* Belief in One’s Nation ~ my letter to the Phila. Inquirer - Kevin Ferris’ column “Holding fast to values, ideas” extensively quotes former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. In opposing Islamist extremists “the West must keep a steadfast belief in itself” and at the same time determine, “What is expendable? And what stays? What are the anchors, the guiding values and ideas that help a nation and its people endure?” It is the answer to these questions where the Bush administration has miserably failed our nation. The response to 9/11 demonstrated that the fear mongering that is constantly on George Bush’s lips is also in his heart. This fear obliterated any belief he held in American values and system of government as demonstrated by: a contrived justification for the debilitating Iraq war; excessive secrecy; spying and wiretapping outside of the law; the justification of torture; abandonment of habeas corpus; interminable imprisonment without proof of guilt; extraordinary rendition (kidnapping); signing statements to negate the intent of legislation. If only Mr. Bush had believed in his country.
* A stunning upset ~ that bodes well for Democrats in the November congressional elections – A special election was held in a northern Illinois district last weekend to replace former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who had resigned. The district is heavily Republican, the Republican candidate Jim Oberweis was well known, Bush took this district in 2004 with 56% of the vote, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $1.2 million (one-fifth of its cash on hand) to secure this seat, John McCain endorsed and raised funds for Oberweis and Oberweis spent a great deal of his own money to fund extremely negative ads against his opponent. Little-known Democrat Bill Foster won the election.
* The Republican playbook of smears and misdirection ~ meet Rep. Steve King (R-IW) – Referring to the prospect of Barack Obama as President of the U.S. King said, “They (al Qaeda) will be dancing in the streets if he's elected president...(because of) Obama's pledge to pull troops out of Iraq, his Kenyan heritage and his middle name, Hussein.” Apparently Mr. King failed to notice that while Republicans have been in charge al Qaeda is stronger than ever, terrorism is more widespread than ever (in large part due to U.S. policy), our country is bankrupt and our military is depleted. The al Qaeda Dance of Doom has been on tour for the last 7 years to the orchestration of Georgie Bush and the Republican Merrymakers. I look forward to adults running our country.
* Good news on ethics reform – Overcoming very strong Republican opposition as well as some from Democrats the House on Wednesday passed ethics reforms that are the most significant in decades. “The six members of the new Office of Congressional Ethics would have the authority to initiate preliminary reviews of allegations against House members, conduct investigations and refer their findings to the House ethics committee along with a public report.” Congratulations to the House of Representatives for starting to clean their house. The Senate remains deaf, dumb and blind to ethics reform and little will change until some of the good ole boys (and girls) are replaced.
Update: House Republicans are demanding an investigation of parliamentary rules used in passing this bill in an attempt to sideline the legislation. You certainly have to admire their passion to defeat the ogre of ethics.
* McCain trolls for support – Mr. Straight Talk McBush addressed the Council of National Policy (CNP) last Saturday seeking their support for his presidential bid. CNP sounds like a think tank of intellectuals formulating policy for a better America. What it is, in fact, is a septic tank of religious-right extremists denigrating what the concept of Jesus Christ embodies. The founding duo of this hate-laden group are Rev. Tim LaHaye (Catholicism is a “false religion” and popes are “antichrists.”) and Paul Weyrich (claimed that CNP is a group of “radicals working to overturn the present power structure in this country.”). In Afghanistan such groups would be called Taliban as they seek to impose their convoluted sense of the almighty upon us. Selling his soul to this group demonstrates McCain’s lack of principles and a Bush-like penchant to take situational ethics to new depths. Thanks to thinkprogress.org for exposing the “faith” of John McCain.
* Speaking of untreated effluence (link is 3/10/08) – “KBR, until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton, began its work for the Bush administration in Iraq with no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Today the company has $16 billion in contracts, employs over 54,000 people in Iraq and in the fourth quarter of 2007 reported profits of $71 million. One would think that it has the resources to do a respectable job. One would think. The list of KBR’s incompetence and malfeasance is beyond the scope of this entry but one example of their pathetic performance involves clean water for the American troops. “According to a new report from the Pentagon Inspector General, dozens of American troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by KBR. The Associated Press writes that the medical records for troops at one KBR-run site indicated "38 cases of illnesses commonly attributed to problem water. These include skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed 24 of the cases in January and February 2006, the same period when medical officials warned of a rise in bacterial infections at the base." In water supplied to a Marine base in Ramadi, "The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River."
Perhaps KBR is distracted from doing their job because they are so busy avoiding U.S. taxes. “According to a detailed investigation by the Boston Globe, KBR has "avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies" based in the Cayman Islands -- a scheme established by Halliburton under (Dick) Cheney's tenure. In doing so, the firm deprived KBR employees of guaranteed future retirement benefits and unemployment insurance should they lose their jobs.” The parasitic chain of Bush-Cheyney-Halliburton-KBR symbolizes today’s American political and corporate leadership.
* Run for cover! ~ exploding homosexual is approaching – A not-likely member of MENSA Sally Kern, Republican (what else?) Representative from Oklahoma said, “Homosexuality poses a greater danger than terrorism”. If the military had available troops, at Ms. Kern’s insistence they would probably be invading Provincetown, Fire Island and Key West. Perhaps we could use the National Guard. No, they are also depleted. Maybe we can mobilize the Ku Klux Klan and half of McCain’s supporters who can be issued defective protective vests, vehicles that do not resist explosives and rations supplied by KBR and “protect” them the same way we protect our military. The medical team can be made up of dermatologists.
Update: I’ll leave the analysis to the psychologists but the web site queerty.com cites information that Sally Kern and her Baptist preacher husband’s disowned son Jesse is gay. On March 4th mention of her two sons was removed from her official website. Move over Dr. Spock and make room for closet parenting.
* Good news in Australia ~ inclusive church leaders – The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “up to 100 reverends, ministers and pastors will march in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to apologize to those rejected by churches because of their sexuality.” The clergy are from the Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal and Uniting churches. Pastor Mike Hercock said, "Church has been a hostile place for a number of people, including the homosexual community. It's really trying to get away from the ideology of throwing rocks." I look forward to some of this brotherhood reaching American shores. Thanks to Sue Katz at Consenting Adult for noting this story.
* Birds of a feather – Rick Renzi (R-AZ) is your somewhat typical Republican politician - conservative Bush enabler, anti-abortion advocate and under federal indictment on umpteen charges. What is particularly interesting about this crook-of-the-week is that some of the charges involve his stealing money from pro-life organizations. As a freshman U.S. representative in 2003 he said, "The sanctity of human life should always be upheld, and I will continue to fight for the rights of the unborn in Congress." It is alleged that his insurance brokerage business, Renzi and Company, embezzled insurance premiums from approximately 50 pro-life organizations by collecting premiums and not submitting them to insurance companies. The funds were allegedly used to fund his campaign for Congress. Other charges against him include illegally using his influence on land deals that netted him substantial funds. Did I mention that he was the co-chair in Arizona for the McCain presidential campaign? To date Mr. McBush has not called for Renzi to resign from Congress.
* The torturous question about torture – If you have been drinking the Bush-flavored Kool Aide that in a convoluting manner justifies torture I suggest a visit to the web site Washington Monthly. Here you will find 37 short essays by people from across the political spectrum explaining why the use of torture is wrong. “They include a former president, the speaker of the House, two former White House chiefs of staff, current and former senators, generals, admirals, intelligence officials, interrogators, and religious leaders. Some are Republicans, others are Democrats, and still others are neither.” The title is “No More, No Torture, No Exceptions”.
* Question of the week – Both are bad but which is worse - lying to your country to initiate a debilitating and immoral war in Iraq or overpaying a hooker (NY Governor Eliot Spitzer)? I guess the answer is hiring a prostitute for $5500 per hour since that news dominated the headlines this week.
* Quote of the week – On Wednesday President Bush said, "I think when people take a look back at this moment in our economic history, they'll recognize tax cuts work." I cannot speak to the future but the tax cuts have not helped about 92% (270,000,000) of the people living in this country at the present time.
* Policy folly - The Center for Disease Control says that 1 in 4 teenage girls in America (3 million) have a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The Bush administration, under the influence of the religious right, initiated federal programs that stressed abstinence in place of intelligent sex education and they have opposed for young women a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer stemming from STD. This is another legacy builder and another reason why the separation of church and state is so important to the health of a democracy and its citizens.
* Mind-numbing statistic of the week – A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that only 28% of the American people know that almost 4000 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq. “Related Pew surveys have found that the number of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined this year, along with professed public interest.” I am guessing that more than 28% of Americans know the name of Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution service.
* “It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.” The comment was made about six decades ago, yet apropos today, by General Douglas MacArthur (1880 – 1964)