Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dodd Speaks About FISA Hold on Floor of U.S. Senate

Mr. President, for 6 years the President has demonstrated time and again that he doesn't respect the role of Congress, nor does he respect the rule of law. It is the latter point that I want to address this morning because it is the rule of law which draws us all together, regardless of politics, ideology, or party. It is the rule of law, not of men, which we swear to uphold when we take the oath of office in this Chamber, as Members do in the other Chamber, and certainly as the President does on January 20 every 4 years.

For 6 years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority. A case in point is the current direction this body appears to be headed in as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this administration have been made in the name of national security. The Bush administration has relentlessly focused our Nation's resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill-conceived war has broken our military, squandered our resources, and emboldened our enemies.

The President's wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq, made our Nation less secure, and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are far less secure, far more vulnerable, and certainly far more isolated in the world today.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib, where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane, humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them.

Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the Nation by aggressively prosecuting prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, these individuals have instead become the symbol of our weakened moral standing in the world. Who would have ever imagined it?

Consider the secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture.

Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney's Office, who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than laws he was sworn to uphold as Attorney General.

Consider the Military Commissions Act, a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence.

It denies individuals the right to counsel.

It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has ever known, the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.

Warrantless wiretapping, torture, the list goes on.

Each of these policies share two things in common.

First, they have severely weakened our ability to prosecute the global war on terrorism, if for no other reason than they have made it harder, if not impossible, to build the kind of international support and cooperation we absolutely need to succeed in our efforts against stateless terrorism.

And second, each has only been possible because the U.S. Congress has not been able to stop the President in his unprecedented expansion of executive power; although I might add, some in this body have certainly tried.

Whether these policies were explicitly authorized is beside the point. In every instance, Congress has been unable to hold this administration to account for violating the rule of law and our Constitution. In each instance, Republicans in the Congress have prevented this body from telling this administration that a state of war is not a blank check.

And those are not my words. Those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Today, it appears that we are prepared to consider the proposed renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that whatever form it eventually takes will almost certainly permit the Bush administration to broadly eavesdrop on American citizens.

Legislation, as currently drafted, that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped this administration violate the civil liberties of Americans and the law of this Nation.

While it may be true that the proposed legislation is an improvement over existing law, it remains fundamentally flawed because it fails to protect the privacy rights of Americans or hold the Executive or the private sector accountable if they choose to ignore the law.

That is why I will not stand on the floor of the Senate and be silent about the direction we are about to take.

It is time to say: No more.

No more trampling on our Constitution.

No more excusing those who violate the rule of law.

These are fundamental, basic, eternal principles. They have been around, some of them, for as long as the Magna Carta.

They are enduring.

What they are not is temporary.

And what we do not do in a time where our country is at risk is abandon them.

My father served as executive trial counsel at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals in 1945 and 1946. What America accomplished at those historic trials was not a foregone conclusion. It took courage.

When Joseph Stalin and even a leader as great and noble as Winston Churchill wanted to simply execute the Nazi leaders, we didn't back down in this country from our belief that these men, as terrible as they were -- some of the worst violators in the court of history of mankind -- ought to have a trial. We did not give in to vengeance.

As then, the issue before us today is the same.

Does America stand for all that is still right with our world. Or do we retreat in fear?

Do we stand for justice that secures America, or do we act out of vengeance that weakens us?

I am well aware this issue is seen as political. I believe Democrats were elected to help strengthen our Nation, elected to help restore our standing in the world. I believe we were elected to ensure that this Nation adheres to the rule of law and to stop the administration's assault on our Constitution.

But the rule of law is not the province of any one political party. It is the province of each and every one of us as American citizens, on our watch and our generation, to make sure we are safer because of its inviolable provisions.

Mr. President, I know this bill has not been reported out of the Judiciary Committee yet.

But I am here today because if I have learned anything in my 26 years in this body, particularly over the last 7 years, it is that if you wait until the end to voice your concerns, you will have waited too long. That is why I have written the majority leader informing him that I will object to any effort to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.

I hope my colleague, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy is able to remove this language from the FISA bill. Pat Leahy is as strong a defender of the Constitution as any Member of this body.

But if he is unable to do so, I am prepared to filibuster this bill.

President Bush is right about one thing: The debate is about security but not in the way he imagines it.

He believes we have to give up certain rights to be safe.

I believe the choice between moral authority and security is a false choice. I believe it is precisely when you stand up and protect your rights that you become stronger, not weaker, as a nation.

The damage that was done to our country on 9/11 was stunning. It changed the world forever.

But when you start diminishing our rights as a people, you compound that tragedy. You cannot protect America in the long run if you fail to protect our Constitution. It is that simple.

History will likely judge this President harshly for his war of choice and for fighting it with a disregard for our most cherished principles.

But history is about tomorrow. We must act today and stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Mr. President, this is the moment. At long last, let us rise up to it.

I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort.

Senator Chris Dodd
Congressional website

Words of Wisdom from a Small Town Newspaper


It took common people - farmers, brewers, printers, silversmiths - to write the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights some 218 years ago. And it looks as if it's up to the common people to try to defend those principles.

Somebody has to step up here.

The Bush administration mocks each provision of the Bill of Rights that protects private citizens from their government, and likewise pushes past constitutional constraints that protect other branches of government from the presidency.

Meanwhile, most federal courts equivocate their way to approve most of these actions, and Congress, even though in control of the opposition party, dithers and compromises away our basic rights for fear of accusations of being soft on terror. The media, meanwhile, fawns and yawns its way through this immense power grab, distracted by the search for another faux pas by Britney Spears or startling new evidence about who killed Princess Diana.

The good news comes out of 12 jurors in a Dallas courtroom on Monday. The jury sat and listened for two months to the testimony of federal agents, Israeli intelligence officers, wiretaps, videotapes and saw thousands of documents produced by government prosecutors. They worked their way through 197 counts of charges against a charitable fund raising organization called the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Muslim organization that says it directs funds to the construction of hospitals and providing food for the poor in Palestine.

More in the Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader ...

My take on it in an earlier post.

Time again for Another Rousing Round of Write Your Own Caption

Feel free to post them in the comments.

The Family Values Party Strikes Again, Part 2

McConnell marks funds for contractor
By John Cheves

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing $25 million in earmarked federal funds for a British defense contractor that is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and suspected by American diplomats of a "longstanding, widespread pattern of bribery allegations."

McConnell tucked money for three weapons projects for BAE Systems into the defense appropriations bill, which the Senate approved Oct. 3. The Defense Department failed to include the money in its own budget request, which required McConnell to intercede, said BAE spokeswoman Susan Lenover.

More following the click ...

My comment: It seem the Republicans are always more than willing to provide the best government that money can buy.

Blast from the Past

Over 500 vintage and modified cars from all over the southwest.

I'm a sucker for a pretty hood ornament.

They simply don't make Vettes the way they used to.

They don't make a lot of things the way they used to.

Vote for the New, Friendlier Blackwater Logo

Blackwater, the right-wing mercenary private security contractor, is remaking its image. Now you have a chance to help them more accurately reflect their true nature.

Vote here for a new, friendlier logo for the poor, misunderstood security contractor ...

Jingoism defined

"That inverted patriotism whereby the love of one's own nation is transformed into the hatred of another nation, and the fierce craving to destroy individual members of that other nation ...

Jingoism is the passion of the spectator, the inciter, the backer, not of the fighter."

Sourced here ...

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA stages fake press conference

By STEVE WATKINS / Federal Times
October 26, 2007

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s deputy administrator, Harvey Johnson, had an unusually friendly audience at an Oct. 23 news briefing on his agency’s response to the California wildfires: his own spokesmen.

FEMA drafted at least four of its employees to play the part of reporters at a hastily called news conference when no members of the media showed up, spokesman Aaron Walker said. No reporters showed because FEMA announced the news conference only 15 minutes before it began. All reporters could do was call in on a phone line that did not let them to ask questions.

More after the click ...

My thought: Hell, why not? It goes right along with the fake emergency response, the faked concern by those at the top of the administration food chain, the fake offers of emergency aid and the fake follow through on promises.

Let's relate this to the Conservative Republican philosophy of "smaller government", which sounds good on the face of it ... and their strategy of "starving the beast" as a means to get there.

"Starving the beast" is simply not funding or underfunding mandated government programs. This has been the approach with virtually every government program for the last decade and a half (with the exception of military spending - no problem there). The consequences - the current fire situation in California is a prime example - don't show up immediately. However, there is a significant cumulative effect over time.

Here's how it works - and this example is from personal experience. We moved to Arizona in May, 2003. The Aspen Fire filled our front window and burned from June 17, 2003 for about a month on Mount Lemmon, part of the Santa Catalina Mountains located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona, and in the surrounding area. It burned 84,750 acres (343 km²) of land, and destroyed 340 homes and businesses of the town of Summerhaven.

Damages to electric lines, phone lines, water facilities, streets and sewers totaled $4.1 million dollars. Firefighting cost was about $17 million, and the Forest Service is spending $2.7 million dollars to prevent soil loss.

In 2002, the year before the fire started, Congress had been requested to allocate about $2,000,000 to cover the implementation of fire prevention measures in the Colorado National Forest. However, that allocation was reduced to about $150,000 in the Congressional budget process.

Remember, it was a Republican controlled Congress that was managing the budget process and "Starving the Beast" saved taxpayers $1.85 million in 2002. They pointed to the savings as an example of how "fiscally responsible" they were.

However, they are not so eager to mention that savings were dwarfed by the $23.8 million it cost tax payers to control and correct the damage - not to mention the countless dollars residents of Summerhaven spent to rebuild their homes. Now that's where their short sighted fiscally responsible approach took us when you count ALL the beans.

In a related item:

In what seems to be an oft repeated theme, the Bush Administration again put politics over policy. And that has had an effect on the forests of Southern California.

San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Gene Zimmerman has harsh words for D.C. regarding preparations for large-scale forest fires, and was told to shred his report on forest renewal during the drought in 2002:

Before the string of blazes that lay siege this week to nearly all of Southern California, even before the historic firestorms of 2003, then-San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Gene Zimmerman told his bosses in Washington about the problem before him.

The most populous national forest faced a mounting threat of catastrophic fire, and reducing it would cost a lot of money, he said.


And back in 2002:

He [Zimmerman] said it would take a lot of money and a lot of time to return the forest to health -- $300 million at $30 million a year for 10 years, to adequately reduce the fire danger facing the tens of thousands of residents in Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, Idyllwild and other forest communities.

In the months before the October 2003 fires, Zimmerman was told during a conference call to shred the document, he said during an interview this week.

Sourced here ...

My comment: If the facts don't fit your ideology, change the facts.

Saying a few nice things about religion ...

Or get the video here ...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Proof of Global Warming

Any more questions?

The Catholic Indian Mission Pedophiles Must Not Go Unpunished

We've come to help you with those problems you never had before we came.

Tim Giago, commentator on Native American issues

Writing about lawsuits can be like going to the dentist; it can be numbing and very painful. With that I will try to be as brief (no pun intended) as possible.

Two lawsuits involving the physical, mental and sexual abuse of Indian children while living and studying at Indian mission boarding schools will be heard by the South Dakota Supreme Court to determine if the suits should be dismissed because they have exceeded the statute of limitations.

Attorney Greg Yates of Rapid City, SD is representing the plaintiffs. Yates also has a law office in California, and he is a graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law. He believes that some of the local news coverage has been inadequate and slanted toward the defendants.

The rest after the click ...

Headscarf on the left: NO! Headscarf on the right: OK

Quoting a comment posted on little green footballs, a right leaning blog:

"I've been to the Muslim world and I've walked around their mosques and been treated as a special guest by devout Muslims. NOT ONCE did they make me put on a veil or do anything to impose their religion on me. They knew I was Catholic and they respected that. This headscarf show is purely submission by Nance in a bid to suck up to her Islamofascist masters. No westerner does that unless she wants to do that. Knowing what real Muslims are like, this is clearly kowtowing from Nance. It makes me sick."

following the click ...

Oh, NO ... wait ... my mistake. The vitriolic poster was talking about Nancy Pilosi and HER bout with a hajib ... not the venerable and venerated Laura Bush!

I think my head is going to explode! But I DO like the part about sucking up to her Islamofascist masters.

Open Letter to "Generation Screwed"

Dear Generation Screwed,

Where are you?

Haven't heard or seen anything from you while the Bush Administration drives you, your children, and your children's children into perpetual war and debt.

Don't see you at meetings. Don't read you on the op-ed pages. Can't even find you on the Internet, Nothing. Not even a text message. What's up with that?

And you really are screwed, you know. These jokers are borrowing the money to fund the war in Iraq, and putting your name down as co-signer. They're not raising taxes to pay for it. They're borrowing it.

Who do you think is going to pay all that back with interest? Not George Bush. Not Dick Cheney. Not the huge international corporations who are profiting from the war. Not the Baby Boom. No.

You are. You're going to pay it back. You and your children and your children's children. Some estimates say it'll be more than $2 trillion before they're through with Iraq.

A billion is a thousand million. A trillion is a thousand billion. That's one million million. $2 trillion is $2 thousand billion - $2 million million. Not counting interest.

You are so screwed. You're screwed eight ways from Tuesday, Monday through Friday and time and a half on weekends. You're screwed at school, on the job, in the housing market and at the store. And when you get old, you can look forward to spending your golden years screwed, too.

So where are you? Down in the basement trading bong hits and playing Guitar Hero?

Following the click ...

My comment - I came of age in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement, the Free Speech Movement and the Vietnam War Protests. I marched with the Congress of Racial Equality in Syracuse, New York, protesting the racist hiring policies of Niagara Mohawk, the regional power company. Friends of mine volunteered as medics at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. Other friends were drafted and died in the war. Those who returned were never the same. I was a draft resister during the war. I protested injustice then and I've very concerned now as I watch the current crop of young people totally absorbed in themselves and totally unconcerned about where we are collectively headed.

My generation changed the world and, because we didn't have all those lovely luxuries like cell phones, the Internet, computers, digital cameras and a myriad of other things you take for granted ... we invented them.

You are now faced with a crisis. It is a crisis that will effect you for the rest of your life and for the duration of the lives of your children and your children's children.

If you don't take control of your destiny, someone else will. And if you let that happen, you may not like where they take you.


NAPLES (Reuters) - Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.

"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.

"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.

After the click ...

My thought: And this is totally unreasonable because?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush Quips He Might Stay in Power

(Threat Level Plays Along)
By Kevin Poulsen; Wired Magazine

At a press briefing this morning that touched on issues like the White House's extrajudicial wiretapping program and torture policies, the president was asked a question about Vladimir Putin's plan to hold on to power when his term as Russian president runs out.

Reporter: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said recently that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there ...

Bush: I've been planning that myself.

Ahahahahaha. That's funny. It's a great comedian who can give voice to what everyone else is just thinking.

More after the click ...

My take: Just joking. I wouldn't want to be thought of as a conspiracy nut! Funny, though. Real funny. He was joking about World War III, too. Wasn't he?


from Crooks & Liars

That’s right. Eleven zeros. New estimates out this week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office place the cost of the Iraq occupation through 2017 at 2.4 TRILLION dollars, or put another way, $8,000 for every man, woman and child in the US. And that does not include the interest on the foreign loans being used to finance it so that the top 1% can still enjoy their tax cuts.

Pick up on it after the click ...

My comment: OK ... so you don't like the source. You think the source is suspect? Maybe questioning the facts would be more productive.

Your kid's future is secure. Add that $8K to the $30K burden they have as a result of the current national indebtedness plus anything more accumulated along the way to 2017 and they'll be paying this debt off 'til hell freezes over.

Who'd you vote for again?

Government alleges terrorists financiers; Courts find otherwise


"I thought they were not guilty across the board," said the juror, William Neal, a 33-year-old art director from Dallas. The case "was strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence."


The Holy Land [Islamic charity] case followed terror-financing trials in Chicago and Florida that also ended without convictions on the major counts.

The government "failed in Chicago, it failed in Florida, it failed in Texas," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- one of those unindicted co-conspirators. "The reason it failed is the government does not have the facts; it has fear."

Get the rest following the click ...

My take on it? If you want to know why the administration wants to operate without providing evidence, these cases stand out as being among the reasons why. They simply don't have any evidence. They don't have a case. And it's not like this case is isolated. How many "detainees" have been released from Guantanamo ... because there just wasn't any evidence against them to make any kind of a case?

If an administration can get away with holding people without charges, without presenting evidence before a court of law, without allowing for a legitimate defense, how long will it be before they start locking up Liberal newspaper publishers, war protesters and anyone else that disagrees with this policy or that?

What will you do when they come for you?

Is this what we want for our country?

Edit: A friend points out in comments that a Google of "$380 million dollar contract Halliburton detention camps" makes for interesting reading. Uh ... those detention camps are slated for here in the USA, kids. How are you going to fit in a 6'X9'?

More to the point; will you send me cookies?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What are they smoking and where can I get some?

At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.

The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

From Newsweek columnist, Fareed Zakaria.

Republicans finally find their man

Click graphic for the full 'toon ...

Why Scientist Don't Speak Up When Science is Distorted?

from Huffington Post by Elizabeth M. Whelan

For years, friends and colleagues have asked me: why don't scientists speak up when the media hypes the latest health scare? They ask why scientists sit mute when self-appointed environmental activists claim there is a cancer epidemic (there is not) or that "chemicals" in products ranging from lipstick to rubber duckies to plastic bottles cause cancer and reproductive abnormalities (they don't). I think I know the answer: it is simpler and safer to remain quiet and let the falsehoods prevail than it is to stand up and confront the hyperbole.

Let me give you a recent personal example.

So much for an educated electorate and a reasoned discourse.

Midnight in America: the Mainstreaming of the GOP's Lunatic Fringe

Arianna Huffington on Huffington Post

The most significant takeover of the past decade isn't to be found among the telecoms, the big oil companies, or in Silicon Valley. The reconfigured entity is headquartered in Washington, but we can see and hear the results everyday on your television, radio, and computer screen. And America is much the worse for it. I'm talking about the takeover of the Republican Party by its lunatic fringe.

Reagan's GOP has been replaced by the dark, moldering, putrefied party of Bush, Cheney, Rove, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Malkin. Morning in America has given way to Midnight in America.

Of course, there the Republican Party has always had it Jesse Helmses, Spiro Agnews, and Lee Atwaters. But they were the minority, far removed from the mainstream of the Party -- Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, the first George Bush.

But these days it has become impossible to tell where the mainstream stops and the fanatical fringe begins. Just look at what the so-called "mainstream" of the party is endorsing.

Pick it up after the click ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

The War on Terror

If you're thinking somewhere in the back of your mind that perhaps we're not doing as well as we could in the war on terror, perhaps it's because those who are supposed to be fighting it for us have a little trouble thinking outside the box.

DCI Counterterrorist Center "Terrorist Buster" Logo

uh ... you probably recognize this one...

I wonder if there's a copyright case around here somewhere?

I'd give it a D- for originality.

The War is OVER!

Washington Toast -

The war in Iraq has ended! This was sooner than expected due to events traced back to the fall of the Ottoman empire.

During the final stages of WWI, over one million Armenians were killed at the hands of the Turkish army. A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to name the deaths of the Armenians an official act of genocide.

Turkey, a U.S. ally who supplies 30% of the fuel and allows 70% cargo support for the war in Iraq to travel through their nation, announced, "Don't vote or else." The House voted and the "or else" followed. In a snit, Turkey decided to stop fuel and cargo transport, making the war in Iraq roll to an out of gas, gearing-down, brake-squeaking stop. The war is over. Happy days are here again. Hats off to Turkey and Nancy Pelosi!

Without fuel, car bombers can't back their suicide vehicles out of garages and drive to targeted destinations. Pushing cars a mile or so isn't considered. Take a taxi? No fuel, silly. Coalition driven Humvees can't roar out of bases to patrol surrounding neighborhoods. Sunnis and Shiites are talking once again, commiserating with insurgents and Blackwater contractors about the fuel shortage. All agree: using bicycles is just not part of the Iraqi, Mad Max war, windshield-cowboy image. Peace has invaded Iraq.

What global warming did for Al Gore, the cancellation of fuel and cargo supplies could do for Turkey, catapulting the nation into winning a Nobel Peace Prize Peace.

Troops will be home by Christmas, presumably using Al-Qaeda rafts, canoes, or solar powered jet skies. Some scream troop withdrawal as cut and running, and coming home with their tails between their legs. The only people with tails between their collective legs are the men and woman who assured the U. S. about WMD in Iraq, spoke of smoking guns, mushroom clouds, another 9/11, and also avoided serving in the military by stacking up deferments.

"Dang! I'm the decider. War in Iraq can't quit till I say it's quit!"

"Kid, connect the dots. Iraq is out of gas."

Source: The Spoof - so you shouldn't take it seriously.

Thought for the Day

"A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

– John F. Kennedy

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Whose Values?

from Sally Kohn on HuffPo

The "Values Voters Summit" kicked off last week in Washington. But whose values were they talking about? Bashing gay people? Denying the basic humanity of immigrants. In what twisted world are those values to be proud of?

For too long, the Right wing has peddled us-versus-them values, pitting all of us against each other to distract us from the real problems. The problem in our society, we're told, is the gay folks or the Muslims or the immigrants. The solution is to wall ourselves up, launch endless wars, abolish Affirmative Action.

This story, of course, is meant to distract us from the real problems in our society: that we're bleeding good jobs on all sides of our borders because multinational corporations just want to pay the lowest wages to seek the biggest profits; that few American families can afford the skyrocketing costs of health care and college tuition; that we're spending more on the military and prisons than public education and social services... The list goes on. How can the Family Research Council think it's talking about values when these issues are not front-and-center in the discussion?

The full piece after the click ...

The Right to Torture

Wouldn’t you torture a terrorist to save a city from a nuclear bomb? Utilitarians, who weigh costs and benefits, can be pressed the other way: Would you torture 1,000 people to save 1,001?

Proponents often frame the question in the following manner: "If you knew that terrorists held your family, your loved ones hostage - strapped to a time bomb - wouldn't you torture a terrorist to find out where they were being held so that you could save them before the bomb went off?

None of those scenarios seem to accurately reflect what seems to be happening. Each scenario is based on the assumption that one KNOWS something about the person being held and tortured.

Real-world cases aren’t so clear-cut. Last May, U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan reportedly beat a detainee’s legs so brutally that his pulped tissues resembled those of someone run over by a bus. He died. Those who questioned him now believe that he’d been taken prisoner by mistake and knew nothing.

I think the question we have to ask ourselves - and a question that more accurately reflects what's happening when:

  • people are held without being confronted by the charges against them
  • people are not extended the right to defend themselves
  • the authorities are not required to present the evidence that they have against the person being held in a court of law
  • the evidence against those being held is never tested in a court of law

The question we really should be asking ourselves is: "Do we have the right to torture people AT RANDOM in the HOPE of finding someone who knows something about where our loved ones - strapped to a time bomb - are being held?"

If we have, over the years, condemned torture when others engaged in it - (keeping in mind that any totalitarian regime we've ever condemned for torture considered the people they tortured to be terrorists) - why are we suddenly so accepting of it now? What's changed?

Prayer on the Right

Why is it that every single time there is a strong Pro-Life, Pro-War, Pro-Family Values politician with the potential for propagating our cause, that they either end up in a scandal involving a male-intern, foot-tapping in a restroom stall, or simply lose steam and pull out of an important election? Do you honestly want a Mormon, and adulterer, some dirty old man with a sluttish looking wife, or some hick from Arkansas who couldn’t find his way out of an open refrigerator box, running your chosen nation? Why have Thou forsaken us like this? Do you want the Demoncrats to win the election in '08?

Help us out here, Father, and send us a man with morals, a case full of automatic weapons, a closet with no skeletons, and a wife who knows how to dress and keep her mouth shut. Otherwise, Lord, I dare say we may end up with that pro-baby killing, pro-sodomite, anti-America, militant-feminazi, Hillary as President. Just what do you think that will accomplish? Amen.

Find the context here ...