*An anniversary ~ not to celebrate 1 – January 11, 2008 marked six years since the opening of Guantanamo prison to hold suspected terrorists. I have commented often about this national disgrace. Imagine the uproar in the United States if one of our American soldiers was subjected to incarceration, torture, no habeas corpus, little or no legal representation...for an indefinite number of YEARS. The organization Witness Against Torture , a campaign to shut down Guantanamo, has many details about this facility. I do not doubt that some of these prisoners are very bad guys. There is also suspicion that some of these detainees were in the wrong place at the wrong time and may be innocent of wrong doing. That is why, in a free society, there is a legal system that is intended to punish the guilty and abrogate the innocent from suspicion. Guantanamo exists outside of our legal system and is a stain on our national honor. It has diminished our moral standing in the eyes of the majority of Americans and the world community. Imagine a U.S. soldier...
*An anniversary ~ not to celebrate 2 - This past week marked one year since President Bush announced the surge for Iraq. A.J. Rossmiller at americablog.com sums up this failure: “The goal of the surge was political reconciliation, i.e., to provide a low-violence atmosphere in which the Iraqi government would agree on issues including oil revenue sharing, de-Baathification, federalism, and more. In the past year, none of those political objectives have been accomplished. There is a reduction in violence, thankfully, which means fewer Americans (and Iraqis) are being maimed and killed. There is not any movement on the political front.” As I listen to John McCain and Joe Lieberman spin the situation I hear that the surge is working. They apparently are watching a different channel. The U.S is an occupying military force expecting disparate groups of Iraqis, who have despised each other for centuries, to suddenly morph into shades of a Jeffersonian democracy. As this is not occurring the U.S. is paying and arming Sunnis and other minority groups in Iraq and praying that these groups do not turn their weapons on American soldiers and the Shiite majority. F for failure.
*Gulf of Tonkin ~ Gulf of Bullshit - Perhaps it was the hyper-reporting of the New Hampshire primaries on January 8th that overshadowed a report on the same day that we should all note and remember. The 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident “was a reported North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers that helped lead to president Lyndon Johnson's sharp escalation of American forces in Vietnam... The author of the report "demonstrates that not only is it not true, as (then US) secretary of defense Robert McNamara told Congress, that the evidence of an attack was 'unimpeachable,' but that to the contrary, a review of the classified signals intelligence proves that 'no attack happened that night.” Do you find it as dismaying as I do that the basis for the escalation of the Viet Nam war, being a deliberate and deceitful fabrication, received so little attention in this country? The Viet Nam war dramatically changed this country, cost tens of thousands of American lives, untold physical and mental injuries and enormous treasure. It was predicated on an incredible LIE. Can you say Iraq?
*Ventriloquist warfare? - Remember the video this week of U.S. warships being harassed by Iranian speed boats? Remember a voice on the video saying, "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes." President Bush was quick to label this a provocative act by Iran. ABC is reporting that the Navy is now saying that, “the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or from another ship.” I have no way of knowing the truth but the history of the Bush administration and other administrations leaves one cynical. Reference Iraq. Reference the Gulf of Tonkin.
*Consequences – A new study by the World Health Organization estimates that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the first 3 years following the U.S. invasion of the country. That would be the equivalent of every man, woman and child living in Springfield, MA or Springfield, MO. The Bush group took the fight against terrorism to a country that was not responsible for terrorist acts against us and in the process increased terrorism in the world and the death toll. Consequences!
*No comment 1 ~ draw your own conclusion – President Bush said in an interview with Yonit Levi of Israel's Channel 2 News: “I can predict that the historians will say that George W. Bush recognized the threats of the 21st century, clearly defined them, and had great faith in the capacity of liberty to transform hopelessness to hope, and laid the foundation for peace by making some awfully difficult decisions." Okay, I will comment. My Aunt Mollie, rest her soul, was the Queen of Sheba.
*No comment 2 ~ draw your own conclusion – ThinkProgress.com noted that the conservative website Human Events chose Rush Limbaugh as their 2007 Man of the Year “for his relentless pursuit of truth”. Reference Aunt Mollie.
*New Hampshire Primary 1 – I liked Bill Scher’s observation on the NH primary polling at the blog Liberal Oasis. He said that the 2 best jobs in the world are weather forecasters and pollsters. The weathermen can be wrong more than 50% of the time and still get paid. Just prior to the New Hampshire primary none of the 9 pollsters had it right. Both CNN and Gallup were embarrassingly wrong. They both had Obama with a 10 point lead over Clinton and Clinton won by 3 percentage points. Having expressed my lack of confidence in polls before (they often claim, for example, that a poll of 679 people tell you what the entire country is thinking) I will let the pollsters of the NH primary misspeak for themselves. I would much prefer that polls prior to elections not be allowed. Voters would be better served concentrating on the candidates’ qualifications and platforms rather than how other voters “indicate” they will vote.
*New Hampshire Primary 2 - Prior to the actual voting, when we were told that Obama would decisively beat Clinton, the media gurus and pundits concluded that Obama would then automatically be anointed the Democratic nominee for president. Let’s try to interpret this. The nominee is “selected” following the results of two primaries that took place in states with small populations that may be the least demographically diverse in the country. What is wrong with this picture?
*The Decider pulled the trigger – On Tuesday President Bush signed into law legislation aimed at reducing gun violence. The law provides for improved checks of gun buyers to prevent criminals and emotionally disturbed people from purchasing weapons. Since Bush has rarely or ever contradicted the interests of the National Rifle Association – which opposes virtually any restriction on gun ownership – it was not certain that Bush would enact this bill. For those who are counting, this is the second week in a row I have had a positive comment about our President. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence does important work on this issue and deserves our support and a visit to their site.
*Dickheads of 2007 – A reader sent me Rolling Stone’s Dickheads of the Year as selected by Bill Maher. Of the 13 selected there was maybe one that had not been discussed in SVN. You can review the less-than-honor roll at this link.
*Nothing is free – The Republicans repeatedly tell us that free markets, with no government oversight, are good for America. An example of this canard was cited by a recent editorial in the Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). The volatility and magnitude of oil prices that could lead to $4 per gallon prices this summer is due, in part, to lack of government oversight of energy trading markets. “Washington had this authority until a company named Enron seduced Congress and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission into eliminating it for most of the energy markets back in 2000. Enron claimed growing electronic markets could operate fine on their own.” As we know, Enron’s management proved to be the personification of scumbags, cheating employees and investors out of tens of millions of dollars. The Star-Ledger suggests that restoring government authority to police energy trading markets would moderate wild petroleum price swings and even reduce prices. I continue to be amused (bemused) by the Republican fear machine that says “watch out”, Democrats will bring about higher taxes. What has been the cost of the Republican sell-out to U.S. business interests? I’ll take the taxes.
*Habla Espanol? – Rudy Giuliani has marketed his presidential campaign as tough on terror and tough on immigration. He has said that he believes all immigrants should be able to read, write and speak English in order to become U.S. citizens. I had to laugh the other day when I saw that he ran an ad in Florida in SPANISH. Although there is little to nothing that I like about Giuliani I do think that there is merit to the idea that some command of the English language be a requirement to citizenship or permanent residency. If this is the country in which an immigrant chooses to live their life they should be able to at least speak the language. They should be able to prepare their children for education in an English-speaking country. Both generations will be better prepared to take advantage of opportunities that America offers. Both generations will be more viable citizens. Habla Ingles?
*The odor of spoiled milk ~ and government performance – Effective February 1, 2008 the PA Dept. of Agriculture is prohibiting milk producers from labeling their cartons “no artificial hormones” .Dairy producers are not allowed to advertise the fact that growth hormones are NOT used on their cows. The synthetic hormones, produced by Monsanto, cause the cow to produce more milk but the effect on humans is not known. Imagine a state government agency, that has a mandate to protect citizen’s health, is interfering with the consumer’s ability to make healthy decisions. Ohio and other states are currently considering a similar regulation. I have just signed a petition to my Governor protesting this mindless ban on open labeling of milk. The petition is available at Consumers Union. Growth hormones may be okay for Barry Bonds and other cheating athletes but I have been told that my head is big enough.
*Crisis of friendship – I visited a friend the other night who was watching Walker, Texas Ranger. The show’s star is Chuck Norris, Mike Huckabee’s biggest supporter. Ugh. I did observe that Huckabee is a better actor than Chuck.
*Can you hear me now? 1 – “Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time... A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said... We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence, according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.” This situation is somewhat comical and more than somewhat serious. FBI management should be held accountable. At the same time a moment of perspective would be appropriate. I am grateful for the dedication and heroism that FBI agents exhibit in keeping us safe in a world filled with crime and hate. Yes there have been abuses by management and agents in this agency over the years but the entire organization should not be condemned because of occasional mismanagement and incompetence. It is a price we pay for bureaucracy.
*Can you hear me now? 2 – A number of telecom companies have forcefully lobbied for immunity from prosecution having broken the law assisting the government’s illegal wiretapping. They imply that they were supporting national security. When the government did not pay their phone bill the phone company pulled its patriotic plug. Oh say can you see?
*Will your vote count? – In the past I have referenced articles, organizations and studies that reveal unreliable and tamper-susceptible electronic voting machines being used across this country. A leader in the field of election integrity is Brad Friedman and his web site The Brad Blog is an excellent resource to learn more about this important subject. I mention it now because we are in a critical election year and The NY Times Magazine has a feature article that addresses this threat: “The winner of the 2008 presidential election could be decided by flawed, insecure, and hackable electronic voting machines.” Congress is about to consider a new emergency paper ballots bill. I signed a petition urging local, state and federal officials to require a paper trail for all votes cast in upcoming elections. The petition is available at this MoveOn.org web site.
*Will everyone’s vote count? – The Republican majority Indiana legislature enacted a controversial voter photo identification law that is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court (SC). The claimed intent of the law was to prevent voter fraud. This was in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of voter fraud. Groups opposing this law contend that the real purpose of the law was to disenfranchise poor voters who are much more likely to vote Democratic. Since the SC will likely rule before the November elections, the decision will therefore impact the elections. Having read about both sides of the argument it appears to me to be another attempt by the Republican Party to skew conditions in their favor (reference gerrymandering and the politicization and gutting of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division). Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial spoke out against this law and offers a more complete analysis.
*Re-visiting Ron Paul ~ not unlike a root canal – Last week I made note of continuous racist and anti-gay remarks in newsletters published under the name of Ron Paul for some years. Copies of these newsletters have become quite public. This week Paul claims that he doesn’t know who wrote those comments. He is mystified. It was farcical watching Paul backpedaling and stuttering during a CNN interview. In case I am drafted to run for president some day I want to make the following statement: My name is Stephen Weinstein and I am solely responsible for everything written in Stephen Views the News. If nominated I will not likely run but I will accept campaign contributions. Thank you for your support.
* “But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?” Robert F. Kennedy (1925 – 1968)