<\body> Stories in America: April 2006

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thriving Baghdad Street is Now Silent and Suffering

"After the war, there was a lot of work. The people went about their business normally. Then we were shocked because fewer people ventured out because of the explosions. Now the restaurant is struggling to pay the salaries of the employees. Our hearts are broken because of what has become of the country. We're psychologically burned out."
-Moustafa al-Hassani, a 49-year-old Egyptian manager of Lathikiya, one of the most famous restaurants on Arrasat Street

These types of human interest stories coming out of Iraq are few and far between:
Even while Iraq languished under crippling U.N. economic sanctions, upscale Arrasat Street thrived. Trendy stores with foreign names brimmed with sexy lingerie and Swiss watches. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs whizzed past pricey restaurants where Western love songs played.

Now Arrasat is quiet. Too quiet.

"For sale," reads a sign on a closed store. "Huge discounts: 75 percent off," screams another.

Arrasat was Baghdad's fanciest commercial strip under Saddam Hussein, thriving on goods smuggled in under the U.N. restrictions that followed Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. After the collapse of Saddam's regime, it saw a short-lived boom that brought hopes of economic prosperity.

But before long, its fortunes reversed. Car bombings, kidnappings and a general lack of security across Iraq took a toll, turning the street into a shadow of its former self.

Must See Video: Colbert Rips Bush, WH Press Corps

This is just brilliant. Who chose Stephen Colbert to host last night's White House dinner? Perhaps it was someone who doesn't understand Colbert's humor. I love it when conservative guests truly believe that Colbert is on their side. Check out this video from Crooks and Liars and be sure to focus on the lack of reaction from the audience.

Update: Check out this Thank You Stephen Colbert site. Tonight's 60 Minutes also did a segment on Colbert. I like him even more after hearing him out of character for the first time.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Photos: Thousands March in New York as Iraqis Flee Their Homes

*350,000 anti-war activists marched in New York today.
*Violence in Iraq has forced 100,000 families across the country to flee their homes.
*16 Iraqis were killed Saturday, six of them tortured in captivity.
*70 American soldiers have died in Iraq this month alone.

Bush believes 70 dead American soldiers, 100,000 Iraq families in refugee camps and ongoing violence equals one big stride towards victory. In today's radio address, he said: "There will be more tough fighting ahead in Iraq and more days of sacrifice and struggle. Yet, the enemies of freedom have suffered a real blow in recent days, and we have taken great strides on the march to victory."

Iraq veterans march in an anti-war rally in New York. Thousands gathered to protest the war in Iraq and the policies of US President George W. Bush.(AFP/Don Emmert)

Anti-war activists march down Broadway, to protest the war in Iraq, with thousands of supporters in New York April 29, 2006. The marchers demanded an immediate withdrawal of troops, the same day news organizations noted April as being the most deadly month for U.S. troops in Iraq, with at least 69 killed. (REUTERS/Chip East)

An Iraqi boy has a drink of water at a refugee camp Saturday April 29, 2006 in Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, as 16 more Iraqis were killed Saturday, including six who were tortured in captivity. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

An Iraqi girl cries while looking for her father at a refugee camp Saturday April 29, 2006 in Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, as 16 more Iraqis were killed Saturday, including six who were tortured in captivity. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

An Iraqi family sits in an area they now live in after they sectioned it off from a school gymnasium in Baghdad. Insurgents killed at least six security officers and a civilian across Iraq.(AFP/Karim Sahib)

Judge Acquits the Granny Peace Brigade

The "Granny Peace Brigade" on their way back to court Wednesday after a lunch break. (Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times)

Members of the "Granny Peace Brigade" outside Manhattan's Criminal Court. (Dima Gavrysh/AP)

This is a great story. Remember the 18 grandmothers who were arrested in New York and jailed for four and a half hours after they blocked the entrance to the military recruitment center in Times Square where they tried to enlist in the Army and replace a young American soldier in Iraq? The grannies were in court last week; here's an exchange between the prosecutor and 62-year-old Judy Lear:
Wasn't their real objective to get publicity by being arrested? "Did you personally believe you were going to be allowed to enlist?" Mr. McConnell asked Ms. Dreyfus.

"I wasn't sure," she replied. "I do have a skill set." She is a facilities manager and "could be used to deploy equipment," she said.

But, the prosecutor insisted, was she prepared to go to war?

"Yes," Ms. Dreyfus replied. "I was totally prepared. I had just recently gotten divorced. I was ready."

The grannies burst out laughing, and a red blush spread, once more, over Judge Ross's face.
After six days of a non-jury trial, they were acquitted of all charges:
The 18 women -- gray haired, some carrying canes, one legally blind, one with a walker -- listened gravely and in obvious suspense as Judge Neil Ross delivered a carefully worded 15-minute speech in which he said that his verdict was not a referendum on the Police Department, the anti-war message of the grannies, or, indeed, their very grandmotherhood.

But, he said, there was credible evidence that the grandmothers had left room for people to enter the recruitment center, had they wanted to, and that therefore, they had been wrongly arrested. He then pronounced them not guilty, concluding: "The defendants are discharged."

The women, sitting in the jury box at the invitation of the judge, to make it easier for them to see and hear, let out a collective "Oh!" and burst into applause, rushing forward, as quickly as elderly women could rush, to hug and kiss their lawyers, Norman Siegel, the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Earl Ward.

"Listen to your granny, she knows best!" crowed Joan Wile, a retired cabaret singer and jingle writer who was one of the defendants.

Outside the courthouse minutes later, the women burst into their unofficial anthem, "God Help America," composed by Kay Sather, a member of a sister group, the Raging Grannies of Tucson, Ariz., which goes, "God help America, We need you bad. Cause our leaders, are cheaters, and they're making the world really mad."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dark Ages America

I went to a rather depressing book reading yesterday by Morris Berman, author of "Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire." In a nutshell, Berman believes America, the Overstretched Empire that no longer values intellectual debate, is on the brink of self- destruction. Our obsession with material goods, radical individualism (I made it, you're on your own) and gated communities with freshly watered lawns in the desert has completely destroyed our sense of community and desire to improve the overall public good.

When asked about the environment, poverty and other problems we're currently facing, Berman said, "Leave it to other countries. They'll figure it out." He's right. Forty percent of the nation's wealth is owned by just one percent of the population, 75 percent of Americans believe the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves, 11 percent of young Americans can't find the United States on a map, Republicans and Democrats alike seem to be comfortable with our flawed empire and our social structure is drastically unraveling. Unlike many who still say, "We have the power to make change!," Berman says there's no hope. Hey, at least he's being honest.

Dear Mr. President by Pink

Dear Mr. President
Come take a walk with me
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep
What do you feel when you look in the mirror
Are you proud

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why

Dear Mr. President
Were you a lonely boy
Are you a lonely boy
Are you a lonely boy
How can you say
No child is left behind
We're not dumb and we're not blind
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pay the road to hell

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye

Let me tell you bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don't know nothing bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work

How do you sleep at night
How do you walk with your head held high
Dear Mr. President
You'd never take a walk with me
Would you

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Donate! Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

Robert Greenwald, the documentarian behind Uncovered: The War on Iraq, the film that exposed the lies behind the reasons for going to war years ago, and Outfoxed, the disturbing, but hilarious film about the fair and balanced Fox News, just announced his newest project, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. Because Greenwald doesn't have a corporate machine behind him, he's hoping to raise $300,000 in order to complete the film in time for the November election. In less than two days, he's raised over $167,000. Click here to donate to this important project:
If you want to change the culture of profits over patriotism that is George Bush's Washington and Tom DeLay's Congress, your contribution provides more leverage, more value than any candidate contribution or just about anything you'll do this year. Here's why.

Progressives have a real chance to take back at least the House and maybe the Senate this year. We are within fifteen seats of having a majority in the House that will demand real national security, not the profits over patriotism policy of Bush, Inc. All we have to do is show people in key areas of this country that the Bush crony capitalists have endangered our soldiers in Iraq, have made us less safe and are now costing us billions at the gas pump as a result of their ill-conceived military adventures. In other words, we need to tell the truth.

History shows the way. In 1972, Richard Nixon won in a landslide by telling us that he had a secret plan for peace, that he'd bring the boys home and make us safer. By 1974, after Congressional hearings, Richard Nixon had resigned in disgrace and his Congressional cronies joined him in retirement. This tidal wave extended to many state houses as well. The U.S. House or Representatives class of 1974 is one of the most progressive in U.S. history. The American people understood clearly that the only way to restore the freedoms we all cherish was to sweep out all that Nixon stood for. And we did.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich nationalized the Congressional election by creating his Contract with America. Even though Bill Clinton would be elected in a landslide two years later, Gingrich convinced the public that he had the answers. Boy, did he ever.

The news is so much worse this time that it's got to get better. Bush barely won in 2004. He invented reasons to go to war and may well do so again. The American people list the war in Iraq as our number one concern. We are clearly less secure today than we were before Bush took office. Tom DeLay is on the way to jail. Duke Cunningham is in jail. Jack Abramoff will go to jail as soon as he stops singing. The house of cards is collapsing.

But we have to expect an October surprise from Bush/Rove. That's where Iraq for Sale fits in. Come September, with your help, we'll have the film that shows that the only ones benefiting from the war in Iraq are Bush's friends in the construction and contract security business (and of course big oil). This film will make you want to scream, but true to Brave New Films' form, it will give you the tools to show your neighbors and friends why change must occur in November, 2006. This film will nationalize the Congressional election and assure that Bush cannot change the subject, but is instead the subject of change.

Neil Young's Impeachment Song on Fox

Drudge is linking to an *exclusive* Fox News Story with the lyrics of Neil Young's new song, 'Impeach the President' from the album, 'Living with War." Fox say Young's "nay-sayers will decry him as a Canadian. Others will call him unpatriotic or treasonous. But there are just as many fans of Neil Young who will cite him as a political poet, a hero, and a troubadour working in the most traditional vein of American music." The song will be available for download on Friday:
Let's impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door
He's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war
Let's impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones
What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?
Let's impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected
Thank god he's racking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean
Thank God

ArmyTimes Poll Says Rumsfeld Should Resign

Donald Rumsfeld should resign, according to the majority of respondents of an ArmyTimes Poll, which asks: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire in recent weeks from a variety of retired generals, who say he should resign for his performance in managing the war in Iraq. Do you think the U.S. war effort is grounds for Secretary Rumsfleld to resign?

Yes: 64.35% (2,444)
No: 32.23% (1,224)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Iraq Vets Call for Hearings on Rumsfeld Critics

This is from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:
"These generals have commanded hundreds-of-thousands of men and women on the ground in Iraq, and the Senate Armed Services must acknowledge that their perspective is exceptionally valuable," said Paul Rieckhoff, who spent one year in Baghdad as an Infantry Platoon Leader and now serves as the Executive Director of IAVA: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

"This is not about partisanship, it's about national security and the strength of our military. The members of the Armed Services Committee should vote unanimously to allow these generals, who've devoted their entire careers to the military, to officially register their criticisms," Rieckhoff said. "Regardless of your perspective on the war in Iraq, we should all be interested in moving forward on the best possible course. That means also acknowledging what mistakes have been made, and what needs to change to prevent those same mistakes. If there are other military leaders who dispute the perspective of these generals, then the committee should seek their input as well."

"These generals are the representatives of our men and women in uniform, and we must value their perspective," said Rieckhoff. "The members of the Senate Armed Services Committee must reaffirm their commitment to our Troops by doing everything in their power to ensure that this war, and our military as a whole, is being managed in the best way possible. If that's not the case, then they must also demand accountability."

Today on Oprah: Genocide in Darfur

Oprah and George Clooney have the star power to reach people who never visit blogs, including many of my friends with kids -- the friends who live in the suburbs and no longer have time to read entire newspapers or log on to the Internet. When I mention my blog, they usually say, "Tell me again. What's a blog?" But they do find the time to escape for an hour and watch Oprah. And today they'll learn about and see what's happening in Darfur:
Starvation, rape -- unspeakable atrocities. He saw it for himself. Geoge Clooney's gut-wrenching eyewitness account. There's a Holocaust going on right now. Children slaughtered...running for their lives. Don't turn away. They need help now.
The Save Darfur organization is also hosting rallies across the country this Sunday. Click here to find one in your area.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Must Read: The Bu$h Agenda

Antonia Juhasz, visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, was on Democracy Now! this morning talking about her new book, The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time. It's amazing that "Christians" and hardcore right wingers (the ones who aren't benefiting from war profiteering) still defend this activity. Here are a few of the most important and alarming points and facts Juhasz raises in the interview:

*Currently, 150 U.S. corporations have received $50 billion worth of contracts, as you said in the introduction, to utterly fail in reconstruction in Iraq, but the money has still been granted.

*That [reconstruction] plan was ready two months before the invasion. It was written by BearingPoint, Inc., a company based in Virginia that received a $250 million contract to rewrite the entire economy of Iraq. It drafted that new economy. That new economy was put into place systematically by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the occupation government of Iraq for 14 months, who implemented exactly one hundred orders, basically all of which are still in place today.

*And the most important company, in my mind, to receive blame is the Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco. They have received $2.8 billion to rebuild water, electricity and sewage systems, the most important systems in the life of an Iraqi. After the first Gulf War, the Iraqis rebuilt these systems in three months' time. It's been three years, and, as you said, those services are still below pre-war levels.

*Bremer became the dictator of Iraq. His orders laid out the law. Now, probably the most important thing to know is that that was completely illegal under international law. The Geneva Conventions are very specific about what an occupying power should do. It must provide basic security and services. It cannot change the laws or the political structure of the country it occupies. The Bush administration did exactly the opposite -- changed all the fundamental economic and political laws and utterly failed to provide for the security and the basic needs of the Iraqi people. What you hear most often in Iraq today is people saying, "Please just put us back where we were before you came."

*Chevron has seen its most profitable years in its entire 125-year history over the last two years. They are making out like bandits. They have been at the forefront of advocating for decades for increased U.S. economic access to Iraq.

*Chevron has been training Iraqi workers in the United States for years, mapping -- doing mappings, free services, so that they are ready, when the permanent government is in place, to sign contracts. And then, I believe, once those contracts are signed, they will get to work, but they need security. And what better security force than 150,000 American troops. And I do not think that those troops will leave, unless we all have something to do about it, until the oil companies are safely at work.

And here she explains the connection between high gas prices and the Bush administration:
The Bush administration is the most beholden administration probably in American history to the oil and gas industry. This is the first time in history that the President, Vice President and Secretary of State are all former energy company officials. In fact, both Bush and Rice have more experience as energy company officials than they do as government leaders. Cheney outbeats them. He's spent 30 years working for government. However, his five years at Halliburton have been so profitable that you might say that his Halliburton years outweigh their oil years, because Bush was a very bad oil company executive. But their links to the oil sector are deep.

The oil industry provided more than 13 times more money to the Bush-Cheney ticket in the first round of elections than it did to his competitor, nine times more in the second. And this industry has been absolutely coddled by the Bush administration: enormous tax subsidies, deregulation, and, I would argue, a war waged on their behalf.

Now, there's two intimate connections between the war and the price of gas. But first, I think it's very important for people to understand that the vertical integration of the oil industry, which has been absolutely exacerbated under the Bush administration. For example, ChevronTexaco and Unocal merging into one company, the completion of Exxon and Mobil's merger, all of these little companies merging into enormous behemoths, so that you have ExxonMobil being the company that has received the highest profits of any company in the world, over the last two years, ever in the history of the world. That is because of the vertical integration and monopoly power of these companies. That means that they control exploration, production, refining, marketing and sales.

The price of oil at the pump is about 50% the price of a barrel of oil, about 25% taxes, and then the rest is marketing and just the price determined by the company at the pump. So that means that about 18% to 20% is absolutely determined by the oil companies themselves and governed by the companies themselves. So they could reduce the price of oil and reduce their profit margin, or they could jack up the price of oil and increase their profit margin. They have chosen to do the latter.

And one of the things that has helped them do that is, first of all, the United States is receiving a tremendous amount of oil from Iraq. Oil is down in overall export and production, but not tremendously so. We were -- at prewar was 2.5 million barrels a day. We're now at about 2 or 2.2 million barrels a day. But 50% of that, on average, is coming to the United States, and it's being brought to the United States by Chevron and Exxon and Marathon. The myth of dramatically reduced supply has helped them create an argument to the American public, which is, you know, it's a time of war, we're suffering, gas prices are going to go up, everyone needs to come in and support this because this is war. Well, that's just not true. The companies are using that as a myth to help make it okay for them to receive these utterly ridiculous profits.

Happy Equal Pay Day

Not surprisingly, this isn't getting much attention today:
On Equal Pay Day April 25th 2006, Dr. Evelyn Murphy, economist, former Lt. Governor of Massachusetts and author of the new book Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It, announced a new national collaborative grassroots strategy to close the wage gap.

"This Equal Pay Day, we are announcing that women will not wait another 40 years for equal pay," explained Dr. Murphy. "Over a lifetime this wage gap adds up to astonishing financial losses for women. A high school graduate loses $700,000. A college graduate loses $1.2 million. A professional school graduate loses $2 million. These losses are personal - and unacceptable."

"The wage gap won't go away unless women take action to change it," explained Dr. Murphy, who has been studying the wage gap for decades. To help women take action, Murphy founded The WAGE Project, a new national non-profit dedicated to closing the wage gap within 10 years through a nationwide collaborative grassroots campaign, and launched a new website, www.wageproject.org.

The WAGE Project has joined forces with the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of organizations working to eliminate wage discrimination, and many of the nation's leading women's groups including the BPW, YWCA, AAUW, NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation, in a new collaborative nationwide grassroots movement ' through the formation of "WAGE Clubs" designed to close the wage gap once and for all.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Will the Vatican Promote Condom Use?

Looks like the Catholic Church finally realizes it needs to "update" its unrealistic birth control and AIDS prevention policies:
The Roman Catholic Church might ease its longstanding opposition to the use of condoms to prevent AIDS, a senior church official says.

In comments published Sunday by la Repubblica, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan said Pope Benedict had asked him to study the issue. Barragan heads up the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

"This is a very difficult and delicate subject that requires prudence," said Barragan, according to a Reuters report.
George. H.W. Bush, aka "rubbers," will be proud.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Republicans Brawl While Ponies Run Wild

This is the funniest post I've seen all week and it just made my day. Thank you Eternal Hope:
Just like the British nearly wiped out cultural customs like Orissa dance when they took over India, the Bush administration and the Republican Party actively seek to wipe out all cultural customs other than their own.

But the Republicans now have a problem - they can no longer blame the Democrats because they are the ones in power. So now, they can only blame each other. So while we collect ponies, help Howard Dean, and have more fun than anybody should be allowed to have, the Republican Party is brawling like crazy.

So, sit back, get some popcorn, relax, enjoy the ponies roaming wild and free, and watch the Republicans come apart at the seams.

Don't Run, Kerry, Don't Run

Kerry is out with an essay about his decision to speak out against the Vietnam war called, "The Right to Dissent." Where we these comments during the election? Maybe the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies cast a spell on him:
Thirty-five years ago today, I testified before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, and called for an end to the war I had returned from fighting not long before.

It was 1971 - twelve years after the first American died in what was then South Vietnam, seven years after Lyndon Johnson seized on a small and contrived incident in the Tonkin Gulf to launch a full-scale war - and three years after Richard Nixon was elected president on the promise of a secret plan for peace. We didn't know it at the time, but four more years of the War in Vietnam still lay ahead. These were years in which the Nixon administration lied and broke the law - and claimed it was prolonging war to protect our troops as they withdrew - years that ultimately ended only when politicians in Washington decided they would settle for a "decent interval" between the departure of our forces and the inevitable fall of Saigon.

I know that some active duty service members, some veterans, and certainly some politicians scorned those of us who spoke out, suggesting our actions failed to "support the troops" - which to them meant continuing to support the war, or at least keeping our mouths shut. Indeed, some of those critics said the same thing just two years ago during the presidential campaign.

I have come here today to reaffirm that it was right to dissent in 1971 from a war that was wrong. And to affirm that it is both a right and an obligation for Americans today to disagree with a President who is wrong, a policy that is wrong, and a war in Iraq that weakens the nation.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day

This is funny. Bush, the man who realized this country is addicted to oil in January of this year, is in California (where the average gallon of gas is $3; in Beverly Hills, it's $4) on Earth Day talking about the promotion of fuel cells. "These fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our cars by giving us vehicles that will emit no pollution and will be more efficient than gas-powered cars," he said. Meantime, the price of oil broke a new record reaching $75 a barrel on Friday and people in Texas are pawning personal items to pay for gas.

Isn't it ironic that after the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, when 20 million people across America called on the government to adopt policies to protect the environment, Republicans responded by passing the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Congress even adjourned for the day so members could participate in Earth Day events. The Republicans for Environmental Protection don't have much to celebrate today:
While the GOP still has a number of conservation champions, the party leadership is dominated by people who have lost sight of the importance of conservation and environmental protection for keeping America strong and prosperous. It is time to restore the great Republican conservation tradition, and time for Republican leaders to recognize that Conservation is Conservative.
REP is out with its first scorecard to assess the performance of Republicans in Congress on environmental and conservation issues. Senators Richard Shelby (AL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Pat Roberts (KS), Jim Bunning (AL), Mitch McConnell (AL), Thad Cochran (MS), Trent Lott (MS), Jim Talent (MI), Conrad Burns (MT), Chuck Hagel (NE), George Voinovich (OH), Rick Santorum (PA), John Thune (SD), John Cornyn (TX), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), and Michael Enzi (WY), all scored zero. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska got a -10. Jesus would be proud.

Rather than focus on global warming, peak oil and the destruction of the planet, here are a few things you can do to make a small difference:
Don't leave the water running. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or washing the car. Fresh water is one of our most precious natural resources.

Flick off the light when you leave the room. Power plants burn fuels to create energy for your light bulb. Burning fuel makes smog that pollutes the air and adds to global warming. The less energy you use the less they need to make. Plus you'll save on your energy bill.

Print on both sides of the page at work. It's easy to change your printer settings -- you'll use half the paper and save trees.

Wash your clothes in warm or cold water. It works just as well as hot in your washing machine and cuts back on energy use.

Ditch the paper cups. Bring in a glass to keep at work instead of using the paper ones by the water cooler.

Turn off your computer at the end of the day. A monitor left on overnight uses enough energy to print 5,300 copies.
To find out what kind of footprint you're leaving on the planet, click here.

Ashamed Republican

Jeb Eddy of Palo Alto voices his displeasure with the Bush Administration. Eddy has been a registered Republican for the past 33 years. Chronicle photo by Michael Macor

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bush Visits California (On Earth Day Weekend, How Ironic)

So Bush is in Northern California for a few days. Of course, he wouldn't dare stop in San Francisco. Every president for the past 75 years has visited this city, but Bush is breaking that streak. If he avoids San Francisco for the rest of his term, he will be the first president not to visit since Calvin Coolidge, and only the second in more than a century.

A number of people protested his visit with Scwarzenegger in Santa Clara. This photo pretty much says it all:

And of course, the police have to keep the kids and grandmas in line:

*The photos were taken by Silence -- check out Silence's post about the Bush protest at Daily Kos.

A Baghdad Bus Ride

This account about a typical bus ride in Baghdad was written by Zeyad, an Iraqi dentist who runs the blog, Healing Iraq. Zeyad was currently accepted to New York's New Graduate School of Journalism. Be sure to read this piece in the Wall Street Journal about Zeyad's online experience and changing opinions on the war:
Our restless driver, still yelling his destination outside, didn't bother to search any of us, and it looked like we were going to move at last. It's unsettling to stay in a crowded bus garage for long. It's always a potential target. Now, it was just one more passenger to go.

Then he boarded.

He was hauling an enormous sack full of something on his back. It looked like one of those hanging punching bags that boxers use for practice. He tried to push it behind the only empty seat, which happened to be right across me. It didn't fit so he stuck it between my legs and got seated. That was when I went: "Uh oh."

I sat frozen and stared at the sack for about a minute. The bus had already started moving by now. Then I looked up at his face, searching for, I don't know, signs and gestures, anything that would reassure me that he was not what I thought he was.

He looked about 20, dressed in a fading striped shirt and plain, almost ragged trousers, puffing smoke from beneath a thick black moustache. I couldn't help but gaze into his shifty, pale brown eyes that seemed to quickly scan everything, but not settle anywhere. He didn't even return my interest, which I took as a deeply troubling sign. Every few seconds, he would glance at the sack a bit surreptitiously and away again. It was still firmly planted between my legs.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How Much Are We Spending in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The (nation building) party of fiscal spending is shelling out $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today's dollars. The Iraq invasion's "shock and awe" phase of high-tech laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and stealth aircraft has long faded, but the costs of even those early months are just coming into view as the military confronts equipment repair and rebuilding costs it has avoided and procurement costs it never expected.

"We did not predict early on that we would have the number of electronic jammers that we've got. We did not predict we'd have as many (heavily) armored vehicles that we have, nor did we have a good prediction about what our battle losses would be," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"If you look at the earlier estimates of anticipated costs, this war is a lot more expensive than it should be based on past conflicts," said Steven Kosiak, director of budget studies for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent defense think tank.

The issue will be hotly debated next week when the Senate takes up a record $106.5 billion emergency spending bill that includes $72.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed a $92 billion version of the bill last month that included $68 billion in war funding. That comes on top of $50 billion already allocated for the war this fiscal year.

Must Read: The Families of Four Contractors Killed in Iraq Sue Blackwater

I don't have time to post excerpts from this Democracy Now interview and Nation article about the families of four security contractors killed in Fallujah who are suing the company Blackwater, but they are must reads. Read them when you have time because there are many layers to this story and lawsuit:
This month marks the two-year anniversary of the first US siege of Fallujah, in which at least 600 Iraqis were killed. The U.S. attack was sparked by the gruesome killing of four private contractors inside Fallujah.
The men were working for Blackwater USA, one of the biggest security firms operating in Iraq.

Altogether an estimated 20,000 non-Iraqi civilian contractors are now working for the United States inside Iraq. About 6,000 of these are security contractors.

According to Department of Labor statistics, at least 425 U.S. civilians have died in Iraq including at least 22 Blackwater contractors.

These men and women are never included in the death tolls provided by the Pentagon or reported on in the media.

While the Iraq war has helped the company Blackwater USA see its profits soar, the company is facing a major battle here at home - this time in court.

The families of the four men killed at Fallujah have filed a lawsuit charging the company with wrongful death. Blackwater has fought to have the case dismissed by claiming that all liability lies not with the company but the U.S. government.

Louisiana Democrats Back Extreme Abortion Ban

A Louisiana Senate committee voted 7-0 to ban all abortions with an exception to save the life of a mother. The bill, which was authored by Democratic Senator Ben Nevers, will go into effect only if the Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade. Democratic Senator Diana Bajoie said she wants to make the bill "more pro-life" by not allowing any exceptions:
She did not offer the amendment but served notice she will on the Senate floor, where Nevers is expected to take up the bill next week. "I do have some concerns about this bill," Bajoie said. "It should be all or nothing...Life is life."

Nevers said he will work with Bajoie to "get as much of a pro-life bill as I can."
Nevers says the government should force young girls who are raped by a male relative to have his baby because "that child had nothing to do with that awful crime."

Doctors who perform abortions would face a minimum of a year in jail and a maximum of 10 years, and a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $100,000. Women who seek abortions would not face criminal charges.

If you'd like to express your views to these "pro-life" Democratic Senaors before this law passes, contact:

Senator Ben Nevers: 225.342.2040

Senator Diana Bajoie: 225.342.0752

To contact all Louisiana State Senators, click here.

Louisiana has an extremely poor record on reproductive rights. NARAL Pro-Choice America gives it an F for the following reasons:

*92 percent of Louisiana counties have no abortion provider.
*The state has unconstitutional and unenforceable criminal bans on abortion.
*State law subjects women seeking abortions to biased counseling requirements and mandatory delays.
*Louisiana has an unconstitutional and unenforceable law mandating husband consent before a married woman may obtain an abortion.
*Louisiana prohibits the use of public facilities for the performance of abortions.
*Louisiana allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide women specific reproductive health services, information, or referrals.

Study: Welfare Law Drives Single Moms Out of College, High Infant Mortality Rate in Afghanistan

"We are trying to change peoples' minds and tell them 'Yeah, you can participate. Yeah. You can be part of the political system and make a difference. That's because accurate information and family planning services are a right, something that's going to help people have more opportunities to develop as human beings in the ways they choose."
-Jeannette Tineo, program officer for Family Care International in the Dominican Republic, where 25 percent of girls get pregnant by the time they are 20. Family Care is working with the UN to ensure women have full access to reproductive health care.

Reproductive Rights

NGO Advocates for Sexual and Reproductive Health in 20 Countries - VOA
All women in the world have a right to expect adequate sexual and reproductive health care, and both the knowledge and the means to plan the size of their families. That's according to the United Nations, and most of the international community. And most agree that the sexual and reproductive health challenges of adolescents must also be urgently addressed.

Anti-abortion extremist to plead guilty to carjacking, robberies - AP
An anti-abortion extremist already serving a lengthy federal prison sentence for sending hundreds of letters with fake anthrax to abortion clinics has agreed to plead guilty to carjacking, robbery and weapons offenses. Clayton Lee Waagner, 49, said in documents filed Monday and Tuesday in Harrisburg federal court that he wants to plead guilty to a Mississippi carjacking, to weapons charges in Mississippi and Tennessee and to robbing banks in Harrisburg and Morgantown, W.Va. The cases were consolidated in federal court in Pennsylvania. Waagner, who once said he was on a mission from God to kill abortion providers, is currently imprisoned at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary.

FDA Reviewing New Birth Control Options - NBC6
Birth control has come a long way over the years. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is considering some new contraceptives. If they are approved, women could have more choices than ever before. "There are many options. It has to be individualized," said Dr. Dr. Janet Schaffel. The FDA is considering a new type of implant called Implanon. The old implant system called Norplant involved six rods the size of matchsticks inserted under the skin. Implanon uses just one. It goes under the skin of the upper arm, where it releases the hormone progestin for up to three years.


Study: Welfare Clock Should Stop for College Moms - Women's eNews
A 1996 welfare law has driven many single mothers out of colleges. A new study proposes a few tweaks to the system to help single mothers in college beat the welfare clock and find their way out of poverty.

Panel seeks to reduce number of women, girls in Alabama lockups - AP
A new state panel will consider ways to reduce the number of women and girls held in prisons and juvenile lockups in Alabama, where females make up a rapidly increasing portion of inmates. The Commission on Girls and Women in the Criminal Justice System, created during the just-completed legislative session, met Tuesday for the first time. The panel hopes to reverse a trend that has resulted in nearly 2,000 females being imprisoned in the state, a 53 percent jump since 1995. The rise in women sent to the Department of Corrections has been the most dramatic, but the Department of Youth Services also is getting more girls from juvenile courts. DYS admitted 606 girls in 2004, up from 450 in 1996, according to its annual report.


High infant, mother death rates cause anguish in Afghanistan - AP
Fayruza's doll-sized body leans limply across the forearm of her aunt, who became the infant's adoptive mother minutes after her birth three months ago. The death of the withered baby's natural mother soon after delivery at home epitomizes what President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday called war-ravaged Afghanistan's ''great tragedy'' _ its appalling rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality, among the world's worst. ''The morning she was born I became an aunt,'' said Shirinja, who goes by one name, as she cradled Fayruza in the cramped confines of an infant ward at Kabul's Indira Ghandi Children's Hospital. ''But by the afternoon after my sister died I had become her mother.'' The baby has spent the last 18 days in the hospital, suffering chronic malnutrition Some 600 infants and 50 mothers die on average per day in Afghanistan, says the U.N.'s child health agency, UNICEF. This country has the world's second-worst rate of mothers dying during labor _ 1,600 per 100,000. The worst is Sierra Leone.

Scholarships for Female Students Soon As Pres. Sirleaf Launches Girls Education Policy - The Analyst
The Minister of Education, Joseph Korto said the government of Liberia is working out modality to secure scholarship for female students in the country. Korto said the government will use the scholarship program to encourage girls and their parents to engage the "universal learning process." Speaking during the official launch of the National Policy on Girl Education at the Monrovia City Hall yesterday, he noted that over the past years, girls were used as house keepers and house wives which to some extent enslaves them to men. But he pointed out that the Unity Party-led government will put all mechanisms in place in order to reduce the soaring number of uneducated girls in the country.

Aceh Sets Up Gender Working Group to Help Refugees - Antara News
Aceh province has set up a Gender Working Group (GWG) to help tsunami survivors who have become refugees living in emergency tents and barracks. "The establishment of GWG is to give assistance to the refugees, especially women and children, among other things through consultations and advocacy," the head of Aceh Province`s Woman Empowerment Bureau Lailisma Sofyati said here on Wednesday. The working group will help the refugees deal with their problems and meet their needs in daily life. The group will for instance help arrange usage of toilets and kitchens for female refugees.

Minister's motorbike campaign against female foeticide - IANS
As part of a campaign against female foeticide, Gujarat's Urban Development Minister I.K. Jadeja will lead a rally of motorcyclists in his constituency from Thursday. Citizens, NGOs, religious leaders and other ministers will join Jadeja in his campaign, the 'Matru Vandana Yatra', which is expected to continue till May 7 and cover 85 towns and villages in Dhrangdhra constituency in Surendra Nagar district, said an official statement. Jadeja said his campaign was 'a small part' of the larger movement by the state to save girl children.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Thembi's AIDS Diary

Thembi Ngubane recording her audio diary in Khayelitsha township, outside Cape Town. (Melikhaya Mpumelo)

This is what I love about radio. Here's a piece from NPR that'll cause you to drop everything and just listen:
Thembi Ngubane lives in one of South Africa's largest townships, a sprawling sea of houses and shacks made of wood planks, tar paper and sheets of tin.

She has a boyfriend and a close relationship with her mother and father. She is also living with AIDS.

Ngubane was 19 when she first met radio producer Joe Richman in Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town. She was among a group of South African teenagers he interviewed about AIDS in 2004. He gave her a tape recorder, and for a year, she recorded an intimate audio diary that brings listeners into her home, among her family, to witness her daily struggles and triumphs.

US Contractor Admits to Corruption in Iraq

Here's yet another reason why the Iraqis should continue to welcome us with open arms. What a classy guy:
An American businessman who is at the heart of one of the biggest corruption cases to emerge from the reconstruction of Iraq has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money-laundering charges, according to documents unsealed yesterday in federal court in Washington.

As part of the plea, Philip H. Bloom admitted his part in a scheme to give more than $2 million in cash and gifts to U.S. officials in exchange for their help in getting reconstruction contracts for his companies. Bloom's firms won $8.6 million in reconstruction deals, with an average profit margin of more than 25 percent.

Yesterday's filings included e-mails that provide insight into the fraud. In one, an Army Reserve officer who allegedly helped Bloom secure his contracts expresses gratitude for Bloom's largesse.

"The truck is Great!!! I needed a new truck ... People I work with cannot stop commenting on how much they love it," the officer wrote in a Sept. 2, 2004, message to Bloom. The officer then added a bit of reassurance: "If there were any smoking guns, they would have been found months ago."
I'm sure the Bush administration will do its best to make sure this doesn't happen again. And you can bet Bush will do whatever it takes to fulfill the many promises he has broken and give reporters a reason to tell us about all of the "good news" happening in Iraq:
Two years ago, the United States government promised to build more than 140 badly needed health clinics in Iraq, bringing basic care to underserved areas outside the big cities. That could have done a lot of good, saving innocent Iraqi lives and building good will for the United States in places where it has grown dangerously scarce. A generous cost-plus contract was awarded to Parsons Inc., an American construction firm, to do the work, supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Now, with roughly $200 million already spent and financing from Washington set to run out in less than nine months, it appears extremely unlikely that most of those clinics will ever be built. As The Washington Post reported earlier this month, the Army Corps of Engineers predicts that no more than 20 clinics will actually be completed -- out of 142.

America's good intentions should not be allowed to expire with so pathetically little achieved. The country's three years in Iraq have been a cavalcade of squandered opportunities and unanticipated outcomes. Many of those are now, sadly, beyond retrieval. The health clinics are not.

Great Rolling Stone Cover: Worst President in History

The Worst President in History and Pearl Jam (why did they sell out to ticketmaster?) on the same cover!

The piece was written by Princeton Professor and author Sean Wilentz:
George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

Liberal Media Strikes Again

Why in the hell is former TV personality Monica Crowley being asked to comment on Iran?? What a stupid question:
Joe: Monica, is there any possibility that the Iranian leaders that are in charge right now would ever be so irrational as to launch a nuclear attack on cities like Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., if they got this nuclear device?

Monica: Unequivocally, yes, Joe. And in fact, the hypothetical scenario that you just laid out, that hypothetic ground zero is just a few blocks from where I am sitting here tonight. So, it is an incredibly frightening scenario and absolutely within the realm of possibility given the nature of the regime we're talking about. This Tehran regime covers the terrorist Trifecta. They do have weapons of mass destruction, possibly even nuclear at this point. They export terror and they do support al Qaeda.
Another new low for the liberal media. And here are a few more gems from today's Media Matters:

Seeking to dismiss their concerns, Hume falsely claimed generals pushing for Rumsfeld's ouster have not been "critical of what's happening now" in Iraq
Brit Hume asserted that the seven retired generals calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation are doing so exclusively "based on an old argument" about prewar planning for the invasion of Iraq, and that the generals are not linking their criticism of Rumsfeld to "what's happening now" in Iraq. But contrary to Hume's assertions, several of the generals have criticized what Rumsfeld is "doing now" in Iraq.

Media ignored convicted Illinois governor's Republican affiliation
On April 17, numerous news outlets -- including NBC, CBS, NPR, and Fox News -- covering former Illinois governor George Ryan's conviction on corruption charges failed to mention that he is a Republican. Time magazine went a step further, omitting Ryan's Republican affiliation while reporting that "the current administration of Democrat Rod Blagojevich is also being investigated."

Apparently undeterred by Limbaugh's recent reference to alleged rape victim as a "ho[]," Rumsfeld again appeared on Rush Limbaugh
Donald Rumsfeld appeared on The Rush Limbaugh Show to discuss the growing number of retired U.S. military generals calling for his resignation, just a few weeks after Rush Limbaugh called the woman who alleged she was raped by members of Duke's lacrosse team a "ho[]." Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney have appeared on Limbaugh's show various times in recent years, despite the fact that Limbaugh has consistently used the program as a vehicle for spreading extreme, hateful speech and falsehoods.

On CNN's Situation Room, Kuiper admitted he "can't verify" his book's poorly sourced Clinton quotations
On CNN's The Situation Room, "conservative activist" Thomas D. Kuiper acknowledged that he "can't verify" that the quotes contained in his book of quotations he attributes to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are "100 percent true." Kuiper also acknowledged "a legitimate criticism that the book at times comes off as almost mean-spirited."

Democrats Finally Discuss Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies, Louisiana Debates Abortion Ban

"As two senators on opposite sides of the abortion debate, we recognize that one side will not suddenly convince the other to drop its deeply held beliefs. And we believe that, while disagreeing, we can work together to find common ground. We believe that it is necessary for all Americans to join together and embrace policies that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care."
-Senators Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid in a Times Union op-ed piece about preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortion

Reproductive Rights

Clinton and Reid co-author "common ground" abortion piece - AP
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid have co-authored an op-ed piece about finding "common ground" on the abortion issue. The Democrats from New York and Nevada, respectively, are on opposite sides of the abortion issue. Clinton, the former first lady and potential 2008 presidential candidate, favors abortion rights while Reid is anti-abortion. "As two senators on opposite sides of the abortion debate, we recognize that one side will not suddenly convince the other to drop its deeply held beliefs," the two Democrats wrote in the piece that ran in Tuesday's Albany Times Union newspaper. "And we believe that, while disagreeing, we can work together to find common ground."

Debate set for today on push to limit abortion - The Times-Picqyune
The state's [Louisiana's] first major attempt in 15 years to pass a strict abortion bill that outlaws the procedure in all cases except to save a mother's life will get a hearing today in the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare. Supporters said they are unsure how lawmakers will react to Senate Bill 33 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, one of several anti-abortion measures filed for the session. The big question is whether the measure can survive without amendments expanding the number of exceptions.

Judge rules for Kan. abortion rights group - AP
In a victory for an abortion rights group, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that abortion clinic doctors and other professionals are not required under Kansas law to report underage sex between consenting youths. The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten was a setback for Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, an abortion foe. Kline contended a 1982 Kansas law requiring doctors, teachers and others to alert the state and law enforcement about potential child abuse covers consensual sex between minors. He argued that the law applies to abortion clinics, and later extended that to other health professionals and teachers. The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged that interpretation in court, and the judge sided with the organization. Kline said he had not decided whether to appeal.

Vetoes put abortion back into campaign - The Arizona Republic
A string of vetoes by Gov. Janet Napolitano has brought new focus to an abortion issue that has been overshadowed by immigration and other matters this legislative session. Napolitano has used her veto stamp on abortion bills three times in the last week and soon could issue still another with the Senate's approval Tuesday of a measure restricting access to abortion for minors. That measure, House Bill 2776, now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. The debate is a likely preview of an upcoming clash between the Democratic governor, long a defender of abortion rights, and presumed GOP frontrunner Len Munsil, a staunch opponent of the practice and former president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy.

Judge overturns West Palm's clinic buffer law - Palm Beach Post
A federal judge has ruled that a city law imposing a buffer zone on abortion protesters violates free-speech rights and has ordered the city not to enforce it. The law -- enacted in October after someone set fire to the Presidential Women's Center, the last clinic in Palm Beach County where abortions are done -- created a 20-foot buffer around entrances and other public areas outside health-care facilities. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled that the city didn't prove the existence of problems that it said the law addressed: restricted patient access and a threat to public safety. Even if it had, the law is too strict, he ruled. "Freedom of speech is rarely an issue when everyone agrees," Middlebrooks wrote. "Perhaps more than at any other place and any other time, in cases such as this, speech guaranteed by the First Amendment must be protected."

Let's (Not) Talk About Sex - IPS
Although many countries in Latin America have laws stating that sex education must be made available in primary and secondary schools, these are implemented in a haphazard way, and in some cases not at all. An informal survey by IPS correspondents in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela shows that sex education is patchy or nonexistent in the region, with the exception of Cuba. "There are girls who get pregnant because they get sick, so they need help," said Sara, a seven-year-old Mexican girl, in a conversation with her private school classmates. The conclusion reached by Sara, based on a television ad not designed with children in mind, is an illustration of the lack of adequate information about sex faced by millions of children in Latin America.


Duke Rape Suspects Come From Money - AP
They grew up in privileged surroundings in the suburbs of New York City. Collin Finnerty of Long Island and Reade Seligmann of New Jersey both come from a world of golf courses and multimillion-dollar homes and were educated at exclusive all-boys Catholic prep schools. Their paths merged after the high school lacrosse stars won admission to Duke University, and continued their athletic and academic careers. On Tuesday, they stood as co-defendants, accused of raping a stripper at an off-campus party in Durham, N.C.


Giuliani Stumps for Conservative Senator, Despite Differences - NY Times
Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York campaigned on Tuesday for Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a social conservative who is facing a tough re-election fight in one of the most competitive battles in the nation this year. While both men are Republicans, Mr. Giuliani supports abortion rights and is considered more moderate, while Mr. Santorum is known for his strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage. In campaigning for Mr. Santorum, Mr. Giuliani could be mending fences with more conservative Republican leaders in advance of a possible national bid in 2008.


Tehran police chief warns Iranian women over dress code - M&C News
Tehran's police chief on Tuesday warned women in Iran to observe the Islamic dress code or face consequences. General Morteza Talaei told Fars news agency that within the next few days some 50 squads, including female officers, will start checking dress codes in Tehran. All women in Iran, including foreigners, are expected to respect the Islamic dress code of contour-hiding gowns or long coats, and scarves hiding the hair. Many women in Tehran and other big cities have been ignoring strict observation of the rules. The police chief warned that the squads would confront all women wearing Bermuda-style pants, tight coats, loose scarves and no socks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Photos: An Hour at Golden Gate Park

Tonight on PBS: Journey to Planet Earth & Armenian Genocide

"We are in effect, outgrowing the Earth. We need another planet but there's no other habitable planet that we can go to."
-Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute

"I think that the Earth has been sending us distress signals and the distress signals have to do with the pressures of human population and the pressures of the human economy on the ecosystems."
-Eugene Linden, Author/Journalist

This should be good. Check it out:
Nearly half the world's wildlife species may become extinct over the next fifty years. Climate change, the illegal wildlife trade, the spread of disease, and the destruction of critical habitat are pushing species to the brink. Join host Matt Damon as Journey to Planet Earth investigates what scientists call "the sixth great extinction of the world's animals" and what we are doing to stop it.
It'll be followed by a documentary about the Armenian Genocide:
This documentary covers an event in history in which as many as 1.5 million innocent Armenians were murdered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and Kurds. This event took place under cover of the war in the area that today is considered Eastern Turkey and continues to be denied by the Turkish government.
The politically active band System of a Down is traveling to DC on April 24 for a three-day campaign to urge Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and other Congressional leaders to end their complicity in Turkey's ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide:
The members of System of a Down -- Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, John Dolmayan and Shavo Odadjian -- who are of Armenian descent, all personally lost family members and family history to the Armenian Genocide. "Because so much of my family history was lost in the Armenian Genocide," said Malakian, "my grandfather, who was very young at the time, doesn't know his true age. How many people can say they don't know how old they are?" Tankian, Dolmayan and Odadjian all identify their grandparents' memories as the only links they have to their respective family heritages, as most of their families were obliterated during the Armenian Genocide.

"It's important for people to be aware of the Armenian Genocide," explained Tankian, "and that those actions continue to be covered up by the Turkish government, the U.S. State Department, Turkey's allies in the defense and oil industries, and by our present U.S. Administration. Had the Armenian Genocide been acknowledged as a Crime Against Humanity as it was, Hitler might not have thought he could get away with the Jewish Holocaust. History does and will repeat itself, unless we stop that cycle."

Grandmas Against War, Women Soldiers Maimed in Iraq

"Oh hell! I would go to jail if I had to just to make the goddamn point! You've got to make a statement ... I thought it was a great idea to get the message through to that son of a bitch in the White House. Our men are dying and the Iraqi people are dying and for what--for that idiot Bush!"
-Marie Runyon, a 91-year-old member of Grandmothers Against the War. Runyon, who is legally blind and walks with two canes, was charged for disorderly conduct on October 17 after she and her 17 aging colleagues tried to enter the Times Square Recruitment Office in New York. The women are scheduled to go to trial this Thursday.

Reproductive Rights

'Roe v. Wade': The divided states of America - USA Today
Two hours after South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed an abortion ban last month, NARAL Pro-Choice America blasted an e-mail to its supporters: "Is your state next?" The South Dakota legislation and the abortion rights group's warning are early skirmishes in a battle over what states would do if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision were overturned -- though both sides concede that may never happen. If it does, a fight that for three decades has focused on nine members of the Supreme Court would be waged instead among more than 7,000 legislators in 50 state capitals. "Now is the time to get moving on this in Ohio," says Tom Brinkman, a state legislator who has introduced a bill to ban almost all abortions. Meanwhile, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is braced. "Our supporters feel the fight is coming back to the states," she says.

Conscience clause for pharmacists could be bitter pill - St. Paul Pioneers Press
There's another epidemic in health circles, less contagious but almost as troubling as avian flu. It concerns an apparent outbreak of pharmacists who don't care to dole out pills they disapprove of. Though the American Pharmacists Association has assured consumers that the cases have generally been contained, concern about the very delicate sensibilities of men and women in lab coats has prompted some states to consider "conscience clause" measures, allowing pharmacists to opt out of dispensing medications that are contraindicated by their own moral standards or religious convictions. While there is no state law preventing a pharmacist from refusing to dispense a drug, the Minnesota Legislature is now under some pressure to make one.

Napolitano vetoes two abortion bills - AP
Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano on Monday vetoed two more abortion bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature. Napolitano used her veto stamp to kill bills passed by lawmakers to prohibit state and local governments from using public dollars to provide health coverage for abortions and to require that parents' consent for a minor to get an abortion be notarized.

The world in their sights - Guardian
For many years, reproductive-rights activists in the US have predicted a series of events that would lead to the toppling of abortion rights. Currently, and with breathtaking speed, we have passed many of those benchmarks. The anti-abortion movement has become a powerful bully on our national political stage. Now, it plans to flex its muscle internationally. The UK may be its next stop. In fact, the US movement has already begun exporting its menacing brand of activism. And they're not even leaving home to do it.


Grandmothers of Invention - The Village Voice
The Granny Peace Brigade, as the 18 grannies now call themselves, has captured attention far beyond New York, generating buzz on the Internet, on progressive websites and political listservs. Media outlets have covered the grannies with fawning fascination, playing up the images of little old ladies clutching their walkers and hanging onto their flowered hats, flanked by beefy cops. Carol Huston, a veteran peace activist and granny brigade member, tried to enlist at the Times Square recruiting center to protest the Iraq war three years ago. Not one reporter showed up. This time, as she puts it, "the press went nuts over us like I've never seen before and all of a sudden—zoom!—this action takes off." Similar granny groups have popped up across the country, staging their own protests at military recruiting centers, fueling the larger anti-war movement. Now there are as many as 38 anti-war granny groups in the United States, from Pittsburgh to Detroit, Berkeley to Sarasota. Just last month, three of the New York grandmas flew to Berlin, where they gave speeches to hundreds of people on why they've hit the streets to protest the Iraq war.

Limbs Lost to Enemy Fire, Women Forge a New Reality - Washington Post
Her body had been maimed by war. Dawn Halfaker lay unconscious at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, her parents at her bedside and her future suddenly unsure. A rocket-propelled grenade had exploded in her Humvee, ravaging her arm and shoulder. In June 2004, she became the newest soldier to start down a path almost unknown in the United States: woman as combat amputee.

Duke Athletes Indicted for Rape Post Bond - LA Times
Two members of the Duke University lacrosse team surrendered today on charges of raping and kidnapping an exotic dancer, ensuring months of continued controversy in a school and city that have been consumed by issues of race, sex and privilege since details of the case emerged in March. Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong, who would not discuss the evidence, said he hoped to charge a third person shortly.

In the Courts

Female Forklifter Takes Her Case to High Court - Women's eNews
The high court on Monday heard the case of a female forklifter who says a sexual harassment complaint led to retaliation at work. The case is expected to clarify the legal protections for those who complain of harassment or discrimination on the job.

In the Workplace

Women shorted on federal contracts - Chicago Tribune
Nabbing a federal government contract helped put Carolyne Turner's financial software company on the map 25 years ago, but today the federal procurement process has led the $2 million firm to more dead ends than new deals. Turner isn't the only one who has noticed that large corporations continue to win the lion's share of federal government contracts. In fact, despite the federal government's pledge to award 5 percent of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses, it routinely falls short of that goal, said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York, the ranking Democratic member of the House Small Business Committee. It's not a new problem. Six years ago, Congress recognized it, enacting legislation that set aside contracts in certain male-dominated industries for competition by women-owned businesses, said Margot Dorfman, chief executive of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce. But the Small Business Administration has yet to implement the law, Dorfman said.


Report Shows Continued Violence and Discrimination Against Afghan Women - Feminist Wire
A new report on the current status of Afghan women and girls issued by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) demonstrates that Afghan women and girls continue to face extreme obstacles and discrimination as they seek to exercise their rights. The “Evaluation Report on General Situation of Women in Afghanistan” states that despite the Afghan government's constitutional obligation to “observe and respect women's rights' and the numerous human rights treaties Afghanistan has signed, women face many problems in all aspects of their lives.

Afghan women as teachers, an United Nations initiative - NewKerala
Afghan women related to former fighters will be trained as teachers under a new United Nations initiative aimed at educating women in the war-ravaged country while facilitating the reintegration of ex-combatants and their families into civilian life. Training will take place throughout Afghanistan under the five-month programme, which began Sunday following the signing of an agreement between the UN Development Programme and the the country's Ministry of Education.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Photos: More Than 100 Gay Families Attend White House Egg Roll

I tend to steer clear of posting information about myself on my blog (well, other than my political opinions), but this is a very personal issue for me. My gay aunt has a son whom she adores and I have many gay friends who can't wait to adopt and give a child a loving home.

The White House had such an amazing opportunity to stand in solidarity with gay families who had the courage to walk with their children past homophobic protesters. Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Bush decided to leave today's festivities before "the gays" arrived:
But even without a photo op Family Pride which rallied gay and lesbian families to take part in the event declared victory.

Television cameras focused on families with rainbow leis around their necks as they waited to enter the grounds.

"The visibility of LGBT families has been exceptional," said Family Pride spokesperson Cathy Renna. "It puts a face on gay families for the American public."
"We just wanted to come out to be visible and present and to let people see we are families, too," said Alisa Surkis, 42, of Brooklyn, N.Y., as 3-year-old-daughter Ella clamored for her partner, Colleen Gillespie, to take her over to see the Easter Bunny.

Same-sex couples and their children before entering the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House during the annual 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, April 17, 2006. The couples are wearing rainbow leis to indicate their support of same-sex union. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Jennifer Chrisler, left, and her partner Cheryl Jacques, right, cheer as their children take part in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, Monday, April 17, 2006, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington. Same sex couples with children who say they want more visibility for their families attended Monday's Easter Egg Roll wearing colorful leis around their necks. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Brian Lahmanh, of Philadephia, Penn., and his four year-old daughter Helen Lahmanh-Metcalfe wait in a tent outside the White House grounds to participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 17, 2006 in Washington. Same sex couples who say they want more visibility for their families attended Monday's Easter Egg Roll with their children wearing rainbow leis around their neck. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Same-sex couple Christina Burke (L) and Victoria Burke (R), both from Salisbury, Maryland, pose with Mrs. Bunny and their daughter, Phobe (6 months old), on the South Lawn of the White House during the annual 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, April 17, 2006. The Burke's are wearing a rainbow lei to indicate their support of same sex union. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Christina Burke and her daughter, Phobe (6 months-old), both from Salisbury, Maryland, participate in the easter egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House during the annual 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, April 17, 2006. Burke is wearing a rainbow lei to indicate her support of same-sex union. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Dominic Russoli, left, and his partner Rolf Preisendorfer, right, along with their son Cyrus Preisendorfer take part in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, Monday, April 17, 2006, on the South Lawn at the White House. The gay and lesbian couples, who wore rainbow-colored leis, said they wanted to give their children an opportunity to have fun while making a political statement that they should be welcome. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

The Nuclear Bunker Buster & Casualties of War

What would happen if we dropped one of our nuclear bunker busters on a nuclear facility in Iran? Check out this video from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Since the Bush administration hasn't bothered to discuss human casualties in any of its plans to attack Iran, it's important to note the number of innocent people who will be killed from a bunker buster attack.

Also, check out today's Democracy Now interview with Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner on Iran war plans:
AMY GOODMAN: You were quoted on CNN on Friday night, saying the question isn't if we would attack Iran, that military operations are already happening. What do you mean?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, the evidence is beginning to accumulate that a decision has already been made to use military force in Iran. Now, let me do a historical thing, and then I'll tell you what the current evidence is. We now know that the decision and the actual actions to bomb Iraq occurred in July of 2002, before we ever had a U.N. resolution or before the Congress ever authorized it. It was an operation called Southern Focus, and the only guidance that the military -- or the guidance that the military had from Rumsfeld was keep it below the CNN line. His specific words. The evidence that we've already --

AMY GOODMAN: Keep it below what?

COL. SAM GARDINER: The CNN line. In other words, I don't want this to appear on CNN, okay? That was his guidance to the military, you can begin to bomb Iraq, but don't let it appear on CNN. You're catching your breath.


COL. SAM GARDINER: I think the same thing has happened, and the evidence -- let me give you two or three evidences. First of all, the Iranians in their press have been writing now for almost a year that the United States is involved inside Iran conducting and supporting those who conduct military operations, attacks on military convoys. They've even accused the United States of shooting down a couple airplanes inside Iran. Okay, so there's that evidence from their side.

I was in Berlin three weeks ago, sat next to the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I asked him a question. I read these stories about Americans being involved in there, and how do you react to that? And he said, oh, we know they are. We've captured people who are working with them, and they've confessed. So, another piece of evidence.

Let me give you a couple more. Seymour Hersh, in his New Yorker article, said that there are Americans in three locations operating inside Iran. Another point. We know that there is a group in Iraq, a Kurdish group called the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, that crosses the border from Iraq into Iran, and they have taken credit for killing numbers of revolutionary guard military people. And the interesting part about that is, you know, we tell the Syrians, 'Don't let that happen. Don't let people come across the border and stir things up in Iraq,' but we don't seem to be putting any brakes on on this unit. So, you know, the evidence is pretty strong that the pattern is being followed.

Now, the question that really follows from that is "Who authorized that?" See, there is no congressional authorization to conduct combat operations against Iran. There are a couple of possibilities. One of them is that it's being justified under the terrorism authorization that occurred in 2001. The problem with that is that you would have to prove a connection to 9/11. I don't think you can do that with Iran. The second possibility is that it's being done under the War Powers Act. I don't want to get too technical, but the War Powers Act would require the President to notify the Congress 60 days after the use of military force or invasion or putting military forces in a new country under that legislation, and the President hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran. So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran.

Coming Home from Iraq Disillusioned

Here's yet another piece written by a disgruntled Marine who believed he was going to Iraq for all the right reasons -- it didn't take long for him to realize he was sent by an incompetent administration who lied about the reasons for going in the first place. Christopher Sheppard even volunteered for a second tour:
I believed the Bush administration when it said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I believed its assertion that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Africa and refine it into weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. I believed its claim Iraq had vast quantities of biological and chemical agents. After years of thorough inspections, all of these claims have been disproved.

The war has cost the American taxpayers $250 billion and counting. The vast majority -- 94 percent -- of the more than 2,300 United States service members killed in Iraq have occurred since Bush's "Top Gun" proclamation. The cost in men and materiel has been far beyond what we were led to believe.

I returned disillusioned by what I saw. I participated in the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004. We crushed the insurgents in the city, but we only ended up scattering them throughout the province. The dumb ones stayed and died. The smart ones left town before the battle, to garner more recruits and fight another day. We were simply the little Dutch boy with our finger in the dike. In retrospect, we never had enough troops to firmly control the region; we had just enough to maintain a tenuous equilibrium.

I now know I wrongfully placed my faith and trust in a presidential administration hopelessly mired in incompetence, hubris and a lack of accountability. It planned a war based on false intelligence and unrealistic assumptions. It has strategically surrendered the condition of victory in Iraq to people who do not share our vision, values or interests. The Bush administration has proven successful at only one thing in Iraq -- painting us into a corner with no feasible exit.

I will never trust any of them again.
Sheppard, now a a former Marine captain, is currently finishing his master's in mass communication and lives in Marysville.