Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Listen Up, Hillary: We Don't Need Another Stubborn, Arrogant President

I received the same letter from Hillary. I second everything this writer says...Hillary, you're NOT listening.

The last thing this nation needs...or wants.... is another stubborn President who refuses to listen to the American people, and who arrogantly thinks he/she knows better.
Hillary, You're Not Listening by Jeff Cohen (
from Common Dreams)

"Part of my job is being a good listener," Hillary Clinton wrote, in the first line of her letter received today. As a New Yorker, I'm represented by Hillary in the U.S. Senate. Along with her two-page fundraising letter, I received a four-page "2005 Critical National Issues Survey."
But something was missing -- something Hillary obviously doesn't want to hear about: IRAQ. Nowhere in the letter or the questionnaire was that four-letter word.

Hillary's first question asked me to rank nine issues in their "order of importance." Iraq wasn't on the list. Nor was there a place I could add an issue she'd somehow forgotten about.

The problem is she hadn't forgotten the war. She simply doesn't want to hear about one of the biggest issues dividing our country, draining the federal budget, destabilizing the Middle East, undermining international law and institutions, and spreading fear and hatred of our country.

When national polls show that 54% or more of Americans want our troops withdrawn promptly from Iraq, and 60% believe it was a mistake to have sent troops in the first place, imagine how huge the majorities are for those propositions in Hillary's home state of New York.

Hillary's letter said that she enclosed the questionnaire to help gauge concern about "the extreme Bush agenda." But on the central foreign policy initiative of Bush's agenda, she has been complicit. When she voted to authorize the Iraq war, and today when she echoes White House talking points in criticizing advocates of withdrawal.

Hillary's letter closes by appealing to Americans who believe "no one's listening to me." I'm not one of those Americans: Progressive members of Congress have been listening to their constituents, and speaking out loudly and bravely to end the destabilizing US occupation of Iraq.

Now even a hawk like John Murtha is listening. It's Hillary who isn't listening.

What I want this Christmas season is an antiwar Democrat to step forward to challenge Hillary Clinton in New York's upcoming primary for senate. And I want a powerful antiwar Democrat to oppose her for the presidential nomination in 2008.

Pollster John Zogby believes that a credible progressive Democrat will challenge Hillary for the presidency in 2008: "There will be an antiwar candidate," predicts Zogby. "That's what the base demands."

Hillary's letter ended with a P.S.: "Please return your completed survey with a generous contribution within 10 days."

I immediately returned the survey...with the word "IRAQ" scrawled across it in marker. But there was no "generous contribution." I'm keeping my checkbook open for candidates ready to challenge Bush's extreme agenda, at home and in Iraq -- and to challenge Hillary as well.

(Jeff Cohen ( is a media critic and author. )

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Women Waiting for Their Moment in Africa

I'm not terribly sensitive to "womens' issues," because I think we all have legitimate issues. Men and women are all children of God in this imperfect world, so I don't tend to focus on one genders' challenges over the other.

But this Editorial Observer piece in today's New York Times touched my heart.

And I must admit....women in African and the Middle East are treated much more poorly in relation to men than women in the Western industrialized nations.
Waiting for Their Moment in the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by HELENE COOPER

You can't get to Bukavu, Congo, from Monrovia, Liberia. Like just about everywhere else in Africa, the two places are separated by dense rain forests, interminable wars and impassable dirt roads that don't go anywhere.

Yet they might as well be the same place. "Oh, finally, now I'm home," I thought as I crawled out of the tiny single-engine plane and jumped onto the landing strip of what passes for Bukavu's airport. It was about six months ago, and I was on a reporting trip throughout Africa. It was a weird trip for me because I was there to write about poverty and development, yet everywhere I went, from Accra, Ghana, to Mekele, Ethiopia and Kisumu, Kenya, I kept thinking that none of those places, for all of their endemic poverty or corruption, seemed as bad off as my own home country, Liberia.

Until, that is, I got to Bukavu. After the semidesert of Ethiopia and the savannahs of Kenya, Bukavu was otherworldly lush, with that tropical just-rained smell that often greets me when I go home to Liberia. Leafy, green mountains and valleys surrounded the teeming city, with rich banana trees and tea plantations dotting the countryside: the same luxuriant, verdant landscape we have around Monrovia.

And the same inexplicable sense of abandonment that comes from having a population ravaged by years of pointless civil wars. Thousands upon thousands of young boys troll fetid, trash-strewn streets, with nowhere to go. Downtown buildings, long devoid of any commerce, are marked with holes from rockets, grenades and the various other projectiles common to all of the continent's numerous wars. A few private cars - mufflers dragging, crammed with 10, 15, even 20 people - travel the crater-filled streets, but mostly just the white United Nations S.U.V.'s.

What struck me most, though, in Bukavu were the women. As I drove into the city, I passed women I have known all of my life. There were old women - old in Africa means 35 or so - with huge bundles of bamboo sticks on their back. In most cases, the burdens were larger than the backs carrying them as they trudged up one hill after another. There were market women in their colorful dresses - in Liberia we would call them lapas - huddled together on the side of the road selling oranges, hard-boiled eggs and nuts.

There were young women and girls, sitting in front of village huts bathing their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in rubber buckets. No electricity or running water was anywhere close, but one 10-year old girl had dragged a bucket of dirty creek water up the hill to her house so she could wash her 4-year-old sister.

These were the women I grew up with in Liberia, the women all across Africa - the worst place there is to be a woman - who somehow manage to carry that entire continent on their backs.

In Liberia, when their sons were kidnapped and drugged to fight for rebel factions, and when their husbands came home from brothels and infected them with H.I.V., and when government soldiers invaded their houses and raped them in front of their teenage sons, these were the women who picked themselves up and kept going.

They kept selling fish, cassava and kola nuts so they could feed their families. They gave birth to the children of their rapists in the forests and carried the children on their backs as they balanced jugs of water on their heads.

These are the women who went to the polls in Liberia last week. They ignored the threats of the young men who vowed more war if their chosen presidential candidate, a former soccer player named George Weah, didn't win. "No Weah, no peace," the boys yelled, chanting in the streets and around the polling stations.

The women in Liberia, by and large, ignored those boys and made Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a 67-year-old grandmother, the first woman elected to lead an African country. I wasn't surprised that Mr. Weah immediately said the vote had been rigged, although international observers said it had not been. In the half-century since the Europeans left Africa, its men have proved remarkably adept at self-delusion.

No one can be sure what kind of president Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated banker who was imprisoned by one of the many men who ran Liberia into the ground over the last few decades, will be. There are plenty of African women who have brought us shame, from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in South Africa to Janet Museveni in Uganda.

But after 25 years of war, genocide and anarchy, it's a good bet that she will smoke the men who preceded her in running the country. It's not going to be that hard to do; Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is following Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe, both butchers of the first degree.

Ever since the voting results started coming in a few days ago, showing what the Liberian women had done, I've been unable to get one image from Bukavu out of my mind. It is of an old woman, in her 30's. It was almost twilight when I saw her, walking up the hill out of the city as I drove in. She carried so many logs that her chest almost seemed to touch the ground, so stooped was her back. Still, she trudged on, up the hill toward her home. Her husband was walking just in front of her. He carried nothing. Nothing in his hand, nothing on his shoulder, nothing on his back. He kept looking back at her, telling her to hurry up.

I want to go back to Bukavu to find that woman, and to tell her what just happened in Liberia. I want to tell her this: Your time will come, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Republicans Balk at Immoral "Take from the Needy, Give to the Greedy" Bush Budget

Received today from EarthJustice (the nonprofit law firm for the environment, representing—without charge—hundreds of public interest clients, large and small) regarding the unimaginably immoral, "Take from the Needy, Give to the Greedy" budget legislation under consideration now by the House of Representatives.

A final vote is long overdue on the the federal budget for fiscal year 2006, which started on October 1, 2005. House leadershp cancelled a vote again today in what the New York Times called an embarrassment to the Republicans.

Election Day 2005, which was two days ago, clearly and strongly repudiated the Bush Administration and everyone who supports its bankrupt agenda. Republican House members want to be reelected in 2006, yet many believe a vote for this budget package is the death knell of their Congressional careers.

Good. I fervently hope it is.

To: Earthjustice Supporters
From: Buck Parker, Executive Director

Re: Nightmare Budget Still Threatens Wild Lands and Our CourtsArctic Refuge and coastal drilling set aside -- for now

Dear Deborah ,

We did it!
Last night, language that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and America's off-shore waters to oil drilling was stripped from the House version of the budget reconciliation bill. Then, this afternoon, House leadership cancelled a planned vote on the budget bill, conceding that they still did not have enough votes to pass the misguided package.

Millions of Americans wrote, emailed, and telephoned their House members asking them to oppose oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Public support, along with the leadership of strong Arctic Refuge champions on both sides of the aisle, led to the current victory.

Earthjustice will remain vigilant against any efforts to open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. But it's not over yet.

The budget reconciliation bill is still bad for America. The bill could return to the House floor as early as next week, and Earthjustice remains very concerned about the impacts it could have on the environment, particularly on our most special public lands.

The budget bill still seeks to:

Sell off millions of acres of public lands
currently protected by the federal government – including parcels around Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon national parks – at bargain-basement prices, solely for the gain of private mining corporations. This would be one of the largest land giveaways in our nation's history.

Deem as "adequate" an as-yet-unwritten environmental impact statement for oil shale development. State and local governments, Indian tribes, and citizens would be deprived of the opportunity to voice their concerns about oil shale exploitation, and its impacts on clean air, safe drinking water, and vulnerable ecosystems.

Split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in two, isolating California and Hawaii from other Western states. Anti-environmental interests want to "judge-shop," where they hope new judges would look the other way when environmental laws are violated.

Cut important Farm Bill programs that help farmers and ranchers protect and enhance natural resources on their land. The bill also eliminates the budget for popular and effective federal programs that support farm-related energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

When the House takes up the bill next week, we hope that they will reject this budget. If Congress can't pass a bill that protects the environment, they shouldn't pass a bill at all. If you haven't already, please
take action to ask your representatives to oppose this nightmare budget.

Thank you for standing with us. We'll keep you updated.

Vawter "Buck" Parker
Executive, DirectorEarthjustice

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Gluttonous Orgy at Home, Savage Attacks Abroad

Just imagine....insiders say that all these cuts in basic-needs assistance for poverty-level and middle class Americans were done by Congressional Republicans to clear the way for even more rich tax breaks for multi-millionaires and billionaires.

The Bush term has turned into a gluttonous orgy of riches for wealthy Americans and corporations at home, and a savage attack abroad on civility and respect for other countries and cultures.

Does it get any more unChristian? Or perhaps anti-Christian is the better term.

Eight times in the Bible we are told to love our neighbor -- one of the Bible's most repeated commands. How does that fit into the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice agenda?

From Center for American Progress....

This week as House conservatives debate their five-year, $54 billion budget proposal a few things remain clear. It will be “disguised as an overdue act of fiscal responsibility and government savings”, but in the end it is anything but that. Conservatives in the house will also claim that its impact will help all Americans, but the truth is, if passed low income Americans will bear the brunt of the Bill.

Conservatives in the House have chosen the health of drug companies over poor Americans. To avoid disastrous cuts in Medicaid, the Senate wisely chose to remove a provision that hands over $5.4 billion to drug companies in the hope that they offer prescription drug coverage under the new Medicare benefit plan. House conservatives lack of creativity and desire had led them to conclude that cutting $12 billion in Medicaid benefits is the best solution for low income Americans.

House Conservatives are cutting services at a time when they are most needed. The bill is expected to make substantial cuts in the food stamp program. This comes at a time when victims of the Hurricanes are in most need of the government service. In the face of $35 billion worth of cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and child care enforcement, conservatives are seeking to "extend several of Mr. Bush's biggest tax cuts, including those on stock dividends and capital gains. It is hard to imagine those beneficiaries of capitol gains tax cuts are in as dire need of such cuts as those recipients of food stamps.

Drilling in the Alaskan refuge has nothing to do with our national budget priorities. The budget reconciliation bill is reserved for only those legislative items that impact spending and revenue targets. But because the bill is immune from the filibuster, it has become a favored means of passing sought-after, non-revenue-related items that otherwise would not obtain the necessary support for passage as a stand-alone bill, such as drilling in Alaska.

Monday, November 07, 2005

An Administration with No Competence and No Agenda

The New York Times lead editorial for November 8, 2005....

President Bush's Walkabout

After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long.

In Argentina, Mr. Bush, who prides himself on his ability to relate to world leaders face to face, could barely summon the energy to chat with the 33 other leaders there, almost all of whom would be considered friendly to the United States under normal circumstances. He and his delegation failed to get even a minimally face-saving outcome at the collapsed trade talks and allowed a loudmouthed opportunist like the president of Venezuela to steal the show.

It's amazing to remember that when Mr. Bush first ran for president, he bragged about his understanding of Latin America, his ability to speak Spanish and his friendship with Mexico. But he also made fun of Al Gore for believing that nation-building was a job for the United States military.

The White House is in an uproar over the future of Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, and spinning off rumors that some top cabinet members may be asked to walk the plank. Mr. Bush could certainly afford to replace some of his top advisers. But the central problem is not Karl Rove or Treasury Secretary John Snow or even Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary. It is President Bush himself.

Second terms may be difficult, but the chief executive still has the power to shape what happens. Ronald Reagan managed to turn his messy second term around and deliver - in great part through his own powers of leadership - a historic series of agreements with Mikhail Gorbachev that led to the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet empire. Mr. Bush has never demonstrated the capacity for such a comeback. Nevertheless, every American has a stake in hoping that he can surprise us.

The place to begin is with Dick Cheney, the dark force behind many of the administration's most disastrous policies, like the Iraq invasion and the stubborn resistance to energy conservation. Right now, the vice president is devoting himself to beating back Congressional legislation that would prohibit the torture of prisoners. This is truly a remarkable set of priorities: his former chief aide was indicted, Mr. Cheney's back is against the wall, and he's declared war on the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Bush cannot fire Mr. Cheney, but he could do what other presidents have done to vice presidents: keep him too busy attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies to do more harm. Mr. Bush would still have to turn his administration around, but it would at least send a signal to the nation and the world that he was in charge, and the next three years might not be as dreadful as they threaten to be right now.