Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Note to Conscientious, Compassionate Conservatives : It's NOT Working

Look, folks, it's not working. It's just not working.

Under the Bush administration, the number of Americans living under the poverty level has grown -- by 5.4 million -- to 37 million.

This administration has destabilized the entire middle-east and created a training ground for terrorists -- while at the same time virtually assuring the establishment of an Islamic theocracy with close ties to Iran. All in the name of "democracy."

This administration -- NOT America or Americans -- has trampled on American values as well as Christian values. They have abandoned the Geneva conventions. They have suspended due process and embraced torture. They have questioned the "patriotism" of dissenters. They have made a mockery of constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties.

We're giving lip service to the "war on terror" at the same moment we're harboring terrorists who worked for the CIA. Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA operative from the 1960s through the 1980s, was involved in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner, recently declassified CIA documents reveal. At this moment, with no media coverage of the story, I suspect that Posada will stay in custody until the end of Bush's presidency, and then he will be pardoned, as was his partner Orlando Bosch (by Bush Sr.).

And as a recent study in the Journal of Religion and Society indicated, societies suffer when they reject humanistic concepts of social responsibility in favor of a belief in the providential care of a benevolent God. God's work on earth, to paraphrase JFK, must be ours. I think this has a lot to do with how one chooses to believe in God, whether one uses God as a rationalization for exploitation of others and the maintenance of ridiculous myths of cultural or religious superiority and, ultimately cultural, political, or economic dominance.

What have we gained by all of this? Are we better off now than we were five years ago? We've lost friends and sympathizers worldwide.

Ballooning deficits have pushed our national debt over EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS ($8,000,000,000,000.00)!!! At the same time, rampant corruption rages in our representative government. And while poverty grows, the wealthy are getting wealthier.

In the name of reason, my conservative friends, let's agree : It's just not working.

It's just not working.

Monday, March 27, 2006

In The Dark

In The Dark

Compliments of OpenTheGovernment.org

Times (UK) : Iraqi Civilians Killed by US Troops "On Rampage"

How Bad Things Have Gotten, Part III

Shades of My Lai.

So last week an incident at Abu Sifa resulted in accustations that US troops deliberately murdered innocent and unarmed Iraqi civilians.
According to Iraqi police, 11 bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the house, among them four women and five children aged between six months and five years. An official police report obtained by a US reporter for Knight Ridder newspapers said: “The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people.”
It seems that this is part of a developing trend among US troops, the killing of civilians in revenge for insurgent attacks and roadside bombs that kill US troops.
It was on November 19 last year that a US marine armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb that killed a 20-year-old lance-corporal. According to a marine communiqué issued the next day, the blast also killed 15 Iraqi civilians and was followed by an attack on the US convoy in which eight insurgents were killed. An investigation by Time established that the civilians had not been killed by the roadside bomb, but were shot in their homes after the marines rampaged through Haditha. Among the dead were seven women and three children.
"But," Howie will say, "they're the enemy. They lie. They're trained to lie."

This IS getting to be Vietnam. Who is the enemy, Howie? Everyone? Even the civilians? There ARE civilians, you know. Or there were....
While many allegations of US atrocities have later turned out to be exaggerated or false, the Abu Sifa incident was supported by hospital autopsy reports that said all the victims had died from bullet wounds. A local Iraqi police commander — supposedly co-operating with US forces — confirmed that the bodies had been found with their wrists tied.
But maybe the days are gone when we can consider any Iraqi to be a civilian, such is the job we have done winning hearts and minds...

In January, 12 year old Abdul Rahman was killed by US gunfire when his father failed to stop at the demand of soldiers, a demand he swears he never heard.

Soldiers approached the car and told Rahman he had failed to stop when ordered to do so. Rahman said he had never heard an order to stop. The soldiers searched the car and, as they departed, they threw a black body bag on the ground. “They said, ‘This is for your son,’ and they left me there with my dead son,” he added.

Rahman claimed he had had nothing to do with the insurgency until that moment. "But this is America, the so-called guardian of humanity, and killing people for them is like drinking water. I shall go after them until I avenge the blood of my son.”

This is how bad things have gotten.

Quote of the day

The Catholic Diocese of Gary doesn’t ask for paperwork when it provides food, shelter and assistance finding a job for the many migrant workers that flock to the area’s many Hispanic and Eastern European enclaves, said Rev. Steve Gibson, pastor of St. Mary Church. That won’t change, even if immigration laws do, Gibson said.

“For us it’s a moral issue. You don’t just turn your back on people who need help,” Gibson said. “They would probably have to surround all the Catholic churches with the National Guard and take us all to prison.”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

News from Darfur

The situation in Darfur grows more dire with each passing day.

Since the mainstream media doesn't really satisfy my need for information regarding the horrible genocide taking place in this country I turned to the internet. I have been listening to a podcast called Voices on Genocide Prevention. The audio series is presented by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is hosted by Committee on Conscience Staff Director, Jerry Fowler.

The podcast recently featured New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof talked about Darfur and is apparently giving a trip away with him to Africa. Kristof is looking for a student to go to somewhere in Africa with him and blog about the experience on the New York Times website. Kristof said that he is not looking for someone with a lot of traveling experience but someone who is interested in a once in a lifetime experience uncovering the truth in a part of the world that the media otherwise ignores.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush's "Culture of Life" : Structural Racial Inequality Rampant, Studies Warn

For years my right wing friends (no names this time) have been telling me that there's no more racism in America. Things are all better since the civil rights movement. Everyone's got an equal shot at the "American dream," and if you work hard enough, you can make it. If you don't make it, you didn't try. No racism there, eh?

Then Katrina came along.

Now this.
  • The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts.
  • Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.
  • In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.
Read it. And weep.

Geoffrey Miller's Fall Guy

U.S. Army dog handler Sgt. Michael Smith was found guilty today of abusing POWs at Abu Ghraib prison and faces up to eight years and nine months in prison.

He's one of those "bad apples" the anti-American right has been talking about.

It is a shame. Not that he is being punished, because what he did is reprehensible. But it is a shame that we will put him in jail and let those wgho are responsible for the abuse go unpunished. Like Geoffrey Miller. And Donald Rumsfeld. And Deadeye Dick Cheney.

And George W. Bush.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever, by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in Jordan river; his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spicèd tomb; his riding up the heavenly way;his coming at the day of doom:

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour; the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word, the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord, and purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven, the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even, the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks, the stable earth, the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Leaving a Hood Over Our Eyes

NPR is reporting that Maj. Gen. Jay Hood commander of the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be leaving soon.

Hood tells reporter Jackie Northam that the allegations and scandals involving abuse at the prison are a figment of the media's imagination.

"There have been so many wild and outrageous statements that have appeared in the media which would indicate that we are an abusive, coercive, torturous sort of group," Hood says. "The idea that we have rogue guards roaming around who might beat or abuse detainees is simply absurd."
Hood took over operations of the prison two years ago from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and we all know what a stand up guy he is.

If you prefer reality...

The group Human Rights First has a terrific report that kind of sums up the whole mess, not just at Guantanamo but everything that has come about in the name of fighting terror.

Ira Glass's This American Life did a report on the habeas corpus rights of the prisoners at Guantanamo last week. Reporter Jack Hitt references a study from from Seton Hall Law School that looked into the 517 declassififed case files on the detainess being held at the prison.

The study found that:

55% of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% have no definitive affiliation with with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to U.S. custody.
The report goes on to say that countries that turned over those detainees to U.S. forces were paid a bounty.

Is the US Meddling in Peruvian Presidential Race?

An Update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

As recently as January (when remarking on the election of Michelle Bachelet as President of Chile), I noted that the frontrunner in upcoming presidential elections in Peru was yet another populist opponent of unregulated, laissez faire, "free market," consumerist capitalism. Ollanta Humala has promised populist policies which include tighter government control of natural resources like coal and oil, he has condemned globalization as a US led assault on the poor, and he has spoken out against US "domination." And until recently he was leading all other candidates in the polls.

Now, however, his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.
On Feb. 15, Humala was accused of a series of war crimes. The charges included forced disappearance, torture and attempted murder that are alleged to have taken place when he commanded a jungle counterinsurgency base in 1992 at the height of the bloody civil war with the extremist Maoist Shining Path and Guevarist MRTA that engulfed Peru through much of the 1980s and 1990s. It is a charge that Humala vehemently denies, but it is a charge that has stuck and rapidly knocked him down to second place in the polls.
It sounds pretty bad, no? And in fact if the charges are true, Humala should give up his presidential aspirations. Because no one should support terror, and terror as a means can never be justified, even by the ends of democracy. But wait...

The "non-governmental organization" (NGO) that led the charge against Humala was the National Coordinator for Human Rights, the umbrella organization for several human rights groups commonly known as the "Coordinadora." Whether or not the Coordinadora’s charges are true or fabricated, nobody in the press has investigated its history or who backs it. Is the Coordinadora merely a disinterested and neutral human rights organization doing its job, or was this denunciation the result of another more nefarious hidden agenda? To anyone following Latin America recently, it should come as no surprise that the accuser, the Coordinadora is an "NGO" that has been funded by the U.S. government for years.

No! You don't say! Really? What a shock!

Although it is not mentioned in the Coordinadora’s "official history" written by the Washington, D.C. based nonprofit called the Washington Office on Latin America, it has been funded by both the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the smaller National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on and off for more than a decade. While both USAID and NED are civilian entities, they are largely controlled by the State Department and are indispensable instruments of U.S. foreign policy.

Does U.S. funding of a foreign "NGOs" affect their behavior? Andrew Natsios, USAID’s former head, stated unequivocally in a widely distributed 2003 speech that even foreign USAID-funded contractors and NGO’s "are an arm of the U.S. government." And the role of the much smaller NED was made clear when Allen Weinstein, one of its founders stated in a 1991 Washington Post article that, "a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."

So, what exactly IS going on with Luis Posada Carriles?

Top U.S. Military Official : No Evidence of Iran Involvement in Iraq

Keep this one filed away in your brain. It will not be long before we will be told that we are invading Iran (or "bombing them into the stone age") because they have been sending weapons, fighters, and other materiel into Iraq.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FBI Spied on Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice

The ACLU yesterday released FBI documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that support the contention that the Bush administration's "war on terror" domestic surveillance programs may be being used to collect intelligence against political opponents.

According to a memo written in 2002, the FBI launched a classified investigation into the activities of Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center after becoming concerned that the group held "daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh and [was] currently focused on its opposition to the potential war on Iraq."

...It identifies the group as "a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."

The Thomas Merton Center? Targets in the so-called "war on terror?"
"Something is seriously wrong in how our government determines who and what constitutes terrorism when peace activists find themselves targeted," remarked Jim Kleissler, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice.
That's the understatement of the day.

Howie (and other right-wingers), you once told me that if you ever thought that domestic surveillance was being used for political purposes and not as a legitimate tool in the war on terror, that you would be outraged. We already have evidence that the NSA and the Pentagon have both engaged in political spying. Now, it's the FBI who also, as we saw in just the last several days, has used deputies of the Los Angeles Sheriff's department to question academics over possible links to Venezuela. Not al Qa'ida, Venezuela!!!

Are you outraged yet?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Swift Boat Liar Goes After Bernie Sanders

John O'Neill, who has consistently lied about his record in Vietnam while at the same time lying about John Kerry's record, is now attacking Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders. O'Neill, author of Unfit for Command moving force behind the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth," has sent a letter out to 150,000 people looking for money for the campaign of Republican Senate Candidate Greg Parke claiming that Sanders
is as radical as they come. In fact, he's so far to the Left that he calls himself an 'independent' because he thinks Democrats are "too conservative."
In the letter, O'Neill says he is throwing his support to Parke
to prevent socialist candidate Bernie Sanders from entering the U.S. Senate.
Oy. Check out Bernie on the issues here.

America Sees the Light : Iraq War Not Worth Fighting

I've always been a strong believer in the proposition that human beings, given the truth, will make the right decisions. Time and again I have seen this demonstrated, and I believe it more strongly every day.

This war is over. Sadly, it was over before it started because it was based entirely on lies. Most of America, however, could not see the truth and in the days leading up to the war a great darkness descended upon the country. You can hide the truth. But not forever.

70% of Americans have now seen the light. Only 25% believe this war is worth fighting. 63% disapprove of George W. Bush's handling of the war, while only 31% approve. 60% disapprove of Bush's handling of the presidency in general.

Welcome home, America. Better late than never.

Bush in Freefall (Figuratively and Literally)

Here and here (fun).

Monday, March 13, 2006

SAS Para : US "Pretends" to Promote Democracy in Iraq

Following up an earlier story, the Telegraph (UK) lets Ben Griffin explain why he refuses to go back to Iraq and fight alongside US forces. All emphases in the following quotes are mine.

"If we were on a joint counter-terrorist operation, for example, we would radio back to our headquarters that we were not going to detain certain people because, as far as we were concerned, they were not a threat because they were old men or obviously farmers, but the Americans would say 'no, bring them back'.

"The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects. The tactics were draconian and completely ineffective. The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib [the notorious prison in Baghdad where US troops abused and tortured Iraqi detainees] or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured.

"The Americans had a well-deserved reputation for being trigger happy. In the three months that I was in Iraq, the soldiers I served with never shot anybody. When you asked the Americans why they killed people, they would say 'we were up against the tough foreign fighters'. I didn't see any foreign fighters in the time I was over there.

..."As far as I was concerned that meant that because these people were a different colour or a different religion, they didn't count as much. You can not invade a country pretending to promote democracy and behave like that."

..."As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid and these weren't isolated cases, this was from the top down. There might be one or two enlightened officers who understood the situation a bit better but on the whole that was their general attitude. Their attitude fuelled the insurgency. I think the Iraqis detested them."

It's sad: an SAS paratrooper lecturing America (and the world) on ethics and morality, given their checkered past. Sadder still, though, is that he's right.

So, what has happened to Griffin? Do you have ANY question that if he were an American GI, he would be in chains right now awaiting a court-martial? He expected the same from his British military superiors.
Instead, however, he was allowed to leave the Army with his exemplary military record intact and with a glowing testimonial from his commanding officer, who described him as a "balanced and honest soldier who possesses the strength and character to genuinely have the courage of his convictions".
The Brits have begun to embrace American values, even as Americans abandon them.

What irony.

What a tragedy.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Colombian Right-Wing Terrorists Set to Take Parliament

An update on "The Good Guys,"TM America's Latin American Allies in the War on Terror

Candidates backed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), an ostensibly illegal right-wing paramilitary army responsible for murders, kidnappings, and drug-trafficking, are in a position to take control of nearly a third of the seats in Colombia's upcoming parliamentary elections.

How is this possible? A high-profile "peace agreement," an amnesty for "former" paramilitaries, and a government in philosophical congruence with right-wing terror. Rodrigo Tovar Pupo was a regional leader of the AUC, who handed in his weapons on Friday.
Tovar Pupo, who's accused of several massacres against civilians as well as being a major drug-trafficker, reigned over much of Colombia's Caribbean coast, deciding who could and could not run for public office.
These are murderers, and they have always controlled the Colombian government. Now, soon, they will be the Colombian government.

And these are our allies.

How Bad Things Have Gotten, Part II

Telegraph (UK) : SAS soldier quits Army in disgust at 'illegal' American tactics in Iraq

Last October, I pointed out that things were getting so bad in the US under Bush that the British people are in an uproar over Iraq and Americans remain silent. I pointed this out because Britain, until very recently, was home of secret, non-jury Diplock trials and a shoot-to-kill-on-sight policy against suspected (yes, that's right: suspected, not convicted) IRA operatives.

It's getting worse, in a kharmic sort of way. Being an Irish-American, I am acutely aware of the role of the British Special Air Services (SAS) in fighting their "war on terror." It was an ugly and a dirty war (and let's not mince words) on both sides. But the Brits, and the SAS, engaged in more than a bit of terrorism themselves.

And so this story about a "para" who refuses to fight any further in Iraq is particularly disturbing to me, as both an Irishman and an American. Ben Griffin, 28, says that he will no longer fight beside US GIs because of the "illegal" tactics of American forces.
He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human. ...Mr Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military's "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.
So I guess he's looking at a court-martial and jail time for desertion, right? That's certainly what he expected.

Instead, he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a "balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions".

Last night Patrick Mercer, the shadow minister for homeland security, said: "Trooper Griffin is a highly experienced soldier. This makes his decision particularly disturbing and his views and opinions must be listened to by the Government."

Unbelievable to me, who watched (from my 1988 vantage point at NBC News) Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann, and Sean Savage gunned down, unarmed and unindicted, by SAS officers in Gibraltar on suspicion of being members of the IRA.

Either the Brits have developed somthing of a moral compass, or we've lost ours completely. This is how bad things have gotten.

LA Sheriff's Deputies Working for FBI Grill College Prof on Venezuelan Ties

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

The campaign to vilify and libel populist governments that reject un-regulated, laissez faire, free-market, consumerist models of capitalism is picking up steam. There may also be a campaign against individuals who are associated, even loosely, with these governments.

A California professor of Latin American history was questioned by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department on Friday about what ties, if any, he might have with the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez. Miguel Tinker-Salas says the deputies, who identified themselves as being part of an FBI anti-terrorism task force, compromised his academic freedom and threw legitimate academic work into an unsavory light.
"They cast the Venezuelan community as a threat," said Tinker-Salas, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in Latin America who was born in Venezuela. "They asked me if the Venezuelan government had influenced me one way or another. I think they were fishing to see if I had any information they could use."
This is nothing new. This campaign to paint democratically elected, populist Latin American governments red has been going on during most of the Bush administration's tenure. "Lula Watch," a website sponsored by an organization called The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, has been warning of a "new axis of evil" in Latin America for several years. Right-wing media outlets have made the claim that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "supports terrorism" in Latin America, even though the US State Department refuses to list Venezuela as a state-sponsor of terrorism.
The Venezuelan government weighed in as well Friday, issuing a statement that called the questioning "a violation of freedoms of expression, thought and academic inquiry," and said the government "views the move as a desperate attempt to link Venezuela to terrorism."
As an American and an academic (and so, as Howie tells me, automatically a "left-winger") I am concerned about this encroachment on academic freedom and violation of the Constitutional right to privacy. But as a five-year citizen of Bush's "America," I am not surprised.

Keep your eyes open for this story to develop.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Si se puede (Yes, it can be done)

I know this is SkeetsV's territory but the thousands of immigrants that decended on downtown Chicago were truly inspiring.

Yes, it can be done--the people can make a difference when we choose to come together. Yesterday I heard the typical complaints from people saying that we need to keep illegal immigrants out of this country and that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from hard working Americans. The truth is these people are coming to America for the same reason everyone else is here--the American dream (if it still exists). The only difference US citizens and the illegal immigrants is that they seem to be willing to fight for it.

One of the things that no one seems to be talking about is why these people are leaving Mexico. The United States should work with Mexico to improve workers rights, health and human rights conditions instead of just tightening board control. But then there are still those people in this country who are living IN THE DARK.

America : HELP!!! We Are IN THE DARK

Associated Press poll--Direction of Country

For roughly the last twelve months, Americans have been waking up to the fact that they made an ENORMOUS mistake in November of 2004. As much as I wish this prince of darkness and his entire court were banished to the cornfield at the last election, I still say better late than never.

A new Associated Press poll (March 6-8, 2006) documents the change. 67% of Americans polled believe that the United States is moving in the wrong direction, while only 30% believe we're on the right track. That's a bigger margin saying they believe we're IN THE DARK than at any time in the entire Bush presidency. Last week's Los Angeles Times poll similarly showed 64% saying we've gone wrong and 30% saying we're doing fine. That too was the biggest margin of this presidency.

The same AP poll gives President Bush a whopping 37% job approval rating. 60%, however, are NOT delusional and disapprove of the job he is doing. And it gets worse, because up until just the last few weeks, Americans who were dissatisfied with the Bush presidency were still inclined to look favorably on him as a person. No more. An ABC News/Washington Post poll (March 2-5, 2006) indicates that most people just don't like the President. 54% say they have an "unfavorable impression" of the President, while 46% say he is okay.

AP indicates that 58% of Americans believe we've screwed the pooch in Iraq. Only 39% believe the pooch is enjoying it.

And (again AP) this GOP Congress has to go. If the 2006 elections were held today, 47% of Americans would rather see Democrats take control of Congress while 36% would prefer to see the Republicans maintain control. That's almost a big enough margin to overcome gerrymandered districts and insufficient voting machines in Democratic polling precincts.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Senators : Don't Let Miller Retire Just Yet

Stars & Stripes
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The face of the dark side...

Two US Senators have questions about Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller's honesty.

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner (Rep., VA) and ranking Democratic committee member Carl Levin (Dem., MI) sent a letter to Army Secretary Francis Harvey asking him to postpone Miller's impending retirement until the court-martial of two military dog handlers implicated in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal is completed.
Major General Miller’s decision to exercise his right to remain silent raises potential issues regarding his candor and the completeness of his testimony before the Committee,” the letter states.
Uh, yeah.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Abramoff : I Was Bush's "Buff Guy"

Lobbyist tells Vanity Fair that top Republicans who deny knowing him aren't being truthful

We have been living through such an era of lies (lies, lies, lies, and MORE LIES!!!), that I wonder if the average American even bats an eyelash anymore when there is a revelation of (EVEN MORE) lies?

Well, BEHOLD!!! The latest revelation that Republicans -- not least of all, the Bush administration -- have been lying about their links to convicted felon and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff worked only with Republicans, he says in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, and top Republicans who deny their links to him are, frankly, lying.
"Any important Republican who comes out and says they didn't know me is almost certainly lying," he is quoted as saying in the magazine's April edition, which goes on sale nationwide Tuesday....While lawmakers from both parties received campaign contributions from Abramoff or his clients, the lobbyist worked directly only with Republicans and all of his personal donations went to GOP members.
Who did he hob-knob with?
In the Vanity Fair article, Abramoff says President Bush knew him well enough to joke about weightlifting. "What are you benching, buff guy?" Abramoff says Bush asked him....Abramoff also says he once was invited to Bush's Texas ranch where he would have joined with other Bush fundraisers. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, says he didn't go because the event fell on the Sabbath.
(~~sigh~~) What a country this has become.

In the mood for a protest?

If you live in Illinois, there's going to be a huge protest tomorrow -- March 10 -- for those against the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) and the Minuteman Project:

WHERE & TIME: Departure is at Union Park, Ashland & Lake at noon
Rally point is at Chicago's Federal Plaza (230 S. Dearborn) from 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.

On Friday, December 16, 2005, the House of Representatives passed the H.R. 4437, introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI), by a vote of 239 to 182. Now this part boggles my mind: the law turns any relative, employer, co-worker, or friend who helps an undocumented migrant an "alien smuggler" and a felon, punishable by imprisonment. So you're telling me that I can't even take my migrant friend to the store?!?!?!? Unreal.

The Philadelphia Media Center has a great summary of this bill on its website. Here are a few of the highlights about the bill:

This bill would make unlawful presence in the United States a federal aggravated felony! There are 11 million immigrants who live within the United States without legal status (one-sixth of whom are children). Because aggravated felons are ineligible to obtain legal status in the United States, this would make some of the most commonly accepted forms of immigration relief, including asylum and the Violence Against Women Act (for battered spouses of US Citizens and green card holders), nearly impossible to obtain.

Also, even though it is a federal law, the bill would make state and local law-enforcement, most of whom have no knowledge of immigration law whatsoever, responsible for enforcing immigration violations. It would also require seven million employers to implement a national employment authorization verification system for all immigrant employees, within the next two years, an impossible task, using an existing database that already lacks certain basic privacy safeguards.

This law also turns any relative, employer, co-worker, or friend of who helps an undocumented migrant an "alien smuggler" and a felon, punishable by imprisonment. The criminalized forms of assisting an undocumented immigrant could be as innoccous as driving a neighbor to the grocery store or providing shelter to a survivor of domestic violence. It is in direct violation of the Civil Rights Act, which states that public services cannot be denied on the basis of national origin; suddenly, hospital emergency rooms would have to ask for immigration documents before admitting a pregnant woman. An undocumented woman could call the police on her abusive husband and find herself locked up instead, for the "crime" of living in the United States without a visa.

This law would empower police to demand "papers" of anyone, at any time, forcing even United States citizens to carry proof of their U.S. Citizenship with them at all times.

It would open the door for selective enforcement to be used for purposes of ethnic and political intimidation. It would criminalize student visa holders who drop a class or work visa holders who change jobs. It would put three million US Citizen children of undocumented immigrants in danger of losing their parents at any minute. The bill would also make it much easier for U.S. government officials to deny citizenship to lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who apply for naturalization, at their own discretion and on the basis of secret evidence that is not subject to review.

So if you're free tomorrow afternoon, join in!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Gen. Geoffrey Miller Still Covering His Posterior

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Beauty is only skin deep...ugly goes to the core.

Major General Geoffrey Miller, Donald Rumsfeld's hand-picked man to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib prisoner of war camp, maintains his silence.

Two low-level dog handlers at Abu Ghraib -- a few of the supposed "bad apples" that the Bush administration is shamelessly blaming the torture scandal on -- are on trial for abuse of "detainees" (prisoners of war). They maintain, like almost every other bad apple who has been tried, that they were following orders from superior officers--a stupid but plausible legal defense.

Miller has refused to testify at their court martial, invoking Article 31 of the military justice code, the military equivalent of the fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

Former senior military lawyers say Gen Miller could be key to understanding whether the Abu Ghraib abuses were the result of a few rogue soldiers, as President George W. Bush has argued, or whether responsibility lies higher up the chain of command. “For a general officer to invoke [Article 31]...is unparalleled,” said John Hutson, who served as the navy judge advocate-general from 1997 to 2000.

“Where there are other people being court- martialled whose fate may rest in his testimony, for him not to testify and let them take the rap is...not something that a general officer would do lightly.”

Walter Huffman, dean of the Texas Tech School of Law and a former army judge advocate-general, says Gen Miller’s decision not to testify could prevent the military justice system from determining accountability for Abu Ghraib.

“I thought that through the [military justice] system, accountability would develop because those lower-ranking personnel who asserted essentially ‘I was just following orders’ would bring in then those people as witnesses,” he said. “[So] when Gen. Miller is asked to testify and then asserts his rights under Article 31, it certainly causes a lot of people, including me, to say, ‘Hmm, that does not allow the system to continue to ferret out what I believe the system is fully capable of doing’.”

Uh huh. Funny, huh? It's like putting up a stone wall between investigators and the truth. Hmmm. Stonewalling....where have I heard that before?

IN THE DARK About World Hunger

No sign of this story in the US media; rather it comes from Xinhua, the Chinese news agency. You can judge for yourself source credibility. I have seen the same data elsewhere, so I have no problem with this coming from Xinhua. I'm curious only why there is not more talk about world hunger in our media.
The eradication of hunger depends on political will, (UN Food and Agriculture Organization chair Jacques) Diouf said, condemning the halving of rich countries' aid in the 1990s. Governments have to increase aid to the poor and those lacking land, he stressed.
Ah, political will. In other words, we have to care enough to actually do something. Yes. That appears to be a problem. But wouldn't we want to do more if we knew about the extent of the problem? Oh, yeah, I know. There are other stories, like the war in Iraq, that are more important than this story. These are stories that directly influence the lives of Americans, right here, right now.
UN data indicates that 852 million poor people are experiencing food insecurity, and 95 percent of them live in developing countries.
852 million. That's about one in every seven people in the world. One in every seven people in the world does not have enough to eat or is starving to death. And nearly all of these come from the "developing" (that is to say undeveloped) world. Where sweatshops, child labor, and forced prostitution thrive. Where hope dies, and despair -- just might -- turn into terror.

Maybe if we paid a little more attention to stories like this -- and had the "political will" to do something about it -- we wouldn't be so obsessed with this so-called "war on terror." Because there wouldn't be one.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

IN THE DARK Readers, "You Are MIGHTY!!!"

Aninote.com - Inthedark Readers you are mighty

Just a little bit of fun, but those of you who actually know me know that I believe every word of this. And -- believe it or not -- we have Howie to thank for this. He sent it to me.

Noam Chomsky : US Ads Hurt US Democracy

The State University of New York at Binghamton hosted noted linguist and political thinker Noam Chomsky, who believes that Latin American nations like Bolivia are becoming more democratic than the United States.
Chomsky ... spoke about the recent presidential elections in Bolivia, in which Evo Morales, who firmly supports the increase of coca production, was democratically elected. “There’s no reason why the United States cannot be as democratic as the poorest country in South America,” Chomsky said.
So why are things the way they are?
He ... described the role of advertising in turning the American voter into an “irrational consumer making uninformed choices.” “Candidates are treated as commodities,“ he said. “They are packaged and marketed like toothpaste.”
And we buy them. One more thought, especially for IN THE DARK readers who are also students.
During the question and answer section, Chomsky was asked what undergraduate students could do to make a difference in society. In response, Chomsky again cited the Bolivian elections. “The Bolivian peasants don’t ask, ‘What can I do?’ They go ahead and do it.”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Light vs. Dark : "You Shall Know Them By Their Fruit..."

President Bush has always presented the war in Iraq as part of an overall "war between good and evil," conflating it with the (so-called) "war on terror." But unless your personal morality rationalizes the use of evil in fighting evil, the last three years has been, to say the least, a bit more complicated than that. Quite properly, the Iraq war (and perhaps the entire war on terror) has been a much better example of a war between two evils. Good has been nowhere to be seen.

America has been in a very dark time.

A few days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Vice President Dick Cheney told Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press that the United States would have to go to "the dark side" to fight terrorism.

That dark side included an awful lot of lies, manipulation, and hiding of the truth and eventually pushed us into abandoning the fight against al Qa'ida in favor of a more immediate goal -- regime change in Iraq.

That dark side also brought us torture and an overall contempt for American values. Due process has been all but abandoned. The Bush administration is engaged in an all-out assault on truth.

We have killed over 30,000 Iraqi civilians (by one conservative estimate), roughly 7,000 of them women and children.

Alberto Gonzales has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete."

John Yoo, former legal counsel to the Department of Justice and one of the authors of the notorious "torture memo," in a debate with Doug Cassel at the University of Notre Dame in December 2005, claimed the Bush administration had the authority to torture the child (by crushing his testicles) of a suspected terrorist in the suspect's presence if it were necessary to get information.

We have spied on our own people, and -- far worse -- we seem to have accepted it.

Dark, dark...very dark. I don't believe for a second that the United States -- at this moment -- is engaged in a "war between good and evil." I believe that the United States, under the Bush administration, is doing great evil in the world, and we must stop it.

Matthew 12: 34-37:
(Jesus said) "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Kelty, 1988-2006

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Sometimes a pet enters your life that is more than just a pet.

I bought Kelty for my three children when they were eight, six, and four years old. They are now nearly 26 and 24 (at the end of the month) and 22 (in July). They literally cannot remember a time in their lives when this puppy (because she believed she was a puppy right to the end) was not there.

Kelty was a pure-bred but non-standard Shetland Sheepdog, or "Shelty." Pure-bred but non-standard means expensive but worthless. But I didn't get Kelty to show her or breed her (although I always did want her to have one litter before being spayed), I got her to be my children's dog. And she was worth her weight in joy, and more.

Kelty was the perfect kid's dog. She would run, jump, and play with them. Bred with the herding instinct, she would circle groups of kids running and playing, nudging them to stay in one place. Kids wrestled with her. I don't know if she loved or hated rough-housing, but I never saw her lose patience with either child or adult.

She was the smartest dog I've ever known. I trained her to do so many tricks. Once, when she was already quite old (12-13?), in response to a rhetorical challenge ("you can't teach an old dog new tricks"), I taught her how to close the door. On command, she would get on her hind legs and push the door with her forepaws. She could do anything.

From the time I got Kelty until my first marriage ended, she was a source of constant joy to me. I loved watching my children play with her, nap with her, brush her, love her (everything but walk and clean up after her). But the joy was also personal. Kelty was, in a very real way, my dog. There were times (you know?) when you just needed someone to sit with you, to be next to you, to be genuinely excited when you walked in the door. I could always depend on Kelty. And I imagine now lying on the floor with her rubbing her back and behind her ears until one or both of us fell asleep.

To my grown-up kids, because I know that these thoughts still pass through your heads: Yes, there is a heaven for puppies. And yes, Kelty is there.

Katrina Tapes

It turns out Brownie was doing a heckuva job. It was Chertoff who was incompetent, and Bush who was negligent.

Friday, March 03, 2006

US : We Can Torture at Gitmo If We Want

Did the US Congress write a phony law that bans torture except when and where the Bush administration wants to use it? What kind of a law is that? Did John McCain roll over -- AGAIN --for the Bush administration?

The United States of America is either for torture or against torture. Make up your minds, folks.

Meanwhile, look at how this entire episode puts the Bush administration clearly on the side of torture:
  • September 25, 2001--Alberto Gonzales writes a memo stating the US can legitimately unilaterally opt out of the Geneva conventions and use torture in the "war on terror" (as they call it).
  • December 2001--The Justice Department argues that US courts have no jurisdiction over Guantanamo, essentially depriving all prisoners there of due process of law.
  • January 2002--Rumsfeld approves the use of "aggressive interrogation methods" at Guantanamo, including the use of attack dogs, stress positions, waterboarding, etc.
  • January 2002--Gonzales characterizes the Geneva conventions "quaint" and "obsolete," and admits that without this proposition, the Bush administration opens itself to charges of war crimes.
  • February 2002--the Bush administration declares prisoners of war to be "detainees," an Orwellian twisting of language that supports Gonzales's contention that the US must fight this "war" without rules, and provides cover for administration figures against war crime charges for torture.
  • August 2002--Gonzales's "torture memo" defines torture only as those methods causing physical pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." At any rate, the memo also argued that ANY laws prohibiting torture do not apply to Bush's "war on terror" (as they call it).
  • To the 17 interrogation methods already approved by, and included in, the Army Field Manual, Donald Rumsfeld approves an additional 16. Those 16 violate the Geneva conventions and US law.
  • March 20, 2003--US invades Iraq. Abu Ghraib detention camp set up for Iraqi prisoners.
  • July 26, 2003--Amnesty International already hearing allegations of abuse in Iraqi detention camps.
  • August 2003--Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller takes command at Guantanamo, introduces new techniques to "get information." More than twenty POWs hang themselves in a two week period.
  • September 2003--Miller is sent to Iraq by Donald Rumsfeld to "Gitmo-ize" interrogation processes at Abu Ghraib.
  • December 2003--FBI agent e-mails memo to Washington describing Defense Department interrogators using "torture techniques."
  • January 13, 2004--MP Joseph Darby reports abuses at Abu Ghriab to the Army's Criminal Ivestigations Unit. The "few bad apples" story begins to circulate.
  • February 2004--Gen. Anthony Taguba's report notes that Miller entered Abu Ghraib with a clear intention of making detention secondary to interrogation. He put military intelligence officers in charge of the prison and demanded that "detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation." "Ghost detainees"--hidden from the public and from the eyes of the International Red Cross--become a common phenomenon.
  • May 2004--US Army acknowledges that there have been at least 34 detainee deaths in US custordy.
  • May 24, 2004--President Bush speaks to the nation, blaming Abu Ghraib on "a few bad apples."
  • January/March 2005--Alberto Gonzales becomes Attorney General.
  • November 2005--Bush : We don't do torture.
  • November 2005--Cheney : CIA is exempt from McCain anti-torture ban.

When will America finally become exhausted with all this ANTI-AMERICANISM?????

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ex-Abu Ghraib Interrogator : Abuse Was US Policy

The "few bad apples" theory takes another hit. It came from above, and (still no excuse) GIs WERE, in fact, "just following orders."
A former US Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison yesterday described using dogs to terrify Iraqi inmates, and suggested that such methods were approved by top-ranking military officers.
Anthony Lagouranis, a former interrogator at Abu Ghraib, made his remarks in the New York Times in the run-up to the court-martial of two former guards at the notorious prison, Sergeant Santos Cardona and Sergeant Michael Smith, some of those supposed "bad apples" we've been hearing about.

"Cardona and Smith have been accused of sick and sadistic behaviour," he wrote. "But they almost certainly acted believing they were following legal orders."

In the military, Lagouranis said, orders are orders unless there is clear, uncluttered law transmitted from far above an immediate superior's rank and station.

"Instead of a clear message prohibiting torture, our top commanders
gave us a deliberate muddying of the waters," he said.

Who, if not bad apples, is responsible?

The article was particularly scathing about Major General Geoffrey Miller, a former prison commander in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who invoked his right not to incriminate himself in refusing to answer questions in the case of Cardona and Smith.

"He's decided to protect himself," Lagouranis said. "Apparently happy to let two dog handlers take the fall — a stunning betrayal of his subordinates and army values."

Miller advised officers at Abu Ghraib on how to "Gitmo-ize" the Iraqi prison in August and September of 2003, and harsher tactics used on prisoners at Guantanamo may have migrated to the Iraqi facility as a result.

Miller was hand-picked by Donald Rumsfeld to bring the same abusive (and unproductive) tactics already in use at Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib.

So, who is responsible? Well, the soldiers themselves. No question. You don't just "follow orders" that are objectively evil. Their commanders, up the chain to Geoffrey Miller. Donald Rumsfeld, who believes in the use of torture as a productive way to get "intelligence." Alberto Gonzales, who wrote memos, as George W. Bush's chief counsel, justifying the use of torture and heaping scorn on the Geneva Conventions. And, of course, the President himself, who will no doubt claim not to have had "situational awareness."

For that alone he should be impeached.

Poll : Only 25% of GIs Serving in Iraq Support Bush Iraq Policy WITH AN UPDATE FROM STARS&STRIPES.COM

Another right-wing lie exposed: US GIs in Iraq support President Bush's Iraq war policy. In reality, US troops in Iraq say, "You want to support your troops? Bring us HOME!!!"

Interesting insights from the "left-wing media," i.e., Stars & Stripes:
The poll also shows that 42 percent of the troops surveyed are unsure of their mission in Iraq, and that 85 percent believe a major reason they were sent into war was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks.” Ninety-three percent said finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for the ongoing military action.
Ummmm...Yeah. That's a problem, isn't it. Where in the world did 85% of US troops in Iraq get the idea that Saddam had been involved in the 9/11 attacks? Part of the reason is the general uncertainty about the purpose of the war in the first place. That's what happens when you lie to the troops and to the American people when starting a war of choice.
Of those surveyed, 75 percent have served multiple tours in Iraq, 63 percent were under 30 years old, and 75 percent were male.
May God bless and protect them. And may WE do the right thing by bringing them home.

Americans IN THE DARK About Constitutional Rights

This is a sad and frightening statement to make:

Half of 1,000 Americans randomly surveyed by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum could name at least two of the five members of Fox Television's Simpson family, the stars of the network's long-running show.

But just 28 percent of respondents could name more than one of the five freedoms listed in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment -- about the same proportion that could name all five Simpson family members or could recall the three judges on Fox TV's top-rated "American Idol."

There is widespread, but not total, ignorance about the Constitution and our rights. Many Americans came name some of our rights, but very few can name them all.
Freedom of religion was recalled by 24 percent, freedom of the press by 11 percent, freedom of assembly by 10 percent, and freedom to petition for redress of grievances (right to a day in court) by 1 percent.
But wait -- it gets worse:
Among other rights not mentioned in the Constitution but listed by some respondents was the right to drive and the right to have pets.
Is there any question that this ignorance explains -- at least in part -- why we allow this to happen?
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Finally - prayers are being answered

Can I get an "Amen" for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago?!?! They announced several events today to join a nationwide Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform. The archdiocese even recruited about 200 immigrants to speak at masses and other church events about it.

There's a bill in Congress that, according to religious leaders, will even throw you in jail for knowingly assisting an illegal immigrant. Unreal.

A bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) would legalize millions of the nation's undocumented immigrants. The Catholic priests are collecting signatures in support of this bill. Priests are also fasting and holding prayer vigils.

"This is part of our gospel mandate, to welcome the stranger," said Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' immigration office. "This is part of being Catholic."

Priests speak out for illegal workers
But they fear legislation that threatens their aid
by Oscar Avila, Tribune staff reporter
Published March 1, 2006

Bush : No Civil War in Iraq

There are WMDs in Iraq.
Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Al Qa'ida was linked to Iraq.
The Iraqi people will greet us with flowers and candy.
We don't do torture.
We respect human rights.
There is no civil war in Iraq.

I am not a pathological liar.

Death Penalty Awareness Week

30 years.

Over 1,000 people executed.

More than 120 people exonarated.

True other countries still use the death penalty. Such as: Iran, Vietnam, China.

Need more facts?