Monday, June 30, 2008

The Good Old Days...


I had a
dream I got
the wheel
started driving.
I made it around
the world
before I
ran out of

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Just A Start?

A jubiliant, and optimistic bunch, after the high court’s decision to strike down D.C.’s handgun ban, the National Rifle Association used what they say was a “very encouraging” ruling to suggest, in the words of the group’s lawyer,C.D. Michel, that “it was just a start.”

Proving that they don’t let any grass grow under their feet, on Thursday, the NRA sued the city of Chicago over its handgun ban and, on Friday, continued by legally challenging San Francisco’s ban on handguns in its public housing.

If you think the California wildfires have been intense, stay tuned as the Second Amendment posse works to strike down, and undo, every piece of gun control legislation, and as many restrictions, rightful or otherwise, on handguns, and firearms, as they can, with support from John McCain.

But, not everybody is going to take the Supreme Court decision lying down. And, not everyone is going to cower in fear of the gun lobby. San Francisco’s Mayor, Gavin Newsom, vows to “vigorously fight the NRA,” implying that no rational person could possibly think that making possession of handguns legal again, in city housing projects, is a responsible, and sane, thing to do in a city where one can’t even watch five minutes of local news without hearing about another victim of gunfire, which accounts for 80% of all homicides.

Bravo to Mayor Newsom!

San Francisco has a long, and distinguished, history as a trend-setter, dating back to the 1950’s, when poet, and publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti stood up to censors who wanted to prevent the publishing of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem “Howl.”

It would be refreshing to hear the Supreme Court defend newspapers, and media, by ruling that the government ’s attempts to review, and censor, a “Sixty Minutes” interview with Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich in which he discusses his role in the massacre at Haditha is unconstitutional insofar as it violates the First Amendment separation of press and state. But, the case would have to go before the court first, and the newspaper, and mainstream media, lobby isn’t as strong as the weapons lobby. If it were, an Australian mogul, Rupert Murdoch, wouldn’t be able to come to town, and buy everything that isn’t nailed down.

Good for the mayor for reminding us that San Francisco isn’t just a city that wears its reputation for being liberal like a faux badge, has Nader as its middle name, and is just about cable cars, and gay marriage, but one that will return to its dissenter roots and fight this ludicrous, and dangerous, court decision whose impact will be felt by the most disenfranchised, and least vocal, among us.

We look to Chicago’s mayor to follow in Newsom’s footsteps, and Senator Obama to keep the momentum going.

But, having said that, you may recall that President Clinton who, while in office responded to the shooting of an inner city sixth grader by one of her friends, by supporting some of the most stringent gun control legislation enacted in a generation. Well, while campaigning for Hillary, he intimated that, when he was a candidate, he was told that if he tried to take on the health care industry, he’d never get elected.

One can only hope that Sen. Obama hasn’t been presented with the same warning and that, should he become our 44th president, he will be mindful, and consistent, in his approach to legislation that will provide regulation, and much-needed limits, on the Second Amendment frights, and not bow to the NRA the way others before him have succumbed to the weight of health care lobbyists

Friday, June 27, 2008

"It Was Oil, All Along"

The below piece comes courtesy of Bill Moyers, and Public Affairs Television, and will be aired on tonight's "Journal:"

It Was Oil, All Along

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire, and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be....the bottom line. It is about oil.

Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir, "...Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

He elaborated in an interview with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, "If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first gulf war."Remember, also, that soon after the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. "...We had virtually no economic options with Iraq," he explained, "because the country floats on a sea of oil."

Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie There Will Be Blood. Half-mad, he exclaims, "There's a whole ocean of oil under our feet!" then adds, "No one can get at it except for me!"No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making sure no one could get at the oil except... guess who?

Here's a recent headline in The New York Times: "Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back." Read on: "Four western companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power."

There you have it. After a long exile, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts - that's right, sweetheart deals like those given Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high places.

Let's go back a few years to the 1990's, when private citizen Dick Cheney was running Halliburton, the big energy supplier. That's when he told the oil industry that, "By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Fast forward to Cheney's first heady days in the White House. The oil industry and other energy conglomerates have been headed backdoor keys to the White House, and their CEO's and lobbyists were trooping in and out for meetings with their old opal, now Vice President Cheney.

The meetings are secret, conducted under tight security, but as we reported five years ago, among the documents that turned up from some of those meetings were maps of oil fields in Iraq - and a list of companies who wanted access to them. The conservative group Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed suit to try to find out who attended the meetings and what was discussed, but the White House fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the press and public from learning the whole truth.

Think about it. These secret meetings took place six months before 9/11, two years before Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq. We still don't know what they were about. What we know is that this is the oil industry that's enjoying swollen profits these days. It would be laughable if it weren't so painful to remember that their erstwhile cheerleader for invading Iraq - the press mogul Rupert Murdoch - once said that a successful war there would bring us $20 a barrel of oil. The last time we looked, it was more than $140 a barrel. Where are you, Rupert, when the facts need checking and the predictions are revisited?

At a congressional hearing this week, James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who exactly twenty years ago alerted Congress and the world to the dangers of global warming, compared the chief executives of Big Oil to the tobacco moguls who denied that nicotine is addictive or that there's a link between smoking and cancer. Hansen,who the administration has tried again and again to silence, said these barons of black gold should be tried for committing crimes against humanity and nature in opposing efforts to deal with global warming.

Perhaps those sweetheart deals in Iraq should be added to his proposed indictments. They have been purchased at a very high price. Four thousand American soldiers dead, tens of thousands permanently wounded for life, hundreds of thousands of dead and crippled Iraqis plus five million displaced, and a cost that will mount into trillions of dollars.

The political analyst Kevin Phillips says America has become little more than an "energy protection force," doing anything to gain access to expensive fuel without regard to the lives of others or the earth itself. One thinks again of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. His lust for oil came at the price of his son and his soul.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Score One for the Gun Guys

Today's Supreme Court decision striking down the Washington, D.C. handgun ban, in a 5-4 ruling, and affirming so-called Second Amendment rights was predictable, and comes as no surprise. While the dissent, and dissenters, on the court were formidable, there was no wiggle room .

Now if only the court were to defend the First Amendment, and expand the scope of their ruling on child rape to make capital punishment unconstitutional insofar as it violates the Eighth Amendment injunction against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Some historical perspective is in order, too, as some on the bench have suggested. The Second Amendment is part of a Constitution that was written in the years following the Revolutionary War when the framers were accustomed to living with the constant fear of what we would characterize today as the "insurgency." Times have changed, indeed. Now those who resist occupation, and defend human rights, have come to be seen as insurgents, and weapons themselves far outnumber those who use them.

While the gun lobby may crack open that bottle of champagne, this is a victory that thrives in theory, but one that can only be condemned in practice.

The gravest threat to a generation of youngsters of color in our inner cities has just won the good housekeeping stamp of approval from the highest court in the land. And, while poverty, disease, and ignorance are precarious, there is nothing more dangerous than a handgun, or firearm, in the wrong hands.

Senator Obama is on the mark when he suggests that the right to bear arms doesn't mean the right to do so without limitation, and oversight required to protect the community at large, as well as inner city youth who are rapidly joining the endangered species list.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Script Doctors

Now that it's become painfully obvious to anyone who knows how to read that it's not just the Constitution this administration has taken it upon itself to rewrite but, in preparation for trials by federal judges in civilian courts, Justice Department attorneys now want to play script doctors, and revise evidence such that they can optimize prosecuting Guantanamo detainees.

The prospective court hearings aren't just about whether or not "unlawful enemy combatants" have been held illegally, without charge, since 2001, but about whether they may continue to be detained. After the Supremes' recent ruling that detainees are now entitled to a trial in civilian court and, in essence, to the protection of habeas corpus, the president and all the president's men, including government lawyers are working overtime, so they can stack the deck strongly in favor of winning convictions.

Counsel for the remaining 200 or so detainees, at Guantanamo, insist that much of the government's evidence is ad hoc, anecdotal, "hearsay," and pieced together from reports by bounty hunters on Uncle Sam's payroll. Funny thing, too, who we might find, at one time or another, with their hand in Uncle Sam's back pocket---Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden, to name but a few.

For Bush et. al, the word fact, in itself, has become just another four letter word, an obscenity, as they seek to redact, or expunge, parts of these "factual returns," or evidentiary records, some of which may include confessions obtained through torture.

And, as we've seen since the born again right first occupied the Oval Office, back in 2000, the script doctors have made copious rewriting military reports, and other evidence, either to preclude prosecution, or to make their charges stick, whichever is most politically expedient, and morally bankrupt, at the time.

It was Justice Scalia's dissent from the recent ruling giving detainees legal entitlement to file petitions of habeas corpus in civilian courts that is most transparent in exposing the controlled environment of hyperbole, purple prose, distortion and fear that have fueled the illusory war on terror. In his dissent, it was Antonin Scalia who engaged in the kind of hyperbole unworthy of a Supreme Court judge when he exaggerated the number of released detainees said to be involved in other acts of terror. Hey, we all make factual errors from time to time, even Supreme Court judges.

But, let's be clear: this isn't about factual errors. This is about a premeditated, conscious, carefully orchestrated, and woven attempt to actively, knowingly, tamper with evidence, either through amendment, redaction, or by submitting "new records, which would allow it (the government) to add new intelligence and expand its reasoning for holding the detainees." (AP) It will be up to federal judges to decide whether Justice gets to fine tune justice such that its own mother couldn't recognize it. Remember, too, that the next president won't only have the pleasure, and privilege, of filling empty seats on the Supreme Court, but will get to appoint federal judges, too.

Oh, and keep in mind that script doctors don't only get to fool with the printed page, whether it be the Magna Carta, the Constitution, military reports implicating senior command in massacres like Haditha, how to spin the illegal outing of an undercover CIA operative, but their job description also screening applicants for entry-level positions as attorneys, in the Justice Department, to ensure, as Reuters reports, that those "with liberal or Democratic affiliations" were weeded out as "wackos," and not hired, which constitutes job discrimination, and is in violation of federal law.

The Bush administration's own office of professional responsibility issued a report that concluded that, in at least two known instances, candidates were "deselected" for consideration on the basis of their "political and ideological affiliations." The jury is still out with respect to attorney-gate, the firing of nine U.S. attorneys on Alberto Gonzales' watch.

Even Bush appointee, and current attorney general, Michael Mukasey, acknowledges that taking such things as political party into account when recruiting prospective U.S. attorneys is what he calls "impermissible and unacceptable." What Mukasey doesn't say is what he plans to do about it, anymore than he is saying what he plans to do about waterboarding, defiance of congressional subpoenas by White House staffers, or McClellan's revelation that Cheney and Rove were up to their armpits in both leaking, and covering up the leaked identity of Valerie Plame-Wilson.
And, that a respected general would suggest the president and his associates may indeed be guilty of war crimes is, in itself, mind boggling.

It's reassuring to think that the phrase "contempt of Congress" isn't a metaphor, but one doesn't earn frequent flier miles while standing still. Those who have been writing, and rewriting, the script that brought us into Iraq, and the one that will soon bring us into Iran, aren't planning to cash out their CD's anytime soon.

If things keep up at this rate, we may soon need to put a cautionary label on every neighborhood ballot box to beware of toxic shock syndrome.

But, the $60 million question (allowing for inflation) is--how much more will it take for lawmakers to acknowledge that this administration is no longer merely in contempt of Congress, but of history, too, and act on it?

A presidential election, in and of itself, is like a fool's gold. It won't undo the damage of the past seven years, or restore the balance of power.

Moreover, the only kind of fleet that can restore democracy is a fleet enema.

The only way to rewrite the script is to retire the script doctors, and reconstruct it ourselves, one page at a time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Mike Farrell

The below comes courtesy of actor, activist, President of Death Penalty Focus, and friend, Mike Farrell, and is an excerpt from his preface to Rev. Joseph B. Ingle's book, Last Rights: Thirteen Fatal Encounters with the State's Justice:

Down Deep into the Struggle
By Mike Farrell

"During the years I was playing "BJ Hunnicutt" on M*A*S*H, I was contacted by a minister who wanted to meet me. Letters and messages of that sort came from fans of the show all the time, but this one was different: a minister of the United Church of Christ from Nashville, Tennessee, Joe Ingle ran the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons and wrote of his determination to abolish the death penalty.

When he came to the set, I saw a man cut from a different cloth than those I usually associated with the term "minister." Rather than the scholarly reserve, the gray-haired dignified steadiness, or the studied humility that implies a comfortable relationship with God, here was a man of passion. It quickly became clear that he was a man of deep faith, but just as clearly, he was pissed. Younger than I, Joe was thin and bespectacled with an unruly shock of black hair, and he was ready to do battle for the Lord. His Lord was angry at the conditions that society required some of the least among us to endure during their time on Earth.

I quickly learned that he had lived in East Harlem while attending Union Theological Seminary and, having spent his off hours working at the Bronx House of Detention, was intent on teaching America that crime was the legacy of hopelessness, ignorance, racism, and poverty, and needed to be dealt with honestly, by going to the source. Relegating the products of these social ills to a harsh, inhumane, and corrupt criminal justice system only compounded the problem. Topping it off by state killing, a scheme that was antithetical to everything he believed as a Christian, was degrading the moral fabric of our nation. It was easy to see the anger in his eyes when he talked about the death penalty.

After state killing had come under attack in the late '60's, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in the Furman v. Georgia decision of 1972, that it was "cruel and unusual punishment" as practiced, and thus unconstitutional. In 1976, the death penalty was reinstated in Gregg v. Georgia, with the proviso that because "death is different," certain "safeguards" were required to make it pass Constitutional muster. When Joe visited me, there had been only a couple of executions under the new ruling: Gary Gilmore had died before a firing squad in Utah in 1977 in a case often thought of as state-assisted suicide, and John Spenkelink had been electrocuted in Florida in 1979, the first "involuntary" execution since Gregg. Joe Ingle had been deeply involved in Spenglelink's case, knew the young man well, and was furious at the way the state treated him, as he tells us in Last Rights. The injustice, the inhumanity of it, was an insult to everything Joe believed, and he was determined to put an end to it.

Though I had long opposed the death penalty, Joe's passion and dedication to not just wring his hands, but to get down deep into the struggle was inspiring. A few months later, he took me to my first death row, at Tennessee State Prison, a visit that crystallized for me an understanding that the death machine is an evil in our society, the use of which constitutes a fundamental violation of human rights. As Simone Weil tells us, "Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty." This short visit, more than a quarter of a century ago, introduced me to "the condemned," a few of the men and women our society deemed unfit to live. It helped me understand the damage we do ourselves by assuming these God-like airs. And it kindled in me a flame that will not be staunched until we rid ourselves of this demon."

To learn more about Rev. Joe Ingle's struggle against state-assisted murder, and finish reading this wonderful preface, I encourage you to get Last Rights: Thirteen Fatal Encounters with the State's Justice.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Michael Winship...

Courtesy of Bill Moyers' Journal, and Public Affairs Television:

Let Me Call You Sweetheart… Loans

By Michael Winship

Pity poor Ed McMahon. Remember Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show, host of Star Search, the guy who used to deliver flabbergasted citizens those multi-million dollar checks from Publishers’ Clearinghouse?

With his own big paydays largely in the past, he’s nearly $644,000 behind in his payments on a $4.8 million mortgage. Countrywide Financial Corporation, the country’s biggest home mortgage lender, may soon foreclose on his Beverly Hills mansion.

Ed might fare better with Countrywide if he had a government job. Last week, Jim Johnson, former chief of staff for Vice President Walter Mondale and CEO of the federally-chartered banker Fannie Mae, which buys and resells mortgages, had to resign from his position as head of the task force looking for Barack Obama’s running mate. The Wall Street Journal reported that Countrywide – Fannie Mae’s largest mortgage provider – gave him preferential treatment for millions of dollars in personal loans.

Johnson, a prominent and prosperous Democratic wheeler-dealer, wasn’t the only officeholder to benefit from the generosity of Countrywide, although so far he seems to have been the most favored target of its corporate largesse. In fact, it was Johnson, according to last Saturday’s Washington Post, who handed United States Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the name and number of his private banker pal at Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo, the company’s CEO.

Thus did Senator Conrad become an FOA – Friend of Angelo’s – part of an elite who received the occasional favor from Countrywide. For the North Dakota senator, it was help with a million-dollar loan for improvements to his vacation home on the Delaware shore. In a March 2007 e-mail, Mozilo told one of his loan officers to, quote, “Take off one point,” for Conrad.

In addition, Conrad was given a mortgage for an eight-unit apartment building back in Bismarck, even though Countrywide had a policy against loans for anything larger than four units. In another e-mail, Angelo Mozilo wrote, “Make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator.” Waiving the rules was SOP for an FOA.

According to the magazine Conde Nast Portfolio, other members of Angelo Mozilo’s VIP club included Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who allegedly received savings of as much as $75,000 on two Countrywide loans; former United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who recently resigned in the wake of charges of cronyism; and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. When Shalala applied for a mortgage on a Florida timeshare, an in-house e-mail at Countrywide, announced, “Angelo asked me to ensure that ‘we knock her socks off’ with our great service.”

Both Senators Dodd and Conrad have denied that there was any wrongdoing and Senator Conrad announced last weekend that he would donate the money he saved on the Delaware loan – $10,500 – to charity. Ten and a half grand. We’re not talking graft on the level of the Whiskey Ring or Teapot Dome or Halliburton. But consider this: Countrywide was one of America’s primary purveyors of subprime mortgages, the dubious, lucrative loans that got the country into our current housing crisis. Almost no one paid attention.

Such loans seemed like a good idea at the time – the mid 1990’s – a way for low-income and minority families that had long been discriminated against to buy property with little or no money down. But then look what happened, as succinctly described by the Center for Responsible Lending’s Kathleen Day: ”Lenders, fat with money made cheap by the federal government, aggressively coaxed millions of borrowers to take out unaffordable mortgages,” she wrote in Sunday’s Wilmington (DE) News-Journal. “They lent money without assessing whether borrowers could repay it. They assumed that most wouldn't be able to do so, and would have to refinance into new, equally unaffordable loans.

This would produce an endless cycle of fees for the lenders – but only if home prices rose forever.” Which, in 2005, they did not. By that point, in just ten years, the private-label, subprime bond market had grown from $18 billion to almost $500 billion.

Deregulation led to insufficient or non-existent oversight. Documents were altered, signatures were forged, credit ratings ignored – anything to get a subprime loan approved. In his book, Confessions of a Subprime Lender, former mortgage banker Richard Bitner estimates that 70% of the subprime loans that came from his mortgage broker customers were “somehow fraudulent.” (On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that since March, in the first significant FBI crackdown, more than 400 “real estate industry players” have been indicted for mortgage fraud.)

Mortgage brokers failed to inform their customers of hidden costs, balloon payments or ways that they could finance their mortgages more cheaply. Until recently, the government looked the other way and now we have a mess that makes the S & L crisis of 20 years ago look like a tiptoe through the T-bills. Over the next five years, financial services giant Credit Suisse predicts an astronomical 6.5 million foreclosures. Already, the average rate is 65,000 a week.

In the face of such calamity, where was Congress? Counting its financial blessings. The mortgage perks handed out by loan shark Mozilo to his DC pals were a mere bagatelle, part of a much larger campaign of lobbying and political contributions. From 1990, Mozilo and his family donated $110,000 to federal candidates, including $1,000 to Senator Conrad in 1999. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Countrywide’s political action committee gave Conrad $6,000 in 2005 and 2006 and over the last decade has donated $21,000 to Senator Dodd.

In turn, Countrywide’s handouts to pols were just part of a bigger DC jackpot. As per Kathleen Day, “The financial services and real estate industries are far and away the largest federal campaign donors, giving more than $247 million in the 2007-08 cycle alone. Between 1999 and the end of 2006, the mortgage industry and its trade groups spent $187 million lobbying Congress, blocking efforts to ban abusive practices at the national level.” No wonder so little has been done so far to help those whose savings have been lost. Campaign cash registers and the politicians who love them rule.

Facing bankruptcy, Countrywide is being taken over by Bank of America for $4.1 billion, but a Federal judge has approved a shareholders lawsuit against the company and Justice Department and congressional investigations have begun. Cold comfort for those who once honestly thought they had a mortgage they could afford and a home to call their own.

Nuke of Earl

To John McCain, the future is nuclear. Should he win election, in November, the Arizona senator has another vision, for America , besides keeping U.S. forces in Iraq for the next hundred years. McCain plans to increase existing domestic nuclear reactors by 50%, or add another 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030.

What is the Republican presidential nominee’s rationale for such a radical expansion of our nuclear waistline? He claims to be striving for energy independence. Surely, there are other options beside one that is so riddled with hazard. What about solar power? What about exploring more cost-effective use of electricity, or other planet-friendly natural resources that don’t come with the baggage of nuclear exposure.

Apart from the obvious risk of expanding nuclear power, a threat that both Bush and McCain see in Iran, and North Korea, this proposal raises some serious questions about the soundness of John McCain’s environmentally-friendly stance. Just ask the folks who live on Yucca Mountain, less than a two hour drive from Las Vegas , how they feel about becoming a national nuclear waste dump.

Consider, too, the irony of this proposal to increase the number of domestic nuclear reactors from about 100 to 145 given that it comes from then candidate McCain who, just months ago, told Foreign Affairs Magazine that the idea that “nuclear technology can spread without nuclear weapons” is a “mistaken assumption” that works counter to nonproliferation treaties.

On his Web site, McCain promises to “increase funding for nonproliferation efforts.” So, if we understand him correctly, the Republican who wants to be the next president plans both to increase funding for nuclear nonproliferation and, at the same time, develop 45 more nuclear reactors which, by his own admission, threaten nonproliferation—talk about pissing up a tree.

The site also says that Iran is “marching toward the same goal” as North Korea and Syria who pose a threat by developing nuclear weapons programs, but India , Israel , and the U.S. don’t pose a threat? By what kind of inverted logic does the senator arrive at this conclusion? After all, doesn’t Ahmadinejad contend that he’s developing his nuclear program for peaceful use only?

Moreover, a quick visit to reveals his pledge for “a long term commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.” Does he plan to accomplish this by building nearly 50 more nuclear reactors in his own country? And, dare we consider this long term commitment back to back with his statement that he could foresee American forces in Iraq for another 100 years?

In John McCain, we have a prospective leader of the free world who says he’s conscious of the environment while giving a big thumbs up to drilling in the Alaska nature wildlife refuge, one who would grow reactors thereby increasing hazardous nuclear waste, and who has the unmitigated chutzpah to say he’s aiming for nuclear nonproliferation, dherence to international treaties while, at the same time, setting the infrastructure in place for doing exactly what he accuses the “axis of evil” countries of doing. If it sounds like doubletalk to you that’s cause it is.

Yes, Sen.McCain would also throw a couple of billion a year to research other alternatives like clean coal, but think about how many billions more will go to building dozens of nuclear reactors, virtually one for every state in the union. Better still, think about the hypocrisy of threatening “terrorist” countries with military strikes for pursuing the same programs that the Republican nominee-in-waiting plans to put in place.

Unless the Arizona senator thinks that a nuclear reactor doesn’t fit under the umbrella of “nuclear technology,” he is now working at cross-purposes with himself by embracing a program of national nuclear reactor proliferation. Can we afford a president who works at cross-purposes with himself, and yet another chief executive who, when faced with it, will claim immunity from U.N. inspections, as well as nonproliferation treaties, and then call North Korea, Syria, and Iran “terrorist” states? How many more seismic position shifts may we expect in the coming months, and how many more still if he were to be elected?

Make no mistake, when it comes to the military, John McCain is George W. Bush on steroids.
Seeing how much fun the senator had with “Bomb Iran,” his rendition of an old song, he won’t mind having as his theme song the “Nuke of Earl.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Real Issues" -- An Open Letter to the South Florida Sun Sentinel

(The below in response to a scathing editorial, last week, in a major Florida newspaper lambasting Rep. Robert Wexler from Delray Beach, Florida):

Dear Editor:

Your June 12th editorial, in which you chastise Rep. Wexler for co-sponsoring 35 articles of impeachment, sent shock waves down my spine.

While it's true, six months, or a year, ago, I might have agreed with your argument that the rising price of gas, credit crunch, and foreclosures render impeachment of a lame duck president an "ivory tower debate," in light of increasing revelations about top down manipulations of the definition of torture, redactions of testimony, and/or handwritten notes, by interrogators of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and the torture industrial complex evolving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and, more importantly, Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain's assertion that he abjures the Supreme Court's decision, this week, to allow detainees to seek remedy in civilian courts, how can any editorial board of any major newspaper in America consider the inauguration of impeachment proceedings against this president as anything less than essential?

Yes, Mr. Bush is on his way out, but unless Congress takes a strong stand against his policies like NSA warrantless surveillance on ordinary citizens in violation of FISA laws, as well as his contempt for checks and balances, we will see more of these policies in his next incarnation in the form of Senator John McCain who counts, among his campaign staff, those major telecoms that are working for immunity from prosecution which is shorthand for saying that Senator McCain will continue warrantless spying, waterboarding, allowing interrogator's notes to mysteriously disappear from evidence, as well as those meat and potatoes tax policies set in place by what history will remember as the most corrupt political administration in our nation's history.

You owe Robert Wexler an apology, as well as Dennis Kucinich, and all those in Congress who have decided to take a stand against a regime that has brought infamy, and shame, upon this country, as well as international condemnation. Kudos to the congressman from Delray Beach for having the courage to support articles of impeachment.

This election is not about red states versus blue states. This election is about those who want to continue down the road of preemptive war, illegal wiretapping, molesting our environment in favor of NAFTA, and the interests of big business, seeing to it that the rich continue to get richer while the rest of us get front row seats, and returning us to the days when a college education, and a car, were only for the privileged. Those of us who want to watch John McCain run don't need a flat screen T.V., but only a rear view mirror.

Those of us who believe that accountabiliy, from the executive branch, is not a matter of political convenience, those of us who think that no presidential staffer, or appointee, has the right to defy a congressional subpoena, indeed, anyone who still believe in the Constitution, and recognizes the threat of this unitary executive's abuse of power must also acknowledge the need to send a signal to the world, and all future presidents, that we won't sit back and watch our democracy stolen by a bunch a crooks in Gucci cowboy boots.

We're going to take our country back--one article of impeachment at a time.

Happy Bloomsday!

From Leo Bloom on this the day he met his Molly, June 16, 1904, one that will ever belong to Mr. Joyce and his Nora:

It was a subject of regret and absurd as well on the face of it and no small blame to our vaunted society that the man in the street, when the system really needed toning up, for a matter of a couple of paltry pounds, was debarred from seeing more of the world they lived in instead of being always cooped up since my old stick-in-the-mud took me for a wife. After all, hang it, they had their eleven and more humdrum months of it and merited a radical change of venue after the grinding life of city life in the summertime, for choice, when Dame Nature is at her spectacular best, constituting nothing short of a new lease of life. “

From Ulysses
By James Joyce

(Ay, alas, the system still needs toning up, and the man in the street from Dublin to Flatbush, from Athens to Algiers, salutes the bloomers, the Joyces, and choices, that light up the soil. The soundtrack of ever plays on in the wilderness of never. Oh, and, keep your bloomers on, the storm is coming!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

From Michael Winship

Courtesy of Bill Moyers, and Public Affairs Television...

Media Reformers: It’s the Economy
By Michael Winship

Last weekend’s National Conference on Media Reform in Minneapolis was a freewheeling, articulate, committed gathering of activists, policy wonks and everyday citizens dedicated to the idea that there can be no real democracy without a media democracy – independent reporting from diverse communities free of the interference and spin of government and big business. Perhaps nowhere else can you witness an FCC commissioner like Michael Copps get a rock star standing ovation worthy of Mick Jagger or hear the words, “Common carrier rules are hot!”

Some 3500 assembled to participate in panels and hear a range of speakers that included my colleague Bill Moyers, Senator Byron Dorgan, Center for Internet and Society founder Lawrence Lessig, Naomi Klein, Louise Erdrich and Dan Rather.

Participants grappled with mobilizing grass roots movements around such hot button issues as continuing, big media consolidation and net neutrality – two words perhaps more elegantly phrased as “Internet freedom” – keeping cyberspace open and accessible to all, regardless of income. As Moyers has pointed out, neutrality sounds too much like Switzerland, and as my colleague Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild, West, says, the notion of fighting for neutrality seems oxymoronic. So, “Internet freedom” it is.

Marty Kaplan, director of the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, told those gathered they were a crowd that “may not color inside the lines but sure can connect the dots.” Yet as perceptive and informed as attendees were, sadly absent from the weekend’s energetic dialogues was any significant discussion of this country’s economy, the vast gap between rich and poor, the way gross inequality in such desperate times is being largely ignored by the media, our candidates and the progressive movement.

“The economic crisis is just not that compelling or sexy to the many progressives who are stirred into action by every ugly utterance by Bill O’Reilly,” media activist and journalist Danny Schechter writes. “… Cheering on political personalities or mounting one more issue oriented e-mail campaign is certainly easier than confronting the economic and power imbalances caused by the structural conflicts in our economy.”Schecter goes on to quote an executive with the Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, who describes our current situation as, “A CRISIS OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS.”

The exec elaborates: “I’m not talking New Testament biblical; I’m talking Old Testament hellfire and brimstone. This is the worst credit crisis we’ve ever seen.” Thirty six and a half million Americans – one in eight Americans, one in six children – that we KNOW of, because there are no good ways to really measure – live below the official federal poverty level, $20,000 a year for a family of four. Half of us – half! – will have gone through a year or more of poverty by the time we turn 60.

In contrast, behold the woeful case of Alan Schwartz, former CEO of the now defunct investment bank Bear Stearns. As that company nosedived last year, subprime mortgage hedge funds crashing in flames, Schwartz relinquished his usual annual bonus, which meant that his total compensation for 2007 and the prior four years was a piddling $141 million. Poor guy had to rent out his 7800 square foot house in the New York suburbs and squat at his new, $28 million Manhattan apartment; his seven-acre home in Greenwich, Connecticut; and his Colorado condo.

Just a couple of weeks ago, shareholders approved Bear Stearns’ merger with JP Morgan, which received $30 billion in taxpayer-funded, federal loan guarantees to take over what little was left.

John McCain says the fundamentals of the economy are strong but admits it’s a subject he doesn’t know a lot about. He counts among his economic advisors Carly Fiorina, fired chief executive of Hewlett Packard, where you’ll recall she was accused of breathtaking mismanagement and street-bully tactics. Of her role in the McCain campaign, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management told The New York Times, “You couldn’t pick a worse, non-imprisoned C.E.O. to be your standard-bearer.”

Among McCain’s other top advisors are John Green and Wayne Berman, who received $720,000 in lobbying fees from Ameriquest Mortgage, one of the noteworthy, predatory lenders in the country’s mortgage mess. As the New York Daily News reported this past spring, Ameriquest, which has since been bought out by Citigroup, “was forced to settle suits with 49 states for $325 million. More than 13,680 New York <> homeowners got taken for a ride by the company, records show.”

Barack Obama believes our current economic crisis is “the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.” Nonetheless, his economic policy director, Jason Furman, has been a defender of Wal-Mart and was director of former treasury secretary Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, a group of Wall Street Democrats committed to continuing Bill Clinton’s economic doctrine – i.e., growth based on deficit reduction and free trade.

Until his resignation Wednesday, Obama’s team also included Jim Johnson, ex-Mondale chief of staff and former CEO of Fannie Mae, the government-sanctioned banker that buys and resells loans from other banks and lenders.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Johnson, who was leading the search for Obama’s running mate, was given preferential treatment when he received $2 million in personal loans from one of Fannie Mae’s biggest customers, subprime lender Countrywide Financial Services.

A front page story in Wednesday’s Washington Post added that Johnson also was “the beneficiary of accounting in which Fannie Mae's earnings were manipulated so that executives could earn larger bonuses. The accounting manipulation for 1998 resulted in the maximum payouts to Fannie Mae's senior executives – $1.9 million in Johnson's case – when the company's performance that year would have otherwise resulted in no bonuses at all, according to reports in 2004 and 2006 by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight <> .”

Both candidates need economic advisors untainted by association with corporate interests, folks who know what it’s like to have to live on macaroni instead of meat, to spend sleepless nights in subways or shelters, to let diseases like cancer and diabetes gnaw away at a person’s insides because they can’t afford medicine and doctors. And the media need to tell their stories, not only to make the rest of us aware and stir us to action, but also to validate and empower with Webspace, column inches and airtime the plight of those so afflicted, to bring dignity and gravitas to their predicament. Attention must be paid.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs programBill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.Check local airtimes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quote of the Day (uhm---of a generation)

"To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this court, say what the law is."

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

(In a landmark ruling today that grants foreigners detained at Guantanamo Bay the constitutional right to appeal their convictions in civilian courts. )

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mr. Biz Whiz

John McCain told a room full of small business owners, the other day, that Barack Obama is bad news for business. McCain even went so far as to criticize the Democratic party hopeful for being willing to reconsider NAFTA.

It's a good thing Senator McCain acknowledges that economics isn't his strong suit given that, since 2001, the U.S. has lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs, and nearly 1 million professional, and information service, positions, and NAFTA trade deficits alone have resulted in the loss of hundreds and thousands of jobs.

Nor does it come as breaking news to most of us that real wages have stagnated in the past thirty-odd years, and have actually fallen in the past year. As reporter David Cay Johnston points out, the average annual income, for the upper one percent of the population, has increased by 650%, since 1975, while "the vast majority" have lost about 3% in annual income.

So, how is it then, that something can be good for small businesses when it's bad for small businessmen?

It's the same old song, since the great Depression, of the rich getting richer while the rest of us shine their shoes, but not since the 1920's has the disparity between rich and poor been this great. It's not only working Americans that are getting poorer. Thanks to this administration, which posted an unparalled $374 billion budget deficit in 2003, one that is projected to rise to $631 billion--nearly twice that--before Mr. Bush leaves office, the government is getting poorer, too. If things keep up at this rate, the U.S. Treasury may have to file for bankruptcy protection.

This president, whose tax policies have clearly favored the rich and corporations, are the model from which John McCain draws as he looks to greater deregulation, cutting even more taxes for corporations, and expanding NAFTA, all at the expense of federal programs. As we know, McCain vows to keep Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest, adding another $300 billion a year to an already bloated budget deficit. In fact, the senator from Arizona told his audience of small businessmen that he even plans to help them "write off some new investments." How about allowing you and me to write off the cost of gas?

Far from it. John McCain, along with his colleagues in the Senate, blocked a windfall profits tax on oil companies, and unless voters fill more Senate seats with Democrats, in November, you can bet that if elected #44, McCain will also veto any efforts, by Congress, to provide financial relief to those in foreclosure, penalize the excessive interest-gouging of the credit card companies, and eliminate what amounts to a $17 billion tax break, or governmental subsidy, to the oil companies over the next ten years.

Think about this: if McCain is elected president, and the Democrats win a majority of seats in the Senate, (they now have a majority in the House), he will already be a lame duck in his first term of office.

Okay, fair is fair. The senator from Arizona has already confessed that he needs a refresher course in Economics 101, and we believe him. After all, he wants to add another $300 billion a year to the deficit. His reputation, he reminds us, was built on his war hero record, as well as his championing of what he likes to think is ethical government, as well as proving his mettle as a staunch adversary of special interests by taking on the likes of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

While he has, in the past, admitted having lobbyists work for his campaign, McCain has been quick to point out their "honorable records." Clearly, this crusader against corporate lobbies facade wears thin when you consider revelations by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Washington Post, that John McCain's campaign staffers include high profile telecom immunity lobbyists.

That's right, two powerhouse lobbyists, Charlie Black, and Wayne Berman, each representing AT & T and Verizon , respectively, play pivotal roles in the Republican presidential candidate's campaign. Black is to McCain what Rove was to Bush. Berman is McCain's national finance co-chair. What exactly are these lobbyists trying to peddle? Nothing less than immunity from prosecution for telecommunication companies, AT & T and Verizon, that broke privacy laws when eavesdropping on phone calls , and turning over private consumer records to the federal government without a warrant.

McCain who spoke out against companies that violate their customers' confidence, several months ago, saying that "their actions undermine our respect for the law," now asserts that he supports immunity for telecommunication companies, unqualifiedly, if they help in a governmental investigation. In fact, he goes so far as to say that neither the government nor the telecoms have to apologize for acts that only "the ACLU and trial lawyers" would question. My, my, the Arizona senator is a quick study. He's already using the ACLU for target practice.

Too bad Spiro Agnew isn't around to run as McCain's vice president.

It's clear that not only will McCain have to outsource decisions that deal with abstinence-only programs as a requirement for HIV/AIDS funding, the economy, but he may even have to outsource ethics investigations due to an egregious conflict of interest.

We know---the president doesn't make the laws, but he sure gets to break them, doesn't he?

By flip flopping on the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's surveillance program, and giving key telecom lobbyists prominent play in his campaign, the presumptive presidential heir apparent to the throne shows that he, too, can be bought.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Standard Operating Procedures"

Can't wait for the canary to sing, on the morning of June 20th, when Scott McClellan testifies before the House Judiciary Committee under oath, about what are "standard operating procedures' by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and others, in a host of challenges to the First Amendment, due process, the Eighth Amendment proscription against torture, and international law. So, when the canary sings, remember, he's singing our song.

This administration's flagrant violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996, as well as the American Anti-Torture Act of 2007 won't be the only things on the program. McClellan will be asked to sing, baby, sing about the direct intervention of the executive branch in outing Valerie Plame, as well as attempt to sabotage free elections, and the firing of nine U.S. attorneys who refused to go along with the ride, and the cult of corruption currently occupying our nation's capital.

Indeed, the electronic surveillance program, and the offer of retroactive immunity to telecoms who broke privacy laws, the willful and deliberate mendacity behind the claims in the lead-up to the war, the deliberate neutralizing of the press through a war policy that involved constant micromanaging of newspaper editors by the Defense Department, refusal of the attorney general to admit that waterboarding is torture, only begin to describe the arrogance of this hyperactive executive branch's abuse of power. The do-nothing, take-it-lying-down Congress of five years ago, happily, is changing---yes, the empire is striking back.

Yes, and while some may say this emperor has no clothes, he's managed to hide his derriere better, and operate with impunity more effectively, than any in recent memory. After all, under this commander-in-chief, the Pentagon has managed to orchestrate the destruction of interrogators' handwritten notes at Guantanamo Bay to preclude those notes from being used as evidence that a detainee's confession might, in fact, have been coerced by what have been euphemistically called "harsh" interrogation methods.

That the military has a "standard operations procedure" which contains instructions for the disposal of what might be exculpatory evidence for those we detain, and plan to bring to a kangaroo war crimes tribunal, is nothing less than obstruction of justice.

So, if you happen to be someone like Omar Khadr, a Canadian Gitmo detainee, who has been forced into confessing that you threw a grenade because one of your interrogators forced you to crawl and bark like a dog, or waterboarded you, and any notes taken, while you were being questioned, were destroyed, how can your attorney prove to a tribunal that your confession was forced? He can't, that's the point.

Over the weekend, more than 50 House Democrats acknowledged that Justice can't deliver justice by calling upon Attorney General Mukasey to appoint an independent counsel to investigate just what criminal liability must visit the upper echelon of the Bush administration for their egregrious architecture of pain and suffering, their initiation, and/or sanctioning, of methods for obtaining information from those we hold as prisoners of war which amount to torture by universal standards.

A technique such as waterboarding, as is widely known, has been banned for generations, and there is no person of conscience who would find sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, and being set on by dogs to be "civilized practices." The recognition by Rep. Conyers for what he calls "an impartial criminal investigation" into these dastardly actions that were paid for by our tax dollars was prompted by recent reports that the highest levels of government were involved in discussing, and recommending, the interrogation techniques in question.

It was Rep. Conyers who, a few years ago, called for issuing articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, a call that went largely unanswered until late Monday when Rep. Dennis Kucinich appeared before the House to recommend 35 articles of impeachment, against the president, a move that was co-sponsored by Florida Congressman Robert Wexler who has been a vocal proponent of accountability from this administration, instrumental in obtaining the prospective testimony of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and who calls the articles "a stunning narrative of offenses that go well beyond previous crimes committed by any U.S. chief executive."

But where is CNN, and the news media, when elected members of Congress plainly, and eloquently, articulate articles of impeachment? Can they be napping in their news vans, or busy with nonstop coverage of "veepstakes?" Yes, the mainstream media is so busy vetting Obama, and anyone he might consider for second in command, that it has lost sight of the fact that no one has yet vetted Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice or, for that matter, the attorney general himself? How much vetting did Donald Rumsfeld or Robert Gatesget ? We all know how vetted John McCain is---after all, he's vetting himself over, and over -- to hear him tell it, you'd think he put the "vet" in "veteran."

Yes, it was Congressman Conyers who said, about two years ago, impeachment proceedings against a president don't need to be completed while he's in office. While, obviously, there isn't enough time to impeach this president within the next five months, Congress would be derelict in its duties of checks and balances were it not to at least begin the process.

Human Rights Watch, and others concerned about our ongoing breach of international law by repudiation of habeas corpus, and insolent efforts to challenge traditional definitions of torture, by secret holding cells, and rumors of detainee ships, say the next president, whether it be Obama or McCain, will have to deal with, and repair, the ravages of abuse of power that this administration leaves behind. Still, no one can escape the irony that the first war tribunals since World War II may, inevitably, come to include, as defendants, a former president, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice, and others who are up to their armpits in deliberate, premeditated, violations of the Constitution, Geneva, and the public trust under the pretext of a "war on terror. "

If you want to find out what Mr. Bush really thinks about terrorists, stay tuned for his pardon of Luis Posada Carriles, the man who blew up the Cuban civilian jetliner, back in 1976, killing all 76 passengers onboard.

So, next Friday, we may yet see Scott McClellan fess up about what has been standard operating procedure, for years, in this administration, and watch yet another pathetic attempt by the mainstream media to sweep his revelations under the rug.

We agree with Dennis Kucinich who told Congress, on Monday, that impeachment proceedings must begin if for no other reason than to stop this commander-in-chief from taking his hubris to the next level, and ordering an attack on Tehran, just in time to fix another election.

Monday, June 09, 2008

More from Aunt Sylvia...

Got another letter today from my father's only sister, Aunt Sylvia, who turns 94 in September, and whose remembrances of things past, the early days with her husband, Ellie, in the 1930's and 1940's, have appeared on this blog before. Sylvia writes:

"Just chased the 'Grim Reaper' from my house. He keeps knocking and I keep feeling him. How long I can hold out remains to be seen.

Last night, I thought of a very funny incident from my youth (so to speak). Ellie and I were just getting to know each other. I was 17. We had a group of couples that we went out with. Someone suggested the 'Burlesque' show. I was so naive I didn't know what to expect.

So, off we went to North Jersey, all the while Ellie telling me he enjoys the comedians and I would, too. Well, after the comedy show, out comes three beautiful girls. They had on gowns, and were great performers. Halfway through their act, they started taking off their clothes. I was in shock.

With the place packed to the gills, I got up and shouted 'Ellie, don't look!' Everybody laughed, and I was very embarrassed. Today, watching HBO, I think nothing of all the nude scenes. The 'good old days' were much better."

You can bet that Sylvia will keep the dogs, and the Grim Reaper, at bay as long as she can look forward to yet another episode of "Sex and the City!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Eat Your Heart Out Gandhi

What might get lost in the ad nauseum mainstream media coverage of the gladiator-style struggle for the Democratic Party presidential nomination is what the Associated Press calls a "landmark treaty" which received a formal thumbs-up on Friday at a meeting, in Dublin, of more than 100 nations, including many of our partners in NATO.

Not only does the treaty call for banning munitions cluster designs, but demands the destruction of stockyards within the next ten years. What's more, not only did the U.S. boycott these negotiations, but joined other major manufacturers of cluster bombs, Russia, China, India, Israel and Pakistan, in doing so. Our focus and that of the other munitions' manufacturers was not on how deleterious cluster bombs are, but on their military (i.e. monetary) value.

One defense analyst even went so far as to argue that "only countries that don't fight wars" would draft a treaty like this, and say that its value is strictly "feel good." We haven't seen this kind of logic since the fall of Rome. No one from the Defense Department, so far, has said what would happen if and when a European country orders cluster bomb munitions from U.S. bases on the continent.

That India joins the U.S. in this militarist circus only shows just how far they have strayed from the days of Gandhi and "passive resistance." Remember, it was Mahatma Gandhi who said "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." We can guess what Gandhi would have to say about who India is in bed with now; the artful draft dodgers, and Texas oil men.

Indeed, anyone opting for disarmament who dares to approach 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will have to check their bags at the door. We not only are a military industrial complex, we have a military industrial complex, which means this is no longer just a wartime economy, this is a country that has made a religious fetish of combat. That we've also become occupation zealots is obvious from how many military bases we've amassed world-wide, as well as reports of plans to keep contractors in Iraq long after troops are removed.

Make no mistake, any candidate who talks about nuclear nonproliferation and doesn't include India, Israel, and the U.S. as among those who need to honor nonproliferation agreements is blowing smoke up our ass. Any candidate who claims to be strong on national security and doesn't want to actively revisit efforts at de-profitizing warfare is one that is moving us closer to nuclear annihilation.

Similarly, any leader who puts the manufacture of cluster bomb parts which can only maim, and kill, thousands of people, as we saw in Lebanon in 2006,, ahead of the greater good doesn't deserve to use the White House john.

What possible value can cluster bombs have in the advancing of civilization? And, by what kind of skewed, twisted logic can anyone in government claim that no pre-emptve strike against Iran is "off the table," justify a build-up to war in light of that country's uranium enrichment program while, at the same time, engaging in brazen steroid use when it comes to the arms race? What does it tell you about a defense analyst that he would suggest any effort at disarmament is merely a placebo?

That 111 countries met, many of whom we consider allies, to formailize a treaty that would, in essence, neutralize our artillery power speaks volumes about our descent not merely from the moral high ground, but from honoring a generation of international efforts away from the chaos of war, and towards the survival of the planet.

This treaty isn't just about cluster bombs---it is a breathtaking indictment, and condemnation of American militarism, and war profiteering, we've seen in a long time. We have a right to answers from those we elect as to who's making the money from these cluster bomb parts, as well as other wartime manufacture, and how much of our tax dollars are going to subsidize these companies, and ensure that they meet their bottom line.

Arguably, the only difference between a drug dealer and a defense contractor is that a defense contractor gets government subsidies. While some might argue there are drug dealers, largely in our inner cities, who might be getting government subsidies, too, the point is that war is not only toxic, it's heroin, and we must eradicate the demand before we can touch the supply. But, how can we do that when the world's richest countries are growing richer on war?

Nobody can deny that there is some serious erosion in the moral high ground when, as some human rights groups assert, the U.S. allegedly holds detainee, and terror suspects, on prison ships out at sea. If this is how we intend to maintain "national security" by egregious human rights violations while, at the same time, allowing Osama bin Laden to text message his Al Qaeda pals in Afghanistan, then something is seriously awry.

If we can figure out that there may be life on Mars, we can find a way to have a peace-based global economy, and it has to start in our own backyard. This is a message both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama share---moving towards a green economy, and if Obama wins in November, he must be held to account for a hyperactive Defense Department every bit as much as John McCain.

It is our tax dollars that stoke their fire for war. Think about the hypocrisy of any government that boycotts negotiations to destroy cluster bombs, spitting in the face of disarmament, when you hear the tired, counterfeit argument about Ahmadinejad, and Iran's nuclear ambitions, as we get closer to war with Iran..

The Lion of the Senate

Our thoughts are with Senator Ted Kennedy, and his family, today after his successful surgery.

According to an article in The Washington Post, the Massachusetts senator was awake throughout the procedure and, when it was over, with his characteristic wit, he told his wife he had so much fun he's "ready to do it again!"

Here's to having Senator Kennedy walk among us for a long, long time!