Saturday, March 31, 2007

AP : Army Gen. Warned Superiors to Tell Bush About Tillman Weeks Before Circumstances of His Death Were Made Public

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Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent a memo to his superiors just seven days after the death of Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman warning that President Bush and other political leaders that the former Arizoma Cardinals safety was NOT killed in an ambush, but by friendly fire. Among other things in the memo to Gen. John Abizaid, he wrote:
I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public.
The Tillman family believes that their son's death was used by the Army and the Bush administration to stem the growing tide of anti-war sentiment in the United States at a time when public opinion was turning more and more against the war. The circumstances of Tillman's death are unusual, and the family believes they have not been fully investigated. Some believe he might have been targeted.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Kenyan Security Minister : Poverty Fueling Terror in Africa

Howie and his ilk on the right don't want to hear this. But more and more people are coming to the realization that poverty and terrorism are intimately connected.

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Are we fighting a war on terror or not? If so, we've got to fight the root causes of terrorism, including poverty, malnutrition, inequality, and exploitation. If we have the nerve to call ourselves a "Chritian nation," we damned well ought to behave like one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pat Tillman's Mom : "You're Still Lying"

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The family of Cpl. Pat Tillman has issued a scathing response to the US Army's investigation into his death by "friendly fire," calling it "shamefully unacceptable" and demanding a Congressional investigation. The report fails to address many of the strange circumstances surrounding the former Arizona Cardinals safety's death (read the entire original story here). There is some evidence -- circumstantial, perhaps, but evidence nonetheless -- that Tillman was targeted. Mary Tillman believes this is possible.

Mary Tillman said she was not excluding the possibility that her son was shot intentionally.

"Pat was used," she said. "Once he was killed, I think they saw this as an opportunity." She noted that April 2004 was the worst month up to that time in the year-old Iraq war, and the shooting occurred right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

The Army found no evidence of criminal negligence. Pat Tillman's family is, to say the least, suspicious of both the Army's findings and its motivations. They met with Army officials the same moment the results of the investigation were being made public. Mary Tillman told reporters afterward:

The meeting was a travesty, I mean we were lied to. They told us we were abusive, and I responded back that, you know, lying is a form of abuse, and we've been lied to for three years.

But what they did is make up a story. That's not a misstep, and that's not an error. They made up a story, it was presented on national television, and we believe they did that to promote the war.

Indeed. Here's what the family's statement said:

“No one who knew Pat doubted his physical or moral courage,” the statement said. "But the award of the Silver Star appears more than anything to be part of a cynical design to conceal the real events from the family — but most especially from the public — while exploiting the death of our beloved Pat as a recruitment poster.”
Wow. Pat Tillman came from a family of heroes.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Excuse Me...

...but I have to run to New York for a few days. I'm chairing a panel at a conference at NYU sponsored jointly by the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication and the American Journalism Historical Society. Full disclosure: getting invited to "chair a panel" is kind of like the booby prize. You get to put it in your portfolio, but you don't really do anything.

I don't know when I'll get the chance to blog for the next few days. But I'll be reading and I'll be watching. I know you will be too. See you when I get back.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jesus Was NOT a Socialist...BUT...

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The Catholic principle of apostolic succession means, among other things, that there is an unbroken line of apostles from the original twelve until today. It also means that Bishops (and this of course includes the Pope in his role as Bishop of Rome) have a particular authority to teach. This authority is exercised in pastoral letters (on the episcopal level) and encyclicals (a Pope's teaching to the entire church). In fairness to the subject, it is also used as an excuse to keep women from being ordained.

But those who call themselves "Catholic" ignore Church teaching at their own peril. So here's what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops had to say to Congress (all emphases mine).
Do not forget or neglect the needs of the poor and vulnerable in the United States and throughout the world in setting budget priorities, U.S. bishops urged Congress, noting that they have responsibility to meet the common good.
Common good? You still talking about that? Didn't we get rid of that useless concept in the 1980s? No, say the Bishops. Decisions about spending have to be made on the basis of more than "economic policy."
“Meeting essential human needs is a compelling ethical and fiscal priority,” he said. “A moral measure of the budget will be how it treats poor and vulnerable people.”
The Bishops questioned the morality of tax cuts that benefit the rich while putting an undue burden on the middle class and jeopardizing the well-being of the poor.
“When the basic requirements of human life and dignity for many in our country and throughout the world go unmet, it is essential that adequate federal revenues be available to help meet these basic human needs,” he said.
Deficit spending on things like, well, war also limit the amount of money that can be spent on providing for the common good.
The budget should, he said, provide “adequate funding” for programs that help families “escape hunger and homelessness, find decent housing and employment and have access to quality education and medical care.”
This is important not just at home; the common good extends beyond our shores.
He also pointed to strengthening the U.S. government commitment to foreign aid, including relief, developmental and health-care assistance throughout the developing world “where people live with crushing poverty and diseases” and forced to flee “violence and persecution.” “Your budget choices have clear moral and human dimensions,” he said. “They reflect our values as a people.”
“The weak and vulnerable,” he said, “do not have powerful lobbyists.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Apocalypse Soon?

Rolling Stone put together a panel of left-wing, pinko, anti-war crazies and asked them, essentially, just exactly how bad did George W. Bush screw up the middle east in his so-called "war on terror."

The panel included such well-known radicals and communist sympathizers as:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Gen. Tony McPeak (member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first President Bush), Michael Scheuer (former CIA agent in charge of the Osama bin Laden unit), Paul Pillar (28 year veteran CIA intelligence analyst and the CIA's former lead Counterterrorist analyst), Richard Clarke (advisor to Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, and the National Security Council's anti-terrorism "czar" from 1992 until 2003), Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan, a world-renowned middle-eastern scholar, and the creator of the influential blog Informed Consent), Chas Freeman (US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and the president of the Middle East Policy Council), and Nir Rosen (fellow of the New America Foundation), and Bob Graham (former Governor of Florida, 1978-1987, Former US Senator, 1987-2005, former Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence).

The Rolling Stone article is essential reading, if sobering -- even frightening. I excerpt a few of the panel's thoughts:

The Best-Case Scenario:
Richard Clarke: All the things they say will happen are already happening. Iraq is already a base for terrorists; there is already a civil war. We've got 150,000 troops there now and we can't stop it.
McPeak: You have to hope that Iraq devolves into a federal state with three strong regional governments. But that has its downsides: The Turks would go berserk. They would see Kurdistan as a base for the Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey, which has bedeviled them like the IRA in Ireland or the Basques in Spain...
Scheuer: The neoconservatives and their war in Iraq have made Israeli security worse than at any time since 1967. You'll see more and more people trying to launch attacks in Israel who are not Palestinian or Lebanese. None of it bodes well for a Middle East peace settlement.
The Most Likely Outcome:
McPeak: We're going to see a full-scale intercommunal war that may not burn out until one side is all dead, all gone. The Kurds would like to sit on the sidelines, but I don't see how they stay out, especially up in the Kirkuk area, where they sit on a lot of oil. This is going to be ethnic cleansing like we had in Kosovo or Bosnia -- but written big, in capital letters. And we can't stop it.
Chas Freeman: The most efficient way to avoid mass killings is to help the Shiites win fast, consolidate their damn dictatorship and get the hell out. The level of anarchy and hatred and emotional disturbance is such that it's very hard to imagine anything except a Saddam-style reign of terror succeeding in pacifying the place.
Rosen: Our Sunni allies in the region, the so-called moderate states -- dictatorships like Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- are pushing the U.S. to switch sides and support the Sunnis. We've been working up to that, obviously. The whole buildup to a new war against Iran, which sounds so much like the buildup in 2002, is part of that. You no longer hear about Al Qaeda in Iraq. More and more we're hearing about Iran and Shias.
Graham: This administration seems to be getting ready to make -- at a much more significant, escalated level -- the same mistake we made in Iran that we made in Iraq. If Iraq has been a disaster, this would be multiple times Iraq. The extent to which this could be the horror of the twenty-first century is hard to exaggerate.
Brzezinski: If the war continues without any American willingness to accommodate regionally and to pull out, the Iraq War will be extended to Iran. And if we get involved in a war with Iran, that raises the prospect of a twenty-year-long involvement in protracted violence in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and probably Pakistan. I'm not a prophet, but if the president doesn't change course, then the more grim prognosis is a likely one.
The Worst-Case Scenario:
Rosen: Iraq will be the battleground where the Sunni-Shia conflict will be fought, but it won't be limited to Iraq. It will spread. Pandora's box is open. We didn't just open it, we opened it and threw fuel into it and threw matches into it. You'll soon see Sunni militias destabilizing countries like Jordan and Syria -- where the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood is very strong...
Scheuer: I can't help but think we've signed Jordan's death warrant. The country is already on a simmering boil because of the king's oppression of Islamists. It could turn into a police state like Egypt, or an incoherent, revolving-door-type government like Lebanon is becoming now.
McPeak: The worst case? Iraq's Sunnis begin to be backed into a corner, then the Sunni governments -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia -- jump in. Israel sees that it's threatened by these developments. Once the Israelis get involved, then everybody piles on. And you've got nuclear events going off in the Middle East. That would be about as bad as it could get.
Cole: During the war between Iraq and Iran, Saddam and Khomeini didn't destroy each other's oil-producing capabilities, because they knew it would make each of them a Fourth World country. But if you get a big multicountry guerrilla war, guerrillas could do what they've been doing in northern Iraq: Hit the oil pipelines. Guerrillas aren't calculating it the way states are as far as mutually assured destruction. If you got pipeline sabotage in Iran and Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq, you could take twelve percent of the world's petroleum production off the market. That looks like the second Great Depression.
McPeak ends with an "attaboy" for those who weren't paying attention to reality and voted for George W. Bush in 2004:
McPeak: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.
How in the world did we let this happen?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bhutto : Taliban Rules Part of Pakistan

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We've got the wrong allies to fight the wrong war. Musharraf must go.

The Taliban must be defeated in Pakistan this year or the country risks falling under the sway of extremists much as Afghanistan did before September 11, 2001, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said.

Bhutto, who hopes to return from exile and run for prime minister again in elections this year, also warned that the judicial crisis gripping Pakistan could spin out of control and underscores the importance of restoring civilian rule.

''They (the Taliban) have actually established a mini-state in the tribal areas of Pakistan. My fear is that if these forces are not stopped in 2007, they are going to try to take on the state of Pakistan itself,'' Bhutto said in an interview on Friday. ''In my view it is a genuine threat,'' she said.

Bhutto is the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, a secular party that leans toward government interventionism in economics and social justice. She was ousted in 1996 under questionable circumstances after her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was accused of using his position as husband of the Prime Minister for economic gain. Musharraf took power in a coup in 1999, overthrowing Prime Minister Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, and becoming both head of government and head of state as President.
''General Musharraf does say that he wants to go after terrorists, that he wants to go after the forces that support the Taliban, but he's unable to do it,'' Bhutto said from her apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she lives with her ailing husband when she's not working for her return to Pakistani politics from Dubai.

Musharraf also has been exploiting the presence of the extreme Islamist movement as a rationale for maintaining his military rule beyond general elections due before the end of 2007, she said.

Edwards : Poverty Causes Terrorism

Please see this story:

While looking at my blog traffic, I noticed that I got some hits from a website called "Know Before You Vote." It is a single page website with external links to news sites, blogs, and crap.

It purports to give an objective, side-by-side comparison of all the candidates, Republican and Democratic, running for President. It doesn't. And whether you are a Clinton supporter or a Romney supporter or an Obama supporter or a McCain supporter or an Edwards supporter or a (God forbid) Thompson supporter, you should really take a look at this and ask some questions, because there's a whole lotta mis-representin' goin' on...
For instance: In one category called, "Understands the effects of blowback," All the candidates are listed as "NO" except Paul and Obama, who are listed as "YES." As an explanation of what "blowback" is, there are two links, one to an article in an on-line magazine published by a Canadian college. The other is to an article on Military History Online, a privately-owned website. I have no problem in principle with either article. But in support of "Know Before You Vote's" accusation that John Edwards does not understand the effects of blowback is a posting from IN THE DARK from March 18 of 2007. In this posting I talked about how Edwards said that we need to fight global poverty as a means of fighting terrorism; in other words, that poverty is a (not the) root cause of terrorism. This position has been championed by Peter Munya, the US Conference of Catholilc Bishops, John Edwards, Hugo Chavez, Fernando Lugo, Desmond Tutu, Charles Dickens, Muhammed Yunus, myself, and even Pakistan dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf who have been saying that you can't win a war on terror if you don't fight a war on poverty. For the record, the late Holy Father Pope John Paul II believed this too.
The website has no identification whatsoever that ties it to either a campaign or a political action committee or a voter education organization like Project Vote Smart (a non-profit, non-partisan website that allows you to find voting records, issue positions, campaign finances, etc.). I have found that the website is registered to 1&1 Internet, Inc., at 701 Lee Road, Suite 300, in Chesterbrook, PA. I have called them and e-mailed them (click the link and you can too) to find out who the owner of this website is. So far I have not received a response.
I find it very curious and a bit disturbing. I would be interested in hearing from both Democrats and Republicans who think their candidates positions have been misrepresented on this website.
By the way: I'm sure it is pure coincidence, but Ron Paul gets all the positions listed on this website CORRECT...

We now return you to the originally posted story, which concerned John Edwards saying about poverty...
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Let's end it.

Edwards isn't going nearly far enough with this proposal, but it's the first sensible rhetoric I've heard from a candidate for President of the United States in a long, long time.

Seeking to link poverty in other countries to the United States’ national security, Edwards argued that militant extremists in nations torn apart by poverty and civil war have replaced government educational systems and are teaching young people to hate the United States.

"When you understand that, it suddenly becomes clear: Global poverty is not just a moral issue for the United States – it is a national security issue for the United States," he said at Saint Anselm College.
What he's talking about spending is a pittance and won't do a whole lot to alleviate global poverty or check the spread of anti-American hatred. But it is better than nothing.

Edwards called for spending $3 billion a year to extend primary education to millions of children in developing countries. Combating terrorism should begin in classrooms, not battlefields, he said.

His plan also includes $600 million a year for health care initiatives, including a worldwide summit on clean drinking water and sanitation and a six-fold increase in funding for clean water programs.

Getting to the root of global poverty will require increasing both political and economic opportunities for the poor, he said, at a cost of about $1.4 billion. And it will require one person to oversee those efforts, he said.

You can keep telling yourself -- if you choose -- that the US occupation of Iraq is a "central front in the war on terror." Why Afghanistan was not the central front in the so-called "war on terror" in the eyes of this administration is a puzzle. But then again, so is the fact that a brutal dictator, Pervez Musharraf, is one of our allies. But this war has cost us an average of $100,000,000,000.00 each of the last four years, and we are in greater danger of being the victims of terror attacks now than we were four years ago.

Many on the right will say that Edwards' plan -- or any plan for that matter that has government spending on welfare rather than warfare -- won't work. I say we're crazy if we don't try it. And worse: if we are serious about fighting a war on terror, a real war on real terror, then it would be immoral to ignore global poverty.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why Do They Hate Us?

Even though conflict is big on television, not all wars infiltrate our consciousness. Where the United States or its (economic?) allies or (economic?) interests are not involved, war does not seem to exist for us. The Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden report that on average 9 minor armed conflicts (where the number of deaths does not exceed 1000 during the course of the conflict), 12 intermediate armed conflicts (where the number of deaths exceeds 1000, but is fewer than 1000 in any given year), and 13 wars (with more than 1000 deaths a year) go on at all times somewhere in the world.

In the year 2000, war took the lives of 168,000 Africans, 65,000 Asians, 39,000 “middle-easterners,” 37,000 Europeans, and 2,000 Central and South Americans. At the same time, American arms manufacturers were making it possible for war to be the “booming business” that it is. Forty of the top one hundred arms-producing companies in the world are American companies with profits totaling $664 billion dollars in 1999. Over $93 billion of that profit comes from the manufacture and sale of weapons, more than the profit of the other 60 companies combined (US$64 billion). Is this not something Americans should know about?

Meanwhile, those in the less technologically developed world who are not dying in warfare are likely to be dying of disease or starvation. While the life expectancy of the average American was about 75 years in 2001, it was 65 for the Indonesian, 64 for the Russian, 45 for the Afghan, 39 for the Zambian, and 38 for the Rwandan and the Mozambiquan. While an American baby has 99.4% of survival after birth, the infant mortality rate is 2% for the Russian, 10% for the Ethiopian, almost 15% for the Afghan, and nearly 20% for the Angolan.

And while much of the “third world” believes that we care little for their welfare, many more question our motivations even less kindly. They believe we are more interested in exploiting their natural resources for our benefit, and exploiting their people for their cheap labor.

If terrorism is evil — and it is — this is terror’s recruiting station.

Bhutto : Musharraf Can't Handle Taliban

An Update on the "So-called War on Terror"TM

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I had the opportunity to meet former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in May of 2002 at Molloy College's Joseph F. Maher Leadership Forum. She called the United States of America, "a beacon of democracy" in a world of darkness. She laments, however, the Bush administration's strong support -- up until now -- for General Pervez Musharraf, the dictator who took power in a coup d'etat in 1999.

For too long, the international perception has been that Musharraf's regime is the only thing standing between the West and nuclear-armed fundamentalists.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Islamic parties have never garnered more than 13 percent in any free parliamentary elections in Pakistan. The notion of Musharraf's regime as the only non-Islamist option is disingenuous and the worst type of fear-mongering.

The US has made mistakes before, as described here. We tend to prefer Capitalist dictatorships over democratic, Socialist governments. As long as we keep giving lip service to "democracy" while actually fighting only to make the world safe for un-regulated, laissez faire, "free-market" capitalism, we're going to keep making mistakes, we're going to keep alienating the rest of the world, we're going to keep making enemies, and we're going to remain a target for terrorism.

The West has been shortsighted in dealing with Pakistan. When the United States aligns with dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, it compromises the basic democratic principles of its foundation -- namely, life, liberty and justice for all. Dictatorships such as Musharraf's suppress individual rights and freedoms and empower the most extreme elements of society. Oppressed citizens, unable to represent themselves through other means, often turn to extremism and religious fundamentalism.

Restoring democracy through free, fair, transparent and internationally supervised elections is the only way to return Pakistan to civilization and marginalize the extremists. A democratic Pakistan, free from the yoke of military dictatorship, would cease to be a breeding ground for international terrorism.

Musharraf should go. NOW.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chavez : Negroponte a "Professional Killer"

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez on Sunday said he believes enemies including the CIA are out to kill him, and called U.S. diplomat John Negroponte a "professional killer.''
The CIA does have a history of coups and assassinations in Latin America (1954 Guatemala coup against Jacobo Arbenz, 1961 coup against J. M. Velasco Ibarra of Ecuador, a 1963 coup against Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, the 1973 coup against -- and assassination of -- Salvador Allende in Chile, the 1983 CIA establishment of the "Contra army" in Nicaragua, as well as the entire history of death squads emerging from the School of the Americas). John Negroponte as a "professional killer" is certainly hyperbole, and it is doubtful that the Assistant Secretary of State ever killed anyone himself. However, as US Ambassador to Honduras (1981-85), Negroponte oversaw the establishment of death squads in Honduras and El Salvador as well as the US-supported "Contra war' against Nicaragua's Sandinista government.

Chavez said Venezuelan officials have intelligence that associates of jailed Cuban anti-communist militant Luis Posada Carriles also are involved in plotting to assassinate him.

He said the death plot idea has "gained weight'' due to various factors, including the recent appointment of Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence, as deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Here and here is the entire FOIA file on Luis Posada Carriles from the National Security Archives at George Washington University. Here is the file on John Negroponte. Read them and decide for yourself if Chavez is being paranoid.

"Who did they swear in...there at the White House as deputy secretary of state? A professional killer: John Negroponte,'' Chavez said.

Chavez did not elaborate, but his government has previously accused Negroponte of playing a key role in the Contra war against the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua when he served as ambassador to Honduras - a haven for clandestine Contra bases - from 1981 to 1985.

U.S. Embassy officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but they have denied Chavez's repeated accusations that they are plotting to oust him.

Of course they have. What else would they say? Logic -- and ethics -- demands we acknowledge the fact that none of this proves anything. Chavez may be lying, he may be crazy, he may be manipulating the media. Or he may be telling the truth. My point is that our history in Latin America suggests that he is not, at the very least, crazy.

Chavez was asked about reports of assassination plots during a televised interview.
"'They have assigned special units of the CIA, true assassins, who go around not only here in Venezuela, in Central America, in South America,'' Chavez said, without elaborating.

He added that while Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative, remains jailed in the U.S. on immigration charges, "Posada Carriles' people are very active in Central America and searching for contacts in Venezuela ... They are going around searching for explosives in large quantities, thinking about a sort of car bombing or searching for ground-to-air missiles, thinking about the presidential plane.''

Chavez did not give details. His government has demanded that the U.S. extradite Posada Carriles, a naturalized Venezuelan, to stand trial for allegedly masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Posada Carriles denies involvement in that incident.

Posada's involvement is documented in recently declassified CIA papers. Posada's FOIA files can be seen here and here, and the actual declassified CIA memo that refers to his involvement in the bombing can be seen here.

The CIA documents also show that Posada worked with another terrorist, former CIA operative Orlando Bosch. Bosch was pardoned by the first President Bush in 1990.

This, my friends, is our "war between good and evil."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Jury : Libby the "Fall Guy" for Cheney

The jury is in and (righties like Howie will never agree) they have found Vice President Dick Cheney and Special Assistant to the President Carl Rove guilty of leaking the name of a covert CIA agent -- Valerie Plame -- to the press.

The jurors who huddled around two pushed-together conference tables for 10 days, meticulously filling 34 pages of facts from the trial on a large flip chart, believed that Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff had been "pilloried" for a CIA leak that other top White House aides had committed along with him, according to one member of the panel.

"We're not saying that we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of," said the juror, Denis Collins. "But it seemed like he was . . . the fall guy."

You don't say? Wow. What a shock that piece of news is. The fall guy, though, for whom?

During the jury's days of methodical deliberations, "it was said a number of times, 'What are we doing with this guy here?' " Collins told reporters on the steps outside the federal courthouse. "Where's Rove, where's -- you know, where are these other guys?" Collins said, referring to Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy chief of staff who testimony showed had been the first person to leak Plame's name.

Moreover, Collins said, jurors believed that Libby had been carrying out a directive by his immediate boss, Cheney, to "go out and talk to reporters" to tarnish Wilson's reputation. But Collins said jurors stopped short of discussing whether the vice president specifically urged Libby to tell journalists about Plame's CIA job.

More than three years ago, President Bush promised not to allow this type of leaking to go on in his White House.
"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Ilinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of. "
Here's your chance, Mr. President. For once, make your words mean something.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chavez : Jesus is Socialist

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

Christians have been debating this contention for a while -- it's nothing new. But from the mouth of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, during the week that George W. Bush is visiting Latin America, "Jesus is a Socialist" is, well, "fightin' words...."

President Hugo Chavez calls Jesus a guiding light for his self-styled socialist revolution. But his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church is complicated and sometimes strained. Even as the leftist leader has invited Catholic priests to share their ideas on transforming Venezuela into a socialist state, he has clashed with some priests who are critical of him - and in one case declared that a Venezuelan archbishop is bound for hell.
So far, it doesn't sound so controversial. At the risk of sounding heretical (but not blasphemous), I've felt that way about certain priests and Bishops myself during my lifetime. Chavez made his particular remark about Monsignor Roberto Luckert, an archbishop who recently said that Venezuela was headed down the road to Communism, a charge Chavez rejects. His idea of "21st Century Socialism" is, to hear him tell it, true Christianity.

But many in the Church disagree with Chavez that Jesus's mission on earth was to rid the world of poverty and injustice. In a recent interview, Luis Ugalde, president of Andrés Bello Catholic University said the idea that Christ was a Socialist was "absolute nonsense."
Jesus Christ was not a socialist because socialism, if embraced seriously, is not a mere denunciation against man's oppression (this is a Christian denunciation), but the search of a fairer society in which equal opportunities reign supreme.
But many Catholics agree with Chavez, at least to the point of seeing that government has a role to play in protecting citizens from the gratuitous inequities of free-market capitalism, and to giving Chavez's motivations the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, some priests have increasingly been speaking up in favor of Chavez’s ideals.

Monsignor Edgar Doria said he thinks Chavez shares Christian principles like social justice and equality, and that the church can be a key ally in social programs for the poor.

Bishop Mario Moronta wrote in a recent letter, widely published in Venezuelan media, that the church has a role to play in discussing the "21st Century Socialism" espoused by Chavez. "We are called to participate in just efforts to overcome poverty," Moronta wrote. "Every Catholic and person of good will has much to contribute."

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush is in Colombia -- our only real ally in Latin America -- to show his concern for the poor. Most likely, he will do this by promising more money to fight Colombia's "war on drugs," which will actually go to fight left-wing guerillas, who are themselves fighting right-wing drug lords. You call this foreign policy, Howie?

At the same time, McClatchey Newspapers just published report -- based on US Census data -- that indicates poverty in America is reaching epidemic proportions.

The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty...

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period.

Okay. Fine. So Jesus was not a Socialist. I can accept that, and in fact I always have. No problem, and no argument. His mission was the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our souls, not to rid the world of poverty.

But Jesus was not a free-market capitalist, either. And redemption is not cheap. Our souls are not saved by empty words -- "I accept Jesus as my personal Savior" -- we have to save our souls ourselves, by our actions. We are not saved if we turn our heads at the sight of homelessness, hunger, inequality, and poverty. No matter what we tell ourselves.