...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Thursday, March 24, 2005
      ( 10:32 PM )
In Remembrance

Last week, this week and next week are some very important anniversaries. They will be lost amidst politics and pressures, forgotten behind sensation, quiet in a time of loudmouths. But they are important to me, so I thought I would take this opportunity at the end of Holy Week to remember.

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
--Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador

In Remembrance of those who stood in the way of Injustice:

Attorney Rosemary Nelson – Assasinated by a car bomb a block from her home, March 15, 1999 Lurgan, Northern Ireland (my mentor, former boss and hero)

Student Rachel Corrie – Killed by an Israeli tank while protecting a Palestinian home, March 16, 2003 Gaza

Archbishop Oscar Romero – Assasinated while giving mass, March 24, 1980 El Salvador

Reverend Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Hanged in Nazi death camp, April 9, 1945 Flossenburg

Rest in Peace, Saints of Justice. We remember, we live in the shadow of your examples, and we try to walk just a little in your footsteps.

| -- permanent link

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
      ( 10:24 AM )
Bully Nation

In this era of "values" becoming foremost in our cultural discourse, it is interesting to me to note that our society continues to sink further into the bully method of relating to others. Of course, led by this government, our entire country is now securely esconced in the pattern of bullying other countries. Congressional members bully those who won't go along with the leadership. Interest groups bully voters through false and manipulative advertising. Kids bully and intimidate other kids. And while US corporations continue to gain more constitutional rights while US citizens lose them, the corporations lead the way in bullying. Among the best at this skill is Monsanto, the bio/genetic-engineering giant. Not only are several countries around the world trying their best to resist Monsanto's bullying, US Farmers find themselves falling victim to Monsanto's bullying.

The Center for Food Safety released a report about the American family farms that are now being pursued by Monsanto for using their seeds in non-contractual ways (like saving it and sowing it the next season).

In general, Monsanto’s efforts to prosecute farmers can be divided into three stages: investigations of farmers, out-of-court settlements, and litigation against farmers Monsanto believes are in breach of contract or engaged in patent infringement. Monsanto itself admits to aggressively investigating farmers it suspects of transgressions, and evidence suggests the numbers reach into the thousands. According to farmers interviewed by CFS, these thousands of investigations frequently lead to the second stage: Monsanto pressuring the farmer to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum and other terms agreed to in confidential settlements.

For some farmers, Monsanto’s investigation of them will lead to the courtroom. To date, Monsanto has filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers. The lawsuits involve 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or farm companies, and have been directed at farmers residing in half of the states in the U.S. The odds are clearly stacked against the farmer: Monsanto has an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.

Some fun facts about Monsanto's stalking and bullying of farmers:

500: the number of US farmers under investigation annually by Monsanto

$15,253,602: the total recorded judgments granted to Monsanto for farmer lawsuits

$3,052,800: The largest recorded judment in favor of Monsanto as a result of a farmer lawsuit

8 months: the prison sentence given to a Tennessee farmer convicted of violating an agreement with Monsanto

| -- permanent link

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
      ( 8:32 AM )

Extra! Extra! David Brooks actually expends the energy to write an entire column about the corruption and graft in the Republican leadership and their lobbyist cronies! Who knew this day would come? I guess even Brooks can't stand it anymore.

Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!

The kinds of immoral actions these men and their buddies have taken the last few years is not only dispicable, it is a shame on us all for not keeping accountable the people who are supposed to represent us as citizens of a country that is fast losing its grasp on democracy.

| -- permanent link

      ( 7:49 AM )
Weapons of Mass Deception

This administration is so good at this, it's no wonder that no one has caught on very quickly - especially the corporate-driven press. Do you think that George Bush would have boot-scooted his arse back to DC for a midnight bill signing (which, by the way, he could have easily signed in Texas - he's the president, for God's sake) if it were a bill to grant immediate and full health benefits to all the people in the country who are dying because they can't afford hospital care, or all the children who are getting sick and will die soon because they can't get enough food, or all the veterans who are returning home to little to no benefits or income for their families? Do you think that Congress would have called an all-night session to make sure that elderly folks don't have to choose between prescription medicine and a stocked refrigerator, or to pass a bill that ensures all schools as much money to support all of America's children's education as the Pentagon gets to spend on bombs and land mines?

A look through the newspaper this morning tells me that no one is concerned about the continuing free fall of the dollar, the expanding gap of the deficit (budget AND trade), the massive debt of Americans and our country - and of course a president that wants to borrow even MORE to dismantle the one working social insurance program we have. Let's not mention the House of Representatives and its Majority Leader being an ethical and legal mockery of all that it is supposed to stand for. With the fantastic state our country is in, no wonder the Bushies are so energetic to dance and shout and make glitzy moves to grant one couple rights that none of the rest of us have. Smacking of tyrany and ignoring the Constitution, the Republican Congressional leaders and the President have made a joke of the judicial system, exploited one family's struggle, and successfully distracted the entire country from their continuing failure to lead us into a more sustainable democracy and economy.

Oh, and did anyone notice that kids are dead and injured from the biggest school shooting since Columbine? (Of course, it happened on a Reservation, so what does the government care about poor Indian kids - that would be a massive break with history!)

Instead, the corruption-ridden Republican leadership in Congress rush to solidify their religious right base and gain political "capital" for the 2006 elections (where they will no doubt run campaign ads that say something to the effect of "Do you really want to vote for someone who wanted to KILL Terri Schiavo?"), and have made a mockery of their role in the government and of the very private struggle one family is dealing with. That the Schindlers have allowed themselves to be come political tools is sad, but what is worse is that our leaders have been willng to use them for their own political ends.

When will America's eyes open?

UPDATE: Oh, how could I forget to mention the fact that the media upheaval and Congress' unconstitutional actions last weekend conveniently pushed out of the headlines the fact that it was the 2nd anniversary of our bombing and invasion of Iraq. The rest of the world hasn't forgotten. But we're still wrapped up in ourselves and closing our eyes to the things we should be paying attention to.

| -- permanent link

Friday, March 18, 2005
      ( 7:04 AM )
Helping Big Brother

Not that Big Brother. But sort of. Whenever he can't seem to get his judges to do what he wants, Jeb runs to little brother George and begs the Federal Government to step into Florida judicial issues. The sacred role of the state and its rights as opposed to the Feds taking over gets pushed aside whenever Jeb feels he must supercede the Florida courts and stand against horrible injustice, like his brother losing the election in 2000.... or interfering in a private family affair like a brain-dead woman being kept alive by people who seem to be more about themselves than about her.

We've talked before about Terri Shaivo, and that fact that court after court reviews the medical evidence and finds that it is the right of her former husband to have made the decision ages ago to pull the plug on a woman who will never have brain activity again. Well, now Congress has decided that it has the right to intervene in this situation.

In a last-ditch attempt to stop the court-ordered removal, a House committee on Capitol Hill here decided early Friday morning to start an investigation into Schiavo's case and issue subpoenas ordering doctors and hospice administrators not to remove her feeding tubes and to keep her alive until that investigation was complete.

The effort by the House Government Reform Committee (news - web sites) came after lawmakers in both Washington and Tallahassee failed in attempts to pass legislation to keep her husband, Michael Schiavo, from having the tube pulled despite heavy lobbying by Schiavo's parents.

"This inquiry should give hope to Terri, her parents and friends and the millions of people throughout the world who are praying for her safety," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Government Reform chairman Tom Davis said in a joint statement. "This fight is not over."

And then little bro stepped in:

At the White House, President Bush left little doubt where he stands.

"The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues," he said in a statement. "Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern."

Sure, they favor life, except when it comes to providing the needs and healthcare for children and old people, until that means giving a living wage to families who work hard just to get food on the table, until that means making sure veterans get the care they need after fighting for this country. Evidently, for the Bush family and their Republican friends, the "culture of life" extends only to brain dead people and fetuses. They are such incredible hypocrites.

If you haven't done it yet, MAKE A LIVING WILL NOW. Spare your family and say exactly what your wishes are should you end up on life support. It's a responsibility we all should take. The technology is good, but when it gets in the way, it's important our families know our exact wishes.

| -- permanent link

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
      ( 9:28 AM )
Partners in Crime

It's not new news that the Bush Administration has allowed Halliburton steal the underpants right off Lady Justice who sits atop the Capital building. But now we find that the Administration conspired with Halliburton to cover up an audit of Halliburton that among other things showed that Halliburton stole $100 million of taxpayer money from the US military.

But wait! That's not all! It turns out Halliburton's subsidiary KBR charged the Pentagon $27 MILLION to ship $82,100 worth of cooking and heating fuel.

In the latest revelation about the company's oft-criticized performance in Iraq, a Pentagon audit report disclosed Monday showed Halliburton subsidiary KBR spent $82,100 to buy liquefied petroleum gas, better-known as LPG, in Kuwait and then 335 times that number to transport the fuel into violence-ridden Iraq.

Pentagon auditors combing through the company's books were mystified by this charge.

"It is illogical that it would cost $27,514,833 to deliver $82,100 in LPG fuel," officials from the Defense Contract Audit Agency noted in the report.

But no one except Cong. Waxman seems to feel it's wrong that our own Executive Branch is assisting this corporation to steal from US Taxpayers. Business as usual, I suppose.

(thanks to maru for the links)

| -- permanent link

      ( 9:22 AM )
Our Beloved Education System

People keep complaining about Standards and failing schools and no money - yet their only answer seems to be pushing more and more standardized testing and cramming more students into classrooms and trying to pour massive amounts of content into their brains without much focus anymore on critical thinking skills, decision making, and understanding major concepts. Case in point, I'm taking over for a history teaching in three weeks, and because of how the history classes are organized, I will have to teach the last 3 decades of US History in 8 weeks to a class of 30 juniors. Right now I'm planning to teach about 4 or 5 basic themes and trace them through these decades to where they reach contemporary significance in these kids' lives. I'm thinking Terrorism (9/11 happened when these kids were freshmen, so the post 9/11 world has been all they've known as teenagers), US Foreign Policy decisions (incl. end of the cold war), Technology advancements, Health/Science (AIDS, etc), and Race/Poverty issues...but there is also cultural changes, social/political movements, the War on Drugs, I could go on.

Any suggestions?

| -- permanent link

Monday, March 14, 2005
      ( 9:28 AM )
The Eve of Destruction

I don't really know why Bush and his cronies want to kill or hurt all the most vulnerable people in our society - except that it somehow gets more for them when they retire into private life. But I don't really see how - if we start imprisoning people because they can't pay their credit card bills, that costs society more money. If the only way people can get medical care is to go to the emergency room, then that costs society more money. If people can't support a family on the minimum wage, then they will seek other ways to do that, which can most certainly cost society. When there is no retirement insurance left for old folks, that will cost society. What is going on? The Republican leadership in Congress refused a simple minimum wage raise - something that hasn't happened since 1997, except that they raised their OWN salaries SIX TIMES since 1998. Joe Conason nails it in
his most recent Salon column:

Watching the behavior of Republican politicians during the past several days, we are learning the true meaning of "compassionate conservatism." Not the public-relations version promoted by George W. Bush and his party propaganda apparatus, but the core philosophy enunciated by the deep thinkers of the religious right.

With legislative maneuvering designed to punish and deprive the least fortunate among us -- working people at the lower end of the American economy and their children -- the Republicans don't seem to be upholding the caring Christian ideals often proclaimed by the President. They're pushing down wages, snatching away tax credits and food stamps, slashing Medicaid and children's health insurance, and removing bankruptcy protections from families that suffer medical catastrophes. But they're extending tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, and making sure that those bankruptcy laws still protect the richest deadbeats.

In short, they are stealing bread from the mouths of the poor and stuffing cake into the maws of the wealthy.

The bankruptcy bill that 18 Democrats also voted for - shame on them - will further hurt working people who are trying to survive. The Social Security plan (not that there IS a plan - Bush has yet to show us any details) does not address those who are surviving on SS disability or survivor benefits, and of course implies that SS is an investment, which it's not - it is an insurance plan, and only a fraction of the retirement insurance Americans can depend on.

I don't understand why the Dems are not standing in the way of ALL of these horrible bills. Of course they don't have the majority and can't win, but isn't THAT the time to take a stand? What can they lose standing for the people against the big business power structure? The whole "we need to pick our fights" crap has got to go. EVERY fight is their fight - they are the opposition party. I can't believe that even Harry Reid voted for that bankruptcy bill. Dems must take a stand on EVERY issue for the people - the more the Bushies screw their red state voters (more red states have bankruptcies, more depend on minimum wages, etc). the more we need to stand as a new option. Instead of rolling over, why aren't the Senate and Congressional Dems coming up with NEW plans? Where is OUR Social Security reform plan - by presenting a basic plan to adjust the things that are wrong with it without the privatization crap, we would go miles further by giving Americans another way to look at it. Why aren't Dems doing this? Why are Dems voting WITH the Republicans to hurt Americans? I don't get it.

And the Republicans with their God-given mandate aren't stopping here:

Meanwhile, the House Republicans are not hesitating to trample upon those who are already beaten down. In their version of the 2006 federal budget, Medicaid would lose as much as $20 billion, at a time when state governments already are under severe pressure in sustaining the program. This will inevitably mean depriving poor people of health coverage. Those cuts will also diminish the states' capacity to enroll low-income kids in the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Their parents shouldn't expect too much assistance from the government at tax time, either. The Republican budget decrees reductions in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, a highly successful effort to supplement the income of the working poor that was even supported by the late President Reagan.

None of that money will be wasted, of course. Every dollar taken from poor and working families pays for the preservation of tax breaks on dividends and capital gains for investors, most of them earning no less than $200,000 a year.

The savage litany could go on, and no doubt will.

Appalling as these policies may be, however, they are in no sense inconsistent with the cosmology of the religious right, which melds laissez-faire economics with fundamentalist orthodoxy. Underlying these conservative attacks on the poor by professing Christians is a worldview that dates back to earlier centuries, when the church defended privilege and declared that the wealthy and powerful were God's elect. From that perspective, minimum wages, subsidized health care, and other such laws and regulations only corrupt the poor, who must earn charity by their temporal and spiritual submission.

If these ideas sound a bit old-fashioned -- or even primitive -- be assured that they represent the latest thinking on the evangelical far right, which is where "compassionate conservatism" originated. Guided by the most literal interpretation of Old Testament law, the preachers who have influenced the President are determined to undermine every modern protection enjoyed by poor and working-class Americans. Let's hope they draw the line at bringing back public whippings and debt slavery.

This is fast becoming "One Nation, under Mammon, with Liberty and Justice for the Rich." We are quickly returning to the pre-regulation days before the Progressive Era, when working people will be more and more exploited, when there will be no social insurance or benefits for the poor or elderly, when the CEOs of corporations make 400 times that of their workers, when none of us can even afford our basic health care needs or even food and shelter needs. The Monopoly Corporate Powermongers of the past are re-emerging to little protest - from either Senate Dems or the people who voted for Bush. When will working people in the states that voted these guys in wake up? They are screwing you! And they will till you die unless you fight back and demand the progressive ideals that have already become endangered: the 40 hour work week, the weekend, no child labor, health insurance, pensions, food stamps, social security, clean air to breathe and water to drink, food you can afford to buy... these should not be luxuries. They are basic and fundamental rights. When will Americans demand these rights be returned?

| -- permanent link

      ( 9:26 AM )
Sorry about the Absence

Blogger was being obstinate last week to me, wouldn't let me get to my creation page - I wasn't gone on purpose!

| -- permanent link

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
      ( 9:14 AM )
Agenda Guessing

I often confound myself trying to come up with logical reasons why Bush makes the decisions he does. I don't know why I keep thinking there is an actual reason that makes sense behind his choices. It is perhaps my psyche trying to Keep Hope Alive.

Anyway, this recent nomination of John Bolton to be UN Ambassador is the more bizarre of these decisions. Even if Bush wants to flip off the UN and make his ongoing claim that "we don't need anyone's permission to bomb the hell out of anyone we want to," still - at a time when he is obviously considering further moves into the Middle East quagmire (Iran), he strategically needs allies and money and resources. Yet by nominating the worst possible person to represent us at the UN, he is totally putting at risk even the possibility we might be able to get some of that help from UN members.

This is the guy we're sending to not only represent us but who will have to ask for help when the crap once again hits the fan:

Bolton drew fire from Democrats in 1994 when he said at a Federalist Society forum that "there is no such thing as the United Nations."

"If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," he said.

Several officials from U.N. Security Council member states expressed astonishment that Bush would name someone they believed had a known antipathy toward the United Nations, according to a Reuters report.

But he's a Bush confidant, one of the top neocons around. So some in the UN think maybe this is a direct line to Bush. When will the UN stop cowtowing? I'm not sure. Probably when they finally figure out they should probably move their offices to Geneva and just get the hell out here.

So the latest in another line of just really awful nominations:

- Porter Goss as head of CIA - the guy who hates the CIA

- John Negroponte as head of combined intelligence - the guy who used US intelligence to empower the mass murders and disappearances in Central America in the 80's

- Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State - the person who dissed all our allies for 4 years, lied to the American public, was completely ineffective as a Security Advisor, not to mention head of the Iraq War (remember she was in charge of that?).

- Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General (supposedly the "People's Attorney") - the guy who told Bush he was above the law and that we could torture people if we wanted to

- and of course, he wants Antonin Scalia to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court - the guy who not only has enormous conflicts of interest in his relationship with the Executive Branch, but also believes that the government's power derives from God. Hello?

Just a few. Obviously there is a neocon power grab at play and the agenda is all about the PNAC agenda. But isn't there a point where you have to actually look at reality and make some choices that are actually GOOD for the American people? Oh, excuse me, I forgot who I was dealing with here. Is there anyone left who actually still believes in a Constitutional Democracy... Constitutional Supremacy? Anyone? Anyone?

| -- permanent link

      ( 8:54 AM )
Letting Go Is So Hard...

We progressives and liberals have had to listen to a chorus of "Get Over It" from rethugs since 2000. But while we may still have some issues with the illegitimate taking of office by Bush in 2000 (5 years ago), it looks like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a much older beef he needs to get off his chest:

Senator Lindsey Graham has ignited a new furor in Washington over comments he made over the weekend referring to his state’s difficulty in “getting over” President Abraham Lincoln, with apparent reference to Lincoln’s role in the civil war and the freeing of American slaves, RAW STORY has learned.

“We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina,” Senator Graham told a Lincoln Day gathering in Tennessee Saturday. “It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things.”

According to a Knoxville News Sentinel article published Sunday, Graham entertained an amicable crowd and joked about his predecessor in the Senate, former Sen. Strom Thurmond.

It really sucks when you have to swallow that whole ending-slavery thing that happened 150 years ago. Give them time, they're still in their grieving process.

| -- permanent link

Thursday, March 03, 2005
      ( 7:47 AM )

Not a good one.

| -- permanent link

      ( 7:17 AM )
Creeping Fascism

Americans seem to think that there is simply no way that our democracy could be replaced by some form of soft fascism or oligarchy, and yet they do nothing to sustain that democracy and the pillars that support it. One of those pillars is the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

Yet leaders of this country declare publicly that they believe our government should be intertwined with religion - and not just any religion, their religion. The rise of fundamentalism around the world is harkening a new era of intolerance and war. In our country, it's the rise of fundamental Christianity that is impacting the sustainability of our democracy. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the display of the Ten Commandements in government buildings.

Mathew Staver told the court that they shouldn't look at whether Kentucky officials intended to endorse religion by hanging the displays; instead they should accept that the Ten Commandments played an influential role in secular law and are therefore appropriate.

Justice David Souter said that would invite counties to pursue religious endorsement while simply calling it an acknowledgment of history.

"Should anyone believe these displays would be there for any other reason than religious display of the Commandments?" Souter asked. "The court doesn't say you can involve the state in religion so long as you hide the ball well enough."

The court's decision, expected by July, would clarify church and state boundaries that are increasingly the subject of a heated national debate. The Ten Commandments have become a symbol of the struggle over whether government should have a religious or secular foundation. At its base, the argument is about the country's founding, its history and direction.

The thing is, our democracy and Constitution were not based on the Ten Commandments or any religious law - there is no mention of the Ten Commandments at the Philadelphia Convention, there is no mention of them in the Federalist Papers or any other documents or arguments made at the time when our government was being formed. In fact, the main leaders of the time were Deists and they believed they were using poltiical philosophies and principles of Elightenment and Reason as they formed the basic foundations for our Democracy.

There is a blatant hypocrisy in implying that the Ten Commandments are a secular homage to our founders' intentions. the first five of the Commandments are solely about God! There is nothing about governance in those rules. The next are moral laws, ones that are repeated in virtually every religion and society since the beginning of time. In fact, in one of the very first treaties signed by George Washington (The Treaty of Tripoli), he declares on behalf of the fledgling country that indeed, it is NOT a Christian country:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

There is a creeping fascism in this country and if we are not on guard, it will replace our democracy before we know it. I'm sorry, but something as blatantly religious as the Ten Commandments do not belong on court walls, in state houses, or anywhere that taxpayer dollars support as enacting or standing on behalf of the US Government. The irony is that the religious fundamentalists don't realize that by breaking down the wall between church and state, they endanger their religion, not empower it.

| -- permanent link