<\body> Stories in America: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Florida Voting Glitches Favor Republicans

This is outrageous! No wonder Karl Rove is so sure the Republicans will win next week. Please forward to friends and family and make sure they check their votes. Of course, this isn't new, but it's criminal that our 'elected leaders' are still allowing this to happen.

Three out of four votes will be counted electronically this election. Only four companies manufacture the voting machines and they all use proprietary software.

Remember what Diebold's CEO said in 2003?
The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
This is from the Miami Herald:
Debra A. Reed voted with her boss on Wednesday at African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale. Her vote went smoothly, but boss Gary Rudolf called her over to look at what was happening on his machine. He touched the screen for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis, a Democrat, but the review screen repeatedly registered the Republican, Charlie Crist.

Mauricio Raponi wanted to vote for Democrats across the board at the Lemon City Library in Miami on Thursday. But each time he hit the button next to the candidate, the Republican choice showed up. Raponi, 53, persevered until the machine worked. Then he alerted a poll worker.

Wangari Maathai's Inspiring Message

"The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple act of planting a tree, we give hope to ourselves and to future generations."
-Wangari Maathai

What an honor it was to interview Wangari Maathai today. In 2004, Maathai became the first African woman and first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Through her work with the Green Belt Movement, Maathai has mobilized more than 100,000 women to plant 30 million trees across Kenya since 1977. What began as a grassroots tree planting program to address the challenges of deforestation, soil erosion and lack of water is now a vehicle for empowering women. The act of planting a tree is helping women throughout Africa become stewards of the natural environment.

It was refreshing to hear such a positive inspiring message rather than the negative fear-mongering we've become so used to hearing from our dear leaders.

Listen to the interview here.

Military Families and Iraq Vets Want to Meet with Donald Rumsfeld

If Rumsfeld truly believed in his "mission," he would meet with these families. It's the least he can do:
Military Families Speak Out, a national organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones in the military, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that he will receive today requesting a meeting on November 9, 2006 to discuss the impacts on servicemen and women and their families of troop extensions, stop-loss orders, involuntary re-calls, multiple re-deployments to Iraq and other aspects of the “back door draft.” The organization expects over 30 military families from California, Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey and other areas around the U.S. to gather in Washington, D.C. after the November 7th Congressional elections. The families also plan to deliver a petition to Secretary Rumsfeld and to Congress calling for an end to the back door draft and for all troops to be brought home now.

Since July of this year alone, 7,500 troops have had their tours of duty extended in Iraq, including 3,500 members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade, poised to return home after a year long deployment, who were extended an additional four months as of July 2006; as well as 4,000 solders with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division who were extended in Ramadi in September 2006. Additionally, in August, 2006, the Marine Corps announced the recall of 2,500 inactive reservists to active duty; and this month, and the Army announced it would be keeping 120,000 troops in Iraq until 2010, requiring more extensive use of National Guard and Reserve forces. Servicemen and women continue to be placed under stop-loss orders and held in the military after their years of service are up, while many troops are experiencing multiple deployments,

Shortly after the close of the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since January, 2005, military families with loved ones in the 172nd Stryker Brigade and the 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division; families with loved ones in the Marines’ Individual Ready Reserve at risk for recall; families with loved ones serving multiple deployments; National Guard families and others will come to Washington, D.C. to make their case for an end to the back-door draft and an end to the Iraq war.

“Twice as a mother, I have had to see my son off to war,” stated MFSO member Tina Richards from Salem, Missouri, whose son in the Marines Individual Ready Reserves now faces call-back to Iraq. “The pain and horror of what our family has been through while he was gone is a shadow to the horrors of war he had endured. Yet, I find my family torn apart, our hearts wrenched in fear, that he will be called back into service and sent to the hell he has already twice survived. Stop this back door draft.”

MFSO member Rich Moniak of Juneau, Alaska whose son Michael is in the 172nd Stryker Brigade that was told in late July, 2006 that they were to redeploy to Baghdad during the very hours that they were preparing to leave Iraq explained: “They are still in Baghdad, and we at home cannot trust the Pentagon to bring them home at the end of this extension. Instead, we face each and every day fearing that unwanted knock on the door or a late night phone call. The redeployment is a symptom of the larger failures of this war and occupation.”

Military families coming in to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary Rumsfeld will be joined by other families on Veterans Day, November 11th, when Military Families Speak Out will honor the over 2,800 American service members and tens of thousands of Iraqi children, women, and men who have died as a result of the war in Iraq, with an exhibit of flags and photographs on the National Mall.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Message from Kyle Snyder, AWOL Iraq Veteran

"At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if this is something you can live with. It's your life and the choice is ultimately yours to make. I said NO and I will never regret it."
-Kyle Snyder

This is from Courage to Resist:
Kyle Snyder plans to present himself to Army authorities at Fort Knox, KY, Tuesday, October 31. Before turning himself in he will hold a press conference at 10am in nearby Louisville at Central Presbyterian Church, (4th and Kentucky St.) He will arrive at Fort Knox at approximately 2:30 pm.

"I joined the military when I was 19 years old from a government program called Job Corps, in Clearfield, Utah," Snyder explains. "I wasn't a good kid. I didn't have a good background. I was in foster homes from thirteen to seventeen, then when I was seventeen, I went through a government program called Job Corps. So, from thirteen all the way up, I didn't have parental figures in my life really. My parents divorced; my father was really abusive towards my mother and he was abusive toward me. I've still got scars on my back. I was put in Social Services when I was thirteen. I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to provide for a family; I wanted to have a family. I wanted all the benefits that the military had to offer."

Snyder thought about the war in Iraq at the time, but "more than anything I wanted to reconstruct the civilization of Iraq. I wanted to help liberate the people of Iraq, just like the American president was saying. So, I signed up to be a heavy construction equipment operator, part of the 94th Corps of Engineers. I figured if I was an engineer in the United States Army I could build foundations for the Iraqi people to form their new government, to form a civilization after the bombings of 2003." When Snyder arrived in Iraq, however, he says he saw no reconstruction of Iraq. "The only reconstruction I saw was building Army bases."

In the meantime, he had been retrained to be a 50-caliber machine gunner. "I was in Mosul. I was in Baghdad. I was in Stryker. I was in Scania. [Both, military bases.] I was in Tikrit. There was reconstruction of forward operating bases and military bases, but no city work being done."

Kyle traveled to Canada in April 2005 while on leave from the war in Iraq. Proclaiming that he was lied to by military recruiters and that the war in Iraq is "illegal and immoral," Snyder applied for refugee status in Canada.

Last week, Kyle Snyder was busy saying goodbye to the many friends he has made in Canada. "Many Canadians have supported me in extraordinary ways. I will never forget that," he says. "Canada will always have a special place in my heart."

Returning to the U.S. is a personal decision, says Snyder. "It is my right to return home to my country, and now is the right time for me to do so."

Kyle Snyder’s message to soldiers and youth:

"If you really want to 'support the troops,' you don't send them into unjust, counterproductive wars. Until all our young men and women are home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I would advise against joining the military.

If you are already in the military, I would advise you to follow your conscience before simply obeying any order. In fact, under international laws and treaties ratified by both the U.S. and Canada, it is a soldier's duty to refuse to participate in war crimes.

"Sure, there are consequences to standing up for what you believe in. But there are graver consequences if you just go along blindly following orders. You could be killed or seriously wounded, as over 20,000 U.S. soldiers have been in Iraq. Or you could become a completely different person than the one your family and friends knew and loved. The images and memories of war may haunt you for the rest of your life.

"At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if this is something you can live with. It's your life and the choice is ultimately yours to make. I said NO and I will never regret it."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Women Under Attack in Iraq, Afghanistan

"We are only a few years removed from the rule of the terrorists, when women were denied education and every basic human right. That tyranny has been replaced by a young democracy, and the power of freedom is on display across Afghanistan."
-Laura Bush, "highlighting" women's achievements in Afghanistan, March 30, 2005
Women are facing increasing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, especially when they speak out publicly to defend women's rights, a senior U.N. official told the U.N. Security Council.

Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, called on for fresh efforts to ensure the safety of women in countries emerging from conflicts, to provide them with jobs, and ensure that they receive justice, including compensation for rape.

"What UNIFEM is seeing on the ground -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia -- is that public space for women in these situations is shrinking," Heyzer said Thursday. "Women are becoming assassination targets when they dare defend women's rights in public decision-making."

Heyzer spoke at a daylong open council meeting on implementation of a 2000 resolution that called for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of striking and building on peace deals. It also called for the prosecution of crimes against women and increased protection of women and girls during war.

Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said that, in the past year, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman head of state in Africa, Liberia adopted an anti-rape law, women in Sierra Leone pushed for laws on human trafficking, inheritance and property rights and women in East Timor submitted a draft domestic violence bill to parliament.

Despite these positive developments, he said, women face widespread insecurity and in many societies violence is still used as a tool to control and regulate the actions of women and girls seeking to rebuild their homes and communities.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Son's Last Blanket by Amy Branham

We all know the history of the American flag. We know its symbology. White signifies purity and innocence; red signifies valor and bravery; and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. Each star represents one of the states in the Union.

Driving through my typical American neighborhood, I see that many of my neighbors fly American flags in their front yards. They fly their flags to show their support and love of their country. To them, displaying the flag in their yards is a sign of patriotism.

I do not ever fly or display my flag. My flag is encased in a triangular shaped wooden box on the top of a bookcase in my living room. It is easily visible to all who enter my home. Also encased in this wooden box are the medals my son earned during his service in the Army and the bullet casings from a salute done at his funeral. Each of those casings represents a different element taught in the United States Army -- Duty, Honor, Country.

The American flag means many things to many people. Some wrap themselves in the security of the flag and call themselves "patriotic." Some people burn the flag in an effort to show their displeasure with the American government.

These days, the flag carries and entirely different meaning for me. My flag was my son's last blanket. It covered his wooden coffin, used to signify that he died in the service of his country. My flag carries on it tears of sorrow and mourning for the loss of the son that I will never see again. I followed the colors of my flag in the funeral procession to my son‚s last resting place.

There have been too many of these flags covering the coffins of our war dead from the Iraq war. There have been too many families that have been presented with these flags that covered these coffins.

Please, help those of us who are trying to end this illegal, immoral war. Help us by getting out and voting this election season for the candidate who will do what is right by ending the Iraq war. Honor America's fallen sons and daughters and their sacrifices by voting.

If you do not vote, you have failed them. If you do not vote, their sacrifice will have been for nothing.

Amy Branham
Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith
Nov. 1981 -- Feb. 2004

KBR (a Halliburton Subsidiary) Continues Ripping Off Taxpayers and Screwing Soldiers

And the Bush administration continues to allow it. Be sure to see "Iraq for Sale" if you haven't already.
A Halliburton subsidiary that has been subjected to numerous investigations for billions of dollars in contracts it received for work in Iraq has systematically misused federal rules to withhold basic information on its practices from American officials, a federal oversight agency said yesterday.

The contracts awarded to the company, KBR, formerly named Kellogg Brown & Root, are for housing, food, fuel and other necessities for American troops and government officials in Iraq, and for restoring that country’s crucial oil infrastructure. The contracts total about $20 billion.

The oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said KBR had refused to disclose information as basic as how many people are fed each day in its dining facilities and how many gallons of fuel are delivered to foreign embassies in Iraq, claiming that the data was proprietary, meaning it would unfairly help its business competitors.

Although KBR has been subjected to a growing number of specific investigations and paid substantial penalties, this is the first time the federal government has weighed in and accused it of systematically engaging in a practice aimed at veiling its business practices in Iraq.

Sex Traffickers Target Iraqi Women

Thousands of Iraqi women are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous sex worker traffickers seeking to exploit young girls' desperate socio-economic situation for profit, United Nations agencies have reported.

In Mariam's case, she was taken to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and kept in a house with 20 young girls, all of them sex workers, she said.

Before she left Iraq, she and her three sisters were being cared for by her father. Their mother was killed during the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

Mariam said her father couldn't cope with looking after the children on his own and wanted her to go abroad, particularly given the increasing insecurity and daily violence in Iraq.

In November 2005, a member of a trafficking ring offered Mariam's father an advance payment of US $6,000 for her, saying she would work for a family in Dubai. He was promised that his daughter would be returned to Iraq after finishing a one-year contract.

Mariam said she faced daily threats in Dubai from the traffickers, warning her not to try to leave. However, she managed to escape and is now back in Baghdad being looked after by a local NGO, the Organisation for Women's Freedom.
Thousands traded for sex work.

The teenager's story is not uncommon. While accurate statistics are hard to come by, the Women's Freedom NGO estimates that nearly 3,500 Iraqi women have gone missing since the US-led occupation of Iraq began in 2003 and that there is a high chance many have been traded for sex work. It says 25 percent of these women have been trafficked abroad since the start of 2006, many unaware of their fate.

"People are desperate to get money to support their families … just to have something to eat. If the government does not act on this issue, more women will be abused outside Iraq," Nuha Salim, spokeswoman for the NGO, said.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Lies of Leadership, Courtesy of Service Academy Graduates Against the War

Check out the long list of lies here...and pass them on to brighten someone's day.

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
Dick Cheney, August 26 2002

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
George W. Bush, September 12 2002

"Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."
Bush in October 2002.

"Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda."
Bush in January 2003 State of the Union address.

"Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."
Bush in February 2003.

"... sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network."
Powell in his U.N. speech prior to the Iraq War.

"We have removed an ally of Al Qaeda."
Bush in May 2003.

Stated that the Iraqis were "providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the Al Qaeda organization."
Cheney in September 2003.

"Saddam had an established relationship with Al Qaeda, providing training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional weapons."
Cheney in October 2003.

Cheney said Saddam "had long established ties with Al Qaeda."
June 14, 2004.

Bush said, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda."
June 17, 2004

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."
Ari Fleischer, January 9 2003

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 28 2003

"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more."
Colin Powell, February 5 2003

"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons."
George Bush, February 8 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
George Bush, March 17 2003

"Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes."
Ari Fleischer, March 21 2003

"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."
Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22 2003

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
Donald Rumsfeld, March 30 2003.

West Point Grads Unite to Protest Iraq Occupation

"660,000 people slaughtered and still no one in the US government is held accountable for this crime against humanity."
-James Ryan, 1962 USMA grad and co-founder of Service Academy Graduates Against the War

"All service academy grads should be concerned about the illegality of orders premised on the lies of the president. We also serve to protect our fighting men and women from being subject to illegal and immoral orders."
-Dud Hendrick, US Naval Academy graduate
The overwhelming response by alumni of United States service academies to the anti-war efforts of West Point Graduates Against the War has resulted in a combined arms organization of former and current land, sea, and air officers united against the war in Iraq. The new organization, Service Academy Graduates Against the War, was established by three West Pointers, William Cross, James Ryan, and Joseph Wojcik, all 1962 USMA graduates and cofounders of the former organization. They were joined in the new endeavor by Dud Hendrick, a 1963 United States Naval Academy graduate and Terry Symens-Bucher, an alumnus of the United States Air Force Academy, class of 1975.

The new grassroots organization calls on graduates of all service academies to speak out against the destruction of the honor of the United States and the dissipation of its military caused by the deceitful policies of the present administration. It also calls for the impeachment of the president of the United States for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The founding alumni and their fellow service academy graduate members, instilled with the service academy codes of honor, believe a fundamental respect for truth is a basic and lifelong attribute of character. To that end, they have united to speak out against the deceitful behavior of the government of the United States and its widely known malefactors. At issue is the lying, cheating, stealing, delivering evasive statements and quibbling which has put vast numbers of innocent people in deadly peril and disgracefully diminished the integrity of the United States.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Than 200 Active Service Members Call for Iraq Withdrawal

For the first time since we began bombing Iraq, more than 200 active men and women from the armed services have a joined a protest calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Will the crowd that loves to say "cut and run" listen? Or will they swiftboat the soldiers? Kinda tough when you're dealing with more than 200 soldiers. Let's see how the liberal media covers this:
More than 200 active duty U.S. armed service members, fed up with the war in Iraq, have joined an unusual protest calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, organizers said on Wednesday.

The campaign, called the Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq, is the first of its kind in the Iraq war and takes advantage of Defense Department rules allowing active duty troops to express personal opinions to members of Congress without fear of retaliation, organizers said.

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq," states the appeal posted on the campaign's Web site at www.appealforredress.org.

"Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home," it adds.

The Web site allows service members to sign the appeal that will be presented to members of Congress. Organizers said the number of signatories has climbed from 65 to 219 since the appeal was posted a few days ago and Wednesday when it was publicly launched. There are 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Active duty service members are restricted in expressing personal views publicly. But rules governed by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act give them the right to speak to a member of Congress respectfully while off-duty and out of uniform, making clear they do not speak for the military.

In a conference call with reporters, a sailor, a Marine and a soldier who had served in the Iraq operation said American troops there have increasingly had difficulty seeing the purpose of lengthy and repeated tours of duty since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Their misgivings have intensified this year as the country has edged toward civil war, they said.

"The real grievances are: Why are we in Iraq if the weapons of mass destruction are not found, if the links to al Qaeda are not substantiated," said Marine Sgt. Liam Madden of Rockingham, Vermont, who was in Iraq from September 2004 to February 2005 and is based at Quantico, Virginia.

"The occupation is perpetuating more violence," he said. "It's costing way too many Iraqi civilian and American service member lives while it brings us no benefit."

The campaign's sponsoring committee includes the activist groups Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out.

Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto of Atlanta, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia and the first service member to join the campaign, said a similar appeal during the Vietnam War drew support from over 250,000 active duty service members in the early 1970s.

Women Scarcer on Evening News

Katie Couric 'made history' for becoming the first female to anchor the evening news when women in other countries are prime ministers and presidents. So far, she hasn't made a difference:
B&C Contributing Editor Andrew Tyndall analyzed the first six weeks of Katie Couric's tenure atop the CBS Evening News and found that woman have gotten fewer assignments.

When former Today host Katie Couric arrived at the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News just six weeks ago, much was made of the fact that she--unlike Barbara Walters, Connie Chung and Elizabeth Vargas before her--was the first solo female nightly-news anchor. But that has not translated to a more female-centric Evening News, at least on the correspondent side.

In fact, since Couric's arrival, women have received 40% fewer assignments than they did under her predecessor, Bob Schieffer. Men, meanwhile, have seen no cutback in their workload.

How Do You Define Beauty?

Watch this video.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Vietnam Vet Commits Suicide Outside of VA Medical Center

From the Times-Leader in Pennsylvania:
Friends of John Frasso were coming to terms Tuesday a day after the Vietnam War veteran they called "Gunship" took his own life outside the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Township.

They wondered why Frasso, who enjoyed making children laugh and giving more than he received, shot himself with a .45-caliber handgun. A note apparently written by Frasso, 61, of Nescopeck, explained he was protesting the war in Afghanistan, Luzerne County Coroner Dr. Jack Consalvo said.

"He had the demons of Vietnam," said Nancy Verespy, executive director of Veterans of Vietnam War Inc., in Pittston. "The last time I talked to him, he said he will decide when it's time. And he knew it was his time to go."

Childhood friend Ed Jackson believed Frasso wasn't protesting the war in Afghanistan, but was making a statement about the growing number of young men and women getting injured and medical treatment offered to them at VA hospitals.

"It was a statement what he did in front of the VA," Jackson said. "He always felt the VA was screwing people bad. He hated seeing young servicemen getting killed or coming back injured and getting inadequate treatment."

Kevin Tillman: After Pat's Birthday

Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin was discharged in 2005.
It is Pat's birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice...until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can't be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It's interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that "somehow" was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Kansas Republicans Switch Parties

From the Washington Post. I"m sure the liberal TV media will be all over this:
In a state that voted nearly 2 to 1 for President Bush in 2004, nine former Republicans will be on the November ballot as Democrats. Among them is Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, who changed parties to run for lieutenant governor with the popular Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

"I'd reached a breaking point," Parkinson said, preparing for a rally in Wichita alongside Sebelius. "I want to work on relevant issues and not on a lot of things that don't matter."

The Kansas developments coincide with efforts by Democrats across the country to capture moderate Republican and independent voters dismayed with partisan bickering from both parties, particularly from the Republican right. The spirit of the attempted Democratic comeback in Kansas, set by Sebelius, is a search for the workable political center.

Though yet untested in the election booth, the Democratic developments in Kansas reflect polls in many parts of the country. As elsewhere, Democrats and moderate Republicans say they are frustrated with policies and practices they trace to Republican leadership, including the Iraq war, ballooning government spending, ethics violations and the influence of social conservatives.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Bush Administration Continues to Outsource Torture to Syria, the "Axis of Evil"

Check out today's Terry Gross interview with Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program. We're outsourcing torture to countries with horrible human rights records:
British journalist Stephen Grey writes about security issues and Iraq. His work appears in The Sunday Times of London, The New York Times, the Guardian, and The Atlantic Monthly. He says that dozens of terror suspects are still being held in secret prisons and interrogated by the CIA despite President Bush's declaration that the CIA is no longer doing so. Grey's new book is Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program (St. Martin's Press).
Read about what the U.S. government did to Maher Arar:
A Canadian citizen who has not been charged with a crime--who a Canadian judge has said does not even have a credible allegation against him--is still being barred from entering the United States. And yet we are still not outraged at the usurpation of power and disregard for basic human rights that the Bush administration brandishes in the name of homeland security?

Maher Arar is the Canadian citizen who, based on what a Canadian judge found to be unsubstantiated accusations that he was a terrorist, was detained in New York City by the U.S. government and then renditioned to Syria in 2002, where he says he was tortured for 10 months. He was finally released and was allowed to return to Canada, where a commission that examined the conditions under which he was detained concluded that "there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

Even so, the U.S. government kept Arar from appearing Wednesday at the 30th annual Letelier-Moffitt Awards ceremony, sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, where he and the organization that fought for his freedom, the Center for Constitutional Rights, were given the IPS International Award.

John Cavanagh, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies, said at the ceremony at the National Press Club that he wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asking him to intervene to allow Arar into the country, and got no response.

I did not fare much better when I called a Justice Department press spokesman Thursday, who referred the question to the Department of Homeland Security. "They handle the borders," said spokesman Charles Miller.

As of this writing, there was no response to my queries placed at the Department of Homeland Security. The Canadian Press news service was also unable to get substantive replies to questions about Arar. The Associated Press reports that Arar remains on a terrorist watch list. But the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar formed by the Canadian government concluded that despite "extensive efforts to find any information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities. … they found none."

So Arar was only able to address his supporters via a video. Speaking with firmness but occasionally fighting back tears, he recounted the horrors of his experience in a small, dank Syrian cell.

At his first interrogation, he said, he was asked to hold out his right palm. One of the interrogators struck it. "It was so painful that at that point I forgot every moment that I enjoyed in my life," he said.

Arar was then asked to hold out his left hand. He was struck again, and this time he felt a sharp blow to his wrist. "The pain from that hit lasted approximately six months," he said.

"Then I was asked questions, and I had to answer very quickly," he said. "Then he would begin the beatings, this time anywhere on my body."

The torture was such that he feared that he would be killed every time prison officials came to question him.

Years later, he said, "I have been suffering anxiety, constant fear and depression." But he added that he has been sustained by the global support that he has received and "the hope that one day our planet Earth will be free of torture, tyranny and injustice."

The Letelier-Moffit awards are named after former IPS staffers Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, who died in a 1976 car bombing linked to the government of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Letelier was a Chilean diplomat and a fierce opponent of Pinochet. And therein lies the sad irony: After backing Pinochet and dismissing those who supported Letelier as fringe leftists, the United States government came around to denouncing the dictatorship and helped bring the killers of Letelier and Moffitt to justice. But today we have a White House engaging in Pinochet-style behavior to banish an innocent man from the United States, apparently for no other reason than it believes it can.

The Arar case is chilling because it shows how vulnerable we all are to being swept into the black hole of post-9/11 injustice, where the flimsiest of accusations can be used to ship us to places where we can be tortured and where we have no way to even know the basis of the accusations against us, much less fight them. Further, the decision by our government to continue to keep Arar out of the United States, in the shadow of President Bush's signing this week of a Military Commissions Act that guts the basic constitutional right of habeas corpus , continues the torture--emotionally, if not physically--that Syria started at the behest of the United States. That neither our president nor anyone in his cabinet--nor, for that matter, much of our political leadership in either party--thinks this is a big deal means that the people who "hate our freedoms" are not beyond our shores but are right on Pennsylvania Avenue. And we had better be fighting them here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Riverbend Writes About the Lancet Study

I have been checking Riverbend's blog daily. I thought she was killed in Iraq as she hasn't posted since August 5. It feels strange to wonder if a person I don't know is dead or alive. Her latest post is about the Lancet study:
This has been the longest time I have been away from blogging. There were several reasons for my disappearance the major one being the fact that every time I felt the urge to write about Iraq, about the situation, I'd be filled with a certain hopelessness that can't be put into words and that I suspect other Iraqis feel also.

It's very difficult at this point to connect to the internet and try to read the articles written by so-called specialists and analysts and politicians. They write about and discuss Iraq as I might write about the Ivory Coast or Cambodia- with a detachment and lack of sentiment that- I suppose- is meant to be impartial. Hearing American politicians is even worse. They fall between idiots like Bush- constantly and totally in denial, and opportunists who want to use the war and ensuing chaos to promote themselves.

The latest horror is the study published in the Lancet Journal concluding that over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war. Reading about it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded like a reasonable figure. It wasn't at all surprising. On the other hand, I so wanted it to be wrong. But... who to believe? Who to believe....? American politicians... or highly reputable scientists using a reliable scientific survey technique?

The responses were typical- war supporters said the number was nonsense because, of course, who would want to admit that an action they so heartily supported led to the deaths of 600,000 people (even if they were just crazy Iraqis…)? Admitting a number like that would be the equivalent of admitting they had endorsed, say, a tsunami, or an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, or the occupation of a developing country by a ruthless superpower… oh wait- that one actually happened. Is the number really that preposterous? Thousands of Iraqis are dying every month- that is undeniable. And yes, they are dying as a direct result of the war and occupation (very few of them are actually dying of bliss, as war-supporters and Puppets would have you believe).

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.

The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons - with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.

Let's pretend the 600,000+ number is all wrong and that the minimum is the correct number: nearly 400,000. Is that better? Prior to the war, the Bush administration kept claiming that Saddam killed 300,000 Iraqis over 24 years. After this latest report published in The Lancet, 300,000 is looking quite modest and tame. Congratulations Bush et al.

Everyone knows the 'official numbers' about Iraqi deaths as a direct result of the war and occupation are far less than reality (yes- even you war hawks know this, in your minuscule heart of hearts). This latest report is probably closer to the truth than anything that's been published yet. And what about American military deaths? When will someone do a study on the actual number of those? If the Bush administration is lying so vehemently about the number of dead Iraqis, one can only imagine the extent of lying about dead Americans...

Wounds of War

"The verbiage just has to change. Wounded sounds like someone fell down and got a band-aid. These are catastrophic injuries. Someone needs to propel and explode a mortar every night on TV so people can see what it does to a human body."
-Sue Erwin, Spc. Jay Erwin's mother
When Spc. Jay Erwin used to hear reporters speak of "wounded" Soldiers on the evening news, he envisioned troops with minor scrapes and bruises who medics could quickly patch up and send back into the fight after a day or two.

Today, as Erwin sits in a wheelchair on the second floor lobby of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he sees things much differently.

"Hearing about our guys who were wounded didn't really affect me," he said. "I was just glad that guys I was fighting with were still alive. It didn't occur to me that there's a lot more mental and physical pain involved with being wounded, and I'm learning that now."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Economy is Flourishing...

for some.
Wall Street workers took home nearly $300,000 on average last year as profits from trading and merger advising fueled record earnings, New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi said.

Wall Street compensation averaged $289,664 per person, 5.1 times the average $56,634 for workers citywide, the comptroller said in a study released Tuesday. The highest-paid bankers and traders can command eight-figure pay packages.

Bonuses totaled a record $21.5 billion, or $125,500 per person. The securities industry paid out $48.8 billion, while generating $2.1 billion of taxes for the city, Hevesi said.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rice Congratulates Gay Global AIDS Coorindator and His Partner

Rice, one of Bush's most loyal appointees, recognizes gay marriage (she's also "mildly pro-choice"). The anti-gay Christian Right is quickly learning that they have been used.
As First Lady Laura Bush stood behind her, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice administered the oath of office on Oct. 10 to gay physician Mark Dybul as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, a post that has the rank of ambassador.

In a ceremony held at the State Department's historic Benjamin Franklin Room, Dybul placed his hand on a Bible held by his domestic partner, Jason Claire. Dybul's parents and Claire’s mother stood nearby as Dybul became the nation's third openly gay ambassador.

"I am truly honored and delighted to have the opportunity to swear in Mark Dybul as our next Global AIDS Coordinator," Rice said. "I am pleased to do that in the presence of Mark's parents, Claire and Richard, his partner, Jason, and his mother-in-law, Marilyn," she said.

"You have a wonderful family to support you, Mark, and I know that's always important to us. Welcome," Rice said.

In remarks following the swearing-in, Laura Bush noted that Dybul will oversee President Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, a widely acclaimed program backed by AIDS activists and approved by Congress as part of an aggressive U.S. effort to fight AIDS in developing countries.

"I know you'll bring great skill and enthusiasm to the fight against AIDS," Laura Bush said. “Congratulations, ambassador.”

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Must Read Editorial from The Johnson County Sun in Kansas: This Newspaper Has Never Endorsed So Many Democrats

Written by Steve Rose, Chairman:
As we prepare ourselves to make political endorsements in subsequent issues, I can tell you unequivocally that this newspaper has never endorsed so many Democrats. Not even close.

In the 56 years we have been publishing in Johnson County, this basically has been a Republican newspaper. In the old days, before the Republican civil war that fractured the party, we were traditional Republicans. That is, we happily endorsed Jan Meyers for Congress, Bob Dole for U.S. Senate, Nancy Kassebaum for U.S. Senate; virtually every Republican state legislator from here, with a few rare exceptions; and most governors, although we did endorse the conservative Democrats George and Bob Docking and John Carlin.

The point is, I can name on two hands over a half century the number of Democrats we have endorsed for public office.

This year, we will do something different. You will read why we are endorsing Kathleen Sebelius for governor and Mark Parkinson for lieutenant governor; Dennis Moore to be re-elected to the U.S. Congress; Paul Morrison for Kansas attorney general; and a slew of local Democratic state legislative candidates. These are not liberal Democrats. They are what fairly can be described as conservative Democrats, and we can prove that in our forthcoming endorsements.

But I could not help but put in perspective a more global phenomenon that has led us to re-evaluate our traditional support for Republicans.

This change may come as no surprise to our most cynical conservative readers who would dismiss me (and others on the editorial board) as being a moderate Republican and, therefore, the same as a Democrat. To them, there is no difference.

But the shift, frankly, shocks me, because I have pulled the lever over and over since my first vote in 1968 for Republicans. If I was a closet Democrat, I must have hidden it well, especially from myself, since I always beat up on Democrats in my columns. I have called them leftists, socialists, and every other name in the book, because I thought they were flat-out wrong.

And, for the most part, I still do. I am opposed to big government. I have little use for unions. I never liked the welfare plans. I am opposed to weak-kneed defense policies. I have always been for fiscal prudence. I think back to the policies of most Democrats, and I cringe.

So, what in the world has happened?

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

What does to-the-right mean?

It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.

It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.

It means anti-stem cell research.

It means ridiculing global warming.

It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.

It means immigrant bashing. I'm talking about the viciousness.

It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.

It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.

It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.

Note, I did not say it means "anti-abortion," because I do not find that position repugnant, at all. I respect that position.

But everything else adds up to priorities that have nothing to do with the Republican Party I once knew.

That's why, in the absence of so-called traditional Republican candidates, the choice comes down to right-wing Republicans or conservative Democrats.

And now you know why we have been forced to move left.

Gunmen Attack Iraqi Women

"I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to...you know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate."
-Bush replying to a question about the Johns Hopkins report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the administration began bombing
Gunmen attacked Shiite women picking vegetables in a field outside the capital Friday, killing six adults and two young girls and kidnapping two teenagers. It was one of the deadliest assaults specifically targeting women in Iraq's monthslong wave of sectarian violence.

Police said they suspected the gunmen were Sunnis seeking to intimidate Shiites into fleeing the area south of Baghdad. Previous major attacks in Iraq have killed many women and men together, and at times individual women have been shot or kidnapped. But rarely have large groups of women been attacked.

In another sign of sectarian bloodshed, police in Duluiyah north of Baghdad found 14 beheaded bodies thought to be from a group of 17 workers kidnapped by gunmen Thursday while traveling home to the mostly Shiite town of Balad. There was no word on the other abductees.

The attack on the farm field took place outside Saifiya, an ethnically mixed village south of Baghdad. Most residents already fled to escape violence, Sunnis going to the nearby town of Madain, Shiites to neighboring Suwayrah.

The women were gathering vegetables when gunmen pulled up in two cars around 8 a.m. and surrounded the field. They opened fire, killing six women and two girls about 4 or 5 years old, Lt. Mohammed al-Shammari said. The attackers forced two teenage girls into the cars and escaped, he said.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Tears and Sadness We Never See, But Should

Here's the latest video from PeaceTakesCourage.com.

Conservative Bush Insider: Rove Called Evangelicals 'Nuts'

Finally, a fed up conservative Christian:
More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider's tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities.

The office's primary mission, providing financial support to charities that serve the poor, never got the presidential support it needed to succeed, according to the book.

Entitled "Tempting Faith," the book is not scheduled for release until Oct. 16, but MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" has obtained a copy.

"Tempting Faith's" author is David Kuo, who served as special assistant to the president from 2001 to 2003. A self-described conservative Christian, Kuo's previous experience includes work for prominent conservatives including former Education Secretary and federal drug czar Bill Bennett and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

He says some of the nation's most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as "the nuts."

"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy,'" Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly "nonpartisan" events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

Nineteen out of the 20 targeted races were won by Republicans, Kuo reports. The outreach was so extensive and so powerful in motivating not just conservative evangelicals, but also traditionally Democratic minorities, that Kuo attributes Bush’s 2004 Ohio victory "at least partially...to the conferences we had launched two years before."

With the exception of one reporter from the Washington Post, Kuo says the media were oblivious to the political nature and impact of his office's events, in part because so much of the debate centered on issues of separation of church and state.

In fact, the Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.

Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. "Finding these examples became a huge priority. If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn't that bad at all."

In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on "compassion" social programs, Kuo claims he discovered the amount was $20 million a year less than during the Clinton Administration.

The money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda, Kuo claims, with organizations friendly to the administration often winning grants.

More pointedly, Kuo quotes an unnamed member of the review panel charged with rating grant applications as saying she stopped looking at applications from "those non-Christian groups," as did many of her colleagues.

"Tempting Faith" contains several other controversial claims about Kuo's office, the Bush White House and even the 1994 Republican revolution in Congress.

Calls and e-mails to the White House have not been returned.

Many of those revelations and others will be the topic of discussion on Thursday night's edition of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

British Army Chief: We Must Quit Iraq Soon

The head of the Army is calling for British troops to withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk catastophic consequences for both Iraq and British society.

In a devastating broadside at Tony Blair's foreign policy, General Sir Richard Dannatt stated explicitly that the continuing presence of British troops "exacerbates the security problems" in Iraq.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Sir Richard also warns that a "moral and spiritual vacuum" has opened up in British society, which is allowing Muslim extremists to undermine "our accepted way of life."

The Chief of the General Staff believes that Christian values are under threat in Britain and that continuing to fight in Iraq will only make the situation worse.

His views will send shockwaves through Government.

They are a total repudiation of the Prime Minister, who has repeatedly insisted that British presence in Iraq is morally right and has had no effect on our domestic security.

Sir Richard, who took up his post earlier this year, warned that "our presence in Iraq exacerbates" the "difficulties we are facing around the world."

He lambasts Tony Blair's desire to forge a "liberal democracy" in Iraq as a "naive" failure and he warns that "whatever consent we may have had in the first place" from the Iraqi people "has largely turned to intolerance."

Troops Will Continue to Die in Iraq Until at Least 2010

In an image released by officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sgt. Joseph W. Perry, of Alpine, Calif., is shown in an undated photo. Perry, 23, died Oct. 2 in Muhallah, Iraq, when his mounted patrol came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations. Perry was assigned to the 21st Military Police Company (Airborne), 16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, Fort Bragg, N.C.)

U.S. Marines carry the casket of Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Cosgrove III from Saint Vincent Martyr Church after funeral services in Madison, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006. Cosgrove, 23, was killed in a roadside bombing at a military checkpoint in Iraq on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2006. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)

An photo provided by the Army shows Timothy Adam Fulkerson, 20, of Utica, Ky., who died Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006, in Tikrit, Iraq , during combat operations with the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. A landmine detonated near his vehicle, the Department of Defense said. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army is planning on the basis that it may have to maintain current troop levels in Iraq until at least 2010, its top general said on Wednesday.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said the United States was in a tough fight with insurgents in Iraq but his plans did not mean it would necessarily need to keep the present level of 15 combat brigades there for the next four years.

Including those brigades, numbering about 3,500-4,000 soldiers each, the United States has about 141,000 troops in Iraq.

110 Bodies Found in Baghdad in 24 Hours as the Deaths Continue to Increase

"I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to...you know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate."
-Bush replying to a question about the Johns Hopkins report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the administration began bombing

Iraqis mourn over the coffin of a relative outside the morgue of a hospital in the restive city of Baquba northeast of Baghdad. US President George W. Bush dismissed as "not credible" an independent US study which estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion.(AFP/Ali Yussef)

An Iraqi boy leaves a scene after a car bomb exploded at the Qurtuba Square in Baghdad, Iraq , Thursday Oct. 12, 2006. Five people were killed and 11 wounded in the blast, police said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Relatives weep next to the bodies of the employees of an independent Iraqi television station outside the morgue of a hospital in Baghdad. Gunmen killed nine staff at a television studio and bomb attacks rocked Baghdad as Pentagon officials said plans had been laid to allow US forces to stay in Iraq until 2010 if needed.(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)

Iraqi police found 50 bodies dumped across Baghdad on Tuesday, apparent victims of sectarian death squads, and a bombing at a bakery in the capital killed 10 people in the biggest single attack of the day.

The discovery of the bodies, many tortured and all shot, brought to at least 110 the number found in Baghdad in the past two days, an Interior Ministry official said.

A bomb placed under a car outside a bakery in the mostly Sunni Arab southern Baghdad district of Dora reduced the shop to rubble and killed 10 people, many who had been in line outside to buy bread, police said.

At least 25 others were killed in bombings and shootings around Iraq, police and Interior Ministry officials said.

Iraq has been gripped by Sunni-Shiite bloodletting since the bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in February. The United Nations estimates that 100 Iraqis die violently every day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Day in the Life of Women Around the Globe

An Iraqi woman walks past a huge stain of blood at the site where two car bombs went off near the ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Al-Mustansiriya neighborhood. At least six bombs exploded around Baghdad as the death toll from a brutal civil conflict continued to rise steeply and a top UN official warned that Iraq is spiralling out of control.(AFP/Ali al-Saadi)

Tamil women and children seek refuge in Polonnaruwa, northern Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan troops backed by war planes have mounted a major attack against Tamil Tiger rebels, a day after the two sides conditionally agreed to resume peace talks.(AFP/File/Gamini Obeysekera)

A Thai woman cooks while standing in flood waters at the Buddha Image Market in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday Oct. 11, 2006. Floods in Thailand have killed at least 39 people and sickened 138,000 others, many suffering from waterborne bacteria or parasites after wading through waist-deep water, officials said Monday, Oct. 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

A woman sits in front of the damaged house of Mariam Farhat, a lawmaker from the governing Islamist group Hamas, after it was hit by an Israeli missile in Gaza October 11, 2006. An Israeli missile hit the Gaza Strip home of the well known lawmaker on Wednesday in what the Israeli army said was an attack on a weapons factory. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)

A Ukrainian woman holds a candle during a commemoration ceremony for assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya in front of Kiev's Russian embassy. Journalists and activists have slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin after he said slain journalist Politkovskaya had exerted little influence on Russian political life and implied that she had caused harm with her work.(AFP/Sergei Supinsky)

A Lebanese woman turns back as others watch bush fires near the southern village of Jouaiya, Lebanon, Wednesday Oct. 11, 2006. Several residents claimed to have heard explosions set off by the heat of the fire, most likely from Israeli ordnance which still litters the fields of southern Lebanon. The 34-day long war between Hezbollah and Israel killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians and left part of the country's infrastructure in ruins, causing billions of dollars in damage to the economy. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

An Iraqi woman mourns the death of a relative outside a morgue in Baquba. US President George W. Bush has dismissed as "not credible" an independent US study which estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003.(AFP/Ali Yussef)

Hundreds of Economists Call for Minimum Wage Increase

I recently did a story about the minimum wage increase in California for NPR's News & Notes. Listen here.

Here's a story from Reuters:
Hundreds of leading economists urged Congress on Wednesday to boost the U.S. minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for a decade.

The group recommended a $1 to $2.50 hourly increase and argued that future boosts should be indexed to inflation to protect workers purchasing power from rising prices.

Dismissing the argument that better pay would burden employers and stifle job creation, these experts said a higher minimum wage was necessary to ensure a decent standard of living for low-income Americans.

"We believe a modest increase in the minimum wage would improve the well-being of low-wage workers and would not have the adverse effects that critics have claimed," the group including renowned academics for top U.S. universities said in a statement disseminated by the Economic Policy Institute.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Study: The War That Was Based on Lies Has Killed 655,000 Iraqis

Women wait outside a hospital while their relatives receive treatment from Monday night's car bomb attack in Baghdad October 10, 2006. At least 13 people were killed and 46 wounded when a car bomb exploded in a busy market in northeast Baghdad on Monday, police said. (REUTERS/Kareem Raheem)

The mother, center, of seventeen-year-old Abdur Rahman wails over his coffin outside Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2006. Rahman was killed together with his friend by unknown gunmen as he was helping a women move out of Baghdad's Dora neighborhood. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

A teenage boy hugs the coffin of his father Faisal Murtada outside a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006. Murtada, a handyman, was killed with two of his colleagues by unknown gunmen. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

From the New York Times:
A team of American and Iraqi public health researchers has estimated that 600,000 civilians have died in violence across Iraq since the 2003 American invasion, the highest estimate ever for the toll of the war here.

The figure breaks down to about 15,000 violent deaths a month, a number that is quadruple the one for July given by Iraqi government hospitals and the morgue in Baghdad and published last month in a United Nations report in Iraq. That month was the highest for Iraqi civilian deaths since the American invasion.

But it is an estimate and not a precise count, and researchers acknowledged a margin of error that ranged from 426,369 to 793,663 deaths.

It is the second study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It uses samples of casualties from Iraqi households to extrapolate an overall figure of 601,027 Iraqis dead from violence between March 2003 and July 2006.

The findings of the previous study, published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, in 2004, had been criticized as high, in part because of its relatively narrow sampling of about 1,000 families, and because it carried a large margin of error.

The new study is more representative, its researchers said, and the sampling is broader: it surveyed 1,849 Iraqi families in 47 different neighborhoods across Iraq. The selection of geographical areas in 18 regions across Iraq was based on population size, not on the level of violence, they said.

CorpWatch: Contractors in Afghanistan are Making Big Money for Bad Work

A highway that begins crumbling before it is finished. A school with a collapsed roof. A clinic with faulty plumbing. A farmers' cooperative that farmers can't use. Afghan police and military that, after training, are incapable of providing the most basic security. And contractors walking away with millions of dollars in aid money for the work. The Bush Administration touts the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan as a success story. Perhaps, in comparison to the violence-plagued efforts in Iraq and the incompetence-riddled efforts on the American Gulf Coast, everything is relative. A new report "Afghanistan, Inc.," issued by the non-profit organization CorpWatch, details the bungled reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.

Massive open-ended contracts have been granted without competitive bidding or with limited competition to many of the same politically connected corporations which are doing similar work in Iraq: Kellogg, Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton ), DynCorp, Blackwater, The Louis Berger Group, The Rendon Group and many more. Engineers, consultants, and mercenaries make as much as $1,000 a day, while the Afghans they employ make $5 per day.

These companies are pocketing millions, and leaving behind a people increasingly frustrated and angry with the results.

Instead of reprimanding these contractors for their poor work, USAID announced a new contract totalling $1.4 billion awarded to the joint venture of The Louis Berger Group, Inc. and Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp. on September 22.

"It's a shame that after the disasterous performance of Louis Berger in Afghanistan in the last five years, the company has been awarded with such a large sum of money. It's telling that the punishment for wasting millions of taxpayers' money can get you millions more from our government," Nawa said of the new contract.

Fariba Nawa, an Afghan-American who returned to her native country to examine the progress of reconstruction, uncovers some examples of where the money has (and hasn't) gone, how the system of international aid works (and doesn't), and what it is really like in the villages and cities where outsiders are rebuilding the war-torn countryside.

Tonight on PBS: Maquilapolis - City of Factories

Check out this documentary tonight on PBS:
The term "Maquilapolis" refers to the "city of factories" in Tijuana, Mexico, where huge warehouses turn out televisions, electrical cables, toys, clothes, batteries, and medical equipment. And the film is focused on the workers in those factories: women like Carmen Durán (pictured at left, photo: David Maung). From the film's website, here's a brief glimpse at what life is like for Carmen and other maquiladora workers:

Carmen works the graveyard shift in one of Tijuana's maquiladoras, the multinationally owned factories that came to Mexico for its cheap labor. After making television components all night, Carmen comes home to a shack she built out of recycled garage doors, in a neighborhood with no sewage lines or electricity. She suffers from kidney damage and lead poisoning from her years of exposure to toxic chemicals. She earns six dollars a day. But Carmen is not a victim. She is a dynamic young woman, busy making a life for herself and her children.

Some parts of this documentary are depressing, as you can imagine. Hearing about the long hours and little pay for the repetitive work that builds the expensive toys we enjoy. Seeing the welts on the workers' arms and other physical symptoms of the illnesses that result from the exposure to toxins day in and day out. Realizing the reality these families face. It's all hard to take.

Other scenes in the film are outright shocking. As I watched a screener of the film (no doubt on a television built by Carmen or someone like her), my mouth literally fell open as I watched what happens during a rainstorm in "Maquilapolis" -- that's when the factories let all of their effluent run into the sewers and waterways, which, of course, flow right into the downstream neighborhoods where all of the poor workers live. So even during a light sprinkling of rain, which is what happens in this clip, you find this torrent of dirty, chemical-laden water rushing down the creek and spilling out onto the streets and lawns, long after the rain has stopped. A truck drove through it to cross a road, and children step over it to get to school. It's unreal.

But happily, Maquilapolis does offer a bit of hope as it profiles the women who are working to organize for change. They sue major manufacturers, force cleanups of toxic sites left behind by abandoned factories, and educate their fellow workers. The film itself is actually a collaboration involving these very women. The filmmakers brought together factory workers and community organizers, teaching them how to use the equipment and allowing them to document their lives.

Veterans for Peace Not Welcome at Veterans Day Parade

From the AP:
Maine's biggest Veterans Day parade won't feature the group Maine Veterans for Peace if organizers get their way.

Portland's American Legion Post 17 informed the group that it's not invited because of concerns that its presence would cause other groups to drop out following a flap over the American Legion's "Adopt a Flag" program.

City spokesman Peter Dewitt said it's the American Legion's call because the parade permit is in the group's name. The post's executive committee plans to meet soon and the Portland City Council is scheduled to take up the issue at its Oct. 16 meeting.

Veterans for Peace has participated in the parade for the past 15 years, but relations became strained last month.

Legionnaires set up a program in which people could be memorialized with an American flag and a plaque for $100. Veterans for Peace sent in a check in the name of an Iraqi boy who was killed. The check was returned.

A spokesman for Portland's Harold T. Andrews Post 17 confirmed the letter. "I think they're really being irrational and silly. They don't own Veterans' Day," said Doug Rawlings, who leads the peace group.

Just like last year, Maine Veterans for Peace planned to march behind a long banner accompanied by a tally of civilian and military war deaths from the past 100 years.

This year, members planned to pull a float they built decorated with 600 crosses, one for each American military death in Iraq. It was built shortly after the war in Iraq began. Three years later, the death toll stands at nearly 2,800.

The group has never been a favorite of parade organizers, Rawlings said. "They always relegated us to the back of the parade," he said.

Rawlings and the group plan to take that information to Portland on the holiday, whether or not they are in the parade.

While Politicians Deal with Sex Scandals, Soldiers in Iraq Die

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in the last 24 hours, bringing the total killed to 33 in October alone:
More than 2,740 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Republican: Bush's Blunder in North Korea

Donald Gregg was a CIA official since 1951 and a liaison to President Carter's National Security Council and, National Security Advisor to Vice President George H.W. Bush and U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993. He's now chairman of the board of the Korea Society:
First: Don't panic. Kim Jong Il's objective is survival and eventual change in North Korea, not suicide. The diplomatic situation in Northeast Asia will be immensely complicated by the North Korea test, which I think was a huge mistake on their part, but missiles are not about to start flying.

The test may indicate the rise in influence of a hard-line faction in the KPA, which is holding sway, at least for now, over others more interested in transformational change in NK. The initiation of a strong bilateral dialogue between NK and the US would strengthen the moderates, and ease the situation in general, but that is not at all likely to happen.

Second: Why won't the Bush administration talk bilaterally and substantively with NK, as the Brits (and eventually the US) did with Libya? Because the Bush administration sees diplomacy as something to be engaged in with another country as a reward for that country's good behavior. They seem not to see diplomacy as a tool to be used with antagonistic countries or parties, that might bring about an improvement in the behaviour of such entities, and a resolution to the issues that trouble us. Thus we do not talk to Iran, Syria, Hizballah or North Korea. We only talk to our friends -- a huge mistake.

Quotes from Christopher Columbus

From A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn:
"They (the Arawak Indians) ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

The Indians, Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone...." He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage "as much gold as they need ... and as many slaves as they ask." He was full of religious talk: "Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities."

Happy Columbus Day

The following was written by Mary Annette Pember, Red Cliff Ojibwe and past president of the Native American Journalists Association:
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue on a mission of plunder for Spain. When he arrived here, he commenced the virtual annihilation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

A culture and nation founded on the murderous, exploitive philosophy of this act has two choices: apologize and make reparations, or cunningly twist the facts and make it an opportunity for celebration.

The United States has chosen the latter.

In many ways, the whole Columbus Day debate is a big yawn for native peoples, just another in the ongoing pinches in the rear that define being Native American in America.

Mostly, we simply say, "Ouch," and go on with the business of surviving the policies borne out of a ruling government's mindset that sees Christopher Columbus as a national hero.

At the time of European "discovery" in the 15th century, there were more than 10 million native peoples in North America. But by the beginning of the 20th century, our numbers had dwindled to less the 230,000.

So we're pretty ambivalent about the whole celebration idea surrounding our near-demise. The Columbus attitude has justified U.S-Indian policy all the way from stolen lands and broken treaties to recent attacks on tribal sovereignty and the failure to make good on Indian trust funds.

Currently, mainstream America has a "just get over it" attitude to native peoples, dismissing our grievances as political correctness gone awry. But in the recent words of an elder, "If the shoe were on the other foot, Americans would carry laminated copies of their ancestors' treaties until they got their just dues."

Asking the U.S. government to abandon Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day is akin to asking for a sea change in the national psychology. It demands a soul-searching objectivity that is simply too threatening to the mainstream culture and economy.

The European "discovery" of America is a misnomer. This victor's history is still very much at the heart of the American psyche. By ignoring the fact that that the place was already inhabited by millions of indigenous peoples, the celebration of Columbus Day exalts a criminal act.

This philosophy has allowed the current Christopher Columbus reincarnation, George W. Bush, sufficient national support in his efforts to bring democratic light to the darker regions of Iraq.

As a native woman, experienced in the repercussions of American policy-making, I'm waiting for the president's supporters to propose establishing a George W. Bush Day in Iraq, celebrating the civilizing of that country.

I bet few Americans would see the irony.

Foley Scandal Diverting Attention From Corporate Scandals

From the NY Times Editorial:
The sordid Mark Foley controversy has diverted public attention from another major Washington ethics scandal - the influence peddling involving the disgraced former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. That's good news for the Bush administration, given freshly heightened suspicion that its dealings with Mr. Abramoff and his sleazy K Street operation were far cozier than it is willing to admit.

Iraq Vet: Keep My Fellow Soldiers Safe

This was written by David Mann, SPC US Army 2003 & 2005
For two years, I risked my life in the Iraq war. I'm writing to invite you this weekend to see what I saw over there and take action to keep my fellow soldiers safe.

This weekend, MoveOn members all across the country are opening their homes to screen a powerful new film, called Iraq for Sale, about the big corporations that are endangering soldiers' lives and ruining the chance for peace.

I'm asking all of you to go see this groundbreaking movie and to bring as many friends as you can. There is a screening near you. To find the closest one and RSVP, just click here.

When you see what's in this movie, you're going to want to do something about it--and you can. At these same parties, we'll be calling key voters through MoveOn's Call for Change program and reminding them to get to the polls. The calls are simple and easy, and--speaking as someone who has seen the consequences of Republican misrule first hand—they're well worth it.

Why do I know this film is so powerful? Because I'm in it. Here's a little more about my story.

I am the child of a career Army man, and when it came time to decide what to do after high school, I knew I wanted to follow the same path. In 2003 and then again in 2005, my unit was deployed to Iraq.

As a maintenance unit, we were responsible for repairing everything and anything soldiers used to do their jobs and stay alive: weapons, radios, trucks, computers--you name it. So you can imagine our shock, weeks after getting to Iraq, when we were ordered to hand our mission over to private contractors employed by Halliburton.

But there's a catch: Halliburton had neither the training nor the equipment to take over our mission. Most of the contractors had no previous knowledge at all of our equipment before coming to Iraq. One of the contractors I "trained" was not even remotely familiar with radio systems, but had been a missile systems repairman while he was in the Army.

Because our unit no longer had a mission, we were forced into other things that we weren't trained to do. Mechanics found themselves on guntruck missions escorting convoys between bases. Many of us were forced onto guard duty while the contractors fumbled through our old jobs, getting paid way more than any soldier. I spent months checking ID cards at the Post Exchange and Recreation facility.

I felt helpless and awful, like I was letting down my fellow soldiers while they're being put into life-threatening situations with unsafe equipment, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Since I returned to the States, I've learned more about why all that happened—about how the Republicans gave Dick Cheney's old company all these huge contracts and didn't care at all how it endangered us soldiers. And now, there is something I can do about it--I can speak out.

This weekend, there's something you can do about it, too. You can come and bring your friends to watch this amazing movie, (my story is just one small part of this shocking film), and spread the word about what's really happening. And while you're there, make a few simple reminder calls to progressive voters in key districts to help win these elections. Please find a party near you and RSVP right here.

I've come to realize that the only way we can keep our soldiers safe is by electing leaders who will put our safety above the profit of their corporate friends. I hope you'll join me at a screening this weekend to help do just that.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Another Conservative Rips Bush's Failed Policies to Shreds

Written by Paul Schroeder in The American Conservative:
The Bush administration originally sold the Iraq War to the public, Congress, and the world with two propaganda packages appealing respectively to fear and hope. One drew a horrifying picture of The Disastrous Consequences of Inaction in Iraq; the other depicted The Bright Promise of Victory in Iraq. Everyone remembers the absurd predictions, false promises, and outright lies these packages contained.

Today both have been totally discredited by events. The president, administration officials, and loyal supporters in the Congress and media spin the ongoing disaster in Iraq and looming one in Iran as signs of coming victory, but only true believers are convinced. With rebellion rising even among Republicans and control of Congress in jeopardy, the president is touring the country with a series of speeches designed to refurbish the old propaganda of fear. This newest package, The Disastrous Consequences of Failure in Iraq, seeks to terrify the public, mobilize the base, and vilify the opposition by portraying worse disasters sure to arise should cowardly, cut-and-run Democrats cause America to fail.

It should be easy for opponents of the war to refute this fear-mongering campaign with The Disastrous Consequences of Staying the Course. Though any such exertion comes hard to a divided party with its so-called moderates pulling in the opposite direction, the evidence showing the current campaign to be as illegitimate and self-deluding as the original pro-war campaign is overwhelming. But such a counterattack, though necessary, will not defeat the White House’s strategy by itself and could even play into its hands.

The reasons are simple. Like other Bush-Cheney ploys, this one is not designed to educate or persuade rationally but to arouse and exploit patriotic emotion. Any counterargument, however solidly grounded in logic and evidence, will be politically and emotionally distasteful to many voters. Moreover, Americans want not merely to be warned of impending disaster but also to be told how it can be averted. To Republican true believers, “Stay the course” still represents the answer, simplistic and delusional though it is, while the majority skeptical about this answer demand something positive in its place.