*On vacation, almost - The Caribbean is not a place for following the news. Enjoying eight days with white sand and blue/green warm waters allows one to relax, renew and separate from the everyday world. However, one news item that came to my attention was the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the combined intelligence of America’s 16 spy agencies, stating that Iran was not building nuclear weapons. It surprised me because only several weeks ago Bush and Cheyney were calling for World War III to stop Iran from doing what the NIE says they are not doing. Seymour Hersh, highly respected investigative reporter for The New Yorker, says that this information has been circulating at the highest levels of the Bush administration for over a year. Therefore, for many months Bush and Cheyney have been calling for support of military attacks on Iran knowing that their claims were false (Iraq redux). I do not believe for a moment that Iran is one of the good guys. I also do not believe anything that comes out of the lying lips of Bush and Cheney. They screwed our country with the Iraq “weapons of mass destruction” scare your pants off mass fear hysteria. What I do not understand is how they allowed the American intelligence community to release the truth. It is most curious. The Bush/Cheney history has been one of extreme secrecy, state secrets and a stranglehold on the truth about their machinations. Did these intelligence agencies act on their own to avoid duplicating the Iraq debacle?
*A new record ~ for hate – I received a fundraising call from the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have supported this organization for about 15 years because of their important work identifying, exposing and working against hate and extremist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and Racist Skinheads. An equally important activity of the SPLCenter is its Teaching Tolerance programs for teachers of K-12 and other educators to promote respect for differences and an appreciation of diversity. The telephone solicitor pointed out the need for funds because the hate groups that they track are at a record number of 840. Twenty-one hate groups are identified in my state of Pennsylvania. I accept the sorrowful fact that racism and homophobia have a permanency in our society BUT, 840 hate groups in the United States of America is an unsettling number and an ugly statement about the somewhat delusional self-concept we profess about diversity and freedoms.
*The Lone Star state of pandering – The director of science curriculum for the state of Texas was forced to resign because she opposed the religious right’s attempt to force feed intelligent design into the curriculum. Offering agenda driven pseudo-science as an alternative to scientifically proven evolution reminds one of the Catholic church threatening Galileo with torture and excommunication when his scientific theories contradicted church teaching. I find John Aravosis’ comment at americablog.com engaging: “May all of your children be educated believing the uneducated garbage these people believe, and then may their children compete against the children of my friends and family for jobs.“ The religious right is welcome to believe whatever their narrow little hearts and minds divine. That is a freedom provided in the U.S. Constitution. The wheels fall off their wagon when they attempt to make their obfuscations mandatory for all citizens. That is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Our founding fathers intentionally conceived a secular system to avoid the foibles and detriments of the preaching profits (sic). Amen.
*Business’ Best Bud Bush – Anticipating the end of the Bush administration, business and their lobbyists are nervously rushing to get favorable regulations approved. Some examples: “trucking companies are trying to get final approval for a rule increasing the maximum number of hours commercial truck drivers can work; automakers are trying to persuade officials to set new standards for the strength of car roofs — standards far less stringent than what consumer advocates say is needed to protect riders in a rollover; coal companies are lobbying for a regulation that would allow them to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys; a priority for many employers in 2008 is to secure changes in the rules for family and medical leave; the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association have petitioned for an exemption from laws and rules that require them to report emissions of ammonia exceeding 100 pounds a day; the EPA is drafting final rules that would allow utility companies to modify coal-fired power plants and increase their emissions without installing new pollution-control equipment.” Drug companies and defense contractors are especially concerned about Democrats controlling congress and the White House. The American consumer has not had a friend in the White House since Bush took residency (“enemy” would be a more accurate characterization). The end of the Bush presidency bodes well for policies and regulations that protect Americans in the marketplace and the environment.
*Good news for cell phone users – Cell phone carriers are relenting on some of their greedy policies (due to law suits and public outrage). The $200 penalty for cancelling your agreement they claim was justified because they subsidized the cost of the phone. However, that same $200 penalty was in effect if you cancelled you agreement after 1 month or after 23 months. Under a new policy some carriers will prorate the penalty so that the longer you keep the agreement the lower will be the cancellation penalty. Another greed-driven policy was if you made a change to you agreement, for example, one year into the 2-year plan, the plan would begin a new 2-year waiting period from the date of the change to avoid penalties. This policy is also being adjusted as long as the change does not involve a new phone. One would think that the FCC would have had some say about such usurious policies but we have learned the hard way that “our” government does not really work for us. Reference credit card companies policies and interest charges. We may elect them but that is where the fiduciary relationship ends.
*Guantanamo’s ambulance chasers – Six years have passed during which time there have been 775 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. To date the military tribunal installed by the Bush administration has successfully prosecuted 1 (one) person. If memory serves me that individual was an Australian citizen who cut a deal so that his prison time could be served in Australia. Making this even more remarkable is that these detainees receive very limited defense representation and are not permitted to examine the evidence against them or know their accusers. What is not remarkable is that it is as pathetic, ill-conceived and ineffective as everything else that has the Bush imprimatur. This is the “justice” that results when a democratic legal system is abandoned. This is an excellent example of why we cannot allow our government to spy on us without a proper court order and operate outside the legal system. Either incompetence or iniquity will prevail.
*Idiot of the Week ~ Meet Sen. Kitt Bond (R-MO) – While appearing on PBS’ The News Hour Senator Bond stated that we should not talk about waterboarding (even though he says it is not being done) because this will allow the enemy to adapt to it. Could there be any truth to the rumor that al Qaeda has hired Acapulco cliff divers to train them to hold their breath for 19 minutes – which is actually longer than Sen. Bond is conscious each day?
*My new punching bag (move over Rudy) ~ Meet Mike Huckabee – The surging Republican presidential candidate has all of the qualities that would appeal to a citizen living in the Middle Ages. What brings him to my attention at the moment is information we learned this week. In 1985 the federal government had publicly concluded that AIDS was not spread through casual contact. In 1992 Huckabee stated, "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague. . . . It is difficult to understand the public policy toward AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population . . ." When Huckabee was asked on FOX News this week about this statement that gays should be quarantined he replied, “I didn’t say that we should quarantine.” For someone with a fascist mentality Mr. Huckabee is quite the smooth talker.
*Life is important ~ until you are born – For the second time in recent months President Bush vetoed bi-partisan legislation providing health insurance for children of poor families. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) provides coverage for 6 million poor children (reducing the number of uninsured children by a third) and has been one of the few successful healthcare programs in recent years. Bush is fond of lecturing about the sanctity of life of unborn babies and in the same vein opposed stem cell research. That deep concern evaporates once the birth takes place. In 2004 when Bush was campaigning for re-election he said, “America’s children must also have a healthy start in life. In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government’s health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.” Democrats and Republicans, in the House and the Senate, supported this legislation. The only opposition was Bush the Decider. Reference “lying lips”.
*Answering a question – “The parents of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide and members of Congress on Wednesday questioned why there's not a comprehensive tracking system of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.” To me the answer is and has been obvious. Since day one of the Iraq invasion the people responsible for initiating this war have not given a crap about the young men and women sent into battle. And, if possible, the lack of concern about the welfare of our troops diminishes further when they return from duty. Inadequate health and mental care, not ensuring that former jobs are made available (it is a law not enforced by the Justice Department) and defeating legislation that would have increased educational benefits for veterans have been the norm for the Bush administration. Every time I hear a Bush operative pontificate about supporting the troops my skin crawls. Deplorable, reprehensible, criminal and shameful characterize their actions.
*The homogenization of church and state - I deemed it strange enough when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a resolution that Christmas and Christians are important. You can read the full text of the resolution at this link. Where this story really goes off the road is that the House of Representatives actually held a vote on the resolution. At one time I thought that a few members of congress had little concept of our Constitution. I now believe that a random sampling of illegal immigrants would score higher on an American civics quiz than these morons running our government. Appearing on FOX News King said,” I recognized that we’re a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and we’re coming up to Christmastime. … It’s time we stood up and said so, and said to the rest of America, Be who you are and be confident. And let’s worship Christ and let’s celebrate Christmas for the right reasons.” Next year I expect Rep. King to introduce legislation requiring that one’s voter registration card must be velcroed to one’s bible to be valid.
*Living in glass houses – A national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign said, “Democrats should give more thought to Sen. Barack Obama's admissions of illegal drug use before they pick a presidential candidate.” Obama has written about and discussed his experimenting with drugs and alcohol in high school and advises young people that he regrets having wasted a lot of time. Should this be criteria for choosing a president? Bill Clinton admitted that in college he smoked pot and although he puffed he did not inhale. He eventually admitted that he was puffed in the Oval Office by an intern. Overall he was a relatively good president and leader. George W. Bush has a history of drug and alcohol abuse while an adult. He will be judged as the worst president in U.S. history. I feel that most of us have a history of some type of “experimentation”. My focus on presidential candidates is their ability to lead and to understand their policies and visions. Indiscretions in high school and college have little to do with the mark of an adult other than to provide political campaign fodder.
*Another opposite result – “After the invasion of Iraq, the US government claimed that women there had 'new rights and new hopes'. In fact their lives have become immeasurably worse, with rapes, burnings and murders now a daily occurrence.” This is the introduction to a Special Report on Iraq that appeared in the Guardian (England). The following excerpt is disquieting and another indictment of what the U.S. invasion has inflicted upon the Iraqi people: “Even under Saddam, women in Iraq - including in semi-autonomous Kurdistan - were widely recognised as among the most liberated in the Middle East. They held important positions in business, education and the public sector, and their rights were protected by a statutory family law that was the envy of women's activists in neighbouring countries. But since the 2003 invasion, advances that took 50 years to establish are crumbling away. In much of the country, women can only now move around with a male escort. Rape is committed habitually by all the main armed groups, including those linked to the government. Women are being murdered throughout Iraq in unprecedented numbers.” This is the culture to which Bush confidently introduced “democracy”.
*Despicable company of the week – With much competition the number 2 hamburger chain in the world Burger King earns this dishonor. They are paying their farm workers to pick tomatoes for under $5.00 an hour – a rate that has not changed in almost 30 years. Workers must average 10 hours a day and pick 2 tons of tomatoes to earn $50. While McDonalds, Taco Bell and other chains have recently committed to higher wages and better working conditions Burger King is having it their way and resisting ethical and humane changes. A petition urging BK to change its ways can be signed at this link.
"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done."