* Chasing windmills ~ and enjoying it - This is the 50th edition of Stephen Views the News that began in June 2007. Readership and positive feedback continue to grow and in February I was invited to additionally post my blog each week at the websites PA for Democracy and Montgomery County Democracy for America. A question I am often asked is where do I find the time? The answer is less TV and fiction novels. The question I occasionally ask myself is, why? Writing about what is happening in our country is certainly challenging, it offers opportunities for creativity, it demands a degree of analysis that is not natural to my once apolitical inclination and it provides an outlet for the frustrations I experience viewing the news. However, the original motivation for writing this blog remains strong. I believe that America has room for improvement and the more we are aware of the ways and the degree to which our country is being damaged, the better the chance that the self-serving and power-driven incompetents managing our political system will be replaced. And, there is the possibility they will be replaced with more responsible leaders such as Webb, Casey, McCaskill, Sestak, Tester and Patrick Murphy who won elections in 2006. At times events cause me to feel like Don Quixote but it is not dissuasive. The 2008 presidential and congressional races could be subtitled “Save America”. It is my opinion that the core elements that made America the standard for modern democracy, freedoms and a better way of life are at stake. Tens of thousands of Americans are currently working diligently for positive change in our country. The opportunity to have a modest voice in this quest is satisfying.
* The Impossible Dream ~ McCain’s healthcare plan – John McCain says the country must provide access to healthcare for all citizens and that "we need to help people who need it." He is against requiring health insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions because, “That would be mandating what the free enterprise system does." McCain also wants to shrink government's role in healthcare and doesn't want to impose regulations on insurance companies. The McCain healthcare plan reminds one of Bush’s Iraq incursion. There ain’t no plan! Bob Laszewski, an expert on health policy, has a website Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review that offers a more detailed analysis of McCain’s ideas on healthcare as well as the other candidates.
* It definitely is sobering - The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) released a new report stating that because "political progress is so slow, halting and superficial, and social and political fragmentation so pronounced," the U.S. "is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago." The new assessment -- which was conducted by the same experts that advised the Iraq Study Group (ISG) -- "predicts that lasting political development could take five to 10 years of 'full, unconditional commitment' to Iraq, but also cautions that future progress may not be worth the 'massive' human and financial costs" to the U.S.” The “surge” is now a “pause” and probably the best we can hope for until January 20, 2009.
* A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq – While no one in the Bush administration attempts to bring the Iraq war to some resolution a number of congressional candidates and military experts have developed an intelligent multi-approach plan to change the Iraq dynamics and actually strengthen America. The highlights include:
End U.S. Military Action in Iraq
Use U.S. diplomatic power
Address humanitarian concerns
Restore our Constitution
Restore our military
Restore independence to the media
Create a new, U.S.-centered energy policy
The specifics of this plan can be read on line or downloaded to a PDF file at this link. You can sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of this plan at True Majority Action.
* Don’t drink the water – The Bush administration has been successful in stripping vital protections from the Clean Water Act. Polluters want to keep dumping contaminants linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems into our water because dealing with chemical waste, oil spills, and other pollution would cut into their profit margin. According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), “That means that pollutants like E-Coli, bacteria, mercury, PCBs and dioxin could be contaminating the drinking water of more than 110 million Americans. The LCV offers a petition you can sign urging Congress to enact the Clean Water Restoration Act.
* Don’t drink the Kool Aid ~ or bleach – Florida has a strict abstinence-only sex education policy. How is that working out? “A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state... The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.” Florida teenagers may have whiter teeth but their genitals are falling off. As a nation we are beginning to pay attention to what is happening in Washington D.C. The same light should be shone on state legislatures who are equally susceptible to special interests that do not represent majority interests.
* A response to Guantanamo – The site of torture, indefinite imprisonment and ignorance of international and American law and morality will be the location where George W. Bush attempts to justify the criminality that permeates his “rain” of error. Trials for a number of these prisoners are being scheduled to take place. Five former Secretaries of State and the American Bar Association have condemned the activities that have occurred at Guantanamo and the possibility of fair trials. Fortunately, there are individuals and organizations in America that have not lost their conscience. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have joined forces by assembling defense teams to be available to assist in the representation of detainees facing prosecution at Guantánamo. “We are taking this step because of our grave concerns that the Guantanamo military commissions process does not reflect our country’s commitment to justice and due process. The military commissions’ authorization of the use of coerced evidence possibly derived from torture, secret evidence, and hearsay is unconstitutional and counter to American traditions of fairness and justice.” You may not care about these “foreigners”, who may have committed egregious crimes, BUT, in a democracy we all should care about the application of justice on a selective basis. To not care is a dangerous road traveled.
* It definitely is us – When we hear figures that the Iraq war will cost the U.S. $196 billion this year or that the projected cost will reach more than $1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) the irony is that the numbers are so large that they are virtually meaningless on a personal level. Well, it just got personal. Barack Obama recently said that the Iraq war is costing each American household $100 per month. It was not campaign hyperbole. The source of the $100 figure came from The Three Trillion Dollar War, a new book by Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and Linda J. Bilmes, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. It will cost each of our households $1200 this year. John McCain is comfortable with the U.S. being in Iraq for decades. Of course he is married to a multi-millionaire heiress, he has a federal pension and healthcare package. You and I are paying the price AS WILL generations to follow since Bush’s war is being paid for with our tax dollars but even more so with borrowed money – what the economists call deficits and I call an element of the Bush legacy.
* Truth ~ a fact that is verified – The Pentagon will begin issuing hand-held lie detectors to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan aimed at rooting out potential insurgents and terrorists. The Pentagon claims that these devices have an accuracy rate up to 90%. The Pentagon’s accuracy claims are questioned by polygraph experts. It seems that the accuracy rate is between 63% and 79%. "I don't understand how anybody could think that this is ready for deployment," said statistics professor Stephen E. Fienberg, who headed a 2003 study by the National Academy of Sciences that found insufficient scientific evidence to support using polygraphs for national security... ‘Sending these instruments into the field in Iraq and Afghanistan without serious scientific assessment, and for use by untrained personnel, is a mockery of what we advocated in our report." Mockery is the operable word for a Pentagon that did not provide our troops with adequate protective equipment as they went into battle and renewed a contract with a helmet manufacturer they knew intentionally produced helmets below specifications to increase their profit margin. Jimmy Breslin wrote a hilarious book about a group of incompetent Mafia-like sad sacks titled The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Well, neither can this gang but it is not humorous.
* Perfect Rice for the perfect wedding – It appears that Condoleezza Rice is vying to be John McCain’s running mate for the White House. As National Security Advisor in the early years of the Bush administration she “neglected to explain to President Bush the importance of a pre-9/11 intelligence briefing that suggested Osama bin Laden's followers intended to attack the United States, and she later claimed on the basis of no apparent evidence that a failure to attack Iraq would put the U.S. in danger of nuclear attack.” Secretary of State Rice is best known for playing the piano and her collection of shoes since her diplomatic achievements would fit on a grain of rice. Having been a surrogate in the flawed and failed Bush administration for seven plus years and given that McCain provides a continuum of Bush’s imperialistic and error-laden foreign policy it would be the perfect marriage. The neocons could be ushers, James Dobson could perform the ceremony, Joe Lieberman could be the ring bearer and ExxonMobil could pay for the honeymoon in the romantic, sun-drenched and historical city of Baghdad.
Dominatrix Update: ABC and the AP are reporting that Condoleezza Rice chaired explicit White House discussions in 2002 and 2003 about which torture techniques should be used on prisoners. This is the first time we see evidence that senior officials, "not only discussed specific plans and specific interrogation methods, but approved them". Recall when news of prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib become public, responsibility was attributed to rogue low-level military personnel. Other “stellar” attendees at these Club Sadist meetings were Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft and VP Cheyney approved these measures. As much as I would like to see Rice on a losing ticket with McCain this news will likely waterboard her chances. Speaking of chances, Bush and Cheyney may have dodged impeachment but a war crimes tribunal may not be out of the question.
* A marriage made in heaven – It is my sense that our souls are color blind and worship at a non-sectarian universal cathedral. I thought about this while reading an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the married couple David Hyman and Farah Jimenez. He is a white Jewish Democrat and she is a black Cuban American Baptist Republican. They are both active in their respective religions, political affiliations and perform wonderful work in the community. Their story is worth reading. Aside from the fact that Ms. Jimenez voted for Rick Santorum and to this day defends Bush, they are living examples of what America can be. Mazel tov and buena suerte.
* "We both want to have a positive impact on the world and we're not waiting for politics to make a difference."