*Celebrating Women – Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and thousands of events are being held around the world. It is a united action for global equality and change inspiring women to achieve their full potential. The movement began in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. Sue Katz at the website Consenting Adult offers a history of this movement and the IWD link provides specifics of the international scope this movement has attained.
* Kleptomaniacs, reprobates and self-policing – I had to smile this week when I received an email from Common Cause titled “Can Congress Police Itself?” The answer to the question and the point of the email is NO. House Resolution 895 would create an independent Office of Congressional Ethics but a number of Representatives killed a planned vote on the measure. Lack of ethics and ethics oversight in Congress is more than well-documented. Only you and I have the possibility of affecting a change. It will only occur by us demanding reform. Common Cause crafted a letter that individuals can send to editors and it also gives one a good background prior to communicating with one’s Representative. Contact information for your congressman can be found at VoteSmart.org.
Update – Late this week we learned that a revised ethics bill is being proposed. Among its many weaknesses the “independent” oversight panel would have to get approval from the Ethics Committee before it could take action. This is the same committee that has done nothing over the last several years while covering the southern ends of congressional members. When Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House she emphatically promised that the Democrats would create meaningful ethics oversight of representatives. What we are emphatically getting was sourced at the southern end of a bull.
* Gunfight at the OK Corral ~ sis, boom, ba – I have read several articles suggesting that the massacres at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech would have been avoided if students and teachers were allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus. As I picture such a scenario a nut walks into the classroom with weapons and starts shooting. Five or ten or twenty people in the classroom draw their weapons and in panic start firing. Would anyone be left standing? Did anyone stop to “think” about the consequences on college campuses of so many individuals carrying weapons and the deaths and injuries that would result from this cowboy “solution”? I suggest that for fraternity rush week bulletproof vests be issued along with beanies. School colors and logos would be optional. For an adult approach to guns on campus I recommend The Brady Campaign position on the subject titled “No Gun Left Behind”. Because guns are prohibited on campuses, colleges are actually safer than the communities that surround them. Perhaps a better approach to minimizing violent psycho behavior would be to make it more difficult for individuals, especially those with criminal or mental illness history, to obtain guns.
* Drive-through mastectomies ~ drive-by health plans – The time is now for congress to change health insurance company policies that result in women who have had mastectomies being forced to leave the hospital before they and their doctors feel they are ready. MyLifetime.com has already generated 20 million signatures urging congress to pass the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2007 (S.459/H.R 758) which includes no mandates but allows a woman and her doctor to decide if she is best off going home or staying in the hospital for at least 48 hours after having a mastectomy. You can sign the petition for this important and humane legislation at the above link.
* Iraq cost update – When we see figures for the cost of the Iraq war there are so many zeroes involved that few can relate to the magnitude of treasure that George W. Bush is flushing into this quagmire. Democratic Caucus's Senate Journal breaks the cost down so that even I can relate to the numbers. The war is currently costing: $332,258,064 Per Day; $13,844,086 Per Hour; $230,734 Per Minute; $3,845 Per Second. In the time it takes to read this paragraph almost $100,000 will be spent. AND, this is not even the greatest cost. U.S. military lives lost total 3,972. U.S. military casualties total 29,080 and as I noted in a previous post this does not include most of the service men and women suffering mental injuries which would probably double the casualty figure. When the President says that we are fighting them over there so we won’t have to fight them here appropriate questions would be, “What the hell are you talking about?” and “Why do you hate America?”
* Bush protégé ~ lessons in leadership - In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Oversight and Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) requested documents relating to an order issued in April 2007 by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s office that effectively immunizes the Iraqi president, the Council of Ministers, and any current or former ministers from being prosecuted for corruption without the Prime Minister’s consent. George and Nouri sure know how to issue signing statements and keep themselves and their administrations above the law. In a related story two former high-ranking Shiite officials in the Iraqi government have had charges against them dropped. They are accused of kidnapping and murdering scores of Sunnis. It is reported that there is extensive evidence against them. It tells the Sunnis and Kurds that the Shia can do anything and there are no repercussions. It does not bode well for reconciliation. In the Waxman letter it is noted that corruption in Iraq continues to worsen and is responsible for stopping the process of reconstruction. George may have not been very successful exporting democracy but he is an international icon for exporting criminality.
* Derriere Orifice of the Week ~ Co-Winners John McCain and his supporter, Pastor John Hagee - Hagee receives this recognition for virulent remarks about Catholics (they worship a whore), gays (they are responsible for Katrina) and Jews (if interested read the link, I am getting nauseous). McCain earns extra special mention for his refusal to denounce the comments and renounce the endorsement of this soulless miscreant and panderer of hate. Obama had the scruples to renounce Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement. Shame on Mr. McStraight Talk. The Carpet Bagger Report has more on Hagee the Horrible.
* Strengthening democracy in America - Not long ago I commented on the Federal Communications Commission adopting new rules that would allow current media conglomerates to further acquire and consolidate their dominance of the news. We know that a democracy relies on the free exchange of ideas and independent reporting. Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News is an example of the abuse of media power for political ends. This week the Senate introduced legislation that would reverse the FCC’s recent decision. You can sign a petition to your senators supporting this legislation at Stop Big Media. Democracy is a participation sport. Here is an opportunity to get in the game.
*Can you hear me now? ~ you can be heard – Cell phone companies have set the rules in their favor and it costs us a great deal of money – non-pro-rated termination fees, hidden charges, blocking services that a competitor may have available, cell phone locking (if you switch providers you phone is worthless). Congress is currently investigating the wireless market place. Hear Us Now is a project of Consumers Union and they have a petition you can sign urging Congress to mandate reform in this industry. Cell phones can work better for less money as demonstrated in Europe. Until now Congress has only heard from wireless lobbyists. The telephone utility industry spent at least $31.4 million lobbying in 2007. That is a lot of clout to overcome. Speak up.
* Your gasoline dollars at work ~ The Heartland Institute just concluded its international conference of global warming deniers. Their main objective appears to be “proof” that recent climate change stems from natural causes – an assertion in conflict with the overwhelming majority of scientists around the world. What is especially interesting about Heartland is that it is funded by ExxonMobil and right-wing foundations. I am puzzled by those who devote so many resources to deny climate/environmental problems. Regardless of whether the problem is human or natural influence we share a world that is degrading. Why not contribute to alleviating the problem? I just don’t get it!
* The silence is deafening - For several years I have wondered privately and in this blog where is the outrage from the unknowable but huge number of federal employees whose work and reputation have been trashed by the political appointees, flunkies and drones of the Bush administration. Take your pick - EPA, FDA, FEMA, Dept. of Agriculture, Consumer Products Safety Commission, Dept. of the Interior, the military, Dept. of the Treasury, Dept. of Justice... dedicated workers, experts, scientists and professionals who have been ignored and overridden. Their missions neutered. At last, and in my opinion too little too late, one can sense a heart beat. “In a stinging rebuke, unions representing the vast majority of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists, attorneys and other specialists have vowed to cut off future discussions with embattled Administrator Stephen Johnson, according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).” Among their complaints with Johnson; “Refusing to enforce the agency’s “Principles of Scientific Integrity” involving “fluoride drinking water standards, organophosphate pesticide registration, control of mercury emissions from power plants, and “the California waiver decision where the unions contend Johnson has allowed outside influences to preclude “good science in [EPA] decision making”; and “Using in-house legal staff to retaliate against whistleblowers and union officers.” I expect that once we have a new president it will take much time and effort to rehabilitate the many federal departments that have been compromised by the Bush Administration.
* The politicization is debilitating – An example of the point made above: Senior scientists at the Center for Disease Control and outside experts asserted this week that the leadership of Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the CDC, is responsible (poor management and politicization) for the loss of the agency's top scientists and demoralizing many of the CDC's 7,000 employees.
* The self-interest is blinding – In television ads this week (americablog has the details) Hillary Clinton endorses John McCain for president over Barack Obama. I commented recently that I personally have had enough of the Bushes and the Clintons – it is approaching 20 years. Although I would take Hillary over McCain she makes the choice almost difficult. That was an overstatement but reflects my problems with her and her low-road campaign. Call me an idealist but I prefer that the party I support not operate from the gutter most recently dominated by the Republicans. They wave the flag to dissipate the stench of their actions. I know that I have had enough of it and I believe that the vast majority of Americans are equally satiated. It has been too long since one could have pride in their political leaders and especially their President.
*No pleiad to be found – My home page offers the definition of a new word each day. On Thursday the word was “pleiad” – a group of usually seven illustrious or brilliant persons or things. As I survey the seven years of the Bush administration I find no evidence that this word would be applicable. When I have time I will look up the word “maladroit”.
* Speaking of maladroit – The Senate is close to approving “the most far-reaching changes to the nation's product safety system in a generation”. Under the Bush administration the Consumer Product Safety Commission has functioned with antiquated testing facilities and fewer than half the employees it had in 1980. Few among us believe that industry can police itself and even fewer believe that as our imports from mainly unregulated countries grows exponentially that there should be less testing. The George Bush formula has proven to be a George Bush formula.
* The fragility of democracy ~ the power of fear – David T. Z. Mindich has written a provocative article at alternet.com titled “Could Our Democracy Withstand Another 9/11?” I believe it is worth a read as he discusses the rise to dictator by Hitler in 1933 and conditions we find in our society today. The burning of the Reichstag enabled Hitler to go from Chancellor to dictator in an amazingly brief period, all predicated upon fear of Communists. “Within 60 days, Hitler had begun the process of arbitrary arrests, warrantless surveillance and searches, incarceration without charges, suspension of habeas corpus, the implementation of torture, the mustering of a private army, and was pushing through the passage of the "Enabling Act," which gave Hitler and his henchmen the power to ignore the legislative branch and write laws themselves.” If some of these occurrences have not caught your attention perhaps you have been watching too many reruns of American Idol. No one is accusing America of being a fascist state but the argument can be made that we are in a fascist shift. Mr. Mindich notes, “Germans made a decision that can be summed up by words from Benjamin Franklin's 18th century aphorism: they chose to "give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety" and they received neither.”
* "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." Sinclair Lewis (1885 – 1951)