Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wexler Wants Hearings - so do I


... or get the video here.

My comment: I signed the petition on Wexler's web site because I believe We, the People, need to know the full truth. If Clinton lying to Congress about a personal peccadillo constituted sufficient reason to invoke impeachment hearings then the manipulation of intelligence to bring this country into war resulting in the deaths of literally thousands of American troops as well as perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the "outing" of a covert intelligence agent for political purposes, and engaging in the same torture that is outlawed by international agreements for which we have held others accountable as well as a laundry list of other allegations require - even DEMAND - scrutiny.

I don't suggest I support the proceedings as a pay-back for the Clinton fiasco but, if that is where the bar has been set, then the current administration is way over the top. Even if we don't apply those proceedings as precedent, it appears there is sufficient evidence of the breach of black letter law ... and, in a nation of law, no one is above the law ... even in time of war. We have held others accountable for war crimes and for lying to Congress in the past. We cannot make exceptions now.

Yes, I signed the petition on Wexler's web site. I hope, in the quest for honest answers and a full airing of the facts, you will, too. I believe that, if you have questions about how this administration has conducted itself on behalf of the people of this country, you have a patriotic duty to seek answers by means of the mechanisms afforded us, the people, in the Constitution. Impeachment is serious business ... so is war and so is undermining our intelligence organizations and so are breaches of international treaties and so is lying to Congress and to the American people.

Flying under the radar


Hamster Powered Paper Shredder

Federal spending on paper shredding has increased more than 600 percent since George W. Bush took office. This chart, generated by usaspending.gov, the U.S. government's brand spanking new database of federal expenditures, shows spending on "contracts for paper shredding services" going back to 2000.

In 2000, the feds spent $452,807 to make unpleasant truths go away; by 2006, the "Cheney Effect" had bumped that number up to $2.9 million. And by halfway through 2007, the feds almost matched that number, with $2.7 million and counting. Pretty much says it all.

(Source ...)

My comment: Making sure reality becomes what you say it is? Of course, Clinton was a liar... he just wasn't quite as professional about it.

With all this activity ramping up, is it possible that a Republican administration is planning for a change in the national political winds? You really have to ask yourself, why destroy so much evidence if there are no crimes to hide?

Defying Conventional Wisdom

Money talks in politics, and sometimes it gives a sermon.

Clergy and religious organizations contribute to political candidates, just like investment bankers or teachers or any other group. That clergy give doesn't surprise, but how they're giving does. Although religious leaders' total campaign 2008 contribution of $633,314 is a drop in the bucket ("clergy and religious organizations" is ranked 71st out of 80 "industries" tracked by The Center for Responsive Politics), the money distribution shows that the "God dollar" is as up for grabs as the "God vote."

Thus far in the '08 cycle, 56 percent of religious groups' and leaders' donations have gone to Democrats, and 43 percent to Republicans, compared with 52/47 in favor of Republicans in '06 and 51/49 in favor of Democrats (!) in 2004.

Among presidential candidates, Barack Obama leads with $107,350, followed by Hillary Clinton's $88,910 and Mitt Romney's $39,350. Would you have guessed that the leading Democrat has raked in nearly three times as much money as the top Republican? Me neither.

More after the click ...

Q: What is an enemy combatant?

In relation to the current political debate over the Guantanamo prison, what is the legal definition of "enemy combatant”?

A:

"Enemy combatant" is shorthand for people who are fighting unlawfully. But no one is quite sure exactly what that means.

We can understand why one might be confused as to the actual definition of “enemy combatant.” It's a question that has vexed philosophers, lawyers and constitutional scholars. Part of the problem is that "enemy combatant" is often used as shorthand for "unlawful enemy combatant." But even distinguishing between lawful and unlawful enemy combatants doesn't bring much additional clarity.

The Third Geneva Convention specifies a set of criteria that combatants must meet to be legal:

* Be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates
* Have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance
* Carry arms openly
* Conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war

There are additional exceptions for certain classes of civilians, including those who "spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war."

On the other hand, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 defines a lawful enemy combatant as a member of the regular forces, a militia, a volunteer corps or an organized resistance movement belonging to a state (whether officially recognized or not) that is engaged in hostilities against the United States and who must

* Wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance
* Carry his or her arms openly
* Abide by the law of war

The Act does not provide any additional exemptions. Moreover, it also explicitly defines members of the Taliban, al Qaeda and associated forces as unlawful enemy combatants.

By and large, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Third Geneva Convention will pick out the same people as lawful combatants. A U.S. Marine patrolling in Basra or a Russian soldier in Chechnya are both lawful combatants. A person who straps dynamite to his chest and blows up a cafe is not. Other cases, however, are less clear. A member of the Taliban militia, ordered to resist U.S. soldiers when they landed in 2001, would seem to be protected as lawful under the Third Geneva Convention. Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he wouldn't be.

It's also not clear which set of rules ultimately applies. The U.S. Constitution, in what scholars call the Supremacy Clause, specifies that treaties like the Third Geneva Convention are part of the supreme law of the land. But the Constitution also recognizes the right of Congress to pass laws. Scholars are divided as to which authority trumps the other. So until the Supreme Court rules on the issue (and it is under no obligation to do so), there is no clear legal definition of an enemy combatant, lawful or otherwise.

-Joe Miller on FactCheck.org

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are Americans Really 'Better Than That'?


Fedor Dostoevsky

by Ray McGovern on AntiWar

A boyish, inquisitive face with an innocent look peered out from the Washington Post's lead story yesterday on torture. It was well groomed, pink-shirted John Kiriakou, a CIA interrogator who could just as easily pass for the local youth minister.

The report by the Post's Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen, which describes Kiriakou's experience in interrogating suspected terrorists, raises in an unusually direct way an abiding question: Should the United States of America be using forms of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition?

Nowhere is the mood of that infamous period better portrayed than in the famous Grand Inquisitor chapter of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky was unusually gifted at plumbing the human heart. While it has been 127 years since he wrote Brothers Karamazov, he nonetheless captures the trap into which so many Americans have fallen in forfeiting freedom through fear. His portrayal of Inquisition reality brings us to the brink of the moral precipice on which our country teeters today. It is as though he knew what would be in store for us as fear was artificially stoked after the attacks of 9/11.

In the story, Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor (the Cardinal of Seville) ridicules Christ for imposing on humans the heavy burden of freedom of conscience, and explains how it is far better, for all concerned, to dull that conscience and to rule by deceit, violence, and fear:

"Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?...We teach them that it's not the free judgment of their hearts, but mystery which they must follow blindly, even against their conscience.... In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient...We shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name.... we shall be forced to lie.... We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated if it is done with our permission."

The rest after the click ...

Holier Than They

by Judith Warner / New York Times

For years, the left – and moderates – permitted the right to frame itself as the sole custodian of “family values” in the United States. It was only when vast numbers of American families woke up to the fact that they were not being valued at all – that, in fact, they were being fleeced – that non-conservatives shook themselves into a sentient state and began to talk about replacing empty words with substantive promises about health care, child care and college aid.

Now a similar thing is happening with religion. We are, we’ve repeatedly been told in the past week, in the grip of a faith war. There has been a lot of interesting discussion of Mormonism and Evangelical Protestantism, about Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee outdoing themselves to appeal to Christian conservatives, and about John McCain’s belief in a “Christian nation.” There has been dismay about a political moment in which it seems a candidate must pass a religious litmus test to gain national viability. There have been comparisons to John F. Kennedy, talk of the Founding Fathers, of the separation of church and state, and of how the Puritans’ rather intolerant vision of religious freedom continues to trickle down to our day.

But one line of questioning, it seems to me, is missing. One point of view is inexpressible, taboo. I am not referring to atheism – the one belief system that clearly had no place in the vision of America Romney painted in his much-anticipated speech on faith last week. Rather, I’m thinking of the now entirely muted issue of whether the basic ethical foundations of Romney, Huckabee et al’s political views truly are “Christian” – in the good-neighborly sense of the word.

More after the click ...

Urban Skyline



Unfortunately, it's lousy Photoshop work. (NOT MINE, BY THE WAY.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All war, all the time

or, I guess I'm not the only one to notice ...

...it struck me that the true genius of the Bush regime and its neo-con allies is that they have created a self-perpetuating privatized killing machine. There are always those who will profit from war and do their best to lobby for war. But Bush has taken this hallmark tendency in a capitalist society a step further by creating a veritable patronage system that requires sustaining these wars and occupations indefinitely. The Erik Princes of this world will now be a constant political force pressing the nation to maintain a substantial garrison in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else where a buck can be made.

Whoever sits in the White House after January 20, 2009, or which party controls the Congress, will matter little without bold action against the new permanent war economy. Without radical change this new militarized patronage system will continue to chug along. There are simply too many people and corporations making too much money to give it up. Halliburton's in Dubai now, and with Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and Dyncorp providing the muscle, Bush and Cheney have accomplished the dream of Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William Casey: To build an "off the shelf, stand alone, independent" entity to run American foreign policy free from the constraints of the Congress and the American people*.

The next President is not going to know what the hell is going on over there with all of those "cut outs" and front businesses and shell companies and money launderers and arms merchants and private security firms fused with the privatized U.S. intelligence services and military. Lots of luck trying to reel in these privateers and freebooters ...

the rest of it after the click ...

My comment: Of course, it helps to have read Vonnegut.

* Read, "free from the constraints of the Constitution" and answerable to no one, no law, and no jurisdiction.

In Rome, new emperors were often chosen by the private armies they could muster. Rome fell. It deserved to. It helps to read a little history now and then, too.

Does it matter to YOU?

... in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

More after the click ...

Case synopsis.

History of waterboarding.

Legality of waterboarding ... both international law and US law.

My comment: Waterboarding has never been controversial before ... not since the dark ages. By suggesting there's wiggle room we invite some unwanted consequences. What are the consequences? We can no longer try those who waterboard our troops as war criminals. I think we want to think twice about those things we want to eliminate as war crimes. (And do you really think we can eliminate a category of war crime unilaterally?)

HR 847

RESOLUTION

Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

1 Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
2 (1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the
3 great religions of the world;

1 (2) expresses continued support for Christians
2 in the United States and worldwide;
3 (3) acknowledges the international religious and
4 historical importance of Christmas and the Christian
5 faith;
6 (4) acknowledges and supports the role played
7 by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the
8 United States and in the formation of the western
9 civilization;
10 (5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed
11 against Christians, both in the United States and
12 worldwide; and
13 (6) expresses its deepest respect to American
14 Christians and Christians throughout the world



Dec 11, 2007: On motion to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 372 - 9, 10 Present (Roll no. 1143)



My comment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

For those who don't recognize it, that's the full text of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. It specifically prohibits Congress from making laws that favor one religion over another. It used to be called the separation of church and state and it served our country well for more than 200 years ... until now.

It would appear that only 9 Representatives in the House have actually read it.

Who stands for the Constitution now that Congress no longer does?

Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, members of other religions to numerous to list and those of no particular "faith" at all have all been put on notice. The United States is not what it used to be. The Constitution doesn't mean what it used to mean.

Congress has now singled out a specific religious orientation for special recognition. It is not a great leap from there to special treatment.

This may seem a small, insignificant thing ... it is not. The waters have been tested. If there is no protest, another step will be taken ... and then another and another. Never again? This is how it happens ... and it's happening here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Human evolution speeding up

CHICAGO (AFP) -

The world may feel more and more like a global village, but its residents are increasingly genetically diverse thanks to the rapidly accelerating pace of human evolution, a study said Monday.

Geneticists say the huge explosion in our numbers in the past 40,000 years, since Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa to other continents, has resulted in a much faster pace of evolution compared to the previous six million years.

The pace of change has increased 100-fold in modern times compared to our distant past, and most notably since the Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, and has led to increasing diversification between the races.

"We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals," said John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who collaborated on the study.

The rest after the click ...

The Republican Revolution delivers again

by Jesus' General

The greatest propaganda coup of the last century wasn't birthed at a stadium in Nuremberg or in the the dark recesses of the Kremlin, it was given life by an American president in an Oval Office meeting with his top advisers. That president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his propaganda victory was the acceptance of the idea that the role of government was to serve the people.

Prior to FDR, government served only those who deserved it: the corporations. Indeed, it was merely a few decades earlier that corporations were granted personhood and at least one senator, after proudly stating he represented Standard Oil, proposed that Senate representation should be given to corporations rather than the states.

But all that changed with FDR. He and his successors perverted government's purpose by forcing it to address things like the 40 hour work week, workplace safety regulation, state subsidies for the elderly and the sick, and eventually, even civil rights.

More after the click ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A few more words from Pat Condell

The more I listen to Pat, the more I like him ...

... or get the video here.

And its 1-2-3 what are we fightin' for?

from ABC News

A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.

"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.

More after the click ...

My comment: It's a good thing we've found a way to make war profitable by privatizing it. Rape and pillage have always been side benefits. Now we've ensured that it can all go on forever.

If the alleged perpetrators had been members of the military they would be held accountable to the Code of Military Justice. However, due to policy decisions related to our presence in Iraq, contractors are held accountable only to the bottom line. The "invisible hand of the market" will provide all the justice that's necessary.

Granted, these allegations have not been proved but, without a trial how can we ever know for sure?

10 Questions for the Candidates

1. The top ten questions are presented to the candidates - the questions are determined by citizen votes.

2. Candidates post their video answers by December 15th.

3. You decide if they actually answered the questions. Voting ends on December 31st.

Check it out ...

Sponsored by The New York Times, MSNBC and others.

Thought for the day

"The fact that certain planets are uninhabited may very well derive from the fact that their nuclear scientist are more advanced than ours."

– Salon Gahlin, Swedish author

Monday, December 10, 2007

I smell a Teddy Bear


... or catch the video here.

Christians were recently shocked by the Muslim reaction to the perceived attack on their religion when a school teacher had the tumidity to actually allow little school children to name a Teddy Bear "Mohamed". Yet, here, a sign that merely quotes a John Lennon lyric, "Imagine No Religion" and graphically makes the point that the Twin Towers would still be standing if it weren't for religious beliefs taken to a logical extreme (which, incidentally is all too true) has them up in arms.

When something is characterized as an attack (analogous to throwing rocks or bombs, or calling your mother names), it justifies retaliation. The sign simply suggests the viewer use their mind and their imagination. I wonder what kind of retaliation that calls for?

It's sad and strange that they don't see the irony ... or the hypocracy.