*Celebrating Bono – Heroes can be as scarce as truth. This week the Constitution Center in Philadelphia awarded the Liberty Medal to an unlikely Irish rock star of U2 fame. It is important that we learn about the accomplishments of this amazing individual. He is a symbol of how the human spirit can be channeled to benefit tens of millions of human beings suffering from poverty, disease, lack of education and miniscule opportunity. The organization that Bono helped found only 5 years ago, DATA, has brought together world leaders, countries and average citizens to make a major impact on Africa. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of DATA said these efforts “have supported Africans to support themselves.” When the honor roll of remarkable people of the 21st century is assembled, You Too, Bono, will be so remembered.
*Celebrating America – I just returned from horseback riding with a very close friend. It is one of the most beautiful days of the year. It reminded me that although it is too easy to criticize many of the things occurring in our country, there is not a better place to live in the world. Given the safety, freedoms and standard of living that most of us enjoy I at times wonder if there has ever been a better time and place to have existed on this planet. It is because of this special gift that we share that we must be vigilant and proactive. What we have inherited must not be intentionally or unintentionally dissipated and deprived from our children and their children.
*An interesting question – The droll comedian Steven Wright once posed the question, “What do you add to powdered water?” It came to mind when I pondered what our country will do about Iraq. President Bush will retire having bequeathed this debacle to the next administration and the country. Then what?
*Those damn kids! - Bush plans to ask congress for $200 billion more for the Iraq war. He is also planning to veto bipartisan legislation that would provide health insurance for 10 million children. The insurance would cost $12 billion annually, an amount equal to 41 days of Iraq funding. One day of Iraq funding would insure 246,000 children. One hour would insure over 10,000 children. One minute of Iraq war funding, sixty seconds, would insure 166 children.
*Louisiana gumbo – Recall Senator David Vitter (R-LA) the married “family values” guy exposed for multiple involvement with prostitutes. The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that he recently placed an earmark in a spending bill that gave $100,000 to a creationist group in Louisiana to push creationism in public schools. The recipient of the earmark is Louisiana Family Forum (LFF). Among their core values ...”life-long, faithful marriage is the first Human institution ordained by God and therefore, the basic, irreducible building block of society. We believe the value of marriage in a community will determine that community’s health, happiness, productivity and safety.” Politics and money sure make strange bedfellows. Attention LFF, “bedfellow” is not an accusation of homosexuality, it is an accusation of hypocrisy. (credit to dailykos.com for the background on this topic).
*Waterloo 3, The God gap – Last week I noted 2 developments that indicate the Republican future is not especially bright. Here is another interesting one. The so-called “God gap”—the 20-point advantage Republicans have held for a decade among Americans who attend religious services once a week or more—has been virtually cut in half, down from 22 points in 2004 to 12 points in 2006, according to the National Election Pool exit polls covering U.S. House races nationwide. Republican presidential candidates have decided to ignore Blacks and Latinos and concentrate on their perceived base. It appears that there are a lot of empty seats in the pews.
*The irony surrounding Nader - I found John Aravosis’ observations (americablog.com) concerning Ralph Nader running for President as an independent most interesting. Many feel that George W. Bush won the presidency because of the Democratic votes that Nader garnered instead of the votes going to Al Gore. As a result, many of the issues that Nader has spent his career trying to improve, product safety, the environment and the excessive influence of corporations have all deteriorated under the Bush administration. The topic has arisen because Nader is considering another presidential run. I understand the fact that he is unhappy with both political parties. Who isn’t? However, with absolutely no chance of winning a presidential election Mr. Nader must address what is the greater good. Diluting the Democratic vote possibly resulted in a Republican administration that trashed his goals. Will he chance it again?
*Oil industry oversight is an oil slick – I have been commenting on the failure of the federal government in its policing and oversight responsibilities. No better example is the Interior Department and its mission to collect billions of dollars annually from gas and oil companies that drill on federal land. An independent inspector’s report found that the Minerals Management Service “is troubled by mismanagement, ethical lapses and fears of retaliation against whistle-blowers. ...investigators found a “profound failure” in the agency’s technology for monitoring oil and gas payments”. This report brings to mind an event at the beginning of the Bush administration when VP Cheney held secret meetings with oil company executives to develop a U.S. energy policy. Secret. The Bush-Cheney-Republican-Oil Industry cabal represents as great a concern for Americans as does OPEC. The primary difference is that the OPEC cartel functions more in the public view.
*Mr. Potato Head – The man from Idaho, Senator Larry Craig (R), is an interesting study. In spite of being arrested recently for homosexual solicitation, this week he voted against the Matthew Shepard Act. The legislation expands federal hate crimes laws to include violence based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender, disability, and other factors. He voted against protecting himself.
*Not even a band aid - The Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal in the spring revealed how ill-prepared our country is to take care of wounded military. Bush and members of congress promised to fix the problem. A new report by the Government Accountability Office found “the response to shoddy outpatient treatment at Walter Reed has been woefully inadequate….there has been little progress in rectifying staffing shortfalls, facilitating VA/DoD data sharing, and streamlining disability evaluation systems. Processing disability payments still takes an average of 177 days.” Seven months have passed and there has been little improvement. The President is what he is but the new Congress is a big disappointment. Regardless of one’s stance on the Iraq war caring for wounded military is not a political issue. It has become an issue of shame.
*Derriere Orifice of the Week ~ fools Rush in - Conservative radio talk show host and egomaniacal blowhard Rush Limbaugh said that those troops who come home and want to get America out of the middle of the religious civil war in Iraq are "phony soldiers" On tomorrow’s show Limbaugh will probably state that these brave men and women deserve the phony medical care they receive at Walter Reed.
*Chasing windmills ~ A Resolution– The Senate just condemned MoveOn for an advertisement. On Monday a resolution will be introduced in the House condemning Limbaugh for the “phony soldiers” remark. Today I submit the following resolution: We the people condemn the Senate and the House for taking the time to discuss and vote on meaningless resolutions that ignore free speech and that have absolutely nothing to do with addressing the problems confronting the United States of America.
~President Bush told a NYC school class, "Childrens do learn." It seems that adults dunt.
~President Bush’s nominee for General Counsel for the CIA, John Rizzo, has withdrawn his name from nomination. He is the man who wrote the memo “acceptable” interrogation techniques or, as sentient human beings would say, “torture”. We can hope that in the next administration his memo will have a similar demise.
~ A new trend in beauty-conscious Venezuela is to give girls breast implants for their 15th birthday. What ever happened to charm bracelets?
~If you are concerned with the dominant role the right and the religious right have had on the national discourse you may want to visit the web site People for the American Way. Their area of emphasis includes; independent judiciary, constitutional liberties, civil rights and equal rights; religious freedom.
~Bill Maher has very interesting comments at the Huffington Post. New Rule: Stop saying Iraq is another Vietnam, it is another Enron. He details some of the whistleblowers of Iraq mis-spending and their vilification.
~If Republican Senator Ted Stevens is to be given credit it is for fortitude and consistency. His Alaskan “bridge to nowhere” linking two little populated areas at a cost of $452 million has been scrapped. His solution is a high-speed ferry at a cost of $83 million, twice what the Navy estimated the cost to be. Of course the Navy did not budget kickbacks and payoffs to family, friends, lobbyists and political supporters.
~A House Oversight hearing found that a key reason why six nuclear warheads were loaded onto a cross-country military flight was a simple error: the Air Force base of departure stored its fake nuclear warheads with its real nuclear warheads. I would say simple and effective. A plan so stealth it fooled themselves.
~In June the House passed a bill that would strengthen background checks on gun buyers. The Sensate version, National Instant Check System (NICS) Improvement Act has been put on “hold” by Republican (surprise?) Senator Tom Coburn (OK). You can send emails to your senators from the Brady Campaign web site urging them to pass this important legislation.
*Some idealism and accountability would not hurt - The law requires candidates for the White House and members and candidates for the House of Representatives to file their campaign finance reports electronically. The Senate has attempted to pass a similar law. Each time it is brought up for consideration Republicans block it. If an elected official is not for transparency they should not be in office.
*Gung ho Genghis Khans - Republican senators Kyl (R-AZ) and Lieberman (R-at-large) have offered an amendment to a defense bill that would escalate the possibility of a military attack on Iran. These armchair warriors join Bush and Cheney to demonstrate who has the biggest trigger. Our aggressive militarism and impotent diplomacy have failed miserably. Solution – stay the course and kick it up a notch. In a mind-boggling vote 75% of the Senate voted for the amendment. Have they learned nothing from earlier votes that enabled the Bush-Neocon juggernaut? Please do not send emails telling me that Lieberman is not a Republican.
*Fantasia? - The Bush administration has made many accusations against Iran over the past year concerning its involvement with and weapons supply of Iraq Shiite militia. The media, almost joyously, repeat these claims. Less-mainstream media and a variety of experts have questioned the accuracy of such statements. Recall that claims about Iraq in 2002 were a crock of material scooped from the bull pen at the Crawford ranch. I do not doubt that the Iranian leadership presents a real danger to the Middle East and the world. I question whether our government is providing the truth. Tinker Bell and a government looking out for our best interests are both fantasies in the first decade of the 21st Century in America.
*Another corner, another shell game - We are 4 years into the Iraq war and Defense Secretary Gates tells congress that he has ordered U.S. military commanders in Iraq to crack down on any abuses they uncover by private security contractors. One of the primary functions of the contractors is to provide security for U.S. officials. No one leaves the Green Zone without a full security force. These contractors have operated with impunity and were suspected of abuses well before the most recent Blackwater incident. The abuses have been ignored because the US operation in Iraq cannot function without these contractors, mercenaries making more money than U.S. military personnel. In most cases they are former military and Gates admits that they lure soldiers with the higher wages. The Pentagon claims to have 180,000 U.S. troops on the ground but the Iraq operation is actually using a total of 350,000 people between military and contractors. The real surge began over 3 years ago when these contractors were authorized.
*Go global, go private, gone – Although little publicized, Blackwater (yes, that Blackwater), Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Arinc were recently awarded a collective $15 billion from the Pentagon to conduct global counter-narcotics operations. Yes, 15 followed by nine zeroes. Whatever happened to our army, our police force, our federal agents? Answer - the same thing that happened to U.S. domestic manufacturing – outsourced.
*Guantanamo Bay is an anathema to democratic principles and American tradition. It is symbolic of America’s deteriorating moral position and leadership position in the world community. It is symbolic of the misguided, poorly managed and amoral approach the Bush administration has taken to “protect” America. Our President is fond of pontificating about the “evil” governments of Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria and most recently Myanmar. These are in fact dangerous regimes. However, our President has not looked in the mirror. Some of what he accuses these governments of doing are also being committed by himself under the banner “fighting terrorism.” While Mr. Bush is “defending” America he is also seriously damaging its heart – democracy. Amnesty International has a web site Tearitdown.org where you can sign a petition promoting human rights and advocating the elimination of Guantanamo and its practices.
*”You do not have to become a monster to defeat a monster.”
Bono, in remarks accepting the Liberty Medal on September 27, 2007