Bush, McCain is a bit confused over who is the cat and who is the mouse.

28 October 2008

America divided

In the run-up to the 2000 elections, George W. Bush told us that he was a uniter, not a divider.

But, after eight years with Bush in the White House, America is so much more divided than it was before he became president.

Blame it on Karl Rove, whose win-at-all-costs philosophy made it the norm to run policial campaigns based on mud-slinging and lies.

Blame it on Dick Cheney, the alleged ventriloquist to Bush's dummy, with a decade-old agenda, and a personality that's about as warm and compassionate as a big block of dry ice.

Or blame it on Bush himself, whose cowboy-style foreign policy and drunken-sailor spending habits have turned America from a glowing land of opportunity to a rogue nation with a huge pile of debt.

But we must also blame Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He may call himself a maverick. But on the campaign trail, as in the Senate, he willingly supports and propagates Bush's divisive methods.

With his aggressive, shoot-first foreign policy.

With his pro-rich, pro-corporation economic policies.

And with his dirty campaign tactics, which even Karl Rove has criticized.

If McCain happens to win this election, I have no reason to believe that the divisiveness will end.

Republican vs. Democrat, rich vs. poor, white vs. black, America vs. the world, "us" vs. "them".

Imagine what eight more years of it will do to this nation.

27 October 2008

Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News endorses Obama

In a sharp slap in the face to Alaska's Governor, that state's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, has endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States of America:
Obama for president

Palin's rise captivates us but nation needs a steady hand


Gov. Palin's nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency -- but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand. The same cannot be said of Sen. McCain.

Since his early acknowledgement that economic policy is not his strong suit, Sen. McCain has stumbled and fumbled badly in dealing with the accelerating crisis as it emerged. He declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" at 9 a.m. one day and by 11 a.m. was describing an economy in crisis. He is both a longtime advocate of less market regulation and a supporter of the huge taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout. His behavior in this crisis -- erratic is a kind description -- shows him to be ill-equipped to lead the essential effort of reining in a runaway financial system and setting an anxious nation on course to economic recovery.

Sen. Obama warned regulators and the nation 19 months ago that the subprime lending crisis was a disaster in the making. Sen. McCain backed tighter rules for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but didn't do much to advance that legislation. Of the two candidates, Sen. Obama better understands the mortgage meltdown's root causes and has the judgment and intelligence to shape a solution, as well as the leadership to rally the country behind it. It is easy to look at Sen. Obama and see a return to the smart, bipartisan economic policies of the last Democratic administration in Washington, which left the country with the momentum of growth and a budget surplus that President George Bush has squandered.

On the most important issue of the day, Sen. Obama is a clear choice.

Sen. McCain describes himself as a maverick, by which he seems to mean that he spent 25 years trying unsuccessfully to persuade his own party to follow his bipartisan, centrist lead. Sadly, maverick John McCain didn't show up for the campaign. Instead we have candidate McCain, who embraces the extreme Republican orthodoxy he once resisted and cynically asks Americans to buy for another four years.
If McCain is not seriously second-guessing himself on his choice of running mate, then he's even more shell-shocked than I thought.

26 October 2008

Is Palin the new Bush?

Some are speculating that Sarah Palin will run for President in 2012, whether or not the McCain-Palin ticket wins this year's election.

Others are calling it unlikely. Since Palin is clearly unqualified to even be vice president, they say, she's clearly unqualified to be president, even with another four years under her stylish belt.

But stranger things have happened -- like the election of the similarly unqualified George W. Bush in 2000.

And that's not where the similarities end.

Like Bush, Palin appeals to middle America with her "down-home" style, be it real or pretentious. Like Bush, she is not a reader. Like Bush, she lacks intellectual curiosity. And somehow it works for her, as it did for Bush. It's a mating call to those who would choose a president based on who they can personally relate to, and who they'd want to have a beer with. Personally, when I think of my own beer buddies, I do not want to view them as possible U.S. presidents. I want to elect someone smarter than I. But, to the Bush/Palin supporters, the articulate, the educated, and the world-wise are viewed upon with suspicion. Elitist, they are called with disdain.

And look at where we've gotten after eight years with a beer buddy in the White House. If you think you want more of that, perhaps you should lay off the beer.

Another similarity between Bush and Palin is even more worrisome -- their ties to the religious right.

Choosing Sarah Palin helped drum up their support for the McCain ticket, since some evangelical leaders had previously opposed a McCain candidacy.

Like Bush, and to the delight of the religious extremists, Palin is anti-choice and anti-science, and supports abstinence-only sex education, which has proven to be a dismal failure. In many ways, they seem like America's answer to the Taliban -- trying to legislate "morality" and stifle all social progress. The last thing we need is a Supreme Court with new justices appointed by a president with this repressive and backward mindset.

Perhaps most frightening is their sense of God-given entitlement. George W. Bush believes that God chose him to lead this nation. Similarly, Sarah Palin seems to believe that God wanted her to be governor of Alaska.

If an ordinary person were to make such claims, they'd be held for psychological examination. But Bush used his perceived hotline to heaven as an excuse to wage war on an unarmed nation. (God wanted him to invade Iraq too, you see.)

And there's no telling what God might instruct a President Palin to do.

I'd prefer that we not find out.

There is good reason why our founding fathers wrote the establishment clause into the First Amendment.

Accordingly, as Thomas Jefferson once said, "No power to proscribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the Federal Government."

Today, Jefferson is surely spinning in his grave.

25 October 2008

Stay of execution for Troy Davis!

Good news:

On Friday, the federal appeals court in Atlanta issued a stay of execution for Troy Davis, who was scheduled to be executed on Monday the 27th.

As my regular readers are likely aware, the Supreme Court recently refused to hear Davis's appeal, despite overwhelming evidence that he might be innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

Seven of the prosecution's nine witnesses have recanted their testimonies and alleged that they had been pressured or coerced by police. Furthermore, there was no physical evidence against Davis, and the murder weapon was never found.

In other words, there is reasonable doubt as to Davis's guilt. Executing him without allowing the new evidence to be heard in court would be an inexcusable travesty of justice.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on yesterday's ruling:
"Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a stay of execution," the court said in an order issued by Judges Joel Dubina, Rosemary Barkett and Stanley Marcus.

The judges called the stay "conditional" and said they want to hear more from Davis' lawyers and state attorneys.
But there's a catch. Two of them, actually.

The article continues:
Davis must clear two difficult legal hurdles to win a new round of appeals.

First, he must show that his lawyers could not have previously found the new evidence supporting his innocence no matter how diligently they looked for it. And he must show that the new testimony, viewed in light of all the evidence, is enough to prove "by clear and convincing evidence that ... no reasonable fact finder would have found [him] guilty."

The 11th Circuit added a twist. It asked the parties to address whether Davis can still be executed if he can establish innocence under the second standard but cannot satisfy his burden under the first, due-diligence question.

The court gave Davis' lawyers 15 days to file their legal brief and state attorneys another 10 days to respond.
So that is where the case currently stands.

Will we finally see true justice in Georgia? Or will they find a way to kill him with a technicality?

Stay tuned, with fingers crossed.

24 October 2008

October 24 is United Nations Day

Today, October 24, is United Nations Day. It marks the date on which the UN Charter was entered into force in 1945.

While the UN is certainly not perfect, it plays a vital role in addressing the world's challenges and constructing collective solutions to global problems.

The US was an enthusiastic participant in the UN's creation more than 60 years ago, but you wouldn't know it today.

George W. Bush has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for the world body. First he defied the UN when he launched his preemptive attack on an unarmed Iraq. Then he appointed famously belligerent bully John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN.

Hopefully the next administration will understand the importance of working with the rest of the world, not against it.

23 October 2008

What if the Dems had bought Hillary a new wardrobe?

We learned this week that the RNC has spent more than $150,000 on clothing and make-up for Sarah Palin.

This seems rather hypocritical, considering the scandal that the Republicans stirred up when former Democratic candidate John Edwards spent $400 on his haircuts.

Imagine the outrage if the Dems had spent a fraction of that amount on Hillary's appearance.

And they have the nerve to label Barack Obama an "elitist".

But, of course, we should be used to Republican double standards by now.

22 October 2008

Troy Davis case: Write to doctor/executioner

Those of you who have been following my daily rants in recent weeks are likely familiar with the case of Troy Davis. He is scheduled to be executed by the State of George on Monday, October 27, despite strong evidence that he might be innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

Seven of the prosecution's nine witnesses have recanted their testimonies and alleged that they had been pressured or coerced by police. But this new evidence will never be heard in court.

Consider also that there was no physical evidence against Davis, and the murder weapon was never found.

Even the Pope has called for Davis's case to be reconsidered. So have Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter and countless private citizens.

But Georgia is going to kill him anyway.

Amnesty International has been collecting signatures on a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for clemency. So far, that has not worked, but we must keep the pressure on. If you have not yet signed on, please do so today.

Meantime, some folks are suggesting that we contact Dr. Carlo Musso, the physician who is scheduled to perform Davis's execution. I think this is a fine idea, since Dr. Musso clearly needs a reminder that the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics explicitly provides that "A physician, as a member of the profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a state execution."

>> See a sample letter and get contact info for Dr. Musso.

Please hurry.

21 October 2008

Family values this time around

Over the past several election cycles, the Republicans have stressed family values. And the meaning of family values has necessarily gotten twisted in the process.

But to see what family values truly are, take a look at Barack Obama. With only two weeks to go until election day, Obama has decided to take a few days off from the campaign trail to visit his grandmother in Hawaii, because she is very ill.

That, dear reader, is what family values are all about.

On the other hand, we have John McCain, who called his wife the C-word.

OK, now that I have that out of my system, my thoughts go out to Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham. I hope she can hang in there long enough to see her grandson's inauguration -- and well beyond.

I hope we all can.

20 October 2008

Powell's endorsement: Redemption, race, or revenge?

On October 19th, retired U.S. Army general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president.

I saw it as another step toward Powell's personal and political redemption.

I see Powell as a reluctant pawn in the neocon run-up to the Iraq war. His United Nations testimony, in which he asserted that Iraq unquestionably possessed weapons of mass destruction, despite evidence to the contrary, prompted me to immediately lose the huge amount of respect I once had for General Powell. It was clear that he was lying for his boss, George W. Bush. He sold his soul for a cabinet seat. And that probably destroyed his credibility to run for president or vice president as many of us had hoped for back in the day.

But, since then, Powell seems to be trying to redeem himself. While some may call it too little, too late, I don't set a statute of limitations on one's conscience.

Powell resigned from the Bush administration in late 2004, allegedly in response to pressure from the Powers That Be who apparently felt that Condi Rice would be a more pliable surrogate.

Sadly for all of us, they were right.

Since then, Powell has admitted that he was pressured into misleading the U.N. on Iraq. Furthermore, he has opposed the mistreatment of prisoners at Gitmo and has in additional ways stood up to the Bush administration's cowboy-style foreign policy. When he said these things in the White House, he was ignored and worked around. But now hopefully he's being heard by the rest of us.

And now he endorses Barack Obama, and the kind of change that he didn't dare to hope for when he was serving the Bush administration.

These things suggest to me that Colin Powell is basically a decent person who was led astray by the neocons. While his playing along is not admirable, it's understandable. We're all human. We rely on the stability of our jobs. And so we are (subconsciously or otherwise) sometimes too quick to give our employers the benefit of the doubt.

So I stick by my theory of redemption. It's another step towards allowing General Powell to atone for his sins and start to sleep well at night.

After all, at least Powell now has the strength to stand up for a healthier agenda -- the change that the Obama campaign promises us. With his endorsement, Powell symbolizes that, for starters, a vote for Obama is a vote against the neocon agenda that led to the end of the unwitting Powell's political career as well as the end of American credibility in the world.

And that seems to confirm my theory that Powell is marching down the path of redemption.

But others, apparently, see it differently, in a couple of ways.

I discovered this in a supermarket checkout line here in suburban Philadelphia. Behind me were two white middle-aged men who apparently knew each other. And they had apparently just heard the news about Powell's endorsement.

The first, a short, graying man in a flannel shirt and faded jeans, alleged that it was a "Negro thing". Powell supported Obama, he believed, because both were African-American.

Just as I was contemplating how shallow and narrow-minded that view seemed to be, the other guy opened his mouth. This was the taller man, in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. He disagreed with his friend regarding Powell's motive. This guy saw Powell's endorsement as an act of revenge. "He didn't have the guts to stick with Bush," he said. "Now he's taking it out on the whole Republican party." This, the man said, gives him even more reason to vote for McCain.

While I shudder at these misguided perspectives, I maintain hope that many in this country will see Powell's endorsement as I do -- a non-racial, no-agenda attempt to now do the right thing for this nation.

And I sincerely hope that Powell will find peace with himself.

19 October 2008

Nuke-you-ler War-shington

We've been hearing George W. Bush talk about nuke-you-ler power for eight years now. If the McCain-Palin ticket wins the White House in November, we'll hear the same thing from the new vice president. With tongue in cheek, I've wondered if it's a Freudian slip -- nuke-you.... But no, I think it's just careless mispronunciation.

Similarly, I cringe whenever I hear John McCain talk about our nation's capital. To him, it's War-shington. I don't know where the "r" comes from, but it's always there for him. And I wonder (also with tongue in cheek) if it, too, is a Freudian slip, since McCain is such a war hawk.

Alas, the candidates who did pass elementary phonics, and practice those lessons, are deemed elitist.

What does this say to our young people?

And what does it say to the world?

18 October 2008

Constitutional rights for eggs?

Just when I thought the anti-choice extremists couldn't get any whackier, they introduced Amendment 48 in Colorado.

This amendment would grant constitutional "personhood" to a fertilized egg.

This dangerous amendment not only threatens a woman's right to an abortion, but also emergency contraception, birth control pills, and IUDs. It's a major threat to women's health and privacy.

That aside, I found it interesting that the religious extremists want to grant full constitutional rights to an embryo but not to gay people.

But then a friend explained it to me (with tongue in cheek): An embryo is innocent, but gays are evil.

17 October 2008

Did McCain just lose any remaining Hillary diehards?

When John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, it was an obvious ploy to appeal to the disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton who were bitter over the fact that their candidate had not won the Democratic nomination (not even for vice president).

If there were any of those Clinton supporters left who were still leaning towards McCain to get their revenge on the Democratic Party machine, I suspect that their numbers went down after Wednesday night's debate. At least, I hope so.

Since that final McCain-Obama debate of this campaign season, I've spent a lot of time replaying the footage and digesting it all (hence my delay in writing about it). McCain said a lot of disturbing things during that debate. But I think that what raised my blood pressure the most was his response to Obama's explanation that he (Obama) would support a ban on late-term abortions "as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life."

Pretty reasonable, right? Host over parasite, in biological terms.

Well, apparently not to some people.

Responding to Obama's comment, McCain made a mockery of women's health.

Making quotation marks in the air with his fingers, McCain said, "Health of the mother. You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement, in America, to mean almost anything. That's -- that's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, 'health'."


So McCain places such little importance on women's health that he believes it's an extremist issue, and something to be ridiculed in quotation. He wants you pregnant and, if need be, dead, if that's what it takes to bring another unwanted child into this world.

Who really holds the extreme position here?

I wonder if McCain would feel the same way if his own daughter's life were at risk from a pregnancy.

16 October 2008

Execution date set for Troy Davis - Oct. 27

In 11 days, the state of Georgia will execute a man who very well may be innocent.

As I noted here previously, the Supreme Court, without explanation, has refused to hear Troy Davis's appeal, even though new evidence overwhelmingly suggests that he may be innocent of the murder for which he was convicted.

Seven of the prosecution's nine witnesses have recanted their testimonies and alleged that they had been pressured or coerced by police. But this new evidence will never be heard in court.

Consider also that there was no physical evidence against Davis, and the murder weapon was never found.

Even the Pope has called for Davis's case to be reconsidered. So have Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter and countless private citizens.

But Georgia is going to kill him anyway, no questions asked.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Davis's execution date has been set for October 27. A Chatham County judge signed the death warrant yesterday.

Justice be damned.

If not for luck, that could be you, or someone you care about. Especially if you happen to have been born black.

Take action:

We can't sit back quietly and let this happen. Make some noise!

15 October 2008

Michael Savage: "All terrorists happen to be Muslim"

The media watchdog group Media Matters for America reports on the October 9 broadcast of Michael Savage's syndicated radio show:
On the October 9 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage said that "not all Muslims are terrorists," then falsely asserted that "all terrorists happen to be Muslim." Savage stated: "I am a believer in all five of the world's religions. As long as they're peace-loving and are pro-American, as far as I'm concerned, all religions are equal." He continued, "However, when you consider the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists happen to be Muslim and that the 19 hijackers who destroyed the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were Muslim, mainly from Saudi Arabia, we have a very real obligation to remember that."
So there you go. According to Savage, all terrorists happen to be Muslim.

So Timothy McVeigh was a Muslim? I don't think so.

Eric Rudolph was a Muslim? I don't think so.

Ted Kaczynski was a Muslim? I don't think so.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were Muslims? I don't think so.

Et cetera.

This reminds me of a story told to me by a fellow activist in the race relations arena:

He was in line at airport security. Ahead of him in line was a big, loud Texan, with a big hat, a big belt buckle, and the whole getup. The belt buckle triggered the buzzer. He removed the belt, and then some other adornment triggered the buzzer.

After about five minutes of this, the Texan started to lose his patience. He asked the security guard -- who happened to be middle eastern -- to give him a break. After all, he said, "What do I look like? Some middle eastern terrorist?"

"No," answered the security guard. "Tim McVeigh's cousin."

14 October 2008

Supreme Court rejects Troy Davis's appeal

Sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Troy Davis's appeal. So, in effect, they are allowing the state of Georgia to execute a man who very well might be innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

With this decision, the stay of execution has automatically expired and Georgia will likely set a new execution date very soon.

Georgia will execute this man despite reasonable doubt as to Davis's guilt. This is not justice.

And I can't help but wonder if things would be different if Davis were a white man.

Our only hope now is to appeal for clemency to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. You can easily send them an email and a fax through the Amnesty International USA website here: Urge Clemency for Troy Davis

Supreme Court decision on Troy Davis expected soon

On Friday, October 10th, the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hold a private conference in which the justices were expected to consider whether or not they will hear Troy Davis's appeal in his death penalty case. I'm assuming that this has happened, since I have not heard otherwise.

The Court's orders from Friday's session are expected to be released today (October 14).

As soon as I hear of any news in this case, I will post it here, so stay tuned.

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, here is a summary:

Troy Davis sits on Georgia's death row despite compelling evidence of his innocence.

Davis's trial was flawed, and most of the prosecution's witnesses have since recanted or contradicted their stories. There is no physical evidence linking Davis 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.

But, if the Supremes decide not to take the case, Georgia will likely execute him anyway as soon as possible. (He was scheduled to be executed in September, but the Supremes stepped in some two hours before Georgia was going to strap him to the gurney.)

There is a very good legal analysis of the current state of this case on the website of the Death Penalty Information Center. Check it out: Questions Before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Troy Davis Case

13 October 2008

Is John McCain still trapped in Vietnam?

Senator John McCain has become notorious for playing the POW card in his campaign for the presidency, as if that somehow qualifies him for the job. But, in McCain's case, I think his status as a former POW would actually detract from his ability to lead this nation effectively.

You see, he doesn't seem to have recovered from his POW experience, or the Vietnam war in general. He seems to be lacking closure. And this appears to be affecting his foreign policy.

What else could so clearly explain his desire to remain in Iraq for 100 years or more, if that's what it takes to "win" an unwinnable occupation? He needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. He needs to win Vietnam, even if it's in Iraq.

What else could so clearly explain his eagerness to "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"? He needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. He is still in a cage and he needs to lash out. He needs to keep fighting.

What else could so clearly explain his recent claim of "I know how to win wars"? After all, we did not win the Vietnam war. But maybe he hasn't gotten there yet. He needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. To McCain, the Vietnam war is not over. He needs to win it –- even if it is a proxy war -- or else be a failure in his own mind.

What else could so clearly explain why he recently addressed an audience not as "my friends", as usual, or "my fellow citizens", but rather as "my fellow prisoners"? He has a way to go to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. On some level, he is still at the Hanoi Hilton. And we're all there with him.

And what else could so clearly explain why McCain -- himself a torture survivor -- would vote earlier this year against a bill that would ban the CIA from using torture, even though he had previously spoken out against torture? Fight it as he may have for so long, ultimately he needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. An eye for an eye -- no matter whose eye.

Deep down inside, he needs to get even. He needs to win that war in Vietnam, however symbolically, and whatever the cost to our troops, this nation, the world, and his soul.

And, in doing so, he can also appease the conscienceless, selfish, and bloodthirsty base -- the same base that has controlled George W. Bush for the past eight years.

Neither motivation is a very good excuse.

Neither motivation is healthy for this nation.

And neither motivation will bring the kind of change that we all want and need so desperately.

We need a president who can learn from the past, not dwell on it -- or in it.

12 October 2008

Palin drops the puck

Last evening here in Philadelphia, Republican vice presidential candidate and self-described hockey mom Sarah Palin dropped the ceremonial first puck at the Flyers hockey game. This was accompanied by a mixture of boos and cheers from the spectators.

The local NBC affiliate has quoted a Flyers representative as defending this misstep by saying, "With all of the attention Governor Palin has brought to the sport of hockey, we invited her to our 'Hockey Mom Night.' This is not a political event."

However, Palin is a political figure, and she has been using her "hockey mom" branding as a political strategy. And Pennsylvania is a battleground state. Those things make last night's Flyers game -- or at least the ceremonial start of it -- a political event. And the Flyers and the Rangers were political pawns last night, to at least a small extent.

Mixing sports and politics is almost as bad as mixing religion and politics. Oh, wait -- she's been doing that too.

11 October 2008

Connecticut high court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

In another victory for equal rights for all, the Connecticut Supreme Court yesterday ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

The following is an excerpt from an article in the Hartford Courant:
Citing the equal protection clause of the state constitution, the justices ruled that civil unions were discriminatory and that the state's "understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection."

"Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice," the majority wrote. "To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."
Exactly. This is what I have been saying all along: Gay people don't want special treatment. They don't want special rights. They just want equal treatment under the law, and the freedom to enjoy the same rights as the rest of us.

And apparently the state will not appeal this case to the Supreme Court. According to the Courant article:
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office represented the state in the case, said the decision, which takes effect Oct. 28, "must be respected" and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court because it was based on the state constitution.

Kudos to the Connecticut high court justices for ruling in favor of equality and against discrimination.

10 October 2008

Another fixed trial at Gitmo

I've been writing for years about how the military tribunals at Guantanamo are essentially kangaroo courts, and how they routinely stack the deck in violation of international law.

And now we see another case in point, in which a Gitmo prosecutor got fed up and ended up testifying for the defense.

The Associated Press reports:
A former prosecutor testified [last month] that breakdowns in the delivery of evidence to Guantanamo detainees could lead to wrongful convictions, saying his experience changed him from a "true believer" to feeling "truly deceived."

Testifying in the war crimes case he led before quitting this month, Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld said the government has not provided exculpatory evidence to lawyers for Mohammed Jawad, who is accused in a grenade attack that injured two American soldiers.

He said the embattled military tribunal system may not be capable of delivering justice for Jawad or the victims.

"They are not served by having someone who may be innocent be convicted of the crime," said Vandeveld, who testified by video link from Washington.

Vandeveld, the second former prosecutor to testify on behalf of a detainee this year, said the problem affects cases throughout the Pentagon's system for prosecuting alleged terrorists at this U.S. Navy base.
So they're not seeking justice, they're just seeking convictions.

This despite a study by Seton Hall University which found that 55 percent of Gitmo detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies, and only eight percent were characterized as al-Qaeda fighters.

It brings to mind the old phrase, "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

Our tax dollars at work.

God bless America.

09 October 2008

Maryland State Police put nonviolent activists on terror lists

The Washington Post reports that the Maryland State Police had "classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects."

The Post goes on to specify that the surveillance operation had targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war. In other words, people who fight for life and for peace. These were the "terrorists" that Maryland was spending its time on. These were the "threats" that distracted law enforcement personnel from the real terrorists who might actually do us harm. If you live in Maryland, this is where your state tax dollars were going. God bless you.

Fortunately, it appears that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee raised hell when they learned about it, so now the affected activists are being contacted and given the opportunity to review their files before they are purged from the databases.

If I were one of those 53, I would definitely want to review my file. Who wouldn't?

But the admission and the file sharing and the purging do not undo the original wrong.

If this had happened in Pennsylvania (and who's to say that it hasn't?), I might well be on that list, as I am a highly vocal opponent to the death penalty and the Iraq War. And I write almost daily about the sins of the Bush administration, Congress, and all the other powers that be.

But, you see, the point is, I have done nothing to be ashamed of. I merely routinely practice my Constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association and assembly to protest the bad and proclaim the good in this country.

And, in the past eight years of the Bush administration, there has been much to protest.

This is America, where we once believed that only in a dictatorship or a police state would our right to dissent be stifled.

After all, as the great (Republican) president Teddy Roosevelt once said:
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
There you go.

But apparently the Maryland State Police disagree.

08 October 2008

How do your reps rate on veterans' issues?

It's bad enough that our military men and women are stuck in two ill-conceived wars: The mismanaged and too-quickly-neglected war in Afghanistan, where we might have actually succeeded in capturing and/or killing Osama bin Laden, if not for the fact that we took our eye off the ball and shifted our resources to the other front -- Iraq, which at the time had posed no threat to us and had nothing to do with 9/11.

Yeah, that's bad enough.

But, to add insult to injury, once our brave veterans return from these conflicts, do we give them the help and support they deserve? Au contraire.

The recent update to the G.I. Bill of Rights, which Congress passed in September, might help in some regards, particularly with regard to educational benefits. But that is merely the tip of the iceberg.

In way too many cases, our vets cannot get timely treatment for their physical and mental health issues -- sometimes not until it's too late.

Who is to blame? It's not just the White House, or the Pentagon, or even the VA. It's also Congress. And, just in time for the upcoming elections, the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has released its 2008 Congressional Report Card, grading each Senator and Representative on his or her voting record on the most critical issues facing Iraq and Aghanistan veterans and their families. The report card looks at votes taken in the 110th Congress (2007-2008).

Check it out at www.VeteranReportCard.org and see whether your own Senators and Representative really supports our troops.

Important tidbit: Senator John McCain, for all his talk about how he loves the vets, voted with IAVA only 3 times out of 9. Barack Obama, on the other hand, scored 5 out of 9 votes, plus 2 points for Post-9/11 GI Bill cosponsorship.

07 October 2008

Right-wing press accuses Muslim group of leading pro-Obama voter drives in mosques

Religious institutions are supposed to be nonpartisan, in order to justify and maintain their tax-free status.

Some conservative Christian churches really push the envelope at election time, but we don't hear about that so much (unless Jeremiah Wright is doing the talking).

But now the right-wing news outlet OneNewsNow.com is shaking things up and warning the sheep that a group called Muslim Americans for Obama (MAFO) is organizing voter registration drives in mosques in order to elect Obama the next president of the United States of America.

Never mind the fact that MAFO's website specifically states the following:
In situations where the event is being hosted at a mosque or other institutions with nonprofit status, MAFO plays no role other than as a clearinghouse for details.
No, the right-wing crazies know that they cannot compete on the issues, so they have to appeal to people's fears -- fears that (gasp!) Muslims will turn out en masse to vote in this election, and that an Obama presidency will result in this country being overrun with Ay-rabs.

This fear tactic seems to be particularly effective when used along with repeated emphasis on Obama's full name -- Barack Hussein Obama.

I know there are people out there who will fall for this nonsense. I just hope there aren't too many of them.

06 October 2008

Update: Troy Davis case on docket for Oct. 10

Troy Davis's death penalty case is on the Supreme Court docket for Friday, October 10. Stay tuned for more developments in this case.

Troy Davis case still pending -- no decision today

The Supreme Court released its agenda for the next few days, and the Troy Davis case was conspicuously absent. Their next conference is scheduled for October 10 (Friday), with any orders from that conference to be release on October 14 (Tuesday).

So Davis remains on Georgia's death row in legal limbo.

Hopefully the Supremes will recognize that there is overwhelming evidence that Davis may be innocent. There was no physical evidence against him, the crime weapon was never found, and so his conviction was based entirely on witness testimony. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses have since recanted or contradicted their testimony. If that's not sufficient to grant him a new trial, I don't know what is.

Fingers crossed in hopes that the Supremes will decide in favor of justice in this case and agree to hear Davis's appeal.

Stay tuned.

Supreme Court decision on Troy Davis case is expected soon

On September 29th, the Supreme Court met to consider the case of Troy Davis.

Davis sits on Georgia's death row despite compelling evidence of his innocence. He had been scheduled to die on September 23rd, but the Supremes intervened two hours before his scheduled execution and issued a stay of execution while they consider whether or not to hear Davis's appeal.

It is expected that the Supremes will announce their decision today, or else later this week. If they decline to hear Davis' appeal, his stay of execution will expire immediately, and Georgia will likely waste no time in setting a new execution date. However, if they agree to hear the appeal, the stay will remain in force until the Court issues its ultimate ruling in the case.

Stay tuned. I am tapped into a number of networks that are keeping on top of this case by the minute. I will post a note announcing the decision as soon as I receive the news.

This is literally a matter of life and death.

05 October 2008

Who pals around with terrorists?

There goes Sarah Palin again, stretching the truth with her typical melodramatic flair.

Now she's accusing Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

According to CNN:
Obama's Chicago, Illinois, home is in the same neighborhood as Bill Ayers, a founder of the radical Weather Underground, which was involved in several bombings in the early 1970s, including the Pentagon and the Capitol, and the two have met several times since Obama's 1995 campaign for a state Senate seat.

Palin cited an article in Saturday's New York Times about Obama's relationship with Ayers, now 63. But that article concluded that "the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'"
Of course, Palin probably forgot to mention that last part.

Meantime, Palin is running with John McCain, who "pals around" with George W. Bush.

That's the same George W. Bush who partied (with McCain) while New Orleans drowned. That's the same George W. Bush who has shredded the U.S. Constitution, spied on U.S. citizens without a warrant, and detained (and tortured) U.S. citizens as well as non-citizens without charge and without their habeas corpus rights. Some would call that domestic terrorism.

And that's the same George W. Bush who attacked an unarmed country in a war based on lies. Some would call that international terrorism.

So, Governor Palin, I'll meet your "domestic terrorist" and raise you an "international terrorist".

You betcha!

04 October 2008

Michael Savage blames gays for the economic crisis

You might think that the current economic crisis is the result of excessive deregulation in the financial industry, or banks that were too careless in their lending, or home buyers who bit off more than they could chew.

However, syndicated right-wing radio show host Michael Savage has a different theory: It's because of gay marriage.

Here's the scoop from Media Matters for America:
During the October 1 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage said: "[Y]ou may say, 'Why should we care about homosexuals trying to destroy families through the mock marriage that they perform in order to mock God, the church, the family, children, the fetus, the DNA of the human species? Why should we care about it while we have a financial meltdown?' Because the spiritual side of the downturn on Wall Street is directly related to the moral downturn in the United States of America." Savage also said: "[T]he government has no right to force people to accept homosexual marriage. It is why the West is dying. It is why we're melting down as a nation. It is why there is no -- why we have almost negative childbirth rate except amongst illegal aliens."
Gee, I didn't realize that gay people had so much power.

This is reminiscent of how Jerry Falwell blamed 9/11 on abortionists, feminists, and (of course) gays.

Same old, same old... When all fails, blame the gays. Even though they really just want to enjoy the same rights as the rest of us.

03 October 2008

Enough dictators!

You may recall the following quote from our Commander in Chief:
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier... just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush, Washington, DC, 18 December 2000
Compare that with the following:
"If I were a dictator, which I will always aspire to be ..."

-- John McCain, to the Des Moines Register editorial board, 30 September 2008
Factor in Sarah Palin's belief, per Thursday's debate, that the power of the vice presidency ought to be expanded, and it gets kind of scary.

We don't need four more years with a dictator wannabe -- and a vice president run amok -- in the White House.

02 October 2008

WMDs, sanctions, and deja vu

Last weekend, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Iran to comply fully with its previous resolutions ordering that Tehran stop uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and cooperate with UN weapons inspectors.

Does this not sound familiar?

Remember six years ago, when the UN weapons inspectors were doing their thing in Iraq, and that wasn't good enough for a certain U.S. president who ignored their findings (or lack thereof) and twisted the facts in order to justify a preemptive attack on that country?

With many of us bracing for a possible "October surprise", this makes me just a little bit nervous.

01 October 2008

Troy Davis update

Troy Davis sits on Georgia's death row despite compelling evidence of his innocence. He had been scheduled to die last Tuesday, September 23rd, but the Supreme Court intervened two hours before his scheduled execution and agreed to meet on Monday, September 29th, to determine whether or not to hear Davis's appeal. So the execution was stayed pending the high court's decision.

According to the latest reports, the Supremes are currently deliberating on the case and will issue a decision by Monday, October 6th.

Stay tuned. With fingers crossed.

>> Read more about this case.