<\body> Stories in America: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Perpetuating the Cycle of Military Sexual Violence

This was written by Suzanne Swift's mom, Sara Rich:
172 days since Suzanne's "arrest" and the Army,
General Dubick and Colonel Miller specifically,
are bound and determined to ignore the fact that
their Sergeant sexually abused my daughter.
Instead, they are making her abuser's prophetic
words to my daughter a reality. "Swift, you look
like you are going to tell someone about what
happened between us. Nobody will believe you."

Suzanne believed him then -- and now she is
learning that he spoke from experience. Suzanne
was sexually abused in a combat zone in Iraq by
her squad leader, a Non Commissioned Officer who
took an OATH to protect the soldiers working
beneath him. By ignoring that fact, Dubick and
Miller give other sexual predators in the
military the green light. Their message is that
victims of sexual abuse in the military are
systematically punished and not believed, while
the perpetrators go free to abuse again.

Shame on them.

As I listen to story after story the same thing
comes up: the perpetrators use fear and
intimidation and tell the victim that no one will
believe them. Coerced sexual abuse in the
military is a monstrous epidemic and still the
lack of care and understanding shocks me.

Even though we know this is not a gender specific
occurrence, the majority of military sexual
violence is perpetrated against women. It is
literally true that women are not safe to serve
their country in the military. Especially while
command staff continues to "sweep under the
carpet" these victims' stories, both ignoring
their painful traumas and exacerbating their pain
and suffering by not believing them.

Suzanne's last few months have been a horrifying
roller coaster ride. She was charged with missing
a movement and for going absent without leave.
Since then her future has been more unclear than
ever. One day we are told she will be home by
Halloween -- the next that she is going to
prison. Then she was told there is a deal on the

A deal? Well, I was very skeptical of that.

The deal was that Suzanne stay in the military
for her remaining 19 months, no reduction in
rank, a summary court-martial, no assurance she
would not be re-deployed and here is the kicker,
Suzanne would sign a statement saying she was not
raped in Iraq.

I did not know about the statement until days
later when Suzanne called me very upset. Here was
my 22-year-old daughter making huge life
decisions and she was distressed. First she felt
that after all this struggle, that to stay in the
military would be too hard and scary, but she was
willing to do it until they told her about the

When she heard about it her immediate thought
was, "Here it goes, this is the part where the
abuse gets swept under the carpet." I asked her
what she wanted to do. She said she did not want
to sign it because it was not true and she was
not going to lie.

Once again, I say shame on the military for
re-victimizing this young soldier whom according
to her team leader, was the best soldier he had.
Further, her Major who said she acted admirably
in combat -- and Suzanne did see combat. She told
her little 10-year-old cousin when he asked her
about her time in Iraq that she was fired at more
times than she can remember.

I know my daughter better than anyone else in the
world. I know the good, the bad and the ugly. I
also know that it was her complete intention to
go on that January 2006 deployment to Iraq. She
sent some of her most precious possessions over
ahead with her Unit. The same Unit that divvied
up her belongings and left some of her childhood
treasures to the trash heap in Iraq.

I saw the look of terror and fear in her eyes
while she was standing in our kitchen trying to
say goodbye to me. Her fear and anxiety are real
and her stress levels increase daily as does her
depression. I trusted the system that they would
care for my daughter, not allowing my daughter to
be used and abused by seasoned predators in a
combat zone.

Then to only add to injury when she finally does
use the proper channels and makes a formal
complaint she is humiliated and treated like a
traitor for telling. Boys will be boys, they say.

Does anyone get this? Why in the world are our
federal elected officials not stopping this? Why
do my pleas for help fall on ears that seem
unable to hear me?

How is it that these commanders can go home at
night knowing that hundreds of women are
systematically abused by perpetrators, then
re-abused by the lack of care of the command?

I know my Grampa, who was a Colonel in the Army,
is turning in his grave by this thoughtless and
destructive manner in which General Dubick and
Colonel Miller are toying with my daughter's
mental health. She has been diagnosed with post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) twice now and
yet they continue to move forward with a court
martial and threat of prison time.

A more disturbing threat was brought to my
awareness a few weeks ago. A dear family friend
came to me in tears because she was so scared for
Suzanne's safety while she is in the Army. One of
her relatives had just returned from a tour in
Iraq. He was furious to find that she was friends
with "Suzanne Swift." He does not know Suzanne
personally but now he hates her and what she

He told our friend that while he was in Iraq he
was at a training, a sexual abuse "prevention"
training. In this training the trainer used
Suzanne's name, Suzanne Swift, and her case, as
an example of what little lying whores do to
"good soldiers." This second hand story scared me
to the very core.

If this is what is being taught to other
soldiers, especially in Iraq, I fear for
Suzanne's very life in the military. She has now
at least once been de-humanized and demonized by
others in the military and she is not safe. I
have been asked to find out names and get the
facts, but our family friend was scared to death
to tell us what she did. I could not ask her to
find out more and put herself at risk. Now we
have two demons that our soldiers hate in Iraq,
"hadjis" and "Suzanne Swift."

What is our world becoming where we not only
re-victimize but also demonize victims of a crime?

As we are now on this very long and very painful
journey, I travel around the country talking
about military sexual violence and how we must
change the system. I have met some incredible
people. One minute we think Suzanne will be free
in a few weeks, so I slow down and stop the
frantic fundraising. The next minute I hear we
are going to court-martial and I need to have
a substantial amount of money immediately or else.

I want to send out a huge appreciation to
everyone who has supported Suzanne with prayers,
thoughts, words, finances, action, and letters.
Please keep Suzanne's website set as your home
page so we can all remember to DO something
everyday: http://suzanneswift.org .

Take action by calling your Congressional
Representatives and Senators demanding a
significant change in the way military sexual
abuse survivors are treated. Ask if they know
about Suzanne's case, and what they are doing to
help her.

Call Ft. Lewis and ask for General Dubick and
Colonel Miller and ask them if they will bring
quick justice to Suzanne, so she can be free to
heal from the trauma she experienced fighting two
battles at once in Iraq. Phone numbers are on
Suzanne's website: http://suzanneswift.org .
Write to your paper's editorial board and ask
them to cover military sexual violence.

This year has been incredibly stressful on our
family. Despite it all we are blessed beyond
belief. I will continue to work tirelessly as an
advocate for my daughter, until I see her free of
this cruel system that punishes victims while
perpetrators are allowed to go free. I will not
rest until I see her free for the holidays so she
can be here when her sister, Sonja, who is due to
give birth on Christmas day, goes into labor and
is surrounded by her whole family to welcome our
new little miracle boy into the world.

Peace on Earth good will to men AND women... right?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Taliban are Brutally Killing Afghans for Teaching Girls

Another heartbreaking story about Afghanistan, a country we've completely abandoned:
The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces.

Babies Born with AIDS

A nurse lifts Natonon (R) past his older twin brother Natawut at the Phayathai orphanage in Bangkok November 29, 2006. The twins, born on November 10 to an HIV-positive mother in jail, are suspected of carrying the virus. Each day, 1800 children worldwide become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the vast majority of them newborn babies, according to the United Nations. (29 Nov 2006 REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

The Three-Member Board That Protested the Peace Wreath Resigns, Peace Signs Are Now All Over Town

It's a sad day in America, home of the free, when a couple who puts a peace wreath on their home is forced to defend themselves. Luckily, the board that said the wreath represented Satan and wanted to fine the couple came to their senses:
Peace is fighting back in Pagosa Springs.

Last week, a couple were threatened with fines of $25 a day by their homeowners’ association unless they removed a four-foot wreath shaped like a peace symbol from the front of their house.

The fines have been dropped, and the three-member board of the association has resigned, according to an e-mail message sent to residents on Monday.

Two board members have disconnected their telephones, apparently to escape the waves of callers asking what the board could have been thinking, residents said. The third board member, with a working phone, did not return a call for comment.

In its original letter to the couple, Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco, the association said some neighbors had found the peace symbol politically “divisive.”

A board member later told a newspaper that he thought the familiar circle with angled lines was also, perhaps, a sign of the devil.

The peace symbol came to prominence in the late 1950s as the logo for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a British antiwar group, according to the group’s Web site. It incorporates the semaphore flag images for the letters in the group’s name, a “D” atop an “N.”

Other people have said the upright line with arms angled down, commonplace in the United States in the Vietnam War, especially, has roots in the early Christian era, representing a twisted or broken cross.

Mr. Trimarco said he put up the wreath as a general symbol of peace on earth, not as a commentary on the Iraq war or another political statement.

In any case, there are now more peace symbols in Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 people 200 miles southwest of Denver, than probably ever in its history.

On Tuesday morning, 20 people marched through the center carrying peace signs and then stomped a giant peace sign in the snow perhaps 300 feet across on a soccer field, where it could be easily seen.

“There’s quite a few now in our subdivision in a show of support,” Mr. Trimarco said.

A former president of the Loma Linda community, where Mr. Trimarco lives, said Tuesday that he had stepped in to help form an interim homeowners’ association.

The former president, Farrell C. Trask, described himself in a telephone interview as a military veteran who would fight for anyone’s right to free speech, peace symbols included.

Town Manager Mark Garcia said Pagosa Springs was building its own peace wreath, too. Mr. Garcia said it would be finished by late Tuesday and installed on a bell tower in the center of town.

Why Ercilia Sandoval Took Her Wig Off

What a great article by Josh Harkinson, investigative reporter for Mother Jones. Be sure to listen to Ercilia Sandoval tell her story.
The Service Employees International Union this week won a tentative agreement for higher pay and health insurance for its new members in Houston, who have been locked in an acrimonious, monthlong strike at the city's largest cleaning companies. It's a major victory for the SEIU, which set out last year to organize part-time, often undocumented Hispanic workers in a region of the country that hasn't typically embraced organized labor. Houston is likely to become a model for the union's efforts in other Southern cities: Beyond using the same quiet educational efforts, noisy protests, and hardball negotiating, organizers are sure to be on the lookout for another Ercilia Sandoval.

Rosy-cheeked, clad in a wig and a leopard-print headband, and suffering from laryngitis that had reduced her voice to a whisper, Sandoval met with me in her small apartment last month, sitting down at a table beneath a print of the Last Supper. She told a story of leaving three of her children in San Miguel, El Salvador, 10 years ago to pursue an illusory American Dream. "I promised them that, at most, I would be gone a year," she whispered, "and then I would bring them here." To this day she hasn't seen them. Instead, she has struggled to make ends meet laboring for a tortilla factory, then an Episcopal church, and finally a major janitorial contractor working in downtown skyscrapers — one of five companies targeted by the SEIU. Preoccupied with sending money to her family, she might have never involved herself in the union's struggle if she hadn't decided she had nothing to lose.

Last September Sandoval began feeling worn out on the job. She scrubbed bathroom fixtures through headaches and fevers, emptied trash cans with sore arms and a tight back. Lacking health insurance, she couldn't afford to see a doctor. Nearly a year passed before she forked over $200 for a consultation. A mammogram confirmed her worst fears: She suffered from advanced-stage breast cancer. Yet hospitals in Houston wouldn't treat her because she was uninsured. She waited two months to be approved for state disability coverage. In June, doctors finally began chemotherapy treatments but say she probably has only a few months to live.

Just as her cancer was spreading, she met an SEIU organizer at her Episcopal church who was looking for janitors. The organizer found in Sandoval someone eager to harness her outrage and despair. "Some of the workers were afraid," Sandoval says, "but often I said, 'Afraid of what? We are not going to lose a good job. We are not going to lose a good salary — we don't have benefits, we don't have anything.'" As Sandoval's health deteriorated, her resolve strengthened. In September, she accepted a spot alongside the SEIU top brass at the negotiating table. Her job: to persuade the cleaning companies to provide her and 5,300 fellow janitors with health insurance in the union's first contract.

On the day of the negotiations, Sandoval was the last person to talk. She feared she'd be just another person asking for something. She stepped into the bathroom to steel her nerves. Returning to the conference room, she asked the executives and lawyers if they were looking at her. "And I looked them all in their eyes," she says. "I assured myself that they were all looking at me. And I took off my wig."

Sandoval saw a group of men who were shocked. "Some were crying. Others sat with their mouths open. Other ones just couldn't even blink their eyes.

"And that," she adds, "is what I wanted."

Sandoval's display was only the beginning of a battle this fall that led to the strike, solidarity protests around the country, and ads featuring her bald visage. But it was clearly a defining moment for the movement, and for Sandoval. "I'm not just fighting for me," she told me. "I'm fighting for everyone. Because why not rise up? Why not try?"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Life is Like in Iraq for Professors

These stories are heartbreaking. Please take the time to read the entire article:
Violence and lawlessness in Iraq is "dismantling" the country's higher education system and creating a climate of terror on campuses, according to Iraqi professors who attended the Middle East Studies Association's conference Sunday.

"The students are disappointed in America and they say it now openly, even on the television: 'Bring back Saddam and we will apologize and he will restore order to the country,'" said Dr. Saad Jawad, professor of political science at Baghdad University.

The professors spoke on one of dozens of panels throughout the three-day conference, which featured Middle East scholars from the United States and around the world.

Speaking to a crowded conference room, the Iraqi professors' bleak picture of a life under siege brought some in the audience to tears. Since the U.S. invasion in 2003, they said, thousands of Iraqi professors have fled the country. More than 200 have been assassinated and the rest live in fear of saying anything that might offend any number of groups, all suspected of murder and mayhem in Iraq. When asked who was behind the killings, the professors' list was long: Sunnis, Shias, radical Islamists, Americans, Iranians, Israelis, Kuwaitis.

"The problems in Iraq are bigger than I can express," said Dr. Taher Al Bakaa, the former minister of higher education in Iraq, now a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Hundreds of scholars have applied to come to the United States, but only a small percentage are accepted, according to the Scholars at Risk Network, a group that helps threatened professors.

Conference organizer Dr. Dina Rizk Khoury, associate professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University, says the panel was one of the weekend's most critical. Talking about Baghdad University, she calls the situation in Iraq a "systematic attempt to dismantle what was once the premier institute of higher education in the Arab world." Khoury says academic freedom in the country has fallen victim to anarchy.

Jawad, who had arrived in Boston three days earlier, said his classes are cancelled so frequently, he has taught only twice since the semester began in October. When not working, he rarely leaves his house. He said a death threat posted on his office door makes him afraid to go outside with his family in case an attempt is made on his life. Earlier in the month, his colleague, Jassim al-Asadi, dean of administration and economics at Baghdad University, was gunned down with his family in their car. Many of Jawad's students have had relatives and friends killed, including one young male doctoral student whose father was gunned down in his doorway.

"Nobody knows the reason," Jawad said. "I am depressed."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Nicaragua's Abortion Law Threatens Lives

Latin America has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. If anti-choice U.S. Senators like Sam Brownback from Oklahoma had their way, we wouldn't be far behind.

Rosa Argentina Rodríguez Bojorge (center rear) is caring for her grandson Lester Antonio Telles Bojorge, 3, whose mother died from pregnancy complications this month. The family believes doctors delayed treatment because of an anti-abortion law. (Dermot Tatlow for the Boston Globe)
Doctors and women's groups are warning that Nicaragua's ban on all abortions -- even to save the mother -- will endanger the lives of thousands of women every year.

With the new law, which imposes prison sentences of up to eight years for women and doctors , Nicaragua joins El Salvador and Chile as having the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Latin America and among the toughest in the world.

In El Salvador, women who develop ectopic pregnancies -- when a fertilized egg gets stuck in a fallopian tube, giving it no chance of survival -- are kept under guard in a hospital. A prosecutor must certify that the embryo has died or the woman's tube has ruptured before doctors can intervene.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Conservatives Believe Peace Sign = Satan

A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti- Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

16,000 Single Moms Serving in Iraq

Click here to read this important story by the Washington Post's Donna St. George:
When war started in Iraq, a generation of U.S. women became involved as never before-- in a wider-than-ever array of jobs, for long deployments, in a conflict with daily bloodshed. More than 155,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among their ranks are more than 16,000 single mothers, according to the Pentagon, a number that military experts say is unprecedented.

How these women have coped and how their children are managing have gone little-noticed as the war stretches across a fourth year.

"It has to be one of the hardest things that a mom and her children have to go through," said Steven Mintz, a University of Houston professor with an expertise in family life. "You can't cuddle a young child over the phone, and you can't cuddle a child through e-mail."

In the military, parental status is not a barrier to serving in a war. All deploy when the call comes -- single mothers, single fathers, married couples -- relying on a "family-care plan" that designates a caregiver for children when parents are gone.

The thinking is that a soldier is a soldier. "Everyone trains to a standard of readiness and must be able to be mobilized," said Lt. Col. Mike Milord of the National Guard Bureau.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Adopt a Turkey!

Lucy the Turkey is asking you to adopt her, rather than eat her. This is from Farm Sanctuary. If you ever get a chance, check out the farm and be sure to hug Lucy...
Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary's annual Adopt-A-Turkey Project has rescued over one thousand turkeys from a thankless fate at the dinner table and given thousands of people an opportunity to adopt a turkey for the holidays.

Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey Project offers two ways for people to adopt turkeys this Thanksgiving holiday:

1. Sponsor "adopt" a turkey who lives at Farm Sanctuary's Watkins Glen, New York or Orland, California shelter for farm animals. For a one-time $20 adoption fee, adopters receive a color photograph of their turkey, an adoption certificate and a year subscription to Farm Sanctuary's quarterly newsletter. The adoption fee provides funds for feed, bedding and veterinary care for the turkeys. Please call 607-583-2225 or click here to adopt a turkey who lives at Farm Sanctuary.

2. Home adopt and provide a safe, permanent and loving home for two or more turkeys. Home adopters must be vegetarian or vegan, and committed to providing lifelong care for their turkey friends. Individuals interested in home adoptions must complete an adoption application. Approved adopters will be placed on a schedule to have their turkey companions personally delivered by Farm Sanctuary staff on the Turkey Express.

Every year, more people are choosing to celebrate a compassionate Thanksgiving for ALL, by saving a turkey!

The Adopt-A-Turkey Project is a program of Farm Sanctuary, the nation's largest farm animal rescue and protection organization.

The Truth Behind Thanksgiving

Like most Americans, I'm planning to enjoy a nice meal with my family today and I've promised my mom to refrain from talking about politics or the origins of Thanksgiving, so I'll post it instead:
Thanksgiving is a lie. Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

There's no more truth to the Hallmark moment of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast of squash, corn and turkey than there is to Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag. No definitive historical evidence exists to prove either patriotic legend. According to my favorite history text, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, it was all manufactured to create a feel-good beginning for this country.

Thanksgiving wasn't invented by the Pilgrims. By the time the Mayflower pulled up at Plymouth Rock in 1620, Native Americans in that part of the country already had a rich tradition of marking the fall harvest with a major fiesta. The day wasn't recognized nationally until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday. He had an entirely different motive than honoring the Pilgrims: Morale during the bloody Civil War. America needed a warm fuzzy holiday to make it feel good about itself again.

The Pilgrims were latecomers to the legend, not getting added to the mix until the 1890s.

Of course, some major revisions had to be done to make heroes of those guys. The truth is: When the Pilgrims arrived on the coast of Massachusetts, they found a deserted Native American settlement. Unburied human bodies were scattered everywhere. The survivors had vanished. The villagers had been wiped out by a plague, brought to the "new world" years before by the Europeans. The immune system of the native peoples had no defense against those diseases. Many in Europe couldn't be happier.

Good Christian that he was, King James of England called the death of millions of Native Americans "this wonderful plague." He thanked God for sending it. Other preachers of the day echoed this same sentiment. They believed that God had aided the conquest of the new land by sending disease to ravage the native populations, so that the English could have it. How convenient for them that God was on their side.

The Pilgrims, who were ill-equipped to survive in the harsh environment they found themselves in, immediately took advantage of the situation. They proceeded to rob food (including corn and squash) and pottery from the deserted Native village. They also stole from Indian graves. Within about 50 years of arriving, they had slaughtered most of the native population in the area that wasn't already killed by the plague.

Not the touchy-feelie story you'll see on TV this week.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Remembering Iraqi Women on Thanksgiving

From Code Pink:
As we gather with our families and friends this Thanksgiving, let us take a moment to acknowledge how much we truly have to be thankful for. Love, health, an abundance of food on the table, a brand new Congress--all are worth cherishing and celebrating. At the same time, let's not forget how lucky we are to have our basic needs met--clean water, electricity, access to medicine and education. Let's remember that our sisters in Iraq are not always so fortunate.

In March, 2006, CODEPINK organized and sponsored a delegation of Iraqi women--women from all walks of life, from many of the religious and ethnic groups in that country--to come share their stories with the American public, to tell us what it's like to walk in their shoes. Dr. Rashad Zidan, a pharmacist and mother of four, was part of this delegation. Horrified by the devastation wrought by the war, Rashad founded the Knowledge for Iraqi Women Society to, in her words, "relieve the suffering of Iraqi women by providing financial, occupational, medical, and educational resources." K4IWS currently has 70 staff and more than 300 volunteers throughout Iraq.

In a recent note to CODEPINK's Gael Murphy, Rashad writes:

You know Gael, before the war I was having my simple life with my family. I was having just humble wishes to educate my children, to see them married, to see my grandchildren. I wanted to help poor people and to take care of my parents. You know all these things evaporated with this war.

I pray every day to God to keep my children alive. Education and marriage are now luxuries. And even when we do go to school or get married, it is colorless, as is everything in our lives. I am thinking day and night about those poor widows and orphans that were created by Bush's bringing his democracy to our country and I am doing my best to help them. (click to read the entire letter)


You can read learn more of her story in this interview, which includes these wise words: "In these last three years, the U. S. has just listened to its own voice, but I think it is time to listen to authentic Iraqi voices. If you listen to the people who are in the midst of the conflict, they will help you better understand how to end the violence and suffering because they have firsthand knowledge and experience."

This Thanksgiving as we count our blessings, let's also remember to listen to Iraqi voices like Rashad's, and acknowledge the suffering of the Iraqi people under US occupation, a horrible repetition of the aggression and violence that marked the first Thanksgiving. Let's use this time of gratitude to pledge anew to work for peace.

Empty Chairs at the Holiday Tables of Military Families


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

US Lags Behind in Gender Gap Study

Before we continue 'spreading' women's rights around the world, maybe we should take a look at what's happening in our own backyards:
The US lags at 22nd place behind developed and even a couple of developing countries in a study of inequality between men and women, mainly because it has few women in politics. This is in spite of the ascent of Nancy Pelosi who is set to become the first woman to head the US House of Representatives.

Sweden is the only country where men and women form equal numbers among all ministers and parliamentarians. Cherie Booth, a human rights barrister and wife of Tony Blair, UK prime minister, said there were more women in parliament in Iraq and Afghanistan – two countries not covered by the report – than in the UK.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Legal System Still Works: Bu$h Fundraiser Gets 18 Years in Prison

Will future Pioneers learn from Tom Noe's mistake?
Tom Noe, the GOP fund-raiser at the heart of Ohio's biggest political scandal in a generation, was sentenced today to 27 months in a federal prison for illegally funneling money into President Bush's re-election campaign.

U.S. District Court Judge David Katz also ordered Noe to pay $136,200 in fines for sending more than $45,000 into a 2003 Bush fund-raiser by using two dozen friends and associates -- including several current and former local Republican elected officials -- in violation of federal election laws.

Noe, 52, remains free on bond until the conclusion of his trial next month on 46 felony counts in state court related to allegations that he stole millions from a $50 million rare-coin fund that he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Noe, a former Maumee rare-coin dealer whose large donations made him a powerful political figure, apologized in court for the scheme to give friends money to donate to Bush to fulfill his promise to generate $50,000 for a presidential fund-raiser.

Noe said he arranged the scheme because "in 2003 I was pressured by Bush-Cheney officials to become a Pioneer," a name the campaign gives to people who raise $100,000.

Is it That Difficult to Find Women Pundits?

White men who know so little about so much still dominate the airwaves. I didn't have time to write about election night coverage, but EVERY cable channel was dominated by white men. It's truly pathetic.

Migrant Women Clean American Homes for Slave Wages

The American Dream = 15 hours of hard labor per day for $125 per week. This piece is by Reuters reporter Tim Gaynor:
For Mexican housemaid Estela, the day began before dawn feeding and changing the six-month-old baby of her American 'patrona' or boss in a Los Angeles suburb.

After making breakfast for her employer's other four children, she would walk them to school and then set about scrubbing and cleaning the house before finally finishing her chores more than 15 hours later -- all for $125 a week.

The 34-year-old from Oaxaca state is among thousands of Hispanic illegal immigrants for whom scrubbing, mopping and dusting in private homes is the first, and for many, the only, job open to them in the United States.

Immigrants' rights groups say as many as 900,000 female illegal immigrants work as maids in the country, where some 10 to 12 million undocumented workers live in the shadows.

They are hired by private employers and labor agencies despite not having visas or social security cards.

Millions more work as store, office and restaurant cleaners throughout the country.

They face an array of problems including long hours, low pay, intimidation and even sexual harassment as they toil in a hidden workplace where the employers make up the rules.

"It was like one of those fairy tales where you have endless tasks to do, only this was real," said Estela, who is no-longer a live in maid but rather does freelance cleaning, which she says gives her more control over her life.

"I put up with it because I had just arrived in the United States and I didn't know a soul," she added.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Watch Al-Jazeera English

here. American 'pundits' sure have a lot to say about Al-Jazeera English even though they can't watch it. Funny how that works.

The top stories of their 7:00 p.m. newshour: Israel's continued strikes on Gaza and the ongoing bloodshed in Darfur. I'm sure our liberal media will catch up soon. They also profiled Arik Ascherman, a rabbi who tries to stop Israeli settlers from shooting Palestinians.

Afghan Women Continue to Burn Themselves to Death

"I'm Laura Bush, and I'm delivering this week's radio address to kick off a world-wide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the al-Qaida terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban. That regime is now in retreat across much of the country, and the people of Afghanistan -- especially women -- are rejoicing."
-Laura Bush, November 17, 2001
Blood dripped down the 16-year-old girl’s face after another beating by her drug addict husband. Worn down by life’s pain, she ran to the kitchen, doused herself with gas from a lamp and struck a match.

Desperate to escape domestic violence, forced marriage and hardship, scores of women across Afghanistan each year are committing suicide by fire. While some gains have been made since the fall of the Taliban five years ago, life remains bleak for many Afghan women in the conservative and violence-plagued country, and suicide is a common escape.

Young Gulsum survived to tell her story. Her pretty face and delicate feet were untouched by the flames, but beneath her red turtleneck sweater, floral skirt and white shawl, her skin is puffy and scarred.

Reliable statistics on self-immolation nationwide are difficult to gauge. In Herat province, where the practice has been most reported and publicized, there were 93 cases last year and 54 so far this year. More than 70 percent of these women die.

“It’s all over the country. The trend is upward,” said Ancil Adrian-Paul of Medica Mondiale, a nonprofit that supports women and girls in crisis zones.

What Do You Get When You Vote for Bush?

Another freak obsessed with controlling women's bodies:
He's a favorite guest speaker at meetings of the National Right to Life Committee. He's on the medical advisory council for the notorious Leslee Unruh's National Abstinence Clearinghouse, whence he expounds on such topics as the physical and emotional consequences of premarital sex.

He teaches that there is a physiological cause for relationship failure and sexual promiscuity -- a hormonal cause-and-effect that can only be short-circuited by sexual abstinence until marriage.
He's the full-time medical director for A Woman's Concern, a chain of Boston area crisis pregnancy centers, where he spreads all the usual lies about abortion and uses ultrasound scans as a tool to influence the decisions of women who might be considering abortion.

He was one of the "experts" who determined that federally funded abstinence education programs must mention contraceptives only in relation to their failure rates and promote abstinence until marriage.

Now, in what has been characterized as a "stealth" appointment by the Bush administration, we hear that Dr. Eric Keroack is set to assume a new post as the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. The DASPA oversees a number of Health and Human Services programs, including the Office of Family Planning.

Keroack works his heart out for the Christian right. And it appears that, as of Monday morning, he'll be working for us, too.

Last June, Keroack was a featured speaker at the 10th Annual International Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City, where he provided his somewhat unorthodox insights into the role of hormones in relationship failure.

Oxytocin is a hormone whose actions are associated with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and maternal-infant bonding -- and, according to Keroack, it's the tie that binds in marriage, as well. People don't fall in love, but into hormonal bondage. Therefore, the most important rationale for sexual abstinence isn't faith-based at all, but purely physiological. Unfaithful men and promiscuous women are created by misuse of the "emotional glue" of attraction, an abuse leading to a "perpetual cycle of misery."

In his presentation at the 10th Annual Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City earlier this month, Dr. Eric Keroack ... explained that oxytocin is released during positive social interaction, massage, hugs, "trust" encounters, and sexual intercourse. "It promotes bonding by reducing fear and anxiety in social settings, increasing trust and trustworthiness, reducing stress and pain, and decreasing social aggression," he said.

Vets for Peace Holiday Card

A beautiful card to send to your pro-war friends and family.
Inside Left of card reads: Christmas Truce World War I combatants, during the 1914 holiday season, entrenched along the 500 mile front stretching from the Belgium coast to the Swiss border, overcame their conditioning to hate, loathe and kill one another, dropped their weapons, entered noman's land between their respective lines and, in spite of commanding officers' threats to charge those who would fraternize with the enemy with treason and send them to the firing squad, extended the hand of peace and goodwill. Mortal enemies became friends for a time. They played soccer, decorated Christmas trees, exchanged gifts, sang carols in their respective languages and, before being forced back behind their front lines by their officers, promised that when the shooting started again that they would fire high, harmlessly into the air. This spontaneous effort of the lower ranks to create a peace may have blossomed if it were not for the interference of their politicians and generals.

The Christmas Truce remains a moving manifestation of the absurdities of war.

"I like to think that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that the people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, US President

Back of card reads: Veterans For Peace includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations, many of whom served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. We draw on our personal experiences and perspectives gained as veterans to raise public awareness of the true costs and consequences of militarism and war - and to seek peaceful, effective alternatives. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent.

The artwork for this card was designed and donated by Tara McNeish, a Fine Art major at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dirty Water Kills 5,000 Children EVERY DAY

Another uplifting story for you to read before you sip a glass of clean water:
Nearly two million children a year die for want of clean water and proper sanitation while the world's poor often pay more for their water than people in Britain or the US, according to a major new report.

The United Nations Development Programme, in its annual Human Development report, argues that 1.1 billion people do not have safe water and 2.6 billion suffer from inadequate sewerage. This is not because of water scarcity but poverty, inequality and government failure.

The report urges governments to guarantee that each person has at least 20 litres of clean water a day, regardless of wealth, location, gender or ethnicity. If water was free to the poor, it adds, it could trigger the next leap forward in human development.

Many sub-Saharan Africans get less than 20 litres of water a day and two-thirds have no proper toilets. By contrast, the average Briton uses 150 litres a day while Americans are the world's most profligate, using 600 litres a day. Phoenix, Arizona, uses 1,000 litres per person on average - 100 times as much as Mozambique.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Innocent Turk Describes How Americans Tortured Him at Guantanamo

Why do they hate us?
Murat Kurnaz, 24, who was released in August because of lack of evidence that he was involved in terrorist activities, said he endured many types of torture.

"From electric shocks to having one's head submerged in water, (subjection to) hunger and thirst, or being shackled and suspended," Kurnaz said, listing the alleged abuses he faced while a detainee at Camp X-Ray in Cuba.

A burly man with long reddish hair and a thick beard stretching down to his belly, Kurnaz spoke without emotion to CNN Turk television from his home in Bremen, northern Germany.

"They tell you 'you are from Al-Qaeda' and when you say 'no' they give the (electric) current to your feet.... As you keep saying 'no' this goes on for two or three hours," he said, adding he had several times lost consciousness," Kurnaz said.

He claimed he was once shackled to a ceiling for "four or five days."

"They take you down in the mornings when a doctor comes to see whether you can endure more," he said. "They let you sit when the interrogator comes.... They take you down about three times a day so you do not die."

Kurnaz also alleged prisoners were locked up in cells into which frigid or hot air was pumped.

"I saw several people die," he said. "Sometimes I thought I could no longer stand it and would also die."

He claimed he was once left without food for 20 days and spoke of psychological abuse, including "religious insults" such as the Koran being kicked on the ground.

U.S. Soldier Admits Killing Iraqi Family After Raping 14-Year-Old Girl

An Iraqi ID card issued in 1993 to Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. Photograph: Reuters

An American soldier yesterday pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of three members of her family in a village near Baghdad in March in one of the most brutal examples of attacks on civilians in Iraq.

The soldier, Specialist James Barker, also agreed to testify against three other accused soldiers. He agreed to the plea in return for a guarantee that he would not face the death penalty, his lawyers said.

The murders took place on March 12 in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Prosecutors allege that five soldiers stationed at a checkpoint there raped the girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, then burned her body to hide the evidence, and killed her father, mother and six-year-old sister.

The alleged ringleader, Private Steven Green, was discharged from the army in May for a "personality disorder" before the crime came to light. He is being tried as a civilian in a federal court in Kentucky, and has pleaded not guilty to charges including murder and sexual assault.

The other defendants are still serving in the 101st Airborne Division and are being tried by court martial.

Specialist Barker has told investigators that the soldiers had drunk whiskey and played cards while plotting the attack on the family, and that he, Pte Green and another soldier, Sergeant Paul Cortez, had taken turns in raping the girl. He said Pte Green had shot her and her family.

Veterans Suffer in Lonely Silence

Support the Troops. Give Them Healthcare and Desperately Needed Counseling.

This column is by William Collins:
You might expect that veterans, especially afflicted ones, would be the most honored and best cared for members of society. They sacrificed while many citizens merely applauded.

Well, forget it.

Though the feds have spent millions of dollars and the press has devoted thousands of inches to the new Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C., neither shows similar concern for our needy ex-combatants. Indeed the fundamental policy of the military toward its wounded is to get them out of the service as fast as possible.

As soldiers, they're entitled to the best rehabilitative care and maintenance, all from the Pentagon budget. As vets, they get shifted over to the Veterans Administration (VA) budget, a much more haphazard affair.

Connecticut offers a telling example. After heavy lobbying, the VA finally sprang for $25 million for a new 125-bed nursing home in Rocky Hill. The state is putting up an additional $8.7 million and you can be sure it's really needed. The facility being replaced was built before World War II, with precious few improvements since. For instance, it has no central air conditioning or piped oxygen.

One serious problem is that Rocky Hill is state-owned, so it is subject to state budgetary whims as well as federal ones. A two-time loser. And now with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are more wounded than ever. Fortunately modern techniques have kept them alive to return to their next health battlefield. But in that war with bureaucracy, they must fight alone.

Part of the problem is the system. Long ago the feds decided to keep costs down by setting up their own hospital and care structure, rather than paying local hospitals to treat vets. It was a mixed blessing, though doubtless it saves a lot of bucks. Many sufferers of persistent wounds lavish praise on the VA for its sensitive treatment. These folks tend to live near one of its hospitals.

Inconvenient, poorly staffed

Others curse it for its inconvenient locations and for the endless hurdles that strew the path of qualifying for care. In addition, thousands of other vets, physically sound, stew over the new mental disorders they have brought home from the front. The VA is not staffed to handle this flood of PTSD or other maladies, and there is little enthusiasm to increase its budget to catch up.

Murkier still is the Gulf War Syndrome mess. Countless vets from Gulf I and II have developed grievous symptoms that their advocates attribute to poison gas, depleted uranium, oil well fires, and other toxic airborne chemicals. Research has proven ambiguous, with the government plainly not interested in exposing itself to further expensive claims.

The contrast between this reception and that of 9/11 victims is striking. Politically, it is useful for the White House to play up the losses from the New York tragedy. Hence surviving spouses there receive over $1 million on average in compensation. But surviving military spouses get only $12,000. Likewise the press is full of reports on the hazards of toxic air to the heroic rescue and clean-up workers. But the hazards of toxic air to our soldiers in Iraq are pooh-poohed.

This is at least partly because we perceive ourselves as victims of the one event, perpetrators of the other.

Politics causes other indignities for our heroes too. Large numbers of dead and wounded GIs regularly return to our shores, but the press is barred from photographing them. Their heroism must await recognition from the local newspaper back home. Plainly the proponents of the war fear the depiction of body bags, coffins, or maimed service men and women. (Those who return as vegetables are never even mentioned.) Casualties must be as invisible as possible, lest they become a rallying cry for anti-war forces. That's what doomed the war in Vietnam.

Thus are our troubled veterans again consigned to the shadows of society to suffer in lonely silence.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

American Woman Survived Iraq - Then Shot Herself at Home

This is the reality of war. Please read the entire article by the Times Union's Kate Gurnett:
Last month, Jeanne "Linda" Michel came home from Iraq. Back in the suburbs, she tried to feel normal.

She'd been homesick for months. She couldn't wait to see her kids, ages 11, 5 and 4. Between her husband's deployment and her own, the children had been with just one parent for nearly three years.

She was 33, with a bright smile and stubborn determination. Reuniting should be easy. In another month, she'd be discharged from the Navy after five years of service.

"She had come through a lot and she had always risen to challenges," her husband, Frantz Michel, said last week.
What her family didn't see, and what she herself may not have realized, was the enormity of what she faced.

Camp Bucca, the U.S.-run military prison where Michel was stationed, was investigated after a female mud-wrestling match was staged there.

Two weeks after she got home to Clifton Park, Linda Michel shot herself to death, stunning her colleagues and family.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On This Day in 1916 - Margaret Sanger Was Arrested for Disseminating Birth Control Information

On November 14, 1916, Margaret Sanger was arrested for disseminating birth control information at her Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn; she was arrested again two days later for the same reason. The police shut down the clinic within 10 days.

Top Marine: Guess What? We Had No Plan for Post-Saddam

As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocent people are dead.
There is no one on the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has visited Iraq more often than Gen. Mike Hagee, whose term as Commandant of the United States Marine Corps ends Monday. Hagee took over the Marine Corps just two months before the invasion of Iraq -- and throughout his years as Commandant, he made a point of going there every two months to do a firsthand assessment of the battlefield.

I spoke exclusively with the general about conditions in Iraq. You can listen to an extended portion of that interview here (video).

As Commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force during the lead-up to the war, Hagee was in charge of planning for the Marines' original push to Baghdad. So I asked him about one of the enduring mysteries of the invasion — why there was no real plan for running the country once Saddam Hussein fell from power.

Unfortunately, Hagee's comments only deepen the mystery. He says he was deeply concerned about who would take charge of major Iraqi cities, like Najaf, as the Marines pushed through them on their way to Baghdad.

Hagee says he asked his boss again and again who would take charge of those cities. He wanted to know what the plan was for Phase IV -- military terminology for the phase that follows the end of major combat operations. Phase IV is, in other words, what comes after "mission accomplished." Hagee says that he sent his questions up the chain of command, as they say in the military -- and never heard back.

Hagee is being succeeded by Gen. James Conway, who has his own history in Iraq. By now, virtually every senior combat arms officer in the Army and the Marines has a history in Iraq. Conway led the Marines into Baghdad and later commanded the first, ill-fated attempt to retake Fallujah from the insurgents.

The way the military is organized, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, as well as all the other service chiefs, does not command any of the troops in the field. That is the job of the so-called "combatant commanders," people like Gen. George Casey in Iraq.

Conway is responsible for recruiting, training and equipping the Marines who go to Iraq or any other battlefield. If the Marines don't have proper body armor or are missing their recruiting goals, that's Conway's problem. If the Marines are unable to suppress the insurgency in al Anbar province, that's Casey's problem. In a war like the one in Iraq, there are more than enough problems to go around.

Democrats to Expose War Profiteering and Corruption

The Republicans wasted an entire year investigating a blowjob; the Democrats should immediately begin investigating war profiteering and corruption:
Congressional Democrats say they will press new legislation next week to restore the power of a federal agency in charge of ferreting out waste and corruption in Iraq and greatly increase its investigative reach.

The bills, the first of what are likely to be dozens of Democratic efforts to resurrect investigations of war profiteering and financial fraud in government contracting, could be introduced as early as Monday morning.

The move would nullify a Republican-backed provision, slipped into a huge military authorization bill, that set a termination date for the agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The agency’s findings have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Oversight, the power wielded by Congressional committees to demand information and internal documents and to haul executive branch officials to hearings, by subpoena if necessary, is reverberating through Congress as a Democratic battle cry.

“The unilateral decision made by House Republicans to shut down this critical office should be reversed immediately,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is poised to become the majority leader.

The House version of the bill will be introduced by Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat likely to take over as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a member of Mr. Skelton’s staff said Friday. Mr. Skelton also said he would resurrect a subcommittee on oversight and investigations that was jettisoned by Republicans to investigate military spending.

Monday, November 13, 2006

This Week's Radio Show

Here's what's on this week's radio show:

Monday: A Conversation with Iraq Veterans

Tuesday: Are "Gang Free Zones" the Best Way to Prevent Gang Violence? Do They Even Work?
(Guests include someone from the city attorney's office and a former Crips gang member)

Wednesday: A Conversation with the New Yorker Editor David Remnick and Political Commentator Hendrik Hertzberg

Thursday: Book Show - What Are You Reading?

Friday: Roundtable Discussion - How Did the Media Cover the Week's News?

Tune in from 10:00-11:00 am PST on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco or online. All shows are archived.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pissed Off Person Attacks Bush's Head, Others Pinch His Nose

Why do they hate him so much??
President Bush's wax likeness is taking a thumpin' these days at Madame Tussaud's celebrity waxworks in Las Vegas.

Bush's head suffered about $25,000 in damages when a Madame Tussaud's visitor attacked it the day before last week's elections.

"No one's pushed one over before," said Jack Taylor, spokesman for the tourist attraction.

Bush has needed repairs a number of times, mostly from having his nose pinched, Taylor added.

"This was the most damage" to one of the wax figures, he said. "People are always touching them, but this was pretty rare."

The wax creations, ranging from John F. Kennedy to George Clooney to porn star Jenna Jameson, cost between $200,000 and $250,000 to produce.

The back of Bush's head was damaged in the fall, "but he's been back on his feet for several days now," Taylor said.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Green Festival in San Francisco

I'll be broadcasting live from today's Green Festival in San Francisco from noon - 2:00. Guests include Native American activist and spoken word performer John Trudell, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, and environmentalist David Suzuki.

I'm sure the mood will be much better than it was in 2004.

Tune if you can.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Meet Your Meat

This is the video the meat industry doesn't want you to see, especially as millions of Americans add turkeys to their food lists. The video is brutal.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Number of Women in Politics is Finally Increasing

We're still far behind other countries, but at least the numbers are increasing. This is from the National Women's Law Center:
The 110th Congress will include record numbers of women - at a minimum 86 women will come to Washington in January, 2007 to serve as Senators or members of the House of Representatives. For the first time in American history, the House of Representatives is poised to be led by a woman Speaker of the House Representatives, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. In the House, at least 57 women incumbents were re-elected (42 Democrats and 15 Republicans), and of the new members elected to Congress, at least ten are women (8 Democrats and 2 Republicans). Of the races that remain undecided at this time, three races feature women as both the incumbent and challenger, and one race features women challengers.

The 110th Congress will also have the greatest number of women Senators of any Congress - 16 women (11 Democrats and 5 Republicans). All six incumbent women who were running for re-election are returning, and of the ten new Senators, two are women: Amy Klobuchar, D-MN and Claire McCaskill, D-MO.

One important characteristic many new House members, both male and female, share is that just over half of them have never served in a statewide legislative body. With so many new House members, and so many of those without prior legislative experience, there will be many members who will especially benefit from outreach and education on public policy issues that matter to women.

Some Key Ballot Initiatives
A number of state ballot initiatives also were presented for voter consideration on Election Day, and many that were of particular importance to women - including increasing the minimum wage, expanding access to child care and early education, guaranteeing minimum days of paid sick leave, imposing oppressive caps on spending, and imposing harsh restrictions on access to reproductive health services - were decided with a positive result for women. However, proponents of affirmative action policies were dealt a heavy defeat in Michigan.

Voters in Arizona and Nebraska approved ballot measures to expand funding for early care and education programs, while Massachusetts voters rejected a measure to allow some child care providers to bargain collectively with state agencies about issues related to child care services under the state's child care assistance program. The Arizona measure increases cigarette taxes by eighty cents to fund a range of early childhood measures, including improving pre-school quality. The Nebraska initiative amends the state constitution to create a public-private partnership to establish an early childhood education endowment. The annual interest on the endowment, approximately $3 million annually, will be used to fund early learning programs for children from birth to age three. Meanwhile, a local initiative in Denver to increase sales taxes to raise funds for preschool appears to have passed narrowly, but as yet remains undecided.

Voters in three states rejected harmful ballot initiatives that threatened the health of women and girls. South Dakota's proposed ban on virtually all abortions - with no exceptions for abortions even for rape, incest, or to protect the health of the woman - was rejected 56-44%. Voters in California and Oregon rejected initiatives that would have put the health and safety of teenagers in danger by requiring them to notify a parent before securing abortion services. In both states, the initiatives failed by 54-46%.

Voters in 6 states - Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio - considered ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in those states by as little as $1 and as much as $1.70 per hour. All six ballot measures passed, in most states with overwhelming support. These initiatives indicate that there is support for increasing the federal minimum wage (currently $5.15 per hour), which the presumptive Democratic leadership of the House and Senate have indicated will be a priority to enact in the 110th Congress. The federal minimum wage has not been increased in ten years and the buying power of the federal minimum wage is at its lowest level in 51 years. Two-thirds of workers over age 16 who work at or below the minimum wage are women.

San Francisco voters approved a first-of-its-kind ballot measure guaranteeing all workers in San Francisco the right to a certain amount of paid sick leave to care for themselves, their families and their partners. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees would have to provide 5 days of leave; businesses with more than 10 employees would have to provide 9 days.

Three states - Maine, Nebraska, and Oregon - rejected dangerous ballot initiatives that would tightly cap state spending, put the squeeze on state budgets year after year, and force cuts in services vital to women and their families, also known as TABOR initiatives or Taxpayers Bill of Rights. After rejecting a similar measure two years ago, Maine voters again turned down TABOR, and Nebraska and Oregon voters also rejected the measures.

However, Michigan voters dealt women and girls a setback when they approved an anti-affirmative action ballot initiative. The initiative bans affirmative action in public education, employment and contracting throughout the state of Michigan, jeopardizes the ability of publicly funded universities in the state to attract and maintain diverse student populations, and threatens scholarships and financial aid for women and minorities. Sponsors of the anti-affirmative action initiative promise to bring similar ballot measures across the country, while opponents of the measure filed a federal lawsuit challenging the measure as unconstitutional.

Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Urge a Hold on Gates Hearings Until New Senate Convenes

This is from VoteVets.org:
VoteVets.org, a group representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, urged restraint on hearings and a vote on the President's nominee to succeed Donald Rumsfeld at the Department of Defense, until the new Senate convenes.

Said Iraq war veteran and co-founder of VoteVets.org Jon Soltz:

"The Senate that is currently seated contains a number of Members, whose votes demonstrate that they have little to no grasp of issues our troops face in Iraq. It would be a disservice to our troops still in harm's way to allow these Senators to have a vote when it comes to the new Secretary of Defense.

"Mr. Gates has a number of serious questions to answer about how his tenure would differ from Secretary Rumsfeld's, and the current Senate has shown very little interest in asking the tough questions. Troops would be much better served by having the new Senate vetting Bob Gates.

"The American people spoke on Tuesday, and clearly want a new Senate to take oversight duties when it comes to the war and military issues, and that vote should be respected. No hearings or votes on Bob Gates should take place until the new Senate is sworn in."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The People Have Spoken

Time to End the Abortion Wars - The Majority of Voters are Pro-Choice

The extreme right has finally learned the truth: the Bush administration could care less about abortion. His grandfather was the treasurer of Planned Parenthood! The three anti-abortion measure on the South Dakota, California, and Oregon ballots were ALL defeated:
From the country‘s heartland, voters sent messages that altered America‘s culture wars and dismayed the religious right — defending abortion rights in South Dakota, endorsing stem cell research in Missouri, and, in a national first, rejecting a same-sex marriage ban in Arizona.

The verdict on abortion rights was particularly clear. Oregon and California voters defeated measures that would have required parents to be notified before a girl under 18 could get an abortion, and South Dakotans — by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent — rejected a new state law that would have banned all abortions except to save a pregnant woman‘s life.

"This was really a rebellion in the heart of red-state, pro-life America — the heart of the northern Bible Belt," said Sarah Stoesz, head of the Planned Parenthood chapter that oversees South Dakota. "It sends a very strong message to the rest of the country."

South Dakota legislators had passed the law in expectation it would trigger a court challenge and lead to a possible Supreme Court reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Abortion-rights leaders said Wednesday that such strategies should be abandoned.

Anti-abortion leaders said the GOP shared some of the blame for the defeat. The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, said President Bush and other top Republicans failed to campaign strongly for the South Dakota abortion ban and against the Missouri stem cell measure.

The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue said the election results meant any legislation from Congress restricting abortion would be "virtually impossible" for the next two years.

Janice Shaw Crouse, a conservative analyst with Concerned Women for America, suggested that Republicans — some of them entangled in corruption and sex scandals — had lost some of the selling power of the "family values" themes they had pushed in recent elections.

In Missouri, anti-abortion groups, evangelical Christian clergy and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis campaigned hard against the stem cell measure, contending it would condone life-destroying embryonic research.

"I‘ve had several family members that have had debilitating illnesses," said Forck, 50. "It goes against my church, but to eliminate pain in my life, I thought it was worth it."

However, gay-rights supporters took heart at the relatively close results in some of the seven states, notably in South Dakota, where the ban received only 52 percent of the vote.

"It‘s the end of an era for divisive, gay-bashing politics -- at least in the minds of the American people," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Similarly, abortion-rights groups welcomed the defeat of Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican who had touted his efforts to seize women‘s medical records from abortion clinics.

"It is time to end the abortion wars," said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

One election subplot was a campaign led by New York City real estate investor Howard Rich to promote ballot measures in numerous states seeking to rein in state and local government.

Of nine Rich-supported measures, only one succeeded — a property-rights measure in Arizona that would require state and local authorities to compensate property owners if land-use regulations lower the value of their property. Similar measures lost in California, Idaho and Washington, while Oregon and Colorado rejected term-limit bills, and Maine, Nebraska and Oregon rejected proposals to cap state spending.

Vets Win Elections

From VoteVets.org:
For the first time since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, the voice of those who fought in the most recent wars will have an official voice in Congress. At the same time, the activities of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have led to the defeat of at least seven incumbents who voted against the troops. VoteVets.org PAC played a critical role in all of these races.

Joe Sestak, who served in Afghanistan, and Patrick Murphy who served in Iraq, were elected to Congress, from the 7th and 8th districts of Pennsylvania, respectively. Both were endorsed by VoteVets.org. The organization gave each $7100, the maximum amount allowed by law, introduced them to high-level donors, worked to turn out the vote in their districts, and engaged in free media campaigns to benefit their candidacies.

"This is a momentous day. The next time Iraq is debated in Congress, those who have fought America's most recent wars will be able to speak," said Jon Soltz, co-founder of VoteVets.org. "Their unique perspective will be a powerful force in shaping how Congress views the war, and engages in oversight of the administration. One cannot understand how important this will be, as we move ahead in the war on terror."

Additionally, ads run by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans led to the defeats of a number of Senators and Representatives, who voted against troops and veterans.

VoteVets.org targeted Sens. Rick Santorum, Jim Talent, George Allen and Conrad Burns for their votes against body armor for the troops, with a hard-hitting advertisement that gained notoriety on a national level. None of them will return in the new Congress.

Additionally, VoteVets.org targeted three Representatives for their vote against funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs - John Sweeney, Melissa Hart, and Gil Gutknecht. None of those Members will be returning.

"America's 21st Century Patriots are an emerging force in America. We're not going to sit idly by and allow politicians to vote against us and get away with it," said Soltz. "We defeated four senators and three representatives because they dared vote against us. Let the new Congress be on notice - vote against us and we will ensure your constituents vote against you."

Military Families Applaud Rumsfeld Resignation, Head to DC to Demand Troop Withdrawl

Military Families Speak Out, an organization of over 3,100 military families who are opposed to the war in Iraq, welcome the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key architects of the war in Iraq. "Donald Rumsfeld sent our loved ones off to a war based on lies, and, adding insult (and injury) to injury, he did it on the cheap - many troops lacked proper body armor, armored vehicles and so much more," said Nancy Lessin of Boston, Massachusetts, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out whose step-son served with the Marines in Iraq in spring, 2003. "The resignation of Donald Rumsfeld must be only the beginning," added her husband Charley Richardson, another co-founder of MFSO. "Some will try to say that a change in the management of the war is enough. We say that the war itself must end. We need our troops brought home now, and taken care of when they get here."

MFSO expects over 30 military families from California, Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey and other areas around the U.S. to gather in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, November 9, 2006. They plan to deliver petitions to the Pentagon calling for an end to troop extensions, stop-loss orders, involuntary re-calls, multiple deployments, and other aspects of the "back door draft," and for all troops to be brought home now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Armed Men Harass Latino Voters in AZ

From TPMuckraker:
I just spoke with a Latino election monitor in Arizona who said that a trio of men, one with a handgun visible, is harrassing Latino voters as they go to the polls in Tucson, Ariz.

Nina Perales, a senior poll-watcher for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), called me from Tucson's Iglesia Bautista precinct, where the three men are approaching Latino voters and videotaping them on their way to vote.

"As voters are coming out of their cars and walking up towards their polls, one person is videotaping the voter as he walks towards the polling place," she said. Then another person, wearing an American flag bandana and a shirt with the image of a badge ironed or embroidered on it, approaches with a clipboard to talk to the voter. "While the clipboard person is. . .talking to [the voter], the cameraperson comes up and starts videotaping their face," Perales said.

As this happens, the third man -- with a gun visible in a sideholster -- stands next to the voter. According to Perales, he is wearing a shirt with an American flag on it, and camouflage shorts.

The men only approach Latino voters, she said, and noted they have been doing so since early this morning.

Perales' group has contacted the Department of Justice and the FBI. The Feds have asked her group to keep an eye on the situation.

Perales said her group has been monitoring other polling places in the city and throughout Arizona, and this was the only instance of voter intimidation she was aware of.

Cross Your Fingers and Hope the Votes Are Counted Properly

A a recent Gallup poll shows that only 25 percent of Americans are "very confident" that today's vote will be conducted accurately. That leaves 75 percent of Americans unsure that the results of today's election will reflect voters intentions.

Sadly, they have good reason. Tens of millions of voters are using electronic voting machine and a slew of problems have already been reported.

In Cleveland, Ohio poll workers couldn't figure out how to start the machines, forcing voters to wait in long lines.

In Indiana, over 175 precincts turned to paper because poll workers couldn't figure out how to run the machines.

Election officials in Delaware County, Indiana are seeking a court order to extend voting after a computer error prevented voters from casting ballots in 75 precincts. Delaware's county clerk said the cards that activate the machines were programmed incorrectly.

Polling places in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania will stay open an extra hour because of problems.

The problems were so bad in Florida, some precincts there also opted for paper ballots.

Election watchdogs VotetTust.org reported yesterday that in Florida, Illinois and Texas, attempts to vote for the Democrat were recorded as votes for Republican.

The Sequoia Voting System machines are vulnerable to digital ballot stuffing. All you have to do to vote again and again is touch the big yellow button on the back of the machine. More than one-third of California counties use Sequoia equipment, including Santa Clara County, where the touch screens are the primary voting system, and Alameda County, which relies on almost 1,000 machines as a secondary voting system intended for disabled voters.

Six years after the 2000 debacle, why are we still facing these problems?

This morning, I went to my usual polling place only to find the garage door closed. I was never informed that my polling place moved. Luckily, there was a sign with the address of the new polling place. If you're not sure where to vote, visit 411.org – that's the League of Women Voters Information Site.

Here in California, if you're voting for the first time in your jurisdiction, you might need to show some form of identification. It's best to take one with you just in case.

On a conference call this morning organized by Common Cause , election watchers said that voters are being asked for ID even in states where there is no voter ID law. The most high-profile incident so far happened yesterday, with the Missouri secretary of state being asked three times to show ID even though the state voter ID law had been struck down.

If your name isn't on the registration list, or there are questions about the validity of your registration, you have the right to request and cast a provisional ballot.

If you have any problems voting today, be sure to call the Election Protection Coalition at 866.OUR.VOTE/

And finally, if you want to get involved in monitoring the system, Working Assets Protect the Election is sending text messages to people who are interested in getting involved…and if you have a video camera, a group called Video the Vote is asking people to videotape polling stations.

It's criminal that our dear leaders haven't properly dealt with these issues. Slot machines in Vegas are more secure than voting machines.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Soulforce Urges Compassion for Haggard

Leave it to gay liberals to encourage compassion, not HATE towards Haggard. I look forward to the day when the right wing stops damning people to hell and ruining their lives in the process. This is from Soulforce, an amazing organization that fights to improve the rights of the GLBT community through non-violent direct action:
In response to the news that Rev. Ted Haggard has been dismissed by New Life Church and resigned as President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes urged the gay community to be compassionate and simultaneously called on the leaders of the NAE to claim responsibility for their role in the crisis.

"Rev. Haggard is just one more tragic example of how lives are destroyed by the lies about gay and lesbian people perpetuated by the NAE, the Religious Right, and both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Church. Taught by the church to hate himself, the only option from his point of view was to lead a psychologically and spiritually damaging double life marked by denial and self-destructive behavior. Rev. Haggard is a victim of religion-based bigotry that regularly demeans and demoralizes gay and lesbian people and refuses to acknowledge that we are part of the American fabric, and that many of us form loving families and practice a deep faith in God."

The NAE holds that "homosexuality is a deviation from the Creator's plan for human sexuality." In a 2004 policy statement, the organization opposes legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from hate crimes or employment discrimination on the grounds that "such legislation inevitably is perceived as legitimatizing [sic] the practice of homosexuality and elevates that practice to a level of an accepted moral standard."

Haggard submitted his resignation as President of the NAE on Thursday, shortly after allegations of homosexual activity were aired on Denver talk radio. On Saturday, Haggard was removed as pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. In a letter to his congregation, Haggard wrote "there's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all my adult life." He also wrote that the church's overseers have required him to "submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family."

In reaction to the unfolding events, Lutes said "Our community's anger at Rev. Haggard's hypocrisy is completely understandable. However, my hope is that our community will take the high road and extend an olive branch of friendship and support when he is ready to fully come out as a gay man. Dobson and the others will counsel him to bury, deny, and repress his sexuality even deeper than before. They will wound his spirit, and he is going to need our prayers and our compassionate message that God loves him, affirms him, and calls him to live his life openly with honesty and integrity."

The American Conservative: GOP Must Go

From The American Conservative:
There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country's reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen--in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur--as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.

On Nov. 7, the world will be watching as we go to the polls, seeking to ascertain whether the American people have the wisdom to try to correct a disastrous course. Posterity will note too if their collective decision is one that captured the attention of historians--that of a people voting, again and again, to endorse a leader taking a country in a catastrophic direction. The choice is in our hands.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cluster Bombs Should Be Banned - 98 Percent of Victims are Civilians

From Inter Press Service:
Ninety-eight percent of registered victims of cluster bombs are civilians, Handicap International, a UK-based NGO said in a report published Thursday.

The report Fatal Footprint was launched in several countries ahead of an international conference on conventional weapons starting in Geneva Nov. 7

Among others the report cites the case of Adnan's family. He was not quite seven years old when it happened. On August 11, 1999, shortly after some of the worst of the fighting in Kosovo in the Balkans, he went swimming with his family in a lake a few kilometres from their village.

He picked up a yellow metal can on the bank and took it to show to his family. Adnan's older brother Gazmend dropped the can. The explosion killed him and his father immediately, and their sister died the next day.

Adnan was wounded on his left arm and leg. Today his left arm is still weak. He remains disturbed, and gets bad grades at school.

Adnan is one of 11,044 victims of cluster munitions in 23 countries registered by Handicap International in its report. The large majority of the victims are boys and young men.

"Until now we only had stories of victims -- now we have hard figures that show that these bombs kill mainly civilians," Handicap International Director General Angelo Simonazzi said at the launch.

Cluster bombs continue to kill long after they are dropped. Illustrating this, Simonazzi showed a striking picture from Vietnam of unexploded cluster munitions lying among recently replanted paddies.

Handicap International estimates that there are more than 100,000 victims of cluster bombs worldwide. More than 360 million sub-munitions of this kind have been dropped. Arsenals around the world contain an estimated stock of 4 billion pieces, Handicap says. This year they were used in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.

Bill Maher's Message to Democrats


"When they say Democrats will raise taxes, you say, we have to because someone spent all the money in the world cutting Paris Hilton's taxes and not killing Osama bin Laden."

"When they say the terrorists want the Democrats to win. You say, are you insane? George Bush has been a terrorist's wet dream. He inflames radical hatred against America and then runs offering to protect you from it. It's like a guy throwing shit on you and selling you relief from the flies."

Walking for Peace

Watch this:
After his brother Brian is killed in Iraq, Ray takes postive action in the form of a peace walk across the United Kingdom.He explains to Jean that he was inspired by a woman named Peace Pilgrim, who spent 28 years walking for peace.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times, Marine Corps Times: Rumsfeld Must Go

This editorial is scheduled to run on Monday. How will the Bush cabal and Swift Boat Vets for Lies spin this one?
"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on "critical" and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year. The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

This is Bush's War

If photos like this were on the front page of every newspaper in this country on a regular basis, the Bush cabal would have no choice but to bring the troops home. God forbid the American people actually see the realities of war.

Sgt. Jesse E. Leach of the Marines assisted Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo, who was shot by a sniper in the town of Karma. He survived. (Joao Silva for the New York Times
The bullet passed through Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo as his Marine patrol moved down a muddy urban lane. It was a single shot. The lance corporal fell against a wall, tried to stand and fell again.

His squad leader, Sgt. Jesse E. Leach, faced where the shot had come from, raised his rifle and grenade launcher and quickly stepped between the sniper and the bloodied marine. He walked backward, scanning, ready to fire.

Shielding the marine with his own thick body, he grabbed the corporal by a strap and dragged him across a muddy road to a line of tall reeds, where they were concealed. He put down his weapon, shouted orders and cut open the lance corporal's uniform, exposing a bubbling wound.

Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, shot through the right arm and torso, was saved. But the patrol was temporarily stuck. The marines were engaged in the task of calling for a casualty evacuation while staring down their barrels at dozens of windows that faced them, as if waiting for a ghost's next move.

This sequence on Tuesday here in Anbar Province captured in a matter of seconds an expanding threat in the war in Iraq. In recent months, military officers and enlisted marines say, the insurgents have been using snipers more frequently and with greater effect, disrupting the military's operations and fueling a climate of frustration and quiet rage.