Saturday, December 22, 2007

Global Warming, Again

Local climate skeptic Lou Johnson has been spreading his ignorance again, most recently in a letter to the Times Herald on 17 December. He's taken to task in today's (22 December) Times Herald by SC4 biologist David Webb, who correctly points out that Johnson is getting much of his misinformation from the discredited and erratic William Gray. In his retirement, Gray is going around the country arguing that global warming is a myth. For a solid, devastating rebuttal of Gray's nonsense see this page on the excellent Real Climate web site.

Another of Johnson's errors demands correction. This is the claim, routinely repeated by climate skeptics, that "in the 1970s, scientists were instead predicting another ice age." To begin with, there was no consensus in the '70s about an impending ice age, nothing like the nearly unanimous understanding today that warming is real and that it's anthropogenic. Johnson and his ilk like to make this claim because it suggests that scientists were wrong then and we therefore have no reason to take them seriously today. What happened was this: some scientists did suggest that a cooling trend might be beginning. Their predictions were tentative, and they did not reflect anything like a consensus among climate scientists. It in no way constituted a situation analogous to what we have today. Like everything else that Johnson and other climate skeptics say, this claim is misleading and irrelevant. Grist provides a good response to it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Global Warming

The world is facing probably the greatest crisis in human history, and the Bush administration stubbornly refuses to admit it. The United Nations has convened a meeting of world leaders at Bali to try to work out a way to slow down the emissions of carbon dioxide that are warming the global climate, but the United States delegation is thwarting every attempt to reach an agreement. See this article in today's New York Times for the latest examples of American obstinacy. At this conference Vice President Al Gore told the delegates, “my own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali.”

Two points need emphasis.

First, the data showing a warming climate are unequivocal. So far, 2007 is the second warmest year on record (only 2005 was warmer). The last ten years are the warmest decade on record. No responsible climate scientist now denies that warming is occurring.

Second, the overwhelming consensus among atmospheric chemists, climatologists, and geophysicists is that human activity is a major cause of this warming. This is where the argument gets sticky. While climate skeptics now generally acknowledge the fact of warming, they like to throw out all sorts of red herrings about the cause. They say that solar variation explains warming, that water vapor is a more significant greenhouse gas than carbon is, that carbon build up follows rather than causes warming, that there's apparent warming on Mars. These claims--each containing a germ of truth--are all irrelevant and misleading, raised to cloud the ineluctable facts that carbon dioxide has been shown repeatedly to have a greenhouse effect and that levels of carbon dioxide have risen dramatically since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Scientists alarmed at the prospect of global warming all understand that warming can result from multiple causes, and they further understand that there's one cause of the current warming trend that we must do something about: that is emissions of carbon dioxide.

Two excellent web sites provide the necessary background for an informed awareness of global warming. Real Climate is an ongoing discussion among scientists about all aspects of climate change. Grist is an on-line magazine covering a wide range of environmental issues, with a terrific set of essays on "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic".

It's often said that the Bush-Cheney administration is beholden to corporate interests and routinely does the bidding of big business. This is only partly true, especially when we consider the list of American corporations that are pleading for our government to take climate change seriously, including General Electric, Sunoco, DTE, and DuPont, to name a few. The truth is that on this issue, at least, the administration is controlled by fossil fuel interests, especially big coal. Coal-burning power plants are the largest single source of atmospheric carbon, and the coal producing companies of this country do not want anything interfering with their obscene profits.

Global warming threatens our children and grandchildren with agricultural collapse, starvation, pestilence, drought and flood, possibly the end of civilization as we now enjoy it. The Bush-Cheney mafia are determined to ignore it as long as they are in office. But their days, finally, are numbered. We should be asking every candidate for federal and state office where s/he stands on this, the fundamental issue of our time. Any candidate without a firm, scientifically defensible position on the need for substantial reductions of carbon emissions does not deserve our vote.

And please go to this site to let the world know that Bush does not speak for you.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Iraq: Getting it Right

In Friday's Times Herald, is a headline (no link available) about Iraq that suggests progress in that beleaguered country: "U.S. deaths in Iraq fall again: Refugees' return hailed as 'great victory.'" It would be wonderful if this were the whole story. All Americans would love to see that the sacrifices of American and Iraqi lives, the expenditure of hundreds of billions of American tax dollars, and the deterioration of America's reputation around the word had finally produced something positive. I say this here, up front, because it's become a routine talking point on the right to insist that those of us who opposed this war from the beginning wish for failure, that we are so relentless in our contempt for Bush-Cheney policies that we cannot accept, and even reject out of hand, evidence that those policies might be working. Nothing could be further from the case: we grieve for lives lost, and we hope for the establishment of a decent civil society in Iraq.

But we also are determined not to gloss over the truth and not to be fooled by superficial, incomplete stories such as the one in Friday's Times Herald. One place to start getting a more complete account of what's actually happening would be this article in Friday's New York Times: "Iraq unprepared as war refugees return." It turns out that the Times Herald, as usual, is reporting less than the whole tale. The putative lull in violence in Baghdad is largely explained by the fact that murderous militias have successfully eliminated their enemies from whole neighborhoods. Extensive parts of Baghdad that were mixed, with Shi'ites and Sunnis living side by side, have been ethnically cleansed, and U. S. field commanders are seriously worried that this moment of relative calm will quickly disappear when families driven from their homes try to return. The Iraqi government, such as it is, has no plan to deal with this potential catastrophe.

One reason the Iraqi authorities are so unprepared is the widespread corruption and criminal activity that permeate the Malaki government (click here). Remember that the Bush-Cheney "surge" was designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space to get its act together and actually govern? Rather than get the electricity grid functioning, the government has turned to extortion and theft.

While all Americans are grateful for any respite in the horrors brought to Iraq by the U.S. occupation, we should not be fooled into concluding that the Bush-Cheney gang finally has a plan. What's really happening is a constant lowering of expectations. Once upon a time in the Bush-Cheney fantasy world, the U. S. invasion was going to bring peace and democracy. Now, if they get the violence down for a month or two--though still to levels that should horrify us--they claim success, even though their own commanders in the field know that this illusion of stability is fragile and probably transient.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Bush Hypocrisy

Think Progress has a stunning article today illustrating further, as if we needed it, the truly mind-boggling hypocrisy of George W. Bush and his lackeys. Here are the horrifying details: A woman in Saudi Arabia was gang raped. For her crime (yes, our trusted ally in the GWOT, Saudi Arabia, declares that a raped woman is a criminal), she was sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison. Does the Bush administration have anything critical to say about this? Well, no. Did George Bush himself say the following in his second inaugural address: "We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend…that women welcome humiliation and servitude."? Yes, he did.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Invading Iraq: What Have We Achieved?

* American Deaths: 3849
* Cost of the war: $465,730,004,018
* Documented Iraqi civilian deaths: 76,075 – 82,883
* Likely total civilian deaths: 1,099,372
* Iraqi refugees: over 4 million
(all the above as of 4 November 2007)
* Imminent war between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds
* Al Qaeda stronger, with more recruits, enhanced standing through the Islamic world
* Pakistan on the verge of civil war
* Iran's position in the Gulf strengthened
* Loss of American prestige around the world
* Loss of constitutional liberties
* Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture as official U. S. policy, civil war in Iraq


What has the U. S. invasion of Iraq NOT produced?

* Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, evidence that Iraq was in any way connected to 9/11, evidence that Iraq was a threat in any way to the U.S.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Islamofascism?

Cenk Uygur is co-host of The Young Turks, a new morning show for Air America Radio. He was born a Muslim, has law and business degrees, and knows what he's talking about. Here's his take on the current neocon con, stirring up war hysteria about "Islamofascism." It's a must read, making three main points: the neocons and their allies are absurdly exaggerating the threat; "Islamofascism" is a nonsense, made-up word, calculated to elicit fear, but with no connection to political reality; fear of "Islamofascism" can lead (and is purposefully so designed) to loss of our constitutionally protected liberties, to accepting torture as a legitimate tool of American police work, and to illegal, unnecessary, counterproductive wars of choice. Please take a look.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Peace between Muslims and Christians

“Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they may up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace.”

This quotation comes from A Common Word between Us and You, an open letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world representing all branches of Islam. Their letter is addressed to the leaders of Christian churches everywhere, many of them listed by name. It discusses major features common to the two religions: belief in one God, the obligation to love God, and the obligation to love one’s neighbor. While not denying that Muslims and Christians differ over important issues of belief, A Common Word is careful to avoid giving offense to Christians. Instead it encourages both Christians and Muslims to follow their respective faiths more closely.

This letter is receiving positive responses from Christian leaders. For example, Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and president of the Lutheran World Federation, has this to say: “I acknowledge this letter in gratitude and recognition of the need for its further study and consideration. I likewise accept it in the belief that Jews, Muslims, and Christians are called to one another as to a holy site, where God's living revelation in the world is received in reverence among the faithful and not in fear of our neighbors.”

A Common Word between Us and You is a timely statement since the two faiths are frequently misrepresented and misunderstood, even by their own adherents. It is an important contribution to the respectful dialogue between Islam and Christianity now on the rise in many places. A Common Word deserves to be welcomed, not only by Christians and Muslims, but by all people of good will.

For a summary and abridgment of A Common Word, as well as the full text and other resources, see http://www.acommonword.com.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Iran

As always, Juan Cole is right on the mark today in his analysis of the latest Bush-Cheney moves against Iran. Yesterday, the U. S. announced new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and several Iranian banks. As Cole points out, this maneuver stinks of the usual Bush-Cheney hypocrisy. The administration accuses Iran of supporting terrorism, when that's just what the U. S. is doing with the Kurdish guerillas now attacking both Turkey and Iran (see here). The new sanctions completely ignore the complexities of Iranian politics and will probably have little effect. For an excellent assessment of what it all means, see this article in Asia Times.

A U S. strike against Iran is probably on the way. The neocons, led by Dick Cheney, appear determined to hit Iran before they leave office. Republicans are lining up with the usual rhetoric declaring Iran a major threat. None of it is true, but that doesn't seem to matter. Iran is many years away from nuclear capabilities and does not have a delivery system remotely capable of threatening the U. S. The evidence that Iran is supplying weapons to the Iraqi insurgency is thin--about as convincing as the evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction in 2002. In any case, the neocons never examine the fine points: the Iraqi insurgency is almost exclusively Sunni, historic enemies of Iranian Shi'ites. It is extremely unlikely that Iran or any of its clients would be providing arms to Sunni insurgents, who in fact are fighting against a Shi'ite government recognized and favored by Iran.

What really boggles the mind is the stunning incompetence of the neocons clamoring for war with Iran. That they are ideologically bizarre has been demonstrated repeatedly, but why does everything Cheney and his thugs do have to be so incredibly counter to U. S. interests? The occupation of Iraq has given al Qaeda new life; it has strengthened the Iranian position in the Gulf; it has strained the U. S. military to the point of collapse; it has destroyed U. S. credibility in the world community; it has run up a staggering debt. In no way has this debacle improved U. S. security. A strike against Iran would be more of the same. It will bolster the tenuous grip on power of the erratic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who wants nothing more than to lead Iran in a military conflict with the U. S. It will disrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf. It will lead to much more dangerous circumstances for U. S. troops in Iraq. And it will probably lead to Iranian attacks on Israel. It could easily and quickly spiral out of control. Iran is capable of causing enormous damage--around the Gulf, in Iraq, in Israel, in Afghanistan. Do the neocons seriously think that Iran will simply change its ways and toe the U. S. line?

A military strike against Iran poses cataclysmic possibilities. It does nothing to make this country or its allies more secure. It would be the final move of a desperate administration unpopular at home and despised around the world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Phony Soldiers?

Here's a link to a piece in the Washington Post, 16 October 2007, in which 12 former captains in the U.S. Army describe what's really happening in Iraq. How long will it be before Rush Limbaugh calls them "phony soldiers"? That's his term for any member of the military who dares to express independent views on this disaster (see here).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore's Nobel Prize

Al Gore, who was elected President of the United States in 2000 but denied the office by the United States Supreme Court, has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global climate change. The Nobel citation noted that he "is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted” to slow down this cataclysmic threat to world peace and stability. The New York Times article on this award is here.

What will be interesting in the next few days--aside from the inevitable speculation on whether or not he will now decide to run for President--will be how the right-wing attack machine will go into full assault mode in its endless efforts to deny climate change and smear Gore personally. The temperature is rising, and the polar ice caps are melting, yet the well-funded climate skeptics, encouraged by the Bush-Cheney junta, will do anything to protect the interests of the fossil-fuel trust.

Global climate change is probably the most pressing issue in the dismal history of the human species. Among other things, it will disrupt agriculture, raise sea levels, cause mass extinctions, and alter precipitation patterns. There's not much time left to avert the worst of what is likely to happen to our planet's already endangered ecological health.

Al Gore deserves this award, and he deserves our respect and support for his efforts to wake up a somnolent world community.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Honorable Interrogation

The Bush regime insists that torture is necessary to extract essential information from its prisoners. But not only is torture immoral and contrary to international law, it is not necessary for effective interrogation. That’s the claim made by several American interrogators from World War II who were recently honored at a ceremony near the nation’s capital.

“During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone,” said George Frenkel from Kensington, Virginia. “We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, an MIT physicist.

When Peter Weiss, a human rights and trademark lawyer from New York, went up to receive his award, he took the microphone and spoke his mind. “I am deeply honored to be here, but I want to make it clear that my presence here is not in support of the current war.”

Read the whole article at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/05/AR2007100502492_pf.html

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thank Candice Miller (Really)

Candice Miller is one of many Republicans who voted to expand the SCHIP program that provides health insurance for children from low-income families. The President vetoed that bill yesterday, and the vote to overturn the veto in the House of Representatives will be close. Go to this web site to let her know that you support her position and to encourage her to resist the inevitable White House Pressure to change it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

(Bush) = (War) - (Healthcare)

"Follow the money"--that's what a popular film a few years ago declared. That's how you find out what's really happening.

The Bush administration wants another $190 billion for its occupation of Iraq. If this request is funded, the continuing insanity in Iraq will cost 15% more in 2008 than it did in 2007 and be the single most costly year since the invasion began. (Click here.) So, do you believe the Whitehouse's claims about maybe beginning troop withdrawal next year? The money says, forget it.

Meanwhile, tough-guy Bush says he'll veto the bill Congress has passed to provide health care for American children. That bill would cost $7 billion per year for five years. For 2008, that means it would cost less than 4% of the price for the illegal Bush-Cheney occupation of Iraq. What more do we need to know about this administration's values? There's money for Blackwater mercenaries, but none for our children's health.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The MoveOn.org Ad

While Republicans and half the Democrats in the Senate go nuts over the now famous MoveOn.org ad in the New York Times, it's worth noting that the first place this pun on David Petraeus's name appeared was on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. I learned this on the invaluable Media Matters web site. Rush applied this term, "Betray Us," to Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, who had the audacity to vote for a Senate resolution opposing the "surge" in Iraq.

Right wingers can apparently insult our military men and women all they want, but if a progressive organization questions a General's enthusiastic endorsement of the illegal Bush-Cheney occupation of Iraq, all hell breaks loose. The Senate resolution condemning the MoveOn ad is just more Republican hypocrisy, aided and abetted by too many Democrats.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The cost of war holds our nation captive

In 1953, a Republican president and retired general announced to the nation the injustice of arms expenditures. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

The Iraq War demonstrates the truth of President Eisenhower’s words. In the early years of this new century, we are squandering our common treasure on a war that did not have to happen.

The National Priorities Project calculates that the cost of the Iraq War for St. Clair County through the end of fiscal year 2007 has been $207.7 million. With money like that, we could afford a new jail, even an overpriced one, as well as a new library, and we would not consider cutting back on education and public services. We might even fund business start-ups that would produce jobs able to support a family. $207.7 million has been taken from St. Clair County to fund this war, yet this amount does not cover war expenses for even a single day.

The National Priorities Project also reports that the cost of war for Michigan’s Tenth Congressional District has been $938.58 million. For that amount, 160,000 children could have been provided with health care for the length of the Iraq War. Or 7500 units of affordable housing could have been built for people who needed homes. Or 85 elementary schools could have been constructed for the education of children. Our nation missed all these opportunities—in just one congressional district.

The cost of the Iraq War to date is at least $1.2 trillion. David Leonhardt of The New York Times calculates that this amount would cover a public health campaign unparalleled in our nation’s history as well as a global immunization campaign that would save the lives of millions of children. Money would still remain to cover preschool for every three and four year-old in this country, as well as help pay for the rebuilding of New Orleans. And still that staggering sum would not be exhausted, with plenty left for legitimate security expenses.

With every dollar spent on conflict in Iraq, we become less decent, less hopeful, less alive here at home. Occupation and civil war are bludgeoning Iraq to death. The United States is dying by inches, hardly remembering the just and joyous nation we could have become.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Al Anbar Deception

For a good summary of how the charade of hearings in Washington last week is all smoke and mirrors, take a look at this article in Asia Times. The Sunni sheiks in Al Anbar have no interest whatever in propping up the Al Malaki government. They hate the Shiites, and they hate the Americans. It's a brief marriage of convenience, based largely on bribes and hyped to death by Petraeus and Crocker. It has no relevance to establishing stability in Baghdad or anywhere else in Iraq.

What's interesting about the hearings is the depressing fact that not one Democrat, including several who want to be President, asked a probing question or tried seriously to expose the shallowness of Petraeus's claims. As Frank Rich points out in today's New York Times, the only Senator to score a valid hit on Bush's puppets was Republican John Warner, who asked whether the occupation of Iraq had made America any safer. When Petraeus was unable to insist that it had, that told us all we need to know.

As bloggers and journalists all around the world have told us, Bush has no strategy. All he plans to do is keep the occupation going and dump it in the lap of whoever succeeds him. How many Americans have to die to while he denies his colossal error? How many Iraqis?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gen. Patraeus’s boss, Admiral William Fallon, opposed the surge in Iraq.

Sent in by Rachael S.

Fallon also called Petraeus “an ass-kissing little chickenshit” (sounds like the Bush administration to me!) The Washington Post reported September 9 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq. The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to the “bad relations” between them is “the understatement of the century.”

Why didn’t the Foreign Affairs Committee question Fallon? Please click on this link to read the entire article, then call congress. Demand answers as to why they didn’t interview Fallon. Insist that they take his comments under advisement.

Carl Levin 202-224-6221
Candice Miller 202-225-2106 Washington Office, 586-997-5010 Shelby Office
Debbie Stabenow 202-224-4822

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39235

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Michigan Budget Crisis

There's a terrific editorial" in today's Free Press on what's wrong with the Michigan budget: the quick answer to that question is one word, "prisons." The more complicated answer is that the Republicans in the State Senate obstinately refuse to admit the fact that the Michigan prison system is dysfunctional and extravagantly wasteful.

Consider these facts, all found in this must-read editorial:

* Michigan spends more on prisons than it does on higher education.

* In 1980 one in 20 employees of the state civil service worked in prisons; today the number is one out of three.

* The incarceration rate in Michigan is, on average, 40% higher than in the seven other Great Lakes states, all of which report lower crime rates.

What's the Republican plan? Same as always: cut funding, outsource, privatize--with absolutely no evidence that these will accomplish anything useful. In fact, one place where privatization was tried, medical services, turned out to be a complete disaster, bringing "national shame," "negligent care," "unnecessary suffering and deaths."

The Free Press editors provide a long list of steps that Michigan could take to make our prisons more efficient: these include re-examining sentencing guidelines, better oversight of the State Parole Board, and more humane treatment of offenders with mental illness. All of these would make for a better and cheaper prison system, and all are opposed by Republicans in the Senate, who routinely spread distorted, deceptive claims calculated to play on people's fears and ignorance.

Michigan faces an enormous budget crisis, and the Republicans in the Senate are doing everything they can to obstruct realistic, humane efforts to address it.

BlueNovember.Org gets SiCKO






On Saturday, September 8, 2007, members of BlueNovember.Org joined many of their St. Clair County neighbors for popcorn and a movie. Not just any movie. They watched SiCKO.

Just two weeks earlier, BlueNovember.Org held a "We're SiCKO Waiting" rally in front of Krafft 8, calling on both theater management and movie patrons to work to get this important documentary shown in our community.

Matt Bieth, Krafft 8 manager, deserves praise and thanks for keeping his promise to contact the owner of Krafft 8 and request SiCKO.

SiCKO is an instrument of truth about more than our disastrous national health care problems; it is a message about how our American culture has been shaped into a construct of millions of MEs instead of one US. Let us now be courageous, work together, and demand change not only for health care, but also for the mentality that got us here in the first place.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rolling Stone looks at Iraq profiteering Gone Wild

Sent in by Rachael

Although this article is long, it is a must read. It outlines how incompetent, corrupt and greed-driven this administration really is. This should outrage you not only as tax payers but as Americans. This administration is determined to bankrupt our country, and this article is probably just the tip! As the article states, "What is happening in Iraq goes beyond inefficiency and beyond fraud. This is about a business of government being corrupted by profit motive to such an extraordinary degree, that we really need to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future."

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16076312/the_great_iraq_swindle

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What I Would Like to Say to President Bush

August 30, 2007



The Rt. Rev. Charles Jenkins
Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana



Today the President of the United States of America is arriving in New Orleans for the occasion of the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I do not know his itinerary, but I am glad he has chosen to join us here where the grief, guilt, anger, and frustration of a nation is gathering.



The country knows that the death of this American city, and many who live in it, could occur any day. According to National Geographic, "The Gulf Coast faces 50-50 odds of being hit by a Katrina-size storm this summer." Presumably, the President is also aware of this fact.



Recognizing our vulnerability, not to terrorism, but to the deadly force of severe weather, I would like to ask the President how he plans to clearly demonstrate his calculation of our people's worth and his government's commitment to our safety? The question is one that Providence has put to this President, and it is one of those tests all human beings dread – the kind that determines who you really are.



We already know who faith-based America has proven to be.



These volunteers have not sacrificed for the "safe" above-sea-level neighborhoods or the economically secure residents of this city. They have not given their time, talent, and hard-earned dollars to the recovery of communities that rest securely on higher ground.



The volunteers of this country are still coming in larger numbers than ever to help heal the lives of their fellow Americans – the same vulnerable Americans we saw trapped, suffering and dying on our televisions two years ago this week. And those "looters," "those people down there" as the President has called us, are proving to be some of the most courageous and resilient citizens of this land. Mr.President, did you know that according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 98% of survivors interviewed in the Houston Astrodome following the federal flood said that their faith in God is what had enabled them to survive? I am proud to be one of "those people."



Does the President realize what hundreds of thousands of Americans are saying when they come to gut and rebuild this city block by block with their own bare hands? Does he realize what it means that tens of thousands of volunteers sacrifice personally to finance the purchase of building materials for residents who have yet to receive their Road Home money from the government? Does he hear what young people are saying by the thousands when they come to serve the children of this city as teachers in our struggling second-tier public schools?



It means, Mr. President, that a huge number of Americans love their neighbor as themselves. Not in words alone but in actions. This segment of our society, a segment whose values you claim to represent and share, has already cast its vote in the referendum on New Orleans. We clearly do not believe any of New Orleans or its people are dispensable or undesirable. We stand together in our fight to recognize and cherish the dignity and worth of every citizen of this city, and we believe how the citizens of this city are treated says who we really are as a nation.



We are waiting for a sign from you that you feel the same. And we hope, for your sake as well as our own, that it comes before the next storm. We will not be satisfied by tokenism when our survival is at stake.



This is what the gathering grief and anger of a nation is about this August 29, 2007. The people of this country still honor the social contract between citizens. We need to see clear evidence that our President shares this humanity, conscience, and sense of moral duty.



What forms might this take at this late date when so many of our elders and children have already perished from endless waiting in exile? New Orleans' own Douglas Brinkley, in his article "Reckless Abandonment" published in last Sunday's Washington Post made several excellent suggestions: Get serious Mr. President. Make an impact worthy of the scale of this disaster. Rally corporate America to ante up. Name a high-powered "czar such as Colin Powell or James Baker" to run this show. Create a "Herculean clean-up effort" as we did for Wall Street after 9-11. Invest boldly in the rebuilding. Think "Marshall Plan." Mobilize on the scale of a world power.



The above will at least honor the fact that thousands are investing everything they have left to recover the land and heritage of generations of forebears, and prove you are not choosing inaction as a tactic, hoping we will all soon be washed away. But to become truly a part of the Beloved Community that is forming in New Orleans and throughout this land you must do more.



You must think about the relationship between greed, policy and human suffering. Did you know that 30% of the children in this city are homeless? Did you know teachers are living in shacks without running water? You cannot in good conscience allow HUD to fence off perfectly livable public housing while so many people are in desperate need.



Did you know that faith-based organizations are the ones advancing their meager funds to families for the purchase of building materials because the Road Home has yet to come through with any funds for the repair of their homes? You cannot allow companies like ICF International to receive hundreds of millions of federal dollars in fees, while distributing a meager amount of Road Home funds to residents. Now we hear the department of Health and Human Services is poised to give additional dollars to ICF, the organization that has so profoundly mismanaged the Road Home program. And finally, you cannot allow the State of Louisiana to shirk its constitutional obligation to provide a quality public education to every New Orleans child, by wait-listing children for slots in public school classrooms.



We can be reconciled, Mr. President. New Orleanians are a long-suffering and forgiving people. But to be so you must show us that you see and value our humanity before it is too late.



This column appeared originally on the blog of the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana.

Monday, August 27, 2007

SICKO waiting for the truth about our health care crisis

On Saturday, August 25, BlueNovember.Org held a We're SICKO Waiting rally in front of Krafft 8 Theater in Port Huron for two reasons.



First, we wanted to remind our neighbors that "those in charge" of local theaters have refused to show "SICKO," an important film about our health care crisis. Incidentally, when we called to ask why they weren't going to show "SICKO," we heard the following excuses: "not enough copies to go around, unpopular, financial failure, decisions about film offerings are not made locally." One young man at the ticket counter did say one thing that was especially interesting. He said, "Management said it was too liberal."



Which brings us to the second reason for our We're SICKO Waiting rally. As for issues of great importance and relevance to all Americans, our health care crisis is right up there with the occupation of Iraq. And to make it a liberals only idea, well, somehow I find that strangely flattering. Liberals will proudly carry the mantle of "health care for all." What better issue to reach out to our biconceptual neighbors? Every single person, no matter what political persuasion, who has been screwed by the gargantuan Corporate-Political-Pharmaceutical-Triad intimately knows there must be a better way.




BlueNovember.Org intended this rally not only to ask for a film; we wanted to start a conversation that might lead to our neighbors finding some common ground.


Update: On Tuesday, August 28, BlueNovember.Org received a follow-up call from Matt Bieth, manager of Krafft 8 Theater. He stated that he had called Mr. Goodrich, Krafft 8 owner, to ask him about the status of getting SICKO. Mr. Goodrich told him SICKO was slated to go to Birchwood Mall's theater. Mr. Bieth explained that he learned from Mr. Goodrich that in smaller markets films are split by distributors between two theater chains. Mr. Bieth stated he did not know why Birchwood Mall theaters chose not to show the film.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Truth about Iraq

Is the surge working? Are things getting any better in Iraq? Is there any evidence that the continuing loss of American and Iraqi lives is accomplishing anything? If you listen to the White House or the Republicans running for President, you might think that American troops are actually gaining some ground over there, but if you read a stunning op-ed piece in today's New York Times, written by seven U. S. non-commissioned officers finishing up a 15-month tour in Iraq, you'll learn that neocon spin cannot disguise the unavoidable fact that this mess is, incredibly, deteriorating. You'll see that our "allies" are helping plant the bombs that kill Americans; that the violence on the ground is a horrifying web of factions, sectarian hostility, criminal gangs, and ancient animosities; and that the Iraqi people--insecure, economically depressed, frustrated, displaced from their homes--increasingly see American troops as an unwanted occupying army. The authors of this courageous piece conclude, "In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are--an army of occupation--and force our withdrawal."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Should the U.S. Bomb Iran?

The bushies are starting to beat the war drums about Iran again, claiming just the other day that Iran is furnishing sophisticated explosives to Shiite factions in Iraq. Three things beg comment here.

First, should we believe anything this administrations tells us about a Muslim country in the Middle East? Were any WMDs found in Iraq? Were American troops greeted as liberators in Baghdad? Was Iraq ever a threat to the United States? Everything the Bush-Cheney thugs have told us about the Muslim world over the last six years has been either wrong or dishonest, so before we bomb Tehran, let's see some credible evidence, from a source other than the U. S. Army or its hirelings.

Second, there is something profoundly disingenuous about the bushies getting all bent out of shape with their claims about Iran "interfering" in Iraqi affairs. What the hell is our invasion and occupation of Iraq other than the most intrusive interference possible? If there were a civil war raging in Mexico or Canada, as there is now in Iraq, does anyone seriously think the United States wouldn't get deeply involved? Indeed, it's only a short time since the United States was involved--violently, overtly, illegally--in civil conflicts in Nicaragua and El Salvador, which are a lot further from our borders than Iraq is from Iran.

Third, a strike against Iran would play, yet again, into Osama's hands. It's just what he wants most, another U. S. attack on a Muslim nation, even one that has been adamantly opposed to his brand of Sunni extremism. How many Americans--let alone members of Congress--know that Iran is not an Arab nation and that Arab Sunnis and Iranian Shiites are historic enemies. Only another demonstration of Bush-Cheney incompetence could get the Shiites and Sunnis to cooperate.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Congress and the shameful vote

Hello friends,

I wanted to pass this article on by Brent Budowsky. It says it so well, I can't think of anything to add.

Thanks

August 8, 2007
‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ (Brent Budowsky)
@ 2:12 pm
In today’s edition of The Hill newspaper I wrote an op-ed with the hope of initiating a serious discussion about how much freedom we should give in, in return for how much safety.
In recent days Congress passed and the president signed a new law that significantly increases the scope of domestic eavesdropping without any serious debate considering the magnitude of the issue.
It was done, yet again, in an atmosphere of fear, which in my view is unworthy of the people and Congress of our nation. I am reposting the op-ed here and if others are interested, hope we can begin a serious discussion, and I would be glad to respond to comments, questions and thoughts.
Personally, living and working near the World Bank and White House, I would rather risk the dangers of a terrorist attack than surrender any freedoms. I do not feel one drop of fear and even if I did, it would not matter one whit.
With many years of intelligence experience, I know more than most that some information must be kept secret. But what is happening now is wrong, extreme, out of control and against traditions of American history that have until now been accepted from the left to the right and by leaders in both parties.
Do people understand that terrorists want us to be afraid, and those who promote fear, or suffer from fear, are furthering a major goal of terrorists?
What do you think? My op-ed from today’s paper follows:
‘Give me liberty, or give me death’
By Brent Budowsky
Patrick Henry’s words ring hollow after Congress passed, and the president signed, a law of enormous constitutional and security importance in an atmosphere of fear, without any semblance of serious debate. Again.
While many members of the House and Senate and leading legal scholars did not fully understand this as the roll was called, this law expands the reach of surveillance of American citizens, on American soil, communicating with those “reasonably” targeted while abroad, without protections that have long existed.
How abusive the implementation of this law will be depends largely on the good faith of an attorney general with little remaining credibility.
America deserves the serious debate that has not been initiated from the original passage of the Patriot Act until today, which is this: How much risk to our security should we accept rather than trammeling time-honored constitutional protections that until now have been supported by a near consensus from left to right and all presidents from either party?
Was Patrick Henry right, that our freedoms are so precious that we should not surrender them lightly? Or was he wrong, and we will casually surrender them with every terror scare, before every congressional recess, during every election cycle?
Should these constitutional protections be surrendered so easily and so timidly with procedures more appropriate for an earmark enacted at midnight by members looking at their watches (in the hope of catching a plane home) and at their poll numbers?
Anyone with experience in intelligence knows: Terrorists are aware they will be eavesdropped upon.
While there certainly must be secrecy to protect sources and methods, there is much kept secret today, not from terrorists but from Americans, that challenge first principles of freedom in an age of executive abuse, congressional submission, and fear politics.
We are told we cannot know the number of terror cells, the level of serious training of terror suspects, how many or how few terror cells have been destroyed through these policies.
We are not permitted to know the true gravity or lack of gravity of the threat. We cannot know what actions were taken to alleviate the threat, what previous actions have been deemed illegal in secret judicial rulings, or why high-level officials objected, while our attorney general testified there was no serious dissent and no previous abuse of rights.
The American people don’t know the truth, and most members of Congress don’t know it either. Nor does the free press. Whole swaths of American life on the most important issues of our safety have been aggressively removed from our democratic system by those with a poor history of telling the truth and a clear history of fomenting fear for political ends.
Our security is undermined by treating the American people and Congress like sheep who should not be told secrets that terrorists already know.
Shame on Democratic leaders for lacking the courage to make a fight worthy of the occasion. Shame on Republican leaders for being co-conspirators in the destruction of the people’s House and the great deliberative body as a co-equal branch of government.
Shame on politicians who pander to fear, and politicians who succumb to it. Shame on the media that hype it, and highest level officials who oppose this but still lack the courage to speak out clearly. Shame on all who let this happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Shame on Reid and Pelosi, shame on Boehner and McConnell. Shame on those who act like Soviet Politburo members and try to bully a sedated attorney general, and shame on everyone who knows that leading officials of American justice were prepared to resign en masse, in protest, and do not demand to know exactly why.
When Congress returns and the presidential campaign begins in earnest, the question of the hour should be: Are you for Patrick Henry, or against him?
Budowsky serves on the Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit and is a contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service. He handled intelligence issues for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was originally passed, and was legislative director to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The voting scams are starting now in California

Tonight I heard an alarming discovery by one of the folks attending the yearly kos convention. It involves an election being held in California next June 08.

A ballot initiative is being held by the law firm that represents the replublican party in California to disburse the electorial votes in a very interesting way that would allow republicans to get a good portion of the electorates even if they did not win the popular vote.

An attempt is being made to keep this quiet and "sneak" it into law. If the word gets out however, they will more than likely let it die as it would not pass and would be costly for them.

Please pass the word, right letters, email, make phone calls. Click on the following link to see the whole article.

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2007/08/06/070806taco_talk_hertzberg

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

CC: Church of Christ Pamphlet Throwers

July 25, 2007

Pastor
Church of Christ
756 Seventeenth
Port Huron, MI 48060


This past Saturday, July 21, 2007, our grassroots peace organization, Blue November was holding a peaceful, non-confrontational demonstration against the continued occupation of Iraq. We believe the killing of our soldiers and the killing of innocent men, women, and children in Iraq should be stopped.

We were standing on the corner of Pine Grove and Sanborn with signs calling for the end of the Iraq occupation. Our members included men, women, and children.

A car with several people in it, pulled over, called us communists and other names not to be repeated here and threw a handful of leaflets from your church on the ground.

We had to go into the traffic between lights to retrieve the pamphlets so they wouldn’t litter Sanborn Park and the neighborhood.

It might be good to remind your congregation that we have the right to demonstrate in a public place without menace from others. Having this right is part of living in a democracy, and it is what separates us from communism.


Carolyn Holley
BlueNovember.Org
P. O. Box 595736
Fort Gratiot, MI 48059


Note to our blog readers: This letter was sent to the pastor of the Church of Christ in Port Huron, Michigan, because it is located only a short distance from our rally site, and it is the only Church of Christ in our area. The leaflets thrown at us were stamped "Church of Christ." We have a strict rule of non-confrontational demonstration, so we use this format to air our opinion of this incident.

We have no proof of affiliation between the leaflet throwers and the church, but we wish to publish the facts as we know them to shed light on how some people confuse their religion with our democracy.

Susan Alderman

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

By Rachael Siemen

I don’t think that a Hollywood screenwriter could come up with a better script then what is currently going on with the Alberto “I don’t recall” Gonzales Judicial hearings. Add another black eye in this administration’s belligerent disregard for the law and their utter attempt to undermine the intelligence and the best interest of the American people.

Okay let me try to understand this. Ashcroft ends up in the hospital, hands over authority to his Deputy Attorney James Comey. The warrant less spying program and the administrations use of torture program is about to expire. Gonzo and Andy Card rush to the hospital, not to have Ashcroft sign an extension of the program, (although he had an extension document of the program with him) but to discuss “some other classified intelligence issue.” Now Ashcroft’s wife along with Bob Muller (the head of the FBI) told Comey, not to let Card and Gonzo in the room alone with Ashcroft ………THE HEAD OF THE FBI!!!!!

This makes me pause to ask people where is the outrage? I’m incredulous that Gonzo can sit in front of the Senate with impunity and get away with his blatant lying. On the other hand, he certainly represents the current administration and their weak, inept self-serving policies. Well, I suppose one can say at least he showed up. By the way, where is Waldo? I mean Harriet Miers? Please go to www.democrats.com and contact your representatives to tell them not to stand by and do nothing!

Another good site is
www.thefourreasons.org to explore the reasons for IMPEACHMENT!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

August 18, 2007 - Peace and Justice Rally


Stand up for peace and politics that benefit all people.

Saturday, August 18, 2007
1:00 to 3:00 P.M.
Sanborn and Pine Grove
Port Huron, Michigan


We will be wearing identical peace tee shirts. If you don't already have one, you are encouraged to purchase one for $15.00 to keep, but you may also borrow one and then give it back at the end of our event.

This is a peaceful event. All participants must agree to not impede traffic in any way or engage negatively with passersby.





Thursday, July 19, 2007

Candice Miller, Are You Awake?

Everyone should read the latest National Intelligence Estimate: "The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland. It tells us once again how inept and counterproductive the Bush-Cheney policies on terrorism have been. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq is bin Laden's wet dream, allowing him to expand his organization and solidify his base in northwest Pakistan. US troops actually had al Qaeda on the run by spring 2002, but that's just when the Bush-Cheney junta lost interest in Afghanistan and turned its attention to "regime change" in Iraq. Since then, virtually everything the US has done has helped bin Laden to prosper, reconstitute his command structure, and recruit potential extremists.

Hundreds of thousands of people are dead, hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted, and the reputation of the US around the world has been tarnished, if not utterly destroyed. What does Candice Miller have to say about this? Her July 2007, "Newsletter" has plenty to say about passports, mileage standards, and Great Lakes shipping. When she gets around to Iraq (in a radio broadcast), she shamelessly repeats the republican mantra that the only problem in Iraq is the inadequacy of the Iraqi government, but--surprise!--she completely dodges the truly important subject of where al Qaeda actually is and what sort of a threat it poses to the US.

The latest neocon con on Iraq is to blame the Iraqis for the chaos brought on by the US occupation. Imagine: you invade a country, wipe out its entire infrastructure, disband its army, stir up ancient sectarian animosities, slaughter untold thousands of civilians, and then pompously complain when a puppet government you've propped up can't deliver electricity or police the streets. Yeah, it's really the fault of the Iraqis that their country is mired in this mess! When Miller and her comrades in deceit repeat this nonsense, they're insulting us and dishonoring the dead.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The True Center of Gravity

Do you sometimes wonder who has more power: Bush or Cheney? Check out the four-part series on Cheney from The Washington Post now available at
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cheney/

You may even find yourself agreeing with this recent assessment from John W. Dean, a former counsel to President Nixon during the Watergate crisis: "It has long been apparent that Cheney's genius is that he lets George W. Bush get out of bed every morning actually believing he is the president. In fact, his presidency is run by the President of the Senate, for Cheney is its true center of gravity. That fact has become more apparent with every passing year of this presidency, and anyone who thinks otherwise has truly 'misunderestimated' our nominal president and his vice president" (findlaw.com, June 29)

There's ample reason for Cheney to be impeached first.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Candice Miller's "War on Terror"

On Candice Miller's web site, there's a section on issues and a brief page she calls "Global War on Terror." It's a superficial, deceptive parroting of Bush-Cheney lies and distortions, and it's a shame that our Congresswoman is allowed to get away with such nonsense.

Here's the first paragraph:

Throughout much of the past 20 years terrorists have targeted innocent Americans for murder in an effort to undermine our democracy and our commitment to spreading freedom across the globe. It was only when those terrorists attacked us so directly on September 11, 2001 that America finally got a vivid understanding of the evil we face and the lengths they will go in an attempt to destroy freedom.

The facile suggestion that terrorists have focused on Americans in order to "undermine our democracy" and "destroy freedom" is ignorant and just what the Bush-Cheney team wants us to believe (so it's no surprise that the always-compliant Miller is toeing the party line). This argument denies history, culture, and pretty much all of international reality. The idea that Osama and his henchmen sit around and ponder strategies for attacking our Constitution or diminishing our freedoms is laughable. It's convenient and easily digestible and makes a nice sound bite, but it's completely and utterly wrong. Islamic extremists hate the United States for clearly stated reasons: our unwavering, unquestioning support of Israel, the presence of American bases and troops in Saudi Arabia (now removed), and the invasion and occupation of a Muslim nation (Iraq). None of these rationales justifies attacks on civilians, of course, but they are the grievances that Osama and others have repeatedly offered. For Bush, Cheney, and Miller to shout incessantly that "they hate our freedoms" is insulting and dangerous. It's part of an effort to keep Americans from considering complexities--such as whether or not uncritical support of Israel is in America's best interest--and it stokes nothing but fear and reaction.

Here's the next paragraph:

Since that day we have been at war with Islamic extremists. We have taken that war on the offense by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan, killing or capturing the majority of al Qeada’s leadership and toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq who had been a longstanding supporter of terrorists. I look forward to the day when the Iraqi forces stand up sufficiently to protect their new found freedom and our brave men and women can return home.

In addition to misspelling "al Qaeda," this builds further on Bush-Cheney deceit. It ignores the fact that the Taliban is still an active, dangerous presence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It neatly and dishonestly links al Qaeda and Saddam, who were in fact ideological and tactical enemies. Bush and Cheney have insinuated for years that there were ties between al Qaeda and Saddam. There were none; every terrorist expert in the world knows that, but it's become almost the last resort of the neo-cons still trying to justify their catastrophic misadventure in Iraq. At the end of this paragraph, Miller--or whoever wrote this drivel--calmly looks forward to the day when American troops can leave Iraq. Well, so do a lot of other Americans, but it's clear to anyone not brainwashed by Bush-Cheney propaganda that her primary requirement for this--a viable Iraqi military force--will never exist. The reason it won't is what she and all the neo-cons cannot admit, that the conditions for national unity in Iraq have never existed and what little chance there may have been of building them has been destroyed by the incompetence of the American occupation.

Here's the concluding paragraph:

Here at home we must also remain vigilant because of the knowledge that our enemies want to hit us here at home again. In order to defend against this threat we must give our law enforcement and intelligence gathering organizations the tools they need to make our nation more secure. As has been said, Americans are safer today than we were on September 11th but we are not yet safe.

There are two fundamental horrors embedded here. First, she's implicitly endorsing the illegal, unconstitutional wire-tapping and other forms of surveillance demanded and practiced by the Bush-Cheney team. Like so many of the neo-cons, Miller seems to be willing to surrender the very freedoms she otherwise claims the terrorists are out to subvert. When we docilely give up our liberties, when we allow the various arms of the police establishment to listen to our phone conversations and read our email, are we doing the terrorists' work for them?

And then there's the claim that "Americans are safer today than we were on September 11." The 3591 Americans killed in Iraq sure aren't safer. Our ports and borders are not more secure. The ranks of al Qaeda, as has been repeatedly pointed out, have in fact grown since the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Just about everything the Bush-Cheney administration has done has served the interest of al Qaeda and Iran (see here). We are not safer today than we were 6 years ago, and the reason we are not is that the Bush-Cheney policies are a monumental failure.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT PEACE RALLY


We must stand up for peace and politics that benefit all people.



Saturday, July 21, 2007
1:00 to 3:00 P.M.
Corner of Sanborn and Pine Grove
Port Huron, Michigan


We will be wearing identical peace tee shirts. These are a different color than last year's "peace sign" rally, but still a simple peace symbol.) You are encouraged to purchase one for $15.00 to keep, but you may also borrow one and then give it back at the end of our event.

This is a peaceful event. All participants must agree to not impede traffic in any way or engage negatively with passersby.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cheney

Barton Gellman and Jo Becker are writing an amazing assessment of Dick Cheney in the Washington Post. Chapter one appeared on Sunday and chapter two today. This is a must-read effort, the sort of journalism this country has desperately needed for the last six years. Cheney is, if you can believe it, far more insidious than you ever dreamed. If this were a just world, he'd be on trial for war crimes, violation of the U. S. Constitution, advocating torture, to name only a few of the most obvious of his malefactions. The man is truly evil, and if Congress doesn't do something about him and his lackeys (among whom you can count the current President), there's little point in dithering about which candidate you support in 2008.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What Will It Take?

In his characteristically incisive, trenchant fashion, Frank Rich in today's New York Times (subscription required) warns us to be on the lookout for more Bush-Cheney lies about the "surge" in Iraq and any successes claimed for it. For weeks, we've been told that by September there will be signs of progress as the U.S. tries to stabilize the violent neighborhoods of Baghdad and in the provinces, prop up the teetering Maliki government, and train the Iraqi army. But General Petraeus and the other talking heads who defend the Bush-Cheney occupation of Iraq are already starting to play down the September deadline. They know what we know: that the occupation of Iraq is a disaster, a cauldron of civil war and mayhem, and that Bush and Cheney, unless forcefully opposed by Congress, will try to "stay the course" until they hand this mess over to whoever wins the 2008 presidential election. The "surge" cannot change the realities of chaos, sectarian violence, and utter horror brought on by the Bush-Cheney invasion and occupation of Iraq. How many more American troops will die for this insanity? How many Iraqis?

The only hope for minimizing further loss of life and further deterioration (if that's even possible) of the standing of the United States in the world community is for the Congress to say, Enough! The country now knows that it was misled and terrorized into this debacle. We know that the Bush-Cheney "war on terror" has practically nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11. And we won't be fooled when the Bush-Cheney thugs claim that the future of civilization itself depends on extending this occupation into the endless future. The Congressional leadership needs to listen to the people who elected the 110th Congress. We want this occupation to end. Congressmen and -women (are you listening, Candice Miller?) who ignore their constituents will be looking for work come January 2009.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pork?

At 2300 Krafft Road, in Fort Gratiot, you can see a huge construction project on the north side of the road, just east of where a service road heads to the Mercy Hospital clinic.

It's a common-sense truth of environmentalism that rehabbing old structures is better for the environment than putting up new buildings. There are perfectly useful empty buildings in downtown Port Huron and up and down Pine Grove, all with plenty of room for parking. Instead of retrofitting one of these, the local SSA opted to destroy open space and put a parking lot next to a wetland. A few months ago, a caller to TalkBack aptly recommended the old Sperry department store building for a new SSA office. Or how about the space vacated by Farmer Jack? Either of these would have been a great idea, but a government in hock to developers cannot see obvious good sense.

The new site will be harder to reach for many of the people who need to conduct business with the SSA. The old site was accessible from much of the area via one bus ride. Now people will need to catch a bus downtown and then transfer to another. In the January 17, 2007, Times-Herald, David Wilkinson, spokesman for the General Services Administration, the government's real-estate division, is quoted, "I don't expect it's going to be difficult for people to get out there." That's true only for people who drive their own car and don't worry about the price of gasoline. What about the elderly or disabled who can't drive? It's coldly indifferent to our elderly and disabled not to see that the new site is less convenient than the old one.

This new facility is being constructed by West Second Street Associates, a private company based in Flint. It will receive $411,658 a year, for the duration of a ten-year lease, which will undoubtedly be extended. This firm has similar arrangements with the federal government for facilities in Flint, Detroit, Lansing, and Ann Arbor, among others, as well as sites in Illinois and Florida. Quite a nice little operation!

After this firm completed federal offices in Detroit and Lansing, it took the government to court and demanded cash for construction overruns (over $450,000) and higher monthly lease payments (see here). Will that pattern be repeated in Fort Gratiot? Don't forget, these are our tax dollars. We can apparently put up new buildings we don't need, destroying open space and lining the pockets of developers, but we can't hire enough immigration and customs agents to keep the traffic moving on the Blue Water Bridge. What we need in St. Clair County is jobs, not pork-barrel boondoggles; we especially don't need projects built by a contractor from outside the county.

One wonders who decided that the local SSA office needed new quarters and that the option of refitting an old building (for less money) was not on the table. What was the bidding process, if any? Does West Second Street Associates have a terrific record? Or does it have chummy relations with well-connected government officials?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stand Up and Speak Out

Please join BlueNovember.Org
Saturday, June 2, 2007
1:00 - 3:00 PM
Pine Grove and Sanborn
Port Huron, Michigan

This is a peaceful event. Engaging negatively with passersby and interfering with traffic are prohibited.

Signs will be available, but you may bring your own messages of peace.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day in America

Here's a popular bumper sticker we've all seen: "If you love freedom, thank a vet." Here's an iconoclastic response to it: the last time an American soldier fought to protect or advance the cause of American freedom was the Civil War. In that distant conflict some American soldiers actually put their lives on the line to win freedom for other Americans, who happened to be enslaved African-Americans. Of course, some of the Union troops in the Civil War were indifferent, even hostile, to the rights and freedoms of African-Americans, but we know for sure that there were also Union soldiers--black and white--who believed that it was their moral duty to risk their lives to extend to all Americans the freedoms so evocatively asserted in the Declaration of Independence. Consider the case of Robert Shaw of Massachusetts.

Since then, American wars have been fought to defend American interests, not American freedoms. By saying that, I do not mean to insist that these wars were all cynical exercises. The United States was attacked by Japan in 1941, and I believe a military response was justified. When Germany subsequently declared war on the U.S., it made sense to consider Germany our enemy. A world where Japan controlled the Pacific and Germany did the same in Europe would have been an inhospitable, brutal place, but it is absurd to claim that either of these countries could ever have occupied American soil and subverted American freedoms. Our armed forces in World War II were engaged in a reputable cause, but they were not defending American freedom. Nor were American military forces in Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq (in either Iraq war). They were instruments of American foreign policy.

Today is Memorial Day, and in cemeteries across the country, orators will offer up platitudes and golden phrases about the bravery and sacrifice of the American soldier. There's no doubt that sacrifice and bravery have indeed often characterized our military (as have brutality and selfishness--after all, these are human beings, just like us, no better, no worse). But if you love freedom, thank the ACLU.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Who's "Politically Correct"?

For years American conservatives have insisted that hiring practices at our colleges and universities are controlled by a rigid ideological orthodoxy, labeled by the right as "political correctness." Conservative pundits like David Horowitz publish books and fill their web sites with unsubstantiated claims about left-wing professors offering jobs only to those applicants whose views match their own. How ironic to learn (see, for example, this article in the New York Times) that the most politically correct institution in the land turns out to be the Bush Department of Justice, where Monica Goodling routinely advanced or thwarted the careers of U.S. Attorneys on the basis of their loyalty to the Republican Party.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bush's War on the Middle Class

The Bush administration likes to say that under its care the American economy is humming along, creating jobs and wealth, and spreading prosperity throughout the land. They often point to the booming stock market to support this claim. Middle-class Americans hear these assertions, ponder their mounting debt, and wonder how they got left behind. The truth, of course, as many know, is that Bush's policies have been terrific for the rich and terrible for everyone else. The Democratic Policy Committee, a study group of Democrats in the U.S. Senate, has posted a comprehensive, accessible report on the realities of Bush economics and how this administration has mounted an unprecedented assault on the financial health of the American middle class. This report spells out in frightening detail how the ties between the Bush administration and corporate interests have led to higher costs for everything ordinary Americans depend on, including college tuition, fuel, and health care. The natonal debt has risen out of sight, and our economic future is more insecure than at any time since the presidency of Herbert Hoover.

In every respect, middle-class families are buffeted by policies that diminish their purchasing power and transfer wealth upwards. The rich get richer, corporate profits rise, and the middle class feels the squeeze.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Is Candice Miller a Racist Homophobe?

Here's an interesting bit of Michigan news: the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nationally known organization that monitors threats to civil rights, has identified the Michigan State University chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom as a "hate group." According to the MSU student newspaper, the MSU YAF is the first college organization to be thus identified. Now there's something all we Michiganders can be proud of!

Heidi Beirich, Deputy Director of the Intelligence Project of the SPLC, explains that the YAF is listed as a hate group because of a “13 point agenda” that "calls for the elimination of minority student organizations and the creation of a Caucasian caucus and promotes anti-gay beliefs and hunting down and deporting illegal immigrants."

Our own Representative Candice Miller appears in a photo with MSU YAF chair Kyle Bristow on his web site. The Michigan Democratic Party would like Representative Miller to explain just what she finds so appealing about Bristow. Is it the homophobia? The cheap shots at immigrant families working for a better life? The thinly veiled racism? Or is it all of these?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What a Mess!

For a chart that precisely, depressingly, graphically displays what a disaster the US occupation of Iraq has been, look at these figures assembled by Think Progress. In every imaginable way, this war has demonstrated monumental incompetence, a failure to plan, a criminal ignorance of political and cultural realities.

It was just four years ago that the strutting little cowboy declared, "Mission Accomplished." Why is this murderous moron still president? Is it the lock-step, mindless loyalty of the Republicans in Congress, whose leader in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, still repeats the White House talking point that American troops in Iraq are waging war against al Qaeda (as quoted here in the New York Times)? When will this lunacy end?

Monday, April 30, 2007

When Will It End?

Many Middle-East experts have made the case that the American invasion of Iraq was just what Osama bin Laden wanted. To Bin Laden, the chief threat to Islam is the United States; he claims that the US wants to occupy Muslim countries and steal their resources. He uses this claim, conveniently supported by US actions, to recruit new terrorists and build up his network of dangerous extremists. The Bush administration appears to have gone out of its way to make bin Laden look good. They fell for the bait, and he's been reeling them in ever since.

For the most comprehensive, most well-documented case yet available that this is precisely what has happened, take a look at this article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. The author, Bruce Riedel, is a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution, studying and writing about Middle East Policy. His expertise includes counter-terrorism, Arab-Israeli issues, Persian Gulf Security, and south Asia.

The Bush-Cheney invasion and occupation of Iraq is Osama's dream come true. It's the best thing that ever happened for radical Islam. If Osama, squatting in some Pakistani cave, could have been asked what would best advance his insane cause, he couldn't have asked for anything better than this incompetent misadventure. (The next American blunder he'd undoubtedly like to see is an American attack on Iran.)

Bush and his yes-men and -women in Congress endlessly repeat the White House propaganda line that if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us home. The illogic of this nonsense is so transparent it beggars the imagination, but it's become almost the last resort of Bush and his thugs. It ignores the fact that nothing is stopping terrorists from coming here right now--certainly not our under funded, unprotected ports. It ignores the fact that what is tearing Iraq apart is a sectarian civil war, instigated by our violent intervention in a country about which our President knew, apparently, absolutely nothing. It ignores the fact that the entire reason that al Qaeda has established a presence in Iraq is the arrival of an American invasion force. It ignores the fact that al Qaeda is stronger now than it was 5 years ago because of this very invasion, which took the pressure off al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and gave bin Laden breathing room to survive another day, to recruit, to scheme, and to plan more attacks on the West and in Muslim countries (such as Algeria, Indonesia, and Morocco) that he wants to destabilize.

It's hard to imagine a foreign policy more devastatingly bad for American interests than this Bush-Cheney disaster. No one knows what will happen in that beleaguered country, but to experts like Bruce Riedel, the only sensible course is phased withdrawal. That's the plan that the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate has proposed and that Bush refuses to implement. Meanwhile death and chaos in Iraq spread; Americans and Iraqis die; Osama plots. Whose side is Bush on?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

April 21, 2007 Peace Rally

Our work to encourage our neighbors to call for an end to the U.S.
occupation of Iraq must continue. Please join BlueNovember.Org -

Saturday, April 21, 2007
1 PM to 3 PM
Pine Grove and Sanborn
Port Huron, Michigan

This is a peaceful event. Engaging negatively with
passersby and interfering with traffic are prohibited.

Signs will be available, but you may bring your own messages of peace.

Taxes, Again

Last week the Times Herald published a guest opinion piece by Craig Ellis. His argument, a monotonously familiar one, is that Michigan citizens pay too much in taxes and get little in return. BlueNovember member Jackie Jablonski knew that his claims are contradicted by the evidence and contacted Call Back. The paper--what a surprise!--declined to print what she said:

For a CPA, Craig Ellis has a funny way with numbers. My sources say that New Jersey has the third highest tax burden in the country, with Michigan way behind at 20th. It’s also relevant that a recent study shows that children are far better off in states that pay the highest taxes than are children in states that pay the lowest. Check it out at everychildmatters.org. And remember that Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Taxes and Services

The City of Port Huron is facing a crisis with its sewer separation program and will probably be forced to increase, perhaps even double, what it charges for water. One reason for this that no one seems to be pointing out is that the Republicans in Lansing have gutted the state budget over the last decade. In their mindless drive to cut state taxes, they have made it nearly impossible for the state to serve its citizens in a reasonable way. When Port Huron first planned for the sewer separation project, it expected to get a million dollars per year in revenue-sharing funds from the state, as reported by Mike Connell in today's Times Herald (Mike's column is not on line).

No one enjoys paying taxes, of course, but the Republican obsession with cutting them to the point where our government simply cannot perform the functions we expect of it has contributed to the mess that Port Huron finds itself in today. The state budget has been slashed to the bone. The Republicans who control the legislature claim that tax cuts create jobs and improve the business climate. Has the economy improved? Are businesses moving to Michigan? Are there new jobs in St. Clair County? Or are the wealthy putting more cash in their stock portfolios while the rest of us pay higher water bills and wonder whether the State Police will have enough troopers to cope with the next emergency?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Step It Up 2007

If you care about the future of our planet and how it is threatened by climate change, plan to meet at the Peace Pole in Pine Grove Park in Port Huron between noon and 2:00 PM, on Saturday, April 14. This is part of a nationwide effort, Step It Up 2007, organized by Bill McKibben and many others, to raise awareness of this cataclysmic threat to environmental, social, and political stability and to send a message to Congress that we want the United States to join the worldwide effort to do something about it. Over 1300 actions and rallies are planned, with all 50 states represented.

Here's a link to a letter in Friday's Times Herald from Christine Danner, who has taken the lead in organizing Port Huron's Step It Up 2007 event.

And if you still have doubts about what the consequences of global climate change will be, take a look at the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, discussed here in today's New York Times.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Who's Bush Working For?

Here's Tony Auth's 25 March 2007 cartoon (forwarded to me by an astute citizen and member of BlueNovember):

















It illustrates with tragic conciseness one of the many horrible consequences of Bush's insane Iraq war. All around the Islamic world, it has become easier for Osama bin Laden to get young men to join his terrorist legions.

One of the chief arguments in Osama's radical rant is that the West is out to destroy Islam. When Bush and his pack of neocon loonies opted to invade and occupy an Islamic country that had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks of September 11, it gave Osama the best recruiting tool he could ever have hoped for. Add to that the unavoidable fact that the Iraq disaster means that the U.S. can't pay adequate attention to the places where al Qaida is actually active--Afghanistan and Pakistan--and you have a combination of arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence that suits Osama's needs perfectly. Osama needs Bush, just as Bush needs Osama.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mission Accomplished?

Remember "Mission Accomplished"? That was the day President Bush (the guy who went awol during his ROTC training) staged an elaborate fly-in to a US aircraft carrier and announced the end "of all major combat operations" in Iraq. This was in May 2003. Want to see how peaceful it's been in Baghdad since that day? A member of BlueNovember sent me this link to an interactive BBC site where you can track the horrors visited upon that wretched city since the US invasion and occupation. The violence and mayhem illustrated on this site explain why a majority of Iraqis say that they want US troops out of their country, believe they will be safer and more secure once the Americans leave, and even think that attacks on coalition troops are justified (click here).