SHALOM Oct 4, 2008 6:28 PM
When it comes to Israel, there are very few who have no opinion. Many of these opinions are expressed in hatred and name-calling on both sides, punctuated by violent acts.
On one extreme are those who are constantly saying 'Zionism' as if it were a bad word. Zionism as a movement goes back to the late 1800's, and was simply the belief among Jews that they should have a homeland, an idea that was reinforced by the fact that they suffered discrimination as a minority in other countries. There is nothing inherently wrong about a people wanting a homeland, nor with having one.
Some of the tactics used in achieving that goal were wrong. Also, the British badly mishandled their mandate to properly partition the land under their control, wavering between principle and greed for oil. This exacerbated the uncertainty and negative attitudes.
But once the state of Israel was founded, the goal of Zionism had been fulfilled. The story could have ended with "and they lived happily ever after."
Unfortunately, attacks and wars followed, as we know. Wars polarize people, especially when, after they end, there is no assurance that there will not be another. So after sixty years of wars and hostility you get ingrained habits of violence and reaction, and you get what would be, under most conditions, an anomaly: a Jewish right wing.
It's not just the politicians. There are the settlers who think by moving into Palestinian territory they can prevent having to give it back. And there are actually right-wing rabbis.
There is also a left and a middle, and many of them are organizing to try to talk sense into the hard-liners. One organization, Peace Now, has been working to reduce the impediments to a peace agreement. In one case, they reported an illegal settlement in Palestinian territory. The result was a pipe-bomb attack on one of their members. He was not killed, but a leaflet was left at the scene offering 1.1 million shekels ($300,00 USD) to anyone who kills a Peace Now member.
A right-wing rabbi, Yisrael Rozen, went so far as to endorse killing those who "inform on" illegal settlers.
Peace Now is not giving up, nor are a whole list of others:
Courage to Refuse: http://seruv.org.il/english/default.asp
A group of IDF members refusing to serve in occupied territories or shoot at civilians
Yesh-Gvul — www.yeshgvul.org/english/
(There Is a Limit!) is an Israeli peace group
campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who
refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature.
Rabbis for Human Rights: http://www.rhr.israel.net
Gush Shalom: http://www.gush-shalom.org/english The Peace Bloc
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: http://www.icahd.org
New Profile: http://www.newprofile.org/english
Ta'ayush: http://www.taayush.org (Life in Common)- a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down racism and
segregation by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership.
Bat Shalom: http://www.batshalom.org Jewish women for peace.
The Alternative Information Center: http://www.alternativenews.org
There are also Palestenian peace groups:
Al Mubadara, Palestinian National Initiative www.almubadara.org
Jerusalem Center for Women — www.j-c-w.org Palestinian women, working together with Bat Shalom
MIFTAH, The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of
Global Dialogue and Democracy — www.miftah.org
Organizations such as these putting pressure on militants and reactionaries of both sides can make a difference.
What does NOT help is each side characterizing the other as evil and enumerating one another's wrongdoings and mistakes.
And obviously it is most unhelpful to spread either old or newly devised tales of Jewish conspiracy, or anti-Muslim theories about a clash of religions. Such compilations of lies, often cleverly crafted, are intended to worsen and widen the conflicts, motivated by hatred or greed by war profiteers.
Just as we in America must reduce the influence of our pro-empire pro-war pro-greed neo-conservative politicians, so should Israelis and their supporters seek to nullify the power of the haters and militarists among them.
The voices of reason may yet prevail.
Real Life Presents: "Show and Tell" Oct 2, 2008 8:32 AM
Those of us who know how important this Presidential election is have strongly hoping the campaign would return to the issues. Now it seems that the issues have come to the campaign, commanding attention.
Barack Obama could give a very intelligent lecture on the need for regulation for banking and financial organizations, and the importance of maintaining a thriving middle class, but now he can say, "This is what I've been talking about." A true picture is worth more than a thousand words
Americans who would never vote to abolish traffic laws, even though we often don't like them, have been told by Republicans that rules aren't that important for banks and big corporations. I think most of us knew better all along, but the Republicans got their way just long enough to demonstrate the disastrous results.
Whether we like it or not, though, we can't just sit back and say "I told you so"; we need to keep it all from crashing down completely. Congress did the right thing.
Soon we can turn to more constructive prevention of future problems under the leadership of President Obama.
Next the issues of foreign policy will be demonstrating a need for attention as well, probably making it clear that we should have withdrawn from Iraq months ago, instead of waiting. Stay tuned.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN A REPUBLICAN IS LYING Sep 11, 2008 7:03 AM
(HIS, OR HER, LIPS ARE MOVING)
The Republicans are using the same lie-and-distort methods in the campaign that Bush used to sell the Iraq war.
They made a smear ad about a very positive education bill that Obama favored and called it "sex education for kindergarten children". What it actually was is an awareness instruction program against child abuse.
While an Illinois legislator, Obama opposed a bill designed by anti-abortionists, which claimed to protect survivors of late-term abortions. It was an UNNECESSARY bill, because Illinois law already covered the issue. The bill's language may have threatened the availability of legal abortion in Illinois-- that was its intent. Some Republicans are using this to say that Obama favors killing babies.
On their own issues, McCain claims to be pro-veteran, and he should be-- he is one. Yet he opposed a bill that improved veterans' benefits, and has suggested a system of privatizing VA medical care, which veterans organizations oppose.
Governor Palin is against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, but she favors the Iraq war, which has needlessly killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of children and adults. She hopes God will approve. She favors the cruel and brutal shooting of Alaskan wolves from airplanes. She opposes protecting polar bears.
Governor Palin claims to be a fiscal conservative, and opposes earmarking as a way of federally funding state and local projects. However, as a mayor and as governor, she enthusiastically sought federal earmarks, including those for the famous "nowhere" bridge. When she sold the plane, she lost money on the deal. She declined a personal chef, but billed the state for lodging and food while staying in her own home. (Maybe that's why she thought Obama was calling her a "pig with lipstick". Actually, he wasn't talking about her.)
Both McCain and Palin continue to talk about drilling for oil in protected areas in Alaska and offshore, despite the fact that it is well established that the potential oil found would make only a tiny difference in either oil prices or the balance of oil imports.
They lie about Obama raising taxes, implying that everyone's taxes will go up. The differences are clear. Anyone making less than $227,000 would pay less under Obama's plan. Note the following:
BREAKING DOWN THE NUMBERS (from CNN)
Here's how the average tax bill could change in 2009 if either John McCain's or Barack Obama's tax proposals were fully in place.
| || MCCAIN || OBAMA|
|Income || Avg. tax bill || Avg. tax bill|
|Over $2.9M || -$269,364 || +$701,885|
|$603K and up || -$45,361 || +$115,974|
|$227K-$603K || -$7,871 || +$12|
|$161K-$227K || -$4,380 || -$2,789|
|$112K-$161K || -$2,614 || -$2,204|
|$66K-$112K || -$1,009 || -$1,290|
|$38K-$66K || -$319 || -$1,042|
|$19K-$38K || -$113 || -$892|
|Under $19K || -$19 || -$567|
The Republicans are campaigning on a web of lies, They seem to have no positive issues to discuss, except to say "me too" to change. They don't mean that either, at least not the way they want us to think. They don't care if we stay addicted to oil as long as they get their cut. McCain will not even endorse the modest withdrawal of 8000 troops from Iraq that Bush has announced. The only changes McCain and Palin want are for the worse.
RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS: WHERE NOT TO FIND THEM Sep 8, 2008 8:25 AM
The prospect of John McCain becoming President is something I would rather not imagine, because he would be an even greater threat to peace and to the liberty of the American people than the Bush administration. He has already demonstrated his own belligerent attitude in foreign policy. He has already stated that the Bill of Rights is too "dangerous".
McCain is far from a harmless old man. He lacks judgment. He is far too emotional in his reactions to adversity. He has cultivated an image of ethics reform that is totally without substance. He will do anything and say anything to smear his opponent in his attempt to win.
Consider his choice of Sarah Palin as VP nominee. If McCain were to win and live out his term, she would be of no consequence. But she is clearly not a choice based on the question, "What if I die, or am too ill to serve?" That is the reason the office of Vice President exists. She was chosen to appeal to the religious right-wing, and perhaps to confused women, despite the fact that she is as anti-feminist as any conservative, except regarding her own career.
She has shown she can formulate insults, though her choice of points is questionable. Claiming that being the mayor of a small town was like Obama's early career as a community organizer, but with "real responsibilities"
She may not believe that helping people have a better life is a worthwhile endeavor, but to those who do, like Obama, the responsibilities they take on are every bit as real as those of a small-town mayor.
The responsibilities of a parent are important, too. What happens when they come in conflict with a political-religious position? Sarah Palin is against sex education in schools except to say "Don't have sex." Sarah Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant. A personal matter? Sure, but it is a direct result of her mother's advocacy of ignorance. Anyone, parent or not, who would deny teenagers a complete course in sex education, including birth control and condoms to prevent STD's is just plain IRRESPONSIBLE.
Sarah Palin is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. That's something to think about. A rapist, or a molestor of his own daughter, would have the power to make his victim bear his child. An interesting idea of justice, don't you think?. McCain would like to continue Bush's policy of packing the Supreme Court with right-wing authoritarians to try to overturn Roe vs Wade. It could actually happen. Be very afraid.
Like McCain, Palin plays the reformer when it is convenient. When she ran for governor, part of her platform was to build the Gravina Island Bridge. Then, when it became an issue as an earmark-funded "bridge to nowhere", suddenly she was against it. Was the issue the bridge itself, or the earmarked federal funds? The bridge was dropped, but the money stayed, for "other projects".
Palin got credit as a "reformer".
When McCain got caught, with 4 others, trying to intercede in an investigation of sleazy Charlie Keating, even though he escaped prosecution, he needed to repair his image, so he launched himself into campaign finance reform. It seemed to work for him. Many forgot about his friend and contributor, Charlie Keating. The people Keating cheated out of their savings didn't forget, though.
It's odd how politicians can get reputations of being reformers just by saying so.
What's Experience Got to do with it? Sep 7, 2008 6:26 AM
Both the media and McCain have been harping on experience as a consideration in choosing a President. No doubt McCain will do this less now after his VP pick. But it's a misleading issue anyway.
Nobody who hasn't been President has Presidential experience. Not governors, senators, vice presidents, or even First Ladies. And definitely not CEO's of corporations.
In fact, some experience can be a drawback for someone unable to learn the difference between running anything else and administering the most powerful democratic republic in the world.
A President has access to a vast array of experienced and knowledgeable people in any aspect of his responsibility. A President selects cabinet members and advisers for their knowledge of how to implement the ideas and policies that he or she has been elected to create. Those Secretaries will head departments containing hundreds of highly experienced people.
What is needed in a President is INTELLIGENCE. Every President will face new problems, and old problems that have not been solved by the old ideas of the past. An intelligent person studies and analyzes the situation, listens to his advisers, and formulates the best possible solution. An intelligent person does not make snap judgments.
The US government is not just the administrating organization of a country. It is the embodiment of a set of principles set out in a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution, designed to provide human rights and justice to all, and maintain a relationship of government by the consent of the governed, not ruler and subject.
If these principles are not protected and applied by the President and everyone in the administration, then it will soon become something else entirely. Protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States is the PRIMARY job and the sworn duty of the President.
So along with the intelligence to understand these principles we need a President who sincerely BELIEVES in them.
We don't need someone who thinks first of "winning" useless foreign wars, or getting around the rules, or evoking fear among the people. We don't need a cynic who believes principles may be ignored when inconvenient.
In other words, we don't need John McCain. We need Barack Obama.
GEORGIA-- THERE'S MORE TO THE STORY Sep 2, 2008 5:07 AM
Georgia, it seems, was up to more mischief than just invading South Ossetia. They had conspired with the US to allow Israel to use their airfields to launch an attack on Iran. The attacks would then come from an unexpected direction, from the north, lending an element of surprise.
Needless to say, the surprise is gone, and the plans have been delayed. We can only hope they are delayed forever.
When Russia entered Georgia to stop the aggression on South Ossetia, they discovered and confiscated some sophisticated Israeli weaponry. While it was well-known that Georgia had bought considerable military equipment from Israel, one might wonder why it needed the drones. The Hermes 450 can fly for 20 hours and perform remote surveilance. Israel had been flying them from Georgia to Iran, pinpointing targets to bomb.
Once they discovered what was going on, the Russian air force destroyed the Israeli surveilance bases and bombed the runways of two Georgian airbases. In case anyone has forgotten, Russia had already warned the US and Israel against attacking Iran.
It is doubtful that the Bush administration wanted Saakashvili to attack South Ossetia, knowing the likely Russian response might uncover the secret plans. In addition, it became obvious that the US was not at all prepared to defend its "ally" Georgia.
THE MCCAIN CONNECTION
Saakashvili may well have made that stupid decision on his own, or it might have been instigated by John McCain, who thought he wanted an example of a foreign policy crisis so he could demonstrate a tough decisive response. He just happened to have as his chief foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, a paid lobbyist for Georgia since 2004. The Georgian government has paid him over $800,000 for his services. Chances are this slick operator knew who to talk to for a favor.
McCain, of course, had no clue as to what was really at stake in Georgia. So much for experience. As a result, his blustering about Russian aggression was way over the top, as contrasted by the Bush and Rice attempts at damage control, which was just barely stern enough to save face. The Russians, of course, were probably laughing their asses off in private.
Whether or not McCain had a role in Georgia's attack, he certainly made a fool of himself in attempting to use it politically. It will be hard to forget his "In the 21st Century, nations don't invade other nations!" Now, that's being "out of touch".
BUSH WAS WRONG ABOUT GEORGIA Aug 18, 2008 4:46 AM
In yet another of his long string of foreign policy errors, George W Bush has backed the wrong side in the Georgia-Russia conflict.
And, once again, the mainstream media has more or less gone along with him, to their discredit, but the knowledge of what actually happened has become available to all who are paying attention.
Georgia brutally attacked the capital of the small autonomous state of South Ossetia, killing Russian peacekeepers and over 2000 others, many of whom were Russian citizens. Russia responded with its superior force, driving the Georgian military out of South Ossetia, then began positioning their forces to protect the South Osetians from further Georgian aggression.
In the initial reports, we were not told of the Georgian attack, or the reason for Russia's action against Georgia. Bush knew, of course, but decided to act as if Georgia did nothing wrong, because Georgia had been a "pet project"-- a special ally right on Russia's border, with an oil pipeline going through it. Bush had tried to get Georgia into NATO, just to irk the Russians. NATO wisely rejected the idea.
The direct cause of this crisis was Georgia's president Mikhail Saakashvili, an aggressive authoritarian-minded politician who was too eager to use the supposed power of US alliance and the weaponry Georgia had obtained from the US and bought from Israel. To his chagrin, he has at least learned that alliances do not earn one the right to be stupid and get away with it.
Despite Bush's verbal support in scolding Russia, our President's stupidity is fortunately not infinite. His threats against Russia have been confined to diplomatic grumbling. McCain, on the other hand, began to sound more aggressive, and ended up making himself look ridiculous. His statement "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations", was memorably absurd, as if he had forgotten Afghanistan and Iraq, and as if he himself wouldn't invade Iran if he had a chance.
Part of the blame for the conflict lies with the Bush administration. The special "ally" status it gave Georgia contributed to the illusion of Saakashvili's that he could get away with his attack, even if the US State Dept. did warn him not to act rashly. In showing more favor to the Russian border state than to Russia itself, Bush committed an affront that would tend to destabilize the area, even if there had been no incidents.
Perhaps at this point it is too late to apologize to Russia, but Bush should now just shut the hell up and avoid repeating false accusations. So, for that matter, should McCain.
Few in the US had ever heard of Ossetia before recent events, but it has been around since well before the Russian Revolution, and has never considered itself part of Georgia. During the time of the Russian Empire, and then during the USSR period, Ossetians related well with Russia, considering themselves loyal citizens. When Georgia was made a part of the USSR, South Ossetia was made an autonomous region within Georgia, and North Ossetia was formed in Russia.
Even before the breakup of the USSR, South Ossetia began to express its intent to separate from Georgia. In 1989, Soviet forces had to intervene to quell violence between Georgians and Ossetians. In 1990 South Ossetia declared independence, and violent skirmishes again flared up, lasting into 1992, when an agreement was reached to deploy peacekeepers from all three. For a time while Shevardnadze was president of Georgia there was relative peace.
Saakashvili, however, wanted to rule with an iron fist. He declared his intention to retake South Ossetia by force. In November 2006 Ossetians held a referendum in which they chose independence by a landslide. Tensions had been high, and no resolution of the controversy could be reached.
One would think that Georgia, having long wanted independence from the USSR, would be sympathetic to South Ossetia, who wants the same thing from Georgia. In fact, many Georgians do feel that way, and strongly oppose their president's attempts to forcibly quash Ossetia's dreams of independence. An organization called the Georgian Peace Committee issued a statement disavowing the actions of Saakashvili and his supporters in the parlaiment, and ask the world not to blame the people of Georgia for the tragedy.
As an American I can certainly empathize with that, having many times hoped that the rest of the world would understand that we did not mean to inflict George Bush on them.
The issue of the right to independence of territories that so desire, is a controversial one throughout the world. An article in The Guardian titled Plaything of the gods
explores the various viewpoints. If an legal right is established in international law, several nations fear being broken up into component parts. Obviously that was once an issue for the United States, resulting in a civil war. Before that, however, we declared our independence from Britain, which was virtually unprecedented at the time.
Regardless of certain nations' interests, it would be a good thing overall if territories could, by clear democratic choice, become independent. It is always preferable not to have to govern the unwilling.
If each case is to be decided on its own merit, then it would seem that South Ossetia should indeed win its self-determination.
Drama in Georgia-- Stay Tuned Aug 12, 2008 7:09 AM
It's quite a story.... A US ally, recently acquired, plucked like a ripe peach from right on the Russian border. A prize, you might say, sort of like Cuba was once for the old USSR. Hey, it even has a Western-sounding name, in English...Call it virtually European. Then a small bit of its territory wants to split off and join Russia. So, with all the confidence of an American ally, Georgia says "no", and thumbs its nose at Russia. Maybe Georgia didn't think this situation through. An ally is one thing; an ally that puts its "protector" in an embarrassing and untenable position might have its status reevaluated.
Remember Kosovo? The principle of allowing territories the freedom of self-determination...does that depend on who they're splitting off from? It's something to think about.
Unfortunately we're still stuck with Bush the Undiplomatic for now, but if he still has a State Department worth the name, someone needs to ask the president of Georgia, "WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?"
Of course much depends on whether there is a shred of sanity left in the Bush administration, which is never a good bet. This couldn't be another of those PNAC-hatched plots to start a major war and declare a national emergency, could it? Could they be that stupid? Yes, they could, but I hope they aren't.
Meanwhile, the drama plays on, and you can almost hear Ray Charles in the background, singing "Georgia on My Mind"...
POLITICAL HACKS Jul 24, 2008 12:05 AM
It sounds like there are a few Russians who are nostalgic for the "good old days" when the USSR controlled most of Eastern Europe, just like there are those in the American south still waving the Confederate flag.
The Old Reds and the rednecks, knowing their cause is lost, still cheer for it, sometimes in obnoxious ways. The rednecks get drunk and shoot highway signs, or start bar fights. The Reds seem to be using internet grafitti and vandalism:
"A recently accepted legislation in Lithuania banning communist symbols across Lithuania, has prompted Pro-RussianSoviet Symbol hackers to start defacing Lithuanian sites"
They posted the hammer-and-sickle, 5-pointed stars, and angry profanity.
Rather childish behavior, it would seem, for political expression, but it reminds me a lot of some extreme American right wingers creating absurd smears against those they oppose.
Russians need to keep their red noses out of Lithuania's business, just as our soon-to-be-ex-President should keep his oily nose out of Iran's.
REX MARKS THE SPOTS Jul 14, 2008 5:36 AM
As if we needed yet another reason to elect a President and a Congress who believe in using diplomacy rather than unjustified military force in foreign affairs, and who believe in respecting Constitutional rights, in addition to the immediate danger that aggression-prone Republicans, either Bush or McCain will attack Iran, allow/encourage Israel to attack Iran, or both....
the continued existence of REX 84 should not be forgotten.
REX 84 stood for 'Readiness Exersize 1984' The fact that 'rex' is Latin for 'king' may be only a coincidence-- or it may not.
There are 600 to 800 prison camps in the US, guarded, staffed, ready for use-- but mostly unoccupied. Most of them have a capacity of about 20,000. One, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, could hold up to 2 million. That would mean that somewhere between 14 and 18 million people could be detained at any one time.
In 2006, Haliburton's KBR company was given a contract to build new camps to hold up to 400,000 more.
REX 84 includes programs known as Garden Plot: control the population, and Cable Splicer: take over state and local governments. FEMA, the Defense Dept., CIA, SS, Treasury, FBI, and the VA were all involved in the plan.
If the plans were only for handling a large national disaster, natural or manmade, and the camps merely emergency shelters, why would the public not be informed?
"While the danger of a dictatorship arising through legal means may seem remote to us today, recent history records Hitler seizing control through the use of the emergency powers provisions contained in the laws of the Weimar Republic."
--Joint Statement, Sens. Frank Church (D-ID) and Charles McMathias (R-MD) 9/30/73.
Military Commissions Act 2006: Almost anyone can be declared an enemy combatant and detained indefinitely.
It effectively nullifies most restrictions placed on the military to support civilian administration by the Posse Comitatus Act.
The "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" H.R. 5122 (2006) effectively nullifies the limits of the The Insurrection Act.
Establishment of NORTHCOM: a joint super-national military organization controlling Mexico, Canada, and the Continental US (known as CONUS). This sounds suspiciously like the supposed nonexistent North American Union. "NORTHCOM's area of operations includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, parts of the Caribbean and the contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans."
11490 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period including 16 issued by JFK. (RMN 10/28/69)
11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. Provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months.
International Emergency Economic Powers Act enables the President to seize the property of a foreign country or national. (Ford 6/11/76)
These powers were transferred to FEMA in 1979. 12148 created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that is to interface with the Department of Defense for civil defense planning and funding. An "emergency czar" was appointed. FEMA has only spent about 6 percent of its budget on national emergencies
The Violent Crime Control Act of 1991 provides additional powers to the President of the United States, allowing the suspension of the Constitution and Constitutional rights of Americans during a "drug crisis". It provides for the construction of detention camps, seizure of property, and military control of populated areas.
1/26/08: Bush authorizes the intelligence agencies, in particular the National Security Agency, to monitor the computer networks of all federal agencies -- including ones they have not previously monitored. The alleged reason was to prevent hacking, but this means the NSA has free access to all citizen records, not only without warrant, but without even needing to request them.
According to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, "Of the 54 National Security Presidential Directives issued by the (George W.) Bush Administration to date, the titles of only about half have been publicly identified. There is descriptive material or actual text in the public domain for only about a third. In other words, there are dozens of undisclosed Presidential directives that define U.S. national security policy and task government agencies, but whose substance is unknown either to the public or, as a rule, to Congress
The George W. Bush Administration put the Continuity of Operations plan into effect for the first time directly following the 9/11. Their implementation involves a rotating staff of 75 to 150 senior officials and other government workers from every Cabinet department and other parts of the executive branch in two secure bunkers on the East Coast. Friends, family and co-workers can only reach them through a toll-free number and personal extensions.
The Bush Administration officially admitted the implementation of the plan on March 1, 2002. Key congressional leaders said that they didn’t know this government-in-waiting had been established.
On July 18, 2007 Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, was denied access to the classified version of the continuity of government plan.
National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-51
The directive specifies that the president has the power to declare a catastrophic emergency and does not specify who has the power to declare said emergency over.
It is of course highly questionable that any Presidential order or directive can legally affect anything outside the executive branch, but if a President believes it can, what effective means does Congress or the courts have to stop it? Added to that, the existence of an infrastructure and secret plans to implement martial law is a serious matter for concern.
When Barack Obama stated that he would deal with terrorism without violating our Constitution, McCain responded with a statement that Constitutional liberties are "too dangerous".
What is REALLY too dangerous is a President who does not intend to uphold the Constitution, despite the pledge he must make at inauguration. Bush already violated his, and McCain has said he intends to do so.
JUST THE FACTS Jul 4, 2008 11:23 PM
LETS GET A FEW FACTS STRAIGHT:
 Although no one may like the idea of Iran having nuclear capability, neither the US nor any other nation has the right to order it not to, nor to attack Iran for enriching uranium.
 General Clark did NOT 'attack' McCain's military record. He only said it does not qualify him to be President, which is obviously true.
 Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He is a Christian, no matter what the dishonest rumor-spreading forwarded emails try to tell you. Always check forwarded emails at SNOPES.COM for the actual facts.
 George W. Bush's attack on Iraq was not just a mistake. It was a deliberate deception of Congress and the American People. Bush knew in advance that the reasons he gave to attack were complete lies.
 Colombia has been suppressing its labor unions for many years by killing its labor leaders and organizers. To approve a trade agreement with them would only serve to encourage that.
 Privatization does not save taxpayers' money. It adds a company profit onto the actual cost of the service, and it provides more opportunities and incentives for corruption.
 We in the US pay more of our GNP for health care than any other nation, but we get less care for our money. The best and most efficient health care is in countries that have a national health system. Systems like those in England, Canada, Germany, and Japan are not 'socialism'-- they are just good common sense.
 We know Iraq is a bad war, but that doesn't mean Afghanistan is a good war. As with Iraq, the reasons for invading were deceptive, and torture and brutality as bad as that in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were also common at Bagram and Kandahar Airfield.
BE AWARE Jun 24, 2008 9:22 PM
Until Bush walks out of the White House for the last time, the US, and the world, is in danger.
Awareness is always good, especially when things seem to be going well, when we may become complacent. When the executive branch of our government is controlled by a proven liar, Constitutional violator, and deceptive instigator of deadly and needless wars, we must be especially vigilant.
It has been casually said in public that if there were another major terrorist attack, that would give the McBush campaign an advantage. McCain, like Bush, promotes fear at every opportunity and denounces those who want our civil liberties restored as 'too dangerous'.
Remember that before 9/11, the neocons were saying 'We need another Pearl Harbor...'
For months now Bush has been looking for an excuse to attack Iran, despite the fact that our own intelligence agencies have reported that there is no nuclear weapons program there now.
If a major terrorist act occurs in the US in the next few months, it will be blamed on Iran, but will be done by someone else entirely, with the knowledge and consent of Bush, Cheney, and McCain.
In Houston, Texas, a CIA agent named Roland Carnaby was assassinated by Houston police. it appears that Carnaby was investigating security problems at Houston ports, and a possible plot for an upcoming attack there, which some speculate may have involved Mossad, with the intent to perpetrate a "false flag" attack.
There is a possibility that Carnaby's killing was due only to bigoted attitudes of the Houston police officers involved-- Carnaby was of Lebanese origin-- but the fact that he was shot in the back, handcuffed while bleeding to death, and transported further than necessary to a hospital, indicates an a intentional act.
There may be plans in other cities as well, and prevention may be difficult, but at least, knowing in advance the deceptive intentions might reduce the effects.
Fear and Oiliness Jun 19, 2008 8:44 AM
It should offend all Americans, both liberals and genuine conservatives, when John McCain tells us that our civil liberties, our Constitutional Law, no longer applies because of September 11, 2001.
He is saying that with one strike the perpetrators changed the most important principles of our nation. Perhaps McCain is so frightened he is willing to give up his rights, but I am not, and I do not believe any other true American is, either.
Republicans are making the most absurd attempt imaginable to blame Democrats for the price of oil, saying the environmental protections against offshore drilling are at fault, and that they now favor the drilling, and that we should disregard the pollution it would produce.
This comes from the party that has thrown the middle east into chaos, has failed to regulate oil company profits, and ignores oil speculation. Let us remember that when Bush took office, gasoline cost about half of today's prices.
Permitting more drilling would change nothing for at least 10 years. In 10 years we need to be using other means of energy primarily, both for energy independence (which cannot be achieved with oil), and to reduce carbon emissions.
Oil companies need to be tightly controlled, and their ability to influence policy and legislation curtailed.
LEARNING FROM DISASTER May 31, 2008 8:00 PM
It should give us perspective when we think about it: almost 70,000 dead in China, possibly many more, from an earthquake. Fifteen million homes destroyed. Nearly 134,000 dead or missing in Mynamar, from a cyclone. Numbers like that, referring to human deaths, are too big to comprehend. The numbers of people who loved and mourn them are much greater.
We should also think of the many thousands who have gone to help-- neighbors, countrymen, and people from all over the world. That is what being human is about. When something bad happens, we work together to help one another. If only we could retain that spirit the rest of the time, the problems of greed, fear, prejudice and war would be greatly reduced.
A natural disaster can be even more devastating than manmade ones, yet there is no one to blame; no one to hate. The one thing that can be done is to work together; help and be helped. We don't need disasters to happen, but they do sometimes serve the purpose of reminding us how to be human.
Sometimes they show us how far we've strayed from being human.
The most basic of human values is cooperation. It predates religion, philosophy, government and law. It is the reason we know it is right to help and protect one another, and why we know it is wrong to harm one another. Cooperation for the good of all is the critical facor that enabled mankind to survive and prosper, from primitive times until today.
Religions and governments have somewhat reinforced this essential value. Indeed it is the basis for forming governments, to organize the cooperation when the group becomes too large to rely on spontaneous efficiency. However, once religions and political entities take the power to make the rules, exceptions and excuses begin to be inserted to benefit partiicular interests.
The exceptions, allowing some kinds of harm by some against others, set the stage for an ideology that opposes and dilutes the principle of cooperation. Capitalism itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It is an economic mechanism that works well for many goals, if adequetely regulated, and not for others. It is when it is made into an ideology by its most aggressive practitioners in order to discourage regulation that it begins to alter basic human values. In a democratic system, the moneyed interests have to sell their ideology to the public as well as use their wealth to influence government directly.
And so, America failed to protect and adequetely help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, despite the fact that our nation has the wealth, resources and ability to be the best and fastest in the world at large-scale emergency response, and at providing protective infrastructure in the first place. Katrina infliced serious damage, but it pales in comparison to the recent disasters in Asia. If such an event happened in the US, would we handle it as effectively as China has?
What we in the US need to be concerned about most is not our military power, not our economic power, but the greatest of all strengths: our willingness to be cooperative members of the human species, both within our own borders and outside of them.
Recently I was chatting with my friend in China, and we spoke of the overwhelming sadness at loss of lives and homes, but also of the willingness of so many to come to help and rescue the survivors.
'I see the hope in that.
Before this, a point of view here is : now people are more and more focus in money, career, family and self.
But after that, we found we are still Chinese, the traditional virtues such as respecting, caring, obliging, accommodating...we never lost them.'
I hope they never lose them. I don't think we Americans have lost our values entirely, but we need to pay attention lest they be diluted by the preachers of selfishness or distorted by religious dogma.
The willingness to cooperate-- to extend respect, concern, mutual assistance, and tolerance, is more important now than ever, as the need to extend them beyond borders becomes increasingly vital to the cause of peace and in protecting the environment of the entire planet.
The time has come (the Walrus said) to talk of many things... May 9, 2008 3:57 PM
Unlike the walrus of the poem, I do not suggest talk to distract the oysters so I can eat them. I do so to enhance our understanding of where we are-- we Americans, with our upcoming election for President, the most important one in many decades, and the ways in which that is affected by how we view one another.
It is fitting, perhaps, that with America's relationship with the rest of the world at stake, with the critical need to change that from a dysfunctional, intimidating, and often violent interaction, to one of cooperation, fairness, and justice, that we start by examining how we treat one another and think of one another, as individuals right here at home.
Now that Barack Obama is, or should be, the presumptive Democratic nominee, there is some concern about what role racism might play in the general election. When commentators speak of the 'working class vote', what they really mean is the white working class racist vote.
It is obvious that Obama has the support of labor and is very concerned with the problems of working class people. There should be no doubt about that at all. The worry of some is whether the supposed racist attitudes of less educated whites will prevent them from voting for a man who, except for being half black, would be their natural choice.
Presumably Hillary Clinton's reluctance to withdraw from the primary campaign is based on 'electability'. Since their positions on everything are nearly the same, and since Obama's intelligence, eloquence, judgement, sincerity and character make him obviously well qualified, the only electability factor in question is skin color.
Because of Lyndon Johnson's support for major civil rights legislation during his Presidency, most of the southern racists migrated to the Republican party. Indeed that has been a major factor enabling Republican Presidents and Congressional majorities for many years. Poor and middle class southern whites who, by tradition, feared and hated their large black populations, voted against their own social and economic interests, abandoning the Democrats. But just as the Republican image as the party of Lincoln continued long after the party had changed its nature, the motive of racist reaction against the Democrats has faded, and no longer gives substance to the Republican hold on southern states.
There are still racists, of course, but they are becoming a smaller and smaller minority, and many of them are less certain of their negative attitudes. And it is becoming ever more obvious that Republicans are committed to corporate and wealthy interests, and are essentially anti-labor and restrictive of liberty.
One of the worst effects of bigotry of all kinds comes when it affects the choice of non-bigots. A company that doesn't hire a black person to avoid offending its white customers is an example.
It is true that there is much more at stake in this election, but to abandon principles of equality as a trade-off for other principles is not acceptable.
Thanks, Hillary Apr 10, 2008 4:57 AM
Presidential campaigns are not just about criticizing the opponent. They provide opportunities to bring up important issues about which voters may be unaware. Recently Hillary Clinton voiced her opposition to the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. A bit of research reveals why this agreement should be voted down. It is not just that this is another NAFTA-style agreement with unknown effects on American workers and farmers. This is a deal which implies American approval of the government of Colombia, which is responsible for systematic murder of labor union leaders and members in an attempt to wipe out workers' rights and their ability to organize.
Bush, of course, cares nothing for human rights unless taking a position serves some other purpose. Kenneth V. Georgetti of the Canadian Labor party spoke out strongly against a similar agreement between Canada and Colombia.
'the systematic attack on workers’ rights and on unions, the slaughter and destruction of the union movement has been the worst during the six years of the Uribe administration – public relations statements notwithstanding....They are not just murdering union leaders. They are murdering the unions. Moreover, the impunity rates remain unchanged with a 3% conviction rate to date. This year alone twelve unionists including teachers, resource extraction and bank and health workers have been murdered. Perhaps most troubling is the Colombian government’s failure to reform its labour laws to comply with ILO standards. As well, its poor record of enforcing the laws against anti-union discrimination calls into question its commitment to genuinely protect the rights of workers to freely form unions and to bargain collectively.'
The government of Colombia proclaims itself a friend of the US, probably hoping it can count on American help to fight its rebels so it can continue to repress its people. Friendship can be a desirable thing, but how do we pick our friends? Should we ignore their behavior and reward their inhumanity?
Congress should vote a resounding 'no' on this trade agreement, and send a message to Uribe and his government that only when its protection of human and labor rights in Colombia has been achieved will we consider enhancing trade with that country.
The Electronic Microscope Mar 28, 2008 10:38 AM
Leaving no stone unturned, or, like the boy throwing rocks at the sea-birds, leaving no tern unstoned, the obsessive-compulsive media analists continue to pick apart every word, every detail of the Presidential primary process. Some may do this out of guilt at not challenging Bush administration lies and incompetence years ago. Most do it to justify their existence.
Those who now discuss the supposedly divisive Democratic nomination contest, whether media pundits of Democrats themselves, exaggerate the problem. They point to polls showing some people saying they would rather vote for the Republican Bush-Lite candidate, Insane McCain, than the Democrat they don't prefer.
This would be the pouting, 'I'll take my marbles and go home' approach to politics, acting like children. Polls reflect the way a question is phrased, and these allow voters to express their impatience, knowing that poll answers are not votes. Most of them don't really mean it. If they are stupid enough to do such a thing, they are probably Republicans anyway.
We don't want out candidates to take us for granted, and we'd rather our favorite be the winner, but we know it has to be a Democrat. The alternative is not just a harmless grandfather-- he is just as dangerous as Bush for some of the same reasons. He is either willing to lie to us, or too stupid to know the difference.
He wants to continue the pointless Iraq occupation, and would probably blunder into other wars. He has no clue about how to restore the economy, and would only follow the wishes of corporate interests and do nothing for the public, do nothing for energy independence, and nothing about global warming.
Certainly it would be wise for Clinton and Obama to return to more courteous debate, and for the winner to be decided soon, but however that goes, we should just be patient until it is time to cast the vote that really counts, and stand up against war and for a restoration of our Constitutional liberties, our system of justice, and government of, by, and for the people.
New Media Bias? March 15, 2008 3:49 AM
I am infuriated by purposeful stupidity of the commentary on CNN about a few comments by Rev. Wright, the pastor of the church Obama attends in Chicago. To attempt to use this to turn voters against Obama as they are obviously doing is very wrong on many levels.
First, the preacher's statements were his own. Obama didn't make them. Obama was asked if he agreed with them, and he said 'NO'. That should be the end of that.
Secondly, airing short excerpts out of one or two sermons out of Rev. Wright's 30 years as a pastor could not possibly accurately characterize his world view. The excerpts could not even give an accurate picture of the sermon they are taken from.
Thirdly, it is clear that in the sermons in question, Rev. Wright is saying that much is very wrong with the way some people in this country treat other people, and with the way that America as a nation treats other nations. That is undeniably true. And the preacher would not be doing his job, and would be justifiably ignored, if he did not point those things out. What is left out is the conclusion of the sermons, in which it is likely that he suggested what his listeners could do about those wrongs. My guess is he was not advocating armed revolution, but getting involved peacefully to try to make a difference in the community, the state, and the nation.
Fourth, the implication that speaking out strongly against wrongs, bad policies, and bad attitudes of those in power is somehow unpatiotic, is an outrageous misinterpretation of the concept of patriotism. It is one the right-wing authoritarians use constantly, but we should expect better of the news media.
There is nothing patriotic about ignoring the problems and faults of one's nation. Apathy and hopelessness likewise do the country a disservice.
Our nation was founded on high and worthy ideals-- principles which Americans have always been taught and which we still proclaim to the world. Because of them our country has achieved greatness in many respects, and has the potential to be even greater. But also because of them, and because of our nation's power and importance in the world, we cannot afford to fall short of that potential. We cannot afford to let freedom and justice to be subverted by greed and by seekers of power.
Real patriots do not love America merely because of its pretty scenery, nor because of a watered-down incomplete version of our history, nor because we pretend everything is just fine. Real patriots will point out our country's faults before anyone else does, and then work hard to fix them.
The point Obama has been making all along is that it is wiser and more effective to try to calmly work together to bridge gaps and solve problems rather than antagonizing those who might otherwise be educated.
The blatant repetition of this story by CNN, with seeming inability of the commentators to put it in perspective makes it appear that they are pushing an anti-Obama agenda.
The falsely named 'PATRIOT ACT' Mar 6, '08 3:40 AM
...is a serious danger to the liberty of Americans.
One of its worst provisions is the one allowing the FBI to
issue a 'National Security Letter' which permits them to demand private
information WITHOUT A COURT WARRANT As might have been easily
predicted, FBI agents have been abusing this privilege every chance they get. Information about you from banks, telephone companies, internet
providers, credit bureaus, libraries, etc., is not safe. Nothing
prevents the FBI from demanding information for any reason or no reason
at all. It could be because someone doesn't like your politics, your
religion, or your looks.
This law should have been immediately repealed when the abuses were first reported a year ago. There were thousands of violations discovered. In
one year, 2005, there were 19,000 requests for more than 47,000 records.
Even worse, many companies gave the FBI more information than it asked
for. Remember that most corporations have no loyalty to their customers,
and only respect your privacy when legally required to do so.
We have only the word of the FBI that they have ordered agents not to
abuse the law since March 2007. The FBI, of course, will likely say
whatever the Bush administration tells it to.
Those who believe such snooping is not a problem because they are
innocent of any wrongdoing should remember that only a small percentage
of those who have spent months and years at Guantamo and other, more
secret, prisons have actually been charged with any crime.
The name of the PATRIOT act was a contrived acronym designed for
propaganda. It should have been called the COWARD act. It had nothing
to do with patriotism.
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to
gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
-- Benjamin Franklin
I would add that any politician who attempts to scare us into giving up our freedom and justice deserves the name tyrant, not President.