Tuesday, May 31, 2005

World Without Truth: Total & Complete Chaos by Andy White

We found out today that our 13 year old daughter won second place nationally for 8th graders in Kids' Philosophy Slam. The question answered by all entrants was: Which is more important, truth or beauty? Her essay is so first-rate, that I'm publishing it here....

A World Without Truth: Total and Complete Chaos by Andrea White

"Only morality in our actions can bring beauty and dignity to life: -Albert Einstein

Our world would be in a state of unbelievable disarray without truth. This cannot be said for beauty, though. Thus, in my opinion, truth is more important than beauty. Without honesty, no one would be able to tell what is real and what is not. Some may say that this is already happening, but that just makes the importance of truth rise to a greater level. Truth is not merely the absence of falseness or lies, though; it embodies different elements of a myriad of things such as trustworthiness, pure accuracy, and morality.

The principal reason for truth being of value and meaning more than beauty is that we, as human beings simply could not function without its presence, whereas with beauty, we can. Apart from total truth, there is no way to determine if something, or someone, can be trusted. If there were no honesty or authenticity that comes from truth, lives could be in danger, and in fact already are and have been in the past. If beauty was nonexistent, our world would be a bit more dull, but even then it wouldn't be complete and total utter chaos. Truth is quintessential to survive, and it is therefore incredibly more important.

Truth implies certain meanings, many of which frequently become hackneyed and monotonous. But truth is a standard, a level at which to thrive for; the paragon of rightfulness, it is a measurable way to determine things. Beyond a statistic, though, lies the utter essence of morality; to tell the truth is the "right thing to do," and it is a symbol of one's own character. Lastly, truth is deep; it is at the center of our innermost being, hence the term, "your true self." If you are true, there is no wrong; everything is out in the open and vulnerable. Apart from the ability to be in that specific state of openness, no one could find out who someone else, such as a close friend, genuinely is on the inside.

Truth is a standard, a symbol, and a state of being, and it is vital to the human race altogether. It creates something near an ideal of perfection, and can portray a person without any barriers. Truth is the essence of morality, and without morality, as Albert Einstein stated, there can be no beauty. A decently "ugly" world, that of one without beauty, is much more preferable than a false and utterly chaotic world, that of one without truth, and therefore, truth has more meaning and more importance than beauty.

Kids Philosophy Slam Home Page

Bush Administration Exploits, Neglects Soliders on Memorial Day

Memorial Day celebrations seemed muted this year, and underreported. I think that's becasue we're all ashamed of the Iraq War, and the abuse, neglect and exploitation heaped on our armed forces by the Bush Administration....

From the Center for American Progress....

Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, President Bush stated: “[W]e take comfort from knowing that the men and women who are serving freedom’s cause understand their purpose and its price.” For all its rhetoric about advancing freedom’s cause, the Bush administration has done precious little to honor those servicemen and women who have put their lives on the line to advance democracy for the rest of us. The failure to maintain adequate health benefits for returning veterans during a time of war is particularly shameful.

The Bush administration’s idea of honoring service to the country is to make millions of veterans pay huge increases for health care. President Bush’s 2006 budget proposal included legislation that would raise veterans’ premiums over 100 percent on prescription drugs and add an annual $250 enrollment fee for veterans who want care for conditions not directly caused by military service and who generally earn more than $25,000 a year. The user fee would increase costs for nearly 2 million veterans nationwide.

Right-wing leaders have basically told servicemen and women: “Fight our wars now and then you’re on your own.” Right-wing leaders in Congress recently blocked $2 billion in emergency funding for veterans health care from the $82 billion supplemental funding bill to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the Bush administration requested a mere 2.7 percent increase in VA spending, hardly sufficient to deal with an expected influx of Afghanistan and Iraq-war veterans in the coming years. Nearly 28,000 soldiers who served in Iraq and were discharged have already sought care at a VA facility. Of the nearly 245,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan already discharged from service, 12,422 have been in VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms associated with PTSD.

With servicemen and women fighting two wars and an on-going battle against global terrorism, our veterans need to know that America stands behind them. The deteriorating condition of VA health care has elicited plenty of criticism from the nation’s veterans. The American Legion called Bush’s budget, “the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong constituency.” The Vietnam Veterans of America said the budget did a “disservice to those of us who donned the uniform to defend the rights, principles, and freedoms that we hold dear.” And the Veterans of Foreign Wars decried Bush’s decision as “especially shameful during a time of war.”

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Faith & Values Administration Continues to Condone Torture

Let me say it again.....Torture is wrong. Torture is grotesquely immoral. Torture is tangible evil.

George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfled and Condoleezza Rice all turn their heads to torture under their watch, while calling theirs a "faith and values" administration.

That's a lie.
From John Podesta's Center for American Progress....

FBI documents released yesterday provide detailed summaries of alleged abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba including physical abuse and disrespectful use of the Koran. Although these stories have not been fully corroborated, they come on the heels of the disclosure of other FBI documents that include eyewitness accounts by FBI agents of harsh and potentially illegal interrogations at the camp.

In another development, Amnesty International, the renowned human rights organization, released a hard-hitting report accusing the Bush administration of condoning “atrocious” violations of human rights at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Make no mistake about it: America’s moral authority has been seriously eroded by the administration’s handling of prisoners.

The Bush administration has condoned torture and abuse of prisoners. The Amnesty report details how the U.S. has systematically evaded its obligations under human rights accords and justified illegal, abusive interrogation techniques of prisoners. The administration’s “rendition” of prisoners to countries known for torture makes a mockery of the administration’s claim to uphold the rule of law and promote the “cause of liberty” throughout the world.

The administration’s blatant disregard for human rights has undermined U.S. standing in the world and fostered a culture of widespread abuse in other countries. The U.S. has been the world’s leading moral and legal authority throughout much of its history. But the administration’s blatant disregard for our own ethical standards and commitment to international law is now being used by other countries as justification for their own human rights abuses. Their rationale is not hard to figure out: “If the U.S. says it’s okay to string up prisoners with electrical wires and use all forms of psychological and physical abuse, then it must be okay for us as well.”

Congress must appoint a genuinely independent and impartial commission to investigate the administration’s handling of prisoners. The administration cannot be trusted to honestly and thoroughly investigate its own actions on human rights. Congress must exercise its independent authority to check the executive branch’s behavior in these matters. America’s moral authority will not be restored unless we fully investigate all allegations of torture and appropriately punish all those who bear responsibility for this shameful part of our recent history.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Jim Wallis on Social Security & the Bible

From Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and Call to Renewal, and best-selling author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it.....

Congress has approved a $2.6 trillion budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2006. Although advocates had victories in certain stages along the way, most notably protecting cuts to Medicaid in the Senate, the final budget resolution places many low-income families in jeopardy. For more details on the coming months,
click here.

Also of significance for the least, last and lost is the national debate about reforming Social Security -- the greatest anti-poverty program this country has known. Just as with budget debates, morally based priorities should influence any changes to Social Security. Budgets are moral documents; and Social Security is a covenant for the common good. A constant biblical theme is that the well-being of our parents and the next generation is spiritually connected to our own. Social Security should be an _expression of national values of opportunity and dignity - and for Christians, our biblical priorities.

Fostering dignity for families, children, and elders in need is the true measure of our compassion; the true measure of our commitment to - and covenant with - the common good. In addition to retirement insurance, Social Security pays 30% of its benefits to disabled people and widows/widowers, helps more low-income children than welfare, and provides support to children who have lost a parent to death or disability. Over one-third of benefits from Social Security go to 17 million non-retirees. Social Security benefits lift over half of seniors out of poverty and provide half or more or the total income for 60% of seniors.

As the debate about Social Security continues with media coverage, Congressional hearings, town hall meetings, and more, Call to Renewal is working on moral principles that should guide any changes to the program. As we develop these principles, we'd like your help.

Please take a look at Jim Wallis' letter to all members of Congress and our Social Security resources page.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Senator Harry Reid for President !

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was courageous and tough in marshalling Senate forces to stop the Frist-led Republican power grab for one-party rule. Reid exemplified the vision and diligence of our country's forefathers in quashing this bid to undo the delicate system of checks & balances of US democracy.

That's what leadership is supposed to be. Harry Reid for President!
From Senator Harry Reid today....

Last night, the Senate was on the brink of crisis. The Senate Republican Leadership planned to change the checks and balances of our government that ensure no one party has absolute control. Known as the “nuclear option” because of the damage it would have done to the United States Senate and our system of government, the Republican leadership wanted to change the rules when it comes to the right to filibuster in some cases. I worked for months with the Republican Leader to find a compromise and avert this crisis, but Sen. Frist was not interested in compromise or consensus. Late last night, a group of bipartisan Senators reached an agreement that will protect the right to filibuster and let some of the judges that have been blocked pass the Senate.

There is good news for every American in this agreement. The so-called “nuclear option” is off the table. This is a significant victory for our country, for democracy, and for all Americans. Checks and balances in our government have been preserved.

Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over. We are a separate and equal branch of government. That is our founding fathers’ vision, and one we hold dear.

I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside their differences and work from the center. I do not support several of the judges that have been agreed to because their views and records display judicial activism that jeopardize individual rights and freedoms. But, most importantly, the U.S. Senate retains the checks and balances to ensure all voices are heard in our democracy.

I am grateful to my colleagues who worked so hard to achieve this agreement. I am hopeful that we can quickly turn to work on the people’s business. We need to ensure our troops have the resources they need to fight in Iraq and that Americans are free from terrorism. We need to protect retiree’s pensions and long-term retirement security.

We need to expand health care opportunities for all families. We need to address rising gasoline prices and energy independence. And we need to restore fiscal responsibility and rebuild our economy so that it lifts up all American workers. That is our reform agenda, the people’s reform agenda.

Together, we can get the job done.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Conservative Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility?

I've been saying this for years to anyone who would listen, and to many many who didn't listen. Just last night, we sat next to a conservative couple from church that we used to be close friends with.....They're so angry over my views and writings...none of which I ever mention to them...that they barely speak to us.

I hope they read this MSNBC article. I pray that they do, not for the sake of our friendships, but for their sakes.

And I truly hope that the evangelicals cited in this MSNBC atticle believe their own words....that this is not just another mirage in the far-right religious desert.

These are a couple excerpts...please take the time to read the entire article. It's guaranteed to surprise you.

Evangelicals rethink their public face - faithful must branch out beyond politics, leaders say by Alex Johnson, MSNBC reporter

"Evangelical leaders are re-examining whether American evangelicalism has suffered from its portrayal as a conservative political movement rather than as a broad religious philosophy rooted in a literal reading of the Bible.

Although evangelical leaders have been among the most prominent spokesmen for conservative causes, “evangelical” and “religious right” are not the same thing. Studies indicate that as many as 40 percent of Americans who call themselves evangelicals are politically moderate or identify with the Democratic Party.

But two recent declarations by evangelical and conservative religious thinkers suggest that evangelicals have become too closely identified with conservative political activism, at the expense of attracting new followers. The declarations are likely to be hot topics of conversation when the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting next month in Nashville, Tenn....."

And the article continues....

The declarations — a statement of principles by the National Association of Evangelicals and a study of growth in Southern Baptist congregations — serve to crystallize discontent among many evangelical and conservative Christians with their public perception in recent years.

The NAE document, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” was the product of three years of work. It was created by two dozen scholars who bridged the spectrum of conservative to liberal evangelical thought encompassed by the organization’s 45,000 churches, which represent 52 U.S. denominations. It was released in March for general distribution with a book of essays that expanded on its seven main points....

'Evangelicals have failed to engage with the breadth, depth, and consistency to which we are called,' says the statement. It was signed by nearly 100 of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders, among them James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; David Neff, editor of Christianity Today; Charles Colson, president of the Prison Fellowship ministry; and the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the best-seller 'The Purpose-Driven Life.' "

And then....

The National Association of Evangelicals’ statement identifies seven areas of concern in which evangelicals should step up their social engagement:
— We work to protect religious freedom and liberty of conscience.
— We work to nurture family life and protect children.
— We work to protect the sanctity of human life and to safeguard its nature.
— We seek justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable.
— We work to protect human rights.
— We seek peace and work to restrain violence.
— We labor to protect God's creation.

I feel like sobbing from joy and relief when I read this.

There's hope that evangelical churches will yet fully turn toward God's words.

Praise God.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Senator Rick Santorum, Nazis and Hypocrisy

"Senator Byrd's inappropriate remarks comparing his Republican colleagues with Nazis are inexcusable. These comments lessen the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate. He should retract his statement and ask for pardon." – Sen. Rick Santorum, 3/3/05


"I mean, imagine, the rule has been in place for 214 years that this is the way we confirm judges. Broken by the other side two years ago, and the audacity of some members to stand up and say, how dare you break this rule. It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942. 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city. It's mine.'" – Sen. Rick Santorum, 5/20/05

Saturday, May 21, 2005

High Schools Required to Give Military Access to Students

And I thought the Bush agenda could no longer shock me.....It comes as a surprise to me that the No Child Left Behind Act requires that all high schools receiving federal funds...and that's all public high schools....must provide the name of every high school student to US military recruiters.

It'll be a very cold day in George Bush's hell before they get their hands on our soon-to-be high schooler. It will never happen.

Kudos to the PTA of Seattle's Garfield High School.

From the
Christian Science Monitor, via Common Dreams.....

Rift Over Recruiting at Public High Schools - A Seattle High School Bars Military Solicitation, Touching Off Debate Over Iraq War and Free Speech by Dean Paton

While most Parent Teacher Student Association meetings might center on finding funding for better math books or the best way to chaperon a school dance, a recent meeting here at Garfield High School grappled with something much larger - the war in Iraq.

The school is perhaps one of the first in the nation to debate and vote against military recruiting on high school campuses - a topic already simmering at the college level. In fact, the Supreme Court recently agreed to decide whether the federal government can withhold funds from colleges that bar military recruiters.

High schools are struggling with a similar issue as the No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools receiving federal funding must release the names of its students to recruiters. Some feel that's an invasion of privacy prompted by a war effort that has largely divided the American public. Others say barring recruiters is an infringement of free speech - and a snub to the military, particularly in a time of war.

Garfield High School took a decisive step last week with a vote of 25 to 5 to adopt a resolution that says "public schools are not a place for military recruiters."

All this comes as recruiters struggle to meet enlistment goals.

Although PTA chapters are supposed to be "nonsectarian and nonpartisan, which means nonpolitical," according to Jenny Sopko, a spokeswoman for the national PTA in Chicago, Garfield's PTSA cochair maintains that its action is "wholly consistent with our mission."

"The mission of the PTA is to protect and defend kids," says Amy Hagopian, a mother of three whose son is a Garfield senior. "It's not just limited to education issues - which explains why the PTA takes positions on kids' health, violence, and other serious issues."

Garfield, with 1,600 students, is one of Seattle's top high schools, routinely producing bumper crops of National Merit Scholars, plus internationally acclaimed student orchestras and jazz bands. It's also racially diverse, with African-American students making up 31 percent of its student population.

Like so many schools today, Garfield grapples with painful budget cuts, loss of teachers, and dwindling resources. The school's opposition to military recruitment seems, in part, a result of parents' growing realization that tax money spent for the Iraq war is money not spent on children's educations or other domestic needs.

"They're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq, but we have to cut our race relations class, which costs $12,500," Ms. Hagopian pointed out. "That's an important class for our kids."

During discussion at the PTSA's meeting last week, Ted Inkley argued against the resolution because he thought it dangerous to deny free speech to organizations simply because their philosophies or intentions disagreed with the PTSA.

Mr. Inkley, an attorney whose daughter is a senior, told the crowded library he could "easily" see a resolution by some other PTA that banned Planned Parenthood representatives from campus because of their views on contraception and abortion.

Steve Ludwig, whose son is a senior and whose daughter will enter as a freshman next fall, made a point shared by many in attendance: Garfield does not allow organizations that promote illegal activities to recruit students to perform those activities, nor does it allow organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation to recruit on campus.

"Planned Parenthood, as far as I know, does not advocate or perform illegal acts. The US military does," Mr. Ludwig continued. The soft-spoken carpenter said he would not object if Army representatives came to Garfield to debate their ideas on torture or aggressive war. "What I object to is their coming here to recruit students to perform those acts," he said. "It's not about free speech."

Nationally, there's a growing sense that recruiters desperate to bolster falling enlistment numbers are misrepresenting sign-up agreements to entice recruits. In response to 480 allegations of improprieties by recruiters since Oct. 1, the Army announced it will suspend its recruiting for one day on May 20, so commanders can remind its 7,500 recruiters of proper conduct.

Douglas Smith, a US Army spokesman, said the job of recruiters is not to make promises but to show applicants possibilities and career options.

"As for a recruiter making promises and not following through, the recruiter's not in any position to promise anything. We hope that all our recruiters are communicating honestly with our applicants," Mr. Smith said. But he added, "In the contract [between the new soldier and the Army] it says, 'Anything the recruiter may have promised me is moot.' "

Smith also pointed out the legality of military recruitment activity on campuses. "The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to let us have access to these students," he says.

Indeed, the resolution by Garfield's PTSA is more symbol than policy, for Seattle, like virtually all school districts, requires high schools to give recruiters access to students - or risk losing federal funding under Section 9528 of the act. School districts also are required to notify parents and students that they may "opt out" by signing a letter preventing recruiters from getting their names.

In response to Garfield's resolution, Seattle's district issued a statement reinforcing its policy of allowing recruiters to work on high school campuses, but also said it would increase efforts next fall to make it easier for parents and students to opt out.

"Nothing in this resolution prevents students desirous of joining the military from doing so," said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, a Garfield sophomore from a written statement during last week's meeting. "Indeed, there is a recruiting center within a five-minute walking distance of Garfield."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Political Water Board Torture of US Citizens and Senate

Frankly, I'm too sickened by Bill Frist's selfish grab for power to write any more about this political water-boarding torture of US democratic principles, the American public and Senate Democrats.....
From John Podesta's Center for American Progress:

The right-wing effort to implode the Senate in order to install extremist judges is on such strong intellectual ground that leading conservatives must now trot out Hitler references to demonize opponents. On the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Rick Santorum stated that the opposition’s efforts to preserve the constitutional rights of the minority—employed frequently by leading conservatives during President Clinton’s tenure—is “the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, ‘I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you invade my city? It’s mine.”

This comes on top of leading right-wing pundit Robert Novak stating that conservatives should not compromise on judges, “Because the whole system [is] like going to a concentration camp and picking out which people go to the death chamber.”

There are no principles in play here. This is about stacking America’s courts with right-wing ideologues, not fair and impartial jurists. The right-wing prattles on incessantly about judicial activism on the nation’s benches. Yet they willingly set aside these principles when it comes to Bush nominees like Judge Priscilla Owen. Owen has a long record of radical judicial activism and overreach. She has voted to throw out jury verdicts against corporations and denied workers recompense for job-related injuries and unfair employment practices. The president’s own Attorney General has said one of Owens’s past rulings on abortion constituted an “unconscionable act of judicial activism.”

The very same leaders trying to tear down the Senate today led the charge to block scores of President Clinton’s nominees during his tenure. Sen. Bill Frist—the leading proponent of the “nuclear option”—claims the filibuster is unconstitutional. Yet, Frist himself led the charge to uphold the filibuster of one of President Clinton’s nominees, Judge Richard Paez, in 2000. When Frist voted to filibuster Paez’s nomination it had been pending for four years. All in all, 60 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees were denied up-or-down votes during his presidency.

The priorities of the modern conservative movement are not the priorities of Americans. Since President Bush’s reelection, the nation’s right-wing leaders have amassed quite a record. They’ve pushed for permanent tax cuts for the wealthy and permanent repeal of the estate tax. They’ve given huge tax breaks to corporations with offshore profits and passed bankruptcy legislation that is a sop to the credit card industry. They’ve abused congressional authority to intervene in a single family’s private medical decisions. And now they are attempting to rewrite 200-plus years of Senate rules and constitutional history to ram through extremist judges that have worked against basic legal protections for Americans.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Poll Shows Public Angry with Bush, Congress

Some guardedly good news for 2006 midterm Congressional elections, from MSNBC, via Common Dreams....
Voters Dissatisfied with Bush, CongressNBC/WSJ Poll Reveals 'Angry Electorate' by Mark Murray

As the Senate marches closer toward a nuclear showdown over President Bush’s judicial nominees, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that the American public is dissatisfied — with Congress and its priorities, with Bush’s plan to overhaul Social Security and with the nation’s economy and general direction. Moreover, a majority believes that the Senate should make its own decision about the president’s judicial nominees, rather than just generally confirming them.

And while all of this might suggest bad news for Republicans, since the political party in charge often gets blamed when things aren’t going well, the survey also indicates that the public isn’t quite embracing the Democrats either. “It is just a sense of unhappiness with where we’re at,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

Perhaps the most revealing finding in the poll is the attitude toward Congress. Just 33 percent of the respondents approve of Congress’ job. That’s down 6 points since a poll in April and 8 points since January.

“The public is exceptionally displeased with the Congress,” Hart said. “It is [its] lowest set of numbers since May of 1994,” the year when congressional Republicans defeated their Democratic counterparts in the midterm elections to take control of both the House and Senate. According to this poll, by 47 percent to 40 percent the public says it would prefer Democrats controlling Congress after the 2006 elections.

Urgent Request by Senator Reid to Contact 8 States

I've written endlessly about the "nuclear option" threat by Bill Frist to irreparably damage the Senate away from the democracy designed by our forefathers.

Yesterday, I was part of a DNC conference call in which Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid updated the liberal blogosphere on the latest and greatest on the Senate floor. Reid asked us...and all of you... to contact senators from Arizona, Rhode Island, Virginia, Maine, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alaska and New Hampshire, and ask them to vote to maintain the checks and balances of democracy and to vote their consciences....don't vote in response to pressure from moneyed lobbyists and special interests.

And please pray for the stability and sanctity of our country. It's in serious peril today.
John Podesta's Center for American Progress sums it up best today.....

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) took another step towards invoking the nuclear option – ending the 200-year-old practice of the filibuster. If he succeeds in this unprecedented power grab, he will have blatantly violated the Senate’s own rules and seriously weakened the ability of the Senate to provide a counterweight to presidential power under our constitutional system of checks and balances. The American people are not supporting his efforts – according to the Pew Foundation, 59 percent of Americans oppose the nuclear option. Yet, Frist continues to push this unpopular plan, hoping to gain power anyway he can.

Frist is misleading Americans about how many of Bush’s judges are getting approval. Despite Senator Frist’s rhetoric, the truth is that more of President Bush’s nominees have been confirmed than were confirmed during Reagan’s first term, George H.W. Bush’s single term, or Clinton’s second term. The Senate has confirmed 207 Bush nominees to the federal district courts and courts of appeals. The 204 nominees confirmed during his first term represent 95 percent of the nominations brought to the floor during the Bush presidency. Notably, nearly half of these (100) were confirmed during the 17 months that the Democrats controlled the Senate.

Frist has resorted to using the harshest language to demonize his opponents. Yesterday Bill Frist said that the opposition to Bush’s judicial picks wants to “kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees.” Given the current climate against judges, Frist’s words were reckless. There has been a rash of violence against judges this year, including the murder of a judge in Atlanta and the murder of the mother and husband of federal Judge Joan Lefkow in Chicago.

Frist’s filibustering past undermines his own argument. Senator Frist participated in his own filibuster in 2000 when he voted to hold up the nomination of Judge Richard Paez. When confronted about it on the Senate Floor yesterday, Frist justified his actions by saying that it was only one person who was filibustered, not “two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten in a routine way.” So Frist apparently has no problem with filibustering judges, as long as it’s one at a time. Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Moving Away from Democracy and the US Constitution

These are astonishing and historical times, as the Bush Administration permanently leads our country away from the honorable democratic reforms of our forefathers and the US Constitution, and toward the slippery slope of a more authoritiarian form of government....

(One thing that strikes me as particularly astonishing is that the public doesn't yet grasp is that Bush purposely nominated a couple wholly unsuited, even offensively unsuited, judges to the federal bench because he wants the Democrats to disagree......and he wants to kill the filibuster so he can reign unchecked in his power. This is a purposely divisive tactic. This entire tragic scenario is not by accident....it is by Bush design.)

From the Center for American Progress.....

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has indicated that he will pull the trigger on the “nuclear option” as early as today to ram through President Bush’s most extreme judicial nominees. With this unprecedented abuse of Senate rules for ideological gain, the raw fury and corruption endemic in the modern conservative movement will again be on full display.

First, it was Tom DeLay abusing congressional authority to interfere in private medical decisions of Terri Schiavo’s family. Never in the history of the United States has Congress directly intervened in a single family’s private medical decisions as it did in the tragic Terri Schiavo case. Right-wing leaders proved their willingness to go to any length to invade the privacy of American families—including violating long standing constitutional and moral principles—to impose their way of thinking on unsuspecting citizens.

Now, Bill Frist wants to rig the rules to put in extreme judges like Janice Rogers Brown who willfully ignore the constitution of the United States. Justice Brown is a leading voice of an extreme right-wing legal movement to return constitutional law to the days when the federal government had little or no power to enforce child labor laws or other workplace regulations. She has consistently ruled against minorities and the elderly, downplaying racial issues and saying age discrimination legislation is harmful to the business community. Frist wants to level the Senate to put in a judge who does not respect the basic rights of Americans.

The president and Congress should develop an orderly process for vetting prospective nominees that is respectful of the constitutional role and prerogatives of each branch. It doesn’t have to be this way going forward. As American Progress CEO and President John Podesta has argued, the president should meet with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate and the Judiciary Committee to signal his readiness to seek the advice—and not merely the consent—of the Senate on judicial nominations and to work cooperatively with committee leaders to fill vacancies in a timely fashion.

For their part, once a process is in place that generates nominees who are broadly acceptable to the Senate, Senate leaders should honor their part of the bargain, opposing procedural devices, including holds and filibusters, whose purpose is to delay or frustrate the timely confirmation of the president's nominees.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Stanford Study Shows Global Warming Alters Seasons

Wonderful news this week that a bipartisan coalition of 130 US mayors, representing more than 30 million Americans, have banded together to voluntarily comply with carbon dioxide emission stardards set by the Kyoto Protocol, an international global warming agreement....one that the Bush Administration refuses to support or sign. In fact, the Bush Administration still refuses to acknowledge the existence of global warming.

The mayors hail from across the political spectrum, and are from small towns and the largest cities (Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Salt Lake City, New Orleans). And the plans they've made for their cities are creative, practical and uniquely suited for each locale.

If you need background, be sure to read my article explaining the Kyoto Protocol and simplifying global warming and greenhouse gases.
From Common Dreams....

Spring's Start Coming Earlier, Study Blames Global Warming
by Seth Borenstein

Each spring, the robins are arriving in Wisconsin several days earlier than they did a decade ago. Endangered woodpeckers in North Carolina are laying their eggs about a week earlier than they did 20 years ago. And some of Washington, D.C.'s signature cherry trees bloom about a month earlier than they did a half-century ago.

The first signs of spring are appearing earlier in the year, and a new study from Stanford University released Monday says man-made global warming is clearly to blame.

Mother Nature has rushed spring forward by nearly 10 days worldwide, on average, in just 30 years, the study shows.

What this means, biologists say, is that the global environment is changing so fast that the slow evolutionary process of species adaptation can't keep up. Early-arriving birds could crowd out birds that migrate only in longer daylight, leaving them insufficient food. Early blossoming flowers - such as the columbine - could be wiped out by spring snowstorms.

"What we're really concerned about is this tearing apart of communities; some species are going to be changing, and some are not," said study co-author Terry Root, an ecologist at Stanford's Center for Environmental Science and Policy.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, statistically links global warming from the burning of fossil fuels to signs of early spring at detailed local levels for the first time.

Stanford scientists examined 41 giant grids - each about 150 miles wide by 150 miles long - and looked at 130 species of birds, animals, trees and other plants that showed significant changes in springtime activity. On a global average, signs of spring appear 9.6 days earlier than they did 30 years ago.

Europe's spring moved ahead 15 days, while North America's has advanced six days, on average. But areas north of 45 degrees north latitude - from Maine to Washington state - saw spring species arriving more than 13 days earlier.

This has all happened while average global temperatures have risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years. The consensus of mainstream climate scientists is that temperatures will rise another 4 to 10 degrees over the next century, Root said.

Duke University ecologist Norman Christensen, who didn't work on the study, said the Stanford research seems to show what biologists see when they go into the woods and swamps.

"For a lot of us who work in the field a lot, there's sort of an anecdotal sense that this (start of spring) has changed considerably," Christensen said. "In the 30 years that I've been looking at forests in the Southeast, spring tends to come a little earlier."

Root and Stanford colleague Stephen Schneider used the top global-climate computer model to look at local temperature changes as well as animal and plant changes.

Using a variety of statistical formulas, they mathematically attributed 50 percent of the species changes to man-made global warming. Another 5 percent were due to natural climate warming stemming from volcanoes and increased solar activity.
Schneider said the localized nature of the study, as well as the mathematical correlations, should help answer questions from the minority of scientific dissenters who don't see global warming as man-made or a problem. Those dissenters say temperature figures on the ground and city heat distort measurements of global warming, while satellite data don't show significant heating.

"This jumps over the whole argument of flaws of instrumental records," Schneider said. "The plants and animals seem to think there's warming. That can't be an accident."

Request and New TV Ad from Senator Lautenberg

From Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commmittee....

Dear Deborah ,

Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and the Republican Party have abused their power and changed the rules again and again, all in an effort to let the right wing take total control of the United States Congress.

When Pat Robertson compared federal judges to the 9/11 terrorists, I was outraged and demanded an immediate apology. Not a single Republican senator was willing to clearly and unequivocally denounce this outrageous rhetoric. They were all too scared of falling out of favor with the radical right wing fringe. So it was no surprise when Robertson didn't even have the good sense to be ashamed, telling me "I owe no one an apology."

And now the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and all the biggest right wing power brokers are demanding that Bill Frist blow up more than 200 years of Senate tradition in order to fill our federal courts with ultraconservative judges. Frist is unwilling to stand up to these extremists, so we expect a Senate showdown in just days.

We cannot let them get away with it. Click here to watch the DSCC's hard-hitting new ad.

That's why I am 100% committed to the DSCC's new Media Response Project, our long-term plan to expose the truth every time the Senate Republicans abuse their power and change the rules to satisfy their radical right wing base.

The Media Response Project's first ad - "Out of Control" - is a clear demonstration of how far Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and the Republican Party are willing to go when they don't get their way. We can talk about this in Washington until our faces turn blue, but we need your help to take our message to the American people and hold the Republican Party accountable for helping the right wing take over Congress.

This ad is just the first step on our way to November 2006 when we can stop these abuses of power by electing more Democrats. But you can be certain that Senate Republicans will fight tooth and nail to change the rules and consolidate their power every day between now and then.

By making a contribution today to the Media Response Project, you give us the resources we'll need to show the American people how Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and the Republican Party have let the extremist right wing fringe take over Congress.

Click here to give a gift of $75 to fund more ads like this.

Make no mistake. Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and their right wing cronies will not give up their grip on power easily. With your help, we can show the American people that when it comes to abusing their power and changing the rules to get their way, the Republican Party is truly out of control.

Sincerely,Frank Lautenberg

Paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, www.dscc.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

The Truth-Twisting Power of Corporate Money

My husband is a diabetic. It's all about sugar in all its forms. That's a long-established medical fact.

Here's an astonishing example of the blinding, truth-twisting power of corporate money. This greed-caused lie is deadly. From Common Dreams:

After the American Diabetes Association received a large gift from major manufacturer of sugar-sweetened beverages, its top medical official is claiming that sugar has nothing to do with diabetes. In an interview published in today’s Corporate Crime Reporter, Richard Kahn, the chief scientific and medical officer with the American Diabetes Association said “What is the evidence that sugar itself has anything to do with diabetes? There is no evidence,”

On April 21, the ADA announced a “three-year, multi-million dollar alliance” with Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, which produces sweetened soft drinks that are implicated in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the United States. Its parent company is Cadbury Schweppes, which is the third largest soft-drink manufacturer in the world, after Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

“Saying that sugar has nothing to do with diabetes is like saying that tobacco has nothing to do with emphysema,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. “The American Diabetes Association has been so corrupted that they have sunk to the mentality of ‘tobacco scientists’ who denied the link between tobacco and lung cancer.”

Incredibly, when Kahn was asked whether sugary drinks have anything to do with diabetes, he responded “No one has a clue of whether they do or don’t.”

There is ample evidence linking diets high in sugar, and sugary drinks, with obesity. For example, a study in the Lancet, titled "Relation Between Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Drinks and Childhood Obesity: a Prospective, Observational Analysis" found that the likelihood of obesity in children “increased 1.6 times for each additional can of sugar-sweetened drink that they consumed every day.”

Today’s Corporate Crime Reporter interview is posted at: http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/diabetes051605.htm

More information about the American Diabetes Association-Cadbury Schweppes “alliance” is available at: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/050421/dcth002.html?.v=7

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bill Frist Admits to Distorting the Constitution


In his most recent statement regarding the nuclear option, Frist again attempted to rewrite the Constitution to his own advantage; once again, he claimed a "Constitutional responsibility … to advise and consent with fair, up or down votes." In fact, the responsibility stipulated by the Constitution is simply to "advise and consent" with absolutely no language – and thus no mention of "up or down votes" – on how the Senate is supposed to exercise this duty. Frist knows this to be a fact. Last week on the Senate floor, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) asked Frist the simple question: "Does the Constitution accord to each nominee an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor?" Frist had no choice but to admit: "No, the language is not there."

From the Center for American Progress

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Home Ownership Declines in Bush's Ownership Society

Fascinating data on home ownership during the Bush Administration, published on May 13 by the Center for American Progress....

Today President Bush is speaking before the National Association of Realtors in Washington, D.C. He will no doubt tout his housing record, citing record growth of homeownership under his tenure. President Bush will state that this is an example of his "ownership society." But what he won't tell you is that under this administration, "ownership society" means you own less of your own home and banks own more than ever before.

Americans are being forced to borrow in historic amounts against their homes to deal with stagnating wages and skyrocketing costs in health care and education. Families used to borrow against their homes so they could make improvements to them. Now they have to borrow against their homes just to pay their bills.

Under Bush, growth in homeownership actually declined. The numbers don't lie - from 1995 to 2000 America's homeownership rate grew by 2.27 percent. In the last four years, the homeownership rate grew by just 1.6 percent - a decline of 30 percent. And while the president talks about record homeownership among people of color, this is actually where the sharpest declines occur. From 1995-2000, the African-American homeownership rate grew each quarter by an annual rate of 3.27 percentage points. In the past four years, it grew by just 1.9 percentage points, or more than 40 percent slower. Among Hispanics, the rate of increase dropped by almost half from 3.4 percentage points to 1.8 percentage points. From 1995-2000, the African-American homeownership rate grew by 3.7 percent. In the past four years, it grew by just 1.9 percent.

Americans own less of their homes today. At the end of 2004, the average middle-class family owned 56 percent of their homes, down from 60 percent in the 1990s. The growing middle-class squeeze is forcing Americans to borrow more and more against the value of their homes to make ends meet. The result is a growth in "bank ownership."

The Bush administration attacks those most in need of housing help. The administration is pushing legislation in Congress that will allow local housing authorities to raise the rent on low-income families. In addition, the administration's cuts in Section 8 public housing funds are hurting low-income communities across the country and making it harder for many Americans to make the move from renting to homeownership.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Infomercial for War-time Profiteering

A guest op-ed in today's New York Times, by Matt Miller of the Center for American Progress....

Start a War, No Money Down! By MATT MILLER

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Now, thanks to the Republicans, countless Americans are becoming "war profiteers" in their spare time - and you can, too. Riches once thought to be the exclusive preserve of a few unsavory arms merchants have been made available to thousands of successful Americans, many of whom pull in the cash literally as they sleep!

What's their secret? With "The Republican Guide to Wartime Tax Cuts," you can find out what's in the playbook of Republican professionals. You'll get the war you want without laying out a dime, even as you benefit from huge tax cuts to boot (note: certain income thresholds apply).

And here's the kicker: you can slip the bill for all of this - both the war and your tax cut - to unsuspecting children!

I know what you're thinking: "I don't have the self-confidence or social skills to reach for such dreams." But here's the truth: neither did Republicans a few years ago. Yet just this week they came through again. On Wednesday, George Bush signed into law an additional $82 billion for Iraq, which brings the amount America has spent to oust Saddam Hussein and occupy the country close to $300 billion.

Now, whatever you thought about Saddam, the best news is this: we got this war for no money down and zero payments for 10 years. That's right: every penny spent on this war has been added to the deficit. And this latest $82 billion sailed through without a hitch, with no pesky questions as to whether we should actually pay for our own wars today.

(Yes, there was one scare, when Joe Biden said we could do that by repealing a sliver of the tax cuts with which the G.O.P. has incentivized important Americans. Luckily this notion was swatted away as "nongermane.") Now the drive for more tax cuts continues, even as yearly deficits close in on half a trillion dollars!

If you're ready to bring into your own life the power that this total suppression of fiscal and moral reality can offer, "The Republican Guide" is for you. Our CD's and training manuals will teach you how to profit during wartime without ever leaving your home. In an age of everlasting war, we'll show you which congressmen to call to make sure your tax cuts are permanent to match.

But there's more. Beyond learning how to maximize your own wartime tax cuts, you'll master previously undisclosed behavioral secrets that let you act as if there's nothing wrong with getting yours while the getting's good - just as top Republicans do!

Don't take my word for it. Listen to how someone just like you changed his life in a few short hours of study.
THIRTY-SOMETHING MALE: I never felt strong enough to utterly ignore Judeo-Christian ethics, even though I suspected that could get me the life I dreamed of. That's why "The Republican Guide" is so inspiring.

Believe it or not, there was actually a time when it was considered offensive to fight wars and cut taxes at the same time. In those days, conservatives were ostracized for wanting to scrap estate taxes for wealthy heirs while soldiers died in distant lands and their families scraped by on food stamps. I know - it seems so far away!

That's when I had to ask myself: if Republicans could find the courage to put these inhibitions behind them, imagine what I could do to reach for the brass ring in my own life. Now, though I'd rather not go into the details, I make more money, pay less taxes and have a beautiful wife and child.
[Back to announcer]
ANNOUNCER: So what are you waiting for? Our operators are standing by at call centers in India. Let "The Republican Guide to Wartime Tax Cuts" change your life, just as it's changed America.
WARNING: Support for the Republicans' wartime fiscal policy may include such side effects as 50 million uninsured, crumbling roads and bridges, and swelling inequality. If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, please call Dr. Howard Dean.

E-mail: mattmiller@nytimes.com

Friday, May 13, 2005

Conservatives Toast Their Hero, Tom DeLay

Word in Democratic circles and around the liberal blogosphere for weeks has been that the fear is not that Tom DeLay wouldn't be run out of town, but that he would be run out of town too soon.

Last night, many hundreds of conservatives gathered to pay loving tribute to House Leader Tom DeLay. The black-tie tribute (and a standing ovation) is airing right now on C-SPAN. I'm watching to see if my Congressman attended.....

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes one Bush-era celebrity spotted at the Tom DeLay gush-fest....gay male escort turned conservative White House pseudo-journalist, Jeff Gannon, AKA James Guckert.

Tom Paine.....

A Tribute To Right Power
Nick Penniman
May 13, 2005

(Nick Penniman is editor of TomPaine.com and program director at the Campaign For America's Future.)

If last night’s tribute to Tom DeLay wasn’t so darkly hypocritical, it’d be more laughable. If you look at his record, DeLay has violated most of the principles conservatives claim to hold so dear. Conservatives say they believe in a return of morality to public life.

Yet three of DeLay’s close associates have been indicted by a grand jury for illegally raising political funds from corporations. DeLay himself has been rebuked three times by the bipartisan House ethics committee. Those transgressions haven’t stopped Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, who attended the dinner, from thinking of DeLay as saintly: "We don't believe Tom has done anything illegal or immoral.”

Conservatives say they believe in smaller government. Groups like Americans for Tax Reform and the Heritage Foundation were founded on the principle that big government is the enemy of the good. Grover Norquist (of ATR) and Ed Fuelner (of Heritage) helped plan the tribute. Yet federal spending has ballooned under DeLay’s leadership, as has pork-barreling.

DeLay was instrumental in passing the politically motivated Republican Medicare bill—giving pharmaceutical companies a windfall of $140 billion and resulting in one of the largest spikes in spending of any social program since the Great Society.

Conservatives say they believe in fiscal responsibility. Balanced budgets were a centerpiece of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” and of Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential race. DeLay even supported a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1995. Yet deficit spending has reached a historic high, and DeLay was one of the point people who both rammed President Bush’s budget-busting tax cuts through Congress and refused attempts to establish prudent pay-as-you-go rules for the budget process.

And then there’s gambling. Most of the right-wing evangelical base is vehemently opposed to the sinful practice. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who also helped cobble together last night’s event, spoke out against riverboat gambling in 2000: “You see, there’s no end when you begin to make deals with the devil.”

And Gary Bauer, head of American Values, also in attendance, has routinely chided the Republican Party for being so cozy with the gambling industry: "I don't see how you can be the party of conservative social values when you're actively courting the money of the gambling industry." Yet one of DeLay’s many ethics investigations involves favors he did for—and junkets he subsequently received from—notorious super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He and Abramoff colluded for years to further the interests of Indian tribes interested in expanding their gambling operations.

Once upon a time, during the heady days of Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley, conservatives were interested in principles. Now they’re just interested in power. That’s what DeLay represents to them—the power of the conservative movement, not the power of their principles. Unfortunately, power corrupts the weak. And all the power conservatives have amassed in recent years seems to have blown their principles right out the window.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Democratic Filibuster Count: 49 Hard Votes, 7 Soft Votes

I had the privilege this morning of participating in a telephonic briefing by Senator Ted Kennedy, with remarks by DNC Chair Howard Dean, put on by the Democratic National Committee from their DC offices.

I summarized the briefing here. The gist of it is that there is presently no compromise between Senate Republicans and Democrats to avoid a huge and messy confrontation when the Bill Frist-led Republicans attempt to overturn 224 years of the Senate tradition of checks & balances by killing the filibuster for judicial nominations.

Senator Kennedy said the Democrats have "49 solid votes" and "7 soft Republican votes," of which the Democrats need to secure 2 of those votes. . Kennedy expects the historical showdown to preserve US democracy as designed by our forefathers to occur in the middle of next week. Democrats currently hold 44 Senate seats.

Meanwhile, from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who has done a courageous and gutsy job as Senate Minority Leader in these unprecedented power-grab times....

Republican leaders in Washington are absolutely out of control. Instead of governing and doing the people's business, George Bush, Bill Frist and Tom Delay are on a quest for absolute power. Drunk with power, rewriting the rules is what the Republican Party has done best in recent years.

Tom Delay has done it in the House by changing ethics rules, and now Republicans are trying to do it in the Senate by dismantling vital checks against abuse of power. That's not how America works.

In our democracy, no single person and no single political party may impose extreme views on the nation. It's time to fight back.

The US Outsourcing of Torture

Torture is wrong and immoral. It's undisguised evil.

I don't understand how Christians can buy the hogwash that this adminstration, which condones, outsources and commits torture, is Christian and respectful of the sanctity of life.

From Tom Paine....

Today, Human Rights Watch shines a light on how the United States outsources torture, so to speak. In a new report, Black Hole: The Fate of Islamists Rendered to Egypt, HRW documents how the United States knowingly sends alleged Islamic militants to Egypt where they are tortured. But, insist Bush and Rumsfeld, they get assurances from Egypt that they will not torture detainees. Bush takes a man at his word, after all. That's how they do it in Crawford. So what if Bush's own State Department recently said that torture and abuse in Egypt is "common and persistent"?

This report is only the latest evidence that the Bush administration is willing to violate international law in order to win the "war on terror." Asked about the practice of transferring suspected militants overseas—technically known as rendition—in his April 28 press conference , Bush had this rather galling response:

Q: Mr. President, under the law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who bust terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?

BUSH: That's a hypothetical. We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people.

But let me say something. The United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way.

And we will do so within the law. And we will do so in honoring our commitment not to torture people. And we expect the countries where we send somebody to not to torture as well.

But, you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do that. We're still at war.

Does that sound like a president who is committed to the human rights and democracy he claims to want to spread around the world? "We send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people." [Emphasis mine.]

Not very reassuring. But Bush's swagger and doublespeak is just what Americans fed a daily diet of the dangers of Islamic extremism want to hear.

Due process for terrorists? That's wimp stuff.

But for the rest of us—who will continue to hold the United States to a higher standard than we do autocratic governments and dictatorships—the following quote by FDR couldn't be more relevant to the subject of U.S. prisoners in detention:

We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.

That's a test we're failing, as long as HRW's Joe Stork is right when he says: “The Bush administration knows full well that Egypt tortures people in custody, and that its promises not to torture a given suspect are not worth the paper they’re written on. This fig leaf doesn’t hide U.S. complicity in the terrible abuses that await suspects sent to Egypt.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Deadly Anti-US Protests by Afghans Deleted from US Press

Why is it that we never hear these stories here in the US? From Xinhuanet (now in English), the official news website of China.

KABUL, May 11 (Xinhuanet) -- To show sympathy with protestors in Jalalabad and condemn the reported abuse of Muslim holy book, the Quran, by US servicemen at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, more Afghans staged protest demonstrations in other cities of the Muslim central Asian state Wednesday.

The bloody protest procession in Nangarhar's provincial capital Jalalabad, which begun Tuesday and was dispersed this afternoon, claimed at least four lives and injuring over 50 others after personnel of law enforcement opened fire.

In their bid to disperse the demonstrators, according to Afghan sources, the US-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and local police opened fire injuring over 50 persons including a lady on the spot, and of these four have succumbed to their injuries at hospital. Most of the protestors, according to officials, were students of Nangarhar University.

Besides hurling stones on the PRT convoy, the outraged protestors also chanted anti-US and Afghan president slogans like "Down with America," "Death to Bush" and "Death to Karzai."

They also set on fire the effigy of US President Bush and the US national flag. In addition to Jalalabad, hundreds of people including students took to streets in Wardak, Laghman and Khost provinces to denounce the incident.

According to Newsweek's latest edition, the US servicemen interrogating suspected Taliban and al-Qaida operatives at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the Quran by putting at toilet and flushing it into toilets.

Of some 500 detainees languishing at US Naval base prison in Guantanamo Bay, according to media reports, 120 of them are suspected Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. The majority of them were held after the fall of Taliban regime under US-led military invasion in late 2001.

The sensitive report has provoked Afghans and prompted them to register their outrage by coming out to streets.

In a procession, held in Saidabad district of Wardak province 35 km southwest of the capital today, the demonstrators, in addition to condemning the reported abuse of Holy Quran, demanded punishment for those behind the incident.

"Around 800 students and locals came out to street in Saidabad and blocked the way for half and hour," police chief of the province Basir Salangi told Xinhua. In the meantime, the locals put the number of protesters much higher and said the road blockade lasted for two hours.

The infuriated people in a similar procession in Khost provincedenounced the act as an attack on Muslims and called for the trialand punishment of the culprits behind it.

A similar demonstration was also held in Nangarhar's neighboring province Laghman to record their concerns over the issue.

Today's bloody demonstration is taking place amid President Hamid Karzai's tour to Europe and the United States where he wouldseek further international support to rebuild his country besides exchanging views on the suggestion of establishing US military bases in Afghanistan.

The bloody riot also coincided with Taliban's increasing militancy as the movement's elusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has rejected the government's amnesty offer and recompilation.

Over 100 people, including 25 US servicemen, have been killed in Taliban-related hit-and-run attacks against US-dominated foreign troops and Afghan army over the past two months.

Nuclear Option Failure Is Still a Win for George Bush

OK...let's assume, for just a moment, that the much-heralded "nuclear option" fails, and Republicans don't succeed in killing the 200-year Senate filibuster tradition so they can ramrod through the lifetime appointments of several amazingly radical judicial nominees.

It fails. So what happens next for Republicans?

The vaunted political power of fundamentalist Dr. James Dobson fizzles. It evaporates like soap bubbles in the wind. And Bush? Well, he's been chafing at Dobson's ultimatums and demands since the election. This would be a win for Bush. Dobson would get off his back, and be grateful again for political crumbs thrown his way by the Bushies.

Senate Majority Leader and prime anti-filibuster spear-chucker Bill Frist's presidential aspirations are toast. Done. Finished. And Bush? Well...let's see. Who would be the next logical conservative Repub candidate for the 2008 presidency. Hmmmm...oh yeah! Jeb Bush. That would be another win for Bush. (No Bush got their hands dirty on this one. They learned their lesson with Schiavo.)

And what of Senate Republicans? The moderate Republicans would have prevailed and would be the new Senate powers-to-be-reckoned-with. Let's think.......Bush disagrees with Senate conservatives on immigration, Social Security, even the new religious right focus on the environment (taking care of God's creation). What a coincidence...issues that are all on the table this very summer. So those conservatives Bush disagrees with would have newly diminished influence. Wow...another Bush win.

So let's count this up. If the "nuclear option" fails, it would be a win/win/win for George Bush.

And if the "nuclear option" is successful in muting democratic minority voices, and Bush appoints radically pro-business, anti-Social Security, anti-environment, anti-civil rights judges to the federal bench,.....that's a big win for Bush!

I must give credit where credit is due: Geroge Walker Bush is an utterly brilliant politician.

Conservatives Harm Middle Class Finances

We've learned to survive the last 5 years of middle-class baby-boomer employment insecurity and rising prices by paying off all debt, no longer using credit, buying and using less and....gasp....having one car, a sacrilege and an oddity for Southern Californians. My husband takes public transportation to work, an even weirder oddity for people in our neck of the country.

(And by the way...we've never been happier. Life is much simpler.)

From the Center for American Progress.....

Today's papers bring more bad news for America's workers. The Financial Times reports that "[r]eal wages in the US are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years" meaning take home pay for workers is buying less and less and many will have to work longer hours just to keep up. On other fronts, the New York Times reports that United Airlines has dumped billions of dollars of pension obligations on the federal government, with other airlines and businesses sure to follow. The conservative economic legacy is becoming increasingly grim: stagnant wages, lower living standards and unstable retirements.

Conservative management of the economy has been a disaster for America's workers. Five years of consistent conservative control of the economy has done severe harm to America's middle class. Anemic job growth coupled with stagnant wages and purchasing power has left American families working harder and harder for less and less. As prices for basic needs like health care, education and housing have risen sharply, the ability of American workers to keep up has fallen.

Their solutions only make matters worse. Massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy; Social Security privatization; and huge cuts to Medicaid and other vital programs are not the recipe for a strong and growing middle class. Rather than taking steps to expand economic opportunities for workers, conservative leaders have squandered America's prosperity for the sole gain of a few well off Americans.

Under progressive leadership, America's middle class grew and workers enjoyed rising living standards and greater economic opportunity. With progressive leadership in the 1990s, economic growth was widely shared and opportunities to get ahead touched everyone. Poverty and wealth inequality declined. Budgets were balanced. Family income increased 17 percent after of two decades of stagnation and America's workers enjoyed the fastest and longest real wage growth since the 1970s. The right priorities and right choices on the economy helped everyone to succeed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Balancing the Budget by Taking from the Poor

Medicaid is the primary, and often only, healthcare for 50 million Americans who are disabled, brain-injured, young, elderly, pregnant and poor.Without Medicaid, their life expectancies are shortened, and their lives are more painful and measurably difficult.

It's richly ironic that the Republican party, which tries to lay exclusive political claim to Christian values, is determined to underfund and virtually eliminate compassion for the hurting, poor, homeless and hungry. I wonder what they think Jesus asked them to do in His teachings?

I wonder....what would Jesus do?


From the Center for American Progress....

As President Bush toured the country trying to hoodwink Americans into dismantling their own Social Security system, right-wing leaders in Congress took the lead in passing the president's other priority-a $10 billion cut to Medicaid, the nation's premiere health program for low-income Americans. State legislatures and governors have now outlined the grisly details of these cuts proposing significant out-of-pocket health expenses for the poor coupled with new limitations and restrictions on health services. Why are conservatives picking on the most vulnerable Americans?

Somebody has to pay for conservatives' gross fiscal mismanagement and massive handouts to wealthy. Right-wing leaders have cleared the way for $106 billion in new tax cuts for those at the top, massive tax breaks for oil and gas interests, and a gaping giveaway for corporations to bring off-shore profits back into the states virtually tax free. Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) summed up these priorities quite appropriately: "[T]o balance the federal budget off the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

Conservatives count on the poor not voting, hoping no one will notice if they take away basic health care from a couple hundred thousand low-income Americans. Needing someway to cover their tracks on these misplaced priorities, our nation's conservative leaders decided to target the poor-the group with the least amount of political power and lobbying clout. Now, facing mounting budget pressures, states are reacting in harsh ways: Tennessee is planning to drop more than 300,000 people from its Medicaid rolls, while Missouri is cutting off 90,000. New Hampshire yesterday became the first state in the nation to make the poorest of the poor pay for their coverage. Expect more states to follow suit in the near future.

Progressives want to improve Medicaid the right way by lowering drug prices, expanding small business health insurance pools, and containing costs without hurting beneficiaries. Plenty of options exist to improve Medicaid's performance without cost shifting to states or reducing coverage for people in need. A report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured reveals that all fifty states and the District of Columbia enacted some form of cost-containment measures in response to the rising cost of Medicaid in the past two years. Other progressive solutions include basic drug reimportation programs, multi-state prescription purchasing pools, and small business health insurance pools.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Plundering God's Creation

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." --- Genesis 2:15
New York Times editorial today.....Nature at Bay

The Bush administration's efforts to capitalize on the recent discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker were bizarre. Gale Norton, the interior secretary, announced a $10 million program to enlarge the bird's habitat, proclaiming that "second chances to save wildlife once thought to be extinct are rare."

But what about first chances? The woodpecker, if it indeed has returned, is as much warning as gift. President Bush's policies suggest that he not only has failed to learn from past mistakes, but is determined to repeat them on a more destructive scale.

The obvious example is his fixation on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. This bespeaks an intellectually bankrupt energy policy and would certainly cause trouble for wildlife. Yet the Arctic is hardly the only illustration of the administration's insensitivity to wilderness values. Here are three more of recent vintage:

Roadless Rollback On Thursday, the administration repealed one of President Bill Clinton's proudest and most popular environmental initiatives, a rule that placed nearly 60 million acres, or roughly one-third, of the national forests off limits to new road building and development. The Clinton rule gave protection to some of the last truly wild places in America and the fish and wildlife that live there.

By the Forest Service's own estimates, these roadless areas shelter at least 200 rare species, which under the administration's less protective regime will now be more vulnerable to commercial development. The rollback also completes the administration's demolition job on the web of forest protections it inherited from Mr. Clinton.

Drill, Drill, Drill Meanwhile, the Interior Department continues to move at warp speed to lease ever-larger chunks of the Rocky Mountains to oil and gas companies. At least one governor has had enough. Last month, Bill Richardson of New Mexico filed a suit against a Bureau of Land Management leasing plan that he says would leave 95 percent of the 1.8 million-acre Otero Mesa open to drilling.

At risk are some of the most important and fragile grasslands left in America, the wildlife they sustain and - of special concern to Mr. Richardson - an aquifer that contains the state's largest untapped source of fresh water. The lawsuit is being closely watched by other Western governors, in particular Wyoming's Dave Freudenthal, who is appalled by the pace and volume of the drilling activity in Wyoming's Upper Green River Valley.

It is not as if the oil and gas companies have no place else to go. Fully 85 percent of the petroleum resources on federal lands in the five Rocky Mountain states are already leased or available for leasing. Moreover, by its own admission, the industry has neither the equipment nor the manpower to exploit the leases it already owns - yet another reason to ask why the administration finds it necessary to accelerate drilling in places where moderation is required and to invite new drilling in places where there should be none at all.

Shortchanging Nature Mr. Bush's environmental agenda in the 2000 campaign consisted of three promises, none realized. One was to regulate global warming emissions. Another was to eliminate the maintenance backlog in the national parks. And the third was to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the government's main program for creating and preserving parks and wildlife refuges. The program's authorized level is $900 million, half for federal open space purchases, half for state acquisitions.

Mr. Bush hasn't come close. This year he asked for $130 million for federal purchases, nothing for the states. Last week a House subcommittee axed the federal funds altogether. The irony that Mr. Bush may be presiding over the death of precisely the kind of program that the ivory-billed woodpeckers of this world depend on seemed lost on Mr. Bush's senior officials, who uttered nary a peep of protest.