Friday, January 11, 2008
How do you punish the principal global purveyor of fundamentalist Islam, someone who backed the Taliban and continues to harshly suppress political freedoms, women and religious minorities?
If you’re President Bush, you reward him with a state visit, of course!
During his current Middle East trip, Bush is looking in on a rogues’ gallery of U.S. allies, from Bahrain and Egypt to the United Arab Emirates and Israel. But King Abdullah’s Saudi Arabia occupies the pride of place.
“The government places strict limits on freedom of association, assembly, and expression,” writes Human Rights Watch in its roundup of conditions in the kingdom in 2006. “Arbitrary detention, mistreatment and torture of detainees, restrictions on freedom of movement, and lack of official accountability remain serious concerns. Saudi women continue to face serious obstacles to their participation in society.”
All this means that the United States is basically willing to overlook the Saudi regime’s noxious export of Wahhabi fundamentalism around the world and its appalling record at home. A few years ago, Bush accorded King Abdullah the rare honor of hosting him at his Crawford ranch, and is now furthering his friendship by dropping in on his buddy.
What’s a few human rights violations between friends?
Read the entire story here.
And then there's this headline: "Saudi detains activist ahead of Bush visit"
RIYADH • Saudi Arabia has detained another reform activist, a colleague said yesterday, in the latest of a series of measures against government critics ahead of a visit by US President George W Bush.Oh yeah, there he is 'aspreadin' democracy wherever he goes ....
Mohammed Al Bijadi was detained by state security police in the northern town of Buraida on Wednesday, Matruk Al Faleh said.
Bijadi was previously held for three months over his role in two protests by women over the indefinite detention of their husbands, Faleh said.
Critics say the authorities have exploited their battle with militants to crackdown on democracy campaigners, who face a revolving door of arrest, release and re-arrest.
From The Guardian Unlimited:
Deborah Kerr in "The King and I" recommended whistling a happy tune when afraid, but now fearful Americans can sing along to their favourite tracks while shooting anyone who causes them consternation with a 50,000-volt electric charge.My advice: don't piss off your neighbor.
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which is expected to receive more than 140,000 visitors this week, is no stranger to bizarre gadgets but the iTaser - as it has been dubbed - must rank as one of the oddest. It combines a Taser stun gun, used by 12,000 law enforcement and security forces, including the Metropolitan police, with an MP3 player and earphones.The company says the new device is particularly aimed at women - with red, pink and even leopard print designs intended to make carrying a stun gun fashionable. A spokesman in Las Vegas said the inclusion of a music player would encourage purchases by women who want a form of self defence while out jogging, but would otherwise choose to take an iPod or other MP3 player with them instead of a weapon.
Half a million Tasers are already in use globally despite warnings from Amnesty International that they have been linked to more than 70 deaths in the US. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation a further 18 people have died after being stunned by a Taser in Canada.
The British public are banned from using Tasers but they are legal in 43 US states where Taser International has already sold 160,000 to private citizens. The American government does not consider Tasers to be firearms.
This week, America's attention was consumed with the New Hampshire debates. I was right there with everyone else, glued to the t.v. After the results were in, we all became obsessed with parsing the numbers and arguing in sometimes heated debates among ourselves over what it all means for the upcoming presidential election.
While we were debating politics this past week, 10 American soldiers died in Iraq. Three names have not yet been released by the Department of Defense, pending notification of their next of kin. The others are listed below.
While the pundits and politicians squabble and vie for your attention, please take a moment to honor the memory of these men who died carrying out the policies of the politicians. Please click on their names to learn more about their lives and the families they leave behind.
Dozier, Jonathan Kilian
Hart, David J.
Merlo, Ivan E.
Pannier, Phillip J.
Hanson, Timothy R.
They died in Diyala Province, Ba'qubah, Samarra, Balad, and Salman Pak. They died far away from their families and friends, while George Bush wines and dines his way across the Mid East, his only agenda the rescuing of his failed legacy as President.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Missing from the headlines these days (the pundits and the politicians don't find it "sexy" anymore I guess), this year marks the 6th anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at Guantánamo. Yet hundreds of people remain in legal limbo there, away from family, jobs, and homes. From the ACLU website:
After hundreds of detentions and two Supreme Court decisions rejecting the administration's detention policies at Gitmo, the legal status of the detainees there remains unresolved and the fight continues to end unlawful detention and the denial of due process.
The ACLU has continued to hold government leadership accountable by filing Freedom of Information Act requests for documents that reveal systemic torture to prisoners held in U.S. custody. So far, more than 100,000 pages of government documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees.
In addition, the ACLU and Human Rights First have charged that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees, and filed a complaint in federal court in January 2006 on behalf of nine men subjected to torture and abuse under Rumsfeld's command.
A tear runs down President Bush's cheek as he takes part in a Medal of Honor Ceremony for Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
I was searching teh Internets for pictures of "crying politicians" and came across this great posting from last February. H/T to fubar at Needlenose:
What is it with Republicans and crying? Weren't they supposed to be the tough ones? Instead, we keep hearing stories about them crying.
Remember Martha-Ann Alito running out of the room at the confirmation hearing of Justice Samuel Alito:
Funny thing is that they blamed the heartless Democrats for making her cry, when it was Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who was doing all the talking. Go figure.
Then there was Randy "Duke" Cunningham:
Fubar's got lots more. Check it out here.
The exact number of casualties varied, but state-run news agency the Associated Press of Pakistan said 22 police officers and one passerby were killed.
Reports of another explosion triggered a dash toward a supposed second blast site, but those reports proved unfounded, said Aftab Cheema, senior superintendent of Lahore police.
The suicide blast occurred in the city's commercial district, moments before lawyers were set to begin a rally outside the high court in the eastern Pakistani city to protest the rule of President Pervez Musharraf.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Bush Administration has apparently moved on from any interest in Pakistan and believes it can now create some kind of "legacy" in the Mid East. Not to say that this Administration was ever really interested in helping strengthen the democracy in Pakistan. Last fall when thousands of Pakistani lawyers -- yes lawyers -- were holding peaceful protests, Bush did nothing to support them. From the New York Times:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 5 — Angry protests by thousands of lawyers in Lahore and other cities on Monday demonstrated the first organized resistance to the emergency rule imposed by the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. But the abrupt arrests of many of them threatened to weaken their challenge.
The Musharraf government’s resolve to silence its fiercest opponents was evident in the strength of the crackdown by baton-wielding police officers who pummeled lawyers and then hauled them by the legs and arms into police wagons in Lahore.
Frantic for public displays of diplomacy, the Bush Administration could not negotiate its way out of a paper bag. It's all about fluff, photo ops, for them. Expect no substance and no progress from thier latest dog and pony show.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
— Maya Angelou
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.Read the rest of her excellent piece in the NYT here.
That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).
I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.
What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.
What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.
What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.
What we saw, ladies and gentlemen, was a catastrophic media failure. The voters of New Hampshire, notoriously -- fiercely -- independent, were not swayed by the corporate mainstream media. Of course, there will be more polls, more analysis of the raw data about who voted for whom. So far, it looks like Clinton "won back" the women's vote that Obama gained in Iowa, and also that the legions of college students who were showing up at Obama rallies never actually made it to the polls to vote. (You know it's risky to depend on 19 year-olds, who -- bless their hearts -- are not known as the most reliable of demographics. Am I right, parents?) It probably didn't help that some schools are on semester break this week.
My favorite theory so far in the discrepancy between the polls and the results is that the voters of New Hampshire messed with the pollsters. I think that's the ultimate power grab by the people. No one should know who the winner will be until each and every voter has had the opportunity to got into the voting booth and make their choice. It sounds like a lot of New Hampshire voters waited until just that moment to decide.
And lastly, I still wonder about the Implicit Association Test , which I wrote about a week or so ago. A lot of people have said that they "like" Obama, but when it came time to make the final vote, was there a subconscious divergence? I don't know. I suppose the media will be scrambling to save face, so look for more theories and predictions to come.
New Hampshire: Live Free or Die!
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Today's memorial for a Parkville family killed in a drunken driving crash in Ohio was protested by a group that was recently ordered to pay millions for protesting the Westminster funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq.To learn more about the vile, hateful people of the Westboro Baptist Church, who hide behind the protection of free speech, read more here.
Three members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, known for protests at military funerals, were demonstrating about a block from St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, the site of the service.
The demonstrators said the deaths are God's retaliation against the community for a recent $11 million jury award against the Kansas group. A federal jury in Baltimore made the award in October to Albert Snyder, of York, Pa., who sued after the group protested his son's military funeral in Maryland.
Demonstrator Fred Phelps said the community is going to "pay the price" for persecuting his group for preaching the word of God.
Members of the Griffin family, a mother and four children, died in the Dec. 30 crash in Ohio. Family members said 8-year-old Sydney Griffin has steadily improved and left the hospital yesterday.
Michael Gagnon, of Adrian, Mich., is scheduled for a preliminary hearing today on five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. Police said his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 280 in Toledo and slammed his pickup truck into the family's minivan.
The greater the number of cosponsors, the more pressure on undecided legislators. Legislators will only cosponsor if they hear from their constituents. So it's up to you and me to make sure our legislators know how important this legislation is to the security and well being of LGBT families in Maryland.
Last fall, I had some simple surgery done at one of the many great hospitals in Baltimore. Although in the end everything turned out fine and I'm in great health today, there was a complication during surgery that required me to stay an extra night in the hospital, and to spend one night in the ICU. Fortunately, my surgeon has known both me and my partner for years, and was very compassionate during this stressful time. We know that we are extremely fortunate. In another hospital, with another doctor, my partner could have been completely excluded from my care. As it was, she waited for 6 hours while I was in surgery. Can you imagine if she had been told she could not see me in ICU because she was not "family"?
Without passage of this important legislation, that just as easily could have happened. A marriage license brings with it hundreds of state protections that same-sex couples in Maryland are denied. Here a just a few:
• Ability to extend health insurance benefits to a spouseWith the Court of Appeals failing to end this discrimination, the struggle to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples now turns to our elected officials in Annapolis.
• Right to hospital visitation with and to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse
• Added protection for children
• Ability to inherit property without incurring tax penalties
• Ability to name your spouse as primary beneficiary of life insurance without him/her incurring tax penalties
• Right to make burial decisions
• Right to sue for wrongful death
Please join me in contacting our state legislators to ask them to support the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. A civil marriage is a civil right. Please click here to read more about the Act, and to send a message to your state legislators in Annapolis.
Presidential history tells us of two family connections before 2000. John Quincy Adams was president as well as his father, John Adams. And Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, both presidents, though William Henry only lasted 31 days.
So when I hear about "if we elect Hillary, we'll have a dynasty," I wonder where these people were in 2000. Regardless of who you support, if dynasties are an issue, bring it up when you have the son of a president running.
As it turns out, having George W. so close on the heels of George H.W. has been beyond disastrous.
Some may vote for Hillary because she is Bill's wife. And some may not vote for her because she is Bill's wife. That is the reality. But it really needs to be about her, not him.
The agenda for any incoming president should be for the people, and moving forward, not settling old scores. Watching Bush ignore great things Bill Clinton did was insulting, and ultimately, costly to our country.
If Hillary or anyone else wants to be president on their own merits, they deserve that shot. But it should never be about revenge.
This morning, for example. I had a physical last week, and this morning I finally got around to going for the bloodwork tests that my doctor recommended. I had to fast overnight, so I planned to go when the clinic up the road from my house opened at 7:30 am. I didn't have an appointment, but I thought that at 7:30 on a Tuesday morning, it shouldn't be too too busy, and hopefully the wait for walk-ins wouldn't be bad.
Ha! Although the clinic's doors opened at 7:30, the technicians didn't start showing up until 7:50. That meant they were behind before they even began! By the time the techs started calling names from the sign-in sheet, people with appointments started showing up. They, understandably, got seen first. But it was extremely frustrating to sit and wait for an hour when there was hardly anyone there when I first arrived.
On top of the wait time, of course, was the fact that I had fasted. So low blood sugar, and -- this cannot be overemphasized -- no coffee, was putting me in a pretty sour mood. The t.v. was blaring some health program with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (the one who reported falsely about Michael Moore's film "Sicko"), with some inane story about seeing a dermatologist to treat your split ends. Then the tech called my name and I went to the window, only to have her say "Oh. Sorry. Actually there's someone before you."
Too weak from lack of food and tired from lack of caffeine to argue, my shoulders simply dropped and I turned and went back to my seat.
But suddenly on the television there appeared the Dali Lama in all his serenity. The story was about dealing with stress, and his words were manna from heaven for my tired soul. He said, there is stress that is caused by physical problems with the body, but there is stress that is caused by a problem in the "thinking process." There is no cause for the stress other than me, which means that I can control the stress. And remembering that I have the power to do that was in itself a "stress reliever."
With some deep breaths, and a promise to buy myself a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich when this was all done, I made it through until my name was called -- for real this time. And man, was that the best cup of coffee I've had in a long, long, time. I really thought about that coffee, and it was good.
Monday, January 7, 2008
So you probably learned a lot about how the Iowa caucuses work, (and the fact that the Republican and Democratic ones run differently). Now we gear up for the New Hampshire primary tomorrow, January 8. It's hard to avoid hearing the latest polls, but in case you didn't know, most of the current polls show Barack Obama with a double-digit lead ahead of Hillary Clinton. But don't write off Clinton just yet. She already has more than twice the number of delegates as Obama:
Number of Delegates as of January 3:
If you're making that Scooby Doo sound now (huuunhh?), you've forgotten this is just the nomination process. CNN has a nice summary of how it works:
• There are currently 4,049 total delegates to the Democratic National Convention, including 3,253 pledged delegates and 796 superdelegates. The total number of delegate votes needed to win the nomination is 2,025.The delegate count for the Republicans is much closer:
• Superdelegates in the Democratic Party are typically members of the Democratic National Committee, elected officials like senators or governors, or party leaders. They do not have to indicate a candidate preference and do not have to compete for their position. If a superdelegate dies or is unable to participate at the convention, alternates do not replace that delegate, which would reduce the total delegates number and the "magic number" needed to clinch the nomination.
• There are currently 2,380 total delegates to the Republican National Convention, including 1,917 pledged delegates and 463 unpledged delegates. The total number of delegate votes needed to win the nomination is 1,191.And that's today's fix for all you political junkies out there. Perhaps another day we'll take on the Electoral College ....
• Unpledged delegates in the Republican Party do not have to indicate a candidate preference, but a majority are elected just like pledged delegates. Of the 463 unpledged delegates, 123 are RNC members who become delegates automatically.
I watched the debates on ABC the other night, and was impressed with each of the 4 Democratic candidates at different times during the evening. But one topic I wished Charlie Gibson had pursued further as the discussion of lobbyists. With Obama's message of "change" comes his claim that he is untainted by the Washington lobbyists. But I have news for everyone: No one who is as high profile as any of the presidential candidates -- from either party -- is without contact with lobbyists. Lobbyists are a part of life at the Capitol, and they should be. You have probably benefited from some lobbyists work at some point in your life.
You see, lobbyists serve a purpose. Can you take time off work to go meet with your Senators and Representatives to tell them you want them to pass a stronger energy bill? Higher transportation safety laws? Stronger ethics regulations in the federal government? Increased aid for the poor and elderly? Stop the war in Iraq? Chances are, you don't have the time to, as the term goes, lobby for the issues you care about. That's why the lobbyists do it for you.
But yes, they also do it for the big corporations, too. And yes, that is a huge problem, because those lobbyists have more money and influence behind them. The real issue with lobbyists is not their existence, but the imbalance of their level of influence. The drug lobbyists can afford to fly your Senator to a golf trip out west and wine and dine him/her. The local group working to provide drugs to the poor, can barely scrape together bus fare to Washington DC for their own lobbyists. That is the issue, not the existence of the lobbyists themselves.
So, I find it somewhat disingenuous for Obama to claim he is fighting against the most influential lobbyists, when he has those very lobbyists working on his campaign -- oh, no, they're former lobbyists. They are not lobbying while working for Obama. (But won't they make some great connections when they go back to lobbying after the presidential elections?)
From The Hill:
Three political aides on Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) payroll were registered lobbyists for dozens of corporations, including Wal-Mart, British Petroleum and Lockheed Martin, while they received payments from his campaign, according to public documents.And, no , it's not just Obama:
Jen Psaki, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, said no member of Obama’s staff has lobbied since taking a full-time role with his campaign.
While many lobbyists are planning to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire after Christmas to stump for their favored candidates, others have taken more committed roles. At least 40 current and former lobbyists have received payments from top-tier presidential campaigns, according to public records that show K Street’s infiltration in the race and offer hints about who may wield influence in the next administration.
Leaving a job temporarily to join a presidential campaign can enhance careers in the influence industry, said veteran lobbyists.
“I can remember my finest hour was taking two months’ leave in 1964 to help the Johnson campaign,” said Tom Quinn, a lobbyist at Venable LLP who temporarily left the Treasury Department to work for former President Lyndon Johnson’s reelection bid. “It puts you on the checklist as having been part of the team. You get to know the players, the people who get to run the government.
“Often the people you meet on the campaign wind up running the government later on,” said Quinn. “That makes a big difference — it gives you a feel of what they can do.”Teal Baker, who received her first payment from Obama’s campaign on June 13, represented 18 corporations between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year while working as a lobbyist for Podesta Group, a K Street powerhouse. Clients paid Podesta Group over $2 million during those six months for Baker and her colleagues to represent them, according to documents filed with the Senate Office of Public Records.
I guess what bothers me most about Obama's rhetoric on change is that his words do not match his reality. The reality is a young politician who is part of the same machine as everyone else. To call for change is wonderful. To live it is even better.
One member of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-Ill.) campaign staff was a registered lobbyist during the first half of 2007. Rachel Kelly represented the Great American Insurance Company from January to June. The contract paid less than $10,000.
A Clinton spokesman said Kelly stopped lobbying before joining the campaign.
Jonathan Mantz, Clinton’s finance director, was a registered lobbyist for the Podesta Group in 2005.
Two members of former Sen. John Edwards’s (D-N.C.) staff were registered as lobbyists for the first six months of this year. Adam Jentleson lobbied on behalf of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank headed by John Podesta, the White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration. Matthew Morrison registered as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers in 2007.
Colleen Murray, a spokeswoman for Edwards, said both aides have ceased lobbying.
Employers often keep in touch with former colleagues who depart to work for presidential candidates. And more often than not, they are eager to see their protégés return.
“I talk to them all time,” said Tony Podesta, who as the head of Podesta Group worked with Baker and Mantz. “Either one of them is welcome to return.“They’re both terrific,” he said. “I understand why Clinton wanted Jonathan and Obama wanted Teal.”
Obama's co-chair in New Hampshire, Jim Demers, is a state based lobbyist for the pharmaceutical and financial services industries amongst others. Michael Bauer, a member of Obama's LGBT steering committee, is a state based lobbyist in Chicago. And in Nevada, Obama's campaign also has three state based lobbyists who play senior advising roles in August last year.
From NBC/NJ’s Aswini Anburajan and NBC’s Mark Hudspeth:
Obama's campaign proudly announced today the endorsement of former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges who will join his campaign as a national co-chair.
Hodges is the founder of Hodges Consulting Group, a state-based lobbying firm he started in 2003. The firm is a subsidiary of Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman, L.L.P, a law firm that represents clients in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
This morning's Washington Post has an editorial by George McGovern entitled "Why I Believe Bush Must Go: Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse." An excerpt:
Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.Read the entire editorial here.
From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.
Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.
I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.
There has never been a day in my adult life when I would not have sacrificed that life to save the United States from genuine danger, such as the ones we faced when I served as a bomber pilot in World War II. We must be a great nation because from time to time, we make gigantic blunders, but so far, we have survived and recovered.