Friday, July 13, 2007

The view from the other side of the pond

From an editorial in the UK Guardian Unlimited:

Support for the surge is draining in Washington by the week. Republican members of Congress who once stood by Mr Bush are defecting. The Senate is in the middle of debating a series of motions aimed at constraining the president's hand as commander in chief. They may come to nothing, as not even the Democrat majority want to go for the jugular by voting to cut funding for Mr Bush's extra troops.

The defections and the motions all serve to isolate a president already in retreat. Mr Bush will do well to make it through on his current course to September, when General Petraeus is due to report back to Congress. Few in Iraq believe the situation can be turned around by then. The president's denial about the reality of Iraq stops any progress being made. It also stops policy makers developing a cogent plan for withdrawal. The president will sit out the unfolding disaster until his term of office expires. Insurgents and militias will sit out the unfolding disaster until the Americans leave. The one benchmark certain to be kept is that Iraqi civilians too poor to flee the country will keep on dying.

The Clinton - Edwards Plan: Eliminate Rival Candidates from Future Presidential Debates

I expected better from both the Clinton and the Edwards campaigns, but they were caught on a live mike conspiring to eliminate their opponents from future debates.

“We should try to have a more serious and a smaller group,” Edwards is heard to say into Clinton's ear.

Clinton agreed, according to both print reports and video footage. “We've got to cut the number. ... They're not serious.”

Dennis Kucinich may not have much of a shot at winning the Democratic nomination for president, but he is playing a vital role in these debates. He is forcing the front-runners to address important issues that they would rather avoid. Who else among these candidates is calling for impeachment? Repealing the Patriot Act? Universal health care? Gay rights (including the right to marry)?

It is not up to the front runners to decide who speaks to the American public. Maybe Clinton and Edwards have been in contact with the Bush Administration for too long. Some of that “we're better than you” attitude starting to rub off on 'em.

Watch it for yourself

[UPDATED] Icky Details Alert! McCain campaign chair peeped over handicapped stall seeking sex

It's amazing what he'll do for $20.

All the lurid (and downright icky!) details from the police report on Florida House member (and state co-chairman for Sen. John McCain's presidential bid) Bob Allen can be found at PageOneQ. Allen allegedly told a police officer moments before his arrest in a Florida park for soliciting sex, “How about across the bridge, it's quiet over there.”

Eeeeew. And I don't normally judge people on their looks, but, why do these guys always look so creepy like this. Like I said, icky.

UPDATE on “I'll do ya for 20 bucks”

I just love this detail: Rep. Bob Allen was the co-sponsor of a bill on increasing the penalties for “public lewdness.” Remember, he was arrested in a public park restroom.

The Clerk’s office for the Florida House of Representatives confirmed to News 13 that Rep. Bob Allen was a cosponsor of a bill increasing penalties for public “Lewdness and Indecent Exposure.”

According to legislative documents, the bill would have made it second degree felonies for public exposure and “unnatural and lascivious” acts with another person within 1,000 feet of public parks, as well as other public locations such as schools, child care centers, public beaches and community centers. It also would have made it easier for police to arrest someone for these crimes.

The money quote:

Lawyers for Allen said it is a big misunderstanding.

I'm sure it was, big fella.

House OKs plan to withdraw US troops

From Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - The Iraqi government is achieving only spotty military and political progress, the Bush administration conceded Thursday in an assessment that war critics quickly seized on as confirmation of their dire warnings. Within hours, the House voted to withdraw U.S. troops by spring.

The House measure passed 223-201 in the Democratic-controlled chamber despite a veto threat from President Bush, who has ruled out any change in war policy before September.

.... Even so, it appears the president's allies have the support to block a final Senate vote in a showdown expected next week.

And so the politics continues in Washington...

Read the rest here.

Have our leaders no shame?

I know that the US military has not been meeting its recruiting goals (small wonder, there), but a story on NBC last night left me appalled at how desperate they have become for warm bodies.

It's a story full of emotion and dedication and love. Which is exactly why it is so upsetting. It's also about the US Army taking advantage of someone who is grieving. Melissa Garvin and her husband Eddy were childhood sweethearts in a tough neighborhood in Boston. Eddy joined the Marines for “a better life.” They married last spring when Eddy was 20 and Melissa 19. You know what's coming. In October 2006 Eddy was killed in Anbar province while on combat operations.

Since then, Melissa has done a lot of things to honor her late husband's memory, such as setting up a scholarship in his memory and running fundraisers for the local Boy Scouts, which Eddy belonged to as a boy. An understandable and admirable way to deal with her grief.

Here's the stunner: Melissa, who's husband died just nine months ago, enlisted in the Army. And they took her right away. Her mother called the Army and pleaded with them not to accept her. They didn't listen.

Make no mistake, I admire Melissa's dedication to and love for her late husband — as well her courage to do this. And I believe that her decision to enlist was heartfelt and deep. In her own words: “I did it for many reasons,” she says. “One is because what helps me is knowing my husband did not suffer after talking to the medic that actually worked on him. I wanted to be able to do the same thing for other people. If I could go over there, which is my goal to go to Iraq, and I could help one family member not feel the pain I feel every day it will be worth it.”

All I'm saying is: she's 20 years old and her husband of 6 months was killed in Iraq just 9 months ago. Couldn't the Army have said, “Why don't you come back in 12 months?”

Is this what it's come to for America? Where are the Bush twins while this young widow goes marching off to war?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

McCain campaign chair arrested for sex in men's room

This is just getting sad now. McCain needs to give it up, I think. From PageOneQ:

A member of the Florida House of Representatives arrested yesterday on charges of soliciting a male undercover police officer is the co-Chairman of the Florida campaign of presidential hopeful John McCain, PageOneQ has learned.

Bob Allen (R) was appointed Florida co-Chairman of the McCain campaign in March. At the time, McCain said he was proud of the support he received from Allen and that Allen and his three co-chairs were "respected leaders in their communities and have real experience wrestling with the important issues of our day." McCain pledged to "turn to these leaders. Their counsel will be very helpful and their support invaluable."

Fox News Orlando reported the arrest yesterday evening. According to the report, Allen was charged with a second degree misdemeanor. Allen, who is married, was arrested in Titusville, Florida, approximately twenty-five miles east of the district he represents.

Allen has a strong conservative record. PageOneQ has obtained information regarding Allen's voting record and ratings by advocacy organizations. Between 2003 and 2006 Allen voted with the Christian Coalition over 90% of the time. Allen has been endorsed by the Florida Right to Life Committee and this year he voted to impose a 24-hour waiting period on third-trimester abortions.

Allen serves on the House Agriculture & Environment Appropriations Committee, Environmental Regulation Committee, State Infrastructure Council and the Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. He is chairman of the Spaceport & Technology Committee.
On his House web page, Allen's listed recreational interest is "water sports."

A message left seeking comment from McCain's campaign went unreturned by press time.

Additional information on Allen's record may be seen at Joe My God.

Happy Birthday, Thoreau!

Actually, there are a lot of birthdays today, Henry David Thoreau is a personal hero of mine so he gets top billing today.

Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817. He's best known as the author of Walden, and the essay "Civil Disobedience." Form Garrison Keiller on the Writer's Almanac:

He became the first member of his family to go to college. He went to Harvard, but didn't much care for the place. He didn't much care for school teaching either. He went to live with Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord and did odd jobs around the house and took care of the children. It was Emerson who encouraged Thoreau to write poetry and suggested that Thoreau keep a journal, both of which Thoreau continued to do for the rest of his life.

He was 27 years old when he built that little cabin on the edge of Walden Pond and moved in, in an attempt, he said, to "Simplify, simplify, simplify ... to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach."
Also with birthday today: George Eastman, Pablo Neruda, and Julius Caesar, to name but a few.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

[UPDATED] Just in: Republicans Kill Webb's Troop-Protection Amendment

From The Huffington Post:

Just moments ago, Senate Republicans succeeded in a filibuster in which they refused to end debate on Virginia Democrat Jim Webb's S. 2012, which would have placed strict limits on National Guard and reserve deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as mandating more downtime at home before active-duty combat troops are returned to battle.

The vote was 56-41 to end debate, with 60 votes needed to move to a full, up-or-down vote on the Webb measure. Once again, the GOP has been successful at destroying another Democratic attempt at helping service members and their families caught in the buzzsaw of the Bush administration's lies and incompetence.
So let me get this straight: The Senate was 4 votes shy of deciding whether to vote on this Amendment?! This was not even the actual vote on the amendment, but the vote on whether to vote. Yep. Your tax dollars at work folks.

And by the way, what was in S. 2012? Oh, just that active duty troops have at least the same time at home as the length of their previous tour of duty overseas. Is that so undreasonable to the Republicans that they cannot even agree to vote on the idea?

Here is the list the votes. See how your folks voted.

Cheney impeachment bill gains yet another co-sponsor

Congratulations to Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia! (A good guy, used to be my mayor when I lived in Alexandria, and we all knew then he was headed for bigger and better things.)

From The Raw Story:

On Tuesday, a northern Virginia Democrat decided to add his support to a growing movement in the House of Representatives to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.

A spokesman for Rep. Jim Moran told RAW STORY that the congressman had decided to co-sponsor the impeachment bill introduced in April by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. When he announced the bill, Kucinich, who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for president, said that he wouldn't push his fellow lawmakers to sign on. But the bill has gradually gained support since then, garnering at least 10 co-sponsors, including Moran, according to the Library of Congress. lists 12 co-sponsors to the impeach-Cheney bill.

Despite vocal protestations on and off-the-record by Democratic Congressional leaders, the movement to impeach Cheney or President Bush has begun to pick up steam. According to a recent poll, a majority of Americans favor the vice president's ouster from office, and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan announced that she would run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if the San Francisco Congresswoman does not introduce articles of impeachment within the next two weeks.

A group of progressives in California opened an "Impeachment Center" on Independence Day to serve as a clearinghouse for information and activism, while another group is planning to fly a pro-impeachment banner over AT&T Park in San Francisco before Tuesday's All Star Game.

Additionally, a rally is scheduled for July 23, which will include a march by demonstrators, including Sheehan, from Arlington National Cemetery to Rep. John Conyers' Capitol Hill office. Conyers, D-Mich., is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would consider Kucinich's impeachment bill before deciding if it should go to the full House.

Conyers said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC over the weekend that he hoped the rising public sentiment in favor of impeaching Bush and Cheney would lead the president to be more cooperative with congressional investigators he has so far continued to stonewall.

“I didn't put impeachment on the table,” Conyers said on This Week. “I was just telling you that 46% of the American people polled want Bush impeached.”

File this under: Ha ha ha!

A Senate appropriations panel chaired by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., refused to fund $4.8 million in the vice president’s budget until Cheney’s office complies with parts of an executive order governing its handling of classified information.

At issue is a requirement that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify. That information is to be provided to the Information Security Oversight Office at The National Archives.

Cheney’s office, with backing from the White House, argues that the offices of the president and vice president are exempt from the order because they are not executive branch ”agencies.”

The funding cut came as the appropriations panel approved 5-4 along party lines a measure funding White House operations, the Treasury Department and many smaller agencies.

Lying liars and the lies they tell

Talk about pants on fire! Yesterday President Bush told an outright lie to an invited audience at a town hall meeting in Cleveland. In his brief mention on the Iraq war, Bush said:

“The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims.”

How wrong is he? Jonathan Landay at McClatchy Newspapers has debunked Bush's statements thusly:

1) Prior To The War, Al Qaeda Was Not Operating In Iraq.
2) Even Now, Al Qaeda Is Not The Main Source Of Instability.

Think Progress has more, including video of the President's speech.

Your assignment for today

I need your help today.

Yesterday, I listened to Sen. Lieberman as he argued against the amendments to the Defense Authorization bill. (It is being debated in the Senate all week, and much of it is being carried on C-Span radio.)

Lieberman said something that really made me stop and think (aside from his apparent obsession with Iran, which was also quite startling). To me, it sounded like: “We don't have to listen to what the people of America are saying. We in Congress know what's right.”

Here's the exact quote:

Mr. President, I conclude with these words: Our responsibilities in this chamber ultimately do not allow us to be guided by our frustrations, or even by public opinion polls, when we respectfully believe that those public opinion polls do not reflect what is best for our nation.

We were elected to lead. We were elected to see beyond the next election, to do what is best for the next generation of Americans. We were elected to defend our beloved country, its security, and its values - all that is on the line in Iraq today.
So my question to each of you is this:

Did we elect them to lead us where they think best, or did we elect them to enact the public will?

I hope you will take a moment to ponder and then share your thoughts in the comments. I'm honestly conflicted on this notion and could use your insight. Remember, you can always post anonymously if you wish.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reservist fighting his fifth war call-up

This story from the Miami Herald makes the previous story about Bush even harder to stomach.

After serving in Afghanistan and three times in Iraq, an Army Reserve sergeant from Port St. Lucie recoiled at still another deployment.

Erik Botta believes he's done right by his country. Days after 9/11, as a young Army reservist, he volunteered to go to war. He was soon in Afghanistan.

The next year, he was sent out again, this time to Iraq, part of a Special Operations team.

In the next two years, he was sent to Iraq again. And again.

He thought he was done. But now, the Army wants Sgt. Botta one more time.

The 26-year-old Port St. Lucie man has been ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., on July 15 for his fifth deployment. And that has compelled Botta, a first-generation American who counts himself a quiet patriot, to do something he never thought he'd do: sue the Army.

Soldiers as props

A must read today is an essay over at The Huffington Post by Michael Shaw: Reading The Pictures: Bush's Mannequins. Shaw takes a look at the images coming out of the White House and wonders what they're trying to say, and has some interesting insight into what they really say about our Commander-in-Chief. Just how much does he understand about the lives of the men and women he sends into his misguided war?

... these later bedside portraits — although entirely managed, photographed and edited by the White House before being posted on the White House photo gallery — more often than not depict a perfunctory Commander-in-Chief alongside a soldier either too scared, traumatized or, perhaps, disgusted or disillusioned to make Bush look much good at all.

Group raises money to fly pro-impeachment banner at All-Star Game

This just in from The Raw Story:

Online activists raised enough money in two hours Monday afternoon to fly a banner encouraging the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over AT&T Park in San Francisco before Tuesday's baseball All Star Game.
Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, remember Osama bin Laden?

Osama bin Laden. He's the one who masterminded the 9/11 attacks. Remember him? We used to hear all about him. In 2005, CNN did a huge special report you can read here. The report refers back to a September 15, 2001, article that states, “The 19 men suspected of Tuesday's hijackings were either directly or indirectly linked to Osama bin Laden.”

Osama bin Laden is still on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, although his page there hasn't been updated since 2001. In reality, no one even knows if bin Laden is still alive. ABC news reports:

Earlier this spring, coalition forces in Afghanistan launched a major offensive in the Eastern Kunar province, a lawless frontier area where bin Laden was rumored to be hiding. Just a few days earlier, however, the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told Congress that he believed bin Laden to be in Pakistan. Many experts believe that bin Laden is able to travel somewhat freely between both countries along the border where tribal leaders are quite sympathetic to Al Qaeda. McConnell said just last week, that wherever they are, bin Laden and Zawahiri are still engaging their followers.
Which brings us back to Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an extremely complicated region of the world. Our leaders sent troops in with a grand yet simplistic plan to overtake the enemy (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). And in typical Bush Administration behavior, at same time playing down the actions, as if we don't really care so much about it. In March 2002, Bush was asked about bin Laden at press conference and replied:

And, again, I don't know where he is. I — I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.
So while we spend a lot of time right now focusing on bringing our troops home from Iraq, let's not forget that we have soldiers and marines in Afghanistan, also in harm's way because of the misguided policies of the Bush Administration. Today, a suicide bomber killed 17 people in Afghanistan. Look for the story, it's buried in the news. Also look for this from the Associated Press, because it didn't get much airtime, either:

As of Sunday, July 8, 2007, at least 342 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department.

When all the evidence points to Osama bin Laden as the leader of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and other terrorist acts against the US, it is unconscionable to throw American lives and money into a misguided war in Iraq. The Iraq war was initiated on the basis of lies and deceit by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Please join me in calling for their impeachment.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Time for a "Celebrity Break"

Ever wonder how the celebs would look in “real” life? TMZ has a gallery of stars, but here's one of my favorites:

Jennifer Aniston, Kansas City accountant and mother of two.

Honey, I think we'd better water the lawn

From Salt Lake City comes this nugget:

Woman, 70, clashes with police over “neglected” lawn

A 70-year-old woman was left bruised and bleeding following a clash with a police officer in western Utah state. The woman's offence? Failing to properly water her front lawn.

Continue reading.

If you still don't believe it's all about the oil, read this

From AlterNet:

Iraqi Oil Workers' Union Founder: U.S.-Backed Oil Law Is "Robbery"

The proposed oil law facing the Iraqi cabinet would allow Western oil companies to take about 50% of all production as their share, an "obvious robbery of the Iraqi oil," says oil workers union heavy.

US lawmakers have demanded Iraq advance the measure before Congress approves additional war funding, but critics say the law would leave Iraq's oil open to foreign takeover. A parliamentary boycott by Sunni and Shia factions is expected to slow the bill's passage.

Last month, the Iraqi oil workers union went on a strike to protest the law.

We don't hear about any of this this in the mainstream media, and we certainly don't hear the politicians mentioning this. Why not? Well, who in the Bush Administration has connections to the oil industry. Uh, just about everyone.

Read the entire story here.

Update on "The Oh-Really Factor"

Although I don't really want to give Bill O'Reilly's recent sensationalized story about a national underground network of lesbians — who carry pink pistols and indoctrinate young girls into their lifestyle — any more airtime, I do want to let you all know about the Southern Poverty Law Center's investigation on this issue.

The SPLC issued a statement entitled "The Oh-Really Factor" in which they talk to some real detectives and law enforcement officials. All agreed that there is no "underground network" or epidemic, and that the facts referenced in O'Reilly's piece are suspicious at best, and completely false in many instances:

Sgt. Brett Parson, a member and former commander of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, also questioned Wheeler's numbers. "We have 150 to 175 total gangs in the D.C. area, and out of those only nine where the predominance of members are female," he said. "You simply can't make the jump that they are lesbians. I think it is fair to talk about violence and female gangs. But to sensationalize or marginalize a community by making a statement like that seems irresponsible."
And what you should know about "Fox Crime News Analyst" Rod Wheeler:

According to Wheeler's personal website, he is a member of Jericho City of Praise, a conservative Christian megachurch in Landover, Md., whose leadership publicly advocates against equal rights for gays and lesbians.
On another incident mentioned by the outraged O'Reilly:
Similarly, O'Reilly's introductory mention of a Tennessee lesbian gang called Gays Taking Over that is "involved in raping young girls" appears to have been based solely on a highly dubious Feb. 28 television report from WPTY-TV, an ABC affiliate in Memphis, Tenn. Featuring dramatic "reenactments" of high school bathroom rape scenes shot in grainy black-and-white footage, the lengthy segment's vaguely salacious claims about local high school girls being raped and "sodomized" with "sex toys bought on the Internet" was based almost entirely on the lurid musings of a single Shelby County gang officer.
I hope this will be the last we hear of this story. It's ridiculous, but it's important to address. O'Reilly makes his living by taking news "stories" — factual or not — and sensationalizing them. This particular story had the worst of hate and discrimination toward gays and lesbians.

According to Rashad Robinson, the senior director of media programs for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD):

"This type of reporting creates a climate of homophobia and fear and perpetuates dangerous stereotypes of gay people and definitely helps feed into a climate of anti-gay discrimination and violence, which is a true national epidemic, but not one you're likely to see reported with such zeal by Bill O'Reilly."

Clay Aiken Involved in Airplane Spat

From the Associated Press comes this urgent news story. Um, shouldn't the FBI be busy doing other things (like making sure I don't bring more than my alloted ounces of shampoo onboard)?

TULSA, Okla. — Singer Clay Aiken apparently got into a dispute with a woman during a flight to Tulsa, drawing some scrutiny from FBI agents but no charges, a newspaper reported.

The 2003 "American Idol" runner-up was on the Saturday morning Continental Airlines flight for a evening show, and concertgoers said afterward that Aiken joked on-stage about being beaten up by a girl earlier in the day.

FBI Special Agent Gary Johnson told the Tulsa World there was a dispute between a male passenger and a woman on the flight. He said the man was a former "American Idol" contestant but did not give his name.

Johnson said the dispute was over the male passenger's foot resting on the woman's armrest. He said there was an allegation the woman gave the male passenger a "minor shove" during the argument.

"At that point the flight crew was able to resolve the situation," Johnson said.

Tulsa Airport Authority spokeswoman Alexis Higgins said the passengers were held until FBI agents arrived to interview them.

No injuries were reported and the disturbance did not interfere with the flight of the aircraft, Johnson said. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to file charges, he said.

Telephone calls and e-mails from The Associated Press to Aiken's publicist and manager in Los Angeles were not returned Sunday.
Emphasis mine. WTF?

The majority of Americans support the impeachment of Vice President Cheney

According to a poll released Friday by the American Research Group, 54% of adults favor proceeding with impeachment proceedings against Cheney

In case you have any doubts about the basis for impeaching Cheney (!) please watch the following video clip from Robert Greenwald. It includes an excellent collection of Cheney's lies and deceit.

Crooks and Liars has more. You can also read about Rep. Dennis Kucinich's bill for impeachment (H.R. 333) at his site.

Join me in turning up the heat on impeaching Cheney

My Representative is a freshman Democrat who won on the same promises as many of the new Democrats in Congress. He said he would hold the Bush Administration accountable, and bring about change in Washington. Well, the freshmen seem to have forgotten why we voted them in. I sent my Congressman, John Sarbanes, the following letter, and I encourage you to contact your Representatives, too.

Representative John Sarbanes
U.S. House of Representatives
426 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-0001

Subject: Cheney Committed Treason, Impeach Him

Dear Representative Sarbanes,

Testimony from the Scooter Libby trial has made it perfectly clear that Libby did not act on his own in "outing" covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. Rather, he acted at the direction of his boss, Vice President Cheney, when he spoke with multiple reporters about Plame. Disclosing a CIA agent's identity — or directing others to do so — is a crime of treason against our nation; Vice President Cheney must be impeached and removed from office immediately.

In addition to this crime, Mr. Cheney:

- Repeatedly lied to the nation about the potential threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, provoking the invasion and occupation of that country, with catastrophic results for our nation;

- Continues to lie and distort intelligence regarding links between Iraq and al Qaeda; when such links simply did not exist before our invasion; and

- Continues to threaten aggression against Iran, in violation of the United Nations charter and in a manner that destabilizes the region and harms our national security.
All of these actions certainly meet the constitutional test of high crimes and misdemeanors. So I ask that you join your colleagues in co-sponsoring H. Res. 333, Articles of Impeachment Against Dick Cheney. I look forward to your response to my letter on this most serious of topics.