<\body> Stories in America: January 2006

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Forgotten Native Americans

In 1876, the U.S. government ordered all Native Americans to move to their reservations by January 31 or be declared hostile. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others defied the order. The Army was then called in and started many battles with Lakota bands. On June 25, 1876, General Custer and approximately 600 cavalry were defeated, including Custer and 200 of his men, by a combined force of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians in the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn. The Indians' victory was short-lived, however, and the last vestiges of their autonomy were eroded by the U.S. government over the ensuing 20 years.

"They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."
-Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota Chief, shortly before his death in 1909

I visited Little Big Horn on my trip through Montana. Here are a few photos:

What Will Bush Tell the Troops?

The country's largest organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, IAVA, released the following list of points Bush should make in tonight's State of the Union address. We all know what he'll say: "We need to stay the course," "We will find the enemy," "We are liberating the Iraqi people." I doubt he'll say, "Bring 'em on," but you know that's what he'll be thinking.

1) This Nation's Veterans are a Priority: This past year has been a discouraging one for Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In August, the VA revealed that it had underestimated its budget needs for 2005 by more than $1-billion, with a further shortfall of nearly $1.5-billion expected in 2006. Congress passed an emergency spending bill to bridge the gap, but the incident was yet another disheartening example of the VA's inability to handle this influx of new Veterans. Current services for Veterans continue to be woefully inadequate, as was revealed in one recent study that found only one-in-five calls to the VA helpline is answered correctly. The President must present a plan for fixing this broken system.

2) The Current Problem of Military Overextension Will End in 2006: A recent Pentagon report found that the current pace of military operations in Iraq is unsustainable. This is something that our Troops and Veterans have known for years. If the President is serious about Homeland Security, he'll offer concrete solutions to this dangerous problem. The current rate of deployment is a serious deterrent to new enlistment; a problem that the Defense Department has chosen to address by lowering recruiting standards. If the American military is to remain a strong and vital force, this trend must be reversed.

3) Here are the Benchmarks for Success in Iraq: For nearly three years, the President's outlook on the war in Iraq can be summed up in three inadequate words: "Stay the Course." This has never been an acceptable plan of action for the men and women who have lived this war firsthand, many of whom still face the prospect of second or third tour in Iraq. If we are to continue sending our Troops into harm's way, then we must give them basic guidelines to gauge their progress on a tangible course to success. The President must tell our Troops what he plans to do differently in guiding the future of the American military presence in Iraq.

4) Never Again Will our Troops be Sent to War Without Proper Equipment: Early this year it was revealed that hundreds of Troops might have been saved if they'd been wearing the latest body armor. Three years too late, the Pentagon has finally ordered more than 200,000 sets of this additional armor. It will still take another year for that armor to reach the Troops in the field. From un-armored humvees, to shortages of water, to Soldiers forced to buy their own body armor, this war has been an exercise in bad preparation. The President must commit the full resources of this government to an investigation of what went wrong and what needs to be done to prevent similar problems in the future.

Yes TV 'Journalists,' We Are at War

If you watched TV over the past 48 hours or so, you'd think the war in Iraq suddently erupted again. Flipping from local news to cable news, TV anchors are giving in-depth coverage to the roadside bomb that hit ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman Doug Vogt. Larry King dedicated Monday's show to the men and the ongoing danger in Iraq; on Sunday night, San Francisco's ABC affiliate spent eight minutes on the topic. Local newscasts never spend more than a few minutes on any one story. The accident was tragic, but we're at war. The Iraqis have to worry about bombs every single day, yet Iraqi deaths are never reported.

And what about wounded and dead American soldiers? A woman who called the Larry King show asked why civilian reporters are given more attention than soldiers. "The US government has made a decision that we are not allowed to see the coffins, that we're not allowed to see the burials, that we're generally, generally not allowed to go to any of the areas where there are wounded, US military hospitals...perhaps more in Landstuhl, perhaps more in the US, but it's very, very difficult to get close to that kind of real tragedy that the American servicemen and women are going through as well," said CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

A Google News search for the wounded newsmen brings up 2,281 stories; a search for Douglas Baker, a former Army reservist who served in Iraq, brings up only 16 stories. Baker shot himself last week.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Military Cover-Up: Women Soldiers Fear Rape, Die from Dehydration

This is unbelievable. Women soldiers serving in Iraq aren't drinking enough water after dark because they're afraid they'll be raped when they go to the bathroom. As a result, several women have already died of dehydration. Please do what you can to publicize this story by Truthout columnist Marjorie Cohn:
In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."

"And rather than make everybody aware of that - because that's shocking, and as a leader if that's not shocking to you then you're not much of a leader - what they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore. And don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report but don't brief it in the open anymore."

For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights.

Sanchez is no stranger to outrageous military orders. He was heavily involved in the torture scandal that surfaced at Abu Ghraib. Sanchez approved the use of unmuzzled dogs and the insertion of prisoners head-first into sleeping bags after which they are tied with an electrical cord and their are mouths covered. At least one person died as the result of the sleeping bag technique. Karpinski charges that Sanchez attempted to hide the torture after the hideous photographs became public.

Sanchez reportedly plans to retire soon, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune earlier this month. But Rumsfeld recently considered elevating the 3-star general to a 4-star. The Tribune also reported that Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Army's chief spokesman, said in an email message, "The Army leaders do have confidence in LTG Sanchez."
The entire article is worth reading. Please send it around. The 'liberal' media must do a follow-up and the 'Support Our Troops' Congress should investigate. A Google News search for karpinski, dehydration brings up nothing.

Bush's State of the Union Vs. Facts

Here's what Bush is expected to say at tomorrow night's State of the Union address and what you need to know from the American Progress Action fund. Be sure to check their site for links to the following stories and to sign up for daily updates.

Alternative Energy

What Bush Will Say: "I agree with Americans who understand being hooked on foreign oil is an economic problem and a national security problem." [1/29/06]

What You Need to Know: For five years, President Bush has consistently steered the nation away from alternative fuels and towards greater dependence on polluting imported fossil fuels.

BUSH HAS INCREASED DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL: Sixty-six percent of oil consumed in the United States comes from foreign sources, up from 58 percent in 2000. Americans now spend $200,000 a minute on foreign oil, and more than $25 billion annually goes to Persian Gulf states for oil imports.

BUSH ENERGY BILL CONTAINED LITTLE ON RENEWABLE ENERGY: The energy bill supported and signed by President Bush dropped a provision that would have required utilities "to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity through renewable fuels by 2020." The proposal, championed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), "was a low-cost, market-driven approach to cutting demand for fossil fuels and easing air pollution."

BUSH ENERGY BILL WILL NOT REDUCE RELIANCE ON FOREIGN OIL: The same energy bill failed to take any steps that will substantively reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Specifically, the final version "rejected a Senate provision that required reduction of oil consumption by one million barrels per day by 2015." Under the bill, "our need for imported oil will continue to grow for as long as models are able to project."

Warrantless Domestic Spying

What Bush Will Say: "The terrorist surveillance program is necessary to protect America from attack." [1/26/05]

What You Need to Know: President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program undermines the fight against terrorists and violates the law.

LAWLESS SPYING THREATENS LEGITIMATE TERRORIST INVESTIGATIONS: When laws are broken, the legal system imposes consequences. Revelations about the National Security Agency wiretapping program throw into doubt a wide range of investigations and prosecutions in the fight against terrorism. In criminal cases that can put terrorists behind bars, judges now have to worry that evidence was based on illegal wiretaps. According to several FISA judges quoted by the Washington Post, there are serious concerns that "legally suspect information" acquired through warrantless surveillance was used to obtain FISA warrants, potentially rendering the warrants illegitimate. More broadly, convicted terrorists will be emboldened to challenge their prosecutions, perhaps giving them the opportunity to operate freely once again. [Washington Post, 12/21/05]

LAWLESS SPYING WASTES VALUABLE INVESTIGATIVE RESOURCES: According to the New York Times, a massive amount of time and resources were devoted to the warrantless domestic spying program but obtained minimal results. The FBI was bombarded with long lists of phone numbers generated by the NSA program. According to a senior prosecutor: "It affected the F.B.I. in the sense that they had to devote so many resources to tracking every single one of these leads, and, in my experience, they were all dry leads." Long after 9/11, "the N.S.A. material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more calls to Pizza Hut." [New York Times, 1/17/06]

LAWLESS SPYING THREATENS THE CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES: The Bush Administration is claiming executive power far beyond our historical understanding. Among recent examples: the administration claims it can wiretap without a warrant in the United States, contrary to federal law (FISA); it can torture, contrary to international law and the recent McCain Anti-Torture Amendment; and it can hold a U.S. citizen in detention forever, with no judicial review, simply because the President labels the citizen an "enemy combatant." These positions constitute a direct attack by the executive branch on the checks and balances designed to protect our nation's democracy.

Making Tax Cuts Permanent

What Bush Will Say: "Of course, we'll talk about fiscal policy in my State of the Union, talking about the Congress to be wise about how we spend the people's money and to make the tax cuts permanent." [1/26/05]

What You Need to Know: Making President Bush's tax cuts permanent would harm the economy and worsen the nation's poor fiscal health.

TAX CUTS WILL COST $3.4 TRILLION OVER TEN YEARS: The cost of making the tax cuts permanent will be $3.4 trillion through fiscal year 2015, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. This includes the cost of extending the Alternative Minimum Tax relief associated with these tax cuts. [Congressional Budget Office, 1/26/06]

DEFICITS CAUSED BY TAX CUTS NEGATE ANY POTENTIAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS: Studies by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JTC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and CBO all confirm that deficits undermine economic benefits of the cuts. In their analysis of the 2003 tax cuts, JTC found that any economic benefits of the tax cuts would "eventually likely to be outweighed by the reduction in national savings due to increasing Federal government deficits." Four of the five models they used showed a negative effect on real GDP by the next decade, while the fifth showed no impact at all. CBO and OECD studies confirmed the tax cuts would raise deficits and hurt growth. [American Progress analysis, 1/26/05; CBO, October 2005]

PERMANENT TAX CUTS OVERWHELMINGLY FAVOR THE WEALTHIEST: Estimates based on data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center show that if the tax cuts are made permanent, the top 1 percent of households will gain an average of $71,420 a year when the tax cuts are fully in effect, reflecting a 6.5 percent change in their after-tax income. By contrast, people in the middle of the income spectrum would secure just a 2.1 percent increase in their after-tax income, with average tax cuts of $870. [Tax Policy Center, 12/20/05]

Katrina Reconstruction

What Bush Will Say: "I'm going to remind people we show the character and compassion of America by taking focused action...to help devastated areas of our country that have been -- areas that have been devastated by natural disasters." [1/26/05]

What You Need to Know: The Bush administration has bungled the reconstruction efforts and is failing to support New Orleans' reconstruction plan.

KATRINA RECONSTRUCTION HAS BEEN SLOW AND BUNGLED: If New Orleans is to thrive, let alone survive, people must be able to return. They cannot do so under current conditions. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson accurately notes, "the longer the city sits empty and ruined, the less likely its renaissance becomes. Who but the president can break the logjam?" Whole sections of New Orleans still "resemble a moonscape," and only around one-fifth of the city's original population has resettled. Despite Bush's claims that New Orleans is "a heckuva place to bring your family," many "neighborhoods still are abandoned wastelands of uninhabitable homes and sidewalks piled with moldy garbage."

KATRINA RECONSTRUCTION FUNDING HAS BEEN TAINTED BY POLITICS: The $29 billion in aid passed last month was tainted by politics: the package "gave Mississippi about five times as much per household in housing aid as Louisiana received," a "testimony to the clout" of Bush's political ally, conservative Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R).

ADMINISTRATION REJECTED RECONSTRUCTION PLAN: President Bush said at last week's press conference, "It's important for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana to work together to develop a state recovery plan. ... The plan for Louisiana hasn't come forward yet." In fact, Louisiana did come up with a plan - which the White House rejected. Rather than supporting the "most broadly supported plan for rebuilding communities," Bush instead backed $6.2 billion in block grants that Congress provided last year. Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA), whose legislation would have established the Louisiana Development Corp. to purchase flood-damaged property, called the block grants "unacceptable." "Clearly the $6 billion isn't enough," he said. "It ignores the vital recovery in the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard, Cameron and parts of Plaquemines."

WHITE HOUSE STONEWALLING KATRINA INVESTIGATIONS: Congressional investigations into the administration's inadequate response to Katrina have stalled because the "Bush White House is now refusing to turn over Hurricane Katrina related documents or make senior officials available for testimony." Recent news reports revealed that only days before Katrina hit, "the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property." One House investigator said the committee will find a "disturbing inability by the White House to de-conflict and analyze information," but with the White House stonewalling the investigations with claims of executive privilege, the administration's mistakes will not be known for years to come.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Iraqi Women Forced to Become Sex Slaves

To think that Bush supporters still believe him when he says the war is "liberating" Iraqi women. I'm sure he'll repeat it again on Tuesday night. Here's one of the many realities facing Iraqi women we rarely, if ever, hear about:
A rise in the incidence of "temporary" marriages among Shi'ite Muslims is causing concern among women's rights activists. According to women's NGOs in the south of the country, more than 300 temporary marriages occur daily in Kerbala, Najaf and Basra, Iraq's three main Shi'ite cities.

"The poverty, especially for women who have lost their husbands in the years of war, is the main reason for them accepting such agreements," said Salua Fatihi, head of two non-governmental women's rights organisations in southern Iraq. "It's an easy way to protect their children and put food on the table."

"They [men] use them as sexual objects under the guise of a religious belief," Fatihi added.

According to Shi'ite religious law, unmarried women may enter into temporary marriages for periods ranging from hours to an entire lifetime. A payment is made to the woman, often around US $1,000 or the equivalent in gold.

The practice, known as Muta'a, was banned during the Saddam Hussein regime, but has re-emerged since 2003.

"I've been in a difficult position since my husband died during the war in 2003 and my children were hungry, so I decided to accept this temporary marriage," said Um Hassan, a widow. "I was his sexual slave for one month and than he just said my time had expired and left."

Karima Abbas' marriage lasted less than a week: "He slept with me every day for a week and then went back to his wife, leaving me pregnant without any help," said Abbas.
The new Iraqi constitution, which is being praised by the Bush administration, guarantees freedom of marrage according to religious beliefs.

Congratulations, Mrs. President

Someday the United States will catch up:
Finland's President Tarja Halonen won re-election today as voters rewarded her down-to-earth touch and promises to preserve the welfare state.

Left-leaning Ms Halonen, the Nordic country's first woman president, won a narrow victory over moderate rightist challenger Sauli Niinisto, who kissed her hand and conceded defeat.

"The best thing was that there was a huge amount of people involved, supporting Sauli Niinisto and supporting me," Mr Halonen told Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

Official results showed she won 51.8 per cent of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.

"Politics has made a comeback," said Ms Halonen, who was backed by the Social Democratic Party and leftist and labour groups for a second and final six-year term.

Social Democrats have held the presidency since 1982 in Finland, which was the first country to grant women the right to stand for political office a century ago.

Ms Halonen's presidency has coincided with a good period for the economy.

Home to giant mobile phone maker Nokia, it ranks among the most competitive since recovering from a deep slump after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major trading partner.

The Fate of the GOP's Top Woman, Pakistan's First All-Female Crew

GOP's Top Woman Could Also Fall in DeLay's Wake - Women's eNews
Ohio Rep. Deborah Pryce, the top-ranking GOP woman in the House, is not under consideration for the party's top position being vacated by majority leader Tom DeLay. She is the sole woman in the nine major GOP House leadership positions.

20% jump in women-owned businesses - New York Daily News
Businesses owned by women grew by 20% between 1997 and 2002, twice the national average for all businesses, the Census Bureau reported. Women owned almost 6.5 million businesses producing more than $940 billion in revenue in 2002, a 15% increase over 1997, the bureau said in a report.

Stanford gives female graduate students paid maternity leave - AP
Female graduate students at Stanford University can take 12 weeks of paid maternity leave under a new policy designed to recruit and retain talented women, university officials said.

First all-female crew flies Pakistani passenger plane - AP
The first Pakistani passenger plane with a female pilot and an all-women crew flew on a domestic flight this week, making aviation history in the Islamic nation, an airline official said on Friday.

Suburbia Loves Brokeback

Two positive stories in a row. I believe it's a first...check out this column by The San Francisco Chronicle's C.W. Nevius:
My wife and I recently saw "Brokeback Mountain,'' the critically acclaimed story of romance between two cowboys. Being moviegoing veterans, we decided to see a noontime matinee in a Pleasant Hill movie theater on an NFL playoff Sunday. Given those factors, and the film's subject matter, we joked that we might have the entire theater to ourselves.

Not at all. There was a line at the box office, and the film started 15 minutes late so everyone could be seated. Even more striking was the crowd -- largely seniors and middle-aged women. So not only was a movie about gay romance selling out in the heart of suburbia, the audience appeared to be older, straighter and more conservative than anyone would have expected.

And that is what Jack Foley, president of distribution for Focus Features, which is distributing "Brokeback,'' calls the "unspoken truth" about a movie that has succeeded in markets where few would have expected it to.

"This movie is playing to heartland America," he said.

The film opened in Plano, Texas -- an upscale suburb of Dallas -- and did great business there, too. Falk says for the first week in Jacksonville, Fla., "we did double anything else we did that week.'' Even in Utah, where there was a brief flap when one Salt Lake City exhibitor pulled the movie, "Brokeback'' is doing very well.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Tide is Slowly Changing...

or maybe I'm just hungry for some positive news for a change. Yesterday the Washington state Senate voted 25-23 to approve a bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, lending and employment. Twenty four of 26 Senate Democrats were joined by one Republican:
Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, reversed his previous position to turn the tide this year.
"This has been a terribly difficult issue for me," said Finkbeiner as he explained his change of heart.

"What we are really talking about here is...whether or not it's OK to be gay or homosexual in this state. On whether or not it's appropriate to be discriminating against or to discriminate against someone because of that."

He said being gay or lesbian isn't a choice.

"People don't choose this. We don't choose who we love, the heart chooses who we love," Finkbeiner said.

"I don't believe that it is right ... to say that it's acceptable to discriminate against people because of that , because of who their heart chooses to love. I can not stand with that argument."
Following the GOP talking point script, the rest of the Republicans said protecting a human being from discrimination promotes immoral behavior.

Governor Chris Gregoire plans to sign the bill into law on Tuesday.

Brokeback Mountain, Part III

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bush, the Big $pender

Remember these facts when Bu$h gives his State of the Union Address:
The $236 billion Clinton surplus of 2000 has become a $400 billion annual deficit. Setting aside Social Security, about a quarter of what the government has spent since Bush became President has been borrowed. And estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that if his tax cuts are made permanent--as he is advocating--deficits will persist for at least 10 years. Even Bush's supporters criticize his lack of fiscal restraint. They look with dismay at figures showing that the federal workforce of about 2.7 million is roughly the same size it was at the beginning of President Bill
Clinton's second term. And they point out that Bush has not vetoed a single bill since taking office. "It's hard to veto something from a Congress dominated by your own party," says Murray Weidenbaum, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, "but Bush should have been tougher on the spending side. That's been a disappointment."

Cows Want Freedom, Too

After hearing Bush's repeated calls for freedom, a cow named Molly decided to take his advice and escape from a Montana slaughterhouse, leading workers and police on a six-hour chase. After the public expressed support for her dash to freedom, Del Morris, the manger of Mickey's Packing Plant in Great Falls, decided to let Molly live:
"I've been around cattle all my life, and it's just totally amazing," Morris said, adding that it is a rare cow that escapes slaughter. "I watched her do things that are just not possible for a cow."

Unfortunately, the very public that cheered for Molly's freedom will probably eat one of her friends for dinner.

Iraq Vets Form PAC, Address Bush's State of the Union

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the largest group of Iraq and Afghan vets, has launched a political action campaign called IAVA PAC. It's the first and only PAC headed by Iraq vet, Jon Soltz, to benefit Iraq vets running for office.

In response to concerns that Bush will not fully address Iraq and the problems the troops face there in his State of the Union address, Stolz said, "It is a disgrace and an affront to all of us who have served and still are serving in Iraq, if the President chooses to downplay a discussion of the war. Additionally, the course of war in Iraq is inexorably tied to every other issue facing this country - from the economy to our readiness to deal with natural and terrorist disasters. To ignore Iraq is to ignore a major factor influencing every issue this nation faces."

"This is a failure of leadership. The President still has not told us what hard metrics will be used to determine victory in Iraq, and therefore it is impossible for him to say how much time and money we will have to commit to the war effort. Until he can tell us that, it will be impossible for him to say how many resources we will have available to address any other issue."

"This is why we need Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans in the halls of power."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Helen Thomas Frightens Bush

Helen Thomas is a fantastic journalist and a true american hero:
President Bush today again avoided taking a question from White House doyenne Helen Thomas during his 45-minute press conference, even though he took questions from every reporter around her front-row, center seat.

"He's a coward," Thomas said afterward. "He's supposed to be this macho guy. He'll take on Osama bin Laden, but he won't take me on."

Thomas, who worked as the UPI White House reporter for 57 years and is now a columnist, raised her hand every time the president was concluding an answer to a reporter's question, but he never called on her.

She had a few questions in mind, though. "I wanted to ask about Iraq: 'You said you didn't go in for oil or for Israel or for WMDs. so why did you go in?' "

She also had another question at the ready, just in case, this one about the president's contention that a 28-year-old wiretapping law known as FISA is out of date, which prompted him to order the National Security Agency to conduct a secret electronic surveillance program that Democrats contend is illegal.

"You keep saying it's a 1978 law, but the Constitution 200 years old. Is that out of date, too?"

Afterward, Thomas sat sullenly in her chair in the White House press work area, huddled in her leopard-print winter coat.

But as she left, she made a prediction: "He came on to my turf. I'll bet the next press conference will be in Room 450 of the EEOB," a theater-style room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where she would not be in the front row.

Kerry has Called for a Filibuster

Kerry's office has confirmed he is calling for a filibuster!

Spread the news and call your Senator: 888.355.3588 or 888.818.6641:
"Given how high the stakes are, our decision cannot be based on whether Judge Alito is a smart man; whether he is a nice man; whether he is an accomplished man; or even whether he is well-respected in legal circles. He is all these things. But, what we must consider is the impact a Justice Alito will have on the Court and whether that is good for our country, our Constitution, and the American people. I firmly believe the answer is no.

President Bush had the opportunity to nominate someone who would unite the country in a time of extreme divisiveness. He chose not to do this, and that is his right. But that he didn't and how this nomination happened tells us a great deal about this presidency and how politics is driving this process.

Under fire from his conservative base for nominating Harriet Miers--a woman whose judicial philosophy they mercilessly attacked--President Bush broke to extreme right-wing demands. This was a coup. Miers was removed and Alito was installed. The President did not consult with members of the Senate, as is required by the Constitution. He gave no thought to what the American people really wanted--or needed.

Instead, he made this nomination about his political base. He made it about an ideological shift in the Court. He made it about unassailable conservative credentials and an unimpeachable conservative judicial philosophy.

If you need proof, just look at the response of Ann Coulter. Ms. Coulter is as inflammatory and as conservative as anyone in the country. She makes her living through character assassination. She denounced the nomination of John Roberts. She attacked the nomination of Harriet Miers, calling her completely unqualified and lamenting that President Bush had 'thrown away a Supreme Court seat.' Yet she celebrated the nomination of Samuel Alito, stating that Bush gave Democrats 'a right-hook' with this 'stunningly qualified' nominee. This from a woman who said that Republicans need to nominate a person who 'wake[s] up every morning . . . chortling about how much his latest opinion will tick off the left.'

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that conservatives have jumped to support Judge Alito. After reviewing more than 400 of Judge Alito's opinions, law professors at Yale Law School concluded that:

'In the area of civil rights law, Judge Alito consistently has used procedural and evidentiary standards to rule against female, minority, age and disability claimants. . . Judge Alito seems relatively willing to defer to the claims of employers and the government, over those advancing civil rights claims.'

Similarly, a Knight-Ridder review of Judge Alito's opinions concluded that Judge Alito 'has worked quietly but resolutely to weave a conservative legal agenda into the fabric of the nation's laws' and that he 'seldom sided with a criminal defendant, a foreign national facing deportation, an employee alleging discrimination or consumers suing big business.'

After reviewing 221 of Judge Alito's opinions in divided cases, the Washington Post concluded that Judge Alito is 'clearly tough-minded . . . having very little sympathy for those asserting rights against the government.'

The pattern here is clear--and it's unacceptable. We cannot put someone on the Court who makes access to justice harder and more illusive. We cannot put someone on the Court who will fail to serve as an effective check on excessive executive power."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thursday Radio Show

I'll be on the Will Durst & Willie Brown radio show tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:20 am PST to talk about my "red state" road trip. Tune in to 960 AM in San Francisco or listen online if you can!

White House Remains Silent on Katrina

I'm posting this again because our news cycle is too fast these days and people who don't have the 'luxury' of checking the news multiple times a day quickly forget about important events.

Documents released yesterday by Congress show that on Aug. 27, two days before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warning forecasts from Homeland Security officials predicting the levees might be breached:
On Aug. 27, two days before the storm made landfall, FEMA had prepared a slide presentation for White House officials. The FEMA slides said a Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems." It's unclear who at the White House received this briefing or how its contents were distributed afterward.

Hours before the storm made landfall, the White House Situation Room received a report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security in which experts predicted flooding "could leave the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months." The report also said that hurricane damage could cost $10 billion to $14 billion.
On Sept. 1, President Bush told "Good Morning America": ''I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" that flooded New Orleans.

"When you have a natural disaster, the president needs to be hands-on, and if anyone in his staff gets in the way, he needs to push them away," said Representative Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican and member of the House investigating committee. "The response was pathetic."

Now the White House is refusing to release Katrina documents:
The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

The White House this week also formally notified Representative Richard H. Baker, Republican of Louisiana, that it would not support his legislation creating a federally financed reconstruction program for the state that would bail out homeowners and mortgage lenders. Many Louisiana officials consider the bill crucial to recovery, but administration officials said the state would have to use community development money appropriated by Congress.

The White House's stance on storm-related documents, along with slow or incomplete responses by other agencies, threatens to undermine efforts to identify what went wrong, Democrats on the committees said Tuesday.

Yet even Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, objected when administration officials who were not part of the president's staff said they could not testify about communications with the White House.

"I completely disagree with that practice," Ms. Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

"Our fears are turning out to be accurate," Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said Tuesday. "The Bush administration is stonewalling the Congress."
Here's a response from Senator John Kerry. I wonder where this version of Kerry was during the presidential election:
"How is it that the White House Situation Room received detailed warnings 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, that the National Hurricane Center was warning CNN and the world that Katrina could be The Big One, that FEMA reported two days before landfall that Katrina's surge `could greatly overtop levees and protective systems,' destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, require `incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus),' and displace more than a million people - and the President days later still insisted on national television, `I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees' that left 1,300 dead and thousands more homeless?

"Where's the accountability? Where's the compassion?

"Hurricane Katrina stripped away any image of competence and exposed the true heart and nature of this administration. It showed Americans at their best - and our government at its worst.

"Sadly, there's an enormous gap between what Americans deserve and what the government delivers. The shocking weakness of our government to deal with urgent challenges is tragically and dramatically underscored by the information that was being fed into the White House Situation Room, and the lack of response coming from a vacationing president on his ranch in Crawford.

"Beginning with the appointment of an Arabian horse executive to lead America's emergency preparedness in the post-9/11 world, to a president who remained away from the heart of the hurricane's devastation for five days, Katrina is the story of a failure of leadership and its very real human consequences.

"We wouldn't be having this conversation if the people running our government in Washington had cared to listen. They didn't listen to the Army Corps of Engineers when they insisted the levees be reinforced. They didn't listen to the countless experts who warned this exact disaster scenario would happen. They didn't listen to years of urgent pleading by Louisianans about the consequences of wetlands erosion in the region, which exposed New Orleans and surrounding parishes to ever-greater wind damage and flooding in a hurricane. They didn't listen when a disaster simulation just last year showed that hundreds of thousands of people would be trapped and have no way to evacuate New Orleans. They didn't listen to those of us who have long argued that our insane dependence on oil as our principle energy source, and our refusal to invest in more efficient engines, left us one big supply disruption away from skyrocketing gas prices that would ravage family pocketbooks, stall our economy, bankrupt airlines, and leave us even more dependent on foreign countries with deep pockets of petroleum. And now it's a proven fact that they didn't listen when everyone was warning that Katrina was The Big One Louisianans had long dreaded. They didn't even abandon their vacations.

"The people of the Gulf Coast got more of the same hurricane force spin and deception when they needed action and compassion. To say it's an outrage is the understatement of the year - right up there with Brownie and his `heck of a job.'"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Santorum Supports the Troops with a Bumper Sticker

Unbelievable. Watch the video at Santorum Exposed:
Last week Rick Santorum addressed the Centre County Republican Party and asked them to support them.

"We have a culture right now that doesn't say serve. It doesn't say don't think about yourself. It says me, me, me. It's a very self absorbed, me centered, excessive popular culture. And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"
Is he talking about a "Support the Troops" or a "Rick Santorum" bumper sticker? Like so many Republicans, Santorum pretends to support the troops, but as I write in an AlterNet article, his record proves otherwise:
In April, Republican senators, including Rick Santorum, R-Pa., John McCain, R-Ariz. and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., voted to defeat a Democratic effort to add $2 billion to the 2005 VA healthcare budget. The only Republican who voted in favor of the bill was Senator Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

"Democrats are the ones supporting the troops. Republicans aren't supporting us," says Bill Huber, Disabled American Veterans Hospital Coordinator in Muskogee, Oklahoma and Korean Veteran. "I'm 71 years old and I've been around a while. The problem is, veterans don't protest. We take what we get. I'm the president of our DAV chapter and I tell my people to write to their congressmen. They just sit back and let our lobbyists do it. They can't do it by themselves; we have to help them."

San Francisco, the Wireless City

During my trip to the "red states" this summer, I had few problems finding wireless access in cafes and even motels in small towns.

A new survey finds that San Francisco has 368 free wireless hot spots, making it the most wireless friendly city in the country. Austin, Texas, a great town, comes in second with 97 free spots:
By sheer numbers, San Francisco ranked fifth among international cities. But among the top 20 cities internationally, San Francisco had the highest number of hot spots per capita, at about 1 public access point for every 1,000 residents.

San Francisco's pre-eminence in Wi-Fi is due to several factors, including robust customer demand, a large number of local wireless companies offering free wireless zones, and many small businesses using it to attract customers.

"It certainly falls in line with San Francisco's reputation as a technology mecca," said David Blumenfeld, vice president of marketing for JiWIre. "It boils down to something as simple as supply and demand. You have more demand there than anywhere else, so that's why you've seen more pop up, because the usage is there."

U.S. Trails the World in Success of Female Leaders

"Corruption, under my administration, will be the major public enemy. We will confront and we will fight it."
-Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female head-of-state to be elected on the continent of Africa

Women come into own in nations around world - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Where trouble and corruption hang in the air, voters increasingly are turning to women to clean up the mess left behind by bad-old-boy networks. The United States trails much of the world in the success of female candidates, ranking behind dozens of countries in the percentage of women elected to parliamentary bodies. That is due in large measure to the fact that about 70 countries now prescribe hard quotas or voluntary goals for women's participation.

U.N. Reports Lack of Data on Women in Poverty - NY Times
Rock stars, movie actresses and heads of state have shined a bright light on global poverty in the past year, often highlighting the particular burden on women, but a report from the United Nations released this week painstakingly details the huge gaps in data needed to understand how poverty - in all its ugly guises - affects women.

States Step Up Fight on Abortion - LA Times
Taking direct aim at Roe vs. Wade, lawmakers from several states are proposing broad restrictions on abortion, with the goal of forcing the U.S. Supreme Court -- once it has a second new justice -- to revisit the landmark ruling issued 33 years ago. The bill under consideration in Indiana would ban all abortions, except when continuing the pregnancy would threaten the woman's life or put her physical health in danger of "substantial permanent impairment." Similar legislation is pending in Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee.

Female execs hard to find in corner office - Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago's 50 largest public companies reported no female CEOs and promoted fewer women to executive posts, according to a 2005 study. It was among the worst showings in eight years of tracking women's progress locally.

White House Got Early Warning on Katrina

Have they no shame? And conservatives wonder why liberals are so angry:
In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.

The NISAC analysis accurately predicted the collapse of floodwalls along New Orleans's Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, an event that the report described as "the greatest concern." The breach of two canal floodwalls near the lake was the key failure that left much of central New Orleans underwater and accounted for the bulk of Louisiana's 1,100 Katrina-related deaths.

The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration's foreknowledge about Katrina's potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm," Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
The White House declined to comment on the report.

Dems Vote No on Alito

All Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted no on the Alito confirmation. Now the vote goes to the full Senate. There's still time to urge your Senator to support a fillibuster: 877.851.6437

Senator Biden said he objected to Alito's "expansive" view of presidential authority and his "activism" in interpreting congressional acts. In addition, he lacks an understanding and sympathy to the victims of discrimination. "Prejudice is still around," said Biden. "No words but old sins."

"There are many many many people in this country who would have had 90 to 100 votes in the Senate. I try very hard not to have partisan votes on Supreme Court nominees. Think how much better it would have been if Pres. Bush had sought any one of dozens of highly qualified people...all of whom would have gotten an overwhelming vote from the Senate," said Senator Leahy. "This is a time in our history when the protection of Americans' liberty is at risk," he said. "The Supreme Court is the ultimate check and balance in our system." Alito, he said, "failed" that test in his answers and in his past conduct. Leahy said he had voted for many Republican nominees but "this is a bridge too far."

Here's an editorial from the New York Times:
He has a radically broad view of the president's power, and a radically narrow view of Congress's power. He has long argued that the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He wants to reduce the rights and liberties of ordinary Americans, and has a history of tilting the scales of justice against the little guy.

Judge Alito may be a fine man, but he is not the kind of justice the country needs right now. Senators from both parties should oppose his nomination.

It is likely that Judge Alito was chosen for his extreme views on presidential power. The Supreme Court, with Justice O'Connor's support, has played a key role in standing up to the Bush administration's radical view of its power, notably that it can hold, indefinitely and without trial, anyone the president declares an "unlawful enemy combatant."

Judge Alito would no doubt try to change the court's approach. He has supported the fringe "unitary executive" theory, which would give the president greater power to detain Americans and would throw off the checks and balances built into the Constitution. He has also put forth the outlandish idea that if the president makes a statement when he signs a bill into law, a court interpreting the law should give his intent the same weight it gives to Congress's intent in writing and approving the law.

Judge Alito would also work to reduce Congress's power in other ways. In a troubling dissent, he argued that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed a law banning machine guns, and as a government lawyer he insisted Congress did not have the power to protect car buyers from falsified odometers.

There is every reason to believe, based on his long paper trail and the evasive answers he gave at his hearings, that Judge Alito would quickly vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. So it is hard to see how Senators Lincoln Chaffee, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, all Republicans, could square support for Judge Alito with their commitment to abortion rights.

Judge Alito has consistently shown a bias in favor of those in power over those who need the law to protect them. Women, racial minorities, the elderly and workers who come to court seeking justice should expect little sympathy. In the same flat bureaucratic tones he used at the hearings, he is likely to insist that the law can do nothing for them.

The White House has tried to create an air of inevitability around this nomination. But there is no reason to believe that Judge Alito is any more popular than the president who nominated him. Outside of a small but vocal group of hard-core conservatives, America has greeted the Alito nomination with a shrug - and counted on senators to make the right decision.

The real risk for senators lies not in opposing Judge Alito, but in voting for him. If the far right takes over the Supreme Court, American law and life could change dramatically. If that happens, many senators who voted for Judge Alito will no doubt come to regret that they did not insist that Justice O'Connor's seat be filled with someone who shared her cautious, centrist approach to the law.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter Criticizes Bush for Mining Spending Cuts

Here's an update on the mining story. The Senate had a mine safety hearing today. These are the kinds of issues the left should have no problem talking about. The larger problem is that today's news cycle isn't what it used to be. This story will disappear in just days and it takes time and effort to do the actual research:
"These deaths, I believe, were entirely preventable," said Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, citing recent budget cuts, staff reductions and "a culture of cronyism" as factors contributing to insufficient oversight by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

But David Dye, acting administrator of the mine safety agency, rejected the criticism. He told a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on mine safety that it was far too early to identify the cause of the accidents - the Jan. 2 explosion at the Sago Mine that killed 12 miners and the conveyer belt fire on Thursday that killed 2 miners at the Aracoma Alma Mine 1 near Melville.

"Until the joint investigation team can safely enter the mine to thoroughly examine the site, we will not know" what caused the Sago accident, Mr. Dye said.

Lawmakers grew increasingly frustrated with agency officials' answers.

Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on mining issues, criticized the administration for not keeping up with inflation in financing mine safety and said that over the last 10 years the agency's budget had been cut by $2.8 million, which led to the loss of the 183 staff members.

About midway through the two-hour hearing, Mr. Dye said that he had other matters to attend to and had to leave.

Senator Specter responded with frustration: "I can understand your pressing other business. It may well be that some of the senators here have pressing matters, too. We don't think we are imposing too much to keep you here for another hour."

After Mr. Specter added, "That's the committee's request, but you're not under subpoena," Mr. Dye got up and walked out.

"I can't recollect it ever happening before," Mr. Specter said. "We'll find a way to take appropriate note of it."

Meanwhile, West Virginia's state Senate unanimously passed a law requiring mine operators to store extra breathing packs in their mines and to provide miners with devices that would make it easier to locate them in times of emergency.

The law would also require coal operators to contact a new statewide hot line when accidents occur. Under the law, backed by Gov. Joe Manchin III, mine operators would face fines of $100,000 if they fail to report an accident within 15 minutes.

Another Sad Day in W. Virginia

I saw a number of television reports this morning about the tragic deaths of another two miners in West Virginia. Not surprisingly, the pieces failed to mention any of the recent changes in mining safety rules, as reported by the Charleston Gazette:
The Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine was operating under a new Bush administration ventilation rule that might help underground coal-mine fires spread, according to government records and interviews.

The ventilation plan also might block crucial emergency escape routes, and expose miners to a greater risk of deadly black lung disease, according to a review of government studies and interviews with mine safety experts over the past two days.

The Alma No. 1 Mine used its conveyor belt -- the area where a deadly fire broke out Thursday night -- to draw fresh air to the working face, the area where coal is actually mined.

When mines are arranged this way, and a fire breaks out on a belt, the belt tunnel can carry flames and deadly gases directly to the miners’ work area, or to vital evacuation routes.

Since at least 1969, such mine layouts were generally illegal. Regulators approved them only on a limited, case-by-case basis, and conditioned upon numerous special safeguards. But in 2004, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration rewrote federal rules to allow widespread use of such ventilation plans. The move gave the coal industry a regulatory change it had sought for more than 15 years, records show.

Davitt McAteer, Gov. Joe Manchin's adviser on mine safety issues, had blocked the change for nearly eight years while he was MSHA chief for the Clinton administration.

"We had major concerns about it," said McAteer, a Marion County native, Friday morning. "If a fire could occur on a belt, that fire and the deadly gases that the fire produces will be carried directly to the working face where the miners are."

It is not yet clear exactly what caused the Aracoma Mine fire, or if the mine's use of its belt tunnel as a fresh-air intake played a role in spreading the blaze. But when MSHA proposed to allow widespread use of such ventilation plans, the United Mine Workers union warned that the change would "have a significant and detrimental impact on miners."

"High velocities of air being coursed through those belt entries could propagate fires and swiftly have smoke and poisonous contaminants dumped on the coal faces where miners work," the UMW said in a June 2003 letter to MSHA.

The Reality of Reporting in Iraq

In a recent NewsHour segment about the kidnapping of journalist Jill Carroll in Iraq, CBS reporter Lara Logan makes a good point about the reality of reporting on the ground:

JEFFREY BROWN: Ms. Logan, to what degree do the security issues affect the reporting, the actual news that comes back to all of us? Of course, the real question is what stories are not being told because it's just too unsafe?

LARA LOGAN: Well, you know, the big complaint about this war coming from the American military and the Bush administration is that the media aren't telling the real story.

They don't talk about all the good things that are happening, and I frequently say to American military officers and soldiers on the ground, look, if you want us to risk the lives of all of our team to come and film the opening of a bridge that was intact before it was bombed in this war anyway, or a school that's had new windows put in and being painted, I mean, those are just not reasons to risk the lives of all the people that are involved in trying to tell this story -- until journalists have freedom of movement to move not just around Baghdad but to move around the country -- we used to be able to drive to Fallujah.

I want to go down to Najaf and interview Muqtada al-Sadr; I can't do that anymore. It is a huge -- it has a huge impact on your ability to tell the story, and exactly as Jackie said, you know, we can't just go and talk to insurgents and go to the other side and tell that side of the story.

There are only a very few select number of journalists in Iraq who have been able to do that. And I really -- I take my hat off to them because that is an important aspect of the story that has not been well told.

Penguins, Pelicans and Dogs

CNN.com Headlines as of 10:11 am PST:

Ford owners not told how to reduce fire risk
CNNMoney: Court ruling could lead to BlackBerry shutdown
Bush officials ratchet up defense of domestic spying |
Talk show host-in-chief? | Bush speech
Many feared trapped in Nairobi building collapse |
Watch: After kids killed in Iraq, couple builds new life in U.S.
Russia: Britain used fake rock to spy on Moscow | Gallery
Parents of stolen baby penguin have new egg
Watch: Stinky the pelican's road to recovery leads to Florida
Could you love the 'world's worst dog'?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Before Roe v. Wade

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It's amazing that people actually pray to go back to the days before Roe. Many of these people oppose birth control and social programs. A Republican I recently met said many in the GOP do not want Roe v. Wade overturned because they will have no choice but to increase spending on social programs and welfare will be out of control. Who cares about the woman; it's all about economics.

Three people who helped provide abortions before Roe tell their stories to AlterNet:
Mildred Hanson, M.D.

A featured speaker at several congressional briefings on abortion, Hanson spent 30 years as the medical director of what was then Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota. Today, she oversees her own Minnesota clinic, where, at the age of 82, she provides abortions to women from Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

"In 1935, when I was 11 years old, my mother left our Wisconsin house on a bitter February night and dashed to the farm next door to help an ailing woman who'd had an illegal abortion. Our neighbor was writhing in pain so severe that she was having convulsions and was chewing her lip raw. It took her two days to die of blood poisoning. She left six children behind - and left me with firsthand knowledge of the injustice of illegal abortion.

"Fresh out of medical school in 1959, I developed a reputation for being the only doctor in this region who would treat women with bleeding, lacerations, and other complications stemming from back-alley procedures. Illegal abortionists would refer their clients to me in the event of complications. In addition to helping these patients, I offered legal abortions to women within the hospital system, which sanctioned the procedure if it was deemed medically necessary. I coached these women on how to get approval. 'Tell hospital officials you are destitute,' I said. 'Tell them you are devastated and will commit suicide if you can't terminate this pregnancy.' If Roe v. Wade were overturned today and if medical exceptions were still allowed, I would tell my patients the same things all over again. For the first time in my life, I would also perform illegal abortions. I didn't do so before Roe v. Wade because I was a divorced mother with four children to support. But today I have nothing to lose and believe reproductive rights are so important that I'm willing to risk whatever legal action or prison time I might face."

Jane Hodgson, M.D.

In 1970, Hodgson challenged a Minnesota law that banned abortion by providing an abortion to a mother of three whose pregnancy was affected by German measles, which can cause blindness, kidney failure, and cognitive problems in developing infants. She was convicted of a felony, but because the legal process dragged on until after Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, her sentence was overturned and she did not serve prison time. In 1990, Hodgson was the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Hodgson v. Minnesota, which unsuccessfully challenged parental notification laws. A founding fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a recipient of the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award, Hodgson is now 91 and a speaker for Medical Students for Choice.

"Over the course of my 60-year career, I've done a lot of volunteer work overseas in countries where abortion is illegal. I've seen women who had botched procedures soak their mattresses through with blood. I've seen countless other women die.

"People in the United States don't know about these horrors. Nor do they remember what women's lives were like here before abortion became legal. Before 1973, single women who got pregnant were fired from their jobs. Younger ones were sent to maternity homes for unwed mothers and their children were put up for adoption. Married women who got pregnant were forced to carry pregnancies to term regardless of their circumstances - even if they had so many children that they couldn't afford to feed another one; even if they had metastasized cancer; even if their fetuses couldn't live outside the womb because these fetuses had developed without a heart or brain.

"Since Roe v. Wade, I've performed thousands of abortions and supervised thousands more. I haven't regretted a single one. I didn't regret it when the head of my own university testified against me for offering an abortion to the mother with German measles. I didn't regret it when anti-choice protestors picketed my home or mobbed my office so I had to have police protection to get inside the building. I believe legal abortion is a medical procedure that saves women's lives. It's not just a matter of choice. It's a matter of good medicine."

The Reverend Howard Moody

In 1967, Moody spearheaded New York City's Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, which helped thousands of women obtain safe, illegal abortions before New York sanctioned the procedure in 1970. Considered the "Harriet Tubman of the abortion rights movement," Moody, now 84, has received the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award and serves on the advisory board of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

"To get an abortion before it was legal, a woman had to meet someone in a parking lot late at night and be taken to some unknown place. She had no idea whose hands she was in -- or if she would even survive. To provide safety and support to women in this horrible situation, we formed a coalition of 26 clergy members to counsel women considering abortion and refer them to doctors we knew were safe. Most clergy at that time would not condone abortion. In fact, they wouldn't even discuss it. But our members -- Baptist, Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian -- saw this as part of their ministry.

"Nowhere in scripture does it say women should not have reproductive rights. Theologically and morally, we knew this was the right choice even if it was against the law. Our ministers sat with women and helped them make the decisions they faced. Over the years, I personally counseled hundreds of women ages 12 to 45. Not one of them was flip about her decision. Women of all faiths had such a desperate need for counseling and referrals that they flooded to see us from across the eastern United States.

"We worked six hours a day, six days a week. To meet the demand for abortions, my Baptist congregation even considered creating an illegal clinic on the grounds of Judson Memorial Church [in New York City]. But New York legalized abortion in 1970, and so we focused on other efforts: launching Manhattan's Center for Reproductive Sexual Health, one of the first legal abortion clinics, and expanding our network, which eventually grew to include 1,400 ministers and rabbis across the nation."

Sex vs. Spying

The media proves its liberal bias once again. Media Matters does an excellent job of doing actual research and presenting facts about the NSA story. What a concept.
On January 22, the day after The Washington Post first broke the Lewinsky story, the paper ran...a total of 11 articles, written by or using contributions from at least 20 reporters, and comprising 11,844 words dedicated to allegations that the president lied about a consensual relationship. The New York Times ran...a total of eight articles, written by at least eight reporters, comprising 9,044 words.

Now, here's what the Post did on December 17 -- the day after the initial disclosure of the Bush administration's use of the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct domestic surveillance that has been widely described as an illegal trampling of the Constitution. Three articles, eight reporters, 3,227 words -- and that's generously including the USA Patriot Act article in the tally.

And from the Times, which had broken the NSA story the day before: two articles, four reporters, 3,076 words.

We could go on and on with comparisons like these, and bring in other news organizations, but it should be clear by now that the nation's leading news organizations haven't given the NSA spying story anywhere near the coverage they gave the Clinton-Lewinsky matter. And, based on available evidence, they haven't dedicated nearly the resources to pursuing the NSA story that they dedicated to the Lewinsky story.

So, some questions for the Times, and the Post, and ABC, and CBS, and NBC, and CNN, and Time, and Newsweek, and other leading news organizations:

1)How many reporters, editors, and researchers did you assign to the Lewinsky story when it broke? How many remained assigned to that story one month later?

2)How many reporters, editors, and researchers did you assign to the NSA story when it broke? How many remained assigned to that story one month later?

3)How do you explain the disparity?

We assume many news organizations would respond by saying that they aren't devoting as much attention to the NSA matter because it hasn't captured the nation's attention the way the Lewinsky investigation did.

But that's a canard; as we demonstrated above, the Times and the Post ran a combined 19 articles totaling more than 20,000 words just a day after the Lewinsky story first broke -- long before they could have known whether the public was interested. If the story captured the nation's attention, it's because the media forced it down our throats. And if Americans aren't captivated by the NSA matter, it may be because the media aren't hyping it nearly as much as it has much lesser stories.

The Post's Howard Kurtz effectively -- if unintentionally -- illustrated this bizarre tendency by news organizations to pretend that they merely reflect what people are talking about rather than shaping the national conversation. In his January 18 online column, Kurtz responded to criticism by Media Matters for America and others that he gave unwarranted attention to ages-old, baseless right-wing attacks on Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) by writing an article recounting the attacks for the January 14 edition of the Post. Kurtz noted that the attacks are, indeed, old, but added they are now "getting national play."

But the attacks aren't "getting" national play -- Kurtz is giving them national play. Prior to his article, the only "play" the allegations were getting came in a hatchet job by the Brent Bozell-operated Cybercast News Service upon which Kurtz based his article.

Friday, January 20, 2006

This is Bush's War

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, recently received this email from a close friend serving as an officer in Ramadi:
I wish I had the time or energy or memory capacity to describe to you how wrong this whole thing has gone. It's just as you described it a couple years ago. We can make a difference here, and I believe in the mission as it looks on paper. But your president and his brain-dead colleagues aren't even trying to give us what we need to do it. The add-on armor HMMWVs are a joke. The terrorists target them b/c they know they offer no protection. The M1114s have good armor, but every time we lose one (I had one blown up Monday, driver had his femoral artery cut -- will recover fully -- b/c there apparently is no armor or very weak armor under the pedals) it's impossible to replace them. So now I have to send yet another add-on armored vehicle outside the wire daily.
The M1114s also have certain mechanical defects, known to the manufacturer, for which there is apparently no known fix. For example, on some of them (like mine) if it stalls or you turn it off, you cannot restart it if the engine is hot. We have to dump 3 liters of cold water on a solenoid in order to start it again. Not that much fun when your vehicle won't start in Indian country. I wonder if DoD is getting a refund for the contract. Speaking of contracts, KBR is a joke. I can't even enumerate the problems with their service, but I guarantee they do not receive less money based on how many of the showers don't work, or how many of us won't eat in the chow hall often because we get sick every time we do.
There is so much. I could go on forever. The worst thing, which we have discussed, is that they are playing these bullshit numbers games to fool America about troop strength. If they stopped paying KBR employees $100,000 to do the job of a $28,000 soldier, maybe they'd have enough money to send us enough soldiers to do the job. As it stands we have no offensive capability in the most dangerous city on earth. General Shinseki should write an Op/Ed that basically says, "I told you so." Idiots.
Where are the AC-130s? The Apaches? They have them in far less active AOs (areas of operations). All we ever get is a single Huey and Cobra team, both of which are older than I am. It's such a joke. They're not even trying. At all. They have Apaches in Tikrit but Hueys in Ramadi.
I wish every American could see this for him/herself. Registering your frustration at the ballot box isn't nearly enough. There should be jail terms for this.

Iraq Vets Speak Out

Four Iraq veterans will be attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah over the weekend to promote the film, "The Ground Truth," a documentary directed by Patricia Foulkrod in which they appear.

Here are excerpts from AlterNet's Terrence McNally interview with three vets. Vets in combat rarely talk to the press and when they do, they have strong orders to repeat the Bush administration's talking points.

"I don't care what George Bush tells you, our military's been run into the ground. More than half of our folks are there for a second time, the divorce rates have doubled, we're now moving combat units out of Korea and out of training units in the United States to perform combat missions in Iraq, recruiting numbers are in the toilet, and retention numbers will soon fall. At the end of the day, he's really destroyed our military, and that will have long-term effects for our national security for decades."
-Paul Rieckhoff enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves on Sept. 15, 1998. In early 2003, he was assigned as platoon leader for the 3rd Platoon, B Company, 3/124th INF (Air Assault) FLNG, and spent approximately 10 months in Iraq. Third Platoon conducted over 1,000 combat patrols; all 38 men in Rieckhoff's platoon returned home alive. In June 2004, Rieckhoff founded Operation Truth -- now called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: Let me ask you about your actions since you returned. You saw combat -- from what I've read you were horrified by what you experienced?

"Yes, primarily the killing of innocent civilians. That's where I really began to question our overall motives. My questions to my command became, how do you tell a 25-year-old Iraqi male who just witnessed his brother being killed at a checkpoint, how do you tell this young man not to become an insurgent? So I was very critical of our mission and what we were performing and the lack of humanitarian support to the Iraqi people."
-Jimmy Massey, a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, is a former staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He was a boot camp instructor at Parris Island, S.C., and a Marine recruiter before fighting in the Iraq war and was honorably discharged in December 2003 after 12 years of service. His autobiography, "Kill, Kill, Kill," was recently published in France.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: If you could say one thing to the American people, what would you say?

"Accountability and responsibility. I bring up these two words because the American public are largely responsible for where we are right now, therefore they are accountable for our nation's failure in Iraq and diminishing status abroad. We sat idly by and accepted the Supreme Court's anointment of George Bush. We allowed ourselves to be manipulated following 9/11 and adopted the "any Muslim will do" attitude that afforded the administration the opportunity to use 9/11 to justify Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks.
We then watched as Karl Rove twisted and turned an election away from the issues (out of necessity, since his candidate had failed on virtually every one of them) and let it become a smear campaign. Whether you voted for Bush or not, we collectively failed by extending his reign. If you voted for Kerry, like I did, then you have to ask if you did enough to spread that message of hope for our country. Again, based on the results, you have to accept the bitter fact that the answer is no, we did not."
-Sean Huze participated in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Huze was awarded a Certificate of Commendation citing his "courage and self-sacrifice throughout sustained combat operations" while in Iraq. After returning to the United States, he starred in his debut as a playwright, "The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front." His third play, "The Dragon Slayer," which focuses on PTSD, will premiere in Los Angeles in March.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The United States & Uzbekistan

Today's Democracy Now! conducted an interview with Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Murray was fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan after he openly criticized the British and U.S. governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime.

Craig Murray has created a website to expose and reveal his findings, including a letter from now-indicted Enron CEO Kenneth Lay to then-Texas governor George W Bush in which Lay crosses out the words "Governor Bush" and writes "Dear George." In it, Lay writes he is "delighted" Bush is meeting with the Uzbek ambassador to the US and tells Bush of Enron's plans in Uzbekistan.

In one classified memo from July 2004, Murray wrote, "We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services via the US. We should stop... This is morally, legally and practically wrong."

A summary of one of Murray's memos read: "U.S. plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism." In another secret memo Murray estimated the Uzbek government was holding up to 10,000 political and religious prisoners.

According to Democracy Now!, Murray has encouraged website owners to republish the material on their sites, fearing his site will be shut down. Hundreds have since taken up the call.

The entire interview is worth reading. The 'liberal media' has yet to pick it up. Here are excerpts:

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has since resigned, was forced out as ambassador, fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan. Craig Murray, who from the time he became ambassador in 2002, began speaking out and also talking about the U.S. relationship with the Uzbek regime. The relationship between President Bush and the president of Uzbekistan, Karimov.

CRAIG MURRAY: That's right.

AMY GOODMAN: What about it?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, it goes back to before George Bush became President. In 1997 or 1998, George Bush, as Governor of Texas, had a meeting with the Uzbek ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Safayev, which was actually organized and set up by Kenneth Lay of Enron. And if you go to my website, you can find a facsimile of Kenneth Lay's letter to George Bush, telling him to meet Ambassador Safayev in order to conclude a billion-dollar gas deal between Uzbekistan and Enron. And that was the start of the Bush relationship with the Karimov regime.

Karimov is one of the most vicious dictators in the world, a man who is responsible for the death of thousands of people. Prisoners are boiled to death in Uzbek jails. And he was a guest in the White House in 2002. It's very easy to find photos of George Bush shaking Karimov's hand. Rumsfeld is particularly chummy with Karimov, so -

AMY GOODMAN: Boiled to death?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yeah, it was one of the first cases I came across, back in August or September of 2002. Two Muslim prisoners in Jaslyk gulag, which is an old Soviet gulag in the middle of the Karakum Desert, a sort of forced-labor camp, a terrible place where people are sent to die, effectively, two Islamic prisoners were boiled to death. They died of immersion in boiling water. The mother of one of the prisoners received her son's body back in a sealed casket, was ordered not to open the casket, and just to bury it the next morning. Despite being in her sixties, she managed to get the casket open in the middle of the night, even though police were guarding the house outside.

She got the body onto the kitchen table and took a series of detailed photos, which she got to the British embassy. I sent them back to London -- or, in fact, to Scotland, to the University of Glasgow, the pathology department. On the basis of these detailed photos, they did an autopsy report, in which they said that he had had his fingernails extracted, he had been severely beaten, particularly about the face, and he died of immersion in boiling liquid. And it was immersion, rather than splashing, because there is a clear tide mark around the upper torso and arms, which gives you some idea of the level of brutality of this regime.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you got this information out, and then what happened?

CRAIG MURRAY: It was very difficult for the British government, which, officially, of course, supports human rights, so it was very hard for them to reprimand me for making points on human rights. But also, internally, I was making other points, which I wasn't making in public at that time, and that was about the intelligence material we were getting from the Uzbek secret service, because I was seeing C.I.A. reports, which were passed on to MI6, which had been extracted from the Uzbek torture chambers.

I had been there for two or three months, which was long enough to know that, effectively, any Uzbek political or religious detainee is going to be tortured. There's no question of definition here. You know, we're not talking about 'Is that or is that not torture?' We're talking about people having their fingernails pulled, having their teeth smashed with hammers, having their limbs broken, and being raped with objects, including broken bottles; both male and female rape, extremely common in Uzbek prisons. And from the security service, which was operating right alongside the C.I.A., we were getting this intelligence.

I mean, the intelligence itself was nonsense. The purpose of the intelligence was to say that all the Uzbek opposition were related to al-Qaeda, that the democratic Uzbek opposition were all Islamic terrorists, that they'd traveled to Afghanistan, held meetings with Osama bin Laden. It was designed to promote the myth that Uzbekistan was, in total, part of the war on terror, and that by aligning himself with Karimov, Bush and the Bush Administration were backing or improving United States security, which wasn't true at all. I mean, the intelligence was false. If you torture people, they will say anything. I couldn't believe that the C.I.A. was working so closely with these dreadful security services and then were accepting intelligence which was obviously untrue. When I started complaining about that, even though I was only complaining internally, that's when the British government started to lose its patience with me and get very angry with me.

Former EPA Republican Chiefs Slam Bush's 'Environmental' Policies

From the Washington Post:
Six former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency _ five Republicans and one Democrat _ accused the Bush administration Wednesday of neglecting global warming and other environmental problems.

"I don't think there's a commitment in this administration," said Bill Ruckelshaus, who was EPA's first administrator when the agency opened its doors in 1970 under President Nixon and headed it again under President Reagan in the 1980s.

Russell Train, who succeeded Ruckelshaus in the Nixon and Ford administrations, said slowing the growth of "greenhouse" gases isn't enough.

"We need leadership, and I don't think we're getting it," he said at an EPA-sponsored symposium centered around the agency's 35th anniversary. "To sit back and just push it away and say we'll deal with it sometime down the road is dishonest to the people and self-destructive."

All the former administrators and the EPA's current chief, Stephen Johnson, raised their hands when asked whether they believe global warming is a real problem _ and again when asked if humans bear significant blame.

Agency heads during five Republican administrations, including the current one, criticized the Bush White House for what they described as a failure of leadership.

Defending his boss, Johnson said the current administration has spent $20 billion on research and technology to combat climate change after President Bush rejected mandatory controls on carbon dioxide, the chief gas blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.

Bush also kept the United States out of the Kyoto international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases globally, saying it would harm the U.S. economy, after many of the accord's terms were negotiated by the Clinton administration.

"I know from the president on down, he is committed," Johnson said. "And certainly his charge to me was, and certainly our team has heard it: 'I want you to accelerate the pace of environmental protection. I want you to maintain our economic competitiveness.' And I think that's really what it's all about."

His predecessors disagreed. Lee Thomas, Ruckelshaus's successor in the Reagan administration, said that "if the United States doesn't deal with those kinds of issues in a leadership role, they're not going to get dealt with. So I'm very concerned about this country and this agency."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sacrifice & the Cost of War

Joseph Stiglitz, professor at Columbia and Nobel Prize winner and Linda Blimes, former assistant secretary of Commerce estimate the final cost of the Iraq war will be much higher than previously predicted. Depending on how long the troops stay, it'll cost between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. Why hasn't the liberal media slammed Bush over these numbers?
Like the iceberg that hit the Titanic, the full costs of the war are still largely hidden below the surface. Our calculations include not just the money for combat operations but also the costs the government will have to pay for years to come. These include lifetime healthcare and disability benefits for returning veterans and special round-the-clock medical attention for many of the 16,300 Americans who already have been seriously wounded. We also count the increased cost of replacing military hardware because the war is using up equipment at three to five times the peacetime rate. In addition, the military must pay large reenlistment bonuses and offer higher benefits to reenlist reluctant soldiers. On top of this, because we finance the war by borrowing more money (mostly from abroad), there is a rising interest cost on the extra debt.

Our study also goes beyond the budget of the federal government to estimate the war's cost to the economy and our society. It includes, for instance, the true economic costs of injury and death. For example, if an individual is killed in an auto or work-related accident, his family will typically receive compensation for lost earnings. Standard government estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death are about $6 million. But the military pays out far less -- about $500,000. Another cost to the economy comes from the fact that 40% of our troops are taken from the National Guard and Reserve units. These troops often earn lower wages than in their civilian jobs. Finally, there are macro-economic costs such as the effect of higher oil prices -- partly a result of the instability in Iraq.

We conclude that the economy would have been much stronger if we had invested the money in the United States instead of in Iraq.

Spending up to $2 trillion should make us ask some questions. First, these figures are far higher than what the administration predicted before the war. At that time, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey was effectively fired for suggesting that the war might cost up to $200 billion, rather than the $60 billion claimed by the president's budget office. Why were the costs so vastly underestimated? Elsewhere in the government, it is standard practice to engage in an elaborate cost-benefit analysis for major projects. The war in Iraq was a war of choice, an immense "project," and yet it now appears that there was virtually no analysis of the likely costs of a prolonged occupation.

Could we have fought the war in ways that would have protected our troops better and cost the country less? A Pentagon study apparently concludes that better body armor would have prevented many deaths and injuries. Penny-pinching in such matters during the rush to war has led to steep long-run costs for the nation and, tragically, for the individuals involved.

Even more fundamentally, there is the question of whether we needed to spend the money at all. Thinking back to the months before the war, there were few reasons to invade quickly, and many to go slow. The Bush policy of threatened force had pressured Iraq into allowing the U.N. inspectors back into the country. The inspectors said they required a few months to complete their work. Several of our closest allies, including France and Germany, were urging the U.S. to await the outcome of the inspections. There were, as we now know, conflicting intelligence reports.

Had we waited, the value of the information we would have learned from the inspectors would arguably have saved the nation at least $1 trillion -- enough money to fix Social Security for the next 75 years twice over.
Mr. President, please stop asking us to make sacrifices for this costly, deadly war. All we want is another tax cut. Is that asking too much?

Opposition to Alito Continues to Grow

Call your senators toll-free at: 877.851.6437

Most of these groups are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the media:

"We cannot ignore the probability that Samuel Alito would overturn important civil rights and women's rights if he were to be confirmed. His confirmation would not honor the legacy of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her balanced approach to critical issues important to the YWCA's mission of empowering women and eliminating racism. This nation has come too far in its fight for equality and the protection of rights to risk placing him on our highest court."
-Peggy Sanchez Mills, CEO of the Young Women's Christian Association

"For three decades, Women Employed has championed public policies that ensure core legal rights for women and minorities in the workplace. America's judiciary plays a vital role in protecting these rights. The judicial record of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito suggests that his confirmation could threaten or reverse the employment advances made by women and minorities over the last thirty years. Therefore, Women Employed opposes the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. From his government service in the Reagan Administration to fifteen years on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Alito's record reveals an opposition to the enforcement of anti-discrimination statutes and a reading of the law that restricts employee rights."
-Women Employed, a non-profit whose mission is to improve the economic status of women

"The U. S. Senate should not replace the first woman on the Supreme Court with a man who has repeatedly taken positions and issued rulings that are detrimental to the rights of working women. Working women and our families need and deserve Supreme Court justices who respect our hard-fought rights and protections, not justices who use a very narrow view of the law to dismantle our rights."
-Linda Meric, executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women

"Taken as a whole. Alito's publicly available record-both from his government service and his tenure on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals-illustrates a judicial philosophy at odds with AAUW's mission and member-adopted Public Policy Program. AAUW believes Alito's legal philosophy has unacceptably tainted his ability to apply established legal precedents on civil rights issues critical to women and girls-issues central to AAUW's mission for more than 100 years. Our members hope that the Senate considers the message of AAUW's tag line-because equity is still on issue-during this critical vote. AAUW urges senators to reject Alito's nomination and choose someone with a commitment to equity for women and girls."
-Lisa M. Maatz, director of public policy and government relations for American Association of University Women

"Judge Alito's nomination comes at a particularly critical moment in the life of the Court and our nation. Many of our hard-won rights and protections are hanging by a thread. Judge Alito's extensive and deeply troubling record indicates he would turn the Court sharply to the right, reversing decades of progress. From protections against discrimination and sexual harassment, to a woman's right to make her own reproductive health decisions, to accountability if states violate the Family and Medical Leave Act, Judge Alito's appointment would jeopardize the rights and liberties of individuals from every walk of life."
-Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families

" Don't let the nomination of Samuel Alito end the right of women to make their own reproductive health decisions with their doctor! A doctor's ability to make sound medical decisions has already been compromised by the passage of much federal and state legislation over the past three decades since Roe v. Wade was decided, blurring the line between a physician's expert opinion and the government's ideological priorities. The health of American women is in great danger if Judge Alito is confirmed to the United States Supreme Court."
-Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Other groups opposed to Alito's nomination include the Black Women's Health Imperative, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, Jewish Labor Committee and the Unitarian Universalist Association.