Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Week In Review: The Horror Of Shoddy News, Part Two.

After a 7 hour drive to Pine Knoll Shores, NC, I finally arrived at the hotel late in the evening. There was not much to do except watch some TV before I went to bed. So I checked out the latest edition of Hannity & Colmes. It seems that Fox’s dynamic duo was telling America about a great breaking news story of much importance. The story? Satish and Deepak Kalpoe was re-arrested for the disappearance of a blond white girl in Aruba.

Hannity & Colmes on this occasion (like many other occasions) were interviewing the foremost experts on the case. Would that be the prosecutors? Nope, it was Natalie Holloway’s parents. Hannity asked Dave Holloway if he knew what new evidence the prosecutors might have. His enlightening answer? “We don’t know.”

Hannity & Colmes weren’t the only ones on Fox covering that latest “startling developments” in the Holloway case. In fact, Fox News ran the story of the Kalpoe brothers being re-arrested for three straight days (maybe longer than that, but I wouldn’t know as I stopped watching). Each day it was covered as if it was breaking news. In fact, in the entire time that I was there, it seemed like the ONLY story that Fox was covering was the Holloway case and Hurricane Katrina. Fox wasn’t alone. CNN, MSNBC, and Headline News all ran an endless cycle of nothing, focusing on just these two stories. One would think that nothing else was happening in the world.

Meanwhile, real news outlets, like Democracy Now! were covering stories that were, how should we say this…more IMPORTANT.

A quick rundown of some headlines:

REPUBLICAN Congressman Walter Jones, of North Carolina announced he has 50 co-sponsors on a joint resolution that calls on President Bush to announce a plan for withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year. You might remember Representative Jones being the guy behind changing the name of French fries to “Freedom Fries” in the Congressional cafeteria. Jones wasn’t the only Republican to abandon Bush. Senator Chuck Hagel said that the US was getting “more and more bogged down” in Iraq. Hagel was the same Senator that mocked Dick Cheney’s claim that the Iraqi resistance was in it “last throes”. Hagel said of Cheney’s claim, “Maybe the vice president can explain the increase in casualties we’re taking. If that’s winning, then he’s got a different definition of winning than I do.” The Bush administration’s response? According to Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Pentagon is drafting plans to keep over 100,000 troops in Iraq until 2009. Meanwhile, the US military is expected to complete a new detention center (read: prison) called Fort Suse. The Iraqi prison population has doubled in the past 6 months. Isn’t freedom wonderful?

And as it turns out, David Satterfield, the 2nd highest US diplomat in Baghdad has been implicated in the AIPAC spy scandal. You may not be aware of the AIPAC spy scandal as no one in the US is bothering to report it. It seems that a group of US officials are under indictment for providing classified information to AIPAC, a lobbying group that works to keep US foreign policy friendly to Israel. Aren’t we just great at “winning the hearts and minds” of the Iraqis?

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld said on a visit to Peru that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was guilty of “anti-social, destabilizing behavior”. Perhaps Rumsfeld was talking about Chavez’s 70% popularity in opinion polls in his country. We can only guess Rumsfeld would like to see Venezuela as a more “stabilized” nation…like Iraq.

While the US has officially given support for Iraq being turned into an Islamic state, the Kurds weren’t so happy. One Kurdish politician said “It’s shocking. I can’t believe that’s what the Americans really want.” The Kurds weren’t alone. Iraqi feminist Yanar Mohammad, and dozens of other Iraqi women demonstrated in central Baghdad against the approval of a “fascist, nationalist and Islamist” constitution. She said, “We are fighting to avoid becoming second class citizens.” Other Iraqi women have seen the writing on the wall. Safia Tabel al-Souhail, who just months ago was hailed by the Bush administration as a symbol of a brighter future in Iraq, has come out against the Iraqi draft constitution and has said she plans on leaving the country. In February al-Souhail sat with Laura Bush during Bush’s state of the union address, holding up a purple finger showing she had recently voted in Iraq’s first elections since the invasion. Al-Souhail told the Independent of London that “When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened: we have lost all the gains we made over the past 30 years. It’s a big disappointment.”

The BBC is reporting that Hugo Chavez is attempting an economic experiment, that inserts democracy into the workplace. Chavez has put the workers of Alcasa, an aluminum plant, in charge of all management decisions. This follows similar experiments at Zanon ceramics in Argentina, that so far have been a complete success where World Bank capitalistic fundamentalism has failed.

In other labor news, a global coalition of 900 unions spread across 140 countries is launching an unprecedented campaign to organize workers at Wal-Mart around the world. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, and has a history of poor, if not illegal working conditions at their stores and facilities.

Meanwhile, Asher Weissgan, a West Bank settler who shot and killed four Palestinians, made remarks about his actions and Israel’s withdrawal of Gaza. Weissgan said, “I’m not sorry and only hope that somebody murders Sharon, too.”

In Pittsburgh, dozens of anti-war demonstrators attempted to shut down a military recruiting center. Two protesters were hospitalized at the hands of the police. Officers shot one woman with a Taser stun gun who was lying on the street. Another woman, who was 68 years old, was bit in the thigh by a police dog. Meanwhile, Jacob Herring, a police chief in Hallsville, Missouri, is suing Taser claiming that he was severely injured after being shocked with a Taser weapon during police training. Herring says he has suffered two strokes, loss and impairment of vision and hearing, neurological damage, and significant cardiac damage after being shocked with a Taser M26 during training last year.

In other police brutality news, in Texas a Peruvian man died after being pepper sprayed by police. Police pepper sprayed 45-year-old Edgar Vera after he allegedly resisted arrest. Police tried to arrest Vera for an outstanding warrant for a seat belt violation.

In Salt Lake City, Utah Bush addressed the local Veterans of Foreign Wars. Speaking of the 1,864 American troops who have died in Iraq, Bush said, “We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for.” 2,000 anti-war demonstrators who gathered outside had other ideas in mind. Celeste Zappala, who co-founded Gold Star Mothers for Peace with Cindy Sheehan addressed the crowd, calling for the troops to be brought home from Iraq.

Bill Moyer, 73, wears a “Bullshit Protector”
flap over his ear while President George W. Bush
addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Bush then traveled to the tiny Idaho town of Donnelly, which only has a population of 130 people. You might think Bush would be free of protests there, but you’d be wrong. In this tiny town of 130 people, 200 anti-war protesters met Bush, issuing a citizen’s arrest warrant for the president. Laura McCarthy, whose son is in Iraq, said “President Bush probably breathed a sigh of relief when he landed in Idaho last night. But no matter where he goes, he’s going to find a Cindy Sheehan in every community across the United States. The name is going to be different, but the message is going to be the same.”

This as former US ambassador Joseph Wilson issued a statement defending Cindy Sheehan, saying “The Bush White House and its right-wing allies are responding to Cindy Sheehan and the military families’ vigil in central Texas in the same way that they always respond to bad news - by unleashing personal attacks and smears against her.”

Meanwhile Cindy Sheehan has announced that she will take her vigil on the road next month following Bush to Washington, D.C. She said she will launch a bush tour from Crawford starting on September 1st that will converge on Washington on the 24th for the major antiwar rally planned for that day.

This comes as opinion polls show that Bush’s approval rating has drooped to a new low. Gallop found that only 40% of Americans approve of Bush in their lowest findings to date. The American Research Group had a similar finding of just 36%. That is a lower approval rating than was Nixon’s at the height of the Watergate scandal.

Meanwhile, Representative Lynn Woolsey of California has announced that she will hold hearings on September 15th on how the US can leave Iraq. Woolsey said, “We’ll hear from academics, military personnel and other experts about strategies to achieve military disengagement while still playing a constructive role in the rebuilding of Iraqi society.”

The state of Connecticut has become the first state to challenge the No Child Left Behind Act in court. The state’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal file the suit arguing that Connecticut is not being reimbursed for the cost of expanding annual testing. The law bars the federal government from imposing unfunded mandates.

In medical news, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have issued a report determining that fetuses likely don’t feel pain until the final months of pregnancy.

Feeling the heat for his calling on the assassination of Hugo Chavez, Pat Robertson apologized a day later. Robertson said, “Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement.” But strangely enough, prior to his apology, Robertson denied he ever made the remark on national television. On the 700 Club Robertson said, “I didn’t say ‘assassination.’ I said our special forces should ‘take him out,’ and ‘take him out’ can be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.” Let’s review Robertson’s comments from the day prior. “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.” Hmm. So in two days Robertson has violated 3 holy commandments. Number 6: “Thou shall not kill”. Number 9: “Thou shall not bear false witness”. And, according to Jesus, the 2nd greatest commandment of all, “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”

As Robertson was calling for assassination, Reverend Jesse Jackson traveled to Caracas to offer support to Hugo Chavez. Jackson said, “Be very clear that the position taken by Reverend Robertson last week was not legal, was not moral, and it must be soundly rejected.” Jackson has reportedly also worked out a deal with Chavez in which poor Americans can purchase heating oil for this winter at reduced prices.

Meanwhile, Librarians are challenging the USA Patriot Act’s constitutionality of a clause that demands information about library patrons’ borrowing records. It calls the order to produce library records “unconstitutional on its face” and said a gag order preventing public discussion of the lawsuit is an unlawful restrain on free speech.

Louisiana is suffering a shortage of supplies to help with the cleanup after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Equipment of the Louisiana National Guard that could help in the clean up, such as high water vehicles like Humvees, refuelers, and electronic generators are being used in Iraq.

In other military news, Bunnatine Greenhouse, a high-level Pentagon official has been demoted after she publicly criticized the Pentagon’s decision to give Halliburton’s Kellogg, Brown and Root no-bid contracts in Iraq worth billions. Greenhouse, who has worked for the Pentagon for 20 years, and has served as chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers since 1998 said, “I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper abuse I have witnessed.”

And at Guantanamo Bay, 89 detainees have resumed a hunger strike to protest their living conditions and continued detention without trial. The hunger strike was sparked by new rumors of violent interrogations, as well as a new incident of alleged desecration of a copy of the Koran.

And that’s the week in review, all the stories that Fox could not tell their viewers, in order to maintain their “Fair & Balanced” coverage of the daily news.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Week In Review: The Horror Of Shoddy News, Part One.

As some of my readers know, this blog was put on hiatus last week so yours truly could enjoy a much needed vacation (even if it was for a measly 4 days). While I was away, I stayed at a beautiful resort (read: hotel) in Pine Knoll Shores, NC. The beach was wonderful, the sunshine was just right, and the beer was plenty. But…being unfamiliar with the local radio stations, I didn’t know where to tune into for Pacifica Radio, Air America, Thom Hartmann, the BBC, or even the last resource of the newshound, NPR. You know those nights at the bar when you desperately need to get laid and all the women have left and there’s only one nasty tub of a whale left drinking some cheap peppermint Snapps? That’s NPR…the bottom of the barrel.

To make the situation worse, absolutely no internet. Let’s be honest. If you need to get the latest going-ons at Roger Dan’s ranch in Tupelo, Mississippi, you can find it on the web if you look long enough. But take that away, along with all radio, and then what do you have?

Enter the nightmarish world of cable news: I sometimes forget why I’m so glad I don’t watch TV. While I was on vacation the choices were MSNBC, CNN, and of course, Fox News. I literally couldn’t believe the complete crap these stations run. I have heard many a con explain that Fox News is “fair & balanced” and that CNN is some sort of lefty news. What the hell are you people talking about? I literally couldn’t tell a damn bit of difference between ANY of these stations. In fact, I mistaked CNN for Fox for 20 minutes at one point. The only difference between CNN and Fox News is that Fox is more prone to have sit down interviews with a couple of nitwits giving their opinion about subjects they know jack shit about.

For example: I was watching this program called “Cavuto on Business”, which was the usual shtick of a group of radical conservatives and a host screaming at a middle-of-the-road nobody. The nitwit line up was a particularly mouthy Dagen McDowell hosting, with Ben Stein and six other jackasses that nobody’s ever heard of. Can you guess the subject of this little nitwit fest? It was “Assassinating dictators instead of fighting costly wars”.

The subject started as a response (rather a defense) of Pat Robertson’s asinine comments earlier in the week that the US should just go ahead and assassinate the “strong arm dictator” of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. We start off with big mouth Dagen:

Dagen McDowell: Assassinate dictators instead of fighting costly wars? Was Pat Robertson on to something? Last week Pat Robertson said why fight a war that will cost billions of dollars when you can just kill the dictator. Tom, does Pat Robertson have a point?

Tom Adkins: You bet he does. But Pat Robertson opened up his big mouth and screwed it up. Now that he’s said it, the option is off the table.

Are you following along? “Assassinating dictators” is more cost efficient then those expensive wars. Now it was Ben Stein’s turn.

Ben Stein: Assassinations are a very bad idea…But, interestingly enough, George Stephanopoulos suggested the very same thing about Saddam Hussein and no one raised their voice about that. This is really a story about the incredible discrimination against conservatives in the media. A conservative can say something perfectly sensible and everybody will jump all over him…A liberal says the very same thing and no one lays a finger on him.

Are we understanding now? The major media just HATES conservatives, that’s why a conservative like Ben Stein can tell you this…via the media. And if you didn’t catch the hidden message, Hugo Chavez is one in the same as Saddam Hussein. Then it was Bobo Dietl’s turn.

Bo Dietl: Go watch the National Geographic documentary on 9/11 and remember what happened on that day. Also remember that after the Cole was bombed, they wanted to take out bin Laden. We are losing Americans everyday in this fight against terrorism. We have to do what we have to do. If we find out that Chavez has any connection to these terrorists at all, I think we should really do it. The CIA is there and they should be doing their job secretly.

Remember gentle viewers when 9/11 happened and Bush was so popular? You’ve got to be thinking that the cons are missing those days dearly. And the count? That’s 2 votes for assassination, and one against, and 2 votes for Robertson, and zero against, coupled with a defense of Bush’s war in Iraq. The conversation continues:

Jim Rogers: Let me ask you guys, what would happen if someone assassinated President Bush?

I’m guessing at this point it would be like New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Tom Adkins: The next day we’d invade that country and take out their leaders.

Jim Rogers: What kind of policy is that?

Tom Adkins: It’s called victory.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Bo Dietl: I’m talking about getting the evidence you need and doing things subversively. There was a guy who was assassinated in Egypt. There was a prime minister assassinated in Israel. Things happen like that.

What have we learned children? That things....happen like that. Unfortunately, assassinations can’t always be so happy and cheerful.

Jim Rogers: If we kill Chavez, we’re going to make a lot of enemies.

Tracy Byrnes: We can’t go out there and whack this guy. We are not John Gotti.

Too bad. We’re not John Gotti, and we’d make a lot of enemies. But wouldn’t it be sooo cool if we did! Bobo Dipshit marches on:

Bo Dietl: We’re not talking about Chavez specifically. I don’t see enough evidence there to whack him. You find out what he’s about. He’s giving away oil for $40 a barrel to Cuba and Dominican Republic, so he’s doing good things too. Let’s not whack him right away. But we should watch him.

Are you following? Chavez should be “whacked”, but not quite yet. You’ve got to wait for your biscuits to properly brown before you can take them out of the oven and give them a good whacking. Of course, Chavez is brown enough already, so we might as well get on with it, right?

Somehow, in this entire nitwit fest, none of these folks managed to mention the irony of Robertson’s comments. Robertson claims that God speaks through him, but for some reason God forgot to tell him about the 6th commandment, “Thou shall not kill”.

A sharper mind might notice that throughout this entire discussion, the legitimacy of Robertson’s comments are not questioned, with the sole exception of Tom Adkins saying that “you bet” it is. Meanwhile, the legitimacy of assassinating Chavez is completely on the table.

Unfortunately for Fox’s “balance” Ben Stein let the cat out of the bag.

Ben Stein: Bin Laden was a well-known terrorist, thug, and murderer. Mr. Chavez is the constitutionally elected head of a sovereign state.

Dagen McDowell: But the Bush administration did denounce what Robertson said.

See how quickly the host, big-mouthed Dagen, changed the subject? This is what the “fair & balanced” network does not want you to know. Hugo Chavez is NOT a “strong arm dictator”, a weak armed dictator, or a dictator by any measure of the book. He is the twice elected democratic President of Venezuela, who managed to survive several “recall” elections staged by the United States, not the mention a failed military coup, again staged by the United States. All in all, Chavez’s Presidency has more legitimacy (not to mention popularity) to his people then George W. Bush has of his own. But you will not hear that at Fox.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Politics of Jesus And The Oxymoron That Is “The Christian Right”.

Today America has seen the rise to power of the “Christian right”, with the media confirming for us all that the Republican Party is the party of Christian morals and values, while the left are “Godless” and “immoral” creatures whose only concept of faith is to defend the “evil” of Islam. We are taught that the President is a “Godly man” of “Christian faith” who follows the “teachings of Jesus”. The sole evidence for this is the Republican Party’s opposition to abortion, the attempts to mix church and state, and the pandering to Christians by a President who prays before us for all to see.

After the 2004 election I began to wonder if the Republican Party really does follow the teachings of Jesus, and if their political views are consistent with His teachings. Was Christ really opposed to abortion and homosexual marriage? Did Jesus really wish to see church and state mixed? Did He really wish for us to pay little or no taxes, fight wars against our neighbors, and reward those of us who are the most wealthy? These are the questions I sought, and in His words I will present to you the answers He gave.

In this, I will stick as much as possible to the words of Jesus given to us in the Gospel. I will utilize both the King James and the New American (Catholic) Bibles. I prefer the New American Bible as it is written in modern English, and it makes understanding easier.

For those who have never read the Gospel, each book (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is a recount of what Jesus did while He was here. Each book tells the same story from the perspective of each author. Most of what Jesus did is recounted in each book, with almost identical wording of what He said, however there are things that are included in some books that are not included in the others. Each book also has it’s own style. Matthew, since the 2nd century A.D., has been considered as the most important book of the Gospel by the Church, and was largely thought of being the first written. The consensus of modern scholarship today is that actually the book of Mark was probably the first written. Nevertheless, the importance of the book of Matthew cannot be overlooked, as it is by far the most powerful and best written. The book of Mark is the shortest and most concise of the Gospels. And Luke tells the story in the most detail. For the purposes here, I am excluding the book of John because it was likely the last written, and unlike the synoptic Gospels, is highly literary and symbolic, does not follow the same order of events, and shows that the author developed a highly theological reflection of the events before writing it. It is a fine book of the Gospel, but for the sake of historical accuracy I will not include it here.

Author’s Note:
Feel free to copy this piece for whatever purpose you wish, all I ask is that I’m given credit for writing this and that you include a link to Nitwit Planet. Also, because my link color is red, and reading a lot of red text on black can be of some strain on the eye, Jesus’ words will appear in blue.

So what is the politics of Jesus? He taught us much, about the Kingdom of God, but in his travels and in his teachings, he also taught us much about his political leanings. There was much that he taught that was purely religious and apolitical that is more or less common knowledge in the United States. What is not terribly well known by your average American Christian is Jesus’ political leanings. You will not hear it preached by the President, much less by figures of the “Christian right” such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell. In fact, I would wager to guess that most of you who might be reading this hasn’t the foggiest idea what Jesus’ politics were.

So how would Jesus view the politics of the Republican Party today? Would Jesus be opposed to abortion? The answer is that no where in the Gospel does Jesus mention abortion one way or the other. For one to suggest that Jesus would be opposed to it is nothing more than speculation, and a fairly wild one at that. Jesus did say (Matthew 5:17-18) “‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.’” Meaning, that Jesus was saying that he was not rebuking Moses and the rest of the Bible. While in the second story of the Creation, the Bible describes what classifies a human being as officially living. (Genesis 2:7) “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” In other words, man is not alive and with a soul until he breathes.

The closest direct reference to abortion was made when Jesus was addressing his Apostles at The Last Supper. Without naming Judas Iscariot, Jesus said, (Matthew 26:20-24) “‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely it is not I, Lord?’ He said in reply, ‘He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.’”

Church and State:
Jesus didn’t have many good things to say about the religious rulers of his day, who controlled Israel. He consistently spoke out against the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, as well as Herod. Jesus said of them, (Mark 8:15) “’Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’” Jesus didn’t just warn against them. (Matthew 3:7) “When He saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to His baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’”

Did Jesus ever decry homosexuality, or any other form of sexual “perversion”? Jesus does not once mention homosexuality anywhere in the Gospel. The only time Jesus mentioned perversion was when he was speaking of everyone. (Luke 9:41) “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and endure you?”

Would Jesus want our leaders to pray before us in the public square, in order to confirm that they are “Godly men”? (Matthew 6:2-6) “‘When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret…When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them…But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.’” In fact, Jesus didn’t have very many good things to say at all about religious political and social leaders of his day. (Mark 12:38-40) “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’”

Would Jesus be opposed to you paying your taxes? The Pharisees asked Jesus exactly that saying, (Mark 12:14) “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Jesus’ replay was (Mark 12:15-17) “‘Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought one to Him and He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They replied to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’”

Well, Jesus might have said to pay your taxes, but what about a flat tax verses a progressive tax? The Republican Party has for some time opposed progressive taxation for a flat tax where everyone contributes the same percentage. What did Jesus have to say about this? (Mark 12:41-44) “He sat down opposite the treasury [of His ministry] and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to Himself, He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

What did Jesus say about those who are greedy? (Matthew 6:19-24) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon [money].”

The Wealthy:
It might be a bit of an understatement to say that Republicans are more favorable to business and the wealthy than they are to the poor. They have consistently decried giving welfare to the poor, meanwhile numerous tax breaks and government giveaways are given to business interests. The recent energy bill is a prime example. It gives billions to the energy industry despite their skyrocketing prices and their record profits. What would Jesus say of giving such largess to the most fortunate among us? (Matthew 19:16-24) “Now someone approached Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life [in heaven]?’ He answered him, ‘Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments.’ He asked him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus replied, ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’” Jesus continued, (Matthew 19:30) “‘Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’”

Did Jesus not have a single good thing to say about those who are wealthy? Of course He did. (Luke 19:1-9) “He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see Him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When He reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received Him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to the house of this man too, a descendent of Abraham.’”

The Poor:
If this is how Jesus felt about the wealthy, then how did he feel about the poor? Jesus spoke of the parable of Lazarus: (Luke 16:19-25) “‘There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.’”

Would it be too much to say that when you do not care for the poor among us that you are not caring for Him? In The Judgment of the Nations Jesus explained what will happen when the Messiah returns. (Matthew 25:31-34) “‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” Jesus went on, saying, (Matthew 25:41-46) “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, a stranger and you gave Me no welcome, naked and you gave Me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for Me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to Your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of the least of my brothers, you did not do for Me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’”

Republicans frequently give much praise to capitalism and to the wonders of the marketplace. Their faith is so strong in the market that one might suspect that it’s righteousness came from on High. In the entire Gospel Jesus rarely ever became angry. That was not the case here. (Mark 11:15-17) “They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. Then He taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’? But you have made it a den of thieves.’”

How would Jesus view our war in Iraq? Not only did Jesus say (Matthew 12:7) “‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’”, but when asked, (Matthew 22:36-40) “‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’”

If this is the case, then how would Jesus view the War on Terror? Would He argue an eye for an eye? (Matthew 5:38-39) “‘You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.’” But aren’t Republicans at least righteous in their anger against Muslims? (Matthew 5:21-22) “‘You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.’”

Which brings us full circle and to the anti-war moment. Recently, Bill O’Reilly said of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq who is stationed outside of George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch, that “her actions border on being treasonous.” Would our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth agree? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaimed The Beatitudes: (Matthew 5:3-10)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God…
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And most importantly of all: (Matthew 5:9)

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.”

Friday, August 19, 2005

Global Terrorism On The Rise.

The National Counterterrorism Center has assembled new terrorist attack statistics, showing a spike in terrorist activity in 2004. In all, the NCTC found 3,192 separate terrorist incidents in 2004, involving 28,433 victims, including 6,060 people who were killed.

Iraq was the center of more than a quarter of all the attacks last year, followed by the Gaza Strip and Nepal. Iraqis were also 27% of the victims of the attacks. Iraq also counted for 60% of the 10 most deadly terrorist incidents.

The revised Patterns of Global Terrorism report 208 terrorist incidents in 2003, as noted by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

That Other Kind Of Terrorism.

This reprinted from US News & World Report:

In the 10 years since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people, roughly 60 right-wing terrorist plots have been uncovered in the United States, according to an upcoming report by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. The plots, all foiled by law enforcement, reportedly included violent plans by antigovernment militia groups, racist skinhead organizations, and Ku Klux Klan members to use various types of chemical bombs and other weapons.

The plots demonstrate that the Department of Homeland Security still needs to closely monitor right-wing groups, says Heidi Beirich, with the Intelligence Project. The DHS was criticized by hate-group experts in April when an internal planning document on domestic terrorist threats was leaked to the press. The DHS report listed radical leftist groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, which have been involved in numerous arson cases, but not violent right-wing militia and skinhead groups.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security, is calling for the DHS to do more to fight right-wing domestic terror groups and to work more closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The FBI has a considerably more thorough view of domestic terrorism than DHS," says Thompson. The DHS has said that the internal document was never intended to be made public and does not represent all its assessments on domestic terrorism.

Some of the more recent right-wing terror plots listed in the Intelligence Project report include:

* May 20, 2005: Two New Jersey men, Craig Orler and Gabriel Garafa, who allegedly belong to neo-Nazi and skinhead groups, were charged with illegally selling to police informants guns and 60 pounds of urea to use in a bomb.

* Oct. 25, 2004: FBI agents in Tennessee arrested Demetrius "Van" Crocker after he allegedly tried to purchase ingredients for deadly sarin nerve gas and C-4 plastic explosives from an undercover agent. Crocker, who was involved with white supremacist groups, was charged with trying to get explosives to destroy a building and faces more than 20 years in prison.

* April 10, 2003: The FBI raided the home of William Krar, of Noonday, Texas, and discovered an arsenal of more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and remote control briefcase bombs, and almost 2 pounds of sodium cyanide, enough to make a bomb that could kill everyone in a large building. Krar, reportedly associated with white supremacist groups, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for possession of a chemical weapon.

Ohio Governor In Deep Doo-Doo.

Ohio Republican Governor Bob Taft has been charged with four ethics violations for failing to report dozens of gifts he received in a scandal that has rocked Ohio’s Republican Party. Taft is the first governor in Ohio’s history to be charged with a crime. If convicted, Taft could be fined $1,000 and face six months in jail on each count.

Update On Wednesday’s Candlelight Vigils.

On Wednesday, 1,627 candlelight vigils were held for our troops who have died in Iraq, calling on them to be brought home. Move On, True Majority, and Democracy for America helped organize the vigils, which were held in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Move On has posted photos of the vigils here, taken by people all over the country. They are absolutely breath taking.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bye Bye Roberts Documents.

As more documents are being made public on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, The Washington Post is reporting that a file folder containing papers on Roberts’ work on affirmative action 20 years ago disappeared from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after it was reviewed by two lawyers from the White House and Justice Department last month. The White House and the Justice Department would not name the lawyers involved, but confidential sources told The Washington Post that one works under White House counsel Harriet Miers and the other is an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Beaten To Death.

According to an Air Force medical examiner’s testimony, an Afghan detainee who died in US custody in 2002 was so severely injured that his leg muscles were split apart. The medical examiner testified this week in the trail of Army Private Willie Brand, who is accused of abusing two Afghani prisoners in 2002, both who later died.

Bangladesh Goes Boom.

Roughly 200 homemade bombs simultaneously exploded in the streets of Bangladesh Wednesday, killing two and injuring 100. The bombs were set off at courts and near key government buildings across the nation. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, and Bangladeshi security forces are intensifying their search for those responsible.

America Lit By Candlelight.

On Wednesday night more than 1,500 Antiwar candlelight vigils were held all across the United States, calling for an end of the US occupation of Iraq. Cindy Sheehan, still camped outside of Bush’s property, called for the vigils.

A mother of a solder wounded in Iraq said at a vigil in Washington DC, “What is unforgivable is that you betrayed our idealistic American sons and daughters who trustingly placed their lives in your hands. we, their mothers, will not let you move on with your life.”

Meanwhile, Camp Casey is being joined by a growing number of people to join Cindy’s protest. Among them are several parents of soldiers killed in Iraq, Minnesota State Senator Becky Lourey, whose son died in Iraq, FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

Cindy said, “Our spirits are always good here at Camp Casey cause we feel the support of everybody around the world.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Is George W. Bush A Pychopath?

Not many of us are that familiar with the science of psychology. While at best some of us may quote Sigmund Freud, most of us know virtually nothing about his theories, and how psychology has evolved over time.

In reality, much of Freud’s work has been completely debunked, as technology (such as CAT Scans and the such) has allowed us to see how the brain works in far greater detail. That’s not to say that Freud’s work wasn’t important, but it is dated. One could easily say that more has been discovered about how our brains work in the last 20 years than in any other time in the history of psychology.

The field of Abnormal Psychology has excelled greatly. It is the study of mental illnesses. Of those mental disorders, is the family of the personality disorders. According to the DSM-IV (the current classifications of mental disorders, it stands for “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition”), a personality disorder is identified by “a pervasive pattern of experience and behavior that is abnormal with respect to any two of the following: thinking, mood, personal relations, and the control of impulses.

Personality disorders have 10 different categories, as identified in the DSM-IV. Some of them are more famous than others. They are Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and finally, Antisocial Personality Disorder.

For the purposes of the discussion, I will focus on Antisocial Personality Disorder. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a very damaging and harmful mental disorder. The majority of con-men and those who commit fraud have ASPD at some level. Some serial killers had it, such as Jeffrey Dahmer. ASPD is characterized as the “lack of regard for the moral or legal standards” and a “marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules.” They are sometimes called or known as “sociopaths” or “psychopaths”. Psychopathy effects primarily men, and are about 3% of the US population.

Some of the symptoms of psychopathy (emotionally and interpersonally) are that one is glib and superficial, egocentric and grandiose, has a lack of remorse or guilt, a lack of empathy, is deceitful and manipulative, and shows shallow emotions. Psychopaths also show symptoms of social-deviance. Some of them are that they are impulsive, have poor behavior controls, and show a lack of responsibility. Psychopaths also have a distain for work, and usually are quite successful in getting what they want by being very charming. Psychopaths also fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, repeatedly lie, con others for personal profit, have an inability to plan ahead, have a reckless disregard for the safety of others, are consistently irresponsible, and have a lack of remorse. They are comfortable with the deception and manipulation needed, in any situation, to do what they believe is right for them, regardless of the impact on others. They demonstrate a complete lack of guilt and are unable to admit that they are wrong or incorrect. They also tend to be deceitful, and many psychopaths have various problems with drug addiction.

Is any of this sounding the least bit familiar?

Cindy’s Not Alone.

This piece was written by Celeste Zappala, whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was killed in Iraq.

A week after my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, arrived in Baghdad last year, President Bush held court for journalists at the 60th annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington. Part of the show that night was to pretend to look for WMD under the lectern. There were staged pictures of Mr. Bush looking for them under the rug in the Oval Office. Everyone present got a great laugh.

With a crucial election looming last year, the President thought it politically prudent to simultaneously indulge in self-deprecating humor about not finding WMD while he kept American soldiers in the dangerous search for those weapons.

I talked to Sherwood shortly after the President's circus show. He wasn’t finding anything funny about his mission in Iraq. Sherwood was knee deep in the real search for WMD. He was providing security for the Iraq Survey Group, which was still looking for those weapons well beyond the admission by David Kay that they didn’t exist.

The days were long and hot. They began to ration his food and water. On April 26, 2004, a month after Mr. Bush’s standup routine, Sherwood’s unit was in Baghdad inspecting buildings. That building exploded. Sherwood was killed.

Sher’s death brings me on an unlikely journey to Crawford, Tex. I join Cindy Sheehan, who has established a camp here.

My family is gathering with me as we hold our own vigil. We believe that we finally deserve a meeting with the President, one that has been denied us for the last 16 months.

We bring with us here the desire to share our humble story. We want the President to hear us talk about Sherwood. Perhaps he can answer some questions for us. We want to know why Sher, a case worker for the mentally handicapped, had to say goodbye to his wife and 10-year-old son to participate in the negligent endeavor that is the Iraq War.

We’d like to know what he finds noble about instigating and maintaining a war with a country that posed no threat to our country.

We’d like to know if he still finds humor in the fabrications that justified the war that killed my son.

I have a good feeling that we’re going to finally have our face-to-face. We’re a Christian family, and we believe in miracles. We share that faith with the President. Therefore, I need to believe that he has the humility to hear our story. I need to believe he has the courage to embrace our grief. I want to believe he has the capacity to talk to us like human beings without injecting his party-line rhetoric.

I want to believe all of these things. For I am witness to a truth shared by too many families in this country. As a Gold Star mother and as a citizen of this country, I believe our vacationing President has the time to hear that truth.

The Latest Terrorist Threat: Infants. Yes, Infants.

The Associated Press is reporting that infants are now being including on the country’s no-fly list. According to AP, airline security are now stopping families with infants who have names that are similar to those on the no-fly list. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Atlanta’s Solution To The Homeless Problem: Make Homelessness Illegal.

The Atlanta City Council has voted to make panhandling illegal in much of the city. Third-time offenders will be jailed for 30 days and face a $1,000 fine. No word yet if some of those homeless folks were among the thousands of city workers who was given a pink slip in 2002.

The Iraqi Constitutional Crisis.

Yesterday Iraq’s National Assembly failed to agree on a new constitution, with legislators extending the deadline an extra week. Disagreements remain on the role of Islam, possible Shitte and Kurdish autonomy, and women’s rights. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Bush administration “pressured Iraqis” to agree on a constitutional draft “even for appearance’s sake so the political process seemed on track”.

If a constitution is not agreed upon by next week’s deadline, Iraq could be thrown into a political crisis, as U.S. transitional law dictates that Iraq would then have to hold new elections and restart the entire process. Meanwhile, the month of August could be one of the deadliest to date for US troops in Iraq. The first week of August was the fourth deadliest week of the war to date, with 44 US soldiers being killed in the first 10 days of the month.

Next Stop: Venezuela.

Amid record gas prices, instability in Iraq, and Bush threatening Iran with the use of force, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is threatening to cut off oil exports to the United States.

In response to a US decision to revoke the visas of six Venezuelan officials based in Washington, Chavez withdrew the diplomatic immunity of US agents working in Venezuela for the Drug Enforcement Administration, claiming the agents were spying on his government.

At a youth festival in Caracas Chavez said that Venezuelan oil “instead of going to the United States, could go elsewhere.”

The US has threatened Chavez numerous times, including staging a failed coup, while Venezuela exports about 1.3 million barrels of oil a day to the United States. Venezuela is the 5th largest exporter of oil in the world, and one of the few oil exporters that have a democratic government.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dail 673-8003.

This from the Democratic Underground, which I had to post here, just because it’s so damn hilarious:

I have to mention this story because it’s quite simply the best dis of Sean Hannity ever. Not so long ago, the Brooklyn indie band Kids Against Combs decided to name their new album after Hannity’s home phone number, which at the time was (631) 673-8003. Obviously Hannity had to change his number (it’s now unlisted).

But last week it was revealed that Hannity was actually “threatening to sue both parties [Kids Against Combs and their record label] if they proceeded with releasing an album named after Hannity’s home phone number and containing the political pundit’s home address in the CD’s liner notes,” according to the Boston Phoenix.

Don’t worry though - despite the fact that Kids Against Combs were forced to change the title of their album, they came up with an even better one. So next time you’re in your local record store, keep an eye out for The Album Formerly Known As Sean Hannity’s Phone Number … Currently Sean Hannity Is A Democracy Subverting Douche-Bag. Yes, that’s really what it’s called!

Counterlibe Gives Up.

Counterlibe Inc., a company started by Richard Erickson and some associates announced a few years back that they would be building a museum slamming Bill Clinton just down the road from the Clinton Presidential Library.

After years of effort into the project, Erickson announced last week that “I’m giving up”, and that Counterlibe Inc. was on the brink of collapse. The reason? Erickson and company could not raise enough money to get the project off the ground.


Yes, the 2006 elections are almost here. Well, not really, but some of the races are beginning to get interesting. Florida Republicans are begging Katherine Harris (the Florida Secretary of State in 2000 that handed the Presidency to the current squatter in the White House) NOT to run for Senate, amid her loose lips of admitting that she is not quite right in the head.

Then there is the woman who is sure to oust Hillary Clinton from her NY Senate seat, Jeanine “Where’s page 10?” Pirro. Pirro, a frequent Fox News contributor (Fox News has been promoting her candidacy…who wouldda guessed?), and the District Attorney in Westchester County, made her absolutely fabulous candidacy announcement, which, as you can see from the video, got a bit side-tracked when a page of the speech went missing.

But the more bizarre was yet to come. In her speech, Pirro claimed, “I have taken on the mob.” But according to a Mafia informant, her husband leaked confidential material from a Westchester District Attorney investigation. Unfortunately for Pirro, the New York Daily News chimed in, reporting that she has actually “pocketed nearly $12,000 in campaign checks from firms and associates with alleged links to organized crime.”

If Only Cindy Sheehan Had 25 Grand.

Despite that Bush has refused to meet with Cindy Sheehan, much less answer her questions, he does have time to meet with plenty of other folks. Bush met with some 230 people attending a Republican fund raiser at his neighbor’s 478 acre ranch. For all who attended, they contributed at least $25,000 to the RNC. So what’s the old saying? Money talks and accountability walks? No, that’s not right. Where’s Robert Novak when you need him?

Rove Obstructing Justice?

A new report by investigative journalist Murray Waas has found that Justice officials decided to appoint a special prosecutor in the case of outted CIA agent Valerie Plame in a large part because investigators questioned the veracity of accounted Karl Rove provided them. When first questioned by the FBI, Rove neglected to tell FBI investigators that he had talked to Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Joe Wilson’s wife. While Rove claims that he learned of Plame’s identity during a conversation with a journalist, Waas found that when talking to FBI investigators, Rove was unable to recall virtually anything to investigators about the conversation, including who the journalist was, and whether the conversation took place in person or on the phone.

“All Options Are On The Table”

During an interview on Israeli television Bush warned that “all options are on the table” if Iran refuses to comply with international demands to halt their nuclear program. Bush went on to say that “The use of force is the last option for any president” and that “it is difficult for the commander in chief to put kids in harm’s way. Nevertheless I have been willing to do so as a last resort in order to secure the country and to provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies.” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder criticized Bush’s comments, saying, “Let’s take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn’t work.”

Iraq Constitutional Deadline Passed.

The negotiations on a new Iraqi constitution remained deadlocked until after the August 15th deadline. U.S. ambassador Almay Khalilzad attempted to break the deadlock by presenting a U.S.-backed draft of the Iraqi Constitution, which one Kurdish legislator described as a “almost full version of a constitution”. He went on to day that “The US officials are more interested in the Iraqi constitution than the Iraqis themselves”. By Iraqi law, new elections must now be held to restart the entire process, however chances are that the Iraqi National Assembly will ask for an time extension, despite that the deadline for extensions expired the 1st of August.

Lower Expectations In Iraq.

The Washington Post is reporting that the Bush administration has significantly lowered their expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq. Officials no longer expect to see Iraq become a model new democracy with a self-supporting oil industry, or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges.

Someone Tell The President The War Is Over.

A NYTimes Op-ed

LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. “We will stay the course,” he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can’t stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won’t stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush’s handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend’s Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents’ overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.’s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.

But our current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Mr. Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout “don’t ask, don’t tell” and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.

The president’s cable cadre is in disarray as well. At Fox News Bill O’Reilly is trashing Donald Rumsfeld for his incompetence, and Ann Coulter is chiding Mr. O’Reilly for being a defeatist. In an emblematic gesture akin to waving a white flag, Robert Novak walked off a CNN set and possibly out of a job rather than answer questions about his role in smearing the man who helped expose the administration’s prewar inflation of Saddam W.M.D.’s. (On this sinking ship, it’s hard to know which rat to root for.)

As if the right-wing pundit crackup isn’t unsettling enough, Mr. Bush’s top war strategists, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, have of late tried to rebrand the war in Iraq as what the defense secretary calls “a global struggle against violent extremism.” A struggle is what you have with your landlord. When the war’s über-managers start using euphemisms for a conflict this lethal, it’s a clear sign that the battle to keep the Iraq war afloat with the American public is lost.

That battle crashed past the tipping point this month in Ohio. There’s historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Mr. Bush gave the fateful address that sped Congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that “we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade,” an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive. He said that Saddam “could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year” were he able to secure “an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball.” Our own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were “highly dubious.”

It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on 9/11 and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a Congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a “chicken hawk,” received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush.

These are the tea leaves that all Republicans, not just Chuck Hagel, are reading now. Newt Gingrich called the Hackett near-victory “a wake-up call.” The resolutely pro-war New York Post editorial page begged Mr. Bush (to no avail) to “show some leadership” by showing up in Ohio to salute the fallen and their families. A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as “a matter of courtesy and decency.” Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7.

Such political imperatives are rapidly bringing about the war’s end. That’s inevitable for a war of choice, not necessity, that was conceived in politics from the start. Iraq was a Bush administration idée fixe before there was a 9/11. Within hours of that horrible trauma, according to Richard Clarke’s “Against All Enemies,” Mr. Rumsfeld was proposing Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked America was there, but because it offered “better targets” than the shadowy terrorist redoubts of Afghanistan. It was easier to take out Saddam - and burnish Mr. Bush’s credentials as a slam-dunk “war president,” suitable for a “Top Gun” victory jig - than to shut down Al Qaeda and smoke out its leader “dead or alive.”

But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, “The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war,” adding that the “essential” lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have “politicians making military decisions.” But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army’s chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it’s our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn’t been before 9/11 - “the central front in the war on terror,” as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he’s the one who recklessly created it.

The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. “It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable” for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war’s actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for “some fairly substantial reductions” to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it’s quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war’s inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson’s March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we’ll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

Thus the president’s claim on Thursday that “no decision has been made yet” about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president’s preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its “last throes.” The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We’re outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

GOP: The Party Of Death.

Years ago George Orwell wrote of a future nightmarish world in his novel 1984. In it Orwell wrote of a society that was kept in control via overwhelming government control, and of a people controlled by the use of language that he called “double-speak”. And more and more we see America turning into Orwell’s dreary vision of “thought crimes”, “big brother”, and perpetual war.

Orwell noted that “war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength”. And today we have a president who has said, “when we’re talking about war, what we’re really talking about is peace.” Iraq has been enslaved by an occupying US force, and it has been declared that those very same forces have “freed 25 million people”. And most of all, we have George W. Bush, who has repeatedly been depicted as “a strong moral leader”, despite that he has perhaps made some of the most ignorant and embarrassing remarks in the history of the US politics (such as “However they delineate; quotas, I think vulcanize society.” -Jan. 21, 2000)

In an even more grotesque turn of events, the GOP has told the American public that it is “the party of life”, and that it values nothing higher than “the sanctity of human life”. George W. Bush has convinced a great number of conservatives that he is a moral and Christian man, who acts on the “will of God”. Despite that Jesus taught us in The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15) to “forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, as governor of Texas, George W. Bush did not heed the lesson. As governor, George W. Bush executed 152 people, in a state with no public defender system. Among those killed is Karla Faye Tucker, the first female to be executed in the state of Texas in over 100 years. When speaking to conservative pundit Tucker Carlson about what Karla Faye Tucker’s last words might have been, he mocked her saying “Please, don’t kill me”.

“‘Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed
in mock desperation, ‘Don’t kill me.’”

But The Party of Death was just warming up in Texas. It had to go national before the bodies could really pile up. In 1999, George W. Bush told his original ghost writer for “A Charge To Keep”, that if he had the chance to invade Iraq he wasn’t going to withdraw early, but would instead stay so he would have the “political capital” to get his agenda passed. Similarly, the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century had their own plans for Iraq. On January 26, 1998 PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton, telling him “That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.” Those who signed the letter would see themselves in high positions thanks to the Bush administration. Among them are Elliott Abrams, who became a senior Director on the National Security Council, and who was also a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal. Richard L. Armitage, who went on to be the Deputy Secretary of State. Zalmay Khalilzad, who Bush appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan. Richard Perle, who went on to chair the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. John Bolton, who Bush just appointed as US ambassador to the United Nations. Paul Wolfowitz, currently the President of the World Bank. And Donald Rumsfeld, the current Secretary of Defense. PNAC made it very clear that their goal was to dramatically increase Defense spending so that the United States could military dominate the world. In their publication “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”, published a year before 9/11, the group said that this military transformation “would be at odds with larger American policy goals and would trouble American allies”, and that “the process of transformation” would “likely be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor.” (pgs. 50-51)

With 9/11 The Party of Death got that catastrophic event, and they milked it for all it was worth. Using it as a pretext for a larger “War on Terror”, the Bush administration lied to the American People and to Congress (a violation of the 9th Commandment, that forbids one to bear false witness), saying that Saddam’s regime had weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence for Bush’s claims were fixed, not by the CIA, which would normally review such things, but by the Office of Special Plans, set up by and answerable to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

For the first time in it’s history, the United States waged a pre-emptive war (an act of terrorism in it’s own right, as defined by US Code), entirely orchestrated by The Party of Death, which has resulted in at least 100,000 Iraqi deaths.

Those things dangling off of her used to be her feet.

We live in a day when the GOP has taught us that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. But most of all, the Republicans have taught us that their “pro-life” party is the Party of Death.

Happy Birthday Social Security!

70 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the signing of the Social Security Act of 1935:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing into law
the Social Security Act of 1935.

“Today a hope of many years standing is in large part fulfilled. The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes has tempted more and more to make life insecure. Young people have come to wonder what’ll be their lot when they came to old age. A man with a job has wondered how long the job would last. This Social Security measure gives at least some protection to 50 millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old age pensions, and through increased services for the protection of children, and the prevention of ill health. We can never insure 100% of the population against 100% of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty stricken old age. It seems to me that if the Senate and the House of Representatives in this long and arduous session have done nothing more than pass this security bill, Social Security Act, the session would be regarded as historic for all time.”

That bill indeed became historic, and it passed with stiff Republican opposition. On April 18th, 1935 Allen Towner Treadway (R-MA) offered an amendment to strike the section of the Social Security Act that created the “old age benefits provision”, and the revenue system, articles 2 and 8, respectively. Treadway, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means committee, saw his amendment go down in a 49-125 vote, but vowed to oppose Social Security at “every opportunity.” During the Treadway amendment, Thomas A. Jenkins called the proposed Social Security Act “compulsion of the rankest kind.”

Some wiser republicans followed them years later, most notably, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Writing in a letter to his brother Edgar on November 8th, 1954, Eisenhower said:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

And Eisenhower knew exactly why “they are stupid”. In 1950, 48% of America’s senior citizens lived below the poverty line. Today only 8% do. That’s because two thirds of retired Americans get the majority of their income from Social Security, and a third of retired Americans get virtually all their income from Social Security.

So here’s to the most efficient poverty-reduction government program in US history. Happy Birthday Social Security!

More Republican Hypocrisy.

Just days after RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman stated that the GOP has a “zero-tolerance” policy against voter fraud, intimidation, and suppression, the Republican Party spent more than $722,000 to defend a former Bush election official who has been accused to conspiring to keep Democrats from voting.

The RNC is flipping the legal bills for James Tobin, a former RNC official, who is charged with 4 felonies accusing him of conspiring with a state Republican operative and a Virginia based consultant to jam Democratic and labor union get-out-the-vote phone banks in November 2002.

Tobin’s two other associates have already plead guilty and federal prosecutors have secured testimony from them directly implicating Tobin. After his role in the 2002 scandal, Mehlman hired Tobin to be the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign chairman for New England.

Link Of The Day.

Here is our Link of the Day. This story literally dropped my jaw. I highly recommend you check it out.

The Government Position: Abu Ghraib Prison Photos Could Cause Riots.

Releasing pictures and videotapes of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison would aid al-Qaeda recruitment, weaken Afghanistan and Iraqi governments and incite riots against U.S. troops, according to General Richard B. Myers, the chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff. Myers went on to day that the release of the Abu Ghraib photos “pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces”, and that it was “probable that al-Qaida and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill.”

The arguments were submitted July 21st in a case that the American Civil Liberties Union seeks the release of 87 photographs and 4 videotapes taken at the prison. The ACLU is seeking the pictures as part of a October 2003 lawsuit, seeking information on the treatment of detainees in US custody.

In response to Myers, the ACLU submitted a declaration by a former military intelligence official, retired US Army Col. Michael E. Pheneger, who said Myers “mistakes propaganda for motivation.” Pheneger went on to say that insurgents average 70 attacks a day and that they “will continues regardless of whether the photos and tapes are released.”

More US Fraud In Iraq.

According to a report obtained by Knight-Ridder, Iraqi investigators have uncovered more cases of widespread fraud. More than $1 billion worth of weapons, arranged by middlemen, have allegedly reneged or taken massive kickbacks to arm Iraq’s military. The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit describes transactions suggesting that senior US appointed Iraqi officials in the Defense Ministry used three intermediary companies to hide the kickbacks they received on overpriced or outdated equipment. In July it emerged that $300 million in defense funds had been lost. Last week the Iraqi Defense Minister confirmed most of the audit board report’s findings, saying that at least $500 million of Iraqi money has disappeared.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

“One Of My Closest And Dearest Friends” Indicted.

Jack Abramoff, a key figure in the corruption investigation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has been indicted for fraud by a federal grand jury. The charges stem from a deal to buy casino boats in 2000. This adds to Abramoff’s troubles, as he is already under investigation on overcharging Indian tribes millions of dollars. The House Ethics Committee is reviewing the allegations that Abramoff paid for DeLay’s overseas travel expenses. Abramoff, whom DeLay called “one of my closest and dearest friends”, raised more than $100,000 for Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, Tom DeLay, and other Republican Congressmen.

Iraqi Federation Or Separation?

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a leading Shiite lawmaker in Iraq has called for a Shiite federal region, days before the Monday deadline for putting together an Iraqi constitution. The move could pave the way for a Shiite south and a Kurdish north.

US Quietly Backs Off Hostage Claims.

After weeks of accusations against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Iranian president, US intelligence reports are now emerging that show there is no evidence of the charge. The Bush administration had made allegations that Ahmadinejad was connected to the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran, which lead to the taking of American hostages. But The Washington Post is reporting US officials are now saying that the new Iranian president may have actually opposed the takeover. One US official said to The Washington Post, “There is relative certainty that he was not one of the actual captors.”

The allegations against Ahmadinejad were front page news for several days after his election, but The Post story was buried on page A9. Mix in a little WMD, and you got the perfect mix for déjà vu.

Bush Lies About Sheehan.

On Thursday Bush spoke publicly for the first time about Cindy Sheehan, whose antiwar protest outside his Crawford ranch is rapidly growing. Speaking to reporters Bush said, “This is America. She has a right to her position, and I thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now. And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so.”

That, of course, is a lie. Cindy’s message is “What is the ‘noble’ cause that her son, Casey, died for in Iraq?” When America’s Mom demands Bush come clean with the People on a war, Bush wallows further into the muck.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Carlyle’s Corruption.

Federal prosecutors investigating corruption in an Illinois state pension fund have subpoenaed records concerning more than $4 million in fees that the Carlyle Group is paying Robert Kjellander, the new Treasurer of the Republican National Committee. Kjellander, who headed Bush’s re-election campaign in three states, was paid $3 million by Carlyle to land contract for the group with the pension fund.

Cindy Sheehan Vigil Gains Congressional Support.

As Sheehan’s campaign gains momentum, 38 members of Congress has signed a letter asking Bush to meet with her. Yesterday, the Bush administration backed off their plans of arresting Cindy as a “national security threat”.

What’s Worse? Getting Nooky Or Giving Torture?

Republicans seem to have a very big issue with people getting some nooky on the side. That’s of course, only when it isn’t one of their own like Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh. Republicans have such a issue with it, that the army has taken the rare action of relieving Kevin Byrnes, a four-star general of his command for being accused of having an extramarital affair…with a civilian. To date, the Pentagon has refused to punish any senior military officers for the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Perhaps General Byrnes would have had better luck on the job if he had water-boarded this woman instead of riding her.

Military Families Join Cindy Sheehan In Crawford.

More military families have come to Crawford, Texas to join Cindy Sheehan in an ongoing vigil outside of Bush’s ranch where he is vacationing. Sheehan, whose son Casey, died last year in Iraq, has been joined by military families from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Sheehan said of Bush that “He doesn't have any children in harm's way. You know, if there are more soldiers and Marines killed today, it's not going to worry him if one of them is his daughter.”

The Bush Propaganda Ain’t Working No Mo’.

A new poll by USA Today has found that 57% of Americans believe the war in Iraq has made the United States more vulnerable to another terrorist attack. Only 34% said the war has made the country safer.