<\body> Stories in America: July 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Conservative lawyer Bruce Fein: Impeach Bush and Cheney

Since taking office in 2001, the current President has used his executive powers to bypass more than 1100 laws.

Here’s just one example: When Congress passed an amendment barring cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees in American custody, President Bush attached a ''signing statement'' onto the measure, noting that he could interpret the amendment as he saw fit with his constitutional authority as commander in chief.

Last year, The American Bar Association approved a resolution condemning Bush's practice of changing the legislation he signs into law.

And then there are executive orders. On July 17, Bush issued an executive order blocking property of certain persons who threaten stabilization efforts in Iraq. On Friday, the ACLU issued a warning about the order, saying although it is aimed at supporters of the insurgency in Iraq, its sweeping provisions pose risks for American citizens and humanitarian workers in Iraq. The order allows the Treasury Department to freeze the funds of anyone who indirectly threatens the peace or stability of Iraq, or who undermines efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform.

The signing statements and executive orders raise many questions about the constitution, checks and balances, international law, and civil liberties.

Bruce Fein, a conservative constitutional lawyer, says it’s time for Congress to rein in Bush’s abusive actions. He says the Democrats are allowing Bush to trash the Constitution because most of them know nothing about the Constitution and are concerned only with making headlines about minor issues and getting themselves reelected.

Bruce Fein served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan. Today he is a constitutional lawyer at Bruce Fein & Associates and chair of the American Freedom Agenda, an organization devoted to restoring check and balances and protections against government abuses. He’s also coming out with a new book called, “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle of Our Constitution and Democracy.”

Bruce recently wrote an article for Slate calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Dr. Phillip Cooper, law professor at Portland State University and author of “ By Order of the President: The Use & Abuse of Executive Direct Action.” Philip Cooper argues that President Bush and his legal team have been quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

Bruce Fein and Phillip Cooper were on my radio show today. Listen here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Soaring number of amputations in Iraq

"America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children."
-George W. Bush, October 7, 2002

This is from the Guardian:
Iraq is facing a hidden healthcare and social crisis over the soaring number of amputations, largely of lower limbs, necessitated by the daily explosions and violence gripping the country.

In the north of Iraq, the Red Crescent Society and the director general for health services in Mosul have told US forces, there is a requirement for up to 3,000 replacement limbs a year. If that estimate is applied across the country, it suggests an acute and looming long-term health challenge that has been largely ignored by the world.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Clean water and electricity in Iraq

for the 1,000 people who are lucky enough to live in the $592 million U.S. Embassy.
"It's all for them, all of Iraq's resources, water, electricity, security," said Raid Kadhim Kareem, who has watched the buildings go up at a floodlighted site bristling with construction cranes from his post guarding an abandoned home on the other side of the Tigris River. "It's as if it's their country, and we are guests staying here."

When completed in September, the compound will have the amenities of a small town, with six apartment buildings, a palm-fringed swimming pool, a gym, fast-food outlets, a barbershop and beauty salon, and a commissary stocked with the comforts of home. It is designed to be entirely self-sufficient, boasting its own power plant, wells and wastewater treatment system, according to a December 2005 report for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The magnitude of the new compound, with nearly the same acreage as Vatican City, has convinced many Iraqis that the United States harbors long-term ambitions here, even as domestic pressure mounts to start bringing the troops home.

"They're not leaving Iraq for a long time," said Hashim Hamad Ali, another guard, who called the compound "a symbol of oppression and injustice."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Homeless Iraqi women

Iraqi women who have been displaced from their homes by sectarian violence line up for food handed out by Iraqi Red Crescent Society workers in the al-Fadaliyah neighborhood of southeast Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Ali Kadim)

India's first female President

The U.S. will catch up one of these days...

New Indian President Pratibha Patil waves after inspecting a ceremonial Guard of Honor at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India, Wednesday July 25, 2007. Patil, 72, India's first female president, was sworn in Wednesday. (AP Photo)

New Orleans before and after Katrina

The Center for Public Integrity, an excellent organization that still believes in investigative reporting, just posted videos of interviews with New Orleans residents talking about life before, during, and after the storm.

Solom Ellis spent three days in the attic of his mother's Lower Ninth Ward home, chopped a hole in the roof and escaped the rising floodwaters.

Jerry Schulin and his wife, Cynthia, give a tour of the FEMA trailer they call home until they can rebuild their Lakeview home.

The Center has compiled the interviews into a book, City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina.
In May 2006, the Sierra Club released results of air quality tests of 44 FEMA disaster-relief trailers that revealed concentrations of formaldehyde at a level used by professional embalmers. Controversy resurfaced last week when Congress looked into documents that revealed the agency's lawyers discouraged investigation into those reports. Watch the video of the Schulins and other New Orleans residents featured in City Adrift.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Finally - A raise for minimum wage earners

After 10 years of living on $5.15 an hour, 13 million minimum wage earners are receiving a 70 cent raise. The wage will continue to increase each summer until 2009, when all minimum wage jobs will pay no less than $7.25 an hour. It's still not enough to pay for necessities, but anything is better than $5.15 an hour or 10,712 a year; the federal poverty line is $17,170. A living wage would be nice.

For the past decade, Republicans have blocked efforts to give people a decent wage because they say businesses can't afford the hike and as a result, the economy will suffer. San Francisco has proven that the opposite is true.

Check out the radio story I did about women making minimum wage in Oakland, CA.

This is from the National Organization for Women:
Today, millions of families in the United States will receive a well-deserved raise. It is the first increase to the minimum wage in almost a decade, and for many families, it may be a start to lifting themselves out of poverty.

The National Organization for Women applauds the efforts of our new leaders in Congress; because these legislators did their job, nearly 13 million U.S. workers will likely benefit from the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

NOW has worked since 1966 for economic justice, especially equal pay and fair wages for women, many of whom must work multiple jobs to support their families. Our members have lobbied hard, and we celebrated in January when 315 members of the House of Representatives voted to increase the minimum wage to $7.25. Later that month, the U.S. Senate took up the House-passed bill -- a "clean" bill that was NOT held hostage by the business community, which demanded almost $8 billion in tax giveaways. Fifty-four senators, including 5 Republicans, supported the straightforward House bill, and for that we salute them. Forty-three senators were intent on providing corporate welfare to their business cronies, and for that we will hold them accountable.

The minimum wage is a women's issue. Women are twice as likely as men to be working at minimum wage, and that rate is even higher for women of color. Almost 60 percent of the 13 million workers who would benefit from the minimum wage increase are women.

After 12 years of conservative, pro-big-business rule, we have seen the wealthy get wealthier while families barely making a living wage struggle to make ends meet. In the last 10 years, while the minimum wage stayed the same, costs for a four year public college rose 96 percent; health insurance rose 97 percent; and the price of regular gas climbed a whopping 149 percent. It is time we gave working families what is owed them so they can send their children to college, afford health care, and in turn, contribute to a growing economy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Iraq funding so far - Less than 1% for medical care for veterans

This report was prepared for Congress by Amy Belasco, specialist in National Defense Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division.

This gives a whole new meaning to Support the Troops:
With enactment of the FY2007 supplemental on May 25, 2007, Congress has approved a total of about $610 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.

Of the $610 billion appropriated thus far, CRS estimates that Iraq will receive about $450 billion (74%), OEF about $127 billion (21%), and enhanced base security about $28 billion (5%), with about $5 billion that CRS cannot allocate (1%). Of this total funding, 93% of the funds is for DOD, 7% for foreign aid programs and embassy operations, and less than 1% for medical care for veterans.

For DOD, war appropriations rose steeply in FY2007. DOD received $165.8 billion for war costs in FY2007 — more than 40% more than the previous year and 50% more than OMB estimated last summer. In FY2007, the State Department will receive about $6.3. billion for Iraq and Afghanistan for foreign and diplomatic operations funds, and VA Medical costs for OIF/OEF veterans will be about $1 billion, according to CRS estimates.

For FY2008, the administration has requested $141.7 billion for DOD’s war costs, $4.6 billion for foreign and diplomatic operations, and about $800 million for VA medical costs. If Congress approves the FY2008 war requests, total funding for Iraq and the Global War on Terror would reach about $758 billion, including about $567 billion for Iraq, $157 billion for Afghanistan, $29 billion for enhanced security, and $5 billion unallocated.

For the first half of FY2007, CRS estimates that DOD’s average monthly obligations for contracts and pay is running about $12 billion per month, well above the $8.7 billion in FY2006. For FY2007, obligations are about $10 billion in Iraq, $1.9 billion in Afghanistan, and less than $100 million for enhanced security.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that additional war costs for the next 10 years could total about $472 billion if troop levels fall to 30,000 by 2010, or $919 billion if troop levels fall to 70,000 by about 2013. If these estimates are added to already appropriated amounts, total funding for Iraq and the GWOT could reach from about $980 billion to $1.4 trillion by 2017. This report will be updated as warranted.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cruising with Conservatives

Ever wonder what Bush's remaining supporters talk about? The New Republic's Johann Hari went on a cruise with them to find out...
I am standing waist-deep in the Pacific Ocean, both chilling and burning, indulging in the polite chit-chat beloved by vacationing Americans. A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she says. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."

I am getting used to these moments – when gentle holiday geniality bleeds into... what? I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

I am travelling on a bright white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, a casino – and 500 readers of the National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been "an amazing success". Global warming is not happening. The solitary black person claims, "If the Ku Klux Klan supports equal rights, then God bless them." And I have nowhere to run.

From time to time, National Review – the bible of American conservatism – organises a cruise for its readers. I paid $1,200 to join them. The rules I imposed on myself were simple: If any of the conservative cruisers asked who I was, I answered honestly, telling them I was a journalist. Mostly, I just tried to blend in – and find out what American conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren't listening.

Must see video of day-to-day life in Iraq

This should be on TV every night.

Exclusive Look at Soldiers on the Front Line - ABC News
America soldiers speak about their day to day life in Iraq. One soldier challenges Congress and Bush to ride with him for a day.

And check out independent reporter Dahr Jamail's account of what it's like to return to the states from Baghdad.

After Reporting in Iraq, America Feels Like a Bizarre Disneyland - Tomdispatch.com

After years of witnessing the apocalyptic violence in Iraq first hand, life in America is "nothing short of a schizophrenic experience" for veteran reporter Dahr Jamail.
Here is a fairly typical example of the sorts of anguished letters that suddenly appear in my in-box. (With the exception of the odd comma, I've left the examples that follow just as they arrived. They reflect the stressful conditions under which they were written.) This one was sent to my friend Gerri Haynes from an Iraqi friend of hers:

Dear Gerri:
No words can describe the real terror of what's happening and being committed against the population in Baghdad and other cities: the poor people with no money to leave the country, the disabled old men and women, the wives and children of tens of thousands of detainees who can't leave when their dad is getting tortured in the Democratic Prisons, senior years students who have been caught in a situation that forces them to take their finals to finish their degrees, parents of missing young men who got out and never came back, waiting patiently for someone to knock the door and say, "I am back." There are thousands and thousands of sad stories that need to be told but nobody is there to listen.

I called my cousin in the al-Adhamiya neighborhood of Baghdad to check if they are still alive. She is in her sixties and her husband is about seventy. She burst into tears, begging me to pray to God to take their lives away soon so they don't have to go through all this agony. She told me that, with no electricity, it is impossible to go to sleep when it is 40 degrees Celsius unless they get really tired after midnight. Her husband leaves the doors open because they are afraid that the American and Iraqi troops will bomb the doors if they don't respond from first door knock during searching raids. Leaving the doors open is another terror story after the attack of the troops' vicious dogs on a ten-month old baby, tearing him apart and eating him in the same neighborhood just a few days ago. The troops let the dogs attack civilians. The dogs bite them and terrify the kids with their angry red eyes in the middle of the night. So, as you can see my dear Gerri, we don't have only one Abu Ghraib with torturing dogs, we have thousands of Abu Ghraibs all over Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

I was speechless. I couldn't say anything to comfort her. I felt ashamed to be alive and well. I thought I should be with them, supporting them, and give them some strength even if it costs me my life. I begged her to leave Baghdad. She told me that she can't because of her pregnant daughter and her grandkids. They are all with them in the house without their dad. I am hearing the same story and worse every single day. We keep asking ourselves what did we do to the Americans to deserve all this cruelness, killing, and brutishness? How can the troops do this to poor, hopeless civilians? And why?

Can anybody answer my cousin why she and her poor family are going through this?? Can you Gerri? Because I sure can't.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Video of College Republicans Conference

Be sure to watch the guy who's not gay and this statement from Tom DeLay. This pretty much describes the current state of the Republican Party. As you can imagine, real Republicans aren't amused:
I contend [abortion] affects you in immigration.If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it."
Think about it: they would've been picking your strawberries and washing your restaurant dishes.

FEMA knowingly allowed Katrina survivors to suffer from 'toxic trailers'

For links, visit The Center for American Progress:
An investigation of 5,000 documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reveals that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received multiple warnings about dangerous levels of formaldehyde in FEMA trailers provided for victims of Hurricane Katrina but refused to conduct testing of occupied trailers because testing "would imply FEMA's ownership of this issue." Formaldehyde is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" and can cause respiratory ailments, allergic reactions of the skin and eyes, and menstrual disorders, to name a few.

In a hearing before the committee, "three people who had lived in the trailers said they believed that exposure to formaldehyde... was the cause of health problems including sore throats, burning eyes and respiratory problems. FEMA administrator R. David Paulison claimed he was not "100 percent sure that it was the trailers" that caused the health problems, but "Mary C. DeVany, an occupational health and safety engineer advising the Sierra Club, testified that the exposure limit of 0.3 parts per million is 400 times the normal limit for year-round exposure set by the Centers for Disease Control."

Furthermore, the documents "show that the agency repeatedly received complaints from occupants about high formaldehyde levels, but brushed them aside." Several residents complained to FEMA and testified yesterday that FEMA did not warn residents about formaldehyde levels, denied new accommodations, and in one case, said a conference call about the death of a resident due to formaldehyde was "not acceptable."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Anti-war Republican Ron Paul leads candidates with military donations

Money speaks louder than Senator's words:
A more complete compilation of statistics by Phreadom shows that presidential candidate Ron Paul leads all 2008 presidential candidates in military contributions from the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and war veterans. Presidential candidate Ron Paul leads with an impressive one-third of all contributions this second quarter according to newly released data from the FEC.

Ron Paul currently has more cash-on-hand than John McCain this quarter, and this new information is indicative of Ron Paul’s success. It appears that our soldiers and war veterans have an affinity to, or inclination for Ron Paul’s non-intervention principle - defending our homeland and pursuing terrorists, but no nation-building.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What is everyday life like in Iraq?

Here's what's coming up on my radio show tomorrow (Wednesday) from 10:00-11:00 am PST on KALW 91.7 FM. You can also listen online.

As U.S. Senators spend the night giving speeches about their vision for Iraq and analysts who’ve never been to Iraq debate the situation on cable news shows, we’re going to spend the hour talking to Iraqis about everyday life on the ground in Baghdad and what they want for the future of their own country.


Dr. Saad Eskandar is Director of Iraq’s National Library and Archives. When he took over in 2003, the library had been looted and burned. Dr. Eskandar writes a daily blog about everyday life in Baghdad.

Basma Alkhatib is the project manager for AlAmal, an organization that works with Iraqi women and youth. She used to run the Iraqi operation of the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

Sinan Antoon is an Iraqi novelist poet and film maker. Sinan traveled to Iraq in summer of 2003 and made the documentary film “About Baghdad,” which chronicled life in Iraq after the occupation. Sinan is assistant professor of Arabic culture and literature at the Gallatin School of New York University and he is out with a new book called, “I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

This week's radio show

Here's what's on my radio show this week. Your Call airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST on KALW 91.7 FM in the Bay Area. You can also listen to live and archived shows online.

*Monday - A conversation with Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, and author of the new book, "In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror"

*Tuesday - On the Record: What is presidential hopeful Senator Joe Biden's voting record?

*Wednesday - Open line to Iraq - We'll speak to Iraqis in Baghdad about what life is like on the ground. What do they think of the 'debate' we're having in this country about their future?

*Thursday - India 101

*Friday - How did the media cover the week's news?

Conservative who called for Clinton's impeachment is also calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney

Watch Bill Moyers speak to Bruce Fein, a conservative constitutional scholar about why Bush and Cheney should be impeached. Unlike most Democrats who believe impeachment should be off the table, many conservatives say Bush and Cheney are setting a frightening precedent for future presidents and even more frightening, for leaders around the world. If you travel to Russia, Vladirmi Putin can say you're a threat to Russia. Off to the torture chamber. Bush did it. Why can't I?

Recently, Fein, former deputy attorney general under Reagan, has been in the national spotlight after his editorial in SLATE called for the impeachment of Cheney. Fein also testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on June 27, 2007 about Bush's use of "signing statement."

According to Fein, Cheney has:
Asserted Presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes.
Claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the President's say-so alone.
Initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists.
Championed a Presidential power to torture in contravention of federal statutes and treaties.
Engineered the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program targeting American citizens on American soil in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications.
Summoned the privilege to refuse to disclose his consulting of business executives in conjunction with his Energy Task Force.
Retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame, through chief of staff Scooter Libby, for questioning the administration's evidence of weapons of mass destruction as justification for invading Iraq.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The poor can't find housing

The poor are being kicked out of San Francisco on a regular basis. The city has given developers the OK to build enough housing for 20,000 new residents, but the units start at $600,000 (and that's on the low end). In 2005, six million impoverished American households used most of their monthly earnings for housing or lived in substandard conditions. That's an increase of 16 percent, or 817,000 families, since 2003, according to a new report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The national media rarely writes about the poor anymore. With mass cutbacks and layoffs, it's bound to get worse. Kudos to McClatchy for this story:
Despite the considerable squeeze and growing need for help, these 6 million families received no federal rent assistance from HUD. In fact, federal housing assistance reaches only about one in four income-eligible households.

There’s simply not enough to go around, in part because for many years the Bush administration and a compliant Congress have diverted money from housing and other domestic programs to pay for tax cuts and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There definitely has been a diminution of federal support for low-income housing in recent years,” said Nicolas Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. “Clearly, it says there are other priorities, and this is not on the short list.”

The lack of assistance, soaring rents, slow wage growth and a shrinking inventory of affordable apartments have made it nearly impossible for millions of low-income renters to adequately house their families.

“If you’re not one of the lucky 25 percent to receive assistance, you’re very likely to have a very high rent burden or live in substandard conditions or in overcrowded conditions,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. “The demand for assistance goes significantly unmet.”

In fact, a family with only one full-time minimum-wage earner can’t afford a standard two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country, the Harvard study found.

“We’re reaching crisis dimensions in many communities,” said former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who now chairs CityView, a Santa Monica, Calif., company that helps finance and develop affordable housing.

“It’s just unreasonable to expect that suddenly we’re in an era where 50 percent of a family’s budget can be spent on housing. I don’t think anyone who looks at the way families are living in America can justify that, not even this administration.”

Rosalinda Santana, 23, a single mother of two in East Hartford, Conn., lost her hotel housekeeping job after taking two weeks off to care for her sick son because she couldn’t afford a babysitter.

While she looks for work, she’s putting the bulk of her $563 monthly unemployment insurance check toward her $750 rent. Santana applied for a slot in the “Section 8″ Housing Choice Voucher program, the nation’s primary rent assistance program for low-income families. But she faces a two- to three-year wait because program funding hasn’t kept pace with demand.

Santana’s landlord has been patient about her unpaid rent, but she and her children could end up back with relatives in New York City if she doesn’t find work soon.

“I would be in a 14-story building in the projects, in a small cluttered two-bedroom apartment with my grandmother and five other cousins,” she said. “I left New York City to give my kids a better life, and I don’t want to go back to living in a crappy situation. I feel like if there’s help out there, I should be able to get it.”

While some view housing assistance as welfare for the poor, the nation’s largest housing subsidy by far is the federal mortgage interest tax deduction. It’s projected to provide U.S. homeowners an estimated $75.6 billion in tax breaks this year. Most of that relief will go to higher-income families.

Voucher recipients, most of whom are elderly or disabled, pay 30 percent of their earnings for housing and utilities - an average of $280 per month - while the government subsidizes the balance of housing costs up to a specified amount.

But long waiting lists for the program are common nationwide. In Washington, D.C., the waiting list tops 56,000 people. Miami housing officials have reviewed applications from only 4,000 of the 40,000 people on its waiting list.

Philadelphia’s waiting list stood at 30,000 when it was closed in 2000. Nearly seven years later, some 5,500 people are still waiting.

How are 'organic' cows and chickens treated?

A woman on one of my vegan lists was considering dairy products again...until she received this response from an 'organic' milk and egg company about the treatment of cows and chickens:
Your concerns about the humane treatment of our animals is very
important, and a high priority to us as well.

Our dairy cows produce milk for 7-10 years. When they no longer produce milk, they are sold at auction; the same is true for male calves. Some are sold to petting farms, or 4H clubs, and some are raised for beef. Since they are organic cows, if they go to beef they will most likely be sold to organic beef ranchers and continued to be raised under humane, organic standards.

The calves are separated from the mothers soon after birth. They are fed their mother's milk with a bottle for 4 months until they are weaned. Since! they do need to be separated for a dairy farm to run, we feel it may be less difficult to do this before bonding happens. Also, the most common way for disease to spread is from the calf, so separating them allows us to monitor the calves' health before she has contact with other cows.

Our chickens are cage free and live in large well ventilated chicken houses. They have fresh air, certified organic vegetarian feed and plenty of fresh water. The houses have ramps that lead outside into large fenced yards where the chickens can scratch in the dirt and just be chickens. We do not debeak them or clip their wings.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

American Soldier: The 'terrorists' are regular Iraqis, not al-Qaeda

"When you’re in Iraq, you do not know who the enemy is. They know who you are. If you’re on a patrol in a market and somebody opens fire on you and the US military, I mean, if we respond -- if we return fire in that direction with overwhelming firepower and, let's say, a thirteen-year-old girl gets killed, you’re just going to have to assume right then and there that her father and her brother and her uncles -- they're not going to say, you know, Saddam was a bad guy and thank the United States for coming in here and liberating us. They’re going to say, “If the United States never came here, my daughter would still be alive.” And that’s going to cause them to join the resistance. And when they do join the resistance, President Bush says, “They’re al-Qaeda. They’re al-Qaeda.” But they’re not. They’re just regular Iraqi people who feel occupied, and they’re reacting to an occupation."
-Sgt. John Bruhns

Vets share horror of war and death

This disturbing article, which is based on interviews with 50 American soldiers, was written by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian for the Nation Magazine. Laila Al-Arian will be on my radio show tomorrow. This is a must read:
"I'll tell you the point where I really turned," said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. "I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg.... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?... I was just like, This is--this is it. This is ridiculous."

Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant."

These attitudes reflect the limited contact occupation troops said they had with Iraqis. They rarely saw their enemy. They lived bottled up in heavily fortified compounds that often came under mortar attack. They only ventured outside their compounds ready for combat. The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.

Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.

In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía's unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.

"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them," Sergeant Mejía said.

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photo graphs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Another sinful Republican

What is it with Republicans, sex, and God?
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., apologized Monday night for "a very serious sin in my past" after his telephone number appeared among those associated with an escort service operated by the so-called "D.C. Madam."

Vitter's spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in the statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there _ with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Homeless in the summer heat

It seems like the homeless problem is getting worse in San Francisco, but we rarely hit 90 degrees. This is from the Christian Science Monitor:
"Living outside, whether summertime or wintertime, is both dangerous and life-threatening to the homeless," says Michael Stoops, acting director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington. "Phoenix," he adds, "has had a sorry history in dealing with the issue."

That's changing, say experts in Arizona. After 30 homeless people died during a similar hot streak in 2005, officials and faith-based groups in the Phoenix area redoubled efforts to coordinate services for the homeless, ensuring that they have access to shelter, water, and food during the most dangerous times of day.

"The community responded," says Jacki Taylor of the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness. "And not just in Phoenix. There's been a statewide effort to reach out and help care for our men, women, and children on the streets."

In 2006 – the year the National Coalition for the Homeless designated Phoenix as the 17th meanest city in the US (out of 200) for how it treats the homeless – about 7,300 homeless people lived in the metro area, according to Ms. Taylor's group. The number statewide was 14,960.

Phoenix has added hydration stations and "low-demand centers" for women, men, and families, says Taylor. These large, cooled rooms have cots or mats on the floor to temporarily house people who can't find spots in permanent shelters.

Bush's surge is working: 220 killed over the weekend

The experts you hear on TV forget to mention that the savages weren't killing each other before the Bush administration decided to invade their country. Are these the same savages they wanted so desperately to liberate?

An Iraqi woman weeps during the funeral of her relatives. Grief gripped the Iraqi village of Ermeli as black mourning banners, armbands, bloodstains and soot bore grim testament to a truck bomb attack that left 140 dead.(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)

A victim of a suicide truck bomb that killed 23 new Iraqi army recruits is treated in hospital in Haswa July 8, 2007. A suicide truck bomber killed 23 new Iraqi army recruits when he rammed into their vehicle south of Baghdad on Sunday, police said, a day after a huge truck bomb killed 150 people in the north of the country. REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal (IRAQ)

The U.S. is never leaving Iraq

This is from Alternate Focus:
Will the U.S. ever leave Iraq? Official policy promises an eventual departure, while warning of the dire consequences of a "premature" withdrawal. But while Washington equivocates, facts on the ground tell another story. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, and author Chalmers Johnson, are discovering that military bases in Iraq are being consolidated from over a hundred to a handful of "megabases" with lavish amenities. Much of what is taking place is obscured by denials and quibbles over the definition of "permanent." The Bases Are Loaded covers a wide range of topics. Gary Hart, James Goldsborough, Nadia Keilani, Raed Jarrar, Bruce Finley Kam Zarrabi and Mark Rudd all add their observations about the extent and purpose of the bases in Iraq.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Raw strawberry shortcake

After 10 years of being vegan, I've decided to go raw. For the first time in my life, I actually enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Since my job requires me to spend so much time reading the news and conducting research about fairly depressing topics, it's been incredibly therapeutic and relaxing. I've been raw for about two weeks and feel amazing. A few weeks ago, I did a radio show (scroll down to food safety) about food safety and was shocked to learn that most of the ingredients we're eating (even the ingredients in organic food) come from China where there are no regulations. Take a look at your ingredient label. You'll probably see carageenan, ascorbic acid, xanthan gum, and natural flavors. Chances are, those ingredients were made in China. Buy local whenever possible. I'll write more about this later.

Last weekend, I spent the majority of the day making this raw strawberry shortcake for my mom's birthday. I got the recipe from the Cafe Gratitude recipe book. Cafe Gratitude is one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area. Check it out. Even my meat eating friends love it.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Fighting them there...

so we don't fight them here.
“I’m fleeing my home today and won’t take anything with me. I cannot see my children dying. We need protection and we cannot get it in Sadr City any more. US troops are invading our houses, shooting at our doors and killing innocent people and I don’t want my loved ones to be the next victims,” said Mamun Ali, 45.

“They made it clear during their raid on 30 June that they were going to return to finish the militants and surely dozens of innocent Iraqis are going to die just for remaining in their homes,” Ali said. “We are going to Najaf today with the hope of finding a camp for the displaced to stay in and save our lives.”

Doctors at Sadr City Hospital said they urgently needed medicines and emergency kits, as they believed the situation would worsen.

“We cannot cope with the number of casualties. They should send us materials to fully equip our hospital before people start to die for lack of medicines. I know there weren’t many casualties but militants and locals are revolted by the recent actions by US troops and they might take revenge any time,” said Hassan Khalif, a physician at Sadr City Hospital.

The links between attacks in the UK and attacks in Iraq

This is an excellent must read column by the Guardian's Seumas Milne. Unfortunately, this angle is too uncomfortable for most people to touch:
Two years on from the suicide bombings that devastated London's streets and tube system, official Britain is still in the deepest denial about why this country is a target for al-Qaida- style terror attacks. In the wake of the abortive atrocities in London and Glasgow, there has been no shortage of lurid media coverage of the "doctors' plot" that came so close to carnage, nor of bombastic calls for the nation to stand firm against terrorists. The Sun was yesterday handing out free union jacks to "fly in the face of terror", while its heavyweight counterparts have been demanding ever greater efforts by an increasingly intimidated Muslim community to demonstrate its loyalty. Mercifully, the tone adopted by Gordon Brown has been less strident than his predecessor's - he has avoided the rhetoric of the war on terror and the shopping lists of new coercive powers favoured by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the July 2005 attacks and last year's alleged transatlantic airline plot.

But when it comes to the substance, there has been little change. The failed bombings were, Brown insisted, an attack on "our British way of life" and the "values that we represent", "unrelated" to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or any other conflict. He compared the fight against the bombers' ideology with the struggle against communism and called for a similar "propaganda effort" to win "hearts and minds". In the days since, this "it's nothing to do with the war" refrain has since been taken up with gusto by large parts of the media. The pro-war Times and Telegraph have led the field, with neoconservative commentators and politicians hammering home the Blair-Bush message that terror is simply the product of an evil ideology. Anyone who dissents or suggests a connection with Britain's violent role in the Muslim world is portrayed as somehow soft on terrorism - as the Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg found when he tentatively referred to Muslim grievances in the House of Commons earlier this week.

In an echo of Gordon Brown's cold war propaganda theme, defectors from radical Islamist groups have been playing a prominent role in this campaign. Rarely a TV debate goes by without Ed Husain, one-time member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and now a British neocon pinup boy, or Hassan Butt, formerly of the banned al-Muhajiroun group, insisting that this is all about people with identity crises who are "hell-bent on destroying the west", denouncing Ken Livingstone for engaging in dialogue with Islamists, or calling for a harsher crackdown on their former fellow enthusiasts for the restoration of the caliphate. They are championed by politicians like the Tory Michael Gove and New Labour's Denis MacShane, who this week argued that all Islamists, from the liberal Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan to al-Qaida terrorists, had to be confronted without exception. It's become eerily reminiscent of the McCarthyite era when communist renegades would be wheeled out to give Americans a state-orchestrated glimpse of the enemy's dark heart.

Of course, it's perfectly true that al-Qaida and its "takfiri" fellow travellers have an extreme, violently sectarian and socially conservative ideology. But it is simply delusional - and flies in the face of logic and history - to fail to recognise the central link between the terror threat and Britain's post-9/11 actions in the Muslim world.

First, there were no al-Qaida-inspired attacks in Britain before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. There were against the US - starting with the World Trade Centre in 1993 - triggered by the aftermath of the Gulf war, as well as jihadist campaigns in Kashmir, Chechnya and Bosnia. But Britain was not a target until it attacked the Muslim world. If the bombers' real focus was, say, sexually liberal western lifestyles, they would presumably be attacking cities like Amsterdam and Stockholm.

Second, it is only necessary to listen to what the bombers say themselves. Just as Bin Laden has repeatedly spelled out that his campaign is about western occupation of Muslim lands and support for pro-western autocracies, so the "martyrdom videos" made by the London bombers of 2005 made clear that they regarded their attacks as revenge for British support for Israel and the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq: "Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight," Mohammed Sidique Khan declared. The government was repeatedly warned before the Iraq war that it would bring terror to Britain, and a string of government, intelligence and other reports have since underlined the connection - also accepted by a large majority in opinion polls.

In the case of these latest bungled bombings, in which two Iraqis, a Palestinian and at least two other Arabs are said to have been involved, it's not hard to guess what might lie behind them. And while politicians who have supported wars that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives might want to cast a veil over the link, it makes no sense for the rest of us.

The neocon attempt to lump together all Islamists - a political trend that stretches from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party to al-Qaida - as beyond the political pale will meanwhile only make it harder to overcome the terror threat and isolate those who believe it is justifiable to kill civilians in retaliation for the Iraqi and Afghan bloodbaths. It is a folly that exasperates senior figures in the police, including special branch, whose job is to counter terror groups in the Muslim community. Just as mainstream Islamists in the Palestinian territories such as Hamas have helped prevent the encroachment of takfiri jihadists, so non-violent Islamists in the west can offer an alternative political channel to those who might otherwise be drawn to al-Qaida-inspired terror. "This approach has played into the hands of al-Qaida," one high level special branch officer argues. "Islamists have the best antidotes to al-Qaida propaganda."

Given Britain's role in the Muslim world, the surprise must be that there haven't been more attacks. They have, after all, yet to reach anything like the level of the campaign waged by the IRA. But that such attacks continue is a central part of Blair's legacy - and the responsibility of a political class that failed to hold to account those who launched an illegal war of aggression with the most devastating human and political consequences. Until the Brown government makes serious moves to end Britain's role in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the likelihood must be that the threat will grow.

How many Iraqis are dying?

From AlterNet:
300 Iraqis killed by Americans each day sounds like an impossible figure, but a close look at the reported numbers of violent deaths and rate of armed patrols makes it all too likely.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Support the troops

The anti-American left has been saying this for years. Unfortunately, the Democrats are worthless on this issue.

I wrote about homeless vets back in February, 2005, and knew that once stories about the poor treatment of veterans hit the mainstream, it would explode. The Washington Post's expose about the poor conditions at Walter Reed drew attention to the hypocrisy for a few weeks, but what's really changed?

This was written by Retired General William Odom. He was Director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer.
Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

Newspaper with strong military readership calls for Iraq pullout

This is from Editor & Publisher:
Even though U.S. casualties in Iraq continue to mount -- and we have now been there longer than we were involved in World War II -- surprisingly few newspaper editorial pages have come out for any kind of withdrawal (even a very slow one) or timeline for a pullout. Polls show that about 2 in 3 Americans favor the start of a withdrawal, and even Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, a strong conservative, came out for it last week, but newspapers have remained largely silent.

But yesterday, on Indepedence Day, a McClatchy newspaper with a heavy military presence in its circulation area came out for withdrawal.
The headline: "Bring Home U.S. Troops." It concludes that this war "isn't worth a single more American life."

The paper is The Olympian in Olympia, Wash. Nearby are Ft. Lewis (which has sent tens of thousands of troops to Iraq) and McCord Air Force Base. Daily circulation is about 32,000. The president and publisher is John Winn Miller. Vickie Kilgore is executive editor.

“The Fourth of July is a time when Americans celebrate the values that have made us a great nation," Miller tells E&P today. "So it seemed like an appropriate time to editorialize on what has become a national disgrace.

"It is a particularly important and local issue for us because we are a military community with Ft. Lewis and McCord Air Force Base in our area. We seen too many of them killed, so many that Ft. Lewis considered stopping individual memorials. Our men and women have done their duty with honor. It is time to honor their sacrifices by ending this ill-conceived mission.

"A total of 134 service members assigned to Fort Lewis have died in Iraq. A total of 208 service members with ties to Washington state have died in the war."

Today, Sen. Pete Domenici became the latest veteran Republican in Congress to break with the White House on Iraq policy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Freedom Day

To those of you who supported the invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi people thank you for their newfound freedom.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Conscientious Objector responds to Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence

On a statement about commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, President Bush said: "I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive."

Kevin Benderman said today: "I was imprisoned for 14 months after trying to apply for conscientious objector status after seeing the reality of the Iraq war." He is beginning a speaking touring with his wife, Monica Benderman. Their book "Letters from a Ft. Lewis Brig" is forthcoming later this year. She said today: "Parole was denied to Kevin because he had not been 'sufficiently rehabilitated.' What were they rehabilitating him from? Not wanting to go to war. During those 14 months Kevin would be sitting in a plastic chair getting shouted at; he was denied his mail at times, they tried to prevent his talking to his attorney and our congressperson. Meanwhile, Libby -- who covered up the truth on issues of war that affect the lives of people like my husband -- is going to walk away."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Photos: Kennebunkport Impeach Bush Protest July 1, 2007

Afghanistan U.S. Army veteran Ted Goodright of Rhode Island leads the way with the "Veterans for Peace" group during an anti-war protest in the streets of Kennebunkport, Maine, July 1, 2007. More than a thousand anti-war protesters rallied near U.S. President George W. Bush's family compound on Sunday as he prepared to host Russian President Vladimir Putin for a fence-mending summit. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (UNITED STATES)

Vietnam veteran Dennis Dunn (L) of Maine and Afghanistan veteran Ted Goodright (R) of Rhode Island lead the way for an anti-war protest in the streets of Kennebunkport, Maine, July 1, 2007. More than a thousand anti-war protesters rallied near U.S. President George W. Bush's family compound on Sunday as he prepared to host Russian President Vladimir Putin for a fence-mending summit. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (UNITED STATES)

On today's radio show: A conversation about Sicko

Today on Your Call, we're having a discussion about Michael Moore's new film Sicko. The show airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST. You can listen on 91.7 FM in the Bay Area or online.

Today's guests:

Mohit Ghose, Vice President of Marketing of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group representing more than 1,300 health insurance companies

Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy for the California Nurses Association, a labor union representing more than 75,000 nurses nationwide. Like Michael Moore, the CNA advocates for single payer health care.

Regina Herzlinger, professor at the Harvard Business School, and author of the new book, Who Killed HealthCare? America's $2 Trillion Medical Problem - and the Consumer-Driven Cure

Sunday, July 01, 2007

U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan kill up to 80 innocent people

Do we really have to spend so much time analyzing why attacks around the world continue to increase? Isn't it obvious?

Jason Burke of The Observer UK reports: "Air strikes in the British-controlled Helmand province of Afghanistan may have killed civilians, coalition troops said yesterday as local people claimed that between 50 and 80 people, many of them women and children, had died."