Monday, September 26, 2005

Anti-War Protesters, Hurricane Rita and the Demi-Moore-Ashton Kutcher Marriage

Question: What happens when between 250,000 and 500,000 non-violently people voice their views against a misguided, directionless war.....but the media cameras fail to show up?

Answer: we don't know, but we're about to find out. The last time a US President so blatently ignored the will of the American people , Richard Nixon was impeached and forced to resign the office of the presidency.

Be sure to read my post, 200,000 Anti-War Protesters in Washington DC, Yet Cable News Fails to Send Reporters, Cameras.

500,000 People Vanish in Washington, DC by Ron Scott, columnist of the Detroit News.....

Imagine 500,000 people marching down the meandering thoroughfares of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. They are headed for a date with destiny and the promise of peace, conjoined with a challenge for justice. How could they vanish from the headlines?

Rod Serling, the brilliant creator/writer of “The Twilight Zone,” might have written this intro to one of his teleplays during the 1960s. But it didn’t happen then. It happened this weekend, with our media, in our country, in our time.

“They came from as far away as Alaska and California,” reported Abayomi Azikiwe of the Pan African Newswire, “from Europe to the nation's capital itself, to make a clear statement that United States military forces should withdraw immediately from Iraq. Honest crowd estimates of the demonstration ranged from 500,000-600,000 (some even thought there were more) making it the largest demonstration in the capital since the winter of 2003.”

Journalist Azikiwe rode the bus with 200 Detroiters who attended this national anti-war march in Washington, DC and stood on the Mall with thousands who watched speakers ranging from the Rev. Jesse Jackson to Cindy Sheehan to activist Curtis Muhammad from New Orleans. He provided a
full report on this historic event.

But the corporate media was nowhere to be found. The demonstration was lost on CNN. It was buried on MSNBC. It barely escaped a muffle on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and the old, reliable NPR (National Public Radio). If you had been watching C-SPAN, you would have seen the speakers (but not the march), but how many people watches C-SPAN?

The media failed to cover the largest antiwar demonstration in America since the Vietnam era. That’s not happening in “The Twilight Zone.” That is reality today.

Where were they? Covering local news at home? In Iraq? Or covering the Ashton Kucher/Demi Moore wedding?

No. They had a date with Rita. Celeb anchorpersons, clad in Tommy Hilfiger and St. John knits, were standing in knee-deep water as a backdrop. How many stories about Rita did we need? It’s a tragedy, of course, but in Washington, a challenge to the Bush administration was in full gear, and the cameras, recorders, and reporters’ notepads were missing. If it wasn’t real, it would be science fiction.

The failure of the media to cover this, perhaps one of the most important events of this young century, challenges those who read this blog and those who consider themselves to be committed Americans on the left, right, and in between, to fight for full disclosure and total coverage of what’s happening in our communities throughout the nation. We’ve seen too many “in-bed-with” media, too many laughing anchorpersons, and too many roving reporters who scream only after the story is over.

The Bush administration needs to be covered, and covered seriously. To any of you who remember history prior to 1980, lesser failures on the part of a President brought his resignation.

That was Richard M. Nixon. Today, the chief executive of this country, and an administration which has clearly attempted to silence the media, needs to be accessed, researched, and critiqued—even when the winds are blowing in Texas.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The President Falls Apart: Obscenities, Drinking, Fury?

The following was posted today in AOL's Live Journals, and perhaps corroborates the story breaking in the blogosphere that Bush is drinking again.

I also received a solid tip from San Diego about the President's appearance there on the day that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, "On the day the levee broke, several local media personalities speculated that something was wrong with Bush. He stumbled or staggered up the stairs to Air Force One, after cutting short a visit to the naval hospital."

Coming from a myriad of sources, this is not merely idle gossip when it involves the President of the United States. It's cause for radically serious alarm on the part of the international community, as well as US citizenry.

Picture this: The US receives corroborated reports that the powerful leader of another with nuclear weapons, the largest armies in the history of the world and HALF of the world's defense behaving in an angry, threatening, irrational, even unstable manner.

What would the US do in that situation? Ignore it?

Never! Not a chance. Not one chance in a trillion.....
Bush's Obscene Tirades Rattle White House Aides By DOUG THOMPSON Aug 25, 2005

While President George W. Bush travels around the country in a last-ditch effort to sell his Iraq war, White House aides scramble frantically behind the scenes to hide the dark mood of an increasingly angry leader who unleashes obscenity-filled outbursts at anyone who dares disagree with him.

“I’m not meeting again with that goddamned bitch,” Bush screamed at aides who suggested he meet again with Cindy Sheehan, the war-protesting mother whose son died in Iraq. “She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned!”

Bush flashes the bird, something aides say he does often and has been doing since his days as governor of Texas.Bush, administration aides confide, frequently explodes into tirades over those who protest the war, calling them “motherfucking traitors.” He reportedly was so upset over Veterans of Foreign Wars members who wore “bullshit protectors” over their ears during his speech to their annual convention that he told aides to “tell those VFW assholes that I’ll never speak to them again is they can’t keep their members under control.”

White House insiders say Bush is growing increasingly bitter over mounting opposition to his war in Iraq. Polls show a vast majority of Americans now believe the war was a mistake and most doubt the President’s honesty.

“Who gives a flying fuck what the polls say,” he screamed at a recent strategy meeting. “I’m the President and I’ll do whatever I goddamned please. They don’t know shit.”

Bush, while setting up for a photo op for signing the recent CAFTA bill, flipped an extended middle finger to reporters. Aides say the President often “flips the bird” to show his displeasure and tells aides who disagree with him to “go to hell” or to “go fuck yourself.” His habit of giving people the finger goes back to his days as Texas governor, aides admit, and videos of him doing so before press conferences were widely circulated among TV stations during those days. A recent video showing him shooting the finger to reporters while walking also recently surfaced.

Bush’s behavior, according to prominent Washington psychiatrist, Dr. Justin Frank, author of “Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President,” is all too typical of an alcohol-abusing bully who is ruled by fear.

To see that fear emerges, Dr. Frank says, all one has to do is confront the President. “To actually directly confront him in a clear way, to bring him out, so you would really see the bully, and you would also see the fear,” he says.

Dr. Frank, in his book, speculates that Bush, an alcoholic who brags that he gave up booze without help from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, may be drinking again.

“Two questions that the press seems particularly determined to ignore have hung silently in the air since before Bush took office,” Dr. Frank says. “Is he still drinking? And if not, is he impaired by all the years he did spend drinking? Both questions need to be addressed in any serious assessment of his psychological state.”

Last year, Capitol Hill Blue learned the White House physician prescribed anti-depressant drugs for the President to control what aides called “violent mood swings.” As Dr. Frank also notes: “In writing about Bush's halting appearance in a press conference just before the start of the Iraq War, Washington Post media critic Tom Shales speculated that ‘the president may have been ever so slightly medicated.’”

Dr. Frank explains Bush’s behavior as all-to-typical of an alcoholic who is still in denial:
“The pattern of blame and denial, which recovering alcoholics work so hard to break, seems to be ingrained in the alcoholic personality; it's rarely limited to his or her drinking,” he says. “The habit of placing blame and denying responsibility is so prevalent in George W. Bush's personal history that it is apparently triggered by even the mildest threat.”

(Here is a portal link to Doug Thompson's various internet sites.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

UN Investigates Egregious US Human Rights Abuses

Despite the obvious abuses to human dignity allowed under the Bush/Cheney Administration, it's still hard to imagine that this is actually occurring in our United States. this would never have taken place five years, before they took office. Never.....
From Common Dreams.....
UN Human Rights Body to Scrutinize U.S. Abuses by Thalif Deen

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, scheduled to meet in Geneva next month, has written to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) calling for any available evidence of human rights abuses by the United States -- particularly in the aftermath of its global war on terrorism.

The 18-member committee, comprising of independent human rights experts, will take up "issues of specific concerns relating to the effect of measures taken (by the administration of President George W. Bush) in the fight against terrorism following the events of 11 September 2001," the day the United States was subject to terrorist attacks.

The primary focus will be "on the implications of the USA Patriot Act on nationals and non-nationals, as well as problems relating to the legal status and treatment of persons detained in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Iraq and other places of detention outside the USA."

The U.S. Congress adopted the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 in order to provide "appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism."

But virtually all human rights organizations, both domestic and international, have criticized the Act as seriously threatening civil liberties and freedoms in the United States.

"The USA Patriot Act was destined to foster abuses, as it weakened the system of checks and balances on law enforcement while setting aside due process safeguards under the law," says Jumana Musa, advocacy director at Amnesty International USA.

Alarmingly, Musa added, the Patriot Act has inspired a proliferation of copycat laws worldwide, prompting abuses that the United States has officially pledged to counter.

"The boast that the United States is now the world's only superpower has a grim undertow in the area of human rights; no one can tell Washington what to do or not do, no matter how egregious its cruelties," says Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy.

"Most governments deserve to be censured by a human rights committee. The United States, far from being an exception, is among the most culpable -- in particular because of its large-scale foreign policy efforts pursued under the rubric of a 'war on terrorism' over the last four years," Solomon told IPS.

The rhetorical use of "human rights" as a political football has mired its transcendent importance in the muck of self-serving hypocrisies based on the tacit precept that might makes right, he added.

"The character of the Bush administration is such that the U.S. delegation to the United Nations will -- in practice -- indignantly refuse to recognize a single standard of human rights whenever such a standard would put the U.S. record in a negative light," said Solomon, author of the recently-released book 'War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.'

The U.S.-based Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute at the University of California in Berkeley has detailed some 180 alleged human rights violations by the United States, including 11 types of violations of individual rights and 19 types of violations of government duties.

These violations include enforcement of the Patriot Act, and also allegations of killings, torture, detentions and other "inhuman treatment" in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Last July, the Berkeley City Council submitted to the Human Rights Committee a report prepared by the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, titled "Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 9/11".

In June, four independent experts of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights expressed "deep regrets" that "the Government of the United States has still not invited us to visit those persons arrested, detained or tried on grounds of alleged terrorism or other violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Guantanamo Bay naval base".

The Bush administration has also turned down a similar request from the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and a joint request by the U.N. Special Rapporteurs on torture and health.

"Such requests were based on information, from reliable sources, of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights," the four experts said in a statement released in June.

They also said that many of the allegations have come to light through declassified government documents. "The purpose of the visit would be to examine objectively the allegations first-hand and ascertain whether international human rights standards that are applicable in these particular circumstances are being upheld with respect to those detained persons," the experts added.

When the Human Rights Committee meets in Geneva from Oct. 17 to Nov. 3, it is expected to discuss the submissions made by the Bush administration. These submissions include Washington's periodic reports on how it has helped enforce the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The committee was established to specifically monitor the implementation of the Covenant and the Protocols to the Covenant in the territory of States parties. The committee convenes three times a year for sessions of three weeks' duration.

Under article 40 of the Covenant, States parties must submit reports every five years on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights.

The United States will be appearing before the committee for the first time in the post-Sep. 11 period.

Although only members of the committee and representatives of the relevant state party may take part in the dialogue, NGOs are encouraged to submit written information or reports to the committee.

Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy pointed out that for a long time, officials in Washington have been dismissive of the human rights pretensions of regimes that clearly are human rights violators, while much of what Washington does to violate human rights is "coated with a veneer of righteousness".

A multi-track monologue discourse from Washington -- in tandem with tremendous economic, political, diplomatic and military power -- can be bought to bear on the United Nations, he said.

"A superpower that is striving to remake the 60-year-old world body in its own image can hardly be expected to submit to institutional scrutiny of its actual human rights record. The self-designated role of Uncle Sam at the United Nations is to preach and teach without reflecting or learning," he argued.

A harsh truth is that a pronounced form of jingoism is at the core of the Bush administrations approach to the United Nations, Solomon added.

"Human rights violations come in many shapes, styles and sizes. The United States, like many other countries, has a government well-practiced at dodging accountability and proclaiming its own virtues," he said.

"But the U.S. Record, as assessed by independent organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, is reprehensible," Solomon noted.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bill Clinton Emerges From Bushian Republican-Lite Cocoon

I was getting concerned that Bill Clinton had gotten so moderate and so chummy with the Bush brigade, that perhaps he really had turned Republican-lite......

Thank God he spoke up. I wondered how long Clinton would stand by the two Georges and ilk and their woeful lack of empathy for anyone experiencing a natural disaster without an expensive mansion to shelter them from the storm.
From Agence France Press, via Common Dreams....

Clinton Launches Withering Attack on Bush on Iraq, Katrina, Budget

Former US president Bill Clinton sharply criticised George W. Bush for the Iraq War and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and voiced alarm at the swelling US budget deficit.

Breaking with tradition under which US presidents mute criticisms of their successors, Clinton said the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction."

The Iraq war diverted US attention from the war on terrorism "and undermined the support that we might have had," Bush said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" programme.
Clinton said there had been a "heroic but so far unsuccessful" effort to put together an constitution that would be universally supported in Iraq.

The US strategy of trying to develop the Iraqi military and police so that they can cope without US support "I think is the best strategy. The problem is we may not have, in the short run, enough troops to do that," said Clinton.

On Hurricane Katrina, Clinton faulted the authorities' failure to evacuate New Orleans ahead of the storm's strike on August 29.

People with cars were able to heed the evacuation order, but many of those who were poor, disabled or elderly were left behind.

"If we really wanted to do it right, we would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out," Clinton.

He agreed that some responsibility for this lay with the local and state authorities, but pointed the finger, without naming him, at the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA boss Michael Brown quit in response to criticism of his handling of the Katrina disaster. He was viewed as a political appointee with no experience of disaster management or dealing with government officials.

"When James Lee Witt ran FEMA, because he had been both a local official and a federal official, he was always there early, and we always thought about that," Clinton said, referring to FEMA's head during his 1993-2001 presidency.

"But both of us came out of environments with a disproportionate number of poor people."
On the US budget, Clinton warned that the federal deficit may be coming untenable, driven by foreign wars, the post-hurricane recovery programme and tax cuts that benefitted just the richest one percent of the US population, himself included.

"What Americans need to understand is that ... every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts," he said.

"We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else."

Clinton added: "We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bush Proposal for Katrina Survivors: The Devil Is In the Details

At first hearing, the President's proposals to aid Hurricane Katrina survivors sound like a splendid progressive Democratic plan, reminiscent of FDR. But, as with all things proposed by the Bush Administration, the devil of dishonesty and unfairness is in the the details.....
From the Center for American Progress....

Hurricane Katrina has created a health as well as a humanitarian crisis. To help stop the growing healthcare crisis, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure that Katrina survivors who have been displaced by the storm receive desperately-needed health care.

The bill would "pay the full costs of Medicaid for [Hurricane Katrina] survivors who are now located in other states for five months, with an option to extend that five more months," pay the full Medicaid costs for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through December 2006, and expand Medicaid to hurricane survivors with incomes under the poverty line, including non-disabled, childless adults who are not typically eligible for coverage, through the disaster relief period. This bill drew rare bi-partisan praise from both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The Grassley/Baucus bill goes beyond the few measures laid out by the Bush administration and will aid all Katrina victims quickly and fairly.

President Bush’s plan does not cover all victims now. The Bush administration approved federal Medicaid funding for victims of Hurricane Katrina currently in Texas. While that is good news for some -- but not all -- victims in Texas, there are hundreds of thousands of victims who have moved to other states. Under the Bush plan, victims have to wait for the state they’re living in to apply for and receive funding – a process that could take weeks if not months. The hurricane victims who need medical treatment need it now, and that is the relief that is provided in the Grassley/Baucus bill.

Bush’s plan does not treat all hurricane victims fairly. Under the Bush administration plan, victims who are currently in Texas would lose their eligibility if they move to another state to reunite with their families. Even if the state they move to gets approved for similar funding, victims may receive fewer services or be responsible for more out-of-pocket costs. States are not obligated to apply for additional funding so people in some states may never become eligible. The Grassley/Baucus bill would avoid this problem by creating uniform eligibility for all victims.

The Grassley/Baucus bill will guarantee people, providers and states are helped. Under the bill, the federal government would pay the full cost of Medicaid coverage for all residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through December 2006. In addition, the proposal would ensure that no state would experience a decrease in its federal matching rate in 2006. In addition, a new, federally administered Disaster Relief Fund would offset uncompensated care costs that health care providers have incurred caring for Katrina survivors.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush Redux: Doing What It Takes

"We will do what it takes. We will not leave until the job is done."-- President Bush on Iraq, 11/14/03


"We will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes."-- President Bush on the Gulf Coast, 9/15/05

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bill Maher Advises Bush to "Lose Interest and Move On"

I have mixed feelings about Bill Maher. His words on politics are usually painfully on-target...but his atheistic views are misguided and often deeply sad. I pray for him.

His words to President Bush on a recent HBO show are...well, here they are. Judge for yourself.
Bill Maher, HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," Sept. 9, 2005

Now I kid, but seriously, Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore.

There's no more money to spend; you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Yeah, listen to your mom, the cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished.

Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?

Now, I know what you're saying, you're saying that there are so many other things that you as president could involve yourself in. Please don't.

I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax of yachts, turning the space program over to the church and Social Security to Fannie Mae, giving embryos the vote.

But sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives.

You've performed so poor, I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.

Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon, and the city of New Orleans.

Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country, I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

So yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, 'Take a hint.'"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Washington Post Op-Ed Declares: Bush Era Is Over!

IN case you missed these glorious, long-awaited words today in the Washington Post, here are a few brief excerpts. Go read it, print it out, and frame it, as I am.

End of the Bush Era by E. J. Dionne Jr. (Tuesday, September 13, 2005)

The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this.

The Bush Era did not begin when he took office, or even with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It began on Sept. 14, 2001, when Bush declared at the World Trade Center site: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." Bush was, indeed, skilled in identifying enemies and rallying a nation already disposed to action.

He failed to realize after Sept. 11 that it was not we who were lucky to have him as a leader, but he who was lucky to be president of a great country that understood the importance of standing together in the face of a grave foreign threat....

And so the Bush Era ended definitively on Sept. 2, the day Bush first toured the Gulf Coast States after Hurricane Katrina. There was no magic moment with a bullhorn. The utter failure of federal relief efforts had by then penetrated the country's consciousness. Yesterday's resignation of FEMA Director Michael Brown put an exclamation point on the failure.

The source of Bush's political success was his claim that he could protect Americans. Leadership, strength and security were Bush's calling cards. Over the past two weeks, they were lost in the surging waters of New Orleans.

But the first intimations of the end of the Bush Era came months ago. The president's post-election fixation on privatizing part of Social Security showed how out of touch he was. The more Bush discussed this boutique idea cooked up in conservative think tanks and Wall Street imaginations, the less the public liked it. The situation in Iraq deteriorated.

The glorious economy Bush kept touting turned out not to be glorious for many Americans. The Census Bureau's annual economic report, released in the midst of the Gulf disaster, found that an additional 4.1 million Americans had slipped into poverty between 2001 and 200

Read the rest here.

Many More Christians Condemn Iraq War

Some good news....albeit logical and overdue.....from the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper , via Common Dreams....

Bush Support Eroding as Christians Condemn Iraq Involvement by Jano Gibson

With increasing frequency, Christians are condemning U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
And the growing unrest among Christians threatens to erode President Bush's most loyal base.
"We had no plan for making the peace. We continue as a superpower to be arrogant. . . . And we have acted as though all is well, when, in fact, daily we have reports of suicide bombings and more disruptions in Iraq," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, a coalition of mainline Protestant and Orthodox denominations.

"Just like with Hurricane Katrina, (Bush) doesn't want to hear people say'it didn't go well,' " said Edgar, a Democrat who was president of Claremont School of Theology from 1990 to 2000.
In the buildup to war, Bush told Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The despot has been deposed, but WMDs have not been found. U.S. troops remain in Iraq while the fledging government adopts a constitution and trains its own security force.

"The president has said we will be in Iraq no longer than we are needed there," said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.

Two months after Bush declared major combat in Iraq completed in May 2003, most Christians thought the United States had acted prudently, according to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Those agreeing with the military effort were 68 percent of white mainline Protestants, 74 percent of white Catholics and 79 percent of white evangelicals. Mainline denominations are those that originated in Europe and include Lutherans, Episcopalians and Methodists.
The survey numbers fell during the following two years.

A poll last July by the Pew Forum showed 56 percent o f white mainline Protestants and 54 percent o f white Catholics supported military involvement. Even among evangelicals, who helped Bush win re-election, support had fallen by 11 percentage points.

Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, which did not publicly endorse the war but has been a Bush backer, seemed surprised Friday when he was told 68 percent of evangelicals still thought invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

"It's probably attributable to general support of the president," Cizik said.
Many, though, are growing tired of reports of U.S. casualties.

At the invitation of local anti-war activists, including Progressive Christians Uniting, Medea Benjamin is scheduled to speak this morning at Pilgrim Place, the Christian retirement community in Claremont. The 11 a.m. speech will be held in Decker Hall, 665 Avery Road. The anti-war crusader, who is not religious, has worked for years with interfaith groups promoting peace.

"The teachings of all the major religions teach peace and tolerance, universal love. Unfortunately, we humans have strayed too much from those basic teachings, often in the name of those religions," said Benjamin, founding director of the human-rights group Global Exchange.

In San Bernardino, up to 20 people Jewish, Catholic, Quaker and Protestant have held a vigil each Wednesday for the past month on E Street, behind City Hall.

"From a religious perspective, this is not a just war," said the Rev. David Kalke of Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino, a vigil organizer. "We haven't been attacked. The reason for going to war hasn't been substantiated. The lost of life has been tremendous on both sides."
Nearly 1,900 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since March 2003. Thousands of insurgents and Iraqi civilians have, too.

To be sure, many Christians opposed military action long before the conflict began. So changing attitudes shouldn't be attributed to new moral understandings, said John C. Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron in Ohio.

But Green said the practical argument against war has become more persuasive: No sign of WMDs, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was an international embarrassment, states like Ohio and California are facing heavy casualties, and the Iraqi government is struggling to get off the ground.

Christians still favor how Bush is handling Iraq more than the general public, where only two of five agree with the president, recent surveys show. Last month, before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the president's job approval rating was 42 percent, according to an Associated Press/Ipsos poll.

"Regardless of polls, he is going to continue to do what is right for the American people," said Lisaius, the White House spokesman. "This is something that transcends politics. This is about the safety or our country and the safety of people around the world."

But Iraq also is another wedge issue for liberal and conservative Christians.

"Evangelicals want to support this president and want to believe this war, in the long run, is going to make a big difference on behalf of democracy and freedom of religion and civil rights in the whole region," said Cizik.

He does not believe Iraq is dividing Christians but said it eventually may. "But if the (Iraqi) constitution doesn't guarantee those rights, it might shed whole new light on what we are fighting for and dying for there."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Conservatism Failed the Gulf Coast and the US

From the Center for American Progress....

Conservatives have hectored Americans for three decades with tall tales about the evils of government. But ask yourself a simple question: what have conservatives done for the hardest hit families in the Gulf Coast? The tax cuts did nothing for them. Their kids are stuck in sub-par schools. Many lack basic health insurance. Few have any assets or savings. And thousands didn’t have the basic means or networks to get out safely. The “ownership society” means nothing to them.

“Less government” means fewer protections and opportunities to get ahead. “A strong defense” meant the strong were defended while the vulnerable were left behind. “Federalism” meant legal squabbling while people were stuck on roofs. The pillars of modern conservatism failed to provide even the basic needs of those hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Government is not the problem. Conservative government is the problem.The Bush administration’s actions have only reinforced the need for smart government that protects the public good, not an anti-government ideology that puts private interests above common needs. Relentless budget cuts and misplaced policy priorities left vital government capabilities uncoordinated, stripped of critical funding, and in the hands of political novices. These were the results of deliberate decisions by our nation’s conservative leaders who blindly adhered to the failed notion that less government is always better. When America needed its officials to step up to the challenge of a massive disaster, conservative government let us down.

Conservatives claim to be the promoters of a strong defense, but ended up delivering only weakness and uncertainty.For years, conservatives have thumped their chest about their supposed strength and resolve, but then withered in the face of a huge national disaster. They have failed to protect our nation and prepare us for adversity. Four years after 9/11, the nation’s Army is severely overstretched and under-recruited. The nation is bogged down in Iraq. Terrorist networks are growing across the globe. Chemical plants remain unguarded. And our newly created Department of Homeland Security can’t handle the aftermath of a hurricane. Even leading conservative voices are asking what would happen if we suffered a biological or chemical attack. This is not what the country thinks of as a strong defense.

Taking care of the wealthy first does nothing to ensure shared sacrifice and mutual responsibility for America’s needs and security. For the first time in history, a wartime president and his allies in Congress have sacrificed the nation's well-being to their ideology by asking nothing from those who have prospered so much from the collective work of all Americans.

After cutting taxes for the wealthy after 9/11 and before the war in Iraq, conservatives now have the audacity to claim that Katrina should actually speed up the move to repeal the estate tax for millionaires. The culmination of thirty years of conservative dreams and proposals has produced little more than a destabilized economy racked by corruption and misplaced priorities that favor the needs of the few over the national interest.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New Orleans to Be One Big Oil Field?

Random Excess at DailyKos writes.....

"I have this feeling that all the structures will be completely devauled and people will receive 'fair market' value for just the (swamp) land. Seems like everything is in place to effect this plan. The evacuees are for from home and establishing new lives. They have no reason to return. They are not allowed to return.

Private ownership will be transferred to developers and the City rebuilt at huge profit for BushCo.... Clear out the old housing, and make the place too expensive for the former residents to live there.

Just a sinking feeling I have."

I share that sinking feeling about New Orleans, but my fear is a slightly different vision of Bush's dirty-little-plan for the big Easy.

A few days ago, I read that the outerlying marshes on the shores of New Orleans had been significantly weakened in recent years because of drilling by the oil and gas industry, thus compounding the city's vulnerability to hurricane destruction.

The night after I read that, I had a, nightmare. I dreamed that the federal government bulldozed all of New Orleans...the whole fandango....and made it one big oilfield.

My nightmare would be the tragic death of a world-class cultural treasure. And a deeply-desired fantasy bordering on the erotic for Bush and Cheney.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Time for Bush to Go

A good idea is hard to resist.....


Baltimore Sun (9/8/05) -- WASHINGTON - The disastrous federal response to Katrina exposes a record of incompetence, misjudgment and ideological blinders that should lead to serious doubts that the Bush administration should be allowed to continue in office.…

When funding for water works and levees in the gulf region is repeatedly cut by an administration that seems determined to undermine the public responsibility for infrastructure in America, despite clear warnings that the infrastructure could not survive a major storm, it seems clear someone is playing politics with the public trust.

…When President Bush stays on vacation and attends social functions for two days in the face of disaster before finally understanding that people are starving, crying out and dying, it is time for him to go.

When FEMA officials cannot figure out that there are thousands stranded at the New Orleans convention center - where people died and were starving - and fussed ineffectively about the same problems in the Superdome, they should be fired, not praised, as the president praised FEMA Director Michael Brown in New Orleans last week

… It is time to hold them accountable - this ugly, troglodyte crowd of Capital Beltway insiders, rich lawyers, ideologues, incompetents and their strap-hangers should be tarred, feathered and ridden gracefully and mindfully out of Washington and returned to their caves, clubs in hand….

(Gordon Adams, director of security policy studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, was senior White House budget official for national security in the Clinton administration.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Sierra Club on Rebuilding New Orleans

From the Sierra Club....

A Human and Environmental Disaster In addition to being a human and economic tragedy, Hurricane Katrina is an environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions. Although the extent of the environmental devastation remains unknown, it is clear that Katrina is a wake-up call and a warning not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Recovery from Katrina is also an opportunity to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in visionary and environmentally responsible ways that emphasize energy conservation; encourage the use of renweable fuels; protect wetlands; change how toxic chemicals are stored and shipped through our communities; and ensure that every resident can live in a safe and healthy neighborhood.

But right now our focus must be on the victims of this disaster and their immediate needs. To help, please visit the American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Disdain for the Poor Is Apparently an Inherited Trait

At least we know where George W. gets his utter disdain for the poor......from his mother.

Editor & Publisher last night....

Accompanying her husband, former President George H.W.Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."

The former First Lady's remarks were aired this evening on American Public Media's "Marketplace"program.

She was part of a group in Houston today at the Astrodome that included her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who were chosen by her son, the current president, to head fundraising efforts for the recovery. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama were also present.

In a segment at the top of the show on the surge ofevacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: "Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston."

Then she added: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."

'And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Translation into Bushian language: Can't these.....well, underprivileged.....leave soon and stop taking advantage of our generous, Texas upper class hospitality?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Lethal Indifference: President Didn't Seem to Notice

Bob Herbert's New York Times op-ed for September 5, 2005....

A Failure of Leadership by BOB HERBERT
"Bush to New Orleans: Drop Dead"

Neither the death of the chief justice nor the frantic efforts of panicked White House political advisers can conceal the magnitude of the president's failure of leadership last week. The catastrophe in New Orleans billowed up like the howling winds of hell and was carried live and in color on television screens across the U.S. and around the world.

The Big Easy had turned into the Big Hurt, and the colossal failure of George W. Bush to intervene powerfully and immediately to rescue tens of thousands of American citizens who were suffering horribly and dying in agony was there for all the world to see.

Hospitals with deathly ill patients were left without power, with ventilators that didn't work, with floodwaters rising on the lower floors and with corpses rotting in the corridors and stairwells.

People unable to breathe on their own, or with cancer or heart disease or kidney failure, slipped into comas and sank into their final sleep in front of helpless doctors and relatives. These were Americans in desperate trouble.

The president didn't seem to notice.

Death and the stink of decay were all over the city. Corpses were propped up in wheelchairs and on lawn furniture, or left to decompose on sunbaked sidewalks. Some floated by in water fouled by human feces.

Degenerates roamed the city, shooting at rescue workers, beating and robbing distraught residents and tourists, raping women and girls. The president of the richest, most powerful country in the history of the world didn't seem to notice.

Viewers could watch diabetics go into insulin shock on national television, and you could see babies with the pale, vacant look of hunger that we're more used to seeing in dispatches from the third world. You could see their mothers, dirty and hungry themselves, weeping.

Old, critically ill people were left to soil themselves and in some cases die like stray animals on the floor of an airport triage center. For days the president of the United States didn't seem to notice.

He would have noticed if the majority of these stricken folks had been white and prosperous. But they weren't. Most were black and poor, and thus, to the George W. Bush administration, still invisible.

After days of withering criticism from white and black Americans, from conservatives as well as liberals, from Republicans and Democrats, the president finally felt compelled to act, however feebly. (The chorus of criticism from nearly all quarters demanding that the president do something tells me that the nation as a whole is so much better than this administration.)

Mr. Bush flew south on Friday and proved (as if more proof were needed) that he didn't get it. Instead of urgently focusing on the people who were stranded, hungry, sick and dying, he engaged in small talk, reminiscing at one point about the days when he used to party in New Orleans, and mentioning that Trent Lott had lost one of his houses but that it would be replaced with "a fantastic house - and I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever by a president during a dire national emergency. What we witnessed, as clearly as the overwhelming agony of the city of New Orleans, was the dangerous incompetence and the staggering indifference to human suffering of the president and his administration.

And it is this incompetence and indifference to suffering (yes, the carnage continues to mount in Iraq) that makes it so hard to be optimistic about the prospects for the United States over the next few years. At a time when effective, innovative leadership is desperately needed to cope with matters of war and peace, terrorism and domestic security, the economic imperatives of globalization and the rising competition for oil, the United States is being led by a man who seems oblivious to the reality of his awesome responsibilities.

Like a boy being prepped for a second crack at a failed exam, Mr. Bush has been meeting with his handlers to see what steps can be taken to minimize the political fallout from this latest demonstration of his ineptitude.

But this is not about politics. It's about competence. And when the president is so obviously clueless about matters so obviously important, it means that the rest of us, like the people left stranded in New Orleans, are in deep, deep trouble.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Same Callousness to People in New Orleans & Iraq?

The number of dead in New Orleans this week will easily exceed the total of those who died on September 11, 1001.

A thought occurs to me....I wonder if this is the same callous indifference that Iraqis claim the Bush Administration has shown in their country? Only this time, Bush didn't think to keep the CNN cameras out.

Posted just a few minutes ago. Here is an excerpt. Be sure
read the entire article.
New Orleans Left to the Dead and Dying by ALLEN G. BREED, Associated Press Writer

Thousands more bedraggled refugees were bused and airlifted to salvation Saturday, leaving the heart of New Orleans to the dead and dying, the elderly and frail stranded too many days without food, water or medical care.

No one knows how many were killed by Hurricane Katrina's floods and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating among the ruined city, crumpled on wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

And the dying goes on — at the convention center and an airport triage center, where bodies were kept in a refrigerated truck.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Saturday that she expected the death toll to reach the thousands. And Craig Vanderwagen, rear admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service, said one morgue alone, at a St. Gabriel prison, expected 1,000 to 2,000 bodies.

Touring the airport triage center, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a physician, said "a lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day."

Most were those too sick or weak to survive. But not all.

Charles Womack, a 30-year-old roofer, said he saw one man beaten to death and another commit suicide at the Superdome. Womack was beaten with a pipe and being treated at the airport triage center.

"One guy jumped off a balcony. I saw him do it. He was talking to a lady about it. He said it reminded him of the war and he couldn't leave," he said.

Three babies died at the convention center from heat exhaustion, said Mark Kyle, a medical relief provider....

At the convention center, thousands of refugees dragged their meager belongings to buses, the mood more numb than jubilant. Yolando Sanders, who had been stuck at the convention center for five days, was among those who filed past corpses to reach the buses.

"Anyplace is better than here," she said. "People are dying over there."

Nearby, a woman lay dead in a wheelchair on the front steps. A man was covered in a black drape with a dry line of blood running to the gutter, where it had pooled. Another had lain on a chaise lounge for four days, his stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.

By mid-afternoon, only pockets of stragglers remained in the streets around the convention center, and New Orleans paramedics began carting away the dead.

A once-vibrant city of 480,000 people, overtaken just days ago by floods, looting, rape and arson, was now an empty, sodden tomb.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Petition to Bring National Guard Troops Home Now

This group, which is an offshoot of AfterDowning, makes a compelling argument to bring our National Guards home right now.

"After 5 years of laughing off or suppressing sound policy advice, the criminal neglect of our REAL homeland security by the Bush administration has now resulted in the total loss of a major American city. And where is our National Guard and all their equipment that are supposed to be here to protect and save us? They are being ground up in the sand half a planet away for absolutely nothing but the arrogant, uncaring and obstinate pride of our chief executive, who is mentally incapable of admitting or correcting any mistake ever. We must DEMAND that our national guard come home now....

Is it the destiny of our country to be utterly destroyed in pursuit of vain foreign conquests, as was Rome so many centuries ago, to where they could no longer protect their own homeland? Is that what is meant by the words "finish the job"? What insanity misled us to this terrible PREVENTABLE tragedy, where pleas for critically needed levee repairs were ignored to finance war profits and tax cuts for this administration's personal cronies. They can't even recruit for the National Guard anymore because it's nothing but a ticket straight to a desert hellhole. Bring the guard home now....

The form above will send your personal message to all your members of Congress, and now you can send a letter also to the editor of your nearest daily newspaper at the SAME time, all with one click. Our troops in Iraq need to come home immediately. Not a year from now, not a month from now, NOW now. Is there not a SINGLE politician with the courage to stand up and speak the truth. When enough of US speak up it will happen. We must take PERSONAL responsibility for our government and what it does. Why are you not clicking on the action form below right now?"

Here is the petitionto be sent to Congress to Bring Our Guards Home Now.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Smirking While New Orleans Drowns

The New York Times lead editorial today, which succinctly expresses my sentiments, as well.

Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

What If Superdome People Had Been White & Wealthy?

The question occurs to me.....if the thousands trapped in New Orleans' Superdome had substantially been white, wealthy Republican contributors, would the federal reponse effort have still been pitifully slow, cheap and third-rate?

The 15,000 still at the Superdome today have had no food or water for four days. CNN says many are dying, and the area is littered with bodies of the deceased. And almost all of the 15,000 are black, very poor and disenfranchised.....

If, by chance, they got stranded in a super dome, would this happen to the 1/2 of 1% of wealthy Americans who got those rich tax breaks from George Bush?