<\body> Stories in America: July 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS in Uganda

I'm moderating a panel tonight about women in Afghanistan and Uganda and just ran across this sobering quote. There are millions of Margaret Namusisi's around the world:
Many thousands of Ugandan women are becoming infected with HIV, and will eventually die of AIDS, because the government is failing to protect them from domestic violence. Women whose husbands rape, physically attack or otherwise intimidate them are unable to protect themselves from infection or get access HIV/AIDS services. The government of Uganda has failed to criminalize or prosecute violence against women in the home. Through its inaction, the government contributes to Ugandan women's vulnerability to HIV infection.

"There are times when I don't feel like [sex] and tell him to use a condom but he doesn't want to. I'm on family planning. That causes disputes. When I tell him to use a condom he refuses. He accuses me of having other men. He goes away and doesn't provide. So I have sex with him so that he can look after the children and won't fight...the co-wives are dying one by one. He's still having sex with me without a condom. If I tell him to use a condom there is such a big fight."
- Margaret Namusisi, Human Rights Watch interview, January 2003

American Soldiers in Iraq Are "Waiting to Get Blown Up"

I've been meaning to post excerpts from this Washington Post piece about frustrated soldiers. Only .4 percent of the American population is directly impacted by Bush's deadly mess in Iraq. Here are a few comments from soldiers who are currently serving:

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat. Then ask how morale is."
-Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos

"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you. You lose a couple friends and it gets hard."
-Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio

"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do. We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."
-Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader

"They say we're here and we've given them freedom, but really what is that? You know, what is freedom? You've got kids here who can't go to school. You've got people here who don't have jobs anymore. You've got people here who don't have power. You know, so yeah, they've got freedom now, but when they didn't have freedom, everybody had a job."
-Spec. David Fulcher, 22, a medic from Lynchburg, Va

What Are the Actual Costs of Iraq Projects?

The United States government hid the costs, so there's no way of knowing:
The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.

The report by the inspector general’s office does not give a full accounting of all projects financed by the agency’s $1.4 billion budget, but cites several examples.

The findings appeared in an audit of a children’s hospital in Basra, but they referred to the wider reconstruction activities of the development agency in Iraq. American and Iraqi officials reported this week that the State Department planned to drop Bechtel, its contractor on that project, as signs of budget and scheduling problems began to surface.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Deadliest Day in Lebanon - 37 Children Among 56 Dead

"My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been."
Mitch Prothero, Salon.com: The "Hiding Among Civilians" Myth

Naim Raqa, the head of the civil defence team searching the ruins, hung his head in grief: "When they found them, they were all huddled together at the back of the room. Poor things, they thought the walls would protect them."

"May God have mercy on the children. They came here to escape the fighting."
-A Qana Survivor

A Lebanese volunteer carries a child killed in an Israeli air raid in Qana, 6 km (4 miles) from the port-city of Tyre (Soure) in south Lebanon, July 30, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Children's bodies are lined up in body bags outside the Tyre hospital after an Israeli air raid on Qana killed more than 54 people, 37 of them children, in south Lebanon, July 30, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON)

A Lebanese rescuer carries the body of a young girl recovered from under the rubble of a demolished building that was struck by Israeli warplane missiles at the village of Qana, near the southern city of Tyre, Lebanon, Sunday, July 30, 2006. Dozens of civilians, including many children, were killed Sunday in an Israeli airstrike that flattened houses in this southern Lebanon village _ the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Lebanese Red Cross and Civil Defense workers carry the body of a small child covered in dust from the rubble of his home that was hit in an Israeli missile strike in the village of Qana, Lebanon, east of the port city of Tyre, Sunday, July 30, 2006. Lebanese Red Cross officials said 56 people died in the Israeli assault on the village, including 34 children. Rescuers dug through the debris to remove dozens of bodies. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

A civil defense worker carries the body of Lebanese child recovered from the rubble of a demolished building that was struck by an Israeli airstrike at the village of Qana near the southern Lebanon city of Tyre, Sunday, July 30, 2006. Israeli missiles struck this southern Lebanese village early Sunday, flattening houses on top of sleeping residents. The Lebanese Red Cross said the airstrike, in which at least 34 children were killed, pushed the overall Lebanese death toll to more than 500. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A man cries next to dead bodies after Israeli air strikes on the southern Lebanese village of Qana. Fifty-two people have killed, more than half of them children, in an Israeli air blitz on the Lebanese village of Qana, triggering outrage around the world and warnings of retribution for Israel 's "war crime."(AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

Medical personnel line up bodies outside the Tyre (Soure) hospital after an Israeli air raid on Qana killed more than 54 people, 37 of them children, in south Lebanon, July 30, 2006. (Ali Hashisho - LEBANON/Reuters)

A Red Cross member sits next to bodies after an Israeli air raid in Qana, 6 km (4 miles) from the port-city of Tyre (Soure) in south Lebanon, July 30, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

A Lebanese man, comforted by a Lebanese rescuer, cries in front of the body of his son who was recovered from under the rubble of a demolished building that was struck by Israeli warplane missiles at the village of Qana, near the southern city of Tyre, Lebanon, Sunday, July 30, 2006. Dozens of civilians, including at least 34 children, were killed Sunday in an Israeli airstrike that flattened houses in this southern Lebanon village _ the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Homeland Security - Your Tax Dollars at Work

Oh well, what's another $34 billion to fight the "war on terror?"
The Homeland Security Department spent $34 billion in its first two years on private contracts that were poorly managed or included significant waste or abuse, a congressional report concluded Thursday.

Faulty airport screening machines, unused mobile homes for hurricane victims and lavish employee office space -- complete with seven kitchens, a gym and fancy artwork -- were among 32 contracts on which Homeland Security overspent, the report found.

"The cumulative costs to the taxpayer are enormous," concluded the report, which was prepared for Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who head the House Government Reform Committee.

The House report was a comprehensive study of more than 350 earlier-reported government audits and investigations of Homeland Security contracts between 2003, when the department was created, and 2005.

Still, the broad look found that Homeland Security's procurement spending ballooned from $3.5 billion, on 14,000 contracts, to $10 billion for 63,000 contracts during the two-year period. The report also concluded that half of what the department spent on contracts in 2005 was awarded without full and open competition -- creating potential waste and mismanagement.

Laura Bush's Pet Project in Iraq Fails Miserably

Why aren't fiscal conservatives raising hell over this? Oh right, because they're reaping the financial benefits:
The United States is dropping Bechtel, the American construction giant, from a project to build a high-tech children's hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after the project fell nearly a year behind schedule and exceeded its expected cost by as much as 150 percent.

Called the Basra Children's Hospital, the project has been consistently championed by the first lady, Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and was designed to house sophisticated equipment for treating childhood cancer.

Now it becomes the latest in a series of American taxpayer-financed health projects in Iraq to face overruns, delays and cancellations. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled more than $300 million in contracts held by Parsons, another American contractor, to build and refurbish hospitals and clinics across Iraq.

Beyond the consequences for health care in southern Iraq, abandoning the project could be tricky politically because of the high-profile support from Mrs. Bush and Ms Rice. Congress allocated $50 million to the Basra Children's Hospital in late 2003 as part of an $18.4 billion reconstruction package for Iraq. Now the government estimates that the cost overruns are so great that the project will cost as much as $120 million to complete and will not be finished before September 2007, nearly a year later than planned. Some other estimates put the overruns even higher. Kadhim Hassan, general director of the Basra Health Department, said the project would be no more than 40 percent complete once the original $50 million, much of which is going to subcontractors, had been used up. He said little work had been done for months.

Another Deadly Day in Lebanon

Seven-year-old Hayat Khaled, who was wounded in an Israeli air strike in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatiyeh, lies on her hospital bed in Beirut. (AFP/Wael Ladki)

An elderly Lebanese woman cries over coffins at Palestinian refugee camp Albass in the centre of the southern Lebanon town of Tyre (Soure) July 29, 2006. The coffins contained the bodies of 40 people killed by Israeli air strikes over the last few days. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

A Lebanese woman bursts into tears as she watches hospital workers, unseen, loading coffins of Lebanese victims, in preparation for a mass burial, in the southern port city of Tyre, Lebanon Saturday July 29, 2006. With a few mourners at hand, 31 victims of Israel's two-week long bombardment were buried in a mass grave in this Lebanese city. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Lebanese morgue workers wrap the bodies of victims who were killed when an Israeli warplane hit the village of Nmairieh, next to the market town of Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon, Saturday, July 29, 2006, killing seven people including a woman and her five children. Israeli troops pulled back on Sunday from a Lebanese border town where they battled Hezbollah guerrillas for a week in the bloodiest ground fighting of the 18-day-old Israeli offensive. Warplanes Saturday blasted bridges and demolished houses, killing seven people. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

A Lebanese man lies in Heram hospital in the port-city of Tyre (Soure), in south Lebanon after he was injured in an Israeli air raid in Bint Jebil, July 29, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Alae Haourani cries as she is lies at the Heram hospital in the port city of Tyre (Soure), in south Lebanon, after she was injured in an Israeli air raid in Bint Jebil July 29, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Alae Haourani is consoled by her father at the Heram hospital in the port city of Tyre (Soure), in south Lebanon, after they were injured in an Israeli air raid in Bint Jebil July 29, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

An elderly Lebanese woman cries over coffins at Palestinian refugee camp Albass in the centre of southern Lebanon's town of Tyre (Soure) July 29, 2006. The coffins contained the bodies of 40 people killed by Israeli air strikes over the last few days. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

Lebanese Adnan Haraki cries after his wife and five children were killed when an Israeli warplane hit their house in the village of Nmairieh, next to the market town of Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon, Saturday, July 29, 2006. Israeli troops pulled back on Sunday from a Lebanese border town where they battled Hezbollah guerrillas for a week in the bloodiest ground fighting of the 18-day-old Israeli offensive. Warplanes blasted bridges and demolished houses, killing seven people including the woman and her five children. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Lebanese soldiers and Red Cross workers prepare the coffins of civilians who were killed during Israeli attacks in several villages in south Lebanon, July 29, 2006. REUTERS/Haidar Hawila

Friday, July 28, 2006

Guess Who Got to Meet the Prez!?

Hey, being President is hard work.

U.S. President George W. Bush gathers with the top nine American Idol 2006 finalists in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 28, 2006. Pictured are (L-R, back row) Jamecia Bennett, recording artist and mother of American Idol finalist Paris Bennett, Ace Young, Taylor Hicks, President Bush , Katharine McPhee, Bucky Covington and Chris Daughtry. Front row (L-R) Kellie Pickler, Paris Bennett, Lisa Tucker and Mandisa Hundley. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)

Military Families Travel to DC to Meet with Politicians -- Where's the Coverage?

Here's a story I recently wrote for AlterNet about Operation House Call, a summer campaign to highlight the ongoing human toll of the Iraq war. Other than a newspaper in Southern California and the Chicago Tribune blog, this group hasn't received *any* coverage in the 'liberal media.' You would think that 44-year-old Georgia Stilwell's story is somewhat newsworthy. She voted for the first time in 2004, risked her job to fly to DC, and managed to secure a 30-minute meeting with the Speaker of the House to tell him about her son who has a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unfortunately, the liberal media would rather give airtime to Ann Coulter, the woman who recently called Clinton a "latent homosexual" and Gore a "total fag." Hardball's Chris Matthews said, "We'd love to have her back."

Here's the story. Please spread the word:
When Congress voted to "stay the course" in Iraq on June 15, many military families were furious.

"I watched the entire mock debate on C-Span for 13 hours," says Stacy Bannerman, a member of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO). "That day, I decided that if they wanted to 'stay the course,' they would have to explain their rationale to my face."

A week later, Bannerman left Seattle for Washington, D.C., where she launched Operation House Call, an MFSO campaign to highlight the ongoing human toll in Iraq. Since June 22, Bannerman, whose husband served in Balat, Iraq, from March 2004 to March 2005, has been joined by over 50 families of U.S. troops who are serving, have served, or were killed in Iraq.

So far, the families have met with several politicians, including Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. They're hoping to meet with Sen. Hillary Clinton in the coming days, but say they have yet to hear back from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chair of the Armed Services Committee.

"When a handful of members of Congress have loved ones in the military, they have no idea what staying the course looks like," says Bannerman, who has written a book about her experiences, titled "When the War Came Home." "This war is being waged on .4 percent of the American population. The rest of the people in this country -- 99.6 percent -- have no connection to the war. They are not being asked to sacrifice or allowed to see the human cause of this war."

For many of the families, Operation House Call is their first foray into political activism. "I never even voted until 2004," says 44-year-old Georgia Stillwell. "I never registered. I never cared. I was as apathetic as they come. And then it got personal."

Stillwell's 22-year-old son spent his 19th and 20th birthdays in Iraq, and is now dealing with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. In January, he drove his car over an embankment in excess of 120 mph. Miraculously, he survived the crash. "I know I should be grateful he's not dead, but he's dead inside," says Stillwell.

On July 12, Stillwell shared her son's story during an emotional 30-minute meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. "The congressman compared Iraq to a football game about changing strategies," she says. "I touched his arm and said, 'Congressman, children don't die in football games.' He said nothing. I also showed him a picture of a friend's son who was killed in Iraq. He was unblinking and unfeeling."

After the meeting, Hastert's press secretary said the speaker thought Stillwell was a "very patriotic woman who was proud of her son's service in Iraq."

"That's amazing, right? He just called an anti-war protestor patriotic," said Stillwell laughing.

When the families aren't meeting with politicians asking them to bring the troops home, they're braving the heat on the steps of the Senate Russell Building. There they surround themselves with footwear -- one pair of military boots for every soldier who has died since June 15, and a pair of shoes for each Iraqi civilian who has died.

"I came to D.C. decades ago as a child, and had anybody told me then that I would be spending the better part of my summer in the sauna that is D.C. standing out here, having meetings with politicians, many of whom don't want to know the truth, dealing with staffers who snicker when we come into their offices carrying empty combat boots, I wouldn't have believed them," says Bannerman.

The MFSO members also ask passersby to sign postcards supporting an end to the war. The families then hand-deliver the postcards to senators and congressmen. Stilwell says interacting with the locals and tourists has been an eye-opening experience.

"Bush supporters often say, 'I'm sick of you people.' They look at us with such hatred. I don't get it. We have military recruiter flyers for them," she says. "But what's even worse are the people who won't even look at us. They won't meet our gaze or look at the boots, and they're mostly corporate people."

The families say they've also received a number of surprisingly positive reactions. "A few congressional staffers have stopped by to say they're in full support of what we're doing even though their bosses aren't," says Nancy Lessin, MFSO co-founder.

Despite its efforts, Operation House Call has received little media coverage. MFSO released a second announcement on July 25 hoping to garner attention from the national media.

A number of families from around the country will continue meeting with politicians until they leave D.C. for summer recess on Aug. 4. The Waste family wants to talk about the impact the war has had on their three sons and two grandchildren. Together, they have spent 81 months in Iraq. One son is currently deployed with the First Armored Division; another son is scheduled to return to Iraq this fall with the First Cavalry Division.

Cathy Smith hopes to talk about her eldest son, who was paralyzed from the chest down by an AK-47 round while serving in Iraq, and her middle son who is currently serving with the Army.

Once the families leave Washington, D.C., Lessin says they'll follow their elected officials home. "Our 26 chapters will jump into action and meet with politicians in their home districts, at their offices, their homes and vacation homes. This war doesn't end for us. We can't take a vacation from it."

Rose Aguilar is a San Francisco-based journalist who is writing a book about her road trip through the "red states."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thoughts from the Mother of a Soldier

This was written by Georgia Stilwell, member of Military Families Speak Out. Earlier this week, I interviewed Georgia for an article about Operation House Call. It should be running tomorrow on AlterNet.
Distracted, damn right I am!

When I returned home from my trip to Washington DC. Where I met with various Senators, Representatives and the Speaker of the House as part of Military Families Speak Out Operation House Call, I received a notice of pending termination of my employment on Aug. 31st. It seems I have been distracted.

My priorities in life have changed since the war began. It has become my passion, my mission to be part of the frontline of peace.

How can I not be? On a personal level my son is still suffering from his participation in this war. He has killed men, women and children. Yes let us not pretend that our soldiers are not killing innocents. My son lives with it everyday. "We thought the little boy had a bomb." My son weeps as he sits in the bottom of the shower and I recently found out he is experiencing combat flashbacks. No wonder my son drove his car over an embankment. No wonder he feels there is nothing left of his spirit at 22. Alive but dead inside.

On a global level...I deeply feel the pain of others. I listen to Gold Star Mothers cry and beg God to bring back their child just one more time. I relate to the Mother's whose soldiers cam back and killed themselves. I still wonder when I am going to get that phone call. I hear the similarities of stories like my son's. I think about the wives whose husbands return and vent their frustrations on them. I work in human services and have started to see the Iraq vet's here. They are in so much pain, bleeding all over the place with invisible blood. And then there are the Iraqi people. Forgive us! My heart breaks again.

Most nights I don't sleep well. I keep thinking is there more I can do? We do not have another second, not another child to spare! My job has become so unimportant. And I can't stop being distracted.

I have been to DC twice this year already. Telling my story, telling other's stories. "Bring them home now, Take care of them when they get here and never put our loved ones in harms way again for a lie."

I remember looking in Dennis Hastert's blue eyes and thinking about PFC. Steven Sirko's blue eyes that will never open again. The Congressman comparing Iraq to a football game and me touching his arm and saying "Congressman our children don't die in football games." "We don't have another child to give you."

Begging Senator Obama help us. "We are looking to you for great things." Save our children.

I can not express in words the urgency I feel. So I may lose my job. I may lose my home. I may not eat on a regular basis. Since I started on this mission of peace I have been evicted (some landlords don't like when you post the number of dead) I have had an IRS audit. I have had people look at me with so much hate at times it was unnerving. So What? There our people dying as I write this and another Mother cries.

I am driven; my spirit will not let me rest. I will still stay in the frontlines. I will engage in acts of civil disobedience if necessary, I will not let a politician say they can not see me. And I will always be of peace. I have hugged the recruiter in my town and we have shed tears together. I have hugged the Speaker of the house. I must always show that I am of true peace. I shake the hand or hug every soldier I see. And the soldiers that have made it home, if I come into contact with them I tell them if they ever need help I am here. If there is a soldier who wants out , I will find you refuge.

Martin Luther King Jr. said "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." I have embraced that thought 100%. I do not pretend to have political savvy or be well versed on foreign affairs. I am just the mother of a soldier.

I beseech the people of America step out of your comfort zones; get out of those easy chairs. Pour out into the streets and demand an end to this war. Many of us are out here in the frontlines are waiting, wondering "Where is America?" Our children are dying, again.

Georgia Stillwell

Member of Military Families Speak Out

Army Dismisses Gay Arab Linguist 'Outed' by Anonymous Email

This is from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
The U.S. Army recently discharged a highly regarded Arabic linguist who was the target of an anonymous email "outing" campaign. Former Sergeant Bleu Copas was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division. A decorated Sergeant who received impressive performance reviews, Copas also performed in the 82nd Airborne Chorus. His dismissal, under the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel, brings the total number of Arabic language specialists dismissed under the ban to at least 55. Neither Copas nor his command know who was the source of the email campaign.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has become a far too effective, and convenient, weapon of vengeance in our armed forces," said Sharra E. Greer, director for law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which provided legal counsel to Copas. "Anyone with an axe to grind -- a former partner or roommate, or an angry relative, for example -- can end an otherwise promising career simply by employing rumor and hearsay. Service members like Sergeant Copas, who are making important contributions to our national defense, are finding themselves increasingly vulnerable under the law. The only way to protect our men and women in uniform from such insidious outing campaigns is to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' once and for all."

In August 2005, an anonymous individual emailed Copas's unit, alleging there was an online profile of a unit member identifying them as gay. Despite clear instructions that investigations into sexual orientation are only to be commenced when a service member's command has "credible evidence" indicating the service member is gay, Copas's command nonetheless asked him about his sexual orientation and went on to launch a full investigation into allegations about him. The command-appointed investigating officer interviewing Copas asked such questions as, "Do you work off duty with the local community theater?" and "Do you know or are you aware of anyone who believes you are a homosexual?" He also recommended conducting "an inquiry ... into the possibility of further homosexual conduct by member(s) of the (unit)." Despite never learning who made the original allegations against him, Sergeant Copas was dismissed from the Army in January.

"The ban on gay service members serves no purpose except to further discrimination at the expense of our military readiness," said Copas. "Most troops care about their colleagues' job performance, not their sexual orientation, and this law is past due for repeal. Those of us who want to serve our country should not be barred from doing so simply because of outdated prejudice. The gay ban punishes every service member, even those who never tell and the straight troops who lose trusted, and trained, fellow soldiers."

Since 1993, more than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the gay ban, according to the Department of Defense. A February 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who "had ... skills in a foreign language that DoD had considered to be especially important." The report also found that nearly 800 specialists, including intelligence analysts, divers and combat controllers, were fired despite having "some training in an occupation identified ... as 'critical.'" The House of Representatives is currently considering legislation to repeal the law, with 118 bi-partisan members supporting the measure.

Treasury Dept. Study: Bush's Tax Cuts Did Not Grow the Economy

This is from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
On July 25, the Treasury Department released a study entitled "A Dynamic Analysis of Permanent Extension of the President's Tax Relief." This study refutes many of the exaggerated claims about the tax cuts that have been made by the President and other senior Administration officials, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and various other tax-cut advocates. Contrary to the claim that the tax cuts will have huge impacts on the economy, the Treasury study finds that even under favorable assumptions, making the tax cuts permanent would have a barely perceptible impact on the economy. Under more realistic assumptions, the Treasury study finds that the tax cuts could even hurt the economy.

In addition, the study casts doubt on claims that the tax cuts are responsible for much of the recent growth in investment and jobs. It finds that making the tax cuts permanent would lead initially to lower levels of investment, and would result over the longer term in lower levels of employment (i.e., in fewer jobs).

The Treasury also study decisively refutes the President's claim that "The economic growth fueled by tax relief has helped send our tax revenues soaring," -- in essence, that the tax cuts have more than paid for themselves. Instead, under the study's more favorable scenario, the modest economic impact of the tax cuts would offset less than 10 percent of the cost of making the tax cuts permanent.

Finally, the conclusions in the Treasury study are based on the assumption that the tax cuts will be paid for by deep and unspecified cuts in government programs starting in 2017. The Treasury study is consistent with other research on dynamic scoring in finding that in the absence of such budget cuts -- i.e., if the tax cuts continue to be deficit financed indefinitely -- the tax cuts would end up weakening the economy over the long run.

The following are four key findings from the report.

Finding #1: At best, making the tax cuts permanent would have a barely perceptible effect on the economy.

Finding #2: The tax cuts would pay for less than 10 percent of themselves in the long run.

Finding #3: Tax cuts will benefit the economy modestly only if they are paid for by large and unspecified cuts in government programs.

Finding #4: The Treasury study confirms that it is more prudent to raise taxes by a small amount today than to raise them by a larger amount in the future.

An Update on U.S. Army Specialist Suzanne Swift

Because of today's insane news cycle, it's easy to forget people like Suzanne Swift, the young woman who is awaiting the outcome of an investigation into allegations that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by three American sergeants in Iraq. I'll continue getting updates and I hope you'll pass them around.

Also, the traditional (liberal) media still refuses to address the ongoing problem of sexual assault in the military. Suzanne's case got a fair amount of national and international attention when she was arrested, but *none* of the reporters bothered to look at the bigger picture.

Here's a recent story I wrote about Swift's case and sexual assault in the military.

This update was written by Sara Rich, Suzanne's mom:
Things continue to move forward for Suzanne. The Army has not yet disclosed the results of the commander-directed investigations. The investigator took statements from witnesses, including Suzanne, and forwarded his report to the command. The command now has to decide whether Suzanne's allegations require the Army to take action, and whether they have any bearing on Suzanne's own case. We expect to learn the results of the investigation any day now.

Suzanne's military psych evaluation came back. She was told she does not have a personality disorder, and that she has symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder but not enough to diagnose her with PTSD. No mention of military sexual trauma. So, she sits in limbo, restricted to base and assigned to "weeds and seeds" details, not knowing what her future holds.

Whatever the Army decides to do, we have total confidence in Suzanne's attorneys, Keith Scherer and Greg Gagne. They were trial attorneys in the JAG and know their way around military law. They are aggressive and very thorough. They were recommended to us by people from Military Families Speak Out as being very good at protecting their clients and advocating for families.

We are still doing fundraising to pay Suzanne's legal costs, which are substantial. There is now a link on Suzanne's website to make direct donation. Check out Suzanne's website for updates, new pictures, articles and action alerts. Suzanneswift.org. Huge thank you to Robin Bernardi for all her hard work on the website. She is a patient genius and we owe her so much.

How is Suzanne? She is OK. She is bored and tired most of them time. The stress of not knowing what the Army is going to do with her case has been hard on her. She is pretty isolated and the work she is assigned to do is mundane. She is so amazed at how much support she has received from around the world. I have been trying to see her every week or so to just hug her and give her encouragement. Her moods fluctuate from sad to angry and then just exhaustion. I tell her to hang on and we are doing all we can do to get her home. She is hopeful that the Army will do the right thing. As I mentioned in earlier updates her new unit captain is a very steady and kind man and we appreciate his thoughtful responsiveness to making Suzanne feel better.

We continue to be amazed by the activity on the petition. We are moving slowly towards 5,000 signatures. Let's get this done ASAP!!! The comments being made are powerful and significant. Remember we have Suzanne wear available on cafe press. I wear my shirt frequently and just saw my dad at a rally yesterday wearing his own, "Free Suzanne" shirt.

The family is hanging on. We want her home. I have joined CODEPINK'S Bring Them Home Fast and am not eating every other day for peace. I have been speaking out and communicating with many people all over the world. Something that has come up is that we need to create a resource list or how to list for women that are experiencing "command rape" and "military sexual trauma" right now. So, that is something we are working on.

That's it for now. Remind all the people around you to DO something every day to help create peace in the world.


Sara Rich, M.S.W

Diverse Group Protests Bush Visit in W. Virginia

After the media gets sick of Ann Coulter, maybe they'll give these people some air time. I know, wishful thinking. After all, the media is liberal. Why would they want to interview a 70-year-old man who just took part in his first protest?

Demonstrators protesting against the policies of President Bush line the South Side Bridge as the president's motorcade passes, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, in Charleston, W.Va. Bush was in the area to attend a private campaign fundraiser for Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

"I feel for every mother in this country."
-Jo Ann Johnstone, a 64-year-old mom whose two sons have served in the Army and Marines

"I think people have just gotten so tired of this. So many people are dying and yet he wouldn't OK stem-cell research."
-Buck Johnstone, a 70-year-old Verizon retiree, joined his wife Jo Ann in his first protest ever

"I am not so much protesting as standing up for peace. I have changed tactics. During Vietnam, I was so angry. Now I am trying to understand there are good people on both sides. Everyone is probably for freedom. As a grandmother, I am seeing we are all just a part of the planet."
-Pam Rockwell, a 50-year-old social worker

"The songs are gone. The spirit is gone. The times were different with the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam. There was greater belief that that the government might do good if prodded a bit."
-Dan Kurkland, 66, founder of Patriots for Peace

"As a Christian, it is paramount to love your enemies. Why do I come here today? It is my first calling."
-Rev. Dennis Sparks, 57, executive director of West Virginia Council of Churches

TX Family Loses Both Sons to War

Less than two years ago, Roy Velez got the worst news a father could get: His oldest son was dead, killed during combat in Iraq.

This week, his pain only deepened with news that his youngest son had died in Afghanistan.

Military officials notified the Velez family Tuesday of the death of Army Spc. Andrew Velez, 22. His brother, Army Cpl. Jose A. Velez, 23, died in November 2004 in Fallujah when his unit came under fire while clearing an enemy stronghold.

"I can't be angry. I feel like my heart's been pulled out," Roy Velez said Tuesday. "We've done what the Lord allowed us to do for our country."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Day in the Life of Women Around the Globe

Lebanese women protest against Israeli attacks on Lebanon in the port city of Tripoli, north Lebanon, July 26, 2006. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim (LEBANON)

A displaced Lebanese woman weeps after fleeing the fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas and arriving at the port city of Sidon,southern Lebanon, Wednesday, July 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

An unidentified woman [Code Pink's Medea Benjamin] is removed from the gallery during Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's address to Congress in Washington, July 26, 2006. (Molly Riley/Reuters)

Pakistani women protesters take part in a rally, Wednesday, July 26, 2006 in Lahore, Pakistan to condemn the ongoing Israeli strikes against Lebanon and Palestinian territories. (AP Photo/K.M.Chaudary)

Mala Nagarajan, left, reacts after a news conference as she stands with partner Vega Subramaniam, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, in Seattle. The two were defendants in a state Supreme Court gay marriage case. The court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, saying lawmakers have the power to restrict marriage to unions between a man and woman. The 5-4 decision disappointed hopeful gay-marriage advocates and leaves Massachusetts as the only state to grant full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A woman participates in a protest rally in Rio de Janeiro against Israeli air strikes in Lebanon and Gaza, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, July 26, 2006. The banner reads: 'Lebanon never dies...' and 'Massacre against Lebanon'. (AP Photo/Renzo Gostoli)

From Gaza, With Love

Why isn't the liberal media reporting on what's happening in Gaza?

The following was written by Mona El-Farra, a physician and women's rights activist living in Gaza:

26th of July
6:45 pm
Jabalia refugee camp ,
Al Awda Hospital
Emergency Room

Shahd an 8 month baby girl
Maria a 4 years old child
Arrived the hospital dead

Somia and her remaining two daughters, arrived at the hospital suffering from their serious injuries, the 2 girls are now in the operating room , doctors are trying hard to save their lives , the mother's injuries are very critical , she was referred to the town central hospital (AlShifa Hospital).

Samir,an extremely traumatized husband and father , was unable to believe what happened to his family.

Early this evening Israeli army tank launched one missile against this family's home , inside Jablia refugee camp,during its raid against the camp ,as well as the eastern part of Gaza City,
This assault started in the early hours of this morning , at 4 am ,loud explosions from sea , air and land ,wakened me up as well as all the towns citizens ,I did not know what was happening ,until I switched on the little battery powered radio ,the death toll reached 19 ,a number that might increase, tens are injured , they all reached the town's different hospitals including Alawda in Jabalia .
Many homes were demolished, many places are hazardous to reach, roads are deserted, and the general population mood is anxious and insecure,
Many children lost their parents, many parents lost their children, our news isn't covered, people are feeling disappointed, devastated and abandoned with the world's reaction, especially the governments
Your solidarity is highly needed at those times , please spread the truth. The Israeli occupying force use excessive force, in Gaza and Lebanon
End occupation
End the aggression against Palestinian and Lebanon
yours in love and solidarity

Senate Passes Interstate Abortion Law

The Middle East burns, military suicides are on the rise, gas prices have hit an all time high, as the number of people without healthcare continues to increase, they're the ones who pay the most for prescription drugs, and college graduates' wages dropped 5.2 percent since 2000. But hey, this is a pressing issue.

Fifty-one Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for the bill, while four Republicans, 29 Democrats and one independent voted against it:
The Senate voted yesterday to make it a crime to take a pregnant minor to another state to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge, handing a long-sought victory to the Bush administration and abortion opponents.

The bill would help about three dozen states enforce laws that require minors to notify or obtain the consent of their parents before having an abortion. It would bar people -- including clergy members and grandparents -- from helping a girl cross state lines to avoid parental-involvement laws. Violations could result in a year in prison.

Most states have passed such laws, but courts have invalidated at least nine of them, advocacy groups say. Maryland and Virginia have parental-notification laws; the District does not. The Senate voted 65 to 34 to approve the bill, which is similar to one the House has approved before, including last year.

Opponents said the Senate measure could threaten the safety of girls, saying parents might beat their daughters if they find out about plans for an abortion. The proponents' approach "is not to deal with the reality of young people" in troubled families, said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). He cited the case of an Idaho man who impregnated his 13-year-old daughter and then killed her when he learned she had scheduled an abortion.
As Janusdog's diary on Daily Kos states, even good girls can't talk to daddy about sex:
So when I was date raped in college, and I was afraid I was pregnant, I didn't tell my father. I told my mother who went immediately into denial. She said, "We won't tell your dad, he'll kill everyone in sight." And then this peaceful look crossed her face and I knew she was busy forgetting what I had just told her.

I went to get EC for myself, by myself, and was verbally abused by the gynecologist. He told me that I couldn't have been raped because my underwear wasn't ripped (forget the 6" long bruise on my bicep) and that I should keep my clothes on next time. He bitched during the entire exam about how irresponsible I was.

During this tirade of his, I contemplated suicide, had a plan (and since they left me alone in the exam room for hours at a time while they apparently had coffee) I was saved only by the fact that I had once read a story about a woman who had committed suicide after a rape but turned out not to be pregnant after all. So I decided put off death to see if I was pregnant or not.

Did you get that? What saved me was not my parents' love, but READING and INFORMATION. My dad's rage would have been focused on his own sense of violation, the violation of his property, and not on the fact that I was violated. My mom couldn't deal with it. I don't even think she remembers the incident today.
It's also important to note that the majority of the Republicans in DC could care less about *preventing* unwanted pregnancies or providing women and girls with information that could possibly save their lives:
Senators voted 51 to 48 to reject an amendment drafted by Democrats that would have steered federal money to programs that educate teenagers about sexual abstinence and contraception.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Israeli Missile Hits Lebanese Red Cross Ambulances

"I was trembling," said Ali Deeb, one of the volunteers on the mission. "It was too dangerous, and helicopters buzzing, and all through this, I am thinking one thing: the ambulance that left half an hour before you has already been injured, and you could be next." Later yesterday afternoon, two missiles landed in the building across the road from the Red Cross office.
The ambulance headlamps were on, the blue light overhead was flashing, and another light illuminated the Red Cross flag when the first Israeli missile hit, shearing off the right leg of the man on the stretcher inside. As he lay screaming beneath fire and smoke, patients and ambulance workers scrambled for safety, crawling over glass in the dark. Then another missile hit the second ambulance.

Even in a war which has turned the roads of south Lebanon into killing zones, Israel's rocket strike on two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances on Sunday night set a deadly new milestone.

Six ambulance workers were wounded and three generations of the Fawaz family, being transported to hospital from Tibnin with what were originally minor injuries, were left fighting for their lives. Two ambulances were entirely destroyed, their roofs pierced by missiles.

The Lebanese Red Cross, whose ambulance service for south Lebanon is run entirely by volunteers, immediately announced it would cease all rescue missions unless Israel guaranteed their safety through the United Nations or the International Red Cross.

Lebanon Bleeds, Iraq Burns, People Flee

"Habibi, to live in Baghdad now is to live in a big prison. You stay in your home, and that's it. You only go out when you must. So many are being killed daily, and you only hope that your day to die is not today."
-Abu Talat, independent reporter Dahr Jamail's translator who is traveling with him throughout Damascus

An wounded Iraqi boy rests at a hospital in the northern city of Samarra. Iraq's top Shiite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said in an interview that Iraqis must arm themselves to protect their homes and that the shrine in Samarra destroyed by bombs in February should be rebuilt. (AFP/Dia Hamid)
As catastrophic as the bloodletting between Lebanon and Israel is, and let us not discount the scope of this war of aggression that has now left over 400 dead and well over 1,250 wounded in total, it still pales by comparison to Iraq - which now is getting even less coverage than usual.

On the 18th of this month, a suicide bomber drove his van packed with explosives near the golden-domed mosque in Kufa, south of Baghdad. Kufa, the city where Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr prays, was then rocked as the bomber detonated himself and his van outside the mosque, killing at least 59 and wounding over 130.

Less than two weeks before this, members of the Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army, donned their typical all-black uniforms and entered the Sunni al-Jihad district of the capital. They went on the rampage, killing at least 40 Sunnis after checking their identification cards.

An average of a dozen bodies per day wash up on the shores of the Tigris in Baghdad as sectarian killings have spun completely out of control. Revenge killings are occurring not by the day but by the hour in Iraq. In February, Les Roberts, one of the co-authors of the Lancet report, said that we shouldn't be discussing Iraqi deaths by the tens of thousands, but rather whether it is 100,000 or 200,000 or 300,000.

That was five months ago. That was before this June, when the Baghdad morgue alone received 1,595 bodies that month. That was before a recent UN report, released last week after gathering data from the Iraqi Ministry of Health (which tracks deaths recorded in hospitals around Iraq) and the Baghdad morgue, reported that in March, 2,378 Iraqis were killed, 2,284 in April, 2,669 in May and 3,149 in June.

Republicans for Choice Oppose Child Custody Protection Act

The 'liberal media' never interviews pro-choice Republicans. They wouldn't want to shatter stereotypes and make people think now would they?

This is from the Republican Majority for Choice, a DC-based group with over 500,000 pro-choice members:
The U.S. Senate continues debate today on the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA) and a vote is expected tonight. This bill would make it a crime for anyone other than a parent-including a grandparent, aunt, religious counselor or other trusted adult-to transport a young woman across a state line for an abortion if her own state has a parental notification or consent law that has not been met.

Though supporters of the bill claim that the passage of this bill would promote healthy family communication, it in fact does nothing to that end. Studies show that a majority of young women facing a crisis pregnancy do turn to their parents for guidance and support. However, there are instances when teens feel they cannot confide in their parents and this bill will only endanger them and the relationship with their family.

Teens' safety must come first. CCPA criminalizes caring family members who are willing to help in these situations, leaves young women with fewer options, and may force them into an even more dangerous situation.

RMC supports healthy family communication and encourages young women to turn to supportive parents and other family members when they find themselves faced with a crisis pregnancy. The government should not try to impose itself in these deeply personal family situations. It is not the government's place to regulate parent/child relationships and this bill does not consider the large number of teens from dysfunctional families who may only be able to turn to a trusted adult, other than a parent, for guidance and support.

There are also several amendments that will be heard this afternoon. RMC strongly supports the Teen Pregnancy Prevention amendment which would authorize grants to carry out projects to provide education on preventing teen pregnancies. The passage of this amendment will aide in lessening the need for abortion by providing teens with honest, age-appropriate sex education.

Please contact your Senators today and urge them to oppose the Child Custody Protection Act and support the pro-choice amendments that will be herad. We must stand up for the safety of young women and not allow the government to try to control parent/child relationships.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Guess Who's Coming to the White House?

Forget military families, Bush wants to meet the American Idols! Even the gay idols! Don't ask, don't tell.

From Think Progress:
Violence in the Middle East continues to escalate. Iraq has descended into a civil war, with more than 6,000 Iraqi civilians killed in May and June. North Korea just launched seven missiles into the Sea of Japan, and Iran is aggressively developing its nuclear program; Afghanistan is "close to anarchy," and al Qaeda "has not only regrouped, but it is on the march."

Sounds like the perfect time for President Bush to host the cast of American Idol at the White House this Friday:

President Bush will come face-to-face with the one man who has his voting record beat. Bush plans to host "American Idol" Taylor Hicks and the other Top 10 finalists next Friday in the Oval Office. It will be the first time contestants from the hit television show have been invited to meet the president.

After that, President Bush starts his vacation in Crawford, Texas, which is expected to last from August 3-14 and August 23-27.

Lt. Ehren Watada: "I was still willing to go until I started reading"

When First Lt. Ehren K. Watada of the Army shipped out for a tour of duty in South Korea two years ago, he was a promising young officer rated among the best by his superiors. Like many young men after Sept. 11, he had volunteered "out of a desire to protect our country," he said, even paying $800 for a medical test to prove he qualified despite childhood asthma.

Now Lieutenant Watada, 28, is working behind a desk at Fort Lewis just south of Seattle, one of only a handful of Army officers who have refused to serve in Iraq, an Army spokesman said, and apparently the first facing the prospect of a court-martial for doing so.

"I was still willing to go until I started reading," Lieutenant Watada said in an interview one recent evening.

A long and deliberate buildup led to Lieutenant Watada's decision to refuse deployment to Iraq. He reached out to antiwar groups, and they, in turn, embraced his cause, raising money for his legal defense, selling posters and T-shirts, and circulating a petition on his behalf.

Critics say the lieutenant's move is an orchestrated act of defiance that will cause chaos in the military if repeated by others. But Lieutenant Watada said he arrived at his decision after much soul-searching and research.

Israeli Bombings Hit Children Hardest

Interesting. The (liberal) media is still reporting that the bombs are hitting members of Hezbollah the hardest. They are the target, right?

Lebanese citizens hold banners bearing the names and ages of some children who died in Israeli attacks, during a sit-in, in front of the Martyrs' statue, in the Martyrs' Square, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, July 22, 2006. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Tawil)
About 55 percent of all casualties at the Beirut Government University Hospital are children of 15 years of age or less, hospital records show.

"This is worse than during the Lebanese civil war," Bilal Masri, assistant director of the hospital, one of Beirut's largest, told IPS Monday.

Not only are most of the patients children, but many of the injured have been brought in serious condition, he said. "Now we have a 30 percent fatality rate here in Beirut. That means that 30 percent of everyone hit by Israeli bombs are dying. It is a catastrophe."

The fatality rate was high, he said, "because the Israelis are using new kinds of bombs which can enter shelters. They are bombing the bomb shelters which are full of refugees."

Masri said he had barely slept in the 13 days since the Israeli bombing of Lebanon began. His hospital, he said, was functioning with only 25 percent staff because "most are now unable to get here because so many roads and bridges are bombed. Those who are here are eating, sleeping and living here 24 hours a day because if they leave they fear they may be unable to return."

On Sunday, Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief chief, toured the devastated areas of south Beirut. He described what he saw as "horrific" and said the destruction "makes it a violation of humanitarian law."

Egeland said UN supplies of humanitarian aid would arrive within the next few days, but "we need access," and "so far Israel is not giving us access."

Israeli Missle Kills Members of Lebanese Family Trying to Flee

Ali Shaito implored his mother, Muntaha, to stay conscious as she lay near death from shrapnel wounds. (Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images)

Two brothers from the Shaito family waited Sunday at a hospital in Tyre, Lebanon. Three of their relatives died while fleeing north when their van was struck by an Israeli missile. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

This NYT headline implies that it was the family's fault for leaving too late: "To Flee or to Stay? Family Chooses Too Late and Pays Dearly"
Muntaha Shaito's eyes rolled back as the paramedics screamed at her to stay awake and implored her son Ali to keep her engaged, as she teetered near death from shrapnel wounds inflicted by an Israeli rocket.

"Pray to God!," one paramedic shouted at her as she writhed in Ali's arms.

"Don’t go to sleep Mama, look at me!," Ali shouted, tears streaking his bloodied face. "Don’t die, please don’t die!"

It was the scene that members of the extended Shaito family said they had feared most, the real reason they had held out for days in their village of Tireh in southern Lebanon, terrified of the Israeli bombardment, but more terrified of what might happen if they risked leaving. On Sunday they gave up their stand, and all 18 members crammed into the family's white Mazda minivan. They planned to head north toward the relative safety of Beirut.

Within minutes they became casualties of Israel's 12-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon, which the Israelis say they will continue indefinitely to destroy the military abilities of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group. By the Lebanese official count, Israel's attacks have killed more than 380 Lebanese.

An Israeli rocket, which Lebanese officials said was likely fired from a helicopter, slammed into the center of the Shaitos' van as it sped round a bend a few miles west of their village, and the van crashed into a hillside. Three occupants were killed: an uncle, Mohammad; the grandmother, Nazira; and a Syrian man who had guarded their home. The missile also critically wounded Mrs. Shaito and her sister. Eleven others suffered less severe wounds.

"They said leave, and that's what we did," said Musbah Shaito, another uncle, as his niece, Heba, 16, cried hysterically behind him for her dead father, whose head was nearly blown off. This reporter watched as paramedics struggled to remove the dead from the van, but soon gave up, as an Israeli drone hovered overhead.

"This is what we got for listening to them," Mr. Shaito said, speaking of the Israelis.

Father of Conservatism Slams Bush

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign."
-William F. Buckley, the father of modern conservatism in an interview with CBS News
"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology -- with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress," Buckley says. "And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

Asked what President Bush's foreign policy legacy will be to his successor, Buckley says "There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush. I don't believe his successor would re-enunciate the words he used in his second inaugural address because they were too ambitious. So therefore I think his legacy is indecipherable"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Killing the Innocent

"There is no aim to this. They are innocent people. They are carrying white flags, and they're trying to escape."
-Ali Najm, a physician helping to treat the injured in Tyre.
The day ended in Tyre as it began, with a desperate cry of grief.

"Where's my father? Where's my father?" asked Mahmoud Srour, an 8-year-old whose face was burned beyond recognition after an Israeli missile struck the family's car Sunday. His mother, Nouhad, lurched toward his hospital bed, her eyes welling with tears.

"Is he coming?" he asked her.

"Don't worry about your father," she said, her words broken by sobs.

Barely conscious, bewildered, he lay with his eyes almost swollen shut. His head lolled toward her. A whisper followed.

"Don't cry, mother," he told her.

Mahmoud's father, Mohammed, was dead. An Israeli missile had struck their green Mercedes as they fled the southern town of Mansuri, where the family had been vacationing. The boy's uncle, Darwish Mudaihli, was dead, too. The bodies were left in the burning car. Mahmoud's sister Mariam, 8 months old, lay next to him, staring at the ceiling with a Donald Duck pacifier in her mouth. Her eyes were open but lifeless, a stare that suggested having seen too much. Her hair was singed, her face slightly burned. Blisters swelled the tiny fingers on her left hand to twice their size. In other beds of Najm Hospital were their other brothers, 13-year-old Ali and 15-year-old Ahmed.

Afghan Women Continue to Suffer - Where is the Liberating Bush Administration?

"In Afghanistan, young girls go to school and women serve in government because America helped liberate the Afghan people."
-Laura Bush, speaking on International Women's Day, March 7, 2006
Afghanistan's notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was set up by the Taliban to enforce bans on women doing anything from working to wearing nail varnish or laughing out loud, is to be re-created by the government in Kabul.

The decision has provoked an outcry among women and human rights activists who fear a return to the days when religious police patrolled the streets, beating or arresting any woman who was not properly covered by a burqa or accompanied by a male relative.

"This is a very bad idea at a bad time," said Sam Zia-Zarifi, the Asia research director of Human Rights Watch. "We’re close to the edge in Afghanistan. It really could all go wrong and it is alarming that the United Nations and western governments are not speaking out on this issue."

"They haven't even bothered to change the name," said Malalai Joya, a courageous female MP whose outspokenness means she has to travel with bodyguards and move every day because of threats to her life. Joya, 28, was physically attacked in parliament in May after she criticised warlords.

"The situation for women in Afghanistan has not improved," she said. "People in the outside world say Afghan women don't have to wear burqas any more and yes, it's true that in some provinces like Kabul, Jalalabad and Herat, women can go outside without a burqa.

"They can go and work in offices, and we have 68 women MPs. But more and more women are wearing burqas because of the lack of security. Look at the high rate of suicide among our women -- Afghan women prefer to die than live because there is no security.

"In my opinion what we have in power under the mask of democracy are the brothers of Taliban -- fundamentalists, warlords and drug lords," she added. "Our country is under the shadow of their black hands. They are against women and re-creating the [department] is proof of this."

Global Warming in the Bay Area

San Francisco is *never* this hot in July. We usually get about a week of perfect weather in October, but never in July. And when we do have perfect weather, it always cools down at night. Not this time:
Records were also set throughout the San Francisco Bay area, including Livermore at 115 degrees, San Rafael at 108 degrees and San Jose at 102 degrees, according to the weather service. San Francisco's 87 degrees topped an 81-degree record set in 1917.

Power use across the state broke records Friday and again Saturday - unusual because it was the weekend.
Oh, but global warming isn't happening. We're not used to such hot weather; if it doesn't cool down soon, we're going to have many cases of heath exhaustion. I went hiking yesterday in Fairfax and a friend who is in excellent shape almost passed out.

Friday, July 21, 2006

British Commander: Afghanistan Close to Anarchy

"In Afghanistan, we helped to liberate an oppressed people, and we will continue helping them secure their country, rebuild their society and educate all their children, boys and girls. In the Middle East, we will continue to seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine."
-Bush's State of the Union speech in January, 2003
The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan today described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.

The assumption within Nato countries had been that the environment in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2002 would be benign, Gen Richards said. "That is clearly not the case," he said today. He referred to disputes between tribes crossing the border with Pakistan, and divisions between religious and secular factions cynically manipulated by "anarcho-warlords".

Freedom of the Press?

From Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

"If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview," FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. "That's just a policy."

The Advocate report, by reporter Sandy Dennis, describes two separate attempts to talk to people displaced by Katrina that were halted by the intervention of a FEMA security guard. In the first incident, in a Morgan City, Louisiana camp, an interview was interrupted by a guard who claimed that residents of the camp are "not allowed" to talk to the media.

Dekotha Devall, whose New Orleans home was destroyed by the storm, was in her FEMA-provided trailer telling the Advocate reporter of the hardships of life in the camp when a security guard knocked on the door.

"You are not allowed to be here," the guard is quoted as telling the reporter. "Get out right now." The guard reportedly called police to force the journalist to leave the camp, and even prevented the reporter from giving the interview subject a business card. "You will not give her a business card," the guard said. "She's not allowed to have that."

ACTION: FEMA's website urges citizens to report "allegations of civil liberties or civil rights abuses" to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, who is Richard L. Skinner.

Inspector General Richard L. Skinner
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
E-mail: DHSOIGHOTLINE@dhs.gov

Who's on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows?

Media Matters takes another look at guest appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows from April to June 2006. Guess who dominates?
Republicans and conservatives outnumber Democrats and progressives. More conservative journalists appear than progressive journalists. Panels are more likely to be imbalanced toward the right than toward the left.

Across all three shows, Republicans and conservatives made 66 appearances, compared with 48 appearances by Democrats and progressives.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

(Don't) Honk for Peace

Nancy Goedert, 73, of Ferndale became the second protester in a matter of weeks to be issued a citation for demonstrating on the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward in Ferndale.

Goedert was cited Monday as she carried a sign that read "Police Say Don't Honk for Peace," mimicking Eastpointe resident Victor Kittila's sign that led to his arrest July 3.

He had been carrying a sign urging motorists to "Honk if You Want Bush Out," but Ferndale police had asked the activist to stop encouraging drivers to honk. So Kittila, 55, changed his message to "Ferndale Cops Say: Don't Honk if You Want Bush Out." Drivers honked anyway.

Goedert, a member of the social justice group Raging Grannies, was cited for being disorderly because her sign incited motorists to honk, which violates a city noise ordinance.

Goedert said Kittila's arrest motivated her to carry the sign and prompted larger crowds of protesters to turn out. About 50 people showed up Monday and 300 on July 10. The gathering is usually about 12.

A Day in the Life of Women Around the Globe

A Lebanese woman points toward a mosque under construction that was destroyed in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, July 20, 2006, when Israeli warplanes targeted it late Wednesday. Israeli warplanes renewed airstrikes on Beirut's southern suburbs Thursday just after daybreak, Hezbollah TV reported. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Palestinian women react during the funeral of Ahmed Abdo, 14, in the Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 20, 2006. Adbo was killed after Israeli tanks moved into the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza early Wednesday under cover of machine gun fire, the latest incursion in Israel's three-week military push in the seaside territory. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

A Lebanese woman holds up a placard at a noisy demonstration outside the United Nations building in the capital Beirut in Lebanon Thursday, July 20, 2006. The demonstrators criticised western leaders for not doing enough to halt the current conflict, and called for international intervention. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Women prisoners come out after they were released from a jail in Peshawar July 20, 2006. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf approved legislation this month that will allow some 1,300 women jailed for minor crimes to be freed on bail. REUTERS/Ali Imam (PAKISTAN)

A Lebanese Muslim woman combs the hair of her daughter as a man in a wheelchair looks on, in Sanayeh Park in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, July 20, 2006, where they have been living, along with other displaced Lebanese citizens, for the past few days after they fled the suburbs, an area that has been heavily targeted by the Israeli warplanes for the past eight days. (AP Photo)

Colombian women soldiers march during a military parade in Bogota July 20, 2006. The military parade was held to celebrate the 196th anniversary of Colombia's independence from Spain. REUTERS/Kena Betancur (COLOMBIA)

A woman cries during an anti-Israeli demonstration in Madrid, Thursday, July 20, 2006. Sticker reads: No to War. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

300 Killed, 1,000 Wounded, 500,000 Displaced in Lebanon

"Is the value of human life in Lebanon less than that of the citizens of other countries? Is this what the international community calls self defense? Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?"
-Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora

Zahra al-Samra, 18, was comforted by her brother Tuesday in a hospital in Hosh, Lebanon, two days after she was wounded and their mother and sister died in an Israeli airstrike in nearby Tyre. (New York Times)

A family in Beirut split up, as the children evacuated and their mother stayed behind. (Ali Haider/European Pressphoto Agency)

A damaged building is seen after an Israeli missile struck a neighborhood in the southern town of Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, July 19, 2006, killing five people, police and hospital officials said. The target was a commercial office of a firm belonging to Hezbollah, but those killed were residents. Israeli troops clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas on the Lebanese side of the border Wednesday, while warplanes flattened buildings and killed at least 20 people overnight as fighting entered its second week with the U.S. signaling it will not push Israel toward a fast cease-fire. (AP Photo/Samer Wehbi)

An injured child lies in a hospital after Israeli warplanes attacked his home in Srifa near the port-city of Tyre in southern Lebanon July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON)

A woman cries, right, as a paramedic, left, attends to a wounded woman in the village of Srifa, near Tyre in southern Lebanon, after Israeli forces' airstrikes flattened 15 houses, Wednesday July 19, 2006. The village's headman, Hussein Kamaledine, said 25 to 30 people lived in the houses, but it was not known if they were at home at the time. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

A Lebanese woman screams as she views the destroyed houses in the center of the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, after Israeli warplane missiles struck earlier, Wednesday July 19, 2006. Five people were killed, police and hospital officials said. The target was a commercial office of a firm belonging to Hezbollah, but those killed were all residents. Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire in the fighting that has killed more than 260 people and displaced 500,000. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Lebanese woman carries her grandson as she waits to be evacuated by the Greek ferry 'Kriti II' in Beirut port during a massive evacuation operation from Lebanon, July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (LEBANON)

Brothers Nabil Alaa al-Din, left, Ramzi, center, and Ali, right, wounded in an Israeli warplane missile attack in the southern village of Srifa, Lebanon, sit at hospital beds in the outskirts of the port city of Sidon, Wednesday, July 19, 2006. The airstrikes flattened 15 houses and the village's headman, Hussein Kamaledine, said 25 to 30 people lived in the houses, but it was not known if they were at home at the time. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)