Friday, June 29, 2007

London "Car bomb" has media in hysterics ... again

It saddens me when I hear a report like the one this morning about police finding a "car bomb" in London and averting "carnage" and "massive loss of life." It saddens me because my first reaction is not "Oh no!" but, "Are you sure?"

I just don't trust the mainstream media to report stories like this in proportion to the facts. CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, all the major papers, report of potentially devastating loss of life being narrowly averted. It is only upon greater research on the part of the reader that one discovers that the "bomb" consisted of 2 canisters of ... are you ready for this? ... propane gas. Yes, I have 2 such canisters on my patio at this very moment. Even I know that this would create big fireball, and not much else. CNN also reported that the "bomb" was "packed with nails." Only now we find out that nails were scattered on the floor of the car. Again, doesn't seem to me that this justified the description "packed."

The Guardian UK has a much more levelheaded report on this story.

Please don't get me wrong: this could have been extremely dangerous, and people could have been injured or killed. But initial media reports of this story were sensationalized. Just like the stories about potential hijackers in London a few months ago, and the Fort Dix "terror suspects." The frenzy dies down after the initial reports, and buried deep in the news are the facts that have developed: in neither of those two cases were the "terror plots" anywhere near the chance of becoming a reality.

When the media sensationalizes these events, it does nothing but feed the power grabbers Bush and Cheney. Let's calm down a little until we have the facts on this.

Close Gitmo Now!

A letter signed by 145 House Democrats calls on President Bush to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility immediately. The letter also seeks the restoration of habeas corpus rights to these detainees. Can we please all try to remember back to Civics 101 when we learned about this oh-so-basic right of ours in America? It is one of the most fundamental rights of our democracy, for which men and women are dying every day!

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) is leading this effort. His letter to President Bush states:
"The closure of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay would represent a positive first step toward restoring our international reputation as the leader of democracy and individual rights."
There are so many scandals and illegalities occurring at the moment, it's hard to keep things prioritized. I remember Stephen Colbert one time explaining the Bush Administration's method of handling bad publicity by using Russian nesting dolls. As soon as one problem gets too nasty, open the doll to reveal (and distract with) another problem. Illegal wiretapping? Open the doll to reveal Katrina! Getting a little too hot again? Open a doll to reveal ... Valerie Plame!

You get the idea. But don't let everything distract you from this fact: Innocent people are being held at Guantanamo Bay, with no charges against them. The writ of habeas corpus is included in the Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 9:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Our soldiers are fighting in Iraq to defend the ideals of democracy and individual freedom included in the Constitution. Holding these men (some for many years) without charging them does nothing for the safety of the United States and does everything for our enemies who proclaim us hypocrites.

More on the letter, and a list of the 145 Democrats and 1 Republican who signed it, is at The Raw Story. If your Congressperson is on the list, please thank them. If not, please let them know you want every person being held in US custody to receive the basic rights guaranteed in our Constitution.

Friday morning poetry break

The Globe Theater burned to the ground on on this day in 1613. In case you've forgotten your high school English class, the Globe was for many years the most popular theater in London. It was also the theater where many of Shakespeare's greatest plays were performed.

Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

— William Shakespeare

If you'd like to read more, please take a trip over to the The Writer's Almanac.

Not worth impeaching?

From BuzzFlash:

On a Thursday phone call with Bloggers (BuzzFlash was on), Nancy Pelosi reconfirmed that her eyes are on winning the White House for the Dems in 2008 rather than pursuing impeachment.

She sincerely believes that an incremental series of revelations of GOP illegalities will sink the Republicans. The challenge to that viewpoint is that Cheney and Bush still have the power to precipitate an international crisis to get Americans to "rally 'round the flag."

Secondly, if they are not held accountable for their flagrantly illegal behavior, how can you expect anyone charged in our court system to respect the rule of law if the President and Vice President of the United States violate it with such impunity?

It's also hard to maintain control of Congress when you have a 14-21% approval rating, largely because the public perceives the Dems as weak and unable to end the war or rein in the power of a rogue, lawless Executive branch.
Yikes. Are we really stuck in such a political quagmire that even though the Democrats hold a majority in Congress, there is no momentum to bring Bush and Cheney to justice for their many, many illegal acts? He "only" has 2 years left in office? Folks, that's a lot of death and destruction at the hands of these two.

Show your support

According to Politico, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are poised to turn up the heat this summer on the Bush Administration. They're expected to announce today a coordinated effort throughout July to force the Administration to end the war in Iraq, through a series of votes.

ThinkProgress also has coverage of this emerging story:

Reid has already publicly declared that Senate Democrats will offer four Iraq-related amendments to the upcoming 2008 Defense authorization bill, including a proposal by Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to set a firm timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring.

Pelosi is planning to announce that the House will also vote on a bill setting a new withdrawal timetable of April 1, 2008, although the details of the proposal were still up in the air at press time, according to Democratic sources. The House will consider this proposal as a freestanding bill, said the sources.

Pelosi is also planning to force a vote on a proposal by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to repeal the 2002 use-of-force resolution for Iraq. […]

In addition, House Democrats will push proposals to prohibit the creation of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, as well as a “readiness” initiative similar to that authored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

This means it's time for us to let our elected officials know we support them on these topics. We saw how they backed off when Bush threatened veto for the last war funding bill. Let them know you want them to stand up to Bush and Dr. Strangelove, aka Dick Cheney.

Call and tell your Senators and Representatives and tell them you support them on this tough political fight to end the war in Iraq.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards for President

Can we start a petition or something? In the last 48 hours, she has made more sense than all of the other candidates combined. In case you missed it, briefly she has:
  • Stated clearly and unequivocally that she supports gay marriage.

  • Stood up to that harpie Ann Coulter by calling in to the farce that is Hardball, demanding that Coulter stop spewing hate and lies.

  • Laughed in his face when NBC reporter David Gregory tried to spin Coulter's words away into some "meaningful" points.
I mean, I just love this woman. Maybe she speaks the truth because she is facing cancer and is the only one out there on the stump who understands the importance of truth and justice. Maybe she can teach us all a lesson.

Damn, I wish she'd run.

How Dick dodged the draft

With the recent series of articles by The Washington Post revealing the extent to which Dick Cheney has been running this country, it seems appropriate to revisit an old but relevent topic. When the Vietnam war was "surging," what exactly was young, healthy, intelligent Dick doing?

As we know from an earlier interview he gave to the Post, he stated that he did not fight because "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service." I'm sure today's servicemen and women also have "other priorities." But they serve when called. Dick found an interesting way to get out of his service. From Slate:
  • Aug. 29, 1964: Dick and Lynne Cheney marry.
  • May 19, 1965: The Selective Service classifies Dick Cheney 1-A, "available immediately for military service."
  • July 28, 1965: President Lyndon Johnson says draft calls will be doubled.
  • Oct. 26, 1965: The Selective Service declares that married men without children, who were previously exempted from the draft, will now be called up. Married men with children remain exempt.
  • Jan. 19, 1966: The Selective Service reclassifies Dick Cheney 3-A, "deferred from military service because service would cause hardship upon his family," because his wife is pregnant with their first child.
  • July 28, 1966: Elizabeth Cheney is born.
  • Jan. 30, 1967: Dick Cheney turns 26 and therefore becomes ineligible for the draft.

Dedicated students of obstetrics will observe that Elizabeth Cheney's birth date falls precisely nine months and two days after the Selective Service publicly revoked its policy of not drafting childless husbands. This would seem to indicate that the Cheneys, though doubtless planning to have children sometime, were seized with an untamable passion the moment Dick Cheney became vulnerable to the Vietnam draft. And acted on it.

Carpe diem!

Who says government policy can't affect human behavior?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Do you love the kid or not?

It's time for Dick and Lynne to prove whether they love their new grandson or not.

Bush is now threatening to veto the DC Appropriations bill because it no longer includes gay-bashing language that the GOP has put in there for years. The language banned the DC government from using federal funds to in any way support domestic partner benefits, civil unions and the like (not that the DC government was using federal funds, but it was a nice chance for the GOP to gay bash anyway). Now that the Democrats have dropped the GOP gay-bashing language from the bill, George Bush is threatening a veto.

First off, has Bush learned nothing from the fact that his vice president has a daughter, Mary Cheney, who is a lesbian, and who just had a child - in DC - with her lesbian partner, Heather Poe? What Bush is saying is that should Heather end up in a hospital in DC, dying, Mary won't be allowed to see her because she's not "family." What Bush is saying is that if Mary and Heather's baby, Samuel David Cheney, ends up in a DC hospital with a serious illness (and forget him if he ends up in Virginia) only one parent (we're not sure which) will be allowed to visit because both clearly aren't the biological parent of their baby. (And it's interesting that Mary and Heather, who live in Virginia, chose to come to DC to have their baby - a city in which they have far more rights as a lesbian couple than they have in Virginia. Yet now those rights are in danger of being taken away by the man Mary helped get elected. Way to go, mom.)

American support for the war in Iraq continues to drop

The latest poll by CNN shows that 67 percent of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. The number of Americans who support the war in Iraq is at a record low of 30 percent. With this clear majority, how can our elected officials continue to blatantly ignore the mandate of the people?

Other interesting numbers from the CNN poll:
  • 63 % of Americans are ready to withdraw at least some troops from Iraq

  • 38 % of Republicans now saying they oppose the war

  • 54 % of Americans do not believe U.S. action in Iraq is morally justified

Two prominent Republican senators have now woken up to these figures. Senator Richard Lugar stated "In my judgment, the costs and risk of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved."

The other senator, George Voinovich of Ohio, wrote this week that "We must begin to develop a comprehensive plan for our country's gradual military disengagement from Iraq and a corresponding increase in responsibility to the Iraqi government and its regional neighbors."

These comments are a move in the right direction, but clearly Congress continues to need to hear from the American people on this issue. Please continue to contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them to bring out troops home.

Best Headline of the Day:

Free Speech Takes a Big Hit in "Bong" Case

From Mother Jones blog. Check it out.

Great Scot!

Not that you will hear much about it in the American news media, but the Guardian (UK) has an excellent collection of information about Gordon Brown, the new British Prime Minister.

With Tony Blair, President Bush's favorite lap dog, now gone, we wait to see what unfolds for U.S. - British relations. Brown has spent a great deal of time in the U.S., and knows many American politicians personally. However, he's a big burly Scotsman, and not likely to put up with Bush's crrrrraaaap. This is no scottie terrier!

Cheney fouling the very air that you breathe

The Washington Post continues its excellent series on the covert manipulations of Dick Cheney. In today's chapter, we learn that he is the real reason that former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman resigned — and not the standard line of "I want to spend more time with my family." (Is that ever the truth?)

In the battle of energy business interests vs. the interests of the environment, Cheney and his cronies rule. According to Whitman, Cheney called her at one point and asked "Why was the agency dragging its feet on easing pollution rules for aging power and oil refinery plants?"

The article continues:

Whitman protested, warning Cheney that the administration had to proceed cautiously. It was August 2001, just seven months into the first term. We need to "document this according to the books," she said she told him, "so we don't look like we are ramrodding something through. Because it's going to court."

But the vice president's main concern was getting it done fast, she said, and "doing it in a way that didn't hamper industry."

At issue was a provision of the Clean Air Act known as the New Source Review, which requires older plants that belch millions of tons of smog and soot each year to install modern pollution controls when they are refurbished in a way that increases emissions.

Industry officials complained to the White House that even when they had merely performed routine maintenance and repairs, the Clinton administration hit them with violations and multimillion-dollar lawsuits. Cheney's energy task force ordered the EPA to reconsider the rule.

A federal appeals court has since found that the rule change violated the Clean Air Act. In their ruling, the judges said that the administration had redefined the law in a way that could be valid "only in a Humpty-Dumpty world."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Playing politics with the lives of children

An update from Crooks and Liars on that story last week about the deplorable conditions at the Iraqi orphanage, and the US soldiers who rescued the children there. As if the initial story was not upsetting enough, it now turns out that the U.S. military officials did not want the story released, and tried to stonewall the story.

CBS Reporter Lara Logan is a saint, and we are all lucky to have her in Iraq reporting for us. The Iraqi and US officials knew about this story for a week before Logan broke it. Then they tried to say the Iraqis discovered and saved the boys at the orphanage. Logan pursued the truth (hey mainstream media: there's an idea! pursue the truth!) with photographs from the event showing American soldiers rescuing the boys, with no Iraqis in sight. (The photograph above which includes an Iraqii soldier was taken later, when the boys were transported to a Baghdad hospital.)

According to Logan, "I was given a lot of support from the unit, a lot of support from the division. But as it started to go higher up the ranks, to the more political thinkers on the American side, I hit a wall."

The politics of this is shameful. According to CNN, "in the middle of the week the Iraqi labor minister put out a statement and said, 'We totally reject the tricks they use to manipulate and distort facts and show the Americans as the humanitarian party.'"

Logan continues that, "Prime Minister Maliki ordered all the people involved in this incident at the orphanage to be arrested. And yet, the minister of labor stood at that press conference where he made those remarks and had the manager of the orphanage next to him, standing there to publicly defend and justify his actions."

Guantanamo Bay Prison: Part Two: The Prisoners Speak

From the depths of human depravity comes this shining light: A collection of poems written by the detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Prison, entitled Poems from Guantanamo: the Detainees Speak. The collection will be published later this year by the University of Iowa Press.

Because of the stark conditions at the facility, many of the poems were written on pieces of Styrofoam cup and smuggled out. According to The Independent, "The thoughts of the inmates are considered so potentially dangerous by the US military that they are not even trusted with pen and paper. The only exception is an occasional 10-minute period when they are allowed to write to their families via the International Red Cross. Even then the words they write are heavily censored."

Humiliated In The Shackles
By Sami al Hajj

When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.

Sami al Haj, a Sudanese national, was a journalist covering the war in Afghanistan for al-Jazeera television, when, in 2001, he was arrested, stripped of his passport and press card, and handed over to US forces. He was tortured at both Bagram air base and Kandahar before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The US military says he was a financial courier for Chechen rebels and that he assisted al-Qa'ida, but has offered no evidence to support the claims.

Guantanamo Bay Prison: Part One

The Washington Post is running an excellent series on Vice President Dick Cheney's abuse of power. The latest article in the series details his efforts to bypass the Geneva Convention and allow torture at Guantanamo Bay. According to the article,

"Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning."

Cheney has fought fiercely to stay above the law. He claims that the Office of the Vice President is not a part of the Executive Branch. Apparently Cheney has forgotten that he works for us, the government does not work for him.

A new "rocktastic" world record

Can there ever be too much "Smoke on the Water"? Mmmmm, perhaps. But the Germans don't think so: 1,800 of them played along to set a new world record on Saturday.