Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Paging John Ashcroft

As he lay in his now famous hospital bed after gallbladder surgery, then attorney general, John Ashcroft, received a call from then White House chief of staff Andrew Card asking if he and the president's counsel Alberto Gonzales could pay him a visit. Mrs. Ashcroft reportedly declined. Minutes later, according to Newsweek, the phone rang again, only this time the identity of the caller remains unknown. The response to that request was in the affirmative. So it was then that, shortly before he resigned in 2004, John Ashcroft received a bedside visit which has come under icreasing scrutiny, and has led to an atmosphere of what the president calls "grand political theatre."

Next month, the Senate will hold a vote of no confidence hearing for Alberto Gonzales, and it's time to call upon the one person in the room at the time who can answer essential questions as to what was said, what the NSA program looked like in its original state, why he refused to sign off on the legislation, and what role the president had in this whole affair. It's time for the Senate to subpoena John Ashcroft and, if necessary, provide him with the same limited immunity that was given Monica Goodling in exchange for talking.

That Ashcroft thought the program was illegal, and that more than two dozen members of the Justice Department, including then director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, threatened to resign over the executive branch attempt to monitor even greater number of Americans communications without a court order, we know, but his refusal to approve the program was not merely heroic, but shocking in light of some of the shady, and legally dubious post-9/11 prosecutorial gestures. Even a cursory look at some high profile litigation in which Mr. Ashcroft was involved peripherally will reveal just how egregious the initial NSA surveillance legislation must have been.

Back in April, 2003, Ashcroft was admonished by a federal judge for violating a gag order in the trial of four Detroit men who were indicted for operating a terror cell. He is also said to have ignored gag orders in the case of John Walker Lindh leading one observer to remark that "It is especially disturbing that it is the Attorney-General himself who has violated court orders and ethics rules." (FindLaw)

As recently as last September, a judge in Idaho denied a request to grant absolute immunity to the former attorney general from testifying in an indictment of the government for the wrongful arrest of Abdullah al Kidd as a material witness in a computer terrorism case. Should the case go to trial, and Mr. Ashcroft be compelled to testify, he will now have to answer allegations, under oath, that he was himself responsible for compromising Kidd's rights by "creating a national policy to improperly seek material witness warrants in an effort to arrest individuals without probable cause." (Jurist) Importantly, the judge's ruling prohibits the government from pre-emptive strikes against its own citizens, and a policy of "preventively" detaining suspects by labelling them material witnesses.

So, taken in context, we have a former attorney general who has defied explicit court orders, and spoken to the press about high profile terror cases, as well as one who attempted to detain suspects without probable cause defying efforts to bully him into approving a warrantless surveillance program that was brought to him, ostensibly for signing, at his hospital bed. What in the hell was in that program that prompted an anti-terror hawk to stand up to this president when he was in no condition to do so, and who better to answer that than Mr. Ashcroft himself?.

Failure on the part of Congress to obtain testimony from this former attorney general, who is now a material witness, on the original NSA legislation, who it was that sent Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales to visit him, what they discussed, and what role the White House plays in this so-called grand political theatre will constitute a breach of contract between government and the people, and an ethical lapse of seismic magnitude. Whether one votes no confidence in the current attorney general or not, the Senate must get to the truth, once and for all, even if it means they must put John Ashcroft on the stand.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


We have more to fear from cynicism than from global warming.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tom Hayden on Iraq...

"A likely result of the war may be troops out, oil companies in. "

courtesy of The San Francisco Chronicle, May 27, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Climate Change

Clinton is in Iowa this weekend and, once again, climate change is on the menu. While global warming is clearly uppermost on everyone's agenda, the kind of toxicity most folks in Washington are concerned about these days isn't the kind that comes with greenhouse gases.

After watching the president's glee in signing the new Iraq funding bill, it's easy to see that the midterm election wasn't an election, after all, but a narcotic which is finally starting to wear off. That the mood of the nation crashed, after seeing the promise of a new Congress diminish so quickly, is evident from Mr. Bush's rumored U-turn on Iraq, and recent hints at troop withdrawal as early as 2008. Judging from the growing body count, bringing the troops home in July would be too late. But, most importantly, for those who felt passionately about the prospects for progressive social change, that passion is starting to fade as quicky as it does for a seasoned call girl, and indeed it may be said that only politics can make old whores of us all.

So, those who awoke from the narcosis that was the past six months only to find the playing field littered by candidates who, like Hillary, voted for the original appropriation bill that sent our troops to Iraq, letting it be known that they voted "No" this time, are duly cynical, and outraged. Many who expected revolutionary transformation to occur following November's Democratic victory experienced a letdown of crisis proportions, but either they didn't do the math, or don't remember that there are 233 House Democrats to 201 Republicans, and 50 Democrats in the Senate to 49 Republicans, hardly a mandate for a change in direction in Iraq, or anywhere else, for that matter.

After the election in November, the media spoke about the lame duck presidency, and how it would be all uphill for this administration. True, but given the numbers, and the presence of leadership that belongs at the Christian Embassy, not at the White House, Congress is guaranteed to have an uphill battle, too. So much for instant revolution; even Karl Marx suggested revolution is really, at its core, evolution in drag.

That said, principally, the problem is more one of leadership than legislation. When, as one often hears, people say that all the Democratic presidential candidates are good that means that no one candidate has gained their support. Some say they like Obama, others say Clinton, others say Edwards, and others are waiting for Al Gore to declare which may prove to be rather like Waiting for Godot.

Picking a presidential party nominee is not like choosing which flavor frozen yogurt to order, especially for an election as substantive as the one in 2008. Odds are, whoever we choose, given that we get to choose (unlike in 2000) will stick around for eight more years, and may have the chance to make another lifelong appointment to the Supreme Court with far reaching consequences.

Whether it's Hillary and big business, or McCain and big war bucks, it must remembered that a president's first four years are often spent appealing to the special interests that got them there, so who are those special interests? What policy, or practices will a president most likely endorse to get re-elected, and at whose expense? How much are they willing to compromise to get to where they want to go? Will it be Roe v. Wade for Hillary, and/or the invasion of Iran for McCain?

Most of all, we must be mindful of political posturing. Everyone is totally focused, during a debate, when the gloves come off, yet few even notice when the masks come off, and yet invariably they do. While, to a greater or lesser degree, every candidate, on both sides of the aisle, does their share of posturing, it's the politicians who buy into the charade that do the most damage. If you think Richard Nixon knew when he was posturing, and when he wasn't, forget about it. Our present president hasn't a clue, either, but it's easier for him, he's posturing almost all the time.

Every president, including Kennedy, had some kind of ideology, or demon, but it's the ones who don't question, and aren't willing to think, and re-think that we have to be wary of. Remember that, only days before his assassination, President Kennedy was questioning whether to lift the trade embargo against Cuba; he was rethinking his commitment of 15,000 troops in Vietnam, too, and didn't do his analysis behind closed doors, but shared his views with the country he governed. Alas, the spirit of collaboration, in government, appears to have died with him.

So, why not think about a president who would be the first to admit that he did his share of posturing, and one who was smart enough to see it for what it was, honest enough to admit that he was barking up the wrong tree, and truthful enough with the American people to say that maybe, just maybe, he needed to rethink his decision to send young American service men and women into combat without sound justification for doing so. This is the kind of intelligence that keeps us safe, not the pork that purports to be in the interest of "homeland security."

One wonders why anyone evolved enough to recognize, and own up to their own limitations would even consider being president of the United States in a climate that is user-friendly for trigger happy blind faith.

Vision never comes with a mandate. When the sedative wears off, there is always pain. What emerges from the rubble is not a green light for apathy, but a road map for radical change, the kind envisoned by the civil rights movement nearly fifty years ago The challenge now is to find leadership that is wide awake, vigorous, honest; and that doesn't confuse preemptive with proactive. Anything less is an insult to those who brought us to the brink of progress, and were destroyed by those corporate interests which continue to pollute, and corrupt.

Now that the novacaine has worn off, it's time to focus less on the presidency, and more on transformng the political climate from one that promotes secrecy, and privilege to one that engenders intellectual probity, humanity, and grace.

Connecting the Dots...

The following is a comment posted, on The Huffington Post, in response to my piece "Atheists in Foxholes:"

"I am and always have been an atheist, I am also a Staff Sergeant in the National Guard, currently in the process of retiring. Concerning the famous quote about "no atheists in foxholes", Sen McCain, who has the experience to know, once said that battlefield conversions don't mean much. Yelling "Jesus save my stupid ass" as bullets fly overhead isn't exactly High Church. When I was in Iraq, there were only 2 admitted atheists in my cavalry platoon, I was one of them.

While there is a subtle expectation in the military that everyone is a Christian, no one ever ostracized or penalized me for my views, and I was never shy about expressing them. I was invited to participate in unofficial bible study sessions, but no one gave me any grief when I respectfully declined. I got more hassle for being a Democrat. When I was looking for enlightened conversation, not on the subject of religion, the chaplain was my favorite companion. My Lieutenant did express some concern over my views: He asked several times "as an atheist, what if you get killed here?" My answer always was "I'll convert to Islam on the spot."

It does seem to be true in some places, like the Air Force Academy, that inappropriate religious pressure has been applied to some people. This needs to stop. However I am more concerned about inappropriate pressure to conform to conservative political ideology than religiosity. Armed Forces Network, in an attempt to be evenhanded, broadcasts a variety of cable news sources. In practice, this means an hour of CNN, an hour of MSNBC, an hour of CBS, followed by 15 hours of FOX News and talk shows.

At National Guard drills, I have seen senior NCOs "strongly encourage" troops to vote for conservative issues and candidates. This is not appropriate. It is true that military culture tends to attract people of a conservative social and political outlook. As long as this doesn't lead to favoritism, no problem. "

By: "Sgt. Mac"
May 27, 2007 01:20pm PM EDT

Friday, May 25, 2007

Atheists in Foxholes

Congress handed the president a belated Christmas present yesterday with passage of a new Iraq funding bill sans deadlines, or exit strategy. The Senate vote was nearly 8 to 1, (80 for, 14 against), and the House 2 to 1. Some may see this as a referendum on a unitary executive, and say the president won. Others might suggest the vote illustrates an executive branch on steroids, but as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin observes about Congress, "We do not have it within our power to make the will of America the law of the land."

Simply put, the vote conforms to the laws of gravity; Congress came up against an immoveable force---the president of the United States. This administration only proves, yet again, that despite our technological prowess, ideology can still triumph over reason and common sense. And, if nothing else, the past six years have shown us that ideology is a contact sport.

So, on the eve of a holiday that pays tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of those core values that distinguish us from theocracies and dictatorships, principles like religious tolerance, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state, why not look to those in the military who have served in Iraq, in active combat, and who openly differ with the ideological bent of their commanding officers. And, by extension, why not think, too, about religious coercion, in the U.S. armed forces, as an attempt to stifle political dissent.

While we may appear to have lost the battle to end the president's war in Congress yesterday, something very exciting is happening in the military that is so threatening to the Department of Defense that it has refused access to Web sites like You Tube and My Space, on department computers, to those in uniform. What, and who, is DOD trying to protect, and from what, and whom? If there is a crisis in belief, on all levels, and if groups are forming to ardently profess disbelief, is it any wonder?

It's no wonder, too, then that there are atheists in foxholes, and they're organizing, and speaking out, in greater numbers, about discrimination, and coercion, about infringement on their First Amendment rights, and maybe, just maybe, about an extremist vision that is a menace to the very principles they are fighting to defend.

Make no mistake, being an atheist, in the theatre of war, isn't just about the absence of belief in the Almighty, it's about the affirmation of choice, as well as acknowledgment that unbridled, and unchecked, zealotry poses a threat to society regardless of what the peculiar brand of ideology is. Some 20% of those now in the service profess to being atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers; that religious dissent is more prevalent in the military than in the civilian population leads one to wonder if disbelief isn't also a statement of profound, and unparalleled distrust in political leadership.

More active service members are coming together not merely to affirm their disbelief, but as resistance to extremist Christian proselytizing by their commanding officers, as well as in response to discrimination based on their refusal to participate in religious practice. While there have always been atheists and agnostics in the military, they are more vocal now, and we can expect their numbers to increase in direct proportion to the numbers of those dying, wounded, and a growing sense of helplessness, the kind of powerlessness suggested by Senator Durbin .

But, if we really want to know what it means to be an atheist in the military today, why not ask one, the president of Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, Jason Torpy. MAAF is a group with members in 15 countries, 45 states, and over 100 military installations and ships.

Torpy, MAAF president since 2000, is a West Point graduate, trained intelligence officer, who enlisted in the Army back in 1994, and held the rank of Captain when he left the service in 2005. He calls for preserving the separation between church and state, and for protecting the First Amendment rights of atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers.

When asked how one preserves one's humanism in active combat situations, Mr. Torpy said "Combat lays bare any misconceptions one might have about any special place humanity might enjoy in the natural world." And, this former Army captain confirms the pressure placed on service members to participate in prayer at what they thought were secular meetings, and testimonials on MAAF's Web site attest to efforts, by extreme Christian fundamentalists, to convert, and ostracize those who refuse to be converted.

He contends that religious discrimination comes "in two basic forms—active and passive. Active discrimination might involve denying a promotion, forcing undeserved labor, or providing undesirable assignments. Passive discrimination is far more common because it is sometimes unintentional, it is nonetheless very divisive… Our greatest concern is when leaders use their military power to express their personal religion by instituting personal religious ceremonies, symbolism, or statements in official activities."

"Combat does not inspire religion, and it certainly does not inspire Christianity," says Torpy adding that atheists "maintain their convictions despite external pressures, including combat." While belief in a higher power doesn't factor into those convictions, service in the military requires adherence to the Constitution, not the Bible.

Those in the service today who stand up for their constitutional rights are honoring every man and woman who gave their life so that they may enjoy these protections. By challenging ideological coercion, they are showing Congress how to take power back from those who have abused it.

Back to the Future...

for the quote of the day which comes, courtesy of The Washington Post, from Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, an anti-war Democrat from Illinois, in response to the passage yesterday of the Iraq funding bill:

"We do not have it within our power to make the will of America the law of the land."

Sadly, today, we are one step closer to being a monarchy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Bleeping Truth

So, you want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the bleeping truth? Not only has this administration put government surveillance back on the map, and in ways that would make J. Edgar Hoover proud, but it has also engaged in the kind of censorship of scientific, and military, documents that would raise an eyebrow or two even at the Kremlin. And, burgeoning governmental intrusion poses a far graver threat to Internet safety than any garden variety computer virus ever could.

Among the more controversial issues former Vice President Al Gore mentioned last night on Larry King Live was this administration's unprecedented proclivity for blacking out parts of scientific reports on global warming, and anything else it considers "inconvenient." A study recently conducted by Oxford and Harvard, released last week, reports that fully two-thirds of the 40 countries surveyed block or edit Internet social, and political posts.

While the nations surveyed include the usual suspects like China, Iran, and Korea, so-called "social filtering" is said to be happening in France and Germany where Web sites that deny the Holocaust are blocked. Whether we agree that Nazis and Holocaust deniers are not a desirable bunch, giving any government the right to decide what we see, and what we say, online may portend a dangerous trend. As John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, suggests"The survey shows us that online censorship is growing around the world." (Agence France Presse) Coming soon to a Web site near you?

Already in China, Internet censors not only block Web pages, but entire Web sites based on what they perceive to be threats to national security. Companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, as well as media moguls like Rupert Murdoch are giving the green light to filtering, and deleting content which may be objectionable to the Chinese party line. Indeed, corporate profits make strange bedfellows.

But, more importantly, this kind of zeal for protecting national security isn't peculiar to the Chinese alone. As attorney-general-gate is quickly revealing, there may be many, thousands of miles from Beiing, on Pennsylvania Avenue, who want to reserve a front row seat, whether warranted or unwarranted, and check in with those sites that present a "dissident" view of government. And, after all, how does one distinguish between filtering and intelligence interception?

While some countries like Ethiopia and Pakistan are disabling blogging by blocking entire domains, others like China and Iran are only monitoring those Web sites they consider to be extremists, and/or those of political dissidents. While few would argue that some regulation of the Internet was inevitable, who can refute the ubiquitous threat to civil liberties posed by pervasive online censorship?

It's important to keep in mind, too, that the U.S. and most of Europe were not among those surveyed, and the folks at Oxford expect to find more nations that participate in the insidious practice of Internet snooping and blocking. The World Wide Web is, relatively speaking, in its infancy, and this is the first major study of its kind. Consider this in the context of what Al Gore, and others, report as censorship of scientific reports.

Mr. Gore is right. For those of us who look to the Internet for the kind of investigative reporting that would never make it past the editor's desk at mainstream newspapers, we'd better wake up to the fact that, sooner or later, we will see the same intrusion, and inability to tell the bleeping truth in cyberspace that we now see in the mainstream marketplace. Unless we want to lose our unfettered, and mostly unpaid, right to rant on a cyber soapbox, we'd better start paying closer attention to censorship. The Defense Department has already blocked active service members from visiting You Tube on department computers, so it's just a question of time before the blocking spreads to a personal computer near and dear to you.

The only way to prevent this administration, or its clones, in coming years, from blocking out dissenting political and social commentary, on the World Wide Web, as well as anything it considers a threat to "national security" is to ask Congress to pass legislation that makes it a felony to intercept, edit, or block any post, Web site, or domain without a Court order. We must act now to protect the First Amendment, in all its applications, before it is so neutralized that it will no longer be able to protect us.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Another "I" Word: Irrelevant

When White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, called Jimmy Carter's comments made on Saturday to an Arkansas newspaper "increasingly irrelevant," he was not only impugning the intellectual integrity of a former president, but one who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. As a private citizen, Mr. Carter is entitled to say what he will about anyone in office without having to field accusations of "reckless personal criticism" from anyone on the president's staff. As Mr. Carter rightly suggests, the only thing he leads now is the Carter Center." (AP)

Obviously, the former president was quoted out of context. As you recall, his remarks dealt specifically with foreign policy. He was comparing the foreign policies of George W. Bush with that of Richard Nixon. No one can deny that Mr. Nixon was an expert marksman when it came to foreign policy. On the other hand, Dick Cheney amply demonstrates the kind of marksmanship at which this administration excels. Clearly, there was nothing "reckless" about anything Mr. Carter said, especially about the erosion of religious freedom, and separation of church and state.. .What is "reckless" is the attempt to bully former presidents, and anyone who publicly disagrees with this president, and his administration.

Moreover, Mr. Bush's spokesperson may not realize it, but when he denounces comments made by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he implicitly condemns the committee that awarded him his prize. But, what the hey, why not challenge the Nobel Committee- while they're at it; this administration has already challenged the Geneva Conventions, the Magna Carta, and Habeas Corpus, too. This is a higher octane hubris we're seeing, and one that may yet outlast the Ever-ready Battery.
Jimmy Carter has every right to express his opinion as a citizen, and as a former president. There is absolutely no reason for him to back down from saying what he thinks. If anything, Mr. Bush's people should retreat, and issue a formal apology for their insolence. The unmitigated arrogance of this administration never fails to amaze.

That the White House would dismiss observations made by a Nobel Peace Prize winner as irrelevant should come as no surprise in light of their actions. After all, they increasingly demonstrate they consider the concept of peace irrelevant, too.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.
Leon Trotsky

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Faith-based Initiatives

Former counsel to Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal who for ten years served as Air Force Judge Advocate, Mikey Weinstein, founder of a group called Military Religious Freedom Foundation said "We have a Christian Taliban within our U.S. military," and that "this administration has turned the Department of Defense into a faith-based initiative." Arguably, this administration has turned government itself into a faith-based initiative.

There are some like former President Jimmy Carter who lament that the separation of church and state has been compromised, that this executive branch endorses religious coercion, and who consider the Bush White House responsible for the blurring of boundaries not merely between the various branches of government, but between church and state.

Mr. Carter has expressed righteous indignation at the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives which has, in 2005, awarded more than $2 billion in federal funding to religious groups even, as he says, "those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion." The former president insists, too, that "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one." (AP) It must be remembered, however, that our current president claims to be serving the Almighty not the people and, indeed, any president making such a messianic claim poses a threat not merely to the concept of statehood, but to the separation of powers.

If we consider the military as a microcosm of what is going on in the country, and see religious coercion as symptomatic of an egregious, and growing, intolerance of conceptual diversity, it becomes evident that not only are we quickly approaching the winter of our disbelief, but that skepticism about a higher power is itself a form of political dissent.

One has only to look at recent bestsellers like Christopher Hitchens' "God Is Not Great" to get a sense of the groundswell of revolt fomenting in response to more than a decade of faith-based initiatives in government prompted by the likes of neo-conservative Christian extremists including former attorney-general, John Ashcroft, who reportedly conducted Bible study groups in Congress.

The numbers of those who express confidence in secular leadership, and in the President, have reached record lows, yet Americans who say they believe in God prevail by a 92 to 6 margin. And, while more say they would vote for a homosexual for president before they'd vote for an atheist, the outspoken expression of disbelief, in the U.S. military, may be as much an act of resistance to religious coercion, and an affirmation of constitutional entitlement, as it is an expression of disbelief. . Religious proselytizing can only lead to an environment of increased cynicism, and greater distrust of leadership.

In a world where one is inclined to inspect a head of lettuce for signs of foul play, it should come as little surprise that nearly half of our troops find themselves at official gatherings, at least monthly, that advertise themselves as being secular, but that open with a psalm or some form of prayer. Nonstop media coverage of the sudden demise of Rev. Jerry Falwell shows what a muscular grip the "moral majority" has on America's psyche. Not surprisingly, too, in this bifurcated culture, while we have renowned journalists speaking out against blind faith, three out of ten Republican presidential candidates, at a recent convention, gleefully declared that they don't believe in evolution.

And, let's not forget Monica Goodling, Justice Department appointee of a born-again president, who invoked her Fifth Amendment rights straining credulity in her claim that she, and her colleague, Kyle Sampson, a devout Mormon, were not personally involved in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. But, then what are we to make of a Department of Justice who has, in a senior position, someone with a law degree from Regent University, a school whose motto is: "Christian leadership to change the world?" Ostensibly, this is quickly becoming the tag line, too, for the Department of Defense.

Even public education is beginning to confuse its function with that of Sunday school. Some Georgia school districts are thinking about offering state-funded Bible classes, and Texas is taking it one step further by considering a proposal to make Bible study a high school requirement. In fact, last week, the ACLU took up the cause of a handful of parents, in the Western District of Texas, who are concerned about their religious liberty, and have chosen to resist efforts of the born again to infuse their schools' curricula with Bible courses which promote the peculiar brand of religion that has received their God-housekeeping stamp of approval.. While the number of religious groups hasn't increased dramatically, the funds earmarked for their expenditure has; faith-based lobbying appears to be a burgeoning field.

Despite the glut of newfangled Creationists, those who never had faith, or have chosen to leave it in the trunk are becoming more audible, and more visible perhaps in proportion to those who question the assertions of the commander in chief whose claims about the war in Iraq seem to correlate with those of weapons of mass destruction. Maybe those who question their leaders are more likely to challenge the existence of God, particularly when the God that is being offered up is one that doesn't accept diversity of opinion, or practice.

Clearly, when generals are daily defecting from the established party line, there is a crisis in belief in authority of all stars and stripes which goes to prove that we might not have trickle down economics, but trickle down disbelief. It isn't so much a crisis of faith that is insinuating itself into our military and our public schools as much as a crisis in credibility with some fairly stalwart confusion as to when knowledge is required by way of intervention.

For a country bent on purging itself of sexual predators, the issue of religious predators seldom comes up, not in polite society, especially not in our armed forces. But, what is it if not predatory when a commander tries to usurp his position of authority, and use his influence to impose his notions of religion on a subordinate? Is this not a form of metaphysical rape? While atheists now comprise more than 20% of the military population, it is increasingly more common to find those in power exercising their control by seducing lower classmen into attending group functions which begin with a command to pray.

Among many underlying questions, one looms large—can it be that lack of faith in military leadership has resulted in a climate of increasing religious skepticism among the ranks of those who serve? Has cynicism towards government carried over to a pronounced loss of confidence going up the chain of command as far as it can go? These are probative questions that require a closer look as does the use of coercive tactics by those in command of our armed forces to ensure conformity in religious practice which constitutes a violation of these soldiers' First Amendment rights. It might be a good idea, too, to examine how a militaristic, Crusader foreign policy has been superimposed upon U.S. armed forces.

Undoubtedly, loss of faith in leadership may correlate with, or result in, swelling of the ranks of disbelievers, both in the service and in civilian life, as would attempts by born again Christians, in the upper echelons of command, to impose their belief system upon their subordinates. What is ironic here is that, overall, there is far more emphasis on freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, as well as the separation of church and state, among members of the military than among their civilian counterparts, and Jimmy Carter may be the first prominent public figure to call attention to this problem.

When religion becomes politicized, freedom of choice is corrupted. Failure to connect the dots between Dominionism, a religious ideology that strives to convert as many as possible, and a foreign policy predicated on notions of pre-emptive war may prove to be a fatal one for civilization as we know it.
Moreover, belief in a higher power, and the right brand of higher power, must not be a prerequisite for service in the military which requires adherence to the Constitution, not the Bible any more than Bible study should be a prerequisite for admission into a state-funded college .

Whether, as Christopher Hitchens argues, God is, or is not, great, those who originally came to this country to escape religious persecution wouldn't want to find government faith-based initiatives on the menu. It's time for parents to stand up to school boards who want to confuse belief with knowledge, and for more in the military to speak out against coercion from fundamentalist Christian commanding officers. It's time for dissent to move from its foxhole into the public domain where it belongs.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jihad Joe

Upon resigning as attorney general, in 2004, John Ashcroft wrote that he "believes the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration." The irony of those words is not lost on anyone who has been following recent developments in the campaign to get at the truth behind what someday be called the purges of Al Gonzales.

Keeping in mind that his predecessor in the Justice Department, Mr. Ashcroft, is considered the point man behind the USA Patriot Act, recent revelations that Ashcroft, his deputy James B. Comey, and then FBI DirectorRobert Mueller considered quitting in response to what they considered the dubious legality of the NSA program is stunning. Even more startling is the account of then White House counsel, and President Bush's chief of staff Andrew H. Card's visit to the hospital bedside of the ailing Ashcroft in an attempt to strong arm him, and get him to sign off on a program that he would otherwise not approve, a program that allows this administration to bypass the need for warrants to intercept, and monitor, international telephone calls in violation of FISA, and the First Amendment. Mr. Comey made these extraordinary allegations, earlier this week, before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of their investigation into another dubious activity, the authorization to fire nine U.S. attorneys.

Picture a dark hospital room, a heavily medicated patient, and the arrival of two high powered government officials, Gonzales and Card, not only asking that Ashcroft authorize the spy program, but in defiance of the fact that James Comey, his deputy, had now taken over as acting attorney general. According to Comey's testimony, Ashcroft had already decided that the program was dubious, and didn't want to renew it. Nevertheless, trying to slip in under the radar, Gonzales was on a mission to get what the president wanted, a blessing from the Justice Department to monitor phone calls. "Mr. Comey said Mr. Ashcroft rose weakly from his hospital bed, but in strong and unequivocal terms, refused to approve the eavesdropping program." (NYT)

Despite what anyone tells you, Gonzales is, and has always been, a glorified hit man. He doesn't give the commands, he merely executes them. Getting what Mr. Bush wants is consistently number one on the Gonzales agenda. Indeed, this president couldn't have conceived of a more submissive, and subordinate, Justice Department; not exactly what the framers had in mind by the phrase "balance of power."

John Ashcroft was to the war on terror what Leonard Bernstein was to the New York Philharmonic yet, curiously, Mr. Ashcroft has been conspicuously silent on the events of that evening. One might expect him to acknowledge that not only was the executive branch on human growth hormones, but so was the Justice Department. More importantly, Justice was busying itself with something even more radical, a jihad of its own; the subversion, and subrogation, of our civil liberties.

Consider, for a moment, that the architect of a radical right wing, neo-conservative agenda stood up, barely conscious, from his hospital bed, and refused to go along with the program; what a defining moment for democracy. And, while the president agreed to Mr. Comey's demands to tweak the N.S.A. legislation so that it would at least have the illusion of legality, that doesn't lessen the statement Ashcroft made against a constitutional implosion, nor make his subsequent defection from the ranks of Bush loyalists any less significant.

Those who now call for Attorney General Gonzales to step down echo the cries, months earlier, for Donald Rumsfeld's head. Neither resignation has made, or will make, a palpable difference in business as usual in Washington. What is increasingly lost in the shuffle is that both Gonzales and Rumsfeld are henchmen. What's more, should Gonzales step down as Ashcroft did before him, the president will merely appoint another likeminded attorney general, and one who doesn't make the mistake of getting caught.

You may recall a character strip figure that emerged during World War II, GI Joe, who won the hearts of millions. Joe went on to become an action figure, and Hasbro's best loved boy doll. In response to concerns about the war in Vietnam, the toy manufacturer chose to transform GI Joe from a warrior into the leader of an adventure team, one that was inspired by the idea of fighting evil. The war on terror has created a climate that's ripe for a new doll, Jihad Joe, and the adventures of the great avenger of the axis of evil. If the mentality of some of Bush's appointees is any indication, it's a safe bet that GI Joe found his way into the hands of the president.

But where did the arbiter of constitutional law, and justice, get his notions of blind obedience to the burning Bush? Clearly, his predecessor managed to maintain some independence of thought, which may explain why he's no longer attorney-general.

The fact that the Justice Department actually contemplated terminating more than 25% of the U.S. attorneys in the middle of a presidential term, no less, is quite a story, but the bigger story is not who the department wanted to fire, and why, but that documents pertaining to their termination were "withheld from the public." (WaPo) That the lists of prosecutors up for elimination provided evidence of the randomness involved in the decision-making process only goes to show that the president's fingerprints were all over it, but the quintessential question is why the Justice documents were accepted for release " in censored form," and include only limited, approved information. What is there on these lists that is classified, and what threat to "national security" would their release pose? More importantly, how are they any different from those kept by another GI Joe---Joe McCarthy?

David York, among the U.S. attorneys targeted for dismissal, called the lists of US attorneys slated for firing a "non-story." ( WaPo) He's right. The real story is censorship, the Bush administration's ongoing efforts to withhold public documents, and an appointed attorney general who doesn't recognize, or respect, his independence from the executive branch. This hyper focus, by the media, on minutia of the story, as well as on Gonzales's famous memory lapses only serves to distract from how it is that a government is allowed to operate, with impunity, in secret, and in defiance of its Constitution, for nearly a decade.

The Jihad Joes will have won their war on civil liberties if this government is permitted to use turbulent discourse on the war in Iraq as a way to deflect attention away from its efforts to play hide and seek with the First Amendment, to operate in secret, as well as to put a silencer on open dissent.

Alas, the only smoking gun many in the mainstream media are willing to cover is the one used by Phil Spector. Unless the focus changes, and fast, we will soon come to see that the only difference between government and organized crime is that organized crime pays better.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Photo Op for Bigotry

Below is an open letter I wrote, last week, to CNN news commentator Lou Dobbs which appeared on The Huffington Post, and the Atlantic Free Press. One of those who read the post, at HuffPo,made an astute, and important observation which is that Lou Dobbs has the courage to take on a difficult subject matter, the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, which no one else wishes to tackle. For this, Mr. Dobbs is to be commended. For his obstinate insistence on sticking to "facts" of his own invention, however, he is entitled only to censure. Indeed, we need to see more, and greater forays into the arena of intelligent, informed discourse on illegal immigration, and soon. We don't need petulance from either side of the debate, but pertinence and, more importantly, accuracy, as well as respect for truth..

My Dear Mr. Dobbs:

Please allow me to begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for you, and think that you're a highly intelligent, and knowledgeable fellow. Any self-made individual holds a special place in my heart, particularly one who attended a prestigious, and demanding school like Harvard.

Having said that, I must express my dismay, and disappointment, at your failure to acknowledge, and take responsibility for, some dubious numbers that you used to assert that illegal immigrants have crossed the border with 7,000 new cases of leprosy just iin the past three years when, in fact, statistics show that the new cases have evolved over thirty years not three. Moreover, there is no hard evidence showing just how many o f those with the disease were illegal immigrants, as you suggested.

At a time when the government is using a program called "Operation Return to Sender" in order to detain illegal immigrants, as well as seeking to deport them in unprecedented numbers, it is flat out irresponsible journalism to foster a climate of hysteria, and fan the flames of the kind of neanderthal ban which recently passed, in a suburb of Dallas, that prohibits landlords from renting to illegals, one that is unconstitutional. Anyone who fans this kind of fire is promoting tabloid journalism, and one unworthy of any major network.

When, during last week's broadcast of "60 Minutes," reporter Lesley Stahl (no relation) called this egregious error to your attention, your response was something considerably less than one might expect from someone literate, and educated, let alone the son of a farmer who managed to go to an ivy league college. You said something like "I'm the managing editor, and if I said the number is accurate, then it is."

Such defensive posturing is strongly reminiscent of the kind of argument that "commander guy," President Bush, is so fond of making, as well as the failed attempt to validate weapons of mass destruction. To suggest that illegal immigrants carry a pernicious, and dreaded disease across the border without solid, and incontravertible evidence is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous for one at the helm of what purports to be a news show. . You recall, I'm sure, the program "Truth or Consequences." One shudders to th ink of what will come from the kind of distortions that are legitimatized by your failure to acknowledge factual error.

While it may fail to deliver, on occasion, journalism aims to tell the truth, and not engage in the kind of sensationalism that may result in high ratings, yes, but will no doubt set a dangerous precedent one in which hysteria rules, and cultural xenophobia is confused with scientific fact.. To refuse to back down when shown that your facts are less than authentic is nothing short of hubris, and thanks to fellows like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, we have enough hubris to last us through the next millenium. So, I, for one, ask that you carefully inspect what you bring to the table, and not add to the ruffage. Everybody makes mistakes. Surely, you don't want, as your legacy, an inability to acknowledge erroneous information, especially when the environment which you're fostering is one in which accurate facts are what distinguish it from the tabloids.

I'm sure your viewers, as well as those who occupy your air time a generation from now, will want to think of you not only as as a self-made man of intellect, but one who has the courage to admit that he made a mistake.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Question of the Day

What is a benchmark, and does it give you hemorrhoids?

How Is George W. Bush like the Weather?

Now that Prime Minister Tony Blair has tendered his resignation, and will step down the end of next month, it gives one pause to reflect on the impotency of American public opinion, and a Congress which, like Sisyphus, continues its uphill battle to mitigate against the military excesses Mr. Bush and his corporate gang bangers have brought to bear not merely on his native soil, but on the planet.

Those of us who give a crap about human rights and civil liberties might wish to tell Congress, it's time to show that the vote is not a vestigial organ of the body politic.

It looks like the old adage about the weather now applies here, too: everybody talks about the Bush administration, but nobody is doing anything about it. Let's get a move on, guys, the Old Country just passed us.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

we think...

We think we have free elections in this country. They're actually very costly; they're costly to anyone with thinks we have free elections.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Murdoch Muscle

Before you know it, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is going to own the news, and we don't hear a peep from the press, or the mainstream media.

In his bid to buy Dow Jones for $5 billion, last week, the Australian-born owner of Fox News , Harper Collins, the New York Post, and The Times of London offered an unprecedented $60 a share for the company's remaining stock options, and nobody blinked, except members of the Bancroft family, owners of the Wall Street Journal, and controlling stockholders of Dow Jones. But, insiders say, that for $10 a share more, the Bancrofts, too, may be willing to give it up for Rupert Murdoch.

Not only is no one in the mainstream media speaking out against the proposed takeover, but some even suggest it might not be a bad idea for this master at corporate monopoly to have his way with Dow Jones, and the Journal, arguing that, if a bit disfigured, the news will survive. After all, salmonella kills people, not sensationalism. And, if anybody's squawking, it must be behind closed doorswhere only family members can hear. Where is outrage at the tought that,sooner rather than later, the Wall Street Journal will look just like the New York Post, and and Fox News? Where is the angst not merely from the public, but from the press corps that a company called News Corp. can buy and sell what we read? No one is asking what will happen to dissent,, and a free press when big business and big news merge. Corporate profit which has consumed the heart and soul of America, as well as the middle class, now looks to devour the information age like a bowl of sushi.

If he prevails, and acquires Dow Jones, Mr. Murdoch will lay claim to the second largest paper in the country, and the lion's share of newspaper profit. And, Rupert Murdoch will, once again, get to demonstrate his unfailing ability to flex, censor, and sway his way to the top. But, allowing for inflation, the $60 million question is, while he's had his eye on the Wall Street Journal for many years, why is the Fox News owner so hot for the Journal now, this close to a crucial presidential race? Having watched the Murdoch muscle at work, over the past decade or so, a pattern emerges, one that is as transparent as it is trans-fat.

Arguably, only a shark has a better sense of smell than Rupert Murdoch. He already has The Times of London in his pocket, and has expressed more than a passing interest in that paper's leading competitor, The Financial Times, showing not merely how much he wants to be the big fish, but that he can ably breakfast, lunch, and dine on his competition. So, it's not too big a stretch to think that, having had his fill of Dow and the Journal, Mr. M. may have a craving for USA Today, the only paper with a larger circulation than the Wall Street Journal .

But, newspaper consolidation isn't the only thing we have to fear from Rupert Murdoch. His devout conservatism, and penchant for silencing his opposition, as well as his well-documented campaigns against anything contrarian, may prove especially precarious in these times when not only the Journal, but every print newspaper is hemorrhaging readership as a result of the Internet.

For a look at how Murdoch challenges diversity of opinion, one has only to go back to the days when he acquired The Village Voice, some twenty years ago, to see that, while he likes to make money, he also has another agenda.. Shortly after his takeover, two of the Voice's most liberal investigative reporters, Joe Conason and Wayne Barrett were let go. Murdoch's battle of the bilge includes, but is not limited to, purging his opposition in ways that would make Stalin envious. While Mr. Barrett was hired back, the message came through, loud and clear; don't mess with Rupert Murdoch. The Murdoch rubric appears to be comply, or perish.

Word has it that he hasn't even taken over yet, but has already mentioned to WSJ reporters that he doesn't like "long stories" which, many think, is code for the fact that he doesn't want investigative work, and that only those will survive who tow the party line. And, which party would that be? The party that Fox endorses, of course. The party that wants to bring you the next president of the United States, a man Mr. Murdoch has had his eye on for almost as long as the Wall Street Journal.

The only time he appears to deviate from his rank and file Republican conservatism is when it lines his pocket as is the case with Hong Kong, and his tacit agreement to look the other way with regard to human rights abuses in Communist China, as well as to bend to the wishes of Chinese censors. Indeed, Murdoch went along with redacting anything pejorative about Communist China long before Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google caved in to demands of censors from Beijing.

Showing his capacity to flex his censor muscle, in the spring of 1998, Murdoch stopped Harper Collins from publishing the memoirs of one-time Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, because he alleged human rights abuses by Communist China. Murdoch himself sat down with a draft of "East and West," Patten's book, and "ordered senior managers at Harper Collins to tone down the criticism of Chinese leadership." (Toronto Star) Clearly, Mr. Murdoch doesn't like it when anybody has something bad to say about his friends in Communist China.

Similarly, a few months later, Murdoch made it clear that he wouldn't want anyone to say anything bad about another friend, Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Later that year, Fox Television dropped a television drama based on a book, "Strange Justice," by (quel concidence) two Wall Street Journal reporters that concluded that Anita Hill's allegations against Thomas were accurate. Once again, the News Corp. owner got his hands on the book, and demanded that the TV project be scrapped telling a colleague only that he was friends with Justice Thomas, and that Thomas had been "railroaded" in the court proceedings. And, Murdoch based his decision only on the book; he didn't bother to read the screenplay before stopping the teledrama dead in its tracks. Who cares about divine right of kings when we have divine right of publishers!

Aside from his fealty to conservative Justice Thomas, that same month, that same year, 1998, Rupert Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for Senator John McCain who , at the time, conveniently happened to be chairman of the committee that oversees the Federal Communications Commissions. In a fundraiser invite, Murdoch called McCain "an outspoken leader for the telecommunications industry." (NYT) I'm sure at least one Republican presidential candidate will take one huge sigh of relief should Mr. Murdoch take the helm of Dow Jones, and the second largest newspaper in the country. How expedient to have, as a friend, the owner of Fox News, the New York Post, The Times of London, and now Dow Jones? That is, unless somebody wakes up before their snooz alarm goes off.

It isn't just the war the press has gone to sleep on. Whose been busy running the farm when we've been out betting it? If Murdoch prevails in his bid for Dow Jones, he may not just be buying the Wall Street Journal, but the 2008 presidential election, as well.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

From V-chips to Vetoes

Don't you just love the progression, or regression, we've made, over the past several years, from figuring out how to block what we don't want to see on our TV screen to the food we eat to whether to follow through on the innumerable opportunities afforded us to procreate every time we engage in what we consider to be harmless fun. And, make no mistake, were it up to this administration and, arguably, this Supreme Court, the days of harmless fun may well be over.

Yes, friends, President Bush whose muscular veto of the Iraq war funding bill captured last week's headlines now promises to exercise that fuel-efficient veto power once again, only th is time to veto any effort made by a Democratic Congress to mitigate against his flagrant goal of doing to Roe v. Wade what he did to Baghdad.

The reaction to the president's growing obsession to use his newly discovered, and clearly intoxicating, veto power on bills that roll back choice should come as no surprise, especially in light of the fact that 30% of those Republican wanna be presidents, at the Reagan library debate ,said they don't "believe in" evolution. Excuse me, but I thought that evolution has already been established as scientific fact. Maybe these fellows were thinking of "evilution," a process that happens when the axis of evil is allowed to metastasize from a morbid abstraction to a twisted rationale for torture, illegal search and seizure, and unjustified, unlimited detention.

When watching the debate Thursday night, I confess, I had one of those V-chip moments myself , and wished my TV came equipped with the apparatus requisite to block hypocrisy, so I wouldn't have to watch ten rich guys talking as if they gave a flying fajita about the middle class, or the working man and woman in this country. Having to listen to obscene talk of securing the border against illegal immigrants coming from the mouths of those who have gained the most from their exploitation was more than I could bear.

Instead, I proceeded to keep track of just how swiftly, almost effortlessly , this "commander guy" has managed to work his way through the alphabet, and how far he has come from unitary to make it squarely into veto country.

'I will veto any legislation that weakens current federal policies and laws on abortion, or that encourages the destruction of human life at any stage," the president wrote in a letter within hours of his party's first debate. And if, as he suggests, he really opposes the taking of human life "at any stage," how can he suppport legislation that furthers the destruction of the lives of more American service members, as well as those of Iraqis? Can it be that the lives of those yet to be born mean more to this president than the lives of those in combat? How can one who opposes stem cell research out of concern for human life, in its conceptual stage, turn around and authorize $124 billion more to divest of breath many thousands? By what quirk of logic can this come to pass? May he be held to account for those words by the widows, children, mothers, and fathers of every man and woman who lost their lives as a result of his illegal, and irrelevant war

While the talking heads were busy keeping score of whose Republican mitts went up first in response to a question that one prospective nominee, the next day, declared to be irrelevant, ("Why does it matter whether the next president of the United States believes in evolution?"), those who want another decade in which to deny women access to health care services which will not only save the lives of their "preborn" progeny, but their own lives, as well, were at home licking their chops at the clear and present danger of a McCain presidency.

What a cynical ideology it is that confuses the right to life with the right to live, and that uses a frozen embryo as a pawn in a game to promote the politics of privilege, to ensure that poverty is generational by denying a woman the right to determine her own destiny. Over the past six years, we've witnessed the collapse of opportunity across the board; this is just one more perverse attempt to instill a sense of caste into those who dare to strive. The women who will most be impacted, were Roe to be overturned, would be the poor women, those for whom a college education, and a career, will, once again, become a distant hope.

Upon hearing Mr. Bush's resolve to stay the course, and turn back the constitutional amendment that allows for legalized abortion, Douglas Johnson, the head of the National Right to Life Committee told the Associated Press how much he appreciates "that the president is drawing a bright line," and a bright line it is, indeed, a border that separates rich from poor, literate from illiterate, privileged from disenfranchised. But what happens to a country when the voice of the majority is stifled for the protection and profit of the minority? Stay tuned, there hasn't been a V-chip made yet that is powerful enough to keep images of growing domestic sectarian violence from coming to a theatre near you.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Operational Security"

In the military? Disagree with what your government is doing in Iraq, and Afghanistan? Have something controversial to say about the war, bringing the troops home, the president's veto of the war funding bill? Get the feeling "Big Bully" is breathing down your neck? Well, you're right. Under a new Army "directive," issued last month, you'd better speak with your commander, and/or an officer who handles so-called "operational security," and get their permission before you post to your blog, or send any e-mail to a public Web site, or you may find yourself facing court martial.

Yes, that's right, as of April, the Army now reserves the right to review (and edit?) anything you post to the World Wide Web, and permission must first be obtained. While personal e-mails are exempt from scrutiny by what the Army calls OPSEC, any e-mail posted to a "public forum," under this new rule, isn't. What's more, the new regulation doesn't only apply to active service members, but to all in the military, including those who have returned from combat.

When queried about the program, Army officials said they opted not to inspect private electronic communications as that would be "impractical," (Reuters) not unconstitutional, mind you, but impractical.How does the song go? "So it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?"

Surely, somebody seems to have factored the First Amendment out of the equation just as they did on May Day, in Los Angeles, when the LAPD shot golf ball size rubber pellets at protestors and press alike at a legal immigration protest. While a handful were said to have thrown rocks and bottles, surely arbitrarily pelting any of the 25,000 in the crowd, including news anchors, and cameramen, was without justification. LAPD Police Chief, William Bratton, looked duly sober, as well he should. Who'd have thunk the shit would hit the fan and, more importantly, who'd have thunk there'd be video footage when it did. In this city of four million, the police department, like the Army, seems to have forgotten that dissent has nothing to do with descent, and that freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and a free press are First Amendment rights.

What is most alarming about OPSEC, and the Army collision course with the Constitution, is that it is, arguably, precedent setting in its attempt to stifle dissent not merely among the ranks of its active service members, but among those who have already returned from war.
It is equally outrageous that not one candidate for president, of either party, is talking about OPSEC, or the Pentagon's continuing breech of citizen confidentiality inherent in the data mining of anti-war groups including even those most conspicuously innocuous as the American Friends Service Committee, and the Quakers, for their activities.

The Defense Department's nefarious practice of keeping of a classified database has now been condemned by newly appointed Pentagon intelligence undersecretary, James R. Clapper, Jr., who appears to agree that American citizens have the right to disagree with their government's war policy, with impunity, and who calls for shutting down the database. Interesting, isn't it, that at the same time top brass at the Pentagon suggest doing away with a dubious database of dissenters, the Army presents a new regulation which requires the monitoring of all military public online communications a practice which, in itself, is nothing new, but now extends to those who have come home from the war, too. It's fair to say that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing, or does it?

Once again, reading, and redacting, of Web site postings by active members of the military is nothing new, but now the Army has the authority to play peeping tom with those whose service has expired. Far be it for me to suggest that one can post whatever one wants to a public blog, or say what one wishes, while in uniform without compromising either the security, or the morale of the troops, but how in the hell can one rationalize having a veteran of a war submit to the same scrutiny without compromising his guaranteed constitutional right to freedom of speech?

Interestingly, those at the Pentagon who call for eliminating the antiwar database suggest that the information they've collected isn't worth the condemnation from Congress, and the media, but where, pray tell, is the coverage, let alone the condemnation, from the media, and the appropriate contempt from Congress, as well as from presidential hopefuls? Where is wide scale, broad based press coverage of this new Army regulation, effective in April, which will, in effect, gag service members both past, present, and future from publicly reporting, or opining on this war, and future wars?

What we have here is a campaign issue of the first order. When service members are officially precluded from publicly posting their thoughts, and experiences with impunity, without review, censure, and/or editing, by so-called "Operational Security," when immigrants, in a major American city, are pelted with rubber bullets for protesting on May Day, and when the names of those who lawfully disagree with what they consider to be an illegal war are stored for nearly a half dozen years under the Threat and Local Observation Notice program, it sure looks like we're not too far away from the day when martial law will be declared, when the national guard will be deployed to physically quell dissent, and American citizens will find themselves held without charge, or access to counsel indefinitely, the way we detain countless in Guantanamo Bay, and secret detention cells around the world.

Congress, as well as those who offer to lead this country as their next chief executive, owe each and every one of us an answer as to how they intend to guarantee free elections, as well as what they will do to keep the land of the free, home of the brave from becoming a police state.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Proposed Legislation

Earlier this week, Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a bill that would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. This holding cell for "terrorists" has attracted international scorn not merely from human rights organizations, but from virtually every industrialized country in the world. Should this legislation pass, Gitmo would be shut down within 100 days of its enactment.

We applaud the efforts of the senator from California, and think we have the makings of a successful paradigm: if we can get out of Gitmo in 100 days, we can get out of Iraq by July!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"a prescription for chaos"

As expected, President Bush vetoed the war funding bill today which passed both the House and the Senate. Calling a deadline for troop withdrawal "a prescription for chaos and confusion," (WaPo) the president showed, once again, who is the boss.

When you think about it, for one who has mastered malapropism better than any occupant of the Oval Office, in recent memory, Mr. Bush appears to have hit upon just the right word when he talks about a "prescription." Clearly, for this commander-in-chief, combat is a remedy, indeed a panacea, for whatever social evil, real or imagined, he comes across. And, for the right price, if there is no pretext for battle, this president has demonstrated an extraordinary aptitude for inventing one.

By vetoeing a concessionary bill which would have allocated nearly $125 billion more in wartime expenditure, this president comes remarkably close to Custer's last stand, and the only justifiable response from Congress must be to cut off all funding for this war, and bring the troops home now!