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 Ad

While Republicans and half the Democrats in the Senate go nuts over the now famous 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

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."

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.