Thursday, January 05, 2006

False Hope - False Security.

Like many people in the country tonight, I sit here saddened by the news that 12 of the 13 miners trapped underground in West Virginia died tragically waiting for the rescuers to literally move heaven and earth to reach them. My family is from that area. My grandfathers both worked mines like that when they were young. One suffered chronic illness as a result of those years underground.

I was hoping for a miracle to happen, a miracle like we saw in back in July of 2002. That was when 9 miners were rescued after three days from the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania. The accidents were too dissimilar, the conditions too unalike to offer much hope, and in the end we should be thankful that anyone at all survived.

The Quecreek rescue couldn't’t have happened at a better time for this country. Less than a year after 9/11, we were a country still grieving over the loss of thousands. The triumphant pictures of people being pulled from certain doom did more to lift the mood in America than I thought possible. It wasn’t just a “feel good story” - it was a cause for national celebration. Suddenly, there was hope again. Hope for, security, hope for safety.

It was that hope we transferred to President Bush to lead us to safety. We wanted to be saved from harm. We wanted a hero to come along and make the world sane again. We wanted that security so much that we were willing to look the other way when a few rules were bent, a few facts stretched. We needed to feel protected to such an extent that we bought into aluminum tubes and yellow cake without a second thought.

Maybe that’s why I find it such eerie symmetry that this accident occurred when it did. If the first accident came at a time when people needed hope, the second comes at a time when people are realizing that our President isn’t a cowboy, but a crook. Bending the rules became breaking the law. Making us safer meant 2182 U.S. soldiers dead in a war based on those “stretched facts.”

Every day seems to lead to some new revelation of government corruption or malfeasance. Tom DeLay, Duke Cunnigham (whose admission of guilt may make him look honorable by the time this is over), and the bloodbath that will come from Jack Abrahmof’s testimony are signs that even during a time of “war” certain people will stop at nothing to pursue personal power and gain. There is no sacrifice small enough for them to make, and none too big enough for us. Instead of leading us, they are robbing us. They sit in contemptuous defiance of their oath.

And then their is the President. A man who seems to embody this contempt with every action.

The revelation that the President authorized domestic spying in clear violation of the law was shocking, but hardly surprising. The rational that he could not follow the law because of time constraints was hollow and illogical (you can seek a warrant 72 hours after the tap). The legal justification for the act (his powers as Commander in Chief) is Nixononian politics at it’s best. The statement that he only used it to listen to terror suspects seems highly questionable. Why then is NBC investigating whether the White House spied on reporter Christiane Amanpour?  (hat tip to Americablog)

To make matters worse, now he is trying to bypass the new torture ban law that he fought tooth and nail to sink. Even as he signed the bill, a bill whose sole purpose is to eliminate any loopholes for torturing prisoners, the President issued a ‘’signing statement” declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, according to the White House and other legal specialists.

I’m not sure why he thinks he can disregard the Legislature's will. It’s as if he doesn’t understand the concept of Checks and Balances. It is not for him to say that he is only going to follow the laws that he likes, when he likes and IF he likes. If the laws need changing, there is a mechanism for that, one that does not allow for “executive activism.” Even in our irrational desire for Safety Now, very few people of either political stripe would have been willing to do away with the basic underpinning of our democracy.

And yet, that is exactly what is happening now. Maybe he is power hungry, but more likely Mr. Bush is driven by the same need to make America safe that we all feel. He want’s to make us safe at all costs, even when the price isn’t his to decide. His Oath of Office is to defend the Constitution, and in that way he has failed the American public more than other.

Life teaches us that we can never be totally safe. Today taught us that no matter how heroic, good people suffer bad fates sometimes. As a nation we must do all we can within the law to protect ourselves as best we can. However, if we continue to allow the President to abuse his authority authority with impunity, we risk more than American lives, we risk America herself.

Posted by Cranky Liberal at 06:58 AM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, January 02, 2006

Our Custom Concern...

The hangover has not yet completely evaporated, but I gotta head to work in the morning. Not only is 2005 over, but my minuscule company sanctioned vacation has come to a close, a, bitter-sweet, close. A vacation filled with booze, family, poker and a 6-year anniversary, a vacation that doesn’t come at a better time for self and political reflection.

I’ve got some questions and some youthful optimism for this New Year, a year that is still in its infantile state, a year that is beckoning for change.

It’s the start of something anew, a new start to a new year. It’s another chance for America to redeem herself from her wanton disregard for history and for humanity.

As my head still pounds with the excess of another New Years Eve that not even a New Years Day can cure, I sit and think of the possibilities that lay ahead, I can see the glimmer of hope that is on the horizon, only but a mere 11 months away.

2006 isn’t just the year that the Democrats take back both congress and our national pride, may it be the year that we as a nation look back on where we have come from, and look forward to where we are going. It can be the year that we apologize not only to ourselves but to the world at large. We not only have the chance to  apologize for the actions of this renegade administration, but we can hold them accountable.

Victory in congress means victory for the truth.

We are sitting on the turn, got all of our chips on the table and the American Right has made the call, now with the cards showing we wait for the river. We wait to see if we can make it, we wait for justice.

Here is wishing all of you a blessed new year. And here is wishing our Democratic leaders the courage and willingness to stand up for what is right.

God knows they are going to need it.

Custom Concern from Modest Mouse: (listen to the first 30 seconds if you have iTunes)

Their custom concern for the people
Build up the monuments and steeples
To wear out our eyes
I get up just about noon
My head sends a message for me
to reach for my shoes then walk
Gotta go to work, gotta go to work, gotta get a job
Goes through the parking lot fields
Doesn't see no signs that they will yield
And then thought, this'll never end
This'll never end, this'll never stop
Message read on the bathroom wall
Says, "I don't feel at all like I fall."
And we're losing all touch, losing all touch
Building a desert

Posted by Chris Oates at 11:34 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

2005: What A Year

Happy New Year.  And now, one more (yet another one) of those end-of-the-year articles.

Terry Schiavo.  Justice Sunday.  Nuclear Option.  Social Security Privatization.  Downing Street Memos.  Cindy Sheehan.  John Murtha.  John Roberts.  Harriet Miers.  Samuel Alito.  Scooter Libby.  Jack Abramoff.  Mean Jean Schmidt.  Katrina/FEMA/Browniegate.  Tookie Williams.  Pope Benedict XVI.  War on Christmas.  Rendition.

Whew!  What a year.  This time last year, those household names and phrases would’ve been meaningless.  And don’t forget some of 2005’s most (in)famous quotes.  Katrinagate was a gold mine:

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”  “Brownie you’re doing a heckuva job.”  “So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”

Lesser known but maybe the most infamous:  Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., telling lobbyists “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans.  We couldn’t do it, but God did.”

Besides FEMAgate, 2005 was full of those open-mouth-insert-foot moments:

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.”

“This is not somebody in a persistent vegetative state.”

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.”

“I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

This time last year, George W. Bush was basking in his re-election “mandate” and bragging about all his political capital.  He was all set to march right in and privatize Social Security, turn the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge into a giant oil field, and make the Patriot Act bigger and better (and written in stone).


Now, this time next year what will we be looking back at?  Will Bush’s poll ratings continue to sink?  Will Republican politicians continue avoiding him for the sake of their own careers?  Will the newly-Democratic House of Representatives begin impeachment proceedings?

Or will Karl Rove bounce back from his legal troubles and come up with a whole slew of new dirty tricks?  Will Rove and his Swiftboat Chickenhawks succeed in sliming all critics of the administration and reviving Bush’s popularity?  Will the Hitler Youth Patriot Act expire in February ‘06, or will it be made permanent and bigger and better than ever?

Maybe Rove will invent another phony gay-marriage type issue that will get millions more Americans to vote Republican.

Or maybe that Avian Flu pandemic will actually happen and all the above questions will be moot.

If  we’re living in “interesting times,” then 2006 oughtta be fascinating.

cross-posted at Who Hijacked Our Country

Posted by Tom Harper at 03:01 AM in Current Affairs, Politics | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Friday, December 30, 2005

If You Read, the Terrorists Win

From the mind of a Psychotic Patriot here is your Friday guest post.

Bush_reading_9110_1I've come to realize something about America recently, and it's disturbing not just because it's out of the mainstream media, but because it by definition is caused by the mainstream media. I offer this dark scenario: If you read, the terrorists win. What I mean by this is that fewer and fewer people read, for any reason, and fewer CAN read, for any reason. So you have a continuous dumbing-down of the populace, and an equally continuous rise in wingnuttery and incredibly simplistic concepts offered as fact. Take the "ID" movement, please.

So the more I read, the more I disbelieve Bush and his minions. Wait. I didn't believe him before he became the resident. Anyway. The more I read the more I refuse to accept the glowing bullshit frothing from Iraq. Insert anything intellectual, or GASP! (Liberal) after "The more I read." So, in the parlance of conservative evangelical mindlessness: if I don't unquestioningly devour the smallest sound-bites of Hannitian and Limbaughistic logic, leaving any curiosity at the curb, I'm Osama's butt-buddy. It's just that simple.

Now I'm talking about what is called "Critical Literacy." Not skimming the newspaper headlines, not squinting to see the scroll at the bottom of Fox News, but the kind of critical reading done in books, as well as thoughtful reading in any format done in pursuit of a serious intellectual or educational premise. If you've gotten this far, you know what I mean. The kind of reading which examines an issue deeply, and dredges up information to add to an informed mind, to expand said mind, to enhance it, or, perchance, to throw the issue the fuck out.

But that's not what's happening.

Reading scores have been dropping like a stone for fifty years, and this Washington Post article helps us see where we are now:

Literacy experts and educators say they are stunned by the results of a recent adult literacy assessment, which shows that the reading proficiency of college graduates has declined in the past decade, with no obvious explanation.

"It's appalling -- it's really astounding," said Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association and a librarian at California State University at Fresno. "Only 31 percent of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. That's not saying much for the remainder."


Experts could not definitively explain the drop.

"The declining impact of education on our adult population was the biggest surprise for us, and we just don't have a good explanation," said Mark S. Schneider, commissioner of education statistics. "It may be that institutions have not yet figured out how to teach a whole generation of students who learned to read on the computer and who watch more TV. It's a different kind of literacy."

Different kind of literacy? Pardon me while I laugh until my intestines are hanging from my teeth. This line sounds exactly like a Bush talking point. The two activities which make up the bulk of Internet traffic are porn and music file-sharing, so we can shit-can that one right away, unless we're including "... Betsy likes a big dick in her love life, and shows you right where to put it in this HOT HOT HOT video clip... " in Critical Reading skills.

They do not NEED to read. Tiny bits of information are text-messaged to them, deliberately misspelled (which they would never notice, apparently), along with equally - yet not deliberately - misspelled e-mails. The average attention span is measured in micro-seconds these days, so if the concept can be splashed across a video screen, with tattoos and nipple-rings aimed at what to buy, the message gets through without any reading necessary.

So how does the whole nation fare in reading skills? I will extract some numbers from the National Center For Educational Statistics: 93,000,000 Americans are at or below the minimum reading skill level. Don't make me look at which states.

Back in the 1940's we had a 96% literacy rate in those volunteering for military service.

WWII was over in 1945. Six years later another war began in Korea. Several million men were tested for military service but this time 600,000 were rejected. Literacy in the draft pool had dropped to 81 percent, even though all that was needed to classify a soldier as literate was fourth- grade reading proficiency. In the few short years from the beginning of WWII to Korea, a terrifying problem of adult illiteracy had appeared. The Korean War group received most of its schooling in the 1940s, and it had more years in school with more professionally trained personnel and more scientifically selected textbooks than the WWII men, yet it could not read, write, count, speak, or think as well as the earlier, less-schooled contingent.

So I offer this continuing concept, one which I extract from the historical information: The more television one watches, the less one reads, and the more one believes idiotic rantings by wingnutty puffballs.

I have a television, but it's connected to a DVD player, not a cable. I listen to Internet Radio or iTunes for fun or information. I read a huge variety of web information across the entire political spectrum. I detest commercials. If I want topical video clips, I go to Crooks & Liars.

I sit at the edge of another vast wasteland; not the television itself, but the growing vacuum between the ears of America, and sadly, it's growing in one direction only.

Posted by The Bastard at 12:01 AM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 29, 2005

From The First to The Fourth Amendments; The Constitution Rules

I thought I would continue The Christmas Wars.  No, if I never hear about any holiday, secular or not, again I will be very happy.  And I have banned certain words from my vocabula

I want to briefly talk about Judge Jones and the Intelligent Design decison.  No, I don't.  I want to gloat over it.  Why?  Several months back I wrote a post that used very similiar reasoning to Judge Jones's.

Why when we at Bring it on! have been saying this since we began am I bringing this up now?  Because many radical Christian Rightists still don't get it.  It's simple; it's the Amendment that guarantees the most basic of rights, the right to practice or not practice a religion, and never have to worry that a state religion will be formed, and also and equal, guarantees freedom of speech.

That's the first time I have ever quoted myself.  I explained how faith is untestable.  No matter how much you want to believe that something bigger than us created the universe, nobody is able to test faith.

It's easy to test one type of faith: Faith in ones ability to do something.  I have faith that I will cross the street without being killed.  If I'm not, I have prove my hypothesis.  But the type of faith that proponents of Intelligent Design believe in is simply not testable.

Here's Judge Jones;

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

If you haven't read Judge Jones decision; I have linked it.  Okay I have gloated enough.


I found an article in that blew me away.  Yes, really. Fox or as we like to call it here Faux News.   It's by Martin Frost, former Democratic Congressman from Dallas/Fort Worth  He was in Congress for 26 years, and isn't faux anything.

Recently I have been trying to figure out who President Bush reminded me of.

Was it Richard Nixon with his willingness to break the law to hold onto the presidency? Was it FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who bugged Martin Luther King Jr. and anyone he considered to be a political enemy?

And then it struck me. President Bush most closely resembles King George III of England. You remember him -- he’s the guy whose high-handed rule led to the American Revolution.

Frost reread The Constitution; he's a lawyer, was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and was a Congressman for a long time.  When he talks about the Fourth Amendment I will listen:

Now the "new King George" would have us believe one of three things: (1) the president’s powers as commander-in-chief supersede the fourth amendment during the war on terror (2) the resolution adopted by Congress shortly after the 9/11 attack can be read to give the president the authority to conduct domestic wiretaps against American citizens without going to court to seek a warrant and (3) modern technology is such that the founding fathers could never have anticipated the need to conduct wiretaps without a warrant.

Let's see Frost debase these arguments:

First, it takes a very broad reading of the commander-in-chief clause to justify any conduct as superseding the constitution. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the U.S. Civil War, an action that was very controversial at the time; it is hard to equate the ongoing war on terror with the American Civil War, which threatened the very existence of the Republic.

Second, I was a member of Congress when we passed the resolution giving the president the authority to use all force necessary against the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Congress clearly meant this as authorization to go into Afghanistan and find Usama bin Laden. No one ever thought this authorized our government to wiretap American citizens in our own country without court approval.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote an op-ed piece in the Dec. 23rd Washington Post detailing how the Bush administration proposed last minute language to the 9/11 resolution which would have given the president the power to engage in domestic spying without a search warrant, and that this language was specifically rejected by the bills’ authors.

And third, the modern technology argument is an interesting one but is not very persuasive. Congress in 1978 passed legislation permitting spying inside the United States under certain circumstances. That law created a special court that can respond within hours to a request for search warrants. And the law also contained an exception, permitting the Attorney General to authorize wiretaps in an emergency situation and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.

Frost then asks if Bush...  Oh, he says it so well, and I never want to be accused of mangling words.

Does he simply want dictatorial powers? Does he so mistrust the court system (even a secret one specifically set up to make it easier to wiretap people inside the United States) that he doesn’t want any of the traditional checks on the power of the executive to violate basic civil liberties? Does he just want a political issue that makes him look tough and opponents (Democrats and some Republicans) look weak?

This is our country and this is our Constitution. Even if for some reason you like Bush, he has seriously abused the powers of the presidency.  Don't tell me that I'm convicting him without a trial.  What has Bush been doing?  Here's the one question that you should ask yourself:

"The Bush administration simply cannot answer this one question - if time was of the essence, why didn't they conduct the searches and get the warrants after the fact, something that is allowed under the FISA law? They conducted the searches alright, but they never once sought the retroactive warrants."

Then join us, Bulldog, and the entire Impeach Bush Blog Coalition in taking these steps:

2. Send an email to all of these media folks and ask them "The Question."

3. Sign Senator Boxer's petition .

4. Contact your senator.

5. Contact your congressman.

6. Contact Congressman Pete Hoekstra too.

7. File a Freedom of Information Act request HERE.

8. Sign John Conyers' petition to censure and investigate impeachment.

9. Join the guerilla marketing campaign .

10. Make a donation to ImpeachPAC.

11. Join the Impeach Bush Coalition.

(Thanks to Redneck Mother for inspiring the list.)

Please read the articles in The Impeach Bush Coalition.  More people and newspapers than you would imagine are joining us.  Join with everybody at BIO, in calling for an impeachment hearing.  It's the only way that we're going to ever learn anything unless Bush muzzles the prosecuter, and that's a possiblity that our Congress, and judical system won't allow.  Why?  We have an incredible Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nobody will allow that to be mocked.

We already know that Fitzgerald is incredible; he's the perfect antitode to Ken Starr and that mockery of an impeachment hearing..  Maybe lying about sex is a minor crime; but everything Bush has been doing is a high crime and misdemenor.

Let me end by saying that the only way 2006 can be a great year is by getting rid of Bush and all the Bushettes.

Personally I would like to thank everybody at BIO! for being so great; and Bulldog for beginning the Impeach Bush Coalition.

Let the lost children of New Orleans be found; New Orleans to be rebuilt quickly, and bring the troops home now, please.  We don't belong in Iraq; it's the only way we can ensure their safety.

Peace in 2006.

Posted by Pia Savage at 12:01 AM in Current Affairs, Education, Politics, Religion, Science | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

William Kristol is a Skinny, Little Idiot.

I've made the mistake of reading conservative columns before, but the William Kristol piece I read from the January 2 Weekly Standard takes the cake – and lets you eat it. It seems Mr. Kristol is concerning himself with a paranoia he detects in the line of critical questioning from his fellow Americans regarding the recent NSA/FISA-bypassing "snooping" controversy. So what is it, Mr. Kristol? Trust the government or distrust the government? And which government do we trust? And which branch? I assume you have a conservative-approved list.

He leads his piece-of-work off with this: "No reasonable American, no decent human being, wants to send up a white flag in the war on terror." In the world of baiting-and-switching that is the totality of right wing rhetoric, this bait is a ton of chum in shark infested waters. Any number of issues may be framed this way by anyone who feels the urge to do so ("No reasonable American, no decent human being, wants to send up a white flag in the war on child abuse." or, "No reasonable American, no decent human being, wants to send up a white flag in the war on cannibalism"). Bill O'Reilly patented this baiting method some years ago and graciously shares it with Right-Wing pundits and pols.

With the bait set, Mr. Kristol then reminds us that any and all criticism of this republican excuse for a president is completely without merit and irrational. It's an old line. He says, "...leading spokesmen for American liberalism-hostile beyond reason to the Bush administration, and ready to believe the worst about American public servants-seem to have concluded that the terror threat is mostly imaginary." Not only is he suggesting that the only critique of this unilateral, executive-branch snooping is from the far Left (which is a lie), but his Harvard-readied mind also manages to slip in another typically hypocritical jab at the Left: he insinuates that we liberals also have some irrational, universal distrust of our "public servants," even though the Right is notoriously disdainful of most public service and incessantly criticizes the Left for relying on too much on - guess what! - Public Servants! (duh) After all is said here, the only thing "public" about what these "servants" did was that they are apparently so inept, like the rest of this "administration," they got caught. Finally, he believes that the Left believes that terrorism is a conspiratorial, Right-Wing myth. Well, Mr. Kristol, we here in the liberal bastion of the New York Metropolitan Area know full well that terrorism is real, so fear not for our grasp on reality.

The gist of Mr. Kristol's piece, and in fact the gist of that whole Spectator issue, is that FISA was somehow "broken" and so therefore the administration was justified to bypass the FISA Court, almost just as they have bypassed the Judiciary with the Patriot Act, but without legal reconciliation of any kind. Though only 5 of the 19,000 surveillance requests before the FISC were rejected in the known past, Mr. Kristol would have us believe that somehow the FISC impeded investigations of terrorism. His logic? The broad, wide-net, sweeping surveillance of modern, multimedia communications rendered the FISA process obsolete. Would the FISC have had to okay the surveillance of every single individual or organization that may be caught in the net? Would new law be required for such a thing? He only answers the first question, and that's a resounding no.

What he doesn't wonder is whether the FISC, or something like it, could have okayed specific mediums searched, and algorithms utilized, in the sweeps, thereby pre-approving the surveillance of individuals by okaying the search for certain types of data and communications. If the answer is that question is "no," and there was no other course through the Judiciary, then Bush was without recourse but to request legislation. Why didn't he? Could it be that what the administration looking at they didn't want the FISC, congress, judiciary, and the public to know? If it turns out they were hunting peaceful American activists, as done in the past, I'm sure Mr. Kristol and his ilk will find a way to justify that as well.

Mr. Kristol then asks this: "So we are really to believe that President Bush just sat around after 9/11 thinking, "How can I aggrandize my powers?" Or that Gen. Hayden-and his hundreds of nonpolitical subordinates-cheerfully agreed to an obviously crazy, bizarre, and unnecessary project of "domestic spying"?"

Personally, I don't think President Bush thinks about all that much, but, once again, Mr. Kristol's hypocrisy rears it's little, skinny head – I thought conservatives believed that power inevitably corrupts, that power begets want for more power? What happened? Does this only apply to "liberals?" I guess so.

Secondly, to say that military people are by definition "apolitical" seems so incredibly stupid, I don't even know what to ask (to try to understand) except: are all people not people, be they military or not? Everyone is political, Mr. Kristol. Eisenhower warned of what would happen once the Military Industrial Complex became ensconced in our body politic. We are seeing the results now. 

Thirdly,  America has a recent history of doing just this: crazy, bizarre, and unnecessary projects of domestic spying. Perhaps Mr. Kristol missed the Harvard class on that period in American history - the period when these same ideological bents held sway, when communism (instead of terrorism) was the excuse, and when obviously crazy and bizarre domestic spying was rampant. May I please point Mr. Kristol to this handy Wikipedia biography of J. Edgar Hoover ? It was reported this morning (Dec 29) on NPR that the NSA had been attaching cookies to the computers of visitors to the NSA website in order to track their browsing. Does that sound kosher to you, Mr. Kristol?

He continues, "This is the fever swamp into which American liberalism is on the verge of descending." Again, we liberals are all just loonies. He finishes with this little nugget: "It would be good to have a responsible opposition party in the

United States today. It would be good to have a serious mainstream media. Too bad we have neither." To the former, I agree. The loyal opposition is not nearly oppositional enough. To the latter I will remind the readers of for just whom Mr. Kristol writes:

"© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved."

Yes, Mr. Kristol, too bad we have neither.

Posted by jerseymcjones at 12:00 AM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Support Our Vets

Band of Brothers 2006

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.

—George Washington

Our PAC is in a unique position to reach out to voters. Our candidates are unimpeachable in their positions and opinions on the war as compared to those of either major political party. Incumbent Republicans and Democrats are, in many ways, limited because of their votes for the war, the split over its funding, and varying degrees of opinions that seem, at times, unsettled. But our candidates have been there, seen the tremendous cost, and know we cannot wait.

Posted by The Bastard at 06:45 AM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Herring Anyone?

Over the past couple of months, a great deal of discussion was heard about the war on Christmas. Most of that diatribe came from Faux News and Bill O'Lielly in particular.

I looked long and hard for evidence of this so-called war from avenues outside the Faux News sound machine.  Not so surprisingly, I didn't find a one.  Oh, I found a lot of "a friend of a friend" stuff that typically falls under the category urban legend, but nothing of any merit.

I began to ask myself, "Why all the fuss over a non-issue?"  Sure, I can see the ultra-religious right trying to make it into a big hoopla to raise their status at this time of year.  But why would O'Lielly allow himself to be lead like a bull by the nose to this trifle?

Then it came to me.  This whole thing was a red-herring.  A distraction from other important issues. 

There are many that I could talk about, but today I'm just going to mention one.  A very important one, in my eyes.

Christmas is a time of family.  A time when families get together and share their love and think of all the great times they had during the year.  If the year has been a sad one, it's a time for families to plan for a better future.

Many families devastated by Katrina didn't get to experience that this year.

I'm talking specifically about those families that still don't know where their children are.  Homes can be rebuilt, but missing children can tear a hole in a family's heart.  They don't know if the children are alive or dead.  If alive, they don't know if they are with people who are taking care of them.

As of December 23, 2005, 500 children were still classified as missing in Katrina's aftermath.  Sadly, the very organization that is supposed to be helping the victims of Katrina is prolonging their pain.

Why? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not share its evacuee database with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  FEMA is blaming privacy laws for its lack of co-operation.

The FBI, which is also trying to resolve these cases, has also had trouble getting information from FEMA. 

It's shameful.

One of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission's Final Report was for government-wide information sharing.  On December 5, 2005 the Commission came out with a report card on how all areas of the government have been doing meeting their recommendations.  The grade for government-wide information sharing?  D.

Some of you might be saying, "Well, the FBI is part of the government so, yeah FEMA should share information with them but the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children isn't.  FEMA was right to withhold information from them. "

You're right and you're wrong.  A look at the mandate and mission for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows that it is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.  Read a little further, though, and you see that it has congressional mandates.  One of those mandates is to

Provides technical assistance to individuals and law-enforcement agencies in the prevention, investigation, prosecution, and treatment of cases involving missing and exploited children.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children can't follow a government mandate if FEMA won't share information.

Not much attention has been given to the 9/11 Commission's Report Card by Faux News.  Faux News tended to deride the report with the fact that we haven't been hit by terrorist inside the United States.  They conveniently forgot that the handling of the aftermath's of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma would have also been improved by better efforts to meet the Commission's recommendations.

So has the so-called war on Christmas been a red-herring?  Ask yourself, what other issues have we heard little about because of this "war"?  What else has our attention be diverted from?  How are things going in the areas of civil rights, economic issues, education, immigration, and the budget to name a few?  Has enough attention been given to these areas?  Or has Faux News and O'Lielly's red herring distracted everyone just like a cat distracted by a waving light?

Crossposted on Can't Keep Quiet!

Posted by Mulligan at 03:52 AM in Current Affairs, Politics | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, December 26, 2005

How others view US foreign policy

A commentor to a recent post told me that the United States was a "sovereign nation" and as such could basicly do whatever it wanted.  My response was that that attitude was part of the reason the U.S.'s standing in the eyes of the world was going down. 

I was specifically thinking about the United States acting like a bully to get what it wanted. 

Turns out I was only partially right. 

This morning I read an opinion piece from TimesOnline out of the United Kingdom.  Turns out there's more about our foreign policy that other countries hate than just the governments arrogant, bullying side.

But the trouble is that while America aims to lead the free world, all over that world American foreign policy is going seriously adrift. Objectives are being stymied. Costs are mounting. Fruits are not coming in. The really serious objection to Bushite foreign policy is not that America is trying to strong-arm the rest of the world; it is that America is not succeeding.

Matthew Parris does a very good job of providing an overview of what is happening in various countries in Latin America because of the United States' foreign policy in those areas.  I won't try to paraphrase what Parris has to say.  You should really read it for yourselves.

One problem about US foreign policy: all over the world, they hate it

Posted by Mulligan at 02:44 PM in Current Affairs, Politics | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Friday, December 23, 2005

Of Men, of God, and Godless Men

Implying you are favored because you have faith does not negate the impact of the deeds done. Here to put that far more eleoquently that I can, is this week’s guest author, Jones of the Nile.

Dick Cheney is a man of God.  The 50 Senators who voted with him on Wednesday to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion are also God-fearing (and God-loving!) men and women of moral values. 

Or so they’ll have you believe, while behind closed doors they cash in their Bibles for tax cuts, and their rosaries for special interest dollars.

Wednesday’s 51-50 vote in the Senate (with Cheney as the tie-breaker) on the federal deficit will likely be a monumental blow to millions of middle-class, working Americans, who will wake up today and find out that, as Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau Chief Carl Leubsdorf put it, “On its way out of town, Congress voted to give millions of Americans the fiscal equivalent of coal for their Christmas stockings.” 

Leubsdorf’s column explains well what this measure will do: It will raise the cost of student loans for millions of college students by raising interest rates. It will increase health care costs for millions of poor and elderly Americans by curbing benefits in Medicare and Medicaid. It will prevent millions of taxpayers from claiming local and statewide sales taxes on their federal income tax returns.

And here’s what the measure won’t do: It won’t significantly (or even nominally) reduce the U.S. deficit, which has ballooned under President Bush with the blind approval of the Republican-led Congress.

I’m struck by a very cruel sense of irony.  All over our TV screens we have folks who claim they are people of faith crusading over one issue or another. Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and their ilk have taken to putting the “Christ” back in Christmas, believing the holiday is under siege by misguided secular Americans. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, flipped his lid this week after a judge in Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design belongs in a church and not in public school science classes, saying “This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito.” And who could forget Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of a world leader (or his wish of terror for the town of Dover, PA); Rev. Jerry Falwell blaming gays and pro-choice advocates for 9/11; the Web site “Repent America” saying that New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina because it promoted an annual conference for GLBT people…

I could go on and on. And while this group of ‘onward Christian soldiers’ marches on, 50 Christians and one lapsed Jew (Sen. Norm Coleman from Minnesota) voted on Wednesday to short-change the poor and cut social spending. Meanwhile, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans continue to fly out of the halls of Congress to the mouths of corporate fat cats. 

The hypocrisy is enough to make even the most compassionate person lose faith and hope. As someone who tries to pursue a spirituality of justice, I find myself often in dark places, ready to write off human nature, God, the Creator, or whatever it is that makes this world tick.  But in those dark places, I’m drawn to a quote by a nun named Joan Chittister, who writes a weekly progressive, faith-based column here. Here are Joan’s words…

“If what we wait for is not within us in the first place, we wait in vain. To wait with anxiety for peace is never to be peaceful. To wait for public success without feeling good about ourselves is to never know achievement. To wait for the spiritual life without a continuing sense of the presence of God is to be consumers of religion, perhaps, but to miss its meaning.”

Maybe it’s not religion itself that leaves a distaste in peoples’ mouths.  Perhaps it’s the consumers of religion – those who have little interest in trying to live a life rooted in compassion for the common good, but a lot of interest in playing religious “gotcha”.

Earlier this week I read a poem by Ewuare Osayande, an author and activist in Philadelphia, that he wrote after Hurricane Katrina. To close, here’s a quick excerpt:

they are pulling our dead out of the dead water now
counting them as if they were tallying votes
but you cannot measure disgrace with a body-count
and no one wins in death

what have we now but our heartbeats?
and tears
and the whys
of our questions keep coming

even Jesus was said
to have fed the poor
with a few fish and some bread
should we not expect more
from the richest nation
in the history of the world?

Cruel irony, indeed, that during the holiday season our lawmakers and TV moguls use their religion to seek power over others, instead of empowering the common good.

Posted by Jet N. at 12:01 AM in Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack