<\body> Stories in America: May 2006

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

If You Still Support the War, Watch This

From AlterNet:
This documentary, "Iraq: The Hidden Story" looks at the "images missing from our television screens." This graphic footage, showcasing the carnage and huge loss of life that are a daily part of Iraqi life, never makes it onto the network news. Several different Iraqi citizens are interviewed, voicing their concerns as well as sharing how they cope with living in such a hostile environment. Narrator Jon Snow notes that, one of the major groups of people not given full access to the brutalities of life in Iraq is the people from the countries that are currently occupying Iraq. He muses, "...If they had such a full account, would they support what was being done in their name?" This documentary runs about 50 minutes and contains graphic content.

Bush Learned About Haditha Massacre from the Media

It seems the White House still needs to take care of a few major communication problems. You would think the man who's in charge of pushing the "war" button would be briefed by the Pentagon about a military massacre. Not in this White House:
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said President Bush learned of the killings only after a reporter from Time magazine asked questions. Time published an article in March that said the Pentagon was investigating the incident.

Asked when Bush was first briefed about the events in Haditha, an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq, Snow replied Tuesday: "When a Time reporter first made the call."

Bush was briefed on the incident and investigation by his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, Snow said. He would not detail Bush's personal involvement since.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Truthout.org News

If you're looking for a good news service, subscribe to Truthout.org. They send out a few emails a day and they always include links to great stories. Here's the latest:

t r u t h o u t | 05.30

William Fisher | The Mouse on Steroids
William Fisher writes about the petro-diplomacy program being waged in the US by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

High Court Limits Whistleblower Lawsuits
By a 5-4 vote, justices said the nation's 20 million public employees do not have carte blanche free speech rights to disclose government's inner-workings. New Justice Samuel Alito cast the tie-breaking vote.

Afghans Riot After Deadly Crash by US Military Truck
A deadly traffic accident caused by a United States military convoy quickly escalated into a full-blown anti-American riot that raged across much of the Afghan capital on Monday, leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured.

Pentagon Pushes New Weapons for Pre-emptive Strike
The program has run into resistance from lawmakers concerned it could increase the risk of an accidental nuclear war. Under the Pentagon plan, both non-nuclear and nuclear-tipped variants of the Trident-2 missile would be loaded on the same submarines.

Quake Victims Facing Lack of Basic Provisions, Warns President
It will take months to deal with the basic needs of tens of thousands of earthquake survivors in Indonesia. Relief started trickling through to towns demolished by Saturday's 6.3-magnitude quake that killed at least 4,300 people on Java island. An estimated 200,000 people are left without shelter in heavy rains and a volcano 15 miles north of the most devastated communities may still erupt.

In East Timor, Refugees Born of Chaos, Carnage and Fear
An intense level of fear pervaded most corners of East Timor on Sunday as ethnic-based communal violence is reported to be pitting people from the western part of East Timor against those from the east.

CBS News Crewmembers Killed in Iraq Violence
The death of two journalists working for CBS News on Monday firmly secured the Iraq war as the deadliest conflict for reporters in modern times.

EU Court: Transfer of Passenger Information to US Illegal
Today, the European Communities' Court of Justice annulled the decisions of the Council and the Commission that had authorized the transfer of personal data for passengers reserving a flight to the United States to American Customs authorities.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Where Will You Buy Your Gas This Weekend?

Unlike millions of Americans, I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by excellent transportation and only drive when absolutely necessary. For those of you who have no choice but to drive on a regular basis and are going away for the long weekend, check out this Buyblue.org list of oil company donations to political parties. Only one company, Amerada Hess, gives to Democrats. The rest give to Republicans. Hey, thanks for the $10.7 billion in tax breaks we didn't need.

Citgo - $2,500 to Republicans (click here to read about the Citgo BUY-cott)
Shell - $86,000 to Republcians
BP (Beyond Petroleum - brilliant marketing name) - $209,498 to Republicans
ConocoPhilips - $276,500 to Republicans
Chevron - $383,800 to Republicans

And the winner is...

Exxon Mobil - $779,964 to Republicans

Have a good weekend and drive safely...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

DeLay's Sad Legal Team Doesn't Get Satire - They're Publicizing Stephen Colbert in Email Blasts

Tom DeLay's legal defense fund is using an interview between Stephen Colbert and Robert Greenwald, creator of "The Big Guy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress" to discredit the film and pay for DeLay's legal bills. They don't get satire! This is from Think Progress:
A good sign that Tom DeLay doesn't have the facts on his side: the top source for his latest defense against his critics is Stephen Colbert.

This morning, DeLay's legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie "The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress," by "Outfoxed" creator Robert Greenwald.

The email features a "one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood's the Big Buy," and the lead item is Colbert's interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O'Reilly-esque character). The headline of the "fact sheet":

DeLay thinks Colbert is so persuasive, he's now featuring the full video of the interview at the top of the legal fund's website. And why not? According to the email, Greenwald "crashed and burned" under the pressure of Colbert's hard-hitting questions, like "Who hates America more, you or Michael Moore?"

Apparently the people at DeLay's legal fund think that Colbert is actually a conservative. Or maybe they're just that desperate for supporters.
This is pathetic (and sad) on so many levels...and deliciously funny.

Enron: The Guiltiest Guys in the Room

Since I live in California and got hit with huge energy bills thanks to Enron's greed and lies, I've been eagerly awaiting today's guilty verdicts. They probably don't offer much solace to the thousands of people who lost their entire retirement plans, but at least they can sleep at night knowing Justice has been served. The days of slapping crooks and liars on the wrists are clearly over.

Be sure to see "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" if you haven't already. It does a great job of weaving together the connections betwen Enron, Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Enron was instrumental in recalling Gray Davis a few years ago and supporting Schwarzenegger to the very end. Literally. If we had a media that was beholden to the public, rather than corporations, those connections wouldn't have been so shocking and the people who got screwed with high energy bills would have demanded more from their "leaders."

DarkSyde at Kos found these numbers at Breakdown by Candidate or PAC:
Lay is known to be a very close personal friend of current US president George W. Bush, and was one of the largest contributors to his presidential campaigns. His contribution history is $651,760 to Republicans, $61,960 to Democrats, and $62,150 to special interests. He served on the Bush-Cheney Transition Advisory Committee and was rumored to be the early top contender for Secretary of the Treasury until his untimely fall from grace and credibility.

Skilling was a long time idea man and Enron power broker who served a couple of stints at CEO. He is a well known political cash cow with a campaign contribution history of $162,750 to Republicans, $9,750 to Democrats, and $50,783 classified as special interests.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Activist Judges...

bought by Exxon Mobil and Philip Morris. This is from NPR:
Judicial lobbying: For years, federal judges have been wined and dined at various resorts under the pretext of "educational" sessions by upright and independent think tanks. Surprise! Corporations with issues that come before the federal bench underwrite think tanks. Phillip Morris and Exxon are two companies involved...just came out in court papers.

Must See Film: Why We Fight

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
-Five-star Army General Dwight Eisenhower's last speech as president in 1961

I finally saw Why We Fight last night, a chilling film about the history and impact of the military-industrial complex. You'll see amazing footage from bomb making plants and weapon company expos and you'll hear from the men who dropped the first bombs on Baghdad. This film is not a liberal rant against war; it features people who both oppose and favor American domination through pre-emptive action.

Here are a few facts about the military-industrial complex:

*Forty-nine percent of your taxes go to the military industrial complex.

*The military's share of the income tax dollar has risen by 20 percent since 2000, while the share of spending has dropped for job training (-21 percent), environment (-19 percent), housing (-7 percent) and veterans' benefits (-2 percent), according to the National Priorities Project, a non-partisan, non-profit research group.

*Classified military spending has reached its highest level since 1988, near the end of the Cold War, a new independent analysis has found. Classified, or "black," programs now appear to account for about $30.1 billion, or 19 percent, of the acquisition money the Defense Department is requesting for fiscal year 2007, according to Steven M. Kosiak, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, an independent policy-research organization. The figure is more than double the amount the Pentagon requested in 1995, when classified military acquisition spending reached a post-Cold War low.

*The biggest windfall in the invasion of Iraq has most certainly gone to the oil services and logistics company Halliburton . The company, which was formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, had revenue of over $8 billion in contracts in Iraq in 2003 alone. And while Halliburton's dealings in Iraq have been dogged everywhere by scandal - including now a criminal investigation into overcharging by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root for gas shipped into Iraq - Vice President Cheney manages to be doing quite well from the deal. He owns $433,000 unexercised Halliburton stock options worth more than $10 million dollars.
Source: CorpWatch

*Lockheed Martin is the world's #1 military contractor, responsible for the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, F-16, F/A-22 fighter jet, and Javelin missiles. They've also made millions through insider trading, falsifying accounts, and bribing officials. According to the Arms Trade Resource Center, Lockheed Martin gets $105 from each U.S. taxpayer and $228 from each U.S. household. In 2002 the company was effectively taxed at 7.7% compared to an average tax rate for individuals of 21-33%.

In late 2001 the company was awarded the world's largest weapons contract ever, a $200 billion deal to build the Joint Strike Fighter, a "next-generation" combat jet that eventually will replace aircraft used by the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. In the last few years the SEC has investigated Lockheed for insider trading and falsifying their accounts.

Lockheed Martin did not win the contract on force of personality alone, or fighter plane design. During the calendar year 2000, Lockheed Martin spent more than $9.8 million lobbying members of Congress and the Clinton administration, more than double the $4.2 million the company spent during 1999. Among the company's newest lobbyists: Haley Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. During the 1999-2000 election cycle, Lockheed Martin contributed just over $2.7 million in soft money, PAC and individual contributions to federal candidates and parties. More than two-thirds of that money went to Republicans. Lockheed Martin spends more on lobbying Congress than any of its competitors, spending a whopping $9.7 million in 2002. Only General Electric and Philip Morris reported more lobbying expenses. And in the 2004 election cycle, Lockheed contributed more than $1.9 million.
Source: CorpWatch

*Today the victors of modern wars no longer rape and pillage as their predecessors did, instead they make extraordinary profits by giving contracts to their favorite companies to rebuild what they have destroyed and then hand the bill to local taxpayers to pay. For example, within days of the American occupation of Iraq, Bechtel of San Francisco, California, was hired to repair the power system, telephone exchanges and hospitals, weeks after multi-billionaire Riley Bechtel, the principal shareholder, was sworn in as a member of President Bush's Export Council to advise the government on how to create markets for American companies overseas.
Source: CorpWatch

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Bush Administration Provokes Terror

If any of the liars in the Bush administration have a shred of decency left, they will spend their aging years despressed about the destruction they have created and the lives they have shattered:
The war on terror is provoking more terror, Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan told IPS in an interview Tuesday at the launch of the human rights group's 2005 annual report.

"The war on terror and the way it has unfolded actually is premised on the principle that by eroding human rights you can reinforce security," Khan said. "And that is why as part of the war on terror we see restrictions being placed on civil liberties around the world."

That has led to the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp "where people that are considered to be dangerous by the U.S. Administration are being locked up without any charge, without any trial, indefinitely," Khan said. "That cannot be the best way in which you fight terrorism. Because it plays straight into the hands of those who would want to destroy human rights."

Khan added: "The proof of what I am saying is that the world is not safer today. The number of attacks by armed groups has been going up according to research, and empirical evidence."

Retired Colonel Detained for Distributing Info About Sir! No Sir!

Retired Army Colonel and former U.S. Displomat Ann Wright yesterday detained and barred from Ft. McNair in DC for distributing postcards about the documentary Sir! No Sir!
Military police on the base accused her of "distributing seditious material" for handing out flyers about the film, which tells the forgotten history of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam. In a review last week, the Washington Post called the film "An absorbing piece of cultural history."

Colonel Wright was taken into custody by military police after placing postcards at a few locations on the base, including the headquarters and the Armys 'Center for Military History'. Wright is familiar with the Center, having donated items from her military service in Grenada in 1983 and 1984. Wright also served in Nicaragua, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia, and was on the team that reopened the US embassy in Cabal, Afghanistan in December of 2001.

Military police said the postcards, which advertise the film's run at the E Street Cinema in Washington DC this week, were "seditious material". Wright was handcuffed and taken to the military police station, where she was handcuffed to a chair, despite her stance that she was a peaceful, nonviolent, 59 year old retired army colonel with arthritic knees. She mentioned to the military policeman that she'd been in the Army longer than he'd been alive and respected the military, but felt that the history of US involvement in Vietnam was not "seditious material", and that this history would not jeopardize order and discipline in the military. She was detained for two hours and upon release was told that she may be barred by the base commander for having distributed the postcards.

Ann Wright said: "History can be embarrassing to organizations, but embarrassment is not a reason to deny history or to deny people in an organization the right to understand the historical context that this film--Sir! No Sir--presents to the US public, both military and civilian."

Wright served 13 years in the US Army and 16 years in the Reserves, and after 16 years in the diplomatic corps resigned in May 2003, in opposition to the war on Iraq. She now lectures frequently from her military and diplomatic background on current foreign policy issues, including the need to stop the war on Iraq.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Will Your Vote Count in November?

All electronic voting machines should be banned. I would rather wait a week or more to find out who won rather than wonder if the votes were accurately counted or even tampered with. Yes, we have short attention spans and a news cycle on speed, but we don't need to know the winner just hours after the polls close.

Years ago I attended an online security conference and will never forget what one of Microsoft's top security guys said: I can break into any electronic system. No system is a secure system.

This is from Newsweek. I'm glad the national media is raising these questions:
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the voting booth, here comes more disturbing news about the trustworthiness of electronic touchscreen ballot machines. Earlier this month a report by Finnish security expert Harri Hursti analyzed Diebold voting machines for an organization called Black Box Voting. Hursti found unheralded vulnerabilities in the machines that are currently entrusted to faithfully record the votes of millions of Americans.

How bad are the problems? Experts are calling them the most serious voting-machine flaws ever documented. Basically the trouble stems from the ease with which the machine's software can be altered. It requires only a few minutes of pre-election access to a Diebold machine to open the machine and insert a PC card that, if it contained malicious code, could reprogram the machine to give control to the violator. The machine could go dead on Election Day or throw votes to the wrong candidate. Worse, it's even possible for such ballot-tampering software to trick authorized technicians into thinking that everything is working fine, an illusion you couldn't pull off with pre-electronic systems. "If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it," says Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer-science professor and elections-security expert.

Iraq, Then & Now

From the Brookings Institute:

Crude oil production
Pre-War Levels: 2.5 million barrels
Now: 2.14 million barrels [Apr. 2006]

Pre-War Levels: 3,958 Megawatts
Now: 3,600 Megawatts [Apr. 2006]

People with access to potable water
Pre-War Levels: 12.9 million
Now: 8.25 million [Nov. 2005]

People with access to sewer system
Pre-War Levels: 6 million
Now: 5 million [Nov. 2005]

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Back-Up Your Data!

My computer decided it needed a break and completely crashed on me last week. Luckily, an amazing guy at Apple was able to retrieve my data before it was too late. So be sure to BACK UP YOUR DATA if you haven't already...

Apple has tissues on hand for people who cry after hearing that the only way they'll be able to retrieve data is to pay a data retrieval service thousands of dollars. One woman even fainted.

The Iraqis and Iranians Don't Forget History Like We Do

On this day in 1981 (from Peace History)
The U.S. Senate approved a $20 billion program to return U.S. to full-scale production of chemical and nerve-gas weapons. Though the U.S. maintained a public policy opposing chemical weapons, it extended financial and military assistance to Iraq in its war against Iran, despite its almost daily use of such weapons. Iraq had developed its "CW production capability, primarily from Western firms, including possible a U.S. foreign subsidiary." (From a memorandum to Secretary of State Alexander Haig)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Random House Goes Green

Considering the fact that over 900,000 books are published *every year,* this is good news:
Making one of the most dramatic environmentally conscious production moves of any major publisher to date, Random House announced Tuesday that it will be significantly increasing its reliance on recycled paper. Mapped out over a four-year period during which the publisher will incrementally raise the amount of recycled paper it uses—it aims to go from the 3% it now relies on to up to 30% by 2010--the house called the program "the most substantial environmental initiative in the company's history."

Because its reduction in new paper use would equate to the saving of more than 550,000 trees annually (once it gets to the 30% level in 2010), Random House officials said the program is something that the company was eager to undertake.

Tyson Miller, program director at Green Press Initiative, said that while 105 U.S. publishers have adopted various policies regarding recycled paper use over the past four years, what Random House has announced is "the real deal." It's also something he hopes will spark other major houses to establish similar programs. "Many of the other multinationals have stated that they won't be first, but would most likely follow the lead," he said. "So we'll have to see what the ripple effect of this policy will look like.".

When asked how houses could afford to use more recycled paper, Miller said pricing for it might go down if demand increases significantly. Of course this hasn't happened yet so, for many publishers, getting deeper into a reliance on recycled paper means higher production costs. While Drake confirmed that Random House will not push the increased cost of its recycled paper program back to the consumer, Miller said that even if publishers raised book costs to go green, consumers likely wouldn't mind. Citing a national survey in which 80% of 1,000 readers questioned said they would pay more for books printed on recycled paper, Miller explained that people want environmentally sound publishing more than cheaper books. He then added: "Publishers can do the right thing…without it affecting their profits."

Moms Deserve to Make $134,121/Per Year

I know several "stay-at-home moms" who deserve at least $134,121 a year:
A mother who works outside the home would earn an extra $85,876 annually on top of her actual wages for the work she does at home, according to the study by Waltham, Massachusetts-based compensation experts Salary.com.

To reach the projected pay figures, the survey calculated the earning power of the 10 jobs respondents said most closely comprise a mother's role -- housekeeper, day-care teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive and psychologist.

"You can't put a dollar value on it. It's worth a lot more," said Kristen Krauss, 35, as she hurriedly packed her four children, all aged under 8, into a minivan in New York while searching frantically for her keys. "Just look at me."

Employed mothers reported spending on average 44 hours a week at their outside job and 49.8 hours at their home job, while the stay-at-home mother worked 91.6 hours a week, it showed.
It seems as though this topic is gaining some steam with the release of a number of news books about what mothers deserve, what they are getting and how the government is failing them.

Women's Rights in the Courts

With Bush's disapproval rating at an all-time high, Karl Rove possibly on his way out, new reports about illegal wiretapping and continued chaos in Iraq, the following stories often slip through the cracks. This is from the National Women's Law Center:
Controversial lower court nominations are back on center stage. At the same time, practically every day, little-noticed rulings are handed down by federal courts across the country that affect the vitality and strength of rights and principles women rely on. To illustrate why the courts - and battles over nominations - matter so much to women, the National Women's Law Center will give periodic reports on noteworthy decisions addressing women's legal rights. Here are brief summaries of four recent decisions.

Sexual harassment of college student-athletes by their coach

Last month, in Jennings v. University of North Carolina, the Fourth Circuit tossed out a case brought by a young woman on the University of North Carolina soccer team who alleged that she and her teammates were subjected to ongoing sexual harassment by their coach. According to Melissa Jennings and her teammates, over a period of two years the coach regularly made crude sexual comments to the players, and even asked her, alone in his dark hotel room, who she was "f. . .ing." Jennings was only 17 at the time, and the coach's behavior made her feel "uncomfortable, filthy and humiliated" and put her in "constant fear" of him. When Jennings complained, no action was taken. In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that what occurred was nothing more than harmless sexual banter, and ignored the fact that the coach was a nationally-renowned figure with tremendous power over the young players - their playing time, team membership, and scholarship eligibility. As the dissenting judge concluded, Jennings should have been allowed a chance to convince a jury that the coach took advantage of his position of power and created a sexually hostile environment in violation of Title IX. If what happened to Melissa Jennings' case is a sign of things to come when students challenge sexual harassment by their coaches or teachers, Title IX's protections will be a mere shadow of what they are meant to be.

Workplace requirements based on sex stereotyping: a makeup mandate

In another case decided last month, Jespersen v. Harrah's Operating Co., Darlene Jespersen, a bartender at Harrah's Casino in Reno, Nevada, was fired -- after 20 years in the job -- when she refused to comply with the casino's policy requiring female bartenders to wear foundation, blush, mascara and lipstick, and even to meet with professional image consultants who dictated where and how the makeup had to be applied. Jespersen claimed a violation of her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, arguing that the makeup mandate placed an unequal burden on women and forced casino employees to conform to sex stereotypes. The Ninth Circuit, in a 7-4 decision, rejected her arguments and threw out her case. A dissenting judge pointed out that "a rule that all judges wear face powder, blush, mascara, and lipstick while on the bench" would be considered burdensome and demeaning, and concluded that such a rule should not be imposed on women like Jesperson who don't wish to wear makeup on the job. The court did reaffirm its prior holding that employment conditions cannot be based on sex stereotypes, but as another dissenting judge noted, the court in this case, by rejecting Jesperson's claims, endorsed the stereotype that women's faces are unprofessional without makeup.

Spying on the women's restroom at work - not a hostile environment?

In Cottrill v. MFA, Inc., in a 2-1 ruling, the Eighth Circuit threw out a case brought by two female bookkeepers in a Missouri company whose boss had surreptiously installed a two-way mirror and peephole into the women's restroom and then regularly spied on them for four years when they went to the bathroom. That evidence was undisputed, and there was also clear evidence that he had placed a substance on the toilet seat that gave one of the women, Jill Cottrill, a rash. When the peephole was discovered, Cottrill was so upset she became physically ill. Yet instead of confronting the man or firing him immediately, the company had Cottrill expose herself to him again four times, so that he could be caught peeping on videotape - an experience she found devastating. Although the man ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony charge for invasion of privacy, the court concluded that the women's claims of a hostile environment in the workplace could not even get to a jury. One judge dissented, finding that the jury could have found that a reasonable person would find this situation to be hostile or abusive in violation of Title VII. It may not surprise you to learn that the dissenting judge was a woman.

The right to privacy for sexual and health-related information

In Aid for Women v. Foulston, a federal court in Kansas blocked enforcement of a legal opinion by Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline requiring health care professionals, social workers, and school counselors to report to authorities any indication that a teen younger than 16 is sexually active. The Kline opinion was so broad it would require reporting of 15 year olds who were involved in any kind of consensual, voluntary sexual activity. Major medical organizations opposed Kline's interpretation because it would discourage teenagers from seeking health care and counseling, including for sexually-transmitted diseases or birth control, and thereby jeopardize their health. District Court Judge J. Thomas Marten found that Kline's opinion was contrary to the plain language of the state law, which allows providers to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether there is reason to suspect a minor involved in sexual activities was injured as a result of sexual abuse. (No one disputed the obligation to report incest, adult sexual abuse of a child, or sexual activity involving a child under 12.) The court also ruled that the Constitution protects the right to privacy concerning sexual or health-related information, and that minors have a limited right to avoid disclosure of such matters to the government. This decision is a victory for adolescent health and medical privacy - but it could be temporary. Attorney General Kline has appealed to the Tenth Circuit, which already reversed a court order temporarily blocking the Kline position at an earlier stage of this case.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Today on Fresh Air: Abramoff & Delay in the Mariana Islands & 'The Girls Who Went Away'

Today's Fresh Air with Terry Gross focuses on two excellent topics. The audio will be available online at noon PT.

Sweatshops in U.S. Territory
While the Northern Marianas Islands are a U.S. territory, they are exempt from the usual American laws regulating minimum wage, tariffs, quotas and immigration. Yet clothing sewn in the sweatshops bears the "made in the USA" label. To further complicate matters, the Marianas were a client of Jack Abramoff, who, with the help of Tom Delay, blocked legislation that would have eliminated these exemptions.

Ms. magazine reporter Rebecca Clarren and executive editor Katherine Spillar discuss the latest issue's cover article about the sweatshops of the Northern Mariana Islands.

'The Girls Who Went Away': Birth Mothers' Stories
Ann Fessler talks about her new book, The Girls Who Went Away. Using her own story of adoption as a basis for her book, Fessler tells the story of over a million women who surrendered children for adoption prior to legalized abortion. Fessler is a photography professor at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Al Gore on Saturday Night Live

Crooks and Liars has the video of Al Gore's great performance on Saturday Night Live. Check it out:
Announcer: And now, a message from the President of the United States.

President Al Gore: "Good evening, my fellow Americans. In 2000 when you overwhelmingly made the decision to elect me as your 43rd president, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. We have accomplished so much yet challenges lie ahead.

In the last 6 years we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine, but I assure you: we will not let the glaciers win.

Right now, in the 2nd week of May 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas crisis in history. We have way too much gasoline. Gas is down to $0.19 a gallon and the oil companies are hurting. I know that I am partly to blame by insisting that cars run on trash.

I am therefore proposing a federal bailout to our oil companies because - hey if it were the other way around, you know the oil companies would help us.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Real Meaning Behind Mother's Day

"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts .... Say firmly: Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
-Peace Activist Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)

Julia was instrumental in creating Mother's Day in 1870 in reaction to the carnage and suffering of the Civil War. She envisioned women around the world would meet on this day to discuss ways to achieve world peace:
She saw some of the worst effects of the war -- not only the death and disease which killed and maimed the soldiers. She worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, and realized that the effects of the war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She also saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed the war, the restructuring of the economies of both North and South.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.

She failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace. Her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who had attempted starting in 1858 to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.

Anna Jarvis' daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, would of course have known of her mother's work, and the work of Julia Ward Howe. Much later, when her mother died, this second Anna Jarvis started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907 in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. And from there the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. Finally the holiday was declared officially by states beginning in 1912, and in 1914 the President, Woodrow Wilson, declared the first national Mother's Day.
According to About Women's History, as Julia became more famous, she was frequently asked to speak at public events. While her husband never actively supported her activism, he became less adamant that she remain a private person. Over time, his "resistance eased."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Freedom on the March

From Salon.com's Tim Grieve:
We're not sure whether this is "progress," "turning the corner" or just part of the "strategy for victory," but a top U.S. military official reports that the number of attacks on civilians in Iraq over the last 10 weeks is about 80 percent higher than it was late last year.

The rate of U.S. deaths in Iraq is also on the rise after several months of decline. Seventy-six Americans were killed in Iraq in April, and 32 have died already this month. Four U.S. Marines were killed yesterday when their tank rolled off a bridge and into a canal west of Baghdad, taking the total U.S. death toll in Iraq to 2,436.

An Iraqi Shi'ite woman screams during the funeral of her son who was killed in Sadr city in Baghdad May 13, 2006. A funeral was held in Sadr city slum for five members of the Mehdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who were killed on Friday in the mixed Sunni and Shi'ite town of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. Witnesses said that unknown people slaughtered the five members of the Mehdi army in Baquba. (REUTERS/Kareem Raheem)

An Iraqi weeps as he carries a coffin of a relative in Baghdad's poor Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. (AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)

Senate Protects Bribing Contractors in Iraq

Just two weeks after American contractor Philip Bloom was convicted of giving more than $2 million in cash, cars, jewelry, alcohol and sexual favors from women at his villa in Baghdad to U.S. officials in exchange for their help in securing reconstruction contracts for his companies, the Senate has quietly passed a provision shielding reconstruction spending from U.S. auditors. This sends a nice message to all the other Blooms in Iraq. Rip off the American taxpayer. Screw the Iraqi people. We'll protect you:
"The Senate last week approved $109 billion in additional spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $1.5 billion in added Iraq reconstruction money," the Wall Street Journal begins in a page four story Wednesday. "The administration has spent $20.9 billion to reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure and modernize its oil industry, but the effort hasn't restored the country's electricity output, water supply or sewage capabilities to prewar levels."

Writes the Journal: "A behind-the-scenes battle among legislators has made a crucial distinction between the new reconstruction money and that already spent: The new funds won't be overseen by the government watchdog charged with curbing the mismanagement that has overshadowed the reconstruction."

"Special inspector general, Stuart Bowen, who has 55 auditors on the ground in Iraq, will be barred from overseeing how the new money is spent," the Journal adds. "Instead, the funds will be overseen by the State Department's inspector general office, which has a much smaller staff in Iraq and warned in testimony to Congress in the fall that it lacked the resources to continue oversight activities in Iraq."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bush Hits 29%, Rove Tells White House He'll Be Indicted

Happy Friday!
President Bush's job-approval rating has fallen to its lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. Approval ratings for Congress overall also sank, and now stand at 18%.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say "things in the country are going in the right direction," while 69% say "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." This has been the trend since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction. Iraq remains a key concern for the general public, as 28% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address, up from 23% in April. The immigration debate also prompted 16% of Americans to consider it a top issue, down from 19% last month, but still sharply higher from 4% in March.

The Harris poll comes two days after a downbeat assessement of Bush in a New York Times/CBS News poll. The Times, in analyzing the results, said "Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades."
Gee, who will be in charge of exploiting gays for political gain and smearing politicians come November?
Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation.
Time to have a drink for justice.

Rethinking Your Carniverous Ways

Who says vegans don't have a sense of humor about meat? I recently started subscribing to Grist magazine and found this in today's edition. Grist is full of great information about the environment and sustainable living. It's almost always a fun read:
If we thought our vegan readers had an ounce of irony in their flesh-free flesh, we'd recommend Pop Ink's plates, which depict cuts of meat and cannibalistic critters. Actually, they do kinda make ya rethink those carnivorous ways. If only Fakin' Bacon measured up.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Largest Personal Data Collection in the World

Good timing:
The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.
"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities."
-Bush defending his illegal wiretapping program:
USA TODAY reported in today's editions that AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies have turned over records of tens of millions of their customers' phone calls to the NSA since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The newspaper cited anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats demanded answers from the Bush administration about the USA TODAY report.

"It is our government, it's not one party's government. It's America's government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel "to find out exactly what is going on."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had previously been briefed by the administration on "some" of the domestic data collection program, but said she still finds it "alarming." Pelosi said she is going to call on House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to "ask him if we can immediately begin a review of this in a very calm way, in a very non-partisan way -- this is about the safety of the American people, but as we protect and defend the American people we must protect and defend the Constitution."

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked "why are the telephone companies not protecting their customers? I think they have a social responsibility to people who do business with them to protect our privacy as long there isn't some suspicion that we're a terrorist or a criminal or something."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The United States' High Infant Mortality Rate

Among 33 industrialized countries, the United States ranked next to last, ahead of Latvia and tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies, according to a new report from Save the Children. The report said the U.S. newborn mortality rate is nearly three times higher than that of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Japan:
"We are the wealthiest country in the world, but there are still pockets of our population who are not getting the health care they need," said Mary Beth Powers, a reproductive health adviser for the U.S.-based Save the Children, which compiled the rankings based on health data from countries and agencies worldwide.

The U.S. ranking is driven partly by racial and income disparities. Among U.S. blacks, there are 9 deaths per 1,000 live births, closer to rates in developing nations than to those in the industrialized world.

"Every time I see these kinds of statistics, I'm always amazed to see where the United States is because we are a country that prides itself on having such advanced medical care and developing new technology ... and new approaches to treating illness. But at the same time not everybody has access to those new technologies," said Dr. Mark Schuster, a Rand Co. researcher and pediatrician with the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the United States, researchers noted that the population is more racially and economically diverse than many other industrialized countries, making it more challenging to provide culturally appropriate health care.

About half a million U.S. babies are born prematurely each year, data show. Black infants are twice as likely as white babies to be premature, to have a low birth weight and to die at birth, according to Save the Children.

The researchers also said lack of national health insurance and short maternity leaves likely contribute to the poor U.S. rankings.
Do you think "pro-lifers" will use this opportunity to prove how much they really care about life and lobby for changes to ensure that United States' infant mortality rate decreases?

Critics of King George Need Not Apply

This is from The Progress Report:
The U.S. federal government spends roughly $315 billion annually on contracted goods and services, making it "the largest consumer of goods and services in the world." Shielded from accountability by a secretive executive branch and a drought of congressional oversight, the cash-flush federal contracting process has become a prime source of government corruption. Most notably in Iraq and in the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, the last several years have seen an explosion in contract fraud, waste, abuse, and cronyism. Now Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson is facing calls to resign after he admitted during a recent speech that he once canceled a government contract with a business because the CEO was critical of President Bush. Improper and potentially illegal contracting practices have apparently become so commonplace that top White House officials share stories about them openly.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bush's Best Moment in Office?

Bild am Sonntag, a German newspaper, recently asked Bush to share his best moment in more than five years in office. Improving the environment? Invading Iraq? Lying to the American people? Decreasing poverty? Leaving Katrina victims to drown? Reducing the size of the government? Securing civil liberties in a time of war?

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake."

Real men fish in man-made lakes:
Bush had part of his 1,600-acre estate in Crawford, Tex., dug out and flooded so he could go fishing
at his doorstep, and he has taken obvious pride in the growth of the bass he introduced into the lake when they were just
tiny "fingerlings."

Back in 2001, Jay Root of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote that Bush stocked the lake with a special strain of largemouth bass from an Alabama fish hatchery. "Don Keller, co-owner of the hatchery and former biologist at the Alabama conservation agency, said the popular Florida strain grows big and fast, but is not always easy to catch. So he bred it with its northern cousin, which is much more aggressive and, hence, easier to hook."

In August 2001 , just a few months into his presidency, Bush bragged to reporters on a tour of his estate that he "didn't put any big bass in to begin with. And I've caught nearly a pound in size."

Two years later, in another walking tour with reporters, he returned to the topic close to his heart.

"Q Is this man-made, sir?


"Q How many acres?

"THE PRESIDENT: About 11 acres lake, 17 foot deep. The deepest spot, I put 600 black bass in there a few years ago, and about 30,000 bait fish. And they're about two-and-a-half to three pounds now."

And it's worth noting that from the get-go, Bush was determined not to let work get too much in the way of his favorite pastime.

As Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times, two days after Bush's first inauguration: "In a recent interview, when the subject turned to the bass in a lake on his ranch, a reporter remarked that he would probably not get to fish there very often.

" 'I bet I do,' Mr. Bush said. 'More than you think.' "

Monday, May 08, 2006

An Apology from a Bush Voter

"This is painful to say, and I'm sure for many of you, painful to read. But it's impossible to heal the country until we're willing to acknowledge the truth no matter how painful. We have to wean ourselves off sugar coated partisan lies."
-Doug McIntyre, host of McIntyre in the Morning

The Madness of King George

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-George W. Bush, speaking on December 18, 2000

On April 30, the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage wrote a piece about King George's decision to "disobey" more than 750 laws enacted since he took office:
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

''There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. ''This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."
Really big, very expansive, and very significant, yet this story hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. To its credit, the San Francisco Chronicle did a lengthy follow-up yesterday:
Among the most common targets of Bush's signing statements have been laws requiring his administration to disclose information, issue reports, appoint officials with specified qualifications, or consult with Congress on the implementation of a law. Bush has regularly reinterpreted these mandates as "advisory'' measures that he is free to ignore.

Other statements have scuttled affirmative action programs, rejected congressional criteria for spending federal money, and declared that Bush would follow laws affecting international affairs only to the extent that they respected "the constitutional authority of the president to conduct the nation's foreign relations.''
This is a 'pretty big' story, yet our democratic media is spending more time on Patrick Kennedy.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Save the Dolphins

The Dolphin-Safe Tuna Program and Ocean Wildlife Are Under Attack

The Bush Administration is trying to weaken the definition of the dolphin-safe label on tuna cans and pouches despite broad bipartisan public support for the program. The proposed changes to this successful program would allow tuna caught using the harmful practice of chasing and setting nets on dolphins to be labeled "dolphin-safe." This policy has the potential to devastate dolphin populations, especially three dolphin populations in the Eastern Pacific -- the northeastern offshore spotted, the eastern spinner, and the coastal spotted which have all seen their numbers plummet as a result of dolphin-deadly fishing practices.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Thanks for the $20 Tax Cut

During a time of war, citizens must make sacrifices for their country; under the Bu$h administration, sacrifices equal tax breaks. This is from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
House and Senate negotiators have reportedly reached final agreement on the $70 billion tax-cut reconciliation package. Although no official description of the agreement has been released, press reports on the contents of the final package indicate that it will offer virtually no benefits to low- and moderate-income households, but shower high-income households with very large tax cuts.

About 87 percent of the benefits of the reconciliation conference agreement would flow to the 14 percent of households with incomes above $100,000, and 55 percent of the benefits would go to the 3 percent with incomes above $200,000. Households earning more than $1 million a year, which represent only 0.2 percent of all households, would receive 22 percent of the benefits of these tax cuts.

Looked at in dollar terms, the differential treatment of various income groups is even more striking. The average tax cut for the 20 percent of households in the middle of the income spectrum would be just $20. But the average tax cut for those in the top one percent of the income spectrum would be $13,800. For those with incomes above $1 million, the average tax cut would be $42,000.

Transcript of Ray McGovern Taking on Rumsfeld

Here's the transcript of Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA, taking on Rumsfled yesterday in Atlanta at the Southern Center for International Studies:
RAY McGOVERN: And so, I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven't lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. The President spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people, and he went to the American people and made a presentation. I'm not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.

RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were?

DONALD RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were --

RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were, "near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and northeast, south and west of there." Those were your words.

DONALD RUMSFELD: My words -- my words were -- no, no, no, wait a minute! Let him stay one second. Just a second.

RAY McGOVERN: This is America, huh? Go ahead.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You're getting plenty of play, sir.

RAY McGOVERN: I'd just like an honest answer.

DONALD RUMSFELD: I'm giving it to you.

RAY McGOVERN: We're talking about lies and your allegation that there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you misled?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.

RAY McGOVERN: Zarqawi, he was in the north of Iraq, in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That's where he was.

DONALD RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, when he needed to go to the hospital. Come on, these people aren't idiots. They know the story.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You are -- let me give you an example. It's easy for you to make a charge, but why do you think that the men and women in uniform every day, when they came out of Kuwait and went into Iraq, put on chemical weapon protective suits? Because they liked the style? They honestly believed that there were chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people previously. He had used them on his neighbor, the Iranians. And they believed he had those weapons. We believed he had those weapons.

RAY McGOVERN: That's what we call a non-sequitur. It doesn't matter what the troops believe. It matters what you believe.

MODERATOR: I think, Mr. Secretary, the debate is over. We have other questions, courtesy to the audience.
McGovern was on Democracy Now this morning. Be sure to read the entire interview. Here are a few excerpts:
AMY GOODMAN: Well, tell us about this event yesterday, a quite raucous event, interruptions and then your questioning. A very rare moment for one of the more insulated government officials to be questioned by, well, a former C.I.A. analyst.

RAY McGOVERN: Well, Amy, just listening to this little clip here, I find it scary. These were ostensibly educated normal people, and their reaction was very much like the one that Goebbels stirred up. You can see it was a very unfriendly audience to anyone who posed any kind of question to the Defense Secretary. So -- and listening to it, I'm sort of scared, because if this is indicative of the brainwashing that has taken place, it's going be a long, long struggle to speak truth to power, as Fannie Lou Hamer so famously said, and Damu Smith, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ray, let's go through the questions and how the secretary responded to you. The issue -- the last one, of Zarqawi, saying that there is a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, that's the best they could come up with after all of this misinformation, with Cheney saying there were contacts between Iraqis and people in Prague and so forth. Zarqawi was up in the north part of the country. He had no contact with Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was not ruling that part of the area.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn't the U.S.?

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, the U.S. and the Kurds were up there. They could have got Zarqawi in an eyelash, in a moment, but they chose not to. So it was completely disingenuous, and for the people not to be able to listen to that, to hear it, but simply join in the applause for Rumsfeld was a bit disquieting.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Ray, when you were asking the questions, at one point off camera, you were saying, "This is America." What was happening at that point?

RAY McGOVERN: Well, curiously enough, a very large man came down with a white coat on, and he stuck his elbow into my chest and started pushing me back. And I pushed back, literally and figuratively. And it was the moment of truth. Would Don Rumsfeld want me thrown out of there, having asked in a very civil manner simply pointed questions, or would he ask them not to remove me? He chose the wiser course. I first thought that this was him being gracious, but when I thought of the P.R. debacle it would have been for him to have me removed after simply posing these questions, which nobody else has the guts to pose him, that he chose the wiser course from a P.R. point of view, as well.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

CIA Veteran Calls Rumsfeld a Liar

Speaking out is finally becoming fashionable again and there is nothing the Bush cabal can do to stop it. This is from Think Progress. Be sure to watch the video. CNN is reporting that the questioner was 27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern:
Speaking in Atlanta today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was sharply questioned about his pre-war claims about WMD in Iraq. An audience member confronted Rumsfeld with his 2003 claim about WMD, "We know where they are." Rumsfeld falsely claimed he never said it. The audience member then read Rumsfeld's quote back to him, leaving the defense secretary speechless.

Gas Prices & Record Profits

Here are a few fun facts about oil from the Sierra Club. Has Bush used the word "conserve" yet?


$2.92.....Average retail price for regular gasoline, up 69 cents from a year ago.

$2,873...Amount average family of four spent on gasoline in 2005

$73.75...Price per barrel of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange


$8.4 billion...ExxonMobil's first-quarter profits in 2006

$4 billion......ChevronTexaco's first-quarter profits in 2006, up 49% from 2005

$3.29............ConocoPhillip's first-quarter profits in 2006

$15.7 billion..Combined first-quarter profits of ExxonMobil, ChevroTexaco and ConocoPhillips

$63.8 billion...Combined 2005 profits of ExxonMobil ($36.1 billion), Chevron ($14.1 billion)and ConnocoPhillips ($13.5 billion)


$30 million...Amount the top 10 oil companies spent on lobbying in 2005

$80 billion...in subsidies and tax loopholes to the oil and gas and other polluting energy industries in the energy law signed in 2005.

$100...Amount some in Congress proposed giving to Americans in the form of a tax rebate


25% ...Percentage of world oil production consumed by the United States

3% .....Percentage of world's oil reserves located in the United States


1 cent...Amount of savings for consumers at the pump if we drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge

20 years..When consumers would see the penny savings

47 days..Amount of oil from opening up parts of Lease Sale 181 in the Gulf of Mexico to drilling


4 million...The number of barrels of oil per day that the United States would save if fuel economy standards were raised to 40 miles per gallon within 20 years

$2,200...Amount that the average driver would save at the gas pump over the lifetime of a vehicle if fuel economy standards were raised to 40 miles per gallon over the next 10 years, a conservative estimate based on lower gas prices

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Republican Priorities

Gotta love fiscal conservatives. This is from Think Progress:
The Senate is expected to approve a nearly $109 billion spending bill today. The legislation provides some useful insight into the priorities of our current Congress.

The bill includes $700 million for the "railroad to nowhere":

The project, which was added to a $106.5 billion emergency defense spending bill in the Senate, would relocate a Gulf Coast rail line inland, to higher ground. Never mind that the hurricane-battered line was just repaired at a cost of at least $250 million. Or that at $700 million, the project championed by Mississippi's two US senators is being called the largest "earmark" ever.

Meanwhile, a paltry $173 million has been appropriated for peacekeeping efforts in Darfur, where violence is "horrendously bad and worsening" according to the U.N.'s top humanitarian official.

After three years of genocide -- 400,000 dead, 2.5 million driven from their homes, razed villages, rape campaigns, and mass starvation -- our government still doesn't get it. So much for "Never Again."

On a positive note, at least the Senate passage of the $173 million today was unanimous. When the funding was voted on in the House, it was opposed by the White House (which wanted even less) and passed by only five votes, 213-208, thanks to strong opposition from conservatives, including House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).

Tom DeLay Supported Forced Abortions in the Marianas

Ms. Magazine sent a team of reporters to the Northern Marianas to investigate how Jack Abramoff's lobbying efforts impacted women factory workers in the area. You'll have to buy the magazine (or go to the library) to read the entire article. It's well worth it:
That expensive blouse you're wearing? It may have been sewn by a Filipina garment worker laboring in a factory owned by a Hong Kong mogul on a western Pacific island. The Northern Mariana Islands, a territory of the United States, offers the possibility of an American label -- Made in Saipan (USA), Made in Northern Mariana Islands (USA), or simply Made in USA -- to garment manufacturers, and throws in a unique exemption from U.S. minimum-wage and immigration laws.

Anti-sweatshop leaders and some members of Congress have long sought to increase wages and protect the islands' garment workers, most of whom are women, from what amounts to indentured servitude. But their efforts were repeatedly stalled in Congress. And who was among the biggest opponents of reform? None other than the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose tentacles reached deep into House Republican leadership. And who was one of the loudest congressional cheerleaders against reform? Tom DeLay, who praised the islands as "a petri dish of capitalism."

In the midst of what could be the largest congressional scandal in history, Ms. sent an investigative team to the Northern Marianas to examine firsthand the consequences of these lobbying efforts and congressional inaction on real women's lives. Plus, we wanted to track down reports of forced abortions on the islands. Could it be that virulent opponents of abortion, such as DeLay, were contributing to conditions where desperate pregnant workers had no choice but to have an abortion?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Where Was the Outrage When Bush Joked About WMDs?

Hmm...maybe conservatives and the White House press corps would have applauded Stephen Colbert if, rather than rip Bush and the lapdog media to shreds, he looked under the table for WMDs.

Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell raises a good point as the right-wing continues bashing Colbert for his brilliant performance Saturday night:
I have to ask: Where was the outrage when President Bush made fun of not finding those pesky WMDs at a very similar media dinner--in the same ballroom--two years ago? It represents a shameful episode for the American media, and presidency, yet is rarely mentioned today.

It occurred on March 24, 2004. The setting: The 60th annual black-tie dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association (with many print journalists there as guests) at the Washington Hilton. On the menu: surf and turf. Attendance: 1500. The main speaker: President George W. Bush, one year into the Iraq war, with 500 Americans already dead.

President Bush, as usual at such gatherings of journalists, poked fun at himself. Audiences love to laugh along with, rather than at, a president, for a change. It shows they are good sports, which many people (including the president) often doubt. It's all in good fun, except when it's in bad fun, such as on that night in March 2004.

That night, in the middle of his stand-up routine before the (perhaps tipsy) journos, Bush showed on a screen behind him some candid on-the-job photos of himself. One featured him gazing out a window, as Bush narrated, smiling: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere."

According to the transcript this was greeted with "laughter and applause" from the audience.

Bush Sings the Spanish Star-Spangled Banner Before Condemning It

Out of all the immigration angles CNN could have explored last night, they chose to spend about five minutes hosing a 'debate' about the Spanish version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Politicians are busy debating the issue as if it's the most important piece of the complex immigration puzzle.

I guess I'm jumping on the bandwagon by posting these quotes provided by the American Progress Action Fund, but I couldn't resist. I'm sure someone on Fox will point on Bush's little flip flop:

"I think the National Anthem ought to be sung in English."
-Bush, 5/2/06


"When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, [Bush] would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' in Spanish, sometimes partying with a 'Viva Bush' mariachi band flown in from Texas."
-Kevin Phillips, "American Dynasty," describing then-Gov. George W. Bush during his 1999 presidential campaign

Update: Here's even more proof of the hypocrisy over at Daily Kos.

Photos: A Day Without Immigrants in San Francisco

I did some reporting for KALW 91.7 FM yesterday about the rally in San Francisco and noticed striking differences from neighborhood to neighborhood. In Cole Valley and the Castro, both fairly middle/upper class white neighborhoods, I saw no sign of yesterday's rally; once I crossed into the diverse Mission district, it became very apparent. Every burrito shop (at least 12 within four blocks) I passed was closed, as were fabric stores, hair salons, thrift stores, a book store, a bar and two Middle Eastern restaurants.

Also, hundreds of students and a large chunk of teachers boycotted classes to go to the really. I ran into the principal of a middle school in the Mission as he was leaving for the rally.

It's also worth noting that the California State Senate passed a resolution supporting yesterday's boycott and march.

Here are photos from the rally. It'll be interesting to see if the anti-war/peace movement can figure out how to successfully join forces with the immigrants rights movement.

Urge Your Reps to Oppose the Budget

Because we tend to gloss over dollar amounts, even billion dollar amounts, and the budget is written in a fairly confusing way, I recently wrote a story about how Bush's budget is impacting real people. It focuses on seniors who can't afford food in South Carolina, AIDS patients in Alabama and parents who are struggling to find affordable child care in Indiana. Thanks to Bush's budget, their problems are getting worse by the day.

The following action alert is from the National Women's Law Center:
House Republican leaders plan to bring the budget resolution back for a vote on Thursday, May 4. The last time they tried this, your calls bolstered moderate opposition and leaders cancelled the vote. But the Republican leadership is trying again to muster the votes to pass the budget. Your Representative needs to hear from you now! If you’ve called before--it’s time to call again!

Call your Representative TODAY! Use this toll-free number: 800-459-1887

Tell Your Representative:

Vote “No” on the budget resolution. It threatens education, child care, health care, nutrition, and other vital services that women and their families rely upon. Cutting services to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy few are the wrong priorities.

The House budget resolution provides $10 billion less in funding in FY 2007 for discretionary programs than is needed to maintain current services. As you know, this will undoubtedly lead to cuts in programs such as education, Head Start, child care, job training, services for the elderly, and many health programs. In addition, the House budget resolution calls for billions in cuts to mandatory programs, much of which could come from cuts to critical supports for low-income families, such as the Earned Income Credit, Supplemental Security Income and Unemployment Insurance.

At the same time, the House budget proposes $228 billion in additional tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the very rich, all while increasing federal deficits by $256 billion over the next five years (as compared to what deficits would be without these policy changes).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy Mission Accomplished Day!

On this day in 2003, the current President donned a flight uniform and landed in a jet on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast. In a speech that will go down in history as a public relations disaster, Bush declared major combat in Iraq over and the banner above his head said, "Mission Accomplished!" Since that speech, 2,401 American soldiers and more than 34,000 Iraqis have lost their lives.

Blood for Oil, Literally

As Exxon's CEO pulls in $13,700 an hour, people in Rexburg, Idaho are donting blood to pay for gas:
Plasma Centers are reporting a record amount of donors in the past few weeks and say a lot of them are there to pay for gas.

Donors get paid between $20-$25 each time they donate and some say that isn't even enough to pay to fill up their tanks.
Drivers around the country are also pawning personal items to pay for gas:
In Passaic, N.J., the owner of Aries Jewelers & Pawnbrokers says people are pawning their possessions for gas money: "They come in on Monday and Tuesday, saying, 'I need the money to put gas in my tank so I can get to work and get my check by Friday.' "
Meantime, Chevron's first quarter profits rose 49 percent to $4 billion. The three largest oil companies, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips, brought in $191.5 billion in combined revenue in the first quarter. That's larger than the GDP of 189 countries.