Wednesday, March 29, 2006


PETER PRENGAMAN ASSOCIATED PRESS - Thousands of immigration advocates marched though downtown Los Angeles in one of the largest demonstrations for any cause in recent U.S. history. More than 500,000 protesters - demanding that Congress abandon attempts to make illegal immigration a felony and to build more walls along the border - surprised police who estimated the crowd size using aerial photographs and other techniques, police Cmdr. Louis Gray Jr. said. . . In Denver, more than 50,000 people protested downtown Saturday, according to police who had expected only a few thousand. Phoenix was similarly surprised Friday when an estimated 20,000 people gathered for one of the biggest demonstrations in city history, and more than 10,000 marched in Milwaukee on Thursday.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Troops Think They're Fighting to Avenge US for Saddam's "Role" in September, 2001 Attacks

Click pic for larger image

Scalia: Guantanamo inmates have "no rights"

By Rachel Neumann
Posted on March 27, 2006

Starting this week, the Supreme Court is supposed to be objectively and impartially hearing arguments in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, on the legality of the U.S.'s military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. These detainees, who have been held for years without charges or access to lawyers, are not given access to full representation and jury trials.

One Justice, Antonin Scalia, has apparently already made up his mind about the detainees. In an unpublicized talk to a Swiss audience, documented by Newsweek, Scalia called their claims "crazy" and said detainees have no rights either under the U.S. Constitution or under international law.

Although only 5 percent of the Guantnamo detainees were captured by U.S. forces, for Scalia, this time it's personal:

If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy.

If Scalia doesn't recuse himself, his vote will be considered suspect. Much comfort that will give Hamdan and the other detainees who believed in U.S. justice enough to hope for a fair hearing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Remember, God Kills A Kitten...

As far as I'm concerned, this works with the Democrats as well - the other "choice" in our faux, corporate whore democracy.

Click on image for larger pic...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Feds Okay Plan to Deny Remote Polling for Katrina Refugees

by Jessica Azulay, NewStandard

Mar. 20 – What was good enough for mostly well-to-do, pro-Western Iraqi expatriates living in the United States is apparently too good for the mostly black and poor New Orleanians displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

On Thursday, the US Justice Department authorized state and local plans for carrying out the New Orleans primaries on April 22. In votes postponed from February 4, the city will vote on mayoral, city council and other local primary races. Though the plans include setting up polling stations throughout Louisiana, remote balloting will not be available in other states with high concentrations of hurricane survivors.

In effect, displaced New Orleanians will not enjoy the same level of polling access that the federal government provided last year to Iraqi expatriates, who cast ballots for the Iraqi legislative elections in five cities across the United States.

By contrast, even Southern cities like Atlanta and Houston, which host high numbers of Katrina refugees, will not host polling stations for storm-affected New Orleanians outside of Louisiana.

Civil rights groups had been urging the Justice Department to overrule the plans, saying they will disenfranchise thousands of voters.

"The current elections plan is a formula for problems and disaster," National Urban League President Marc Morial told the Associated Press.

Under the voting plan, displaced New Orleanians scattered in other states would still be able to send in absentee ballots. But opponents of the plan say absentee ballots are unfairly cumbersome. Would-be voters must request a ballot ahead of time, fill it out correctly, sign it in front of a notary or witnesses, and send it back before April 21. Voting-rights advocates say they fear the complexity of the process will lead to the disqualification of many absentee ballots.

They also worry that candidates will not have an opportunity to present their platforms to constituents without reliable lists of addresses for registered voters. The Urban League is urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make its comprehensive lists of hurricane survivors addresses available to registered candidates.

In a statement last Friday, the NAACP urged Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to put off next month's election by executive order ''until clear and measurable procedures are put in place to ensure all New Orleans voters, regardless of demographical location, will be able to fully and freely exercise their constitutional right to vote."

NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon wrote to the governor: "Historically, the extension of voting rights to black citizens in Louisiana has been strongly resisted, whether through literacy tests, poll taxes or other formal and informal practices combined to keep black voting rates in the state low. The impact of Hurricane Katrina now threatens Louisiana's African-American citizens' voting right in equally devastating ways."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Does Anyone Give a Damn?

ZNet Commentary
By Saul Landau

Commentaries are a premium sent to Sustainer Donors of Z/ZNet. To learn more folks can consult ZNet at

"We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."

Bush Press Conference, 7/14/2003

Fact: On September 21, 2002, Saddam said the UN inspectors could return to Iraq to search for possible weapons violations. They searched from December 2002 to March 2003 and found nothing.

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires --a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." President Bush, April 20, 2004

Fact: Bush authorized wiretaps without court orders.

So Bush lied! But only about making war and invading citizens' privacy, not about truly important themes. Bush would never have claimed he didn't have "sex with that woman," like his predecessor did. Shame on Bill Clinton for prevaricating on the most important subject in the world!

The Bushies only lie about issues concerning public policy and the extension of executive power. On February 6, as he verbally tried to fib his way out of unseemly behavior he claimed necessary to fight terrorism, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez looked a tad uncomfortable. On the C-Span camera, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzalez dissembled with soft spoken language and a smile about Bush's electronic eavesdropping program. Gonzalez made it sound as if nothing serious had happened because of what he portrayed as a very limited wiretapping operation that focused only on international calls involving people with known links to Al Qaeda. He refused to answer Senator Patrick Leahy [D-VT], who asked if Bush had also authorized the opening of citizens' mail.

Gonzalez also did not explain why the Administration circumvented the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), since the court established by this act would have automatically granted warrants to listen in on anyone even vaguely linked to Al Qaeda.

Indeed, the court has historically granted some 99% of the warrants the government has asked for. Some Senators strongly hinted that the Bush Administration didn't ask for warrants because their targets for snooping involved people with no links to terrorism and whose phone calls were inside the country, if not inside a single city or office building: the personal and political enemies of George W. Bush, family and friends. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) stopped just short of such an accusation.

Other Senators referred to a New York Times story that quoted FBI Agents complaining that they had spent endless days investigating NSA intercepts of tens of thousands of calls. These so-called "leads" had led nowhere.

Most serious political analysts would not show surprise that the Bush efforts amounted to massive wheel spinning. The intercepts yielded no warnings about the Madrid or London bombings, for example. They have not helped solve the 2001 anthrax episodes when the lethal powder showed up in Congress and other places and killed US citizens.

The Bush record shows failure and incompetence. Nevertheless, for five plus years, Bush has maintained an aggressive and audacious style that has with some success covered up his failure to forge viable policies.

Incompetence and lack of planning have led to Bush's most devastating failure, the ongoing killing and escalating horror in Iraq. For 2007, Bush proposed $439.3 billion for defense (not counting Iraq and Afghanistan costs), while cutting Medicare and other vital programs. Thus far, we have not heard wild and angry protests from the Democrats.

The US dead count climbs slowly toward 3000; wounded to 20,000. The number of Iraqi dead and wounded, according to reputable journals, has surpassed 100,000. Iraqis have no security, little electricity or water, and not even gasoline for their cars. The daily bomb attacks, kidnappings and firefights amidst shortages of necessities have made life in that "liberated" country a living hell. Those appointed by Bush to manage Iraq had one thing in common: incompetence and loyalty to the President.

No one but a hermit could have failed to see the feeble attempts of the Bush Administration to provide help for those devastated by last year's hurricanes.

After failing to fulfill his promise to privatize social security, Bush did continue to deliver immense tax breaks for those who least needed them. This success for the few helped to skew further the income gap in the country and bring more hardship for the many. The US savings rate has dropped to its lowest point in nearly 13 years.

Early February polls showed that finally the message had filtered through the distracting nets of "I'm protecting you from terrorism" rhetoric and the mesmerizing messages to shop eternally to gain tranquility.

The public now acknowledges that Bush has failed them. Indeed, most Americans would be hard put to identify one successful policy that the Administration has implemented. No child left behind has led many behind. Cheap drugs for seniors has meant confusion for most seniors and the refusal of the FDA to license reduced price generic drugs. Indeed, the FDA bosses represent the pharmaceutical companies far more effectively than they do older America.
Rebuilding New Orleans? Bush doesn't believe in nation-building, even at home. Bush has made enemies among people around the world, depleted the Treasury, furthered the worsening of the environment and alienated even governments that traditionally backed the United States--right or wrong.

Thanks to free trade flummery, Bush's clinging to the notion that US-backed trade policies will deliver prosperity, Latin America's poor have become ever more anti-Yankee. In November 2005, Bush suffered a humiliating rejection at the Mar del Plata Argentina Hemispheric meting where he clung to the very policies that had destroyed the Argentine economy. Indeed, Latin Americans elected several governments on platforms that defy US hegemony in the region (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia as some examples).

After five years of waging aggressive audacity instead of policy at home and abroad, Bush still faced the nation during his late January speech with not only a look of confidence but claims that had no relation to fact or truth. He wanted to cure the nation's addiction to oil while cutting funds to investigate alternative energy.

Indeed, no viable energy plan has emerged from the Administration, despite Vice President Cheney's adamant refusal to let Congress see documents about his energy discussions with ENRON executives in 2001 that related to forging such a policy.

The Bushies' substitution of chutzpah for policy, however, has its own logic--albeit the logic of banality. As with most Administrations, Bush has gathered various factions, all of whom benefit from his "war on terror." The Karl Rove gang wants to concentrate "power in the executive and pack[ing] the Supreme Court to this effect," wrote former Reagan Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts. "The neocons are using the war to achieve their agenda of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

Police agencies are using the war to remove constraints on their powers and to make themselves less accountable. Republicans are using the war to achieve one-party rule--theirs. The Bush administration is using the war to avoid accountability and evade constraints on executive powers. Arms industries, or what President Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex," are using the war to fatten profitsThe lack of debate gives carte blanche to these agendas. One certainty prevails. Bush is committing America to a path of violence and coercion, and he is getting away with it." ( Feb. 6)

While Senate Democrats inexplicably stopped short of confronting Gonzalez as they had shied away from Judge Samuel Alito two weeks before, the Bush Administration continued to pursue its ruthless power game.

Who really felt the invasion of privacy?

Albert Kuydher's phone has not worked properly for four plus years, he has noticed personal letters opened and not carefully resealed and, while vacuuming, he noticed the presence of strange looking metallic objects placed under his furniture.

Mr. Kuydher even noticed people wearing raincoats and dark glasses sitting in parked cars outside of his apartment. Other individuals routinely followed him to work and back and to other places.

Say Al Kuyhder quickly and, well, you know the rest. You can imagine what happened when a police equivalent of former FEMA head Michael Brown got an NSA report on this man.

Yes, it's a joke, but not as cruel a prank as the one Bush has played on the people for five years--one the Democrats don't seem to have the will and stamina to stop. But I keep hoping...

Saul Landau is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Recent Surge In Violence...

This was put together by one of the administrators of the web forum DemocraticUnderground, who noticed that news reports out of Iraq seem to continuously use the phrase "a recent surge of violence" to describe what is happening there. Feast:


Middle East Online, September 3, 2003: "Meanwhile, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac were to meet in Germany on Thursday to discuss ways for the West to respond to the recent surge in violence in Iraq and the Middle East."

UK Telegraph, October 31, 2003: "Ansar is believed to be channeling into Iraq the foreign fighters who are behind a recent surge in violence in the country, officials say."

KNI News, November 3, 2003: "Bush blamed loyalists to ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and foreign terrorists for the recent surge in violence in Iraq."


Reuters, March 4, 2004: "A wave of bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala killing at least 171 people earlier this week has highlighted the difficulties in rebuilding the country and restoring peace. But Mr. Blair, speaking after a meeting in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, said the recent surge in violence in Iraq did not constitute civil war."

Radio Free Europe, April 14, 2004: "US President George W. Bush held a major news conference at the White House on 13 April in the middle of the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq since Baghdad fell a year ago. He spoke of the recent surge in violence there, but urged his countrymen not to lose faith. He also said he would adhere to the 30 June deadline for handing over sovereignty to Iraqis."

US State Department, April 15, 2004: "Pace said the recent surge in violence in Iraq is being driven by 'terrorists' who see the June 30 deadline for turnover of sovereignty approaching rapidly and are petrified by the promise of democracy."

CBS News, April 26, 2004: "Lt. Gen. David Barno, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that the military has seen a recent surge in violence, but that most attacks were directed against soft targets, such as civilians or isolated Afghan security outposts."

Pew Research Center, May 12, 2004: "Despite the prison abuse scandal and the recent surge in violence in Iraq, a majority of the public (53%) continues to support keeping troops in Iraq until a stable government is established."

China Daily, May 25, 2004: "In his speech to the Army War College here, Bush warned that 'there are difficult days ahead and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic.' Yet he vowed the handover would take place on schedule and that the US-led coalition would not be defeated by insurgents blamed for the recent surge in violence."

The New Standard, June 24, 2004: "Compelled by the recent surge in violence, US Central Command (CentCom) has informally asked Army planners for as many as 25,000 more troops in Iraq, the Baltimore Sun reports."

The Washington Post, July 22, 2004: "Despite a recent surge in violence, including kidnappings, car bombings and assassinations, senior US and Iraqi officials gave a relatively optimistic assessment on Wednesday of the security situation in Iraq since the transfer of political authority from US to Iraqi authorities June 28."

Progress Magazine, July/August, 2004: "In the short term, ongoing help will be required with the maintenance of security within the country. The response to the recent surge in violence must emphasize political solutions and not be just a simple deployment of military power."

The Washington Post, September 9, 2004: "'The recent surge in violence has been especially surprising because in the weeks after the transfer of power there was a phase that, for Iraq, felt to some almost like a lull.'"

Al Jazeera, September 17, 2004: "The assessments, made before the recent surge in violence in Iraq and the US military death toll there topping 1000, appear to conflict with Bush's upbeat description of the US-led effort to stabilize and democratize Iraq."

The Washington Times, September 22, 2004: "The Iraqi leader also said that despite a recent surge in violence in Iraq, it is 'very important for the people of the world really to know that we are winning, we are making progress in Iraq, we are defeating terrorists.'"

Al Jazeera, December 18, 2004: "Mosul has experienced a recent surge in violence. On Friday, a car carrying Turkish security guards was attacked in the city, in Iraq's far north near the Turkish border, and four people were killed, one of them decapitated."


Radio Free Europe, January 4, 2005: "The incident marks the most senior assassination since the death in May of Governing Council president Abd al-Zahra Uthman Muhammad and should be seen within the context of the recent surge in violence ahead of national and provincial elections slated for 30 January."

CBS Chicago, January 17, 2005: "The area around Kut has seen a recent surge in violence. In a separate attack, two Iraqi provincial government auditors were shot to death late Sunday after armed gunmen stopped their car in Suwaira, about 25 miles southeast of Baghdad, an official at a Kut hospital said."

ABC News, March 2, 2005: "Most of the victims were Shiites, the targets of a recent surge in violence, most notably a series of suicide bombings and other attacks that killed nearly 100 people during the Shiite religious commemoration known as Ashoura."

The BBC, April 27, 2005: "But he added it was too early to say if a recent surge in violence amounted to a concerted campaign, and insisted that US-backed forces were 'winning.'"

The International Herald-Tribune, May 16, 2005: "The insurgents' choice of adversary is unusual. But the recent surge in violence, at least, follows a time-tested pattern."

The Washington Post, May 19, 2005: "A senior US military official told reporters Wednesday that the recent surge in violence in Iraq followed a meeting in Syria last month of associates of the Jordanian insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi."

The Council on Foreign Relations, May 20, 2005: "It's unclear how much of the recent surge in violence stems from tribal leaders, but as Metz points out: 'Local elites recognize that in a secular, modernized Iraq, their power would be challenged.'"

Salon, May 23, 2005: "Even despite the recent surge in violence, in some areas - downtown Mosul, for example - Iraqi forces have begun limited independent operations."

Associated Press, June 17, 2005: "It is also believed to be the main hideout of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant whose al Qaeda-linked group has carried out many of the deadliest attacks in Iraq and who US forces believe is behind a recent surge in violence."

White House press conference, June 20, 2005: "Mr. President, we were told that you planned to sharpen your focus on Iraq. Why did this become necessary? And given the recent surge in violence, do you agree with Vice President Dick Cheney's assessment that the insurgency is in its last throes?"

Iran Focus Online, August 4, 2005: "His comments came as the 15-nation council unanimously adopted a US-drafted resolution condemning a recent surge in violence in Iraq that has killed hundreds ..."

Radio Free Europe, August 12, 2005: "But a recent surge in violence and reports of growing public hostility to the Japanese presence are prompting many to question the prospects for continued humanitarian assistance there."

Associated Press, September 17, 2005: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, has reportedly said the recent surge in violence is in retaliation for a coalition offensive against the group's stronghold in the northern city of Tal Afar."

The Washington Times, October 31, 2005: "The fresh US effort to crack down on insurgents followed a recent surge in violence caused by the passing of the new Iraqi constitution in a referendum held earlier this month."


Agence France Presse, January 7, 2006: "US officials have sought to downplay a recent surge in violence that on Thursday alone claimed the lives of more than 115 Iraqis and 11 US servicemen."

The Sidney Morning Herald, January 8, 2006: "The recent surge in violence is "an anomaly" and Iraq is not on the verge of civil war, the top US commander there said yesterday, after one of the country's bloodiest days since the fall of Saddam Hussein."

The American Chronicle, February 1, 2006: "Recently, five other members of Congress and I sat on a C-130 transport plane surrounded by soldiers going from Kuwait to Baghdad. The backdrop is a recent surge in violence."

The Associated Press, February 4, 2006: "Dozens of bodies have been discovered in various parts of Baghdad gagged, bound and shot repeatedly in the past week, amid recent surge in violence, which analysts have repeatedly described as initial stages of an open-ended civil war between Iraq's ethnic groups."

Associated Press, March 1, 2006: "AP reports that he was giving an unusually frank assessment of the stakes in the country's recent surge in violence."

The Baltimore Sun, March 4, 2006: "The top US commander in Iraq said yesterday that he hopes to make an assessment this spring about whether to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq. But Pentagon officials speaking anonymously said a recent surge in violence there has dampened hopes that force levels can be cut anytime soon."

Associated Press, March 6, 2006: "The training at the desert village is especially important for the Marines of the First Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. The battalion, made up mostly of Marine reservists, is leaving soon for Iraq, where sectarian tensions have brought a recent surge in violence - and growing concerns about civil war."

Reuters, March 10, 2006: "Iraqi forces, not American troops, would deal with a civil war if one erupts in Iraq and US troop cuts remained possible despite a recent surge in violence, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Thursday."

Al Jazeera, March 11, 2006: "Moving to the recent surge in violence that has swept Iraq, Ritter said he wasn't surprised as the only thing holding the three infighting ethnic and religious groups (Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis) together since the end of the Ottoman Empire after World War I was Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist Party."

The New York Times, March 13, 2006: "Despite the recent surge in violence in Iraq, Mr. Reid said he believed that civil war was "neither imminent nor inevitable." He said Iraqi security forces now numbered around 235,000, with 5,000 more volunteering to join every month."

There you have it, folks. There isn't anything to worry about in Iraq. It has only been a "recent surge of violence" we have been hearing about ... every week for the last three years since this whole catastrophe was first undertaken. Have no fear, though. As Army General George Casey states in the January 8, 2006, article above, "This level of violence, I think as we've seen, is an anomaly." George can keep right on admiring his rug.

Bush Increasingly Focused On How Revisionist History Will See Him (Satire...duh!)

From The Onion

WASHINGTON, DC—With many of his administration's policies facing growing public disapproval, President Bush is reportedly becoming more concerned with how he will be portrayed by future revisionist historians.

"Just last summer, the president never reflected on how apologists would spin his increased lobbying for an unpopular war, or how future far-right generations would justify his failed domestic policy initiatives," presidential scholar Dr. Robert Dallek said. "He reportedly asked an aide if, decades from now, the deluded would see him as great, like Ronald Reagan, or merely as a fully redeemed elder statesman, like Richard Nixon."

Margaret Meehan, a spokesman for the National Board Of Historical Revision, offered no comment on any future portrayal of "America's most beloved and accomplished president."

On Articles of Impeachment (satire)

(from today's Doonesbury)

Section 4 of Article 2 of the Constitution gives lawmakers latitude. How much latitude? Well, consider the case of two presidents.

The first president initiates a bloody, costly, unending war on false premises and approves covert policies of illegal detention, kangaroo courts, extraordinary rendition, torture and warrantless wiretapping of thousands of Americans.

The second president lies about hooking up with an intern.

Question: Which one should be impeached?

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Dear friends of Venezuela,

Following a massive outpouring of opposition, H. Con. Res. 328 (the Mack resolution) was withdrawn from the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs in the House Committee on International Relations. Due for a vote today, Rep. Mack (R-FL) and his supporters pulled the resolution before a vote could take place. Clearly, they felt that the resolution would now fail.

In recent weeks the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition,, the Venezuelan Information Office and others have campaigned against this resolution which paves the way for escalating U.S. intervention against Venezuela's democratic process.

Yesterday more than 10,000 letters were sent to Congress in just a few hours after the last A.N.S.W.E.R./ appeal. Everyone who participated should feel proud. We must intensify our solidarity with the majority of people in Venezuela -- the 80% who live in poverty -- who are mobilizing a many-sided campaign for social, economic and political justice. They face an ever increasing threat from the U.S. government which seeks to maintain the power of the Venezuelan oligarchy and tiny ultra-rich elites who have dominated the country.

This is a congratulations to all for your participation in this campaign.

In solidarity with the people of Venezuela,
Brian Becker, National Coordinator, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Poverty-Stricken Africans Receive Desperately Needed Bibles (Satire, you know...)

March 13, 2006, The Onion

MARADI, NIGER—More than 60,000 urgently needed Bibles arrived to allay suffering throughout the famine-stricken nation of Niger Friday, in one of the largest humanitarian-relief operations ever attempted by a Christian ministry.

"Come rejoice, and feast upon the word of Our Lord, Jesus Christ," said Christina Clarkson, executive director of the Living Light Ministries of Lubbock, TX. "Those who were hungry, hunger no more, for the Word brings life."

An exuberant Clarkson said the Bible drop was the culmination of one of the largest and most aggressive grassroots fundraising drives ever undertaken by the organization, which was able to fund the mission largely through local charitable events, such as bake-offs, barbecues, and pie-eating contests.

"We absolutely would not be here today if it were not for the amazing generosity of the people back home," Clarkson said. "People everywhere opened up their hearts and checkbooks to us and said, 'Dig in.'"

Niger, ranked as the second-poorest nation on Earth, is experiencing its worst famine in more than 20 years, as a brutal drought last year was followed by a plague of crop-destroying locusts. An estimated 3.5 million of Niger's 12 million people are currently at risk of starvation.

"That's why it was so important for this mission to happen right now," said Clarkson. "So many people here are suffering. Disease, starvation, and lack of shelter are day-to-day realities in Niger. But once they hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior—once they really take Him into their hearts—then they will see what poor comforts are the things of this world."

Due to the tireless efforts of Clarkson and other members of the congregation, the ministry was able to provide the needy with Bibles superior to the ones they use in their own church services.

"Handcrafted, genuine leather—best money can buy," said 61-year-old missionary Don Kostic as he ran his hand along the book's ornately embossed spine. "It's like my wife back home says: Nothing is too good for people who are ready to receive the Living Word of Christ."

Although the fundraising efforts were unprecedented, congregation members said Living Light would never have succeeded had they not obtained the generous support of an array of corporate sponsors, including Applebee's and Church's Fried Chicken.

"We spent so much money just to get here," Kostic continued. "After we had all the Bibles engraved, we still had to charter the plane. When we landed in Niamey, we could barely even afford ground transportation."

Undaunted, the missionaries purchased the best vehicle they could find, which turned out to be a used bread truck. "That old thing!" recalled Kostic, laughing. "We must've scrubbed it down a hundred times. You couldn't get the smell of freshly baked, vitamin-fortified bread out of it if your life depended on it."

Reaction among Niger residents has been mixed.

Moussa Yaouli, a 35-year-old farmer, was particularly interested to learn more about the doctrine of transubstantiation, which Living Light personnel told him involved the eating of wafers. "It is said to be a big wafer. I am sure it will feed many of my children."

Though "spiritually gratified" by their work, many of the missionaries spoke about the difficulties of working in an impoverished country.

"It can be so hard being away from the comfort of our homes and our loving families," Clarkson confided. "I will admit, there have been times when I prayed, 'Lord, just help me get through this mission and get me back to Texas!' But when we rolled into town and people started running after the truck with those big smiles on their faces, I couldn't help but smile back."

Clarkson added: "And when we opened up the back of the truck and they saw that it was full of Bibles... Grown men and women wept in front of their children. That's how moved they were by the Holy Spirit. That's how I know it's all been worth it."

Clarkson said her mission will succeed in bringing the people of Niger "the spiritual sustenance they've been deprived of," despite such obstacles as the nation's 18 percent literacy rate.

"You say you're suffering. I say, let the good Lord do the suffering for you," she said. "You say you're exhibiting the deleterious effects of severe dehydration and chronic malnutrition. And I say that no matter what ails you, the Holy Bible is the best medicine there is."

"Girl" by Beck


I saw her, yeah I saw her with her black tongue tied
Round the roses
Fist pounding on a vending machine
Toy diamond ring stuck on her finger
With a noose she can hang from the sun
And put it out with her dark sunglasses
Walking crooked down the beach
She spits on the sand where their bones are bleaching
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
She doesn't even know what's wrong
And I know I'm gonna make her die
Take her where her soul belongs
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
Nothing that I wouldn't try

Hey, My sun-eyed girl
Hey, My sun-eyed girl

I saw her, yeah I saw her with her hands tied back
And her rags were burning
Crawling out from a landfilled life
Scrawlin her name upon the ceiling
Throw a coin in a fountain of dust
White noise, her ears are ringing
Got a ticket for a midnight hanging
Throw a bullet from a freight train leaving
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
She doesn't even know what's wrong
And I know I'm gonna make her die
Take her where her soul belongs
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
Nothing that I would not try

Hey, My sun-eyed girl

Monday, March 13, 2006

Online activism is under attack by America Online

AOL has announced plans to charge a corporate "email tax" to guarantee access to user inboxes. Under this pay-to-send system, large emailers can bypass spam filters.

Under this scheme, charities, small businesses, civic organizing groups, and even families with mailing lists will be left with inferior Internet service unless they are willing to pay AOL's fee.

We need to stop AOL and send a message to other email providers -- such as Yahoo!, MSN and Google -- that imposing a similar "email tax" is a mistake.

Please sign the petition to AOL and forward it to your friends

The petition urges AOL to stop auctioning off preferential access to people's inboxes: "The Internet is a force for free speech, democracy, and economic innovation because it is open and equally accessible to all Internet users. We must keep it a level playing field."

Sign the petition here:

AOL's proposed pay-to-send system is the first step down a slippery slope that will harm the free flow of ideas and innovations on the Internet.

The "email tax" would actually reward AOL financially for failing to maintain its spam filtering service. This system could disrupt the communications of millions who cannot afford to pay their fees, while setting a dangerous precedent that other large email service providers will follow.

Stop AOL's "email tax" before it spreads.

Thank you,

Timothy Karr
Campaign Director
Free Press

P.S. Read the recent San Jose Mercury News editorial opposing AOL's "email tax."


The sound of change;
the power of changes

Sam Smith

[This was the chart used to riff some comments at a performance by the punk rock group Blowback on March 10,2006 at the Club Asylum in DC's Adams Morgan]

WHEN he was 25, Colin Wilson wrote The Outsider, a book about those who see too deep and too much. I suspect some of you are here tonight. Wilson tells of a Jean Paul Sartre character who lives alone in a hotel:

"There is his ordinary life, with its assumptions of meaning, purpose, usefulness. And there are these revelations, or, rather, these attacks of nausea, that knock the bottom out of his ordinary life. The reason is not far to seek. He is too acute and honest an observer. . ."

"Of the café patron, he comments:

'When his place empties, his head empties too.' The lives of these people are contingent on events. If things stopped happening to them, they would stop being. Worse still are the . . . pictures he can look at in the town's art gallery, these eminent public men, so sure of themselves, so sure that life is theirs and their existence is necessary to it. . .

A few days later he reflects that "the nausea is not inside me; I feel it out there, in the wall . . . everywhere around me."

Here is a metaphor for our own time, living as we do so near to all "these eminent public men, so sure of themselves, so sure that life is theirs and their existence is necessary to it." And finding the nausea out there in a war, an ecological crisis, and the collapse of constitutional government.

I feel it. . . like an exile in my native town, a town partly occupied by guards who demand I prove I am not a terrorist and partly filled with people who seem just to be passing through the place as if it were the world's largest Marriot Hotel lobby.

But then in Sartre's café somebody puts on a record, a woman singing 'Some of These Days'. The nausea disappears and Roquinten says:

'When the voice was heard in the silence I felt my body harden and the nausea vanish. . . I am in the music. Globes of fire turn in the mirrors, encircled by rings of smoke.'"

Wilson calls it art once again giving order and logic to chaos.

I have been a journalist and I have been a musician and one of the things I have learned is that there are times for words and then there are times when words fail, except the kind that are put to music, a time when music becomes the best politics.

For example, a few decades ago , a young boy named Andras was introduced to rock music while living in Denmark: " I didn't know what the underlying message was and I didn't care. I just thought this was something that I had to embrace."

Then he returned to his native Hungary to live with his aunt and uncle, who were conservative communists. And one night his uncle came in and took away the radio. Andras apologized for playing it so loud but the uncle said, ""The problem was not that it was loud. The problem was that you were listening to a Western radio station. . .

"Still, you had to keep going . . . It kept us sane. . . . As we listened to Radio Luxemburg, we were suddenly out of our bodies and our soul was part of the free world. . .

Someone would find a record in a shop and they would buy it and then make 500 copies. And Andras started a band. As he put it, "there was no way to stop . . . the message of freedom through rock and roll. . .

Andras told that story a few years ago at the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, but no longer as a young man, no longer a rocker but the Hungarian ambassador to the United States.

Similarly, when the Czech leader Vaclav Havel met Lou Reed in 1990 he told him, "Did you know that I am president because of you?" The Velvet Underground's first record had become so popular in Prague it had given the rebellion its name: "the Velvet Revolution."

In short, punk politics.

And then there was Rage Against the Machine: 1993. . . stands naked for 15 minutes without playing a note or singing in a protest against censorship. . . 1997. . . Well before most college students knew about the issue, Tom Morello is arrested during a protest against sweatshop labor. . . 2000: the LA police close down a Rage concert seen as a threat to the Democratic convention.

Or take traditional jazz, my music. During much of the 20th century jazz clubs were among the few places that whites and blacks shared socially. . . My own civil rights involvement had its roots in part in a music I loved. Among my records as a student in an all white high school was a Louis Armstrong song:

Even the mouse
Ran from your house
Laughed at you
And scorned you, too
What did I do
To be so black and blue?

Even earlier I had found a song in a book on my parents' piano:

I dreamt I saw Joe Hill last night
As live as you and me
But Joe, I said, you're ten years dead
I never died said he. I never died said he

The copper bosses shot you Joe,
They killed you Joe said I
What they forgot to kill, said Joe,
Went on to organize.

And years later, holding hands with those I knew only from their souls singing:

Deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome
Some day

Or standing with tens of thousands on the Mall singing:

All we are saying is give peace a chance

Try it yourself. . .

You'll be amazed how much is in the MP3 playlist of your brain that has been guiding and driving you forward.

But there's another side as well. . .

About two weeks ago Itunes downloaded its one billionth song. Its one billionth reason for someone not to notice anything for awhile but to walk indifferently down the streets of our collapsing republic. One billion tunes and things are just getting worse.

It's a reminder that music can be a trap as well as a remedy, another way the system can take our minds off what is happening. Like the café patron, we can become contingent on events and if things stop happening, so do we. The police state can come through sedation as well as suppression.

But you can't stop playing. Billie Holiday could not have foreseen the civil rights revolution when she sang 'Strange Fruit' nor Joe Hill the modern labor movement. The human story gets better when people surrender their telepathic presumptions and simply do the right thing anyway.

In February 1960, four black college students sat down at a white-only Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Within two weeks, there were sit-ins in fifteen cities in five southern states and within two months they had spread to fifty four cities in nine states.

If that response had not occurred, would their sit-in have been without purpose? Or just not blessed?

We can not control the future but we can control how we react to every moment that passes by.

This is the lesson existentialism teaches us. We exist by our actions, our words, our art, and our music, whom and how we love. Existentialism has been called the philosophy that no one can take your shower for you. Or, for that matter, determine how you are going to respond to Iraq, to Bush, to the melting of the Antarctic. It is the philosophy that said that even a condemned man has a choice of how to approach the gallows. It is not a bad philosophy for our times.

Like a hit and run driver, America's elite has left the scene of the accident. They have become like those of whom Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby:

"They were careless people -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together. . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

And through this all -- the unreal, the undemocratic, the cruel, the crowded, the rushed, and the uncritical -- the American outsider walks alone.

But its' always been like that. Behind every great social or political change has been the outsider -- those willing to seek to understand and alter what others just ward off with everything from religious sophistry to pop sophorifics, from IBelieve to ITunes. Those who find inspiration, globes of fire and rings of smoke in music rather than just a way to kill an hour. Those whose existence becomes the event rather than merely contingent upon the event. .

And if enough of us try hard enough and give our support to others who are doing likewise maybe one day we'll have our own Velvet Revolution, maybe we will find an asylum for our souls and our freedoms throughout the land rather than only in a few places like a club on 18th street.

Meanwhile thank those around you for what they have dared to think, thank the band for what it has dared to play, and thank yourself for what you have dared to be.


AL KAMEN, WASHINGTON POST - President Bush's recess appointment in January of Tracy A. Henke to be assistant secretary of the Office of Grants and Training at the Department of Homeland Security irked Senate Democrats. Henke had caused a ruckus last year when she demanded that a Justice Department report on racial disparities in police treatment of blacks in traffic cases be taken out of a news release. A respected career employee was demoted after protesting the move.

But indications are that Henke's working hard and handling her new post -- an important job to make sure scarce anti-terrorism money is spent effectively across the country -- with appropriate priorities. Take this e-mail she sent to staff members last week:

"Another item I mentioned during the All-Hands meeting was the need to seek suggestions on how we can neatly encapsulate what we do at G&T to help others understand (inside and out of the department)," Henke wrote. She went on to say that when she was at the Justice Department her job included handing out money, being a contact beacon for states and local communities and helping victims of crime. "I used the 'Santa Claus, Batman and Mother Teresa' analogy" to sum up the functions.

But here's the problem. "Mother Teresa won't work for G&T," she wrote. "I requested that you think about and submit suggestions for another analogy to fill in the blank 'Santa Claus, Batman and - - - .' This analogy is not for publication, but to be used in conversation to assist individuals in understanding the great work, activities and possibilities of G&T. Several of you have sent suggestions. Thank you for your interest and great ideas.

"To make certain that everyone has the opportunity to participate and to be involved," she wrote, "I have asked Anne Voigt [an aide] to chair a short-term committee to work on this for me. If you could please e-mail your suggestions to Anne . . . she will assemble the options. I ask that if you are interested in helping her, please e-mail her your name by COB on Tuesday, March 7. She will put the names in a hat (bowl or anything else we can find) and we will pick the other individuals to serve on the short-term committee with her.

"This committee will narrow the options down to no more than three and we will then have an all-hands vote to select the 'Santa Claus, Batman and ?' The individual whose suggestion is selected will be invited to lunch with me," she wrote, "my treat."

Feel safer already, don't you?

California's Prop 36 Saves Lives, Taxpayer Money

From DP Alliance

DPA released a report this week documenting the successes of Proposition 36, the California initiative that mandates treatment instead of incarceration for most people convicted of nonviolent drug possession offenses. The report, entitled Proposition 36: Improving Lives, Delivering Results, found that Prop 36 had significant benefits for substance abuse treatment as well as reforms to the state's costly prison system.

In its first four years, Prop 36 diverted over 140,000 Californians from incarceration into treatment. Half were in treatment for the first time. 60,000 Californians will complete substance abuse treatment in the program's first five years, while tens of thousands more will spend substantial amounts of time in treatment and make tangible progress toward recovery.

Treatment access has expanded under Prop 36, with more than 700 new treatment programs licensed after the initiative took effect. Existing programs grew to serve tens of thousands more clients each year.

Meanwhile, the report found that California prisons saw a 32 percent drop in the number of people incarcerated for drug possession after Prop 36 was approved, while drug-related incarceration had risen steadily in the 12 years prior to Prop 36. Thanks largely to Prop 36, a women's prison was closed, and a new men's prison was rendered unnecessary.

Dave Fratello, a co-author of Prop 36, said, "Prop 36 is the most significant sentencing reform since the repeal of alcohol Prohibition. The results show how much good we can do by treating addiction as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue."

Despite its track record of success, Prop 36 faces funding obstacles. Governor Schwarzenegger has called for the program's funding to be maintained at 1999 levels, which amounts to a cut because of inflation and the expansion of treatment services. Nikos Leverenz, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's capital office in Sacramento, said, "We now have data to show the real impact of Prop 36, as well as the real needs going forward. To keep faith with the voters, legislators must find the money to protect and expand Prop 36. Every new dollar we put in saves lives and money in the long run."

DPA is working in the California legislature as well as in California communities to spread the word about the successes of Prop 36 and boost its funding so it can continue to be effective. The complete report is available here.




Starting next weekend and lasting over the duration of the next two months there will be an intense level of mass anti-war and anti-imperialist organizing and mobilization. We hope everyone will join the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and other anti-war groups in building mass opposition to the government's War for Empire.

Iraq is at the center of many of these mobilizations but so is the threatened aggression and intervention against Iran, Venezuela, Haiti, North Korea, Cuba and the Philippines. In Palestine the U.S. and Israeli authorities are trying to starve the people in retaliation for having democratically voted for candidates that don't meet their approval.

This is a critical juncture for the anti-war movement. The Bush government is discredited. Its approval rating is in the basement because the people have turned against the war and are disgusted with the criminal neglect in the wake of the hurricanes. People are outraged by the administration's attempts to eviscerate civil rights and civil liberties, and its exposed domestic spying operations. Yet the Democrats continue to vote for every allocation to sustain the criminal war in the Middle East, provide no resistance to Bush's attack on the Bill of Rights - including the reauthorization of the repressive Patriot Act. The Democrats are likewise culpable for turning their backs on working class communities in crisis at home.

The hope for the future is to build a new radical peoples movement. That is how we won union rights, civil rights, women's rights -- all the social achievements that are being targeted for destruction. This is the only real road to peace as well.

Thousands of people are active as volunteers and activists, others help by making a donation. Some do both. This is a peoples movement and we are getting stronger but we urge everyone to redouble their commitment and involvement.

Please donate to help support all of these activities. For nearly five years the ANSWER Coalition has been organizing day in and day out against Bush's endless war but we can't do it without your help. Please make as generous donation as you can today by clicking here.

As Bush's approval ratings drop to 30%, as the anti-war position has become the majority sentiment, and as the other ruling party, the Democratic party fumbles to be a weak shadow of the Republicans, it is up to the people to forge the political direction of this country.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Charge to drive in downtown S.F. seems more viable

Edward Carpenter, The Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO - The success in Stockholm of a program to charge drivers fees for heading into the highly congested heart of the city could bode well for a similar proposal in San Francisco, according to officials. Since being implemented on Jan. 6, downtown traffic in Sweden’s capital has plunged 25 percent and transit usage has increased by about 40,000 riders per day, dramatically decreasing rush-hour travel times, data released today shows.

“It’s fabulous,” said San Francisco County Transportation Authority Executive Director Jose Luis Moscovich, who hopes a similar system might be implemented in The City. The transit authority in January won a $1 million federal grant and has contributed another $200,000 toward studying the feasibility of so-called congestion pricing over an 18-month period. While the financial benefits to Stockholm aren’t known yet, London — which began operating a flat-fee system in 2002 — takes in about $350 million a year using congestion pricing, $175 million of which goes directly into public transportation.

“The idea is to put [the money from the fees] right back into public transportation,” Moscovich said. “If we make it more expensive to take a car then we have to provide [people] other choices, or else we’re imposing a hardship and we don’t want to do that.”


DOUG THOMPSON, CAPITOL HILL BLUE - One of the questions frequently raised by critics of this web site is "how can you guys have sources the mainstream media doesn't have?" Good question. We often quote confidential sources in our stories. We have a choice of depending on such sources or not publishing the story. If I'm satisfied the sources are accurate I go with the story.

It's a question of trust and, during my 23 years in Washington as both a journalist and a political operative, I built up a network of sources I trust and who trust me to protect their identity and not put them in harm's way. More than 40 years in journalism taught me to protect such sources at all cost.

Many of those same sources don't trust the so-called "mainstream media" outlets because they've been burned by journalists who put the story ahead of protecting those who provide them with the information. Even worse, the mainstreamers can be downright sloppy when it comes to protecting those who have such information.

On Monday, I outlined how the Bush Administration has launched an all-out war on the press, directing attorney general Alberto Gonzales to go after reporters with subpoenas, wiretaps, monitoring of emails and surveillance to try and stop leaks about the many questionable activities of the White House. I learned about the efforts because the FBI made the incredibly stupid mistake of sending one of their "National Security Letters" to a company I own demanding information on one of its clients - me.

Then I confirmed the story with my administration sources and ran with it on Monday, knowing that even acknowledging receipt of a National Security Letter could lead to trouble. The letter was withdrawn after my attorney negotiated a deal.

On Tuesday, an email arrived from Dan Eggen, Justice Department correspondent for The Washington Post. Dan wanted a copy of the letter and more information on the story.

That's right. I write a story about how the Bush administration is monitoring the email of journalists and a journalist fires off an email asking me to violate the USA Patriot Act and risk certain jail time by providing him with a copy of a letter that I'm not even supposed to admit I have. . .

Then I checked my voice mail to find a call from Robert O'Harrow Jr., another Post reporter, wanting information on my sources. Hmmm. I write a story about how the Bush administration is monitoring phone calls of reporters and a reporter calls me on the phone to obtain information on my confidential sources. Anyone see a pattern here?

Next, I get both a phone call and an email from David Armstrong of the National Security News Service saying he is working with 60 Minutes on a story about domestic spying by the National Security Agency. He wants info on my sources.

Let's see. A reporter uses both the telephone and email to request the names of confidential sources on a story about how the National Security Agency monitors telephone and email use of, you guessed it, reporters.

Sorry guys. I'm not about to burn my sources when you take so little precaution in seeking information from me. . .


Afghanistan: The Other War


[from the March 27, 2006 issue]

Our Humvee jolts and sways against another cold dirt track in Parwan Province, an hour north of Kabul. On the road thin shadows from barren winter orchards lie like dark lacework and flicker across the Humvee's hood and windshield.

A landscape of adobe-walled villages, empty fields, horse carts and dramatic sharp mountains slides by. Inside the armored Humvee we listen to music on a dusty iPod and two speakers that are jacked into the vehicle's nervous system. Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" rolls up on the iPod. The lyrics, though older than most of the soldiers on this patrol, capture the squad's mix of homesickness and political cynicism: "Now Watergate does not bother me/Does your conscience bother you?" No one talks much about Afghanistan.

I am riding along with these two Humvees from the 164th Military Police Company to observe the American effort at keeping a lid on the Afghan caldron. I also want to compare US methods with those of the European troops who are taking over an ever larger part of the military mission here.

Specialist Willie Stacey stands in the gun turret on the SAW-249 machine gun. He taps his foot to the music's rhythm, and to the slight twinge of fear that animates us all. Four nights ago this unit was sprayed down with small arms fire, and earlier one of their number lost his leg to a landmine.

Only ninety-eight US troops died in Afghanistan last year; but the ratio of US casualties to overall troop levels makes Afghanistan as dangerous as Iraq. While Iraq's violent disintegration dominates the headlines, Bush touts Afghanistan as a success. During his recent visit, the President told Afghans that their country was "inspiring demand their freedom."

But many features of the political landscape here are not so inspiring--for example, the deteriorating security situation. Taliban attacks are up; their tactics have become more aggressive and nihilistic. They have detonated at least twenty-three suicide bombs in the past six months, killing foreign and Afghan troops, a Canadian diplomat, local police and in some cases crowds of civilians. Kidnapping is on the rise. American contractors are being targeted. Some 200 schools have been burned or closed down. And Lieut. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the senior American military officer here, expects the violence to get worse over the spring and summer.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The nattering nabobs of ... patriotism?

By Paul Lewis, Philedelphia Inquirer

Declaration of Independence: The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations.

Samuel Adams: If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

Thomas Paine:What is called the splendour of a throne is no other than the corruption of the state. It is made up of a band of parasites, living in luxurious indolence, out of the public taxes.

Press briefing, St. James's Palace

Scott McClellan, Esq.: Following a brief comment on criticism of the administration from across the Atlantic, I'll take your questions. I need hardly remind you that these are perilous times. Times when Indian uprisings in the colonies and challenges to commerce on the high seas make security concerns paramount. In this context, we welcome constructive ideas, but, alas, hear nothing but negativity from our critics. Do they have any ideas, any positive agenda? I don't think so.

The McLaughlin Group, PBS

John McLaughlin: Look, there are many leaders in America, but you've got to wonder if they are ever going to get their act together. Watch this clip. [Shows Jefferson, Adams and Paine making the comments above.] OK, so we've heard the latest round of potshots fired by these so-called revolutionaries. I ask YOU, Pat Buchanan, what you make of these comments.

Eleanor Clift: Now, John, am I ever going to ...

Pat Buchanan: John, it's the same mean-spirited attack we've been hearing for decades from places like Boston and Richmond. How much easier it is to call the King's appointees "vain and aspiring" than it is to advance a positive agenda.

Tony Blankley: Pat's right, John. It's easier to whine about supporting "parasites" than to see how the monarchy stimulates economic growth by employing throne builders and gourmet chefs.

Eleanor Clift: But, John, John ...

John McLaughlin: Bye, bye!

Royal press conference, St. James's Palace:

Q: Your Majesty, would you care to comment on the recent pointless and purely negative attacks by the Americans?

King George III: I'm glad you put that question on the table, Wolf, where it can be carved up and batted around. There are those who say that when it comes to the development of agendas, negativityness, or negativitude, or negativitality will never convince those who are themselves not as negative as the agenda developers. And I think I'll just leave it there, heh, heh. Now, where are my parasites?

Fox News crawl: King George decries "negativitude" ... Britannia continues to rule waves ... Music reviewer Lord Slumber calls "Yankee Doodle" a "stupid song," others agree ... Philadelphia overrated as tourist attraction ... George Washington flatulent ...

The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News

Tom Paine: These are the times that try men's ...

Bill O'Reilly: Will you just shut up! Look, I have one question for you. First, it's the King you smear with your negativity, calling his court a "band of parasites," then it's God. Did or didn't you say that Jesus was a "virtuous and amiable man"? A man, is that all? When are you liberals going to end your war on ... No positive agenda. No positive agenda. Shut up! - Top Stories

Americans Surprise Themselves by Having an Original Idea

"Positive Agenda" Ranges from Insult to Invective

Paine's Latest Line of Attack: "Rich people suck"

The Rush Limbaugh Show, EIB Network

Rush Limbaugh: My friends, we've been hearing this for years and years from these witless Americans. Hating the rich, cryin' crocodile tears over the poor, why it's nothing but class warfare. Do they have a positive agenda or is their best shot whining about vague "injuries and usurpations"? Recent attack lines from American liberals are all too familiar. Usually the nonsense they spout is kind of cute, but in times of danger their instinctive idiocy is life-threatening. And, as for threatening lives, maybe it's time to dump some of them in Boston Harbour. And where, I for one would ask, is their positive agenda?

Paul Lewis ( is a professor of English at Boston College and the author of "Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict," to be published this fall by the University of Chicago Press.

Andrew Young: Shameless Son

By Bruce Dixon, The Black Commentator
Posted on March 6, 2006

Black History Month 2006 ended on a jarring note. Andrew Young, a former member of Dr. King's inner circle at SCLC, who went on to serve three terms in Congress, a stint as U.N. ambassador and two terms as mayor of Atlanta before cashing out his Freedom Movement chips for a lucrative career as an international "business consultant," decisively spat upon the movement for human rights and economic justice that he spent his early career helping to build.

Young announced on Feb. 27, 2006, that he would chair Working Families for Wal-Mart, a media sock-puppet for the ruthless multinational firm. The cynical misuse of his stature as an icon of the Freedom Movement, preacher, former elected official, and honored elder in black America to mask and obscure the crimes of his corporate client marks Mr. Young as nothing more nor less than a corporate whore.

When Atlanta's WAOK-AM radio gave Young several minutes of live air time the morning of the 27th to justify himself to an African-American hometown crowd, the response was overwhelmingly negative. How could he do this, one caller after another wondered incredulously. Wal-Mart does more to depress the wages of working people on both sides of the Pacific than any other single player in the game, listeners called in to say.

Other callers reminded each other that Wal-Mart relentlessly discriminates against women and minorities, ruthlessly crushes unions, and dumps its health care costs onto the public sector while receiving millions in local government subsides and tax abatements for each of its thousands of U.S. stores. Andy Young used to walk with Dr. King. He used to be on our side, more than one observed. Why, they asked, is this happening?


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


AP - Runoff elections are typically cumbersome processes, taking weeks and sometimes months to determine a winner. Burlington is going to do it all instantly. In an innovation known as instant-runoff voting, the results of Tuesday's five-candidate election for mayor and whatever runoffs are needed to settle it will all be known soon after polls close. For the first time in a mayoral election in the United States, voters will mark their ballots for their favorite candidate, along with their second, third, fourth and fifth choices. If none of the five gets 50 percent of the vote on the first round, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be eliminated. Then the second choice of the voters who made that candidate their initial pick would be counted, and so on. "As soon as somebody gets to 50 percent, it stops," said Jo LaMarche, the city's election director.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Murtha calls Pentagon's top general a liar

March 5, 2006 04:55 PM / Capitol Hillbillies

Rep. John Murtha, the decorated ex-Marine turned Iraq war critic, Sunday called the Pentagon's chairman of the Joint Chiefs a liar for his rosy view of the war. The general acknowledged Sunday that "anything can happen" in Iraq, but he said things aren't as bad as some say. "I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at."

The comments drew criticism that Gen. Peter Pace is glossing over problems in the three-year-old U.S. campaign.

"Why would I believe him?" asked Rep. Murtha, D-Pa., a major critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war. "This administration, including the president, (has) mischaracterized this war for the last two years."

Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited political progress such as holding elections and writing a constitution as well as military progress like training Iraqi security forces.

"No matter where you look _ at their military, their police, their society _ things are much better this year than they were last," Pace said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Murtha, responding to Pace in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," said that Iraq has 60 percent unemployment, oil production below prewar levels, and water service to only 30 percent of the population.

American troops are doing everything they can militarily but "are caught in a civil war," said Murtha, a former Marine who has called on the administration to bring U.S. troops home.

"There's two participants fighting for survival and fighting for supremacy inside that country," he said of ethnic divisions. "And that's my definition of a civil war."

Murtha added: "The rhetoric is so frustrating _ when they keep making statements which are very optimistic, and then it turns out to be the opposite. ... And the public has caught on to that, and they're very pessimistic about the outcome."

Pace and Murtha spoke as Iraqis continued a stalemate over forming a new government, a delay that has prevented parliament from meeting since it was elected Dec. 15.

Pressure mounted Sunday on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to give up his bid for a new term amid anger over the recent surge in sectarian killings that has complicated already snarled negotiations on a new Iraqi government.

Pace said the violent firestorm that followed the bombing of a revered Shiite mosque two weeks ago had forced Iraqis to look into "that abyss" and realize "that's not where they want to go."

"Anything can happen, I agree," Pace said, then added: "I believe the Iraqi people have shown in the last week to 10 days that they do not want civil war."

Ending the insurgency depends not only on military efforts but also on whether the Iraqi government can give the people what they want, Pace said. He said the number of people in the insurgency will drop if people see that the new government can come through with jobs and services.

"If you have an opportunity to get a job and feed your family, you're much less likely to accept $100 to go plant a bomb inside a road," Pace said.

Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. must stick with the Iraqis.

"They're talking about putting their act together," Lugar, R-Ind., said on CBS. "Now, the fact is that they may or may not be successful, but we better hope that they are, because the consequences for our country and the war against terror are very fateful if they are not."

© 2006 The Associated Press

Sunday, March 05, 2006

New Orleans Public Housing Residents Set to Fight Off Developers

by Kari Lydersen, NewStandard

For local real-estate tycoons who dreamed of wrecking New Orleans housing projects and gentrifying neighborhoods long before the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina’s floodwaters brought a blessing soaked in misery.

New Orleans; Feb. 27 – "Am I glad to be home!" exclaimed Gloria Irving as she set her plate of red beans and rice on the dashboard and opened the van door to let in the cool New Orleans air after a long drive from Texas.

But she had come back only as a visitor; after fleeing Hurricane Katrina to Houston, her journey home had just begun. Like many other public housing residents, Irving is waiting for the city to decide the fate of her apartment in the long-running battle over affordable housing in New Orleans.

Even though the St. Bernard housing projects, where Irving has spent most of her 70 years, sustained what residents consider survivable damage, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) has not yet allowed residents back in.

First floor apartments like Irving's filled with water during the flood, but Dr. Marty Rowland, a civil engineer who toured the project, has told reporters all of the units could be livable again with rewiring and the restoration of utilities. Second- and third-floor apartments were hardly damaged at all, he said.

The Housing Authority has not announced what it plans to do with the approximately 1,300-unit development, but it did say it would put a fence around the site -- a move many see as a sign of impending demolition or redevelopment.

What the Housing Authority doesn't seem to understand, Irving says, is that she and her former neighbors have nowhere else to go. Even before Katrina, the number of public housing units in the city had fallen from about 14,000, sheltering about 60,000 people in the 1980s to 7,379 units.

That number could dwindle further in the coming months. Several housing developments, including the Desire and Florida projects in the Upper Ninth Ward, sustained heavy damage from Katrina's flooding and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has said they may be demolished.

The fate of three other public housing developments – LaFitte, B.W. Cooper and C.J. Peete – is less clear. Each sustained at least some storm damage, and the federal government has announced intentions to "redevelop" them. In the meantime, according to HANO, residents are slowly and "strategically" being allowed to return to select units.

But many residents and public-housing advocates are skeptical of the city's assessments, suspecting that municipal and federal officials are using the disaster as an excuse to accelerate a trend to raze or alter public housing for private development in New Orleans and throughout the nation.

History supports their fears. In 2000, the city demolished the St. Thomas housing projects – home to nearly 1,700 people – under a deal to re-develop the area for "mixed-use" homes and retail space. The plan was blessed and paid for by the federal government under the Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) VI program, which was designed to rehabilitate distressed public housing into so-called "mixed-income" developments.

Read More Here...

Poor Pay Biggest Share of State, Local Taxes

by Michelle Chen, NewStandard

Antipoverty activists say that America's poor, saddled with a disproportionally high state and local tax burden, are getting hit from both sides on all levels of government.

Mar. 1 – Federal program cuts, tax breaks for the wealthy and state budget crises are not the only forces squeezing the working poor. According to a study by a progressive think tank, low-income households are getting pinched yet again by state income-tax policies that turn what little they have into even less.

Of the 42 states levying income taxes in 2005, nineteen taxed two-parent families of four living in poverty, and sixteen taxed impoverished single-parent families of three, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which has tracked state income-tax data since the early 1990s.

Antipoverty groups say such tax policies add a perverse twist to an already tattered social safety net, and are demanding tax relief for the poor through redistributive fiscal policies.

"This is an especially harsh time to be taxing families deeper into poverty," said Kimble Forrister, executive director of the low-income advocacy coalition Alabama Arise, noting that families in his state are still reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Katrina and skyrocketing fuel costs.

According to the CBPP, while some states have recently reformed their tax codes to relieve the lower income brackets, others have simply let their income-tax thresholds stagnate. This has allowed inflation to drive the tax floor below the federal poverty line – about $16,600 for a family of three in the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia. The study also found that 31 states taxed families with incomes just above the official poverty line, pulling them back toward financial insecurity.

In Alabama, the basic tax exemptions are essentially held over from Depression-era statutes. In 2005, the state culled income taxes from families of four earning as little as $4,600. A single-parent family of three making the minimum wage – that's under $11,000 per year – paid nearly $220. The state charged four-person families with two parents living at the poverty line, which hovers just below $20,000, about $540.

Angela, a 30-year-old single mother in Auburn County, sees income taxes are just one more hurdle in her struggle to keep her two children, ages 9 and 12, housed and fed.

"It's just hard from day to day," she said. In her view, the government seems to be discouraging her efforts toward economic self-sufficiency. The more she works –stringing together low-skill, temporary jobs paying as little as $6.10 an hour – the less she receives in food-stamps assistance, and the closer she moves toward the income threshold at which the government saps her earnings.

"It's just kinda messed up," she said. "If you go out and get a job, you're still hurting yourself, 'cause now, I gotta worry about feeding my family out of my pocket."

Read More Here...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Venezuela's Threat

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March 04, 2006
By Gary Olson

Here is today's multiple choice question: Who recently provided 1.15 million gallons of low-cost heating oil to thousands of poor and working class families in seven East Coast states, including 25,000 people in Philadelphia, and did so with the words,"No one should be forced to sacrifice food, shelter, or medicine to stay warm" ?

a.) King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
b.) Felix Rodriquez
c.) George W. Bush
d.) Oprah Winfrey
e.) 10 major U.S. oil companies.

The correct answer is "b" and Rodriquez is the CEO of Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA). On behalf of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, he also distributed free heating oil to dozens of homeless shelters from Maine to Delaware.

Venezuela, with the largest oil deposits outside the Middle East and the world's fifth largest oil producer, also sold oil at far lower costs to fifteen poor nations in the Caribbean and Central America. Even Native Americans in Maine were recipients, and Chief Bill Philips of the Micmac tribe thanked Pres. Chavez: "He is a fellow Native from the Americas, and we appreciate Chavez trying to bring low-cost heating oil for our elderly."

The 10 U.S. oil companies did not respond to requests to help the poor. Just one of them, Exxon, reported record profits of $36 billion in 2005.

Can the twice democratically-elected Chavez be the same fellow that Pat Robertson wants the CIA to assassinate, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has likened to Adolf Hitler; and official and semi-official types have placed on the White House "enemies list," labeled a "red devil," as "lethal as Osama bin Laden," and a "madman"? Further, the U.S. supported a unsuccessful military coup against Chavez in 2002 and Condoleeza Rice has called the Venezuelan government a "major threat to the region."

Assuming for the moment that preventing Pennsylvanians from freezing to death hasn't prompted this venomous rhetoric, what could account for it? Perhaps the answer lies in some evil deeds done by Pres. Chavez back in Venezuela. What mischief has he been up to there?

The challenges are daunting in Venezuela where 80% of the population is poor and some 1 million children scratch out a bare subsistance in the major cities. After four decades of indifferent upper-class rule, Chavez, a 51-year-old former army paratrooper, was elected president in 1998 and again in 2004.

According to Washington-based economist Mark Weisbrot, "The tangible improvements for those living in Caracus' poor barrios have been noticed in the rest of Latin America, a region with the most outrageously unequal income distribution in the world." Here are a few highlights of his tenure:

* For the first time time, universal health care is official state policy and peasants are living longer due to accessible health care.
* Elementary schools are providing three free meals a day to all students, drawing some million new students to school.
* misiones (missions/government projects) are extending vital social services like literacy training, food subsidies, and rudimentary health care to the poor.
* Indigenous Venezuealans, homosexuals and women are now protected in the constitution.
* Land reform is redistributing idle land to landless peasants.
* Operation milegro (miracle), a joint venture with Cuban doctors, has restored eyesight to thousands of blind people in the region.

Venezuelan elites, who despise Chavez and call him a "monkey," have tried mightily to sabotage the economy for eight years but it grew at a respectable nine percent in 2005, the highest in the hemisphere.

Venezuelan oil has made this possible but only Chavez acted on the clearly subversive and radical notion that his country's vast resources should be used to benefit the country's people and even those beyond its borders.

Oil was nationalized in 1976, but according to all accounts the oil bureaucracy operated as a "state within a state," refusing to function on behalf of the citizens. The system remains imperfect but Chavez finally excercised effective control over PSVSA in 2001. State oil profits were over $25 billion last year and the petrodollars are now staying home in the form of high social spending, faithfully reflecting social ownership of this natural resource. Something must be working because his approval rating stands at 77%, the highest in the Americas.

And of course this begins to explain why Chavez is viewed as a threat, as a "virus" that might "infect" others. An alternative development model where the citizens, not private U.S. foreign investors, are the primary beneficiaries of government policy is feared by U.S. elites. As Latin American expert Prof. Rosa Maria Pegueros observes, from Washington's perspective the real threat is that if Chavez succeeds, he may "create an eqalitarian society that has the power to resist United States hegemony."

Who knows where this virus may appear next. To help it spread, I'm filling my tank at the Citgo station from now on.

Gary Olson, Ph.D. is chair of the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem,PA.


Sam Smith

One of the most striking changes in Washington culture over recent decades has been the disappearance of radical youth and their replacement by a culture of elite, young, right libertarians coming to the capital intent on increasing their own capital, financial and political. The recently jailed graffiti artist Borf is a rare exception to the rule, but the weekly paper and many local blogs, for example, rarely break out of a culture of self absorption and when they do it is often with a snobbery and contempt - which they mistakenly regard as hip - towards those portions of the city not yet blessed by their gentrification.

Thus, reading that Harvard students supported the lately departed Lawrence Summers comes as no surprise. After all, the students are at Harvard to do as well as Summers did until confronted by some declasse groups such as blacks and women. And as the author of a forthcoming book on Harvard students put it, "There is not a speck of irony on the campus."

And now we learn from Donald MacLeod in the Guardian that things are no better in Britain: "Universities have appealed to lecturers to call off industrial action over pay as a student union broke ranks and condemned the strike and boycott of exam marking. Bristol students' union said it strongly condemned the tactics used by the lecturers' unions. . . in pursuit of their 20% pay claim. . . 'We will put pressure on [the unions] to resolve their pay dispute before targeting students at their most vulnerable time of their academic year.' But the unions look set to go ahead with a one-day strike on Tuesday, followed by a boycott of setting and marking exams and coursework."

Consider in contrast some of the slogans of an earlier young constituency, the French student rebels of 1968:

- Boredom is counterrevolutionary.

- No replastering, the structure is rotten.

- We want nothing of a world in which the certainty of not dying from hunger comes in exchange for the risk of dying from boredom.

- The boss needs you, you don't need him.

- Your happiness is being bought. Steal it.

From such thoughts, so odd today, we have come to student bodies that can't even tolerate a one day strike for better teacher pay. One need no better warning of the collapse of the west than that its elite young have become so, and even gloatingly, conservative. It now seems a race as to which will do us in first: the unprecedented warming of the earth or the unprecedented aging of its youth

Friday, March 03, 2006

O'Reilly threatened radio show caller with "a little visit" from "Fox security" for mentioning Olbermann's name on the air

Summary: On his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly threatened to turn over the personal information of a caller to "Fox security" because the caller mentioned MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. As Media Matters has noted, in recent weeks, Olbermann has repeatedly awarded O'Reilly the "Worst Person in the World" designation during his show, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

On the March 2 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly threatened to turn over the personal information of a caller to "Fox security" because the caller mentioned MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. As Media Matters for America has noted, in recent weeks, Olbermann has repeatedly awarded O'Reilly the "Worst Person in the World" designation during his show, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. O'Reilly has responded, on several occasions, by asserting that MSNBC "is a true ratings disaster." The caller began by telling O'Reilly, "I like to listen to you during the day." Continuing, the caller stated, "I think Keith Olbermann's show," at which point O'Reilly disconnected the call, proclaiming: "Mike is -- he's a gone guy. You know, we have his -- we have your phone numbers, by the way. So, if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit."

Co-host E.D. Hill -- who also co-hosts Fox News' Fox & Friends -- chimed in: "Maybe Mike is from the mothership." O'Reilly responded that the caller was "going to get into big trouble, because we're not going to play around." Warning his listeners, O'Reilly continued: "When you call us, ladies and gentleman, just so you know, we do have your phone number, and if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that, Fox security will then contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?"

Apparently, O'Reilly decided that mentioning Olbermann's name was "untoward" or "obscene." After Hill agreed with O'Reilly's apparent policy of turning over a caller's personal information to the authorities as being "fair," O'Reilly warned again that callers making "untoward" and "obscene" statements "will be held accountable. Believe it."

On the February 23 edition of his Fox News television program, The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly announced the launch of a petition on his website, www.BillO', calling for the reinstatement of Phil Donahue, who previously hosted a show on MSNBC in the same 8 p.m. ET time slot as Olbermann's show. During the February 24 edition of Countdown, in response to O'Reilly's campaign, Olbermann aired a number of video clips from past Countdown editions and commented on several of the claims in O'Reilly's petition.

The weblog Crooks & Liars noted that the caller apparently was blogger Mike Stark, who has suggested on his Calling All Wingnuts blog that he is engaged in a campaign to call in to The Radio Factor to irritate O'Reilly.

From the March 2 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: Orlando, Florida, Mike, go.

CALLER: Hey Bill, I appreciate you taking my call.


CALLER: I like to listen to you during the day, I think Keith Olbermann's show --

O'REILLY: There ya go, Mike is -- he's a gone guy. You know, we have his -- we have your phone numbers, by the way. So, if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit.

HILL: Maybe Mike is from the mothership.

O'REILLY: No, Maybe Mike is going to get into big trouble, because we're not going to play around. When you call us, ladies and gentleman, just so you know, we do have your phone number, and if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that, Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?

HILL: That's fair.

O'REILLY: So, just -- all you guys who do this kind of a thing, you know, I know some shock jocks. Whatever. You will be held accountable. Believe it.

We'll be right back.

Scum-sucking traitors to their country

Posted at March 3, 2006 07:04 AM in
The Rant

Article here...

The next time some loudmouth partisan puke Democrat gets in my face and starts yapping about how much better things would be if his party were running the government in Washington, I'm going to pull out the vote tally sheet for the USA Patriot Act in Thursday's Senate session and ram it down his lying throat.

Where was his party when it came time to take a stand for freedom in this country? Hiding like a coward, that's where. Only nine Democrats and one independent - former Republican Jim Jeffords - had guts enough to vote against reauthorizing the fascist piece of crap called the Patriot Act.

The rest, including Harry Reid, that scum-sucking capitulator who claims to be the Senate Democratic leader, dropped their pants, bent over, grabbed their ankles and handed George W. Bush the k-y jelly and said "bung-hole me all you want sir. I like getting screwed by dictators."

What about the leading contender for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, the so-called "gentle lady from New York," Hillary Rodham Clinton? Oh, she let Bush and the rest of the Republican party gang bang her like frat boys in a horny drunken brawl. Too late to cry rape Hillary. You proved yourself a political slut like most of the rest of your party.

This is the opposition party? This is the party that partisans claim will save this country from the abuses and excesses of too many years of Republican domination? Christ, these losers couldn't lead a Cub Scout pack on an overnight camping trip in a suburban back yard.

I expected Republicans to fall in lockstep behind their power-mad President and sell out their country. That's what Republicans do in the name of control, even though a few made a token show of resistance last year by joining Democratic efforts to filibuster passage of the act. But I held out faint hope that the Dems wouldn't cave and join in the feeding frenzy on the Constitution. Serves me right, I guess, for trusting any politician -- Democrat or Republican.

Only these 10 voted against the act: Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), James Jeffords (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Robert Byrd (D-WV). The rest voted with Bush and against freedom.

Oh those who voted for the act will give us some propagandistic pap about adding protections for civil rights but those canges are just cosmetic crap. The act itself is a Constitution-evading invasion of basic American rights to privacy, and an abandonment of long-standing protections against illegal search and seizure.

If you think Bush was an out-of-control despot before, just see what he will do with the expanded wiretapping, surveillance and seizure powers granted him and his Gestapo-like Department of Homeland Security in the reauthorized act. Don't expect the House of Representatives to do anything to stop this act. The real battleground was the Senate and that battle was lost when Democrats joined with Republicans to sell out the Constitution of the United States.

Where I come from, that's called treason and everyone who voted for the USA Patriot Act should be considered a traitor to their country and treated as such.

And the next Democrat who gets in my face to tell me how much better things would be with his party in charge had better have a good dental insurance plan.