Thursday, June 30, 2005

Zogby Poll: 42% Favor Impeachment if Bush Lied

From the Zogby poll after George Bush's rah-rah-Iraq speech this week....

"President Bush’s televised address to the nation produced no noticeable bounce in his approval numbers, with his job approval rating slipping a point from a week ago, to 43%, in the latest Zogby International poll.

And, in a sign of continuing polarization, more than two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq."

Read the entire poll results here at Zogby's site.

Suggestion for Republicans Wanting to Shore Up Recruiting

From Reuters this afternoon, via Yahoo News.... an excerpt. Read the entire story here.

Army recruits shortfall blamed on Iraq war critics

Several Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall.

Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that's out there," Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators.

Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker urged members of Congress to use "your considerable influence to explain to the American people and to those that are influencers out there how important it is for our young people to serve this nation at a time like this."

The Army on Wednesday said it was 14 percent, or about 7,800 recruits, behind its year-to-date recruitment target even though it exceeded its monthly target in June. With extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiting also is down for the National Guard and the Reserves.

Ok, here's my suggestion to the Senate Republicans who want to shore up the armed forces recruiting efforts: Set a good example....each of you be responsible for immediately enlisting one of your family members as an entry-level soldier charged with Iraq War duties. Put your family where your mouth is.

Be sure to read my article, Uncle Sam Guns for High School Students as Army Enlistees: Military Recruiting on High School Campuses and at Homes.

Wounded Soldiers as Budgetary Afterthought

A New York Times editorial today.....

The True Cost of War

In anger and embarrassment, Congressional Republicans are scrambling to repair a budget shortfall in veterans' medical care now that the Bush administration has admitted it vastly underestimated the number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan personnel needing treatment. The $1 billion-plus gaffe is considerable, with the original budget estimate of 23,553 returned veterans needing care this year now ballooning to 103,000. American taxpayers should be even more furious than Congress.

The Capitol's Republican majorities have shown no hesitation in signing the president's serial blank-check supplemental budgets for waging the war, yet they repeatedly ignored months of warnings from Democrats that returning veterans were being shortchanged. One Republican who warned of the problem - Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey - lost his chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee after pressing his plea too boldly before the House leadership.

But partisan resistance melted in a flood of political chagrin once the administration admitted the budget error, which was first discovered in April but only now disclosed. The explanation offered - the gaffe was due to using dated formulas based on prewar calculations - left Republicans sputtering all the more.

All wars necessarily involve mismanagement, even successful ones. But there is no excuse for treating the needs of wounded and damaged warriors as a budgetary afterthought. Congressional Republicans were far from innocent victims of administrative ineptitude or deception.

After years of approving record tax cuts and budget deficits, they stuck to this year's pre-election script of fictitious "budget tightening" that underestimated inevitable expenses and shortchanged returning veterans with higher health care enrollment fees and drug co-payments. The only comfort for the American public is that unlike many of the war's problems, this one can be repaired, providing partisan combat is suspended in the Capitol.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bush Exaggerates Data....About His Aid to Africa

Bush apparently has never met a statistic he couldn't bend to his purposes and momentary needs. Reality is merely a starting point for the Bush Administration, to be stretched and embroidered to suit his fancy and appetites.
From Common Dreams....

Bush Exaggerates Increase in U.S. Aid to Africa by Jim Lobe

U.S. President George W. Bush has been significantly exaggerating the amount of money his administration has provided in aid to sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new study released here Monday.

Instead of a tripling of U.S. aid to Africa between 2000 and 2005, as Bush has frequently insisted, Washington has increased aid by only 56 percent in real terms, according to the report by the Brookings Institution.

The report, entitled ”U.S. Foreign Assistance to Africa: Claims and Reality”, is almost certain to increase pressure on Bush to announce a major new initiative to bolster development in the world's poorest continent in the run-up to the Group of Eight (G8) summit meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, to be hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair Jul. 6-8.

The pressure on Bush to be more forthcoming toward Africa has grown steadily despite his agreement to join a debt cancellation plan with other G8 nations that should benefit about a dozen of Africa's poorest nations.

The G8 represents the world's most industrialized nations: the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

During his visit here earlier this month, Blair stressed that increased aid and other support for Africa will be among the top agenda items at Gleneagles. Along with the United Nations and the World Bank, he has called on industrialized countries to double aid to Africa over the next few years as part of a series of measures, including debt relief, to substantially reduce poverty and sustain economic growth in the region.

After Blair's visit, the leaders of several African nations who had been invited to the White House publicly criticized the administration for not disbursing aid from Bush's new Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) more quickly to needy nations.

Several days later, several influential conservative black clergymen who had been wooed by the administration sent a letter to Bush calling for him to offer full support for Blair's Africa-related initiatives, including comprehensive debt relief and a doubling of official development assistance (ODA) to Africa to 50 billion dollars a year. Read the rest here....

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tagged for Book Meme

About two weeks ago, Vaughn Thompson of ICTHUS "tagged" me to answer questions about my book collection and reading habits. So here goes.....

Be sure to check the end of this, to see If I've "tagged" you.

And be sure to read
ICTHUS. Vaughn is founder and moderator of the Progressive Christian Blog Alliance. (See the PCBA blog listing in the left column. Some mighty fine blogs listed there!)

I had the pleasure of meeting Vaughn for lunch when he was recently in Southern California for vacation.
What is the total number of books you own?

Perhaps 1500, not including my 500-book cookbook collection.

Included in the 1500 are complete sets of.....

- The Complete Works of Mark Twain, printed in 1929, 25 volumes;

- The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant, 10 volumes;

- Time-Life Library of Art, published in 1970, 28 volumes. Inherited from my parents when they down-sized. I begged for it. Art history was my undergraduate minor at UCLA.

Also included in the 1500 is a substantial collection of books about Jesus written by theologians during the first half of the 20th century. Main themes in my book collection are Christian theology and history, art history, American history, psychology, travel, Shakespeare, poetry by Robert Frost and Walt Whitman, and better fiction by women of today. And everything by Garrison Keillor.

My cookbook collection emphasizes classic American, Mexican and New Mexican, Chinese and French cuisines, and cookbook authors Julia Child, James Beard, Michael Field and Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet.

What was the last book you bought?

I bought two books at Borders.

HomeGrown Democrat by Garrison Keillor, which I highly recommend to anyone who already thinks they are a Democrat. Its a hoot. Like all his works, it's warm and funny, and full of honesty. Republicans will not chuckle at this book.

The 2 % Solution - Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love by Matt Miller, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and frequent op-ed contributor to the New York Times. Haven't read it yet, but he's a common sense guy and interesting writer. We need solutions.

I just checked a book out from our local library, A Month of Sundays by John Updike, about "a month of enforced rest and recreation as experienced by the Reverend Tom Marshfield, sent west from his midwestern church in disgrace."

And due to my gig, I get a few freebie books in the mail. I recently received God vs. The Gavel - Religion and the Rule of Law by Marcia Hamilton. Haven't read it yet.

Five books that mean a lot to you? (in no particular order) Selecting these books above the others is the hardest task I've done in a while. That's why it took me two weeks to respond ....Yes, I know it's actually seven books. I did my best.

- God in the Dock - Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis. Published in 1970 by his estate, 48 essays on everything. Lewis explains it all in 346 pages, and with a bit of British wit, to boot. One of two books I would take with me to a desert island.

- A Way to Peace, Health and Power - Studies for the Inner Life by Bertha Conde, 1925. 52 meditations in 233 pages. This Christian missionary speaks to me as though I was listening to Jesus himself. She writes on prayer, mercy, truth, love, the will, conscience, courage, imagination and more. The other desert island book.

- It's a tie between two classic cookbooks, the 1961 Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et. al., and and the original 1950 Betty Crocker's Picture Cook book. Julia, born in Pasadena, taught Americans how to cook and eat creatively and imaginatively. Betty taught us the best cake frostings on the face of the earth. Yes, I have First Editions of both.

- Concerning the Spiritual in Art by early 20th century Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. His theories of art created a spiritual revolution in painting and had a tremendous impact on the development of art. His works and writings provided impetus for a massive exhibition by LACMA in the mid-1980s, The Spiritual in Art, 1890 - 1985. I treasure the 435-page catalog from that exhibition.

- Death Comes for the Archbishop by American Pulitzer-Prize winning author Willa Cather. 1927. Her writing is simple, elegant, poignant. About the founding of the Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and two priests attempting to live out their faith in the rugged American landscape of mid-1800s New Mexico. I love New Mexico and Native American cultures, so that helps. My best copy may be a First Edition.

- Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things by Elizabeth Hutton Turner. 1999, 158 pages, published by Yale University Press. Just because it's exquisite and serene. And I share my birthday with O'Keeffe.


Tag. You're it! Two liberals, two moderates....

Mark Daniels of Better Living.

Avedon Carol of The Sideshow.

Rob Ashgar of Dime Store Guru

Scott Shields of DemWatch and Political Strategy

Choosing Baseball Over Bull----

Unless the broadcast of the Angels-Rangers baseball game is interrupted, we won't be watching President Bush's speech tonight about Iraq. Even then, we'll likely turn off the tube.

At best, Bush is in a fantasy land. At worst, he's lying, of course. Lying for continued financial gain for the oil industry and Halliburton, I would assume. There's no longer any other obvious reason.

Also, even my easy-going husband, a former (though moderate) staunch Republican, can no longer listen to George Bush. He can't stand him. Will no longer watch him. He hates liars and people who shade the truth.

This "war" has bankrupted our country's coffers and its soul, and it's needlessly killed our children.
From the Center for American Progress.....

President Bush will mark the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty from the U.S. forces to an Iraqi provisional government tonight with a prime-time address at Fort Bragg. President Bush needs to set aside the misleadingly sunny rhetoric he has used in the past to describe Iraq and level with the American people about the difficulty of the task ahead.

President Bush needs to describe a clear end state for Iraq, outline a concise exit strategy for our troops to succeed, and tell the American public how long this effort will take and what it will cost.

The Iraqi insurgency has strengthened not weakened. President Bush will certainly try to convince Americans that all is well in Iraq, and perhaps reiterate Vice President Cheney’s sentiment that the insurgency is in its “last throes.” The reality is much harsher. In the past year, over 890 U.S. troops have died (more than half of the 1743 fatalities since the war began). And since the handover, the AP reports more than 7500 people have been killed or wounded by car bombs. The number of attacks per day has risen from 10 in May 2003 to 52 in June 2004 to 70 last month. Secretary Rumsfeld is already predicting that attacks will increase as the national elections approach and has stated that he believes the insurgency may last 12 years.

Vital reconstruction efforts are lagging and billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money has disappeared. The insecurity on the ground has resulted in a lack of progress on the reconstruction front. From car bombs to power outages to water shortages, Iraqis are not experiencing Bush's rosy rhetoric. One Iraqi businessman said, "It's going from bad to worse. I cannot fully explain it -- electricity, water, telephones, and these are just utilities. As for security, just look around you." Billions of dollars in American taxpayer funds for Iraqi reconstruction have simply disappearedincluding a large portion of $12 billion in cash that is unaccounted for according to a recent House report—with nothing to show for these expenditures.

A clear timetable for political and military goals is needed to ensure success. Hiding behind baseless claims that any call for a timetable for ending the war in Iraq is a concession to the enemy, President Bush is essentially arguing for protracted military occupation of Iraq with no clear end state. President Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable in Kosovo, yet refuses to apply his own standards to his war in Iraq. Without clear guidelines for success, the White House will simply fall into the very same trap that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Vietnam and a forced and humiliating rapid withdrawal.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Arrogant, Irritable, Stubborn and Adamant

I watched part of Rumsfeld's appearance yesterday on NBC's Meet the Press. He was arrogant, irritable, obfuscating, stubborn and adamant about the correctness of his views and actions. So yes, he was the same Donald we've all come to know and resent.

Some people and things don't change. Donald Rumsfeld is one of them.

He should've been gone a year ago. Actually, two years ago. That's painfully obvious. Deadly obvious to the families of slain and maimed soldiers.
From the Center for American Progress....

Prior to the war against Iraq, the Bush administration claimed that the conflict would be short and inexpensive. Over two years later, the U.S. troops have sacrificed over 1,700 lives, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $200 billion on the war, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, appearing on three Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, claims no mistakes have been made.

The lead architect of the failed Iraq policy stubbornly refused to admit that a change of course was needed. If we are to make any progress in this disastrous situation, President Bush needs to fire Rumsfeld and replace him with someone who has clear ideas about an end state for Iraq.

Rumsfeld misled Americans about the situation facing our troops going into the war. On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace confronted Rumsfeld with the accurate criticism he has offered much too rosy a picture about how the conflict would turn out, leaving most Americans unprepared for the violence that has resulted. Rumsfeld responded to the criticism by saying: "That's false ... I have been very balanced and measured." Fareed Zakaria, commenting on ABC's This Week, said, "On Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld has been more Orwellian, not truthful." Conservative columnist Bill Kristol stated the case against Rumsfeld most succinctly: "These soldiers deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have."

His incompetence means our troops could be stuck in a no-win situation for more than a decade. Rumsfeld initially characterized Iraqi insurgents as “dead-enders,” a gross miscalculation that has limited our ability to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Having failed to put enough troops on the ground to do the job right in the first place, Rumsfeld bluntly admitted this weekend that the Iraqi insurgency could go on for 12 years. Unfortunately for our troops, Secretary Rumsfeld’s candor comes too late.

Nothing will change in Iraq until the chief architect of the war is removed. Secretary Rumsfeld has offered his resignation twice before in response to valid criticism of his mismanagement and poor planning. It’s time for President Bush to take him up on the offer. Rumsfeld is the brains behind the failed war in Iraq, and nothing will improve there until he is replaced by someone with clear ideas about a successful end state.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Recruiting Teenagers to Fight & Die in a Failing War

The Iraq War rages on, with no end in sight and no US exit plan. Almost 1,750 US soldiers have been killed and thousands seriously injured in Iraq, and yet the uncontrolled violence surges ahead after over two years of brutal combat. All for a war not supported by the vast majority of Americans. In fact, most Americans don't understand either the purpose or goal of this war.

Many US troops have served two and three gut-wrenching tours of duty, and more than 25% of troops are National Guard reservists. Soldiers are commonly retained, against their will, long after their enlistment terms end.

It's no surprise, then, that the Army failed to meet its minimum recruiting quotas in
February by 27%, March by 31%, April by 42% and May by over 25%. All branches of the US armed forces have missed their recruiting goals for most of 2005, and they've become desperate for young men and women to replenish their ranks.

So where is the Bush Administration looking for qualified soldiers? College campuses? Conservative communities supportive of the Iraq War? The unemployment lines? US police and fire departments? The Bush-friendly business community?

Guess again. And think less qualified. Less experienced. Younger and more naive, more easily fooled. And cheaper. Many have never before held a job.

High school teenagers, age 16 to 18. Seems that buried in President Bush's much-touted "educational reform" legislation, No Child Left Behind, was a fine-print section requiring every US high school to "provide access to students' names, addresses and phone humbers" to millitary recruiters.

And that's not all. If a school allows college recruiters or prospective employers on campus (which all do), it must also grant campus access to military recruiters.

So military recruiters now commonly hang around on campus, schmoozing our children. Attending and officiating football and basketball games. Eating in the school cafeteria. Bringing free donuts and coffee to the faculty. Handing out t-shirts, mouse pads and cool trinkets.Being visible at Black History month and Hispanic Heritage month activities.

And calling your home and knocking on your front door. Repeatedly. In fact, in Fall 2004, the Army published a
School Recruiting Program Handbook. designed to give recruiters tips on infiltrating high school campuses and ingratiating themselves to 16 to 18 year olds.

But the Bush Administration's dogged pursuit of our teenagers doesn't stop there. Word came out this week that the Defense Department is developing a database of personal information about every 16 to 25 year...their Social Security number, ethnicity and racial data, birth date, grade point average, subjects being studied in school and known personal habits.

Be sure to read my article, Uncle Sam Guns for High School Students as Army Enlistees.

Meanwhile the Bush Administration fails miserably in Iraq.

From the
Center for American Progress.....

1,382 days after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large and al Qaeda is regrouping. More than three-and-a-half years ago Bush vowed to capture terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive.” He’s failed. The administration wants you to think it is hot on his tracks, however. CIA director Porter Goss said he had “an excellent idea” where Bin Laden is hiding. Vice President Cheney said he had “a pretty good idea of a general area that he's in.” With all the bluster, you’d think they could close the deal.

1,382 days after 9/11, terrorist attacks are at an all time high. By quantitative measures, the Bush administration’s approach to combating terrorism is an abject failure. Last year “[t]he number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled,” according to the Washington Post. State Department data shows that “attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003.” How did the administration respond? By halting the publication of the State Department report.

1,382 days after 9/11, the Iraq war—a complete diversion from the fight against al Qaeda—has produced more terrorism not less. According to the CIA, “[t]he war in Iraq is creating a training and recruitment ground for a new generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists.” An in-house CIA think tank concluded that in the poorly planned aftermath of the invasion, “hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders.” There is a serious risk that Iraq is now “creating newly radicalized and experienced jihadis who return home to cause trouble in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.”

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Giving Government Money to Tax Cheats

It's not often that I post editorials by Republican senators, but this one is well worth the read. A New York Times op-ed today by Senator Norm Coleman (R-MI)....

Tax Cheats at the Government Trough By NORM COLEMAN

A private company that provides health care services for the federal government received more than $300,000 from the Treasury last year. That is unremarkable. What is remarkable, however, is that the company owes more than $18 million in back taxes. And at the same time the company was cheating taxpayers, its owner bought several multimillion-dollar properties and a fleet of luxury cars.

Another contractor, which last year provided security guards for the Department of Homeland Security at a cost of $200,000, owes more than $400,000 in unpaid taxes. Its owner has repeatedly failed to file individual income taxes and has diverted his employees' payroll taxes to a foreign bank account to pay for building a home abroad.

Outrageous as these examples are, they are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Some 33,000 federal contractors together owe the Internal Revenue Service more than $3.3 billion in back taxes.

The scale of this boondoggle came to light last year when the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, with the dogged help of the Government Accountability Office, found that 27,000 Defense Department contractors owed more than $3 billion in unpaid taxes. In its investigation, the G.A.O. determined that the government's program to subtract unpaid taxes from payments made to the companies, the Federal Payment Levy Program, simply was not working. In 2003, the levy program should have collected $100 million; it collected only $680,000.

This had to stop. So at the committee's request, the Defense Department and other affected agencies established the Federal Contractor Tax Compliance Task Force, which acts as a watchdog for the levy program. Not surprisingly, collections from delinquent contractors have increased dramatically. The Pentagon is on track to collect more than $17 million in back taxes this fiscal year - still far too little, but an increase of 2,400 percent over two years ago.

Given the problems we found with defense contractors, the subcommittee wondered whether other departments were doing as poorly. At our request, the G.A.O. conducted a broader search and came up with that jaw-dropping tally of 33,000 contractors. (Even the Executive Office of the President unwittingly contracted with a medical equipment company that owed nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes.) The G.A.O. also found that many companies withheld payroll taxes from their employees' checks but never turned the money over to the I.R.S.

A major part of the problem, the accountability office discovered, was that the agency that pays federal contractors, the Financial Management Service, often fails to ensure that the companies' tax information is accurate. In many cases, the management service failed to follow up even when federal agencies left out the names of the companies to be paid.

And, as usual, bureaucracy adds to the problem. The I.R.S. is the only government body that has a database of tax cheats, which it keeps confidential, the result of a statute designed to protect honest taxpayers from having their personal information publicly disclosed. Unfortunately, the agency has extended that reasonable protection to all taxpayers and companies, including repeat tax cheats.

To solve the problem, the I.R.S. must aggressively prosecute tax cheats and provide an annual list of federal contractors that have been convicted of tax-related crimes or have had tax liens placed against them to contracting officers. With this information, they could cancel existing contracts and deny work to companies that are more interested in running a shell game than they are in serving the nation.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Stellar Advice to DNC: Hijack the Family Values Mantle

Attention Dr. Dean! Here's the best political strategy advice for the Democratic Party that I've heard in quite a while.

Women Lead the Progressive Charge
By Tamara Straus, AlterNetPosted on June 24, 2005

According to a research study released by EMILY's List on June 22 entitled "Women at the Center of Change," Republicans are losing the support among women that won them the White House in 2004. The national survey of more than 2,000 women and 600 men found that one third of women who voted for Bush are not planning to vote Republican in the 2006 Congressional election.

"There is a clear message from the women we spoke to: never stand between a woman and her desire to protect and care for her family," said EMILY's List President Ellen R. Malcolm of the study. "Republicans will continue to lose women if they fail to respect that women see themselves -- not government or politicians -- as the arbiter of family values."

This family values argument may seem like a no-brainer to those who wrung their hands (or, more likely, gnashed their teeth) as the Republicans made one masterfully manipulative move after one mind-bogglingly stinging stab around issues of marriage, religion and economics during the 2004 presidential election, but it is instrumental to any future electoral successes for the Democrats. The most significant element of the study is that the concept of family is at the center of women's values.

"There's been a lot of conversation about which is more important -- values or economic concerns," said Karen M. White, national political director for EMILY's List. "Our data shows that's a false choice. For women, it's not an either/or decision. Democrats will not reach women by stressing economics alone."

Among the other top findings of the study are:
The gender gap among voters has emerged strongly, as 43 percent of women say they would now vote Democratic and 32 percent would vote Republican. By contrast, a 41 percent plurality of men say they would vote Republican for Congress and 36 percent say they would vote Democratic. This 16-point gender gap is dramatically larger than the 2004 presidential election (7 points) and the 2002 midterm election (5 points).

Democrats lead Republicans in every age group, particularly among women age 45 to 54 (46 percent to 29 percent) and those age 55 to 64 (45 percent to 27 percent), Likewise, Democrats have the edge among younger women: 44 percent to 35 percent among those under 35, and 40 percent to 39 percent among those 35 to 44. Seniors give Democrats and eight-point advantage (49 percent to 32 percent).

The Republican drop-off is particularly apparent among the following seven demographic subgroups of women: social conservatives, non-college-educated whites, Midwestern whites, Catholics, white married women without children at home, women "in the ideological middle" (or swing voters) and "weak" Republicans.

Why this sea change? The study finds women have moved away from the Republicans since Bush's reelection for three reasons.

Read the rest here....

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dr. Mengele, I Presume!

To borrow from Dr. Livingston....Dr. Mengele, I presume!
From the Toronto Star, via
Common Dreams, are excerpts. Read the entirety at Common Dreams.

U.S. Doctors Linked to POW 'Torture'Guantanamo medical records misused; Basis of interrogators' strategy: Report by Tanya Talaga and Karen Palmer

Medical records compiled by doctors caring for prisoners at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay are being tapped to design more effective interrogation techniques, says an explosive new report.

Doctors, nurses and medics caring for the approximately 600 prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are required to provide health information to military and CIA interrogators, according to the report in the respected New England Journal of Medicine.

"Since late 2003, psychiatrists and psychologists (at Guantanamo) have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behavior-shaping rewards, to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives," it states.

Such tactics are considered torture by many authorities, the authors note.

Medical personnel belonging to the U.S. military's Southern Command have also been told to volunteer to interrogators information they believe may be valuable, the report adds.

The report was published ahead of schedule last night on the journal's website "because of current public interest in this topic," the journal says.

The report's authors — Dr. Gregg Bloche, a physician who is also a law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, and Jonathan Marks, a London lawyer who is currently a fellow in bioethics at Georgetown's law center— say that while Guantanamo veterans are ordered not to discuss what goes on there, making it difficult to know how, exactly, military intelligence personnel have used medical information for interrogation, they've been able to assemble part of the picture.

They suggest that interrogators at the camp, set up in 2001 to detain prisoners captured in Afghanistan and later Iraq, have had access to prisoners' medical records since early 2003.
That contradicts Pentagon statements that there is a separation between intelligence-gathering and patient care.

William Winkenwerder, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in a memo made public in May that Guantanamo prisoners' medical records are considered private — as are American citizens'.

However, "this claim, our inquiry has determined, is sharply at odds with orders given to military medical personnel and with actual practice at Guantanamo," the authors write. Using medical records to devise interrogation protocols crosses an ethical line, said Peter Singer, director of the University of Toronto's Joint Center for Bioethics.

"The goal for the physician is to care for the sick, not to aid an interrogation," he said. "Patients are patients and prisoners are prisoners and mixing those two things on the part of physicians who work in prisons is actually quite dangerous. Physicians are there for the benefit of patients and if they are seen to be there for some other purpose, it really blurs what they're doing."
An Amnesty International Canada spokesman said the report gives serious pause to anyone who is following what happens at Guantanamo.

"This reinforces the necessity for a full, independent commission of inquiry into the detentions. What is going on and what rules are being violated," John Tackaberry said from Ottawa. "The American government needs to accept its responsibility to expose what is actually happening and show the world they are following standards that are acceptable in terms of international law," he said.

According to the authors, a previously unreported U.S. Southern Command policy statement dated Aug. 6, 2002, instructs health-care providers that communications from "enemy persons under U.S. control" at Guantanamo "are not confidential and are not subject to the assertion of privileges" by detainees.

That policy memorandum also tells medical personnel they should "convey any information concerning ... the accomplishment of a military or national security mission ... obtained from detainees in the course of treatment to non-medical military or other U.S. personnel who have an apparent need to know the information," the authors found. The only limit on the policy is that caregivers cannot themselves act as interrogators, the authors say. But since the policy calls on caregivers to hand over information they think might be valuable, they are, in effect, part of Guantanamo's surveillance network and "dissolving the Pentagon's purported separation between intelligence gathering and patient care," they write.

"An internal, May 24, 2005, memo from the Army Medical Command, offering guidance to caregivers responsible for detainees, refers to the `interpretation of relevant excerpts from medical records' for the purpose of `assistance with the interrogation process.'"
The authors obtained the memo from a military source.

The article states that at Guantanamo, the "fear-and-anxiety" approach to interrogation was often favored.

"The cruel and degrading measures taken by some, in violation of international human rights law and the laws of war, have become a matter of national shame," Bloche and Marks observe.

"The global political fallout from such abuse may pose more of a threat to U.S. security than any secrets still closely held by shackled internees at Guantanamo Bay," they add.... .

On Tuesday, the Bush administration rejected a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said the Pentagon has already launched 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse and the system was working well.

Mulugeta Abai, executive director of the Canadian Center for Victims of Torture in Toronto, wasn't surprised by the journal report. "This is practiced globally," he said. "This is very frustrating. A superpower that is considered a leader in many ways is losing its moral authority now, completely."

The New England Journal of Medicine is the second respected journal to criticize U.S. interrogation techniques.

The British medical journal The Lancet reported in August, 2004, that U.S. military doctors violated medical ethics as part of the interrogation regime at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison....

Republican Support of Oil Industry Scuttles Energy Reform

This is all so discouraging and short-sightedness.

(Be sure to read my profile of Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington. She's up for reelection in 2006, and is a passionate supporter of environmental causes and alternative energy sources.)
From the Center for American Progress....

Recent signs of bipartisan cooperation to move America towards real energy independence are little more than illusions. Although the Senate was able to pass important amendments to expand the use of renewable energy, White House pressure in defense of oil companies appears to have scuttled any remaining hope of sensible legislation. The outcome of several key amendments is a classic case of failed potential:

White House and congressional leaders continue to stick their heads in the sand about the very real threat from global warming. Although almost the entire world agrees climate change is a serious threat, right-wing leaders in the U.S. continue to oppose mandatory caps on emissions that cause harmful global warming. Just last week, aides to Sen. Pete Domenici (chairman of the Senate Energy Committee) claimed that the senator "is convinced that the science now indicates that climate change is occurring and we need to do something about it." But after a scolding from White House officials on the topic, Domenici backtracked and is now unlikely to force any changes on emissions.

These same leaders want the U.S. to be dependent on foreign oil. Sen. Maria Cantwell introduced an amendment to the energy bill that would finally force America to do more than just talk about energy independence by reducing oil imports by 40 percent within 20 years. Domenici mocked the measure and it was defeated on the Senate floor.

Here’s the sensible alternative: invest heavily in high-tech and renewable energy solutions and move the country away from its dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. More drilling and tax breaks for irresponsible and backwards looking oil companies like ExxonMobil will do nothing to solve America’s energy needs. Americans are ready to move our economy into the 21st century by investing in alternative energy sources like biofuels and producing energy efficient, high-tech products that meet our needs and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bill Frist Flip-Flops Over Bolton

"Before heading to lunch with Bush at the White House, Frist told the Associated Press that his role had 'been exhausted' in negotiating with Democrats [on the John Bolton nomination to be U.N. ambassador]."- Washington Post, 6/22/05


"A few hours later, after Bush said he does not want to throw in the towel, Frist said, 'We'll continue to work to get an up-or-down vote for John Bolton over the coming days, possibly weeks.'"- Washington Post, 6/22/05

---from the Center for American Progress

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bush & Cheney Legalize Torture, Humiliation & Degradation

Need I say it again? Torture is wrong and immoral. It is evil.

Apparently Dick Cheney disagrees, or else he defines torture quite differently than does Webster's New World Dictionary, "Inflicting great pain."

Likewise for humiliaton and degradation. I keep thinking....maybe Cheney defines it differently than the rest of us. Maybe that explains the disconnect between what he says and what the world sees.

A sentence from this op-ed speaks to that....In the view of the administration, then, it is 'humane' to give a detainee 3½ bags of I.V. fluid and then make him urinate on himself, force him to bark like a dog, or chain him to the floor for 18 hours. "

Cheney and Bush say they use these techniques to fight for "freedom." Torture, humiliation and and degradation to take a stand for "freedom?"

When will we start asking ourselves as a nation.....What is wrong with these people? And what are we going to do about it? Why do we stand by and let these atrocities happen?
New York Times op-ed today....

Guantánamo's Long Shadow By ANTHONY LEWIS

When Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that detainees at the American prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were treated better than they would be "by virtually any other government on the face of the earth," he was carrying on what has become a campaign to whitewash the record of abuses at Guantánamo.

Right-wing commentators have been sounding the theme. Columnist Charles Krauthammer said the treatment of the Guantánamo prisoners had been "remarkably humane and tolerant."
Yes, and there is no elephant in the room.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation observed what went on in Guantánamo. One reported on July 29, 2004: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more."

Time magazine published an extended article last week on an official log of interrogations of one Guantánamo detainee over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003. The detainee was Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi who is suspected of being the planned 20th hijacker on Sept. 11, 2001, but who was unable to enter the United States.

Mr. Kahtani was interrogated for as long as 20 hours at a stretch, according to the detailed log. At one point he was put on an intravenous drip and given 3½ bags of fluid. When he asked to urinate, guards told him that he must first answer questions. He answered them. The interrogator, not satisfied with the answers, told him to urinate in his pants, which he did. Thirty minutes later, the log noted, Mr. Kahtani was "beginning to understand the futility of his situation."

F.B.I. agents, reporting earlier on the treatment of Mr. Kahtani, said a dog was used "in an aggressive manner to intimidate" him. At one point, according to the log, Mr. Kahtani's interrogator told him that he needed to learn, like a dog, to show respect: "Began teaching detainee lessons such as stay, come and bark to elevate his social status to that of a dog. Detainee became very agitated."

At a minimum, the treatment of Mr. Kahtani was an exercise in degradation and humiliation. Such treatment is forbidden by three sources of law that the United States respected for decades - until the administration of George W. Bush.

The Geneva Conventions, which protect people captured in conflict, prohibit "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." The scope of that clause's legal obligation has been debated, but previous American governments abided by it. President Bush decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban members who are detained at Guantánamo.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, also ratified by the United States, requires signatories to "prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction ... cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." The Bush administration declared that this provision did not apply to the treatment of non-Americans held outside the United States.

Finally, there is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It makes cruelty, oppression or "maltreatment" of prisoners a crime. Armed services lawyers worried that some methods of interrogation might violate the Uniform Code and federal criminal statutes, exposing interrogators to prosecution. A Pentagon memorandum obtained by ABC News said a meeting of top military lawyers on March 8, 2003, concluded that "we need a presidential letter" approving controversial methods, to give interrogators immunity.

The idea that a president can legalize the unlawful evidently came from a series of memorandums written by Justice Department officials. They argued, among other things, that President Bush's authority as commander in chief to set interrogation methods could trump treaties and federal law.

Although President Bush decided to deny detainees at Guantánamo the protection of the Geneva Conventions, he did order that they must be treated "humanely." The Pentagon, responding to the Time magazine article on the treatment of Mr. Kahtani, said, "The Department of Defense remains committed to the unequivocal standard of humane treatment for all detainees, and Kahtani's interrogation plan was guided by that strict standard."

In the view of the administration, then, it is "humane" to give a detainee 3½ bags of I.V. fluid and then make him urinate on himself, force him to bark like a dog, or chain him to the floor for 18 hours.

No one can seriously doubt now that cruelties and indignities have been inflicted on prisoners at Guantánamo. Nor is there any doubt that worse has happened elsewhere - prisoners beaten to death by American soldiers, untold others held in secret locations by the Central Intelligence Agency, others rendered to be tortured by governments such as Uzbekistan's.

Since the widespread outrage over the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Americans have seemingly ceased to care. It was reported yesterday that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former American commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal, is being considered for promotion. Many people would say the mistreatment of Mohamed al-Kahtani, or of suspects who might well be innocent, is justified in a war with terrorists. Morality is outweighed by necessity.

The moral cost is not so easily put aside. We Americans have a sense of ourselves as a moral people. We have led the way in the fight for human rights in the world. Mistreating prisoners makes the world see our moral claims as hypocrisy.

Beyond morality, there is the essential role of law in a democracy, especially in American democracy. This country has no ancient mythology to hold it together, no kings or queens. We have had the law to revere. No government, we tell ourselves, is above the law.

Over many years the United States has worked to persuade and compel governments around the world to abide by the rules. By spurning our own rules, we put that effort at risk.

What Justice Louis Brandeis said about law at home applies internationally as well: "If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law."

Monday, June 20, 2005

No President Can Be Successful Without a War?

This is fascinating, horrifying, sick-with-a-knowing-recognition reading.
The opening excerpt from Why George Went To War by Russ Baker, published June 20, 2005, in Common Dreams. Read the entire article here.

The Downing Street memos have brought into focus an essential question: on what basis did President George W. Bush decide to invade Iraq? The memos are a government-level confirmation of what has been long believed by so many: that the administration was hell-bent on invading Iraq and was simply looking for justification, valid or not.

Despite such mounting evidence, Bush resolutely maintains total denial. In fact, when a British reporter asked the president recently about the Downing Street documents, Bush painted himself as a reluctant warrior. "Both of us didn't want to use our military," he said, answering for himself and British Prime Minister Blair. "Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."

Yet there's evidence that Bush not only deliberately relied on false intelligence to justify an attack, but that he would have willingly used any excuse at all to invade Iraq. And that he was obsessed with the notion well before 9/11—indeed, even before he became president in early 2001.

In interviews I conducted last fall, a well-known journalist, biographer and Bush family friend who worked for a time with Bush on a ghostwritten memoir said that an Iraq war was always on Bush's brain.

"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and Houston Chronicle journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said, 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He went on, 'If I have a chance to invade…, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"

Bush apparently accepted a view that Herskowitz, with his long experience of writing books with top Republicans, says was a common sentiment: that no president could be considered truly successful without one military "win" under his belt. Leading Republicans had long been enthralled by the effect of the minuscule Falklands War on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's popularity, and ridiculed Democrats such as Jimmy Carter who were reluctant to use American force.

Indeed, both Reagan and Bush's father successfully prosecuted limited invasions (Grenada, Panama and the Gulf War) without miring the United States in endless conflicts.

Herskowitz's revelations illuminate Bush's personal motivation for invading Iraq and, more importantly, his general inclination to use war to advance his domestic political ends.

Furthermore, they establish that this thinking predated 9/11, predated his election to the presidency and predated his appointment of leading neoconservatives who had their own, separate, more complex geopolitical rationale for supporting an invasion.

Be sure to read the rest.....

Keeping Their Kids Home, Sending Others' Kids to Fight

As the blogosphere has been saying for a while, let the Republicans and all others who support the Bush/Cheney wars send their beloved children to do the fighting, the killing and the dying.....

As for me and my house, we want nothing to do with these unnecessary moral travesties. Our daughter will never be drafted. Never.
A New York Times op-ed today....Someone Else's Child by BOB HERBERT

It has become clearer than ever that Americans do not want to fight George W. Bush's tragically misguided war in Iraq.

You can still find plenty of folks arguing that we have to stay the course, or even raise the stakes by sending more troops to the war zone. But from the very start of this war the loudest of the flag-waving hawks were those who were safely beyond military age themselves and were unwilling to send their own children off to fight.

It's easy to be macho when you have nothing at risk. The hawks want the war to be fought with other people's children, while their own children go safely off to college, or to the mall. The number of influential American officials who have children in uniform in Iraq is minuscule.

Most Americans want no part of Mr. Bush's war, which is why Army recruiters are failing so miserably at meeting their monthly enlistment quotas. Desperate, the Army is lowering its standards, shortening tours, increasing bonuses and violating its own recruitment regulations and ethical guidelines.

Americans do not want to fight this war.

Times Square in Midtown Manhattan is the most heavily traveled intersection in the country. It was mobbed on V-E Day in May 1945 and was the scene of Alfred Eisenstaedt's legendary photo of a sailor passionately kissing a nurse on V-J Day the following August. There is currently an armed forces recruiting station in Times Square, but it's a pretty lonely outpost. An officer on duty one afternoon last week said no one had come in all day.

Vince Morrow, a 10th grader from Allentown, Pa., was interviewed across the street from the recruiting station, on Broadway. He said he had once planned to join the military after graduating from high school, but had changed his mind. "It's the war," he said. "Going over and never coming back. Before the war you'd just go to different places and help people. Now you go over there and you fight."

His mother, Michelle, said: "I'd like to see him around awhile. It was different before the war. It's the fear of not coming home. Our other son just graduated Saturday and he was planning to go into the Air Force. They told him college was included and made him all kinds of promises. They almost made him sign papers before we had decided. We thought about it and researched it and decided against it."

Last week's New York Times/CBS News Poll found that the mounting casualties and continuing turmoil in Iraq have made Americans increasingly pessimistic about the war. A majority said the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq and only 37 percent approved of the president's handling of the war.

What hasn't changed is the fact that the vast majority of the parents who support the war do not want their children to fight it. A woman in the affluent New York suburb of Ridgewood, N.J., who has a daughter in high school and a younger son, said: "I would not want my children to go. If there wasn't a war it would be different. I support the war and I think we need to be there. But it's not going well. It's becoming like Vietnam. It's a very bad situation. But we can't leave."

I don't know how you win a war that your country doesn't want to fight. We sent too few troops into Iraq in the first place and the number of warm bodies available for Iraq and other military missions going forward is dwindling alarmingly. The Bush crowd may be bellicose, but for most Americans the biggest contribution to the war effort is a bumper sticker that says "support our troops," and maybe a belligerent call to a talk radio station.

The home-front "warriors" who find it so easy to give the thumbs up to war endanger the truly valorous men and women who are actually willing to put on a uniform, pick up a weapon and place their lives on the line.

The president and these home-front warriors got us into this war and now they don't know how to get us out. Nor do they have a satisfactory answer to the important ethical question: how do you justify sending other people's children off to fight while keeping a cloak of protection around your own kids?

If the United States had a draft (for which there is no political sentiment), its warriors would be drawn from a much wider swath of the population, and political leaders would think much longer and harder before committing the country to war.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Peace Churches Prepare Members to be Conscientious Objectors

From the Philadelphia Inquirer.....

Peace churches plan alternatives to military draft The government stresses it has no plans for one - but urges pacifists to be ready by Tom Infield, Inquirer Staff Writer

For the first time since the Vietnam War, pacifist churches are thinking of how to prepare young men to become conscientious objectors in the event the draft is resumed.

President Bush, leaders of Congress, and the military brass all say forcefully that, no, no, no, there are no plans for military conscription.

But members of what are often called the historic peace churches - Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers - believe a draft appears more and more likely as U.S. troops continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Army fails to meet its recruitment goals.

"We are probably one terrorist attack - one 9/11 - away from a draft," said Dan McFadden, director of Brethren Volunteer Service in Elgin, Ill.

Leaders of the peace churches, which have their roots in Pennsylvania, say that what they may need to do now is prepare in-house programs in which their young men might perform two years of required civilian public service in exchange for not having to go into the military.

The draft ended in 1973. But the Selective Service System, which is charged with maintaining machinery for a draft, is encouraging the peace churches to make contingency plans.

"We do encourage it," said Cassandra Costley, who was appointed last year as director of a new alternative-service division within Selective Service.

"It's not because we expect there is going to be a draft in the next year - or the next five years," Costley said from her office in Rosslyn, Va. "But our mandate is that we be prepared."

McFadden was among three Brethren and Mennonite leaders from across the United States who held a telephone conference last week to go over options for alternative service.

"There aren't any definite plans at this point; we are just going to keep talking," he said.

The conference followed up on a March meeting of Anabaptist leaders in Elgin, which also drew Quakers. Costley and another Selective Service official attended.

Since 1980, all males have been required to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. The draft pool consists of about 15 million registrants.

Church leaders say thousands of their members would surely seek to become conscientious objectors - C.O.s - if the draft were reinstated.

An article in the May issue of Quaker Life, a magazine published by Indiana Quakers, advised men with pacifist views to lay the groundwork now for C.O. application later on.

It urged them to "begin to establish a way of life that demonstrates your beliefs actually mean something to you" by attending Quaker worship, doing service projects, and joining peace events. Read the rest of the article....

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Downing Street Memos - The Basics & The Latest

In case you've been blessed to be on vacation on a remote island paradise, here's the latest on Downing Street MemoGate.

And here's where I explain it all for you, Downing Street Memos - What Are They? What Do They Mean?


Common Dreams.....

Downing Street Memo a Growing Problem for Bush by Lawrence M. O'Rourke

House Democrats opposed to the Iraq war came together Thursday to draw more public attention to the so-called "Downing Street Memo," the British government document that advised Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq nearly a year before the war was launched.

On the Senate side of the Capitol,
Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cited the memo Thursday in further holding up Bush's nominee for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Reid and Senate Democrats have demanded a full accounting of whether Bolton exaggerated assessments of several countries' weapons programs.

"Concerns about this administration hyping intelligence and Great Britain hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly," Reid said, adding that it "is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence."

At a forum in a room made available to
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., about two dozen Democrats said that the memo was proof that Bush intentionally misstated intelligence in claiming that that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to the United States and its allies.

The House Democrats accused Bush and his top aides of deliberately deceiving the public about his intent to go to war. They said the British memo contradicted the president's statement that he did not decide to invade Iraq until shortly before the March 2003 launch of hostilities.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, organized Thursday's meeting at the Capitol. He billed it as a congressional hearing, though it did not have the endorsement of any committee chairman, all Republicans.

The Democrats and a small audience heard statements critical of the war from former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Boston lawyer John Bonifaz, a co-founder of, and Cindy Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., the mother of Casey Sheehan, who was killed in action in Iraq in April 2004.

Conyers and other House members then attended an anti-war rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House and delivered to the White House gate a letter from about 100 House Democrats asking Bush to say when he and Blair decided to invade Iraq. Conyers also presented a petition he said was signed by more than half a million U.S. citizens.

The rallying point for the Democrats was a memo, drafted after a July 23, 2002 meeting in London of Blair and his top aides. The memo, written by Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, said that Bush had "fixed" the intelligence on Iraq and that war was inevitable.
The memo asserted that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD." The memo noted that "there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

Conyers said that if the memos are accurate, "they establish a prima facie case of going to war under false pretenses."

"This means that more than 1,600 brave Americans and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis would have lost their lives for a lie," said Conyers.

Six weeks after the London newspaper disclosed the memo, and after the British election that kept Blair in power, Bush and Blair met at the White House on June 7 and afterward addressed the memo during a news conference.

As for allegations that he had decided to go to war against Iraq by the summer of 2002, Bush declared, "There's nothing further from the truth." He said he and Blair talked about "how can we do this peacefully. . . . Both of us didn't want to use our military."

Blair also insisted that he and Bush tried to end the dispute with Saddam without armed conflict. "The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all," Blair said.

Bush said the memo was reviewed by Blair before the United States went to the United Nations and asked for its support in putting pressure on Saddam to meet his past commitments on weapons disarmament and inspection.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Manna from Newspaper Heaven

In case you missed this manna from the newspaper heavens.....a New York Times op-ed today by John C. Danforth, an Episcopal minister and former Republican senator from Missouri.

Praise God for John Danforth!
Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers by JOHN C. DANFORTH

IT would be an oversimplification to say that America's culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord's table all who would come.

Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Of Dachau and Abu Ghraib

From Billmon, via Daily Kos.....

"If the inhabitants of greater Dachau could ignore the smoke billowing from the chimneys of the invisible, unmentionable camp up on the hill, why shouldn't we expect most Americans to ignore what's going on in Guantanamo, or Bagram or Abu Ghraib -- or any of the other islands in the archipelago?"

Please...I am personally asking you, as decent people.....go read the entire piece,
Truth & Consequences.

Military Recruiters Schmooze at Scouts, Sports & School Cafeteria

My youngest child graduated today from middle school. I spent part of yesterday completing forms and cards for her high school registration.

One form allows parents to opt out of providing their child's name and personal data to military recruiters and colleges/universities. The form gives the clear impression that if you don't allow military access to your child, then colleges and universities also may not contact your child.

My high school freshman is a bright girl with outstanding grades. She'll have no problem attracting the attention of higher education decision-makers, so this unmistakable pressure had no impact on my obvious decision to opt out of military access to her.

This unprecedented stealth requirement of allowing our children to be easy pickings for the US military was buried in the fine print of 2002 No Child Left Behind act. It's now the law.....a Bush law.

I heard a rumor not so long ago...a rumor I've not had time to verify....that high schools that refuse to comply with this law, and do not provide military access to its students, will receive NO federal funding. None.

What happens if every parent opts out of this horrendous invasion of their children's privacy? Do school districts lose funding for each family that opts out? Will children be penalized at school for this choice?

And my biggest does our government use this personal information? Is it only used for military recruiting?
New York Times op-ed today....

Uncle Sam Really Wants You by BOB HERBERT

With the situation in Iraq deteriorating and the willingness of Americans to serve in the armed forces declining, a little-known Army publication called the "School Recruiting Program Handbook" is becoming increasingly important, and controversial.

The handbook is the recruiter's bible, the essential guide for those who have to go into the nation's high schools and round up warm bodies to fill the embarrassingly skimpy ranks of the Army's basic training units.

The handbook declares forthrightly, "The goal is school ownership that can only lead to a greater number of Army enlistments."

What I was not able to find in the handbook was anything remotely like the startlingly frank comments of a sergeant at Fort Benning, Ga., who was quoted in the May 30 issue of The Army Times. He was addressing troops in the seventh week of basic training, and the paper reported the scene as follows: " 'Does anybody know what posthumous means?' Staff Sgt. Andre Allen asked the 150 infantrymen-in-training, members of F Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.

"A few hands went up, but he answered his own question.

" 'It means after death. Some of you are going to get medals that way,' he said matter-of-factly, underscoring the possibility that some of them would be sent to combat and not return."

That's the honest message recruits get once they're in. The approach recommended by the recruiting handbook is somewhat different. It's much softer. Recruiters trying to sign up high school students are urged to schmooze, schmooze, schmooze.

"The football team usually starts practicing in August," the handbook says. "Contact the coach and volunteer to assist in leading calisthenics or calling cadence during team runs."

"Homecoming normally happens in October," the handbook says. "Coordinate with the homecoming committee to get involved with the parade."

Recruiters are urged to deliver doughnuts and coffee to the faculty once a month, and to eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times a month. And the book recommends that they assiduously cultivate the students that other students admire: "Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist."

It's not known how aware parents are that recruiters are inside public high schools aggressively trying to lure their children into wartime service. But not all schools get the same attention. Those that get the royal recruitment treatment tend to be the ones with students whose families are less affluent than most.

Schools with kids from wealthier families (and a high percentage of collegebound students) are not viewed as good prospects by military recruiters. It's as if those schools had posted signs at the entrances saying, "Don't bother." The kids in those schools are not the kids who fight America's wars.

Now, with the death toll in Iraq continuing to mount, it's getting harder to sign up even the less affluent kids. So the recruitment effort in the target schools has intensified. Recruiters, already driven in some cases to the brink of nervous exhaustion, are following the handbook guidelines more rigorously than ever.

"If you wait until they're seniors, it's probably too late," the book says. It also says, "Don't forget the administrative staff. ... Have something to give them (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc.) and always remember secretary's week, with a card or flowers."

The sense of desperation is palpable: "Get involved with local Boy Scout troops. Scoutmasters are typically happy to get any assistance you can offer. Many scouts are [high school] students and potential enlistees or student influencers."

One of the many problems here is that adolescents should not be hounded by military recruiters under any circumstances, and they shouldn't be pursued at all without the full knowledge and consent of parents or guardians.

Let the Army be honest and upfront in its recruitment. War is not child's play, and warriors shouldn't be assembled through the use of seductive sales pitches to youngsters too immature to make an informed decision on matters that might well result in their having to kill others, or being killed themselves.

Nuclear Power and Loving Your Neighbor

When people boast that they support nuclear power (over renewable energy sources) as the answer to the US energy shortage, I ask them three questions....

1. Would you want your family to live next door to a nuclear power plant?

2. Would you personally swim, or allow your children to swim, in an ocean adjacent to a nuclear power plant?

3. In case of a terrorist attack, would you feel safe within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant?

If you can't say yes to these, why would you ask someone else to do this?

Remember..."Love your neighbor as you love yourself." --- Mark 12:31

From Common Dreams.....

Nearly 300 Groups Reject Nuclear Energy as a Global Warming SolutionGroups Urge Congress to Choose Clean Energy Path, Not Embrace Dangerous and Dirty Nuclear Power

In response to an industry campaign touting new nuclear reactors as a solution to global warming, nearly 300 international, national, regional and local environmental, consumer, and safe energy groups reiterated their substantial concerns today over nuclear energy and rejected the argument that nuclear power can solve global warming. Rather, the groups urged a focus on clean and renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency and conservation.

With votes on global warming amendments anticipated in the next week during Senate consideration of the energy bill, representatives of several of the groups called on Congress to reject legislation that subsidized nuclear power plants as part of reducing global warming pollution.

“Global warming is the most serious environmental problem facing us today and we should aggressively increase energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce carbon dioxide pollution,” said Anna Aurilio, Legislative Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “We’re now one of nearly 300 public interest groups that say nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive and should not be part of a global warming solution,” she added.

Nuclear power has long been viewed as uneconomical and unsafe, especially after the Chernobyl disaster abroad and the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. As a result no new reactors have been ordered in the United States for 30 years.

In an environmental statement on nuclear energy and global warming, the groups outlined five key reasons why nuclear energy should not be part of a solution to global warming stating that nuclear energy is unnecessary, too expensive, too dangerous, too polluting and that using nuclear power to address global warming would exacerbate the problems posed by the technology.

“We can meet our future electricity needs and reduce global warming pollution without increasing our reliance on nuclear energy,” the groups wrote. The groups noted that 19 states have passed renewable electricity standards requiring an increasing percentage of energy to be generated by renewable energy sources, and that several studies have shown that clean energy solutions can dramatically reduce global warming pollution.

Recently, nuclear energy proponents have championed nuclear power as a means to tempering climate change. But the groups today dispelled the argument that nuclear power could be used as a solution to reduce global warming. In fact, a recent MIT study noted that using nuclear power to have any significant effect on climate change would require building at least 1,000 new reactors worldwide.

“Addressing climate change is too important to leave to the failed nuclear industry,” said Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Throwing a few billion dollars of taxpayer money at the nuclear industry might make some utility executives happy, but would do virtually nothing to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, by diverting limited resources that should be used for sustainable technologies, subsidizing nuclear power would be counterproductive.”

“This would exacerbate all of the problems of the technology: more terrorist targets, more cost (potentially trillions of dollars), less safety, need for a new Yucca Mountain-sized waste site every 4 or 5 years, more proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies, dozens of new uranium enrichment plants, and even then, a severe shortage of uranium even within this century--while displacing the resources needed to ensure a real solution to the climate change issue,” the groups said......

Read the entire article here.