<\body> Stories in America: January 2007

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins Dies at 62

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war."
-Molly Ivins, Jan. 14 edition of the Star-Telegram
Even though she wrote the Times’ obituary for Elvis Presley in 1977, Ms. Ivins said later that she and the sometimes stodgy Times proved to be a mismatch. In a 2002 interview with the Star-Telegram, Ms. Ivins recalled that she would write about something that "squawked like a $2 fiddle" only to have a Times editor rewrite it to say "as an inexpensive instrument." Ms Ivins said she would mention a "beer belly" and The Times would substitute "a protuberant abdomen.”

Ms. Ivins authored three books and co-authored a fourth. She was a three-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and had served on Amnesty International’s Journalism Network, but the iconoclastic writer often said that her two highest honors were being banned from the conservative campus of Texas A&M University and having the Minneapolis police name their mascot pig after her when she covered the department as a reporter during one of her first jobs in the newspaper business.

Cheney's Handwritten Notes Implicate Bush in Plame Affair

This is getting good. Check out this report from Truthout.

Black Hawk Down: The True Cost of War

Photos clockwise from left : U.S. Military Academy / The Gazette-AP; Virginia National Guard; Arkansas National Guard-AP; Courtesy Virgin Islands National Guard; Iowa National Guard-AP; Courtesy Virginia National Guard; Arkansas National Guard-AP (2); Texas National Guard-Courtesy Lyerly Family; Courtesy United States Army; Courtesy Virgin Islands National Guard; Courtesy National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

This Newsweek piece is a must read. The stories of these soldiers should be all over the news. Instead, we're bombarded with shallow debates about presidential candidates, Miss America, Donald Trump's feud with Rosie O'Donnell, and Bush having fun in a Caterpillar tractor.

Please take the time to read this article and send it around. It's about the 12 soldiers who died on Saturday after their helicopter crashed. According to the report, officials tentatively blamed an equipment malfunction, then enemy fire. Now they say the crash is under investigation. Ten of the soldiers were members of the National Guard. It's a shame similar articles aren't being written about the Iraqi people.
More than 3,000 U.S. service members have now died in the Iraq war. At first it was difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the number of deaths. After four years, it is now difficult not to feel numb. In a nation without a draft, the emotional connection between the front and the home front is the weakest it has been in a major conflict in recent memory. There are so many news accounts of troops killed in combat that the details blur. The death of one soldier, or 20, loses its power to shock, except to the families of the fallen.

At some point, the way we talk about the war itself changes. We speak less and less about husbandless wives and parentless children, and instead obscure the suffering in vaguer, more distant and—guiltily—easier terms. We shake our heads and talk about the "losses."

There are, as always, more questions than answers about what to do in Iraq. Honest people can disagree about whether it is more dangerous to stay or to leave. But the 12 Americans who died in the Black Hawk crash offer us a vivid reminder of what is happening on the battlefield, and of the cost so many families are paying when loved ones die in combat. Guard members have taken on much of the burden of this war, and those who died aboard that helicopter were like many others who have lost their lives in the fighting: ordinary people asked to do the extraordinary. They were husbands and wives, parents and even grandparents. Some relied on their faith in God, others, their faith in the commander in chief. At least one no longer believed the war was worth fighting, but carried out his duties. Together, they left behind 34 children and at least a dozen grandchildren.

As we contemplate sending more men and women like them into harm's way, their demise leaves behind perhaps the only question that truly matters in wartime: is it worth it?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Soldier's Death Strengthens Senators' Anti-War Resolve

Just before Christmas, an Army captain named Brian Freeman cornered Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) at a Baghdad helicopter landing zone. The war was going badly, he told them. Troops were stretched so thin they were doing tasks they never dreamed of, let alone trained for.

Freeman, 31, took a short holiday leave to see his 14-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, returned to his base in Karbala, Iraq, and less than two weeks ago died in a hail of bullets and grenades. Insurgents, dressed in U.S. military uniforms, speaking English and driving black American SUVs, got through a checkpoint and attacked, kidnapped four soldiers and later shot them. Freeman died in the assault, the fifth casualty of the brazen attack.

The death of the West Point graduate -- a star athlete from Temecula, Calif., who ran bobsleds and skeletons with Winter Olympians -- has radicalized Dodd, energized Kerry and girded the ever-more confrontational stance of Democrats in the Senate. Freeman's death has reverberated on the Senate floor, in committee deliberations and on television talk shows.

"This was the kind of person you don't forget," Dodd said yesterday. "You mention the number dead, 3,000, the 22,000 wounded, and you almost see the eyes glaze over. But you talk about an individual like this, who was doing his job, a hell of a job, but was also willing to talk about what was wrong, it's a way to really bring it to life, to connect."

"When I returned from war, almost 40 years ago now, I stood up and spoke from my heart and my gut about what I thought was wrong," Kerry said on the Senate floor last week as he recounted his meeting with Freeman. "I asked the question in 1971: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? . . . I never thought that I would be reliving the need to ask that question again."

On Thursday, Freeman will be memorialized at his home in California, just days before the Senate takes up a resolution formally stating Congress's opposition to the president's plan to add 21,500 troops to the U.S. force in Iraq. There is no way to know what Freeman would have thought of it, but he would not have been shy about offering his opinion, Dodd said.

Honor. Duty. Country.

This was written by Gold Star Mom Amy Branham:
These three words may be only words to you and to me, ordinary citizens of the United States of America. To our men and women in the armed services, however, they are a code to live by. They live with honor. They do their duty and they serve their country.

These words are the words I had inscribed on my son's headstone three years ago next month. They are the code he lived by, the words that helped to make him the fine young man he had become.

Honor. Duty. Country. They are the words, the code of honor and ethics every person who serves this country, whether in the military or as an elected representative, should live by.

Today I am here to call upon the elected representatives of the United States of America to listen to the American people. We want the war in Iraq to end. We want our soldiers to come home. The American people have spoken, and we have told you loud and clear that we do not support this ill-begotten war. We do not trust our commander in chief any longer.

I realize that many of our elected officials, present company excepted, are riding the fence on this issue. Some, like John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, are still firmly behind the president and support him for reasons I cannot understand. Maybe they are fearful of losing their jobs, of backing away from a fellow Texan, of cutting rank.

It is to these people that I speak. I tell you that it is time to muster up what courage you can find - and believe me, you can do it when you have to - and take a stand against this war. You must take a stand and say that it is wrong. You must end this hideous nightmare and bring our troops home.

Let me tell you about courage. In doing so, I hope you will find even half the courage I tell you about.

All over this country tonight, there are mothers and fathers who have kissed and hugged their beloved sons and daughters goodbye, wiped away their tears, and sent them off to battle. One of these mothers that I am friends with does not want to leave her home because she is afraid she will miss a phone call from her son, who has been gone so long from his loving family. Another friend, when asked how her son was doing in Iraq, had to answer: "I don't know. I don't know whether he is dead or alive." This past week I received an email, forwarded from a colleague, from the wife of a helicopter pilot who was in the same unit as the helicopter that was shot down last weekend. She didn't know if her husband was dead or alive, and was terrified. It took days before she finally learned that he is alive. Many others were not so lucky. This takes a tremendous amount of courage. If the families of the soldiers you have sent into battle can live through sending their loved ones off into harm's way, fearful every moment for their safety, you can find the courage to stand up against this war.

Let's talk about the soldiers who do not know, sometimes, who the enemy is - yet day after day, they put on the gear and go out onto the streets of Baghdad, Sadr City, and other parts of Iraq. They are doing the bidding of their country, and of their commander in chief, who knows nothing of courage, honor, duty or integrity. These fine men and women in our military serve our country and do their duty in spite of everything. I know they are afraid. They are tired and battle-weary. Yet they continue to do their duty day after day under circumstances you can only have nightmares about. If the soldiers can courageously put their lives on the line every single moment of every single day for months, and in some cases, years, then you can and must find the courage to bring them home.

We can talk about the vets who return home from Iraq, only to be called upon to return time after time, again putting their lives on hold, their families and careers on the back burner. Many of them do not want to go, yet they go because duty calls. Or because their buddies are there. They go because they are people of honor and integrity the likes of which most of us will never again see in our lifetimes.

Let's talk about the courage it takes to live the rest of your life after you have buried your only son, who died so needlessly in this fool's war. At first you do not believe that the person you spent the majority of your adult life rearing is dead. But you have to pick out the casket. You have to find a funeral home and a cemetery and make funeral arrangements. You have to write an obituary and make terrible phone calls that you know will crush the person on the other end of the line. And then you have to figure out how in the hell to make sense out of something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The president has asked us to give his plan a chance. I say he has run out of chances. The president thinks we should trust him. Our trust ran out a long time ago.

The Bush administration told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Turns out they had none.

The Bush administration told us that Hussein had ties to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Turns out that was a bold-faced lie.

The Bush administration told us that we were going to Iraq to help the Iraqi people and bring about "regime change." Saddam is now dead.

The Bush administration told us that we needed to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. They have had their elections. However, Iraq is in much worse shape now than it was before we, the American military and private civilian contractors, arrived.

We have accomplished the things that the president, his administration and the Republican-controlled government said we should do. Now, it's time for all of you to listen to We the People of the United States of America, to end this war and to bring our soldiers home. You can find the courage and the strength to do this. It is your responsibility and your duty to listen to us and do the right thing by our brave men and women. Cut off funding for the war. Leave enough money for the speedy withdrawal of our troops and bring our sons and daughters home. They have done their duty for you. Now it's time you did your duty for them.

Honor. Duty. Country. Three words to live by.


Amy Branham
Gold Star Mother
Houston, Texas
Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith,
November 1981 - February 2004

Monday, January 29, 2007

This Week's Radio Show

Here's what's on this week's radio show. Your Call airs from 10:00-11:00 am on 91.7 FM - Feel free to call in at: 415.841.4134 or 866.798.8255. You can also listen to live and archived shows online. We started podcasting today. You can subscribe here.

Monday - A conversation with Stephen Hinshaw, chair of the department of psychology at UC Berkeley and author of "The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and an Agenda for Change"

Tuesday - Mothers of soldiers who served or are serving in Iraq - Many have turned their personal grief into activism
Guests: Sara Rich, mother of Suzanne Swift - Suzanne was arrested for going AWOL last year. She says she was sexually harassed and abused by her commanders in Iraq and at home. She spent a year in Iraq.

Nadia McCaffrey, mother of Patrick - Patrick was killed in Iraq in June 2004 - His death received national attention after Nadia invited the press to take photos and video of his flag-draped coffin returning home, which violates U.S. military policy

Carolyn Ho, mother of Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq

Pat Soler, mother of Sgt. Kyle Soler - Kyle has been in Baghdad since October 2006 - Pat is a member of Blue Star Moms

Wednesday - Combatants for Peace, an organization founded by Israelis and Palestinians who put down their weapons to end the cycle of violence
Guests: Shimon Katz, a former Israeli soldier, and Sulaiman Al Hamri, a former Palestinian combatant

Thursday: A conversation with Donna Bee-Gates, author of "I Want It Now: Navigating Childhood in a Materialistic World"

Friday - How did the media cover the week's news?
Guest so far: John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Veteran Bruce Berry of Minneapolis, MN participates in a Veterans for Peace rally at the U.S. Capitol on January 25, 2007 in Washington, DC. The veterans group initiated a campaign to "advocate for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney" for their roles in the war in Iraq during the rally. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Iraqi Lawmaker: Democratic Ideas are More Related to Reality

How about listening to an Iraqi for a change? Their voices are glaringly missing from the debate in this country. Instead, the talking heads who've never been to Iraq or fought in a war have the microphone:
"I see that the Democratic ideas are more related to reality," said Ammar Tuma, a lawmaker who serves in Maliki's ruling Shiite coalition. "They talk about the real problems that the Iraqis are facing every day."

To date, government officials said, they've also found Democratic visitors such as Pelosi, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois less parochial, more culturally sensitive and more willing to listen to Iraqi concerns than Republicans.

"Before, Bush used to order Iraqi officials to do this and that," said one member of Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The Republicans were dictating the political process in Iraq. With the Democrats in control of Congress, the Republicans are now less influential than before. It helps us in a sense to breathe a bit more and to have more freedom."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Iraq Vets Protested at Today's Rallies: My Own Commander Told Us We Were There for Oil

Fernando Braga, a 24-year-old Bronx native who is a member of the Army National Guard, said that he was skeptical of the war before it started. Mr. Braga said his views hardened into opposition while he served in Iraq from March 2004 through January 2005.

“My own commander told us when we arrived that if we thought we were there for any reason other than oil then we had another think coming,” he said. “I realized even commanding officers were against it but following orders.”

Michael McPhearson, executive director of Veterans for Peace, said more than 100 veterans from the Iraq war participated in the march, and several hundred veterans from previous wars attended as well.

3,072 Dead American Soldiers

The U.S. military reported the deaths of seven more American soldiers Saturday, while Sunni insurgents bombed another market in a predominantly Shiite district, killing at least 13 people in a bid to terrorize Baghdad before a U.S.-Iraqi crackdown.

The U.S. deaths raised to at least 12 the number of service members killed in the past three days. The most recent seven deaths were the result of roadside bombs, two in Diyala province, two in Baghdad and three others at an unspecified location north of the capital.

End the Occupation Rallies Around the World Today

"He did not tell the truth. I will not vote one dime for this war."
-Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters

"We see many things that we feel helpless about," said Barbara Struna, 59, who came from Brewster, Mass., to march. "But this is like a united force. This is something I can do."

Struna, a mother of five who runs an art gallery, made a two-day bus trip with her 17-year-old daughter, Anna, to the nation's capital to represent what she said was middle America's opposition to President Bush's war policy.

Her daughter, a high school senior, said she has as many as 20 friends who have been to Iraq. "My generation is the one that is going to have to pay for this," she said.

A variety of signs are held during a protest against the war in Iraq on the National Mall on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007, in Washington. Protesters demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops in a demonstration that drew tens of thousands and brought Jane Fonda back to the streets. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

With the Capitol as a backdrop, demonstrators listen to the speakers during a protest against the war in Iraq on the National Mall on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice movement activists hold banners in front of Rome's U.S. Embassy to Italy, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007, to protest the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and to demand that the newly elected congress refuse to fund the Bush administration wars. The number on the banner at right refers to the Iraqis who reportedly died since the start of the war in Iraq. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)

Alicia Casilio, dressed as an Iraqi civilian, stands silently at an anti-Iraq war protest in Boston, Massachusetts January 11, 2007. The numbers on Casilio's face represent the estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES)

Protesters take part in an anti-war rally and candlelight vigil in Washington January 11, 2007. Anti-war activists took to the streets of U.S. cities on Thursday for the first of what organizers promised would be thousands of protests against President George W. Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES)

Protestors hold a poster against the Iraq war as they march during the opening of the World Social Forum, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. More than 80,000 people gathered for an annual anti-capitalist conference in Kenya's capital on Saturday, hoping to network with other activists and protest global policies they say hurt the poor. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Kennedy Slams Republicans Who Consistently Vote Against Wage Increases

No difference between Democrats and Republicans? Every low-income American in this country who doesn't vote should watch this speech from Senator Edward Kennedy:
Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"

Feingold to Chair Hearing on Ending the War

Finally, after six years of rubberstamping Bush's failed policies, we have a debate and the media is listening. See, the Democrats and those opposed to the occupation actually *disagree* with each other, but Bush fans and those who favor the occupation aren't used to hearing dissent. The question of the day is, what's the alternative plan? Well, there have been several plans on the table, but they haven't received much press and the decider could care less about them. Remember the Iraq Study Group? The national media couldn't wait for it to come out, yet the decider ignored it.

These are remarks from Senator Feingold at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Wednesday:

"Despite the powerful hearings and testimony in August that we all heard, with the questions that were raised about the Iraq war, I was stunned, not only that the administration wanted to do this, but that my colleagues could vote for such a bizarre response to what happened on 9/11.

This committee did not rise to the occasion.

And then, as this war unfolded and it became clear not only that it had nothing to do really with WMD or Al Qaeda, and that it wasn't working out, some of us said: You know, we ought to figure out a way to get out. And I proposed a timetable in August of 2005 saying we ought to have these troops out by the end of 2006."
On Tuesday, January 30th, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold will chair a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Exercising Congress’s Constitutional Power to End a War.” Earlier this month, Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, became the first Senator to call on Congress to use its power of the purse to redeploy our troops safely from Iraq so that we can refocus on the global terrorist networks that threaten our national security. Feingold proposed this action after President George Bush announced plans to escalate our military involvement in Iraq despite the objections of members of both parties, military and foreign policy experts, and the American people.

“Congress holds the power of the purse and if the President continues to advance his failed Iraq policy, we have the responsibility to use that power to safely redeploy our troops from Iraq,” Feingold said. “This hearing will help inform my colleagues and the public about Congress’s power to end a war and how that power has been used in the past. I will soon be introducing legislation to use the power of the purse to end what is clearly one of the greatest mistakes in the history of our nation’s foreign policy.”

Witnesses at the hearing will include:

Louis Fisher, Library of Congress:
Prof. Walter Dellinger, Duke University School of Law, former Solicitor General of the United States
Prof. David Barron, Harvard Law School
Prof. Robert Turner, University of Virginia Law School

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel: Bush Wanted to Send Troops Anywhere in the Middle East - I Do Regret That Vote

And the grand plan continues. GQ is out with an interview with Senator Hagel:

"Even before we actually invaded, I had a pretty clear sense of it, that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq."

"They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions."

"All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that's what we were presented with."

"Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote."
On the 2003 Resolution from President Bush asking Congress to authorize the Iraq War:

Q: But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not.

Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn't need that authority from Congress.

Q: Which they seem to say about a lot of things.

That's right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president's counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, "You have all the powers that you need." So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, "Andy, I don't think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?" So a few of us--Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I--were invited into discussions with the White House.

Q: It's incredible that you had to ask for that.

It is incredible. That's what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.

Q: It wasn't specific to Iraq?

Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.

Q: They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?

Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it.

Q: But that should also have triggered alarm bells about what they really wanted to do.

Well, it did. And I'm not defending our votes; I'm just giving a little history of how this happened. You have to remember the context of when that resolution was passed. This was about a year after September 11. The country was still truly off balance. So the president comes out talking about the "weapons of mass destruction" that this "madman dictator" Saddam Hussein has, and "our intelligence shows he's got it," and "he's capable of weaponizing," and so on.

On evidence for going to war:

All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that's what we were presented with. And I'm not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, "I don't believe them" But I was told by the president--we all were--that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.

Q: You were told that personally?

I remember specifically bringing it up with him. I said, "This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us."

Q: Did he give you that assurance, that he would do the same thing as his father?

Yep. He said, "That's what we're going to do." But the more I look back on it, the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003, if you recall, the inspectors at the IAEA, who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody, said, "Give us two more months before you go to war, because we don't think there's anything in there." They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn't been in there. We didn't know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn't do it! So to answer your question--Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.

Q: And you feel like you were misled?

I asked tough questions of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld before the war: How are you going to govern? Who's going to govern? Where is the money coming from? What are you going to do with their army? How will you secure their borders? And I was assured every time I was asked, "Senator, don't worry, we've got task forces on that, they've been working, they're coordinated," and so on.

Q: Do you think they knew that was false?

Oh, I eventually was sure they knew. Even before we actually invaded, I had a pretty clear sense of it, that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq.

Q: Even if it meant deceiving Congress?

That's right.

Cheney Flashback: They're (Insurgents) in the Last Throes

Don't you love how the liberal media holds these guys accountable for past statements? If Cheney were a Democrat, this quote would have sounded by a broken record on Fox by now.

"Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash."
-Vice President Dick Cheney, after Wolf Blitzer asked if mistakes in Iraq had hurt the adminitration's credibility, 1/24/07


"The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
-Cheney, 6/20/05

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Facts About Minimum Wage Earners

I've written a few stories about the minimum wage issue and have interviewed a number of adults who make minimum wage. Many hold multiple jobs. It's easy to say, "get a better education and a higher paying job will follow." That's difficult to do when there aren't many opportunities in your area, you're raising children, and can barely make ends meet.

Here are a few facts:

13 million Americans make minimum wage. States and city wages vary. The federal wage, which is $5.15 an hour, hasn't changed in 10 years.

9 million women (not teenagers) earn minimum wage.

According to the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan organization seeking fiscal reforms, almost 60 percent of California’s low-wage workers are 25 or older.

The minimum wage increase will not cause price inflation. In Arizona, for example, the total cost of the wage increases is equal to 0.08 percent of total sales. The average business can fully cover the cost of the minimum wage by increasing revenue by less than 0.1 percent.

The minimum wage increase will not destroy job growth. Between 1997 and 2003, small business employment increased by 9.4 percent in higher minimum wage states, compared to 6.6 percent in states at the federal level.

At the 350 largest public companies, the average CEO total direct compensation was $11.6 million in 2005. At this rate of compensation, it takes the average CEO only one hour and 55 minutes to earn the annual pay of a minimum wage worker.

Republicans Block Minimum Wage Bill

The minimum wage ($5.15 at the federal level) hasn't been raised in 10 years. The majority of Americans in this country live paycheck to paycheck and for the first time ever, they are spending more than they are making (I did a show on credit card debt a few days ago).

Every Democratic and a few Republican Senators voted to raise the wage to $7.50/hour. The Republicans alone voted to block the bill (they want a tax cut for small businesses).

Take a look at how the "liberal media" covered this.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Americans Are Spending More Than They Earn

On today's radio show, we'll be talking about credit card debt. A few facts:

The average American salary is in the low 30s. The average credit card debt is $9000.

There are about 690 million credit cards in circulation in the United States, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The average American family owns eight credit cards. About $1.8 trillion was charged to those cards in 2005. Americans now owe more than $800 billion on credit cards, according to the Federal Reserve.

According to a new report, "Borrowing to Stay Healthy: How Credit Card Debt is Related to Medical Expenses," more American families -- both with health insurance and without -- are using high-interest credit cards to pay for their health care.

Families have fewer avenues to get out of debt today. Congress tightened bankruptcy rules in 2005, making it more difficult and costly for individuals to start fresh financially.

While this issue rarely receives front page headlines, credit card reform is on the Senate's to-do list. Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, now chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In the coming months, he plans to investigate credit card late fees, interest charges, and hidden fees.

Today's guests:

Erica Sandberg, financial counselor with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco, a non-profit that provides financial education. Erica says easy access to credit for people with no income is one of the biggest financial problems of our time. Erica is now working on a book for expecting families to help them deal with their finances.

Christian Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progresss, a progressive think tank based in Washington DC. Christian crunched the numbers from the Federal Reserve to find that Americans owe more money than they make. Average household debt levels were almost 30 percent higher than after tax income.

The show airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST on KALW 91.7 FM. You can also listen online and all shows are archived.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pro-Choice Republicans Commemorate the 34th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

I doubt you'll be hearing or seeing these comments from the Republican Majority for Choice in the liberal media, so here they are:
"Thirty-four years after the Roe v. Wade decision we are struck by how divisive and political this debate has become. In reality the Roe decision was not about promoting abortion but was about protecting our country's long held belief in the freedom and privacy of our citizens. One can oppose abortion and understand that our most valued right as Americans - freedom, personal and religious freedom - must be protected," said Jennifer Stockman, RMC National Co-Chair. "In this era of absolutism and partisan gridlock we call upon leaders of all walks, Republicans and Democrats, pro-choice and anti-choice, especially those seeking the Presidency, to come together and open a meaningful dialogue. There is common ground and consensus and that is what the Roe v. Wade decision was truly about."

The GOP holds the long history of supporting women and families and of safeguarding the constitutional protections of privacy and the separation of Church and State. The founding real Republican Principles call for limited government and individual freedom. Republican President Ronald Reagan who personally did not support abortion rights nominated Sandra Day O'Conner to the US Supreme Court. It was Justice O'Conner who so thoughtfully developed the careful balance between the rights of the state and those of the individual.

"We all want to ensure hat as few women and families as possible are faced with the difficultly of an unplanned pregnancy. We can do this by promoting strong family communication and age appropriate education that includes the positive benefits of abstinence while providing honest facts. Proven safe contraception, prevention and planning measures must be available to all women regardless of their income," said Kellie Rose Ferguson, RMC Executive Director. "As we commemorate the real meaning of the Roe v. Wade decision -- protecting freedom, personal choice, strong families and real solutions-- we call on elected leaders to stop playing politics with perhaps the most important issue facing our country and start working toward solutions."

What Happens When You Criticize Bush

Watch what you wear and write:
An elderly man who wrote in a letter to the editor about Saddam Hussein's execution that "they hanged the wrong man" got a visit from Secret Service agents concerned he was threatening President Bush.

The letter by Dan Tilli, 81, was published in Monday's edition of The Express-Times of Easton, Pa. It ended with the line, "I still believe they hanged the wrong man."
An Australian man said he is considering suing national carrier Qantas for refusing to let him onto an international flight because he would not take off a T-shirt calling U.S. President George W. Bush a terrorist.

Allen Jasson said on Monday he was turned away last Friday at a Qantas departure gate in the southern city of Melbourne when he tried to board a flight to London while wearing a shirt with the a picture of Bush and the slogan "World's #1 terrorist."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Go Vegetarian in 2007

Make the world a better place. Feel better. Eat better. This is from PETA:
*Every vegetarian saves more than 100 animals a year from horrible abuse. There is simply no other way that you can easily help so many animals and prevent so much suffering than by choosing vegetarian foods over meat, eggs, and dairy products.

*It's disgusting, but true: Meat is often contaminated with feces, blood, and other bodily fluids, all of which make animal products the top source of food poisoning in the United States. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tested supermarket chicken flesh and found that 96 percent of Tyson chicken was contaminated with campylobacter, a dangerous bacteria that causes 2.4 million cases of food poisoning each year, resulting in diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Learn more.

*Eating meat doesn't just hurt animals; it hurts people too. It takes tons of crops and water to raise farmed animals-in fact, it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh! All that plant food could be used much more efficiently if it was fed to people directly. The more people who go vegetarian, the more we can feed the hungry.

*Eating meat is one of the worst things that you can do for the Earth; it's wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution, and the meat industry is one of the biggest causes of global warming. Adopting a vegetarian diet is more important than switching to a "greener" car in the fight against global warming.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bush's Occupation Kills 20 U.S. Service Members Today

"Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue - and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties."
-The Current President, 1/10/07

For once, he was right:
At least 20 American service personnel were killed in military operations Saturday in one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces since the Iraq war began, and authorities also announced two U.S. combat deaths from the previous day.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner: Bush Has Done Tremendous Damage

"Bush is a terrible leader, not only for the United States but for the entire world.

He has led the world on a dangerous path and it will take a lot of time to take it back on the right one.

Bush has caused tremendous damage. The cold war was over and with it all this wasted energy and mistrust of so many years. We were speaking about the dividends of peace.

And then the war on terror started and the vengeance and again all this money was invested in war technology."

-Muhammad Yunus, a 66-year-old micro-credit pioneer and "banker to the poor", in an interview with El Mundo newspaper Saturday

The U.S. is Sending Mentally Unstable Soldiers to Iraq

I've been meaning to post this for a while. This is beyond disturbing and isn't getting much coverage.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that an Army private charged with raping a young Iraqi woman and slaughtering her entire family last year was found to have "homicidal ideations" by a military mental health team three months before the attack.

According to the AP, Private First Class Steven Green told military psychiatrists he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens. The AP reports medical records show Pentagon doctors prescribed Green several small doses of Seroquel -- a drug to regulate his mood -- and directed him to get some sleep.

One month after the examination, Green reportedly again told his battalion commander that he hated all Iraqis. He also allegedly threw a puppy from the roof of a building and then set the animal on fire while on patrol. But through it all, he was kept on duty -- manning a checkpoint in one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Through it all, the U.S. military kept him in combat.

Dennis told IPS that Green's case is not an isolated incident.

"I'm helping a girl whose son was diagnosed with a mental imbalance before he went into the Army," Dennis said, adding that private psychiatrists had told the 20-year-old man that he could not feel remorse and suffers from an inability to distinguish between right and wrong.

Now that young man is in boot camp.

"He was doing terrible, heinous acts and felt no remorse or guilt," Denis said. "He was in this treatment centre and was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance and you've known it from birth because he's this weird kid. And now the Army is sending him to Iraq. The Army is letting anyone in right now, they're so desperate."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cost of Iraq Occupation Could Top $2 Trillion

What a waste of so much money and so many innocent lives.
The cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion after factoring in long-term healthcare for wounded US veterans, rebuilding a worn-down military, and accounting for other unforeseen bills and economic losses, according to a new analysis to be presented today in Boston.

The estimate by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes far exceeds projections made by the Bush administration.

The figure is more than four times what the war was expected to cost through 2006 -- around $500 billion, according to congressional budget data.

What Do the Democrats Stand For?

After endless foot-dragging, watering down, and turning of blind eyes in the 109th Congress on ethics, the first steps were taken to restore the public trust before the first legislative hour of the 110th Congress.

The two and a half years that Republicans spent ignoring most of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations came to an end with the passage of H.R. 1, as the Democratic majority set dozens of changes in motion for a comprehensive, effective, practical defense of our nation by passing the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

After a decade of Republican inaction, hard-working Americans got the raise they deserve when we voted for H.R. 2, increasing the minimum wage. No longer will a day's work barely pay for a tank of gas, nor a week's work barely pay for a child's check-up at the doctor. All who work a 40-hour week will now have a fairer shot at building a life and joining in our nation's prosperity.

We gave voice to the hopes of millions of Americans and their families who suffer the brunt of humanity's worst afflictions by passing expanded stem cell research with H.R. 3. President Bush will be challenged to join us in supporting this hope, and he will know that we cast our votes in support of the majority of the American people who will not give up. The potential for stem cell therapies to cure diseases and alleviate human suffering is enormous, and must be unlocked.

We passed H.R. 4 to require Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices on behalf of the American people. In doing so, Medicare Part D will begin to shift from a program that tightens the stranglehold of big drug companies to a program that gives desperately needed relief to our nation's seniors. In this vote, we put government back to work for the American people, not the special interests.

As we honored Martin Luther King's birthday this week, we carried his spirit of hope and opportunity, passing legislation to cut interest rates on student loans with H.R. 5 and eliminated subsidies for Big Oil with H.R. 6, investing the savings in renewable energy, leading our nation toward a brighter future, unbridled by dependence on foreign oil.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Methodists Don't Want G.W.B. Library at SMU

"Methodists have a long history of social conscience, so questions about the conduct of this president are very concerning."
-Rev. Andrew J. Weaver of New York, who graduated from SMU's Perkins School of Theology
We the undersigned express our objection to the prospect of the George W. Bush library, museum, and think tank being established at Southern Methodist University. As United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate. We urge the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University and the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church to reject this project.

The Difficulties Involved in Reporting from Iraq

Editor & Publisher has a great piece about Ellen Knickmeyer, an amazing journalist who risked her life to write about what's happening in Iraq. It's so easy for conservatives and the pro-war crowd to criticize journalists for reporting the negative, which is all there is at the moment. I laugh when Hannity, O'Reilly, Malkin, etc... go to Iraq to "report" from the Green Zone. Real reporters are risking their lives to tell the real story:
"To do your story well, you have to go out," she asserts. "IEDs are one of the risks in doing this. If you're riding around in an armored vehicle, you'll probably die quickly, if there's any consolation in that."

She recalls that when she first went into Baghdad in 2003, she interviewed a Shiite family of seven sisters, dressed in their sweatsuits. "The first thing they wanted to know was what plans the Americans had for starting up the degree exams in the universities," she says. "They were so sure the Americans would take care of that, and of course all the looting was going on at that time, and the Americans had not prepared at all. When I tried to follow up this year, the family refused to talk to me. The neighbors told me the girls don't go to school any more, they don't work. When they go out, they're completely covered, even gloves."

GAO: Taxes Would Have to Double to Pay for Bush Budget in 2040

Another one missed by the liberal media:
In an overlooked hearing last Thursday, the head of a government watchdog agency warned of looming disaster for America's economy if an effort isn't made to control spending, RAW STORY has learned. Adding that decision-makers in Washington suffer from "tunnel vision and "myopia," he said that getting the budget under control could even require steep tax increases if action isn't taken now.

"The picture I will lay out for you today is not a pretty one and it’s getting worse with the passage of time," said David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, in a Thursday morning hearing of the Senate's Budget Committee. "Continuing on our current fiscal path would gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately even our domestic tranquility and our national security," he warned.

Walker heads the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent, nonpartisan watchdog of Congress that evaluates the spending of American tax dollars and advises Congress on improving government programs.

While he acknowledged the single-year fiscal improvement touted by the Bush administration for 2006, he said that "it did not fundamentally change our long-term fiscal outlook." He also noted that since 2000, America's net social insurance commitments and other fiscal obligations have increased to $50 trillion from $20 trillion, representing four times the nation's total economic output. Rising national health care costs are the greatest culprit according to data collected by Walker's agency.

The head of the GAO also warned that if no action is taken now to control government spending, severe tax hikes could be necessary. He stated that, "balancing the budget in 2040 could require actions as large as cutting total federal spending by 60 percent or raising federal taxes to 2 times today’s level."

Reuters, the only major news agency to offer coverage of Thursday's hearing, said that Walker saw the need for greater tax hikes in the interim, too. A Thursday evening dispatch reported, "Asked what level U.S. taxes revenues should be at, Walker said, "I can't tell you an exact number ... but more than 18.2 percent (of GDP), but below 25 percent.""

During the course of the hearing, senators also asked Walker about the cost estimates presented by President George W. Bush for sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq this year, according to Air Force Times. Walker believed that the amount of money planned to be spent on the troop escalation was much more than needed for the number of troops involved. "I have some serious concerns about the numbers...It is unclear what much of the $5.6 billion is to be spent on," they reported him saying.

Walker's full statement can be accessed at the GAO website.

Veterans Who've Actually Been to Iraq Are Meeting With Senators Today

I just got this press release from VoteVets.org. Let's see if the national media -- especially the TV talking heads who've never been to Iraq or served in a war for that matter -- will cover this:
VoteVets.org will be the first and only Iraq Veterans organization to hold multiple high-level meetings with Senators, regarding the escalation in Iraq, as it brings eight veterans of the war in Iraq to Capitol Hill today for meetings with Senators from both sides of the aisle. They will join with Sens. Patty Murray, Edward Kennedy, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders at 11am in 285 Russell Senate Office Building TODAY to address the press.

VoteVets.org is making the trip, as part of the coalition of groups known as Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. In addition to those at the press conference, VoteVets.org will be meeting with Sens. Sam Brownback, John Sununu, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, and Bob Casey.

The full schedule of meetings and locations is below. Photographers and cameras are encouraged to attend both the press conference and meetings, for possible photo ops.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Afghan Children Work the Streets to Support Their Families

This is from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan:
Ahmad Wali, 9, is combing the rubbish dump for soda cans to sell as a way to support his 11-member family in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Thousands of children work the streets to help their households through the harsh winter.

"They [empty soda cans] are easily available everywhere and more profitable than other metals which we collect and then sell in the city," Wali told IRIN, as he shivered with cold.

"Afghanistan has received 12 billion $ in aid but there aren't any signs of serious reconstruction. Our people have not benefited from the billions of reconstruction dollars due to theft by the warlords or misuse by NGOs. Even a fraction of this aid has not been! used for the benefit and welfare of our people. Government corruption and fraud directs billions of dollars into the pockets of high-ranking officials. It is such a big shame that the government still cannot provide electricity, food and water for its people."

"The price of 1kg of these [aluminium] cans is equal to 7kg of other metals that we collect and sell. That is why many children are trying to find more soda cans and earn more money for their families," said Wali, who is making up to US$3 a day.

"I have to work hard as my father lost his job and it has become very difficult for us to get by and pay the monthly rent for our house," he explained.

There are no accurate figures on how many children work in Kabul but aid workers fear the number is rising. Some estimates put the number of youngsters wo! rking as labourers or beggars in Kabul at about 37,000 in 2004, the last year for which statistics are available.

"Unfortunately, the number of street children is increasing day by day in our country because of the widespread poverty and a lack of proper work opportunities for people," Mohammad Yousef, director of ASCHIANA, a local NGO supporting working children and their families, said in Kabul.

Afghanistan is ranked 173rd out of 178 on the Human Development Index calculated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which estimates that 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day.

A survey released by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in May 2006 revealed that 60 percent of families surveyed stated that almost half their children were involved in some kind of labour.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

U.S. Sailor: Dissent is Not Disloyalty

Jonathan Hutto, a Norfolk-based sailor, urged the audience of service members and civilians to separate dissent from disloyalty. "The truth must be told," he said at the rally in Norfolk. CHRIS CURRY/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

End the Occupation Now

A 22-year-old Marine and a 29-year-old sailor have launched an Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq. So far, the initiative has received 1,028 signatures from active-duty and reserve troops calling for an end to the war.

The signatures were delivered to lawmakers this morning in DC. Members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, including California Representatives Lynne Woolsey, Maxine Waters, and Barbara Lee met with the troops to acknowledge the appeal.

Under the military whistleblower protection act, military members can send appeals to members of Congress without reprisal.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, says the appeal is “simply unprecedented.”

Tomorrow at 11:00 am PST, Representatives Woolsey, Lee, and Waters will hold a press conference to introduce “The Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act.” The legislation would force President Bush to withdraw all U.S. forces currently in Iraq within six months.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The U.S. War Machine Has 725 Bases in 132 Countries

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
-Former Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960
No matter which party controls the government, the militarization of America is so far gone now it's impossible to imagine any major rollback in the gargantuan U.S. war machine -- 725 bases in 132 countries, annual military budgets topping $500 billion, a planned $1 trillion in new weapons systems already moving through the pipeline. Indeed, the Democratic "opposition" has promised to expand the military.

Nor will either party conceivably challenge the dominance of the energy behemoths -- or stand against the American public's demand for cheap gas, big vehicles and unlimited consumption of a vast disproportion of the world's oil.

Service Members Rally Against the Iraq War

Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, based in Marine Corps Base Quantico, pauses as he receives a standing ovation before speaking Jan. 15 at a rally against the Iraq war. Madden is co-founder of Appeal for Redress. (M. SCOTT MAHASKEY/ARMY TIMES)

These brave soldiers will deliver their appeal to members of Congress tomorrow in DC. Let's see if the national media covers it. This is from the Army Times:
A small group of out-of-uniform active-duty service members, supported by veterans and academics, gathered inside a Norfolk, Va., church on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to hold a rally calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Speakers invoked King's message of nonviolent resistance, along with his eventual opposition to the Vietnam War, as an example worth following during a war many at the rally said echoes that controversial conflict of an earlier generation – and is a war that should end now.

"It is time for U.S. troops to come home," said Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden, speaking to a crowd of about 80 - not including reporters - gathered in the sanctuary of the Unitarian-Universalist Church in downtown Norfolk. He said active-duty troops have the right to speak out, and he said his opposition to the war is not driven by politics.

"It's not political when people heed the call of their conscience," said Madden, 22, who is stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base and who served in Iraq with Okinawa's 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as a communications specialist. "Not one more of my brothers should die for a lie. This is my generation's call to conscience." The remarks drew cheers and a standing ovation.

"We're not anti-war," said Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Hutto, 29, who enlisted in 2004 and is assigned to the Norfolk-based carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2005-06. "We're not pacifists. We're anti-Iraq war."

The group's message, he said: "There is an organized, constructive level of dissent with the ranks on this war."

Between Christmas and New Year's 2006, Five U.S. Soldiers Committed Suicide

Many believe President George W. Bush's newly announced plan to send 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers to Iraq will involve the redeployment of soldiers suffering from severe trauma. Press reports indicate Bush wants to implement his "surge" by speeding up previously scheduled redeployments and extending the tours of soldiers already in the field of battle.

That reality has increasing numbers of soldiers taking matters into their own hands.

Between Christmas and New Year's 2006, five U.S. soldiers committed suicide after being informed they'd been ordered to serve an additional tour in Iraq. In Iraq itself, the military announced on Dec. 30 that soldier Michael Crutchfield of Stockton, California killed himself north of the capital, Baghdad.

The day of his death, he e-mailed his foster brother and confidant, Johnny Sotello, to relate his pain to the remnants of his family still living in the area.

"As you know, there are more people waiting for me to pull this trigger than there are waiting on my return to the states," Crutchfield wrote in a portion of the message, quoted by the Stockton Record.

"I'm done hurting. All my life I've been hurting... end this pain," Crutchfield wrote at the end of his two-page message.

For Kentucky mom Anita Dennis, the news of increased suicides is hardly surprising. In 2005, Dennis' son, Specialist Darrel Anderson, fled to Canada, saying he could no longer fight in what he called an "illegal war".

In 2004, Anderson says he was ordered to open fire on a car full of innocent civilians. The car had sped through a U.S. military checkpoint, and his commander said it was Army procedure to fire on any vehicle that ran through a traffic stop. Anderson refused the order.

"Darrel was so screwed up in the head when he came back from Iraq, that's why he had to go to Canada," Anderson's mother told IPS. "That was a desperate attempt to save his life because he could not face the military."

Anderson received the Purple Heart for taking shrapnel to protect the rest of his unit from a roadside bomb. Last October, he made the decision to turn himself in to military authorities, and under a special deal, is receiving treatment for his PTSD.

"There was a guy in Darrel's unit that when Darrel got wounded by the roadside bomb, this guy got so freaked out that every time they went out on a mission they left him there playing video games," Dennis said. "Darrel was like, 'This guy's messed up, shouldn't we call his parents? Shouldn't we be getting him treatment?'"

Dennis said her son's commanders refused because giving him treatment would be an admission that things weren't going well.

"So they left him there for three months playing video games," Dennis said.

U.S. Soldier Commits Suicide in Fallujah

"Early in the morning, a marine took the pistol of an Iraqi policeman in the police station of Amriyah town just south of Fallujah, and put a bullet in his head," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

"The soldier uttered words saying he was sad and miserable," the source said.

Martin Luther King Jr. Was Adamantly Opposed to the Vietnam War, Under Constant Watch by the FBI

Every year on Dr. King's birthday, the media makes him look like a gentle, charismatic man who had a dream. But he was so much more than that. In addition to fighting racism, he also fought for social and economic justice. And he was adamantly opposed to the Vietnam war. President Bush celebrated King's birthday at a high school in Washington DC today, but if King were alive today, Bush would have denounced him.

In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King called the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" and said the U.S. was in Vietnam to "occupy it as an American colony."

He said: "I speak as a citizen of the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."

While the media should air excerpts of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech today, it sure would be nice to hear excerpts from his speech about the Vietnam War -- especially now. I'm not very hopeful because the media denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post wrote that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Dr. King paid a personal price for speaking out. He spent his entire activist life being hounded by the FBI and was assassinated on April 4, 1968 -- exactly one year after his "Beyond Vietnam" speech.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

This Week's Radio Show

Your Call airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST on KALW 91.7 FM - Feel free to call in at: 415.841.4134 or 866.798.8255. You can also listen to live and archived shows online.

Monday - MLK Jr.'s Legacy: Does Non-Violent Resistance Still Work?
Guests: Adrienne Maree Brown, executive director of the Ruckus Society and Jack Duvall, president of the International Center on Non-Violent Conflict

Tuesday - Who Will Own Iraq's Oil? A report in last week's Independent found that the "Iraqi government is about to push through a law giving Western oil companies the right to exploit the country's massive oil reserves."
Guests so far: Antonia Juhasz, visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time"
The American Enterprise Institute and the American Petroleum Institute declined to join the show

Wednesday - The Yoga Journal Conference Kicks off in SF - What Has Yoga Become?
Guests: Yogis

Thursday - A Debate About Schwarzenegger's New Healthcare Plan - How Will it Work? Will it Work?

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

800,000 Privileged Youth Heed the President's Call and Enlist to Win the War on Terror

Oh wait, he's never asked anyone to enlist or make any sacrifices for that matter. This is brilliant, nonetheless:
Citing a desire to finally make a difference in Iraq, in the past two weeks, more than 800,000 young people from upper-middle- and upper-class families have put aside their education, careers, and physical well-being to enlist in the military, new data from the Department Of Defense shows.

"I don't know if it was the safety and comfort of the holidays or what, but I realized that my affluence and ease of living comes at a cost," said Private Jonathan Grace, 18, who was to commence studies at Dartmouth College next fall, but will instead attend 12 weeks of basic training before being deployed to Fallujah with the 1st Army Battalion. "I just looked at my parents in their cashmere sweaters and thought, 'Who am I to go to an elite liberal arts college and spend all my time reading while, in the real world, thousands of kids my age are sacrificing their lives for our country?' It's not right."

Added Grace: "Whether I agree with the war or not, our president needs us, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let our least advantaged citizens bear the brunt of this awesome burden."

At the on-campus temporary recruitment table at Reed College in Portland, OR, the line of students eager to sign up for active duty stretched around the block Monday. Recruiters across the country reported a similar trend, with scores of young people asking how soon they could be ready to go to battle in Iraq.

"They don't have these recruitment centers where I live," said Daniel Feldman, 26, who resides in the affluent neighborhood of Brookline, MA and recently passed his bar exam. "I didn't realize you could just sign up, but now that I do, all of my friends from law school, yoga class, and temple are going to join, too. And not the Reserves either. We're talking down and dirty, right on the front lines."

Drill sergeants at boot camps in South Carolina and San Diego, though at first skeptical of the recent crop of potential Marines, said they have been impressed by their work ethic, claiming the wealthy youngsters' desire to "do their part" is undeniable.

"They haven't complained once since getting here," Sergeant Greg Forenczek said of the new upper-crust recruits. "Usually, after the first two hours, you know who's going to get dismissed early, but not with these kids. There's a fire in their eyes—a fearless passion to become U.S. soldiers"

"They inspire me," Forenczek added.

New Marine Sierra Pettingill, a 22-year-old sociology major who left Duke University before her final semester, said she felt compelled to serve after realizing she did not have a single acquaintance who had died, or even served, in Iraq.

"I was sending out invitations to my champagne-brunch birthday get-together when I heard that U.S. military casualties in Iraq had reached 2,900," Pettingill said. "I decided then and there that I would not allow this inherently unequal system to perpetuate any longer, no matter how much I want to go have martini night at the Oak Room."

Though most of the privileged enlistee youths said they were motivated by a newfound concern that America's reputation could be permanently damaged with a loss in Iraq, others have cited the examples set by their relatives as instrumental in their decision to join.

"My great-great-great-great grandfather would not have been able to make a fortune in the fur trade and real-estate business had it not been for the brave people who fought in the Revolutionary War," said 24-year-old John Jacob Astor VIII, who has put all of his business ventures on hold indefinitely. "My children are going to know the importance of stepping up to the plate when their nation needs them."

"From this day forth, the Astor name will be synonymous with sacrifice," he added.

U.S. Gen. John Abizaid, who has in the past argued against a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, now says that with the influx of nearly a million troops expected to be on the ground Feb. 1, the region should be stabilized within six weeks.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada Continues to Criticize the War Despite His Upcoming Court-Martial

"Could it be that ... many people don't care about the illegality of this war?" Watada asked students and others who packed a hall at Seattle Central Community College. "It is my belief that the American people have relinquished their responsibility."

He also blamed elected officials.

Watada, 28, said initial reasons offered to justify the Iraq war -- the presence of weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's purported ties to terrorists -- turned out to be unsubstantiated.

"We have all been deceived," Watada told the audience. The "American people have the power to end this war."

Once Again, The U.S. Has No Plans to Leave Iraq

The Bush liars are trying to sell their latest plan to the American people this weekend and the media is eating it up by using the same "way forward" and "surge" terminology. Why aren't reporters asking Bush, Cheney, and Rice to explain the reasoning behind the massive $592 embassy we're building in Baghdad, slated to be complete on September 1:
The embassy compound being built inside Baghdad's Green Zone covers 104 acres, making it six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York. A city within a city for more than 1,000 people, it will have its own water, sewers and electricity, six apartment buildings, a Marine barracks, swimming pool, shops and some walls 15 feet thick.

Why Do the TV Pundits Who Got It Wrong on Iraq Keep Getting Invited Back for More?

I had a conversation with a group of friends the other day about the so-called liberal media and I aksed them to name four liberals with household names. Four liberals who have the same reach as O'Reilly, Hannity, Savage, Limbaugh, etc... They came up with Keith Olbermann (600,000 viewers) and Jon Stewart, a comedian.

It's a sad time in journalism when two of the best TV news shows are on a comedy channel.

Here's a good piece by Radar's Jebediah Reed about the rich pundits who were wrong, including Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria, and the poor pundits who were right, including Robert Scheer and Scott Ritter:
A few years ago, David Brooks, New York Times columnist and media pundit extraordinaire, penned a love letter to the idea of meritocracy. It is "a way of life that emphasizes ... perpetual improvement, and permanent exertion," he effused, and is essential to America's dynamism and character. Fellow glorifiers of meritocracy have noted that our society is superior to nepotistic backwaters like Krygystan or France because we assign the most important jobs based on excellence. This makes us less prone to stagnancy or, worse yet, hideous national clusterfucks like fighting unwinnable wars for reasons nobody understands.

At Radar we are devoted re-readers of the Brooks oeuvre and were struck by this particular column. It raised interesting questions. Noticing our nation is stuck in an unwinnable war (or two), we wondered if America hasn't stumbled off the meritocratic path. More specifically, since political pundits like Brooks play such a central role in our national decision-making process, maybe something is amiss in the world of punditry. Are the incentives well-aligned? Surely those who warned us not to invade Iraq have been recognized and rewarded, and those who pushed for this disaster face tattered credibility and waning career prospects. Could it be any other way in America?

Noticing our nation is stuck in an unwinnable war, 'Radar' wondered: Is something amiss in the world of punditry?So we selected the four pundits who were in our judgment the most influentially and disturbingly misguided in their pro-war arguments and the four who were most prescient and forceful in their opposition. (Because conservative pundits generally acted as a well-coordinated bloc, more or less interchangeable, all four of our hawks are moderates or liberals who might have been important opponents of the war—so, sadly, we are not able to revisit Brooks's eloquent and thoroughly meritless prognostications.)

Then we did a career check ... and found that something is rotten in the fourth estate.

Bush Wants an Increase While Brits, South Koreans, Want Out - Italians Left Last Month

"This speech, given last night by this president, represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it is carried out."
-Senator Chuck Hagel, Republicans from Nebraska
The Italians have left, and the Slovaks are about to. Britons want to start getting out, and so do Danes and South Koreans.

President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq has not inspired America's coalition partners to follow suit. Washington's top war partners, London and Seoul, are looking to draw down their forces, and they are not alone.

Italy, once the third-largest partner with 3,000 troops in southern Iraq, brought the last of its soldiers home last month.

Now Britain, America's chief ally, hopes to cut its 7,000-member force in the southern city of Basra by several thousand in the first half of the year. Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing to announce a withdrawal of about 2,600 soldiers, the Financial Times reported Friday.

Senate Votes to Deny Pensions to Convicted Lawmakers

Gee, why didn't the Republicans pass this bill after several members of their party were given jail time for breaking the law?
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., sponsored the bill, which would not apply retroactively. Kerry said such retroactive application would be unconstitutional.

Cunningham is serving an eight-year prison term after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors who sought earmarks and to evading more than $1 million in taxes. He is eligible for an estimated $64,000 annual pension with his military service, including $36,000 a year from his eight terms in Congress. An attorney for Cunningham declined to comment.

The measure has strong bipartisan support in the House.

At least 20 former lawmakers convicted of crimes are eligible for taxpayer-funded pensions, some as much as $125,000 a year, according to the National Taxpayers Union, which supports denying pensions to lawmakers who commit felonies.

Friday, January 12, 2007

White House Blasts Sen. Barbara Boxer for Saying Rice Isn't Personally Impacted by the War

Well, well, well...Boxer told Rice she's not paying the price for Iraq because she has no children and now the conservatives are accusing Boxer of ripping on Rice because she's childless. Haven't we gotten past that? Great leap backward for feminism.

Tony snow cheering for feminism!

If you appreciate Boxer's comments (she was one of the few Senators to actually question Rice at her confirmation hearings), give her a call and say thanks:


Here's the story from Fox News, Condi's favorite news source:
The White House fired back Friday at Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's verbal slap at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calling the California Democrat's caustic comments about Rice's family life "outrageous."

Boxer lit into Rice on Thursday with bitter diatribe during a heated line of questioning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee looking into Iraq policies. At one point, Boxer turned to the broad question of who pays the ultimate price for war. Rice has never married and has no children.

"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young," Boxer said. "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families."

Rice told FOX News' Jim Angle that she was confused by Boxer's comments at first.

"I guess that means I don't have kids. Was that the purpose?" Rice said. "At the time I just found it a bit confusing, frankly, in retrospect, I thought single women had come further than that. The only question is are you making good decisions because you have kids?"

White House spokesman Tony Snow on Friday called Boxer's comments "outrageous."

"I don't know if she was intentionally that tacky, but I do think it's outrageous. Here you got a professional woman, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Barbara Boxer is sort of throwing little jabs because Condi doesn't have children, as if that means that she doesn't understand the concerns of parents. Great leap backward for feminism," Snow told FOX News Talk's Brian and The Judge.

Boxer released a statement Friday to FOXNews.com through her spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz, saying:

"I spoke the truth at the committee hearing, which is that neither Secretary Rice nor I have family members that will pay the price for this escalation. My point was to focus attention on our military families who continue to sacrifice because this Administration has not developed a political solution to the situation in Iraq."

For her part during the hearing Thursday, Rice kept her cool, responding to Boxer's comments after her opening statement.

"And let me just say, I fully understand the sacrifice that the American people are making, and especially the sacrifice that our soldiers are making, men and women in uniform. I visit them. I know what they're going through. I talk to their families. I see it," Rice said.

Boxer shot back: "Madam Secretary, please, I know you feel terrible about it. "That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Activists Call for the Closure of Guantanamo Around the World

"If George Bush was a reasonable man he would understand that he is creating more terrorism against the US."
-Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was released in 2005 after two years in Guantanamo

"Guantanamo must be closed. It's an embarrassment for this country."
-Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Right

"Guantanamo Bay prison has become a symbol around the world for human rights abuses and for wrong-headed policies enacted in the name of the war on terror. It has brought shame to our nation."
-Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA

Some 50 protesters from Amnesty International dressed as Guantanamo Bay detainees line up on the sidewalk outside the United States Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark Thursday Jan. 11, 2007. The group carried a petition to the 'The Honorable President George W. Bush ' signed by 15,000 Danish writers, musicians, lawmakers and other citizens protesting the 5th anniversary of the detention center at Guantanamo. (AP Photo/John McConnico)

Members of human rights group Amnesty International wearing Guantanamo-style orange inmate outfits stage a protest in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, on the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Amnesty International organized demonstrations in various cities around the world as part of the International Day calling for the closure of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay where nearly 400 prisoners are held. (AP Photo/MTI, Tamas Kovacs)

Amnesty International demonstrators protest against the Guantanamo Bay prison camp outside the US embassy in London. UN chief Ban Ki-moon, speaking on the fifth anniversary of the opening of the US detention camp in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, has called for the closure of the facility.(AFP/Carl De Souza)

Peace activists, including Cindy Sheehan, stand next to the security fence around the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo in eastern Cuba January 11, 2007. REUTERS/Claudia Daut (CUBA)

Protesters dressed as prisoners from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay stand at the steps of a federal courthouse in Washington, January 11, 2007. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Taher Deghayes holds a picture of his brother and Guantanamo detainee Omar Deghayes during a protest outside the security fence surrounding the U.S. Naval Base of Guantanamo in eastern Cuba January 11, 2007. REUTERS/Claudia Daut (CUBA)

Guantamo Bay Prison Camps: Five Years of Illegal Torture

Five years ago today, 20 shackled and blindfolded detainees were sent to the notorious Guantanamo prison camps. Since then, 773 prisoners have passed through the detention center, which is on the U.S. Naval base in southeastern Cuba. A total of 395 men are currently being held there because of alleged links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, including 85 who have been cleared for release. None of the detainees have been tried and none have any prospects of a fair hearing. Only 10 of the prisoners have been charged by the "Guantanamo process."

Yesterday on Your Call, we did a show about the five-year anniversary of Guantanamo. I interviewed Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jumana Musa, advocacy director of domestic human rights and international justice at Amnesty International USA, Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee and author of the book, "Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar," and Dr. Steve Xenakis, retired U.S. Army brigadier general and department head at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington. The show is archived.

The prisoners at Guantanamo are repeatedly beaten, raped, forced to maintain very stressful positions, and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation, months of isolation, extreme temperatures, and mock executions. Reading about torture is one thing; seeing it is another experience altogether. To see what the Bush administration is doing to innocent men from around the world, watch "The Road to Guantanamo," a deeply disturbing film about three young British men who were tortured and abused at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years. They were eventually released without charge.

There have been three suicides among prisoners and hundreds have been force-fed to keep them alive during intermittent hunger strikes. The Department of Defense has acknowledged 41 suicide attempts among 29 prisoners.

Jumah Al-Dossari, a 33-year-old citizen of Bahrain, has been held at Guantanamo since 2002. In a letter to his attorneys, he writes, "At Guantanamo, soldiers have assaulted me, placed me in solitary confinement, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my daughter and told me I will stay in Cuba for the rest of my life. They have deprived me of sleep, forced me to listen to extremely loud music and shined intense lights in my face. They have placed me in cold rooms for hours without food, drink or the ability to go to the bathroom or wash for prayers. They have wrapped me in the Israeli flag and told me there is a holy war between the Cross and the Star of David on one hand and the Crescent on the other. They have beaten me unconscious.

I would rather die than stay here forever, and I have tried to commit suicide many times. The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed. I am hopeless because our voices are not heard from the depths of the detention center. "

The camp has been criticized around the world for its detainment of prisoners without trial.  The U.S. administration said the prisoners were not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, but on June 19, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against that claim.

Today, activists around the world will be demonstrating for the closure of the base. Asif Iqbal, one of the men featured in "The Road to Guantanamo," is back in Cuba denouncing the abuses. Amnesty International and others will participate in demonstrations in Australia, Italy, Japan, Paraguay, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. To take part in an action near you, click here.

While we talk about the torture methods being used by the United States, as a society, we rarely discuss their devastating impacts. In 1957, after French soldiers forced water directly and deeply into the lungs of French journalist Henri Alleg during the Battle for Algiers, he wrote a book about his ordeal and named his torturers. He wrote, "I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me."

That chilling description turned the French people against both torture and the Algerian war.

So what's it going to take to turn the American people against torture?

Here are comments from a few of the protesters who've been directly impacted by Guantanamo:
Zohra Zewawi, the mother of detainee British citizen Omar Dehayes, traveled from the United Arab Emirates with another son, Taher Deghayes, to join the protest [in Cuba]. She says her son had been tortured and blinded in one eye since he was imprisoned in September 2002 and still has not been charged or tried.

During the conference, peace delegation member Adele Welty, who lost her firefighter son in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, expressed empathy with Zewawi and other mothers of men held at Guantanamo prison.

Welty said that in the case of her son Timothy, "I have been assured that it was over quickly, that he did not feel the tons of concrete that tore his body apart.

"But for five years, (the inmates') mothers have lived with the images of them being torn apart from torture," Welty said.

Let's hope comments like these and today's worldwide actions planned over the next few days raise the awareness needed to pressure the U.S. government to shut down these torture prisons.