A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Honor Of Cesar Chavez


We at jobsanger would like to pay tribute today to a great American - Cesar Chavez. He spent his life sticking up for the poor and downtrodden. He gave power and dignity to victims of discrimination. He is a true hero.

What The Hell Happened In Atmos Energy Case ?



When are Texans going to get tired of being screwed by the Republicans in our state government? This time it's the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) doing the screwing.

Not long ago, the TRC's own hearing examiners found that Atmos Energy was trying to pass on expenses such as $800-900 hotel rooms, limo rides, cases of expensive wine and high-dollar meals at resturants, to their customers by using a fee tacked on to their gas bills. The fee was supposed to be used for new construction (and only for that purpose).

But I guess if you've got Republican buddies elected to the TRC, then you can break all the rules you want to and get away with it. The hearing examiners had recommended that Atmos be forced to cut their rates by $23 million to compensate for their misuse of fees. Instead, the TRC is allowing Atmos to raise its rates by $10 million. The new higher rates will begin in April.

But the bad news for Texans doesn't stop there. In addition to letting Atmos abuse its customers, the TRC has voted to shift more of the burden onto residential and commercial customers, and give the huge industrial users a break. This means that while you and I will pay more for our gas, industrial users will be paying significantly less.

I guess this shouldn't surprise any of us. Republicans have been stealing from ordinary Texans and funneling the money to the large corporations for years. This is just Republican business as usual.

But it does bring up this question. Why are they doing this? I can only think of two possible reasons - they are either incredibly stupid or they have been paid off. I don't think they're that stupid.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Gates Says Guantanamo Should Be Closed

It looks like some in the Bush administration may finally be figuring out what a public relations disaster the torture facility and illegal prison at Guantanamo Bay really is. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now calling for Guantanamo to be closed.

But don't confuse his call for "Gitmo" to be closed with any desire for justice or fair play. He just realizes that the facility's existence is stark proof to the rest of the world that the United States does not believe in justice for anyone who is not an American.

Gates thinks that if the facility was closed down, we could go on mistreating people and no one would be the wiser. He obviously thinks the leaders of other nations are as stupid as he and his boss. He wants to destroy the symbol and continue the injustice. He says at least 100 of the prisoners would need to be incarcerated "forever".

He's even gone so far as to say Congress needs to pass a new law to "address the concerns about some of these people who really need to be incarcerated forever, but that doesn't get them involved in a judicial system where there is the potential of them being released."

How much clearer could he be? He wants Congress to pass a law that would deny any kind of fair trial to these people. Evidently, he thinks that even the rigged military tribunals are not unfair enough.

Didn't we stage a revolution in the late 1700's because we were not being treated fairly by the British government? What would Jefferson, Washington and the other founding fathers think of passing a law specifically to deny a fair trial to anyone? I think they would be shocked at the unfairness of the Bush administration! I think they would use words like "scandalous", "traitorous" and "unconstitutional".

Our forefathers understood that if you can deny a fair trial to anyone, then you can do it to everyone. They established our system of justice because they believed that even the most villainous among us deserved a fair trial. Now Bush and his henchmen are doing their best to destroy that system of justice.

Closing Guantanamo will not make the world think we are wonderful (even though it does need to be closed). They will still judge us by how we treat our enemies. The rest of the world is well aware that if we mistreat these prisoners now, we could do it to them tomorrow.

By the way, Guantanamo now holds about 385 prisoners. If only about 100 are truly dangerous to us, why are we still holding the other 285?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Democrats & Republicans Both Wrong On Iraq

A couple of days ago Senate Democrats followed the lead of House Democrats and placed a date to get out of Iraq into a military funding bill. Now they're busy patting themselves on the back for "opposing" the war. What a joke!

What they did was vote to continue the war for another year! I suppose when that year is up, they'll vote to continue it to another deadline. This is not opposition to the Iraq war. It's just a wimpy version of the Bush policy.

I hate to agree with Senator McCain, but he's right when he's says if you really want to oppose the war, why continue it for another year - get out now.

Personally, I was hoping the Democrats would show some real courage, and stop the war now. What do they hope to accomplish by letting it drag on for another year? Do they really think things will be better a year from now? Do they really think the current Iraqi government will survive if we continue the killing for another year?

The current government in Iraq was installed by us, and won't last a minute longer than when our troops pull out. And don't even try to tell me how it was a free and open election. You don't have a free and open election when all candidates must be approved by an occupying power. The Iraqis will dump this government as soon as we leave, and install a government of their own choosing. This will happen whether we leave tomorrow, a year from now, or ten years from now.

The Democrats know things won't be better a year from now. They have simply joined the Republicans in playing politics with innocent lives. Both of them are wrong, because both would allow the killing to continue even though they know it will accomplish nothing.

There is only one sane option - pull our troops out now. Get them out of the middle of this civil war, and let the Iraqis determine their own future.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gay Foster Parent Ban Defeated

Sometimes the victories for equal rights come from the places we thought least likely. Today, the state of Arkansas struck a blow for freedom and equal rights.

Don't get me wrong, I love the state of Arkansas. I went to school there for three years, and I believe it to be one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. But you have to admit, it has not exactly been a leader in the fight for equal rights for homosexuals - until today.

In 1999, the Arkansas Child Welfare Board instituted a ban on Gays becoming foster parents. It was a sad day for children in Arkansas who desperately needed decent foster care. Evidently, the idiots on the Board believed homosexuality was contagious, and could be passed from parent to child. They never bothered to see the many heterosexual parents who raised children who turned out to be Gay, and the many homosexual parents who raised children who turned out not to be Gay.

Last year, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the ban on Gay foster parents. They said the Board had no right to impose such a ban through regulation.

This year, a right-wing nut-job in the Arkansas Senate sought to reimpose the ban through legislation. His bill even went further. He wanted to ban both Gays and unmarried heterosexuals from being foster parents or adopting needy children. He thought it was better for children to do without a loving set of parents, if those parents didn't live up to his own weird religious views.

But today that nut-job, Republican Senator Shawn Womack, seems to have lost his bid to legislate inequality. Although the bill had passed the Senate, it could not get out of the House Judiciary Committee. Not a single member of the Committee would move for its passage, and later they killed the bill on a voice vote.

The Committee members were skeptical over how the ban would be enforced and over how an applicant's sexual orientation would be determined. The governor was clearer - he believes the bill was not constitutional.

Devon Bearden, 15, testified before the Committee (about being raised by her lesbian grandmother). She told them, "I've lived in both types of homes, one with a mother and a father and one with my nana, and in my experience the best one was the one with my nana. I think the home a child goes into should be based on who can best take care of the child." This 15 year-old seems to be smarter than a majority of the Arkansas Senate.

Thank goodness for the Arkansas House Judiciary Committee, as their actions not only struck a blow for the good of Arkansas' needy children, but for the equality of all Americans.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Amarillo Has It's Share Of Nuts

As you may know, my family and I just moved to Amarillo a couple of months ago. I like the city a lot so far, but I'm beginning to learn that Amarillo has it's share of nuts just like most places. All you have to do is read today's edition of the Amarillo Globe News to learn this.

The first story concerns a man who shot himself accidentally with his own shotgun. He shot himself in the thigh. It seems that he had tucked a sawed-off 12-guage shotgun into his waistband, and it went off. You have to be a nut to tuck a loaded 12-guage into your waistband!

The second story concerns a would-be robber who got more than he bargained for when he tried to rob a dry-cleaning establishment at gunpoint. Evidently, he thought the dry-cleaners would be easy pickings. He was wrong. He was attacked by customers and employees, who grabbed not only the gun, but anything else they could get their hands on - including his shoes, shirt, pants and underwear. When he got loose and ran from the establishment, he left his gun and all his clothes behind, running outside butt-naked and jumped into his car. Serves him right! Maybe he should find a new line of work - he's not very good at this one.

SMU Is Killing It's Own Reputation

As a graduate of a Methodist university (Texas Wesleyan University), I am saddened by the apparent "reputation suicide" being currently carried out by the administration of a sister school - Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Unlike many other religious schools, Methodist colleges and universities have generally established a reputation for open-minded academic excellence. While they are supported by a church monetarily, they generally have kept their religious beliefs out of the science and social science departments and shown a respect for academic freedom.

But evidently, an excellent academic reputation is not important to the current administration. They seem to prefer wallowing in the mud with the right-wing religious nuts.

It was bad enough that they aligned themselves politically with the failed presidency of George Bush, by wanting to house the Bush Library and it's neo-con policy institute. SMU would be a major producer of neo-con myth-making. Good-bye to the social sciences reputation!

Now they have gone even further, and launched an attack on their own science departments. To the dismay of their science professors and teachers, they are hosting a conference on "intelligent design". These are the people who would have you believe that evolution is only an unproven theory, that the earth is only about six thousand years old, and that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth together. Good-bye to the science reputation!

Just as the neo-con myth-making is destroying conservatism, the creationists wish to destroy science. Both are simply propaganda efforts by right-wing nuts. They want to destroy centuries of human scientific and social progress, and impose their own weird religious beliefs.

Maybe it is time to replace the school's administration, before they can complete their reputation suicide. The alternative is too sad to contemplate.

Monday, March 26, 2007

SPLC Slams Guest Worker Program

Throughout all the debate over undocumented immigrants in this country, George Bush has said he would like to expand on the existing guestworker program. At the time, it may have sounded as though he was being altruistic toward the guestworkers - he wasn't.

He just wanted to supply his corporate buddies with the modern version of slaves to work their factories and fields. By importing these foreign "slaves", they could avoid paying either American or foreign workers a decent livable wage, and avoid benefits altogether.

The Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] has investigated the American guestworker program and issued a 48 page report on their findings. The SPLC says these workers are systematically abused. They are:

routinely cheated out of wages,

forced to mortgage their futures to obtain temporary, low-wage jobs,

virtually held captive by employers who seize their documents,

forced to live in squalid conditions,

and denied medical benefits for injuries.

Mary Bauer, head of the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project, says, "The current program is shamefully abusive in practice, and there is almost no enforcement of worker rights. Guestworkers are usually poor people who are lured here by the promise of decent jobs. But all too often, their dreams are based on lies, their hopes shattered by the reality of a system that treats them as commodities. They're the disposable workers of the global economy. Guestworkers don't enjoy the most basic protections of a free labor market - the ability to change jobs if they are cheated or abused by their employer."

This is what Bush wants more of - the ability to abuse more immigrant workers. He feels that because they're foreigners, they should not have any worker rights. This is just like his belief that the foreigners in Guantanamo shouldn't have any legal rights.

He is too stupid to understand that the rest of the world is judging us by how we treat the less fortunate among us. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world no longer sees us as a beacon of freedom and justice? Far too often, all our government has to offer is violence, injustice and economic slavery.

The Guestworker program doesn't need to be expanded. It needs to be abolished! Slavery was abolished in this country over a century ago. We cannot let Bush, Cheney and their greedy corporate masters re-institute it through the guise of a "helpful" government program.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Few Honest Conservatives !

Sometimes I am amazed at the actions taken by American conservatives. It is almost as if they are incapable of learning from experience.

One of the oldest conservative organizations has just taken such an amazing action. The American Conservative Union has just appointed Tom DeLay to their 33-member governing board. Never mind that he resigned from Congress in disgrace. Never mind that he still has felony charges pending against him in the state of Texas. Never mind that he was one of the reasons that voters turned against Republicans in the last election.

These guys still think it is a good idea to associate themselves with Tom DeLay. Democrats have to be laughing all the way to the next election. Why would they do this? DeLay is about as popular with today's voters as the Bubonic Plague was in the middle ages. Maybe they like his uncanny ability to attract a ton of illegal money.

This remarkably stupid move by conservatives gives Democrats exactly what they wanted. It had looked for a while like DeLay was yesterday's news, but now Democrats can point to DeLay and say, "This is what a conservative looks like!"

But there are a few honest conservatives left, who don't wish to associate themselves or their beliefs with the slime of Tom DeLay. Four members of the governing board of the ACU have resigned in protest of his appointment. They are Robert Luddy, Marc Rotterman, Tom Pauken and Craig Shirley.

Luddy said, "He was part of a congressional leadership that oversaw a massive expansion of the government, which conservatives opposed. It is one thing to call yourself a conservative, but you have to act on it."

Rotterman said, "Conservatives looked to Tom DeLay to cut government not grow it. He was complicit in the largest expansion of government in recent times."

Pauken, a fellow Texan, adds, "I just think we need to break loose from what was happening with the Republican Party in the post-Reagan era."

But it's only four out of 33 board members who seem to remember what conservatives say they believe in. The rest seem happy to associate themselves with the Texas criminal. I have to wonder what the rank-and-file believe. Are they also ready to abandon their beliefs to embrace DeLay?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Poor Internet Service

When we lived in the DFW metroplex, we had cable internet and it was excellent. But since moving up here to Amarillo, we have had nothing but trouble.

We subscribed to SuddenLink when we arrived here. So far, in the nearly two months we have had the cable internet service, we have yet to go a full day without our internet service being interrupted at least once. Most days it goes down several times.

Personally, I think it's an abnormally weak signal. We have had two or three service calls, and each time they tell us they have fixed the problem. They haven't!

This last time they told us we could get a signal booster for an extra $50. We are already paying nearly $200 a month for cable TV and internet service. For that kind of money, I think we should be getting a decent signal without paying even more!

I have to wonder - is this just us, or do other residents of Amarillo have the same problem with SuddenLink? I would love to hear from others about this. Is there a better service here? How do you get your internet service?

If you have a solution, please tell me - we're starting to get desperate here, and SuddenLink doesn't seem to have a solution.


NOTE - We'll be out of town and away from a computer for the next couple of days. Hope to get back to posting when we get back - that is, if the cable is working then!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Task Force Tried To Stop The Torture

There is an excellent article posted now on the MSNBC website about the torture at Guantanamo. It seems that this torture has been going on longer than most people realize.

Members of the Defense Department Criminal Investigation Task Force are now speaking out. They say the torture started as early as the first part of 2002, and had the blessing of the Defense Department.

The experienced investigators of the Criminal Investigation Task Force tried to convince officials as high as those in Rumsfeld's office that torture was not the way to go. The only response they got were accusations of not being patriotic enough.

Many of the Task Force's officers were experienced, and had gotten confessions from terrorists in the past by establishing rapport with the suspects. Colonel Brittain P. Mallow, commander of the task force from 2002 to 2005, said, "We had agents who knew how to do adversarial interviews, had sat across from bad guys. Interviews and interrogations are not about making someone talk. They are about making them want to."

But administration officials were not interested in what works to get reliable information. They turned inexperienced intelligence officers loose with virtually no restrictions on what they were allowed to do. It's like administration officials were more interested in revenge than information or justice.

Col. Mallow tried to explain there were five good reasons not to allow the torture of suspects:

1. It does not work.

2. It produces unreliable information, if any at all.

3. It is not legal, ethical or moral.

4. It can hurt you when it comes time to prosecute.

5. Sooner or later it will be discovered and embarrass the U.S.

He was right on all counts. You simply cannot believe the confession of someone who was tortured. They will tell you anything you want to hear, but it may not even be remotely connected to the truth.

Administration officials recently bragged about the confessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after months of torture. It seems he confessed to being responsible to every act of terrorism for the last 14 years. It's obvious to any thinking person that he told them what they wanted to hear so the torture would stop. I'll bet he would have confessed to planning the Boston Tea Party if they wanted to hear that.

Ask yourself, could you convict someone on evidence of a confession extracted under torture? I know I couldn't. That kind of thing may have passed for justice in the middle ages, but we are supposed to be more enlightened.

I think our forefathers would be spinning in their graves over this kind of illegal, immoral and unethical behavior. They tried to prevent this kind of governmental behavior by giving us a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, Bush and his cronies have no interest in either of these documents.

With their approval of torture, the Bush administration has truly been an embarrassment to all decent Americans.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bush Thinks Americans Are Stupid

The noose is tightening around Attorney General Gonzales regarding the unjustified political firings of eight Justice Department Prosecutors. It's starting to look like he will be the "Scooter Libby" of this scandel. Like Libby was, Gonzales will soon be tossed under the proverbial bus to protect others in Bush's White House circle - perhaps even Bush himself.

It's becoming obvious that although Gonzales pulled the trigger on the firings, Bush's White House cadre planned and ordered the whole mess. Now that this has become obvious, the Senate Judiciary Committee rightfully wants to question Karl Rove and others in the White House.

Bush knows he can't allow that to happen, or more heads would roll than just that of Gonzales. So what does he do in the face of increasing demands? He wants his henchmen to lie to Congress!

In a letter from his counsel to Leahy, Conyers and Specter, we find this very interesting sentence:

Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, transcript, subsequent testimony, or the subsequent issuance of subpoenas.

There is only one reason to hold the testimony in private without keeping a record and without the witnesses being sworn to tell the truth. Bush is planning on Rove and the others telling Congress a bunch of LIES, and he doesn't want it coming back to bite him in the ass.

Bush obviously thinks Americans are stupid enough to swallow these lies, or he would not even propose such an outrageous plan.

Congress should not fall for this Bush cover-up. His White House cronies should testify, and the testimony should be under oath and in public. If Congress accepts anything less, then they will be a party to the cover-up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cowboys To Honor Their #1 Fan

You could probably ask most Cowboys fans who Wilford Jones was, and I doubt if 10% of them could tell you who he was. And yet, any Cowboys fan worth his salt knew who this gentleman was - they just knew him by another name.

As long as there's been a Dallas Cowboys franchise, "Crazy Ray" has been there, wearing his cowboy outfit and cheering his beloved Cowboys on to victory. He was not only generally recognized as the Cowboys number one fan, he was recognized and loved by millions of other Cowboys fans. For many of us, it just won't be the same without "Crazy Ray" on the sidelines next season.

Wilford "Crazy Ray" Jones has died. On Saturday at 10:00am at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys organization is holding a memorial service for Mr. Jones. All Cowboys fans are invited to come and honor this man. I hope thousands will attend.

The Cowboys will also honor "Crazy Ray" and his wife Mattie with an on-field ceremony during halftime of a regular season game this coming Fall. I'm glad the Cowboys are doing this. "Crazy Ray" was more than just a fan - he was an institution. He will be sorely missed.

Support For Bush's War Still Shrinking

On the fourth anniversary of George Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq, support for the war is still shrinking. Today, Bush asked for patience and said even with his new infusion of troops, it could take months to turn around his abject failure in Iraq. Personally, I don't think he's got that much time.

Neither the Americans nor the Iraqis believe in the war anymore. When Bush first invaded Iraq, a majority of Americans supported his actions - probably because his lies had convinced them that Saddam actually posed a threat to the U.S.

But the truth has become obvious, and more Americans oppose the war with every passing year. Here are the numbers according to CNN/Opinion Research polls:

In 2003, 72% of Americans supported the war

In 2004, 48% supported the war

In 2005, 47% supported the war

In 2006, 40% supported the war

Today, only 32% still support Bush's war

More than two-thirds of all Americans currently oppose the Iraq war, including one-fourth of all Republicans. In Iraq, the bottom is falling out of support for the war also as the hard truth is setting in. ABC polled Iraqis, and the numbers are not pretty:

53% of Iraqis have had a friend or family member hurt or killed, and 86% worry that the violence will strike a loved one.

In 2005, 63% of Iraqis felt safe in their own neighborhood, but today that number is just 26%.

In 2005, 71% of Iraqis thought their lives were going well, but today that has dropped to 39%.

In 2005, 54% said their electric power was insufficient, but today that number has grown to 88%.

In 2005, 30% rated their economic situation as poor, but today that number has climbed to 64%.

In 2004, only 17% of Iraqis thought it was acceptable to attack U.S. troops. Today, 51% find it acceptable, and a full 78% oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq.

This does not sound like progress to me. This is a war that is losing support in both countries and accomplishing nothing for either country. Bush needs to listen to the people and get our troops out. It should be obvious by now that a military solution cannot be imposed in Iraq. Bush's continued efforts to do so will simply cost more American and Iraqi lives without coming any nearer to a solution.

Only the Iraqis can decide what is best for Iraq. America should withdraw and let them start to create their own solution. Keeping American troops in Iraq just prolongs the whole mess.

Bring our troops home - NOW!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Texas Should Move Up Its Primary Date

When was the last time that the Texas primary mattered in either party's choice of a presidential candidate? To be honest, I really don't remember it ever having much influence. That is because the race is pretty much over by the time Texans vote.

I remember in 2004 I was excited about a Democratic candidate for the first time in many years, and I was looking forward to supporting that candidate in the Texas Democratic primary. That candidate was Howard Dean. The only problem was that by the time Texas had its primary, Dean had dropped out of the race and Kerry was pretty much assured of the nomination.

I wound up not voting in that primary so I could sign the petition of Ralph Nader. At least he was a candidate I could respect. While I have never voted for a Republican, and probably never will, I cannot bring myself to vote for a candidate just because they're running as a Democrat. There are people running with the Democratic label who simply don't deserve support from true leftists (Joe Lieberman is a prime example).

To me, Kerry was one of these. During that election he seemed to be ashamed of his liberal roots, and if he was ashamed of me, why should I support him? And don't give me that "better of two evils" argument. A bad choice is still a bad choice, even when running against another bad choice.

Moving Texas' primary up to a date where the decision has not yet been made would give Texas voters a real voice in who the party's candidate will be. This could bring many voters back into the primary process by giving them the vote when more than one or two candidates are still in the race.

I don't want to choose between candidates approved by other states. I want to make my choice from among all the candidates, whether anyone thinks my choice has a chance or not. Now that California has moved its primary up to February 5th, the stakes are even higher.

If Texas does not move its primary date up, the race will be over before it gets to Texas. Once again Texans will not get a voice in who the candidate will be. Now that California, with its huge number of delegates up for grabs, has joined the February 5th crowd, it is imperative that Texas also move to an earlier primary.

We must move our primary up to February 5th, or again be left out of the process.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fund For Poor Misused By Legislature

Once again, the Texas Legislature is showing us that they simply cannot be trusted to keep their word. They now want to take money expressly raised to help the poor pay their electric bills and spend it for other purposes.

In 1999, when they were in the process of deregulating electricity in Texas, they passed a law that added about 65 cents to each electric bill. This money flowed into a state fund that was dedicated to helping the poor pay their electric bills. Since then the fund receives upwards of $150 million each year.

For the first four years, the money was spent as it was intended - to help the poor. In 2002-03, this fund provided for 17% discounts for over 700,000 households. That's not a huge discount, but in poorer households every penny counts and this was a big help.

But things changed in 2004 as Republicans solidified their hold on state government. They decided the poor were an easy target and diverted over half of this money to be spent on other things - even though electric bills were going up because of the deregulation.

In 2006-07, the Legislature leaves most of the money unspent. Instead, they use the fund in an accounting manuever to balance the state budget. By cutting thousands of children from the state's insurance fund (CHIPS), and not spending the money dedicated to helping the poor pay they electric bills, they balance the state budget on the backs of poorer Texans. At the same time, they give new tax cuts to richer Texans.

The fund now has over $400 million in it and will add another $300 million over the next two years. Texas currently has some of the highest electric rates in the nation. This $700 million could be a big help to the poor if it was used as it was intended to be used.

But it looks like the Legislature once again will use this fund as a "back door tax" on the poor, and use it to pay for other things. They are currently considering using less than a quarter of the fund as it was intended. This is just WRONG!

This is just another broken promise to the people of Texas. Even Gov. Perry, who is not known for championing the cause of poor people in Texas, agrees that the fund is being misused and called it "unconscionable". Perry spokesman Robert Black says the fund should be spent for its intended purpose or "the Legislature should figure out a way to give it back and do away with the fee. We need to spend taxes and fees that are dedicated to a specific purpose for that purpose. That's the deal we made with taxpayers."

The Texas Legislature needs to take a long hard look at itself. They are breaking their promise to the people of Texas. They are misusing funds meant to help the poor. And they are doing this at a time when we have a huge state surplus, most of which they will probably waste while ignoring the poor.

Once again, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Israel Should Negotiate With Palestinians

The Palestinian people finally have a new government. It is a government made up of a cross-section of Palestinian political parties, including rival parties Fatah and Hamas. It has broad support among Palestinians and probably comes closer to representing all Palestinians than any of their previous efforts.

Even more encouraging is the fact that this is a government that is willing to negotiate for an end to the violence and a Palestinian homeland made up of lands seized by Isreal in 1967. By negotiating for a homeland made up of these lands, they are implicitly recognizing Israel's right to exist.

One would think this is a positive step in the right direction, but Israel is saying they will not negotiate with this government. The Israelis, along with the United States and Great Britain, still want to pick and choose which Palestinians they are willing to negotiate with.

Israel says it won't talk with this government until they explicitly recognize Israel and renounce the use of violence (even though Israel has itself been quick to use violence to get what it wants). This is like telling your enemy that if you give up and do what we want, then we'll talk to you. That's not negotiating - that's a demand for surrender, and it will not happen.

You cannot choose only to negotiate with people that you like. That will result in a settlement only with those people, and your enemies will continue to cause trouble. A real negotiation must include representatives of all the Palestinian factions, and that is what this new government offers. Anything else is doomed to failure.

Israel would like Palestinians to recognize their right to exist and stop the violent terrorist actions. Palestinians would like a homeland of their own and for Israel to stop the violent military actions. These are the things that must be negotiated - not the preconditions to negotiations.

There will never be peace in the Middle East until these things are negotiated and settled. The Palestinians have a unity government willing to talk. It is time for Israel to set aside its demands and signal its willingness to talk.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Clinton and Obama Still Don't Get It

It looks like Hilary Clinton still wants to sit on the fence when it comes to withdrawing our troops from Iraq. A lot of progressives want her to admit she made a mistake by voting for the Iraq war. I personally don't care about that. A lot of Democrats at the time were either duped by Bush's lies, or were too gutless to stand up against a stupid and unneccessary war.

But that is all water under the bridge now. What bothers me about Clinton are her current views on Iraq. She still doesn't seem to know which side of the fence she wants to be on.

On one hand, she says we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq. Then she turns around and says she would leave some U.S. troops in Iraq PAST the year 2009. She doesn't seem to understand that taking the middle road on this war will not get votes from both sides - it will lose votes from both sides.

Pulling most troops out and then leaving a smaller force still in Iraq is a sure prescription for disaster. We are barely holding our own with the number of troops that are there now. A smaller force would not even be able to defend itself, let alone fight terrorists as she is suggesting.

There are only two options that have any kind of political viability - send more troops or pull them all out. Her plan smacks of Bushism - that is, trying to do too big a job with too few troops.

Sadly, the other Democratic frontrunner, Barack Obama, agrees with Clinton. He has also come up with a plan to withdraw most troops, but leave a small force there. These two just don't get it. This is not the time to continue Bush's failed policies in Iraq.

Fortunately, there are a couple of candidates who do understand the situation, and are not afraid to say we should get out of Iraq and not prolong the disaster. They are Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich. I am on the Richardson bandwagon, but I must give Kucinich his due - he was one of the few who opposed the war from the very beginning.

If you are an anti-war Democrat, perhaps it is time to give up on Clinton and Obama and find a candidate who agrees with you.

jobsanger Is One Year Old Today

Today we celebrate our first birthday here at jobsanger. It was on March 16th of 2006 that we made our first post. It's been an eventful year for us.

We've met a lot of people and made some new friends. We've made it on the blogrolls of some blogs we really respect - not just in Texas, but also in places like Louisiana, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, and even in the United Kingdom. We appreciate all of our new friends, no matter where you live.

We haven't always toed the party line. I think we made a lot of progressives mad when we backed Kinky Friedman for governor instead of the Democratic candidate. Fortunately, most of them realized that we had a lot in common - more than our few differences. After all, progressives are thinking people, and you'll never get thinking people to agree on everything!

There have even been some unbelievable times - like getting a shoutout from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, or being quoted by the Columbia School of Journalism's blog.

But most of all, We appreciate the readers. Whether you have been with us for a while or you just discovered us, we love you all.

Today, we start our second year, and we hope to have many more. Below I have reprinted our original post. It may not be our best, but it was our first:

March 16, 2006

Hello out there! This is my first blog and my first attempt at blogging, so if you do accidently drop by and read the blog, cut me some slack. I hope to get better over time.

This is not meant to be a news blog. This is an OPINION blog. This is my place to gripe, whine or blow my top when I get disgusted with politics, religion or culture in general. I am a left-winger who is not afraid of the "s" word. If you prefer to call me a socialist, that is fine with me.

I am not a religious person, but I believe all people should be free to practice whatever religion they wish or none at all. I don't get upset until you start pushing it down other people's throats.

I am a political Independent, since I see both the republicans and democrats as being corporate owned. Although I am male, I am pro-choice and consider myself to be a feminist. I believe in EQUAL RIGHTS FOR EVERYONE [no exceptions].

That should give you some idea of where I'm coming from. If you do read this blog, I hope you enjoy it and come back from time to time. Thanks!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Giuliani Firm Lobbys For Hugo Chavez In Texas

We do live in a strange world! Maria Comella, spokesperson for the Giuliani for President campaign says, "Mayor Giuliani believes Hugo Chavez is not a friend of the United States, and his influence continues to grow because of our increasing reliance on foreign sources of oil."

That's a high-minded statement, obviously designed to appeal to the conservatives who think Chavez is the devil incarnate. Giuliani would like for conservatives to believe that he is one of them. He would like for them to believe this because it's almost impossible to get the Republican nomination without widespread support from the party's right-wingers.

But evidently Giuliani is the latest victim of a disease running rampant through the Republican party - greed. Like many of his party cohorts, Giuliani seems to believe that platitudes and beliefs are fine when talking to voters, but they must not be allowed to interfere with business.

There is a law firm in Houston called Bracewell & Giuliani. The partner in that firm is the same Rudy Giuliani who is the former mayor of New York and the current Republican presidential candidate. I don't think he'd like for conservatives to know who is one of the biggest customers of that firm.

Since 2005, the law firm has received up to $200,000 to lobby for the oil company Citgo in Texas. A controlling majority of Citgo is owned by Venezuela, which is currently controlled by Hugo Chavez (arch-enemy of President Bush and U.S. conservatives). Oh my! That's got to be embarrassing to someone trying to get conservative votes.

Of course, the Giuliani campaign says the former mayor has nothing to do with the lobbying efforts of his law firm. Maybe he doesn't, but I bet he doesn't refuse to accept his share of the payments his law firm receives from Citgo (and therefore Chavez).

Maybe Giuliani doesn't see a conflict of interest in this situation. Maybe he thinks it's OK to bad mouth Chavez while accepting the money his firm makes for lobbying for Chavez. I don't believe the American voter will make such a fine distinction.

I think most Americans are tired of politicians saying one thing while doing another. I don't think it's a crime to lobby for Citgo and Chavez. But it is hypocritical to do so while bad-mouthing them on the campaign trail.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Texas House Must Hate Women

I couldn't believe my eyes today when I read that the Texas House voted today to overturn the governor's edict to immunize Texas women from cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus. Do they hate the women of Texas? Or even worse, do they care so little for Texas women that they are willing to play politics with their lives?

While the legislature of our sister state to the west moves swiftly to protect its women by mandating use of the vaccine, Texas has just taken a step backwards by refusing to protect its own female population. Why should New Mexico be the progressive state and Texas the regressive one?

I've heard the arguments against using the vaccine, and they just don't make sense to me. The author of the ridiculous bill says the vaccine hasn't been tested long enough, and wants to wait to see the "effect over time". How much time must pass and how many lives must be lost before he is willing to act? Would he EVER be willing to act?

Some question the governor's motives in moving to protect Texas women. They wonder if he was paid off by the drug company. If he was, then go after him. Don't punish Texas women.

Others say Perry doesn't have the authority to mandate use of the vaccine. These people are willing to use the health of Texas women as a cudgel with which to beat the governor in their political fight.

Some on the right have said that protecting women from this virus will make them more likely to have premarital or extramarital sex. They must think that all Texans are as stupid as they are!

One right-wing columnist from the Panhandle even had the gall to say it was not needed because all one had to do was wait until marriage to have sex, and then not have sex with anyone else. Obviously, he has never heard of the multitude of women in this state and country who are raped each year, or the many wives who are given diseases by their philandering husbands.

No matter what his motives, after years of selling Texas out to corporate interests, our governor finally did something good for the citizens of Texas. Today, the Texas House turned back the governor's one good deed, and chose to play politics with the lives of Texans.

Once again, I am ashamed of our elected officials.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Many Iraqi Vets Coming Home With Mental Problems

Most of us are vividly aware of the cost of the Iraqi war to our troops and their families. Nearly 3,400 of our brave soldiers have given their lives. Tens of thousands more have been wounded, many of them maimed for life. Each of these dead or wounded soldiers have a family, and their lives have been negatively altered also.

Now we learn that many of our soldiers are returning with mental health problems - the kind of problems that could affect them and their families for many years to come.

The University of California at San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Hospital have conducted a survey of 103,788 veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2005. This survey shows that a stunning proportion of our vets are returning with mental health problems.

Out of the 103,788 vets surveyed, 32,010 (31%) have been disgnosed with some sort of mental illness. More than half of these with mental health problems have been diagnosed with two or more mental disorders.

This is what's been diagnosed in that 32,010:

52% have post-traumatic stress disorder

24% have anxiety disorder

24% have adjustment disorder

20% have depression

20% have substance abuse disorder

The disorders cut across racial, sexual, ethnic and social boundaries - affecting all groups in about the same percentages. This is a price being paid by all corners of our society, except the rich of course.

Former Senator and veteran Max Cleland, wounded during the Vietnam war said, "This is the price of war. You can't send young Americans to Iraq and Afghanistan...and expect them to come home and just fit right in. They bring that trauma with them. If you don't intervene with the emotional aftermath of the war up-front and early, it can slide down a precipitous path to hell."

The war in Afghanistan was a justifiable one. They had attacked us on our soil, and would have again if we had not acted. If Bush had used the full might of our military there, it would have been over by now. But he didn't.

I don't know why Bush left Afghanistan half done and went to Iraq. Was it for the oil? Was it some family grudge? Was it the neocon myth of spreading American influence through military power?

Whatever the reason, it screwed everything up. The Taliban is returning in Afghanistan, and we have accomplished nothing in Iraq except to cause the deaths of thousands of people on all sides.

That is the sad part of all this. Thousands of our soldiers have died, and many more have been wounded, both physically and mentally.
And there is still no end in sight. Bush's only solution is to sacrifice even more soldiers in the hope that his successor can find a solution. He has admitted this himself.

It is time to override this pathetic excuse for a president, and bring our troops back home. We cannot impose a democracy in Iraq thru military power, no matter how brave and resourceful our troops are. The Iraqis will install the government they want, whether we like it or not. It's time to leave and let them get on with it.

It's time to bring our troops home NOW - before we do even more damage to our troops and our country.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Halliburton Moving Headquarters To Dubai

It looks like Dick Cheney's old company will soon no longer be an American company. They have announced plans to move the company's headquarters to Dubai in the Middle East.

According to company spokesmen, this will make it easier to expand their business in the Middle East. They may be right about that. After the way Bush has continually screwed up in that area of the world, it can't be easy for an American company trying to do business over there. And in 2006, Halliburton only had a profit of $2.6 billion - they obviously need new business to survive.

It certainly doesn't show much patriotism though. Maybe this will finally start to convince those who wish to hand over power to the corporations, that it would be a mistake to continue down that road. Corporations have no allegiance to any country. They consider themselves to be international, and their only allegiance is to the dollar. Their motivation is greed, not patriotism.

This should worry those who support the war in Iraq. After all, the U.S. and its troops depend heavily on Halliburton in the war effort. They have wound up with nearly all the contracts to provide services over there - and many of those contracts were awarded without competitive bidding (it's nice to have friends in the White House).

I do wonder though if the impetus for the move might be something besides searching for more business in the Middle East. This corporation is not like the die-hard Bush apologists. They can read the hand-writing on the wall. They can see the war is a failure and the public is not happy.

What have they done with the many billions of dollars they have been paid by our government? Democrats have already taken over in the House and are even in the Senate (Lieberman doesn't count - he's not a Democrat). It's looking like the Democrats will gain more ground in 2008. When they do, there are going to be lots of investigations about what has gone on in Iraq - and Halliburton will be one of the major entities being investigated.

After 2008, Cheney will no longer be able to protect them. Could this be a major reason for moving to Dubai? It's going to be a whole lot harder to hold the corporation and its officers responsible if they are a foreign company.

I think they are getting out before the Democrats can expose them before the American people for stealing from our government and shortchanging our troops.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Toll Roads Are Not The Solution

I think everyone believes that Texas needs more and better roads and highways. At one time, Texas had one of the best road systems in the nation. That is no longer true.

The question is not whether we need to build new roads and improve existing roads. We do. The question is how do we pay for the new roads and improvements.

Our governor and his cohorts think the answer is to privitize much of our road system. They want to let corporations build the roads and then own them for 50 years or more, charging Texans to drive on what should be their own roads. These corporations would be guaranteed enormous profits. If the tolls don't provide these profits (because many would not be able to afford them), then the state would be obligated to pay the corporations out of our tax funds. This is just a very bad deal for ordinary Texans.

The reason our politicians want to let corporations build and profit from our road system is because they are too gutless to solve the problem themselves. They think if they raise the gas tax to cover the costs of new roads, the public will be angry and won't re-elect them. I believe they are misjudging the people of Texas.

It is true that Texans got angry when the gas companies raised the prices recently and recorded enormous record-breaking windfall profits. The reason they were angry is because they knew they were being gouged and were receiving nothing for the huge increase in price.

Our legislators are afraid to raise the gas tax 10-12 cents a gallon. In truth, I believe that Texans would accept an even larger jump in the gas tax - as long as it all went to pay for much-needed new roads and improvements, and to avoid the imposition of more toll roads.

If after raising the gas tax we still need to build some toll roads, then the state should build those roads. There are some things that just should not be privatized, and roads are one of those things. They are too important to all Texans.

Years ago, a new roadway was needed between Dallas and Fort Worth, but funds were tight then as they are now. It was built and operated as a toll road. However, when enough money was collected to pay for building the road, they tore down the toll booths and made it a freeway (I-30). If we must have a toll road, it should only be to pay the building costs - not to put enormous profits into some corporation's pockets.

Private roads are a bad idea. It is time our legislators solved the problems we elected them to solve, and stop trying to sell us out to the corporations.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Federal Court Overturns Handgun Ban


On friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for District of Columbia struck down a ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. This gun ban had been in effect since 1976.

The Brady Campaign To Prevent Handgun Violence called the decision
"judicial activism at its worst". Mayor Adrian Fenty said, "I am personally deeply disappointed and, quite frankly, outraged by today's decision". Fenty vowed that the city would appeal the decision.

For a while now, many progressives have tried to interpret the second amendment to mean that militias, and not individuals, have a right to bear arms. The court struck that idea down.

The court said,
"The amendment does not protect the right of militiamen to keep and bear arms, but rather the right of the people. If the competent drafters of the Second Amendment had meant the right to be limited to the protection of state militias, it is hard to imagine that they would have chosen the language they did".

I believe the court was correct in its decision.

Let me be clear - I do not like handguns. I would be very happy if all the handguns in the world would disappear tomorrow. I have never owned a handgun and probably never will own one. Handguns are good for only one thing - shooting other humans.

In fact, as some of you know, I was the victim of a handgun attack myself about a year and a half ago. A desperate criminal, running from the police, shot me in the stomach and stole my car. I came very close to dying that day.

But regardless of how I feel about handguns or what happened to me, I can still read. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly grants individuals the right to own firearms. For a handgun ban to be legal, the Constitution would have to be amended.

Actually, the court was pretty reasonable in its decision. It left intact the provision that outlaws carrying unregistered weapons on the streets of our capitol, and also the provision that would prevent ownership by certain individuals (convicted felons, mentally ill persons, etc.).

Like it or not, our forefathers made gun ownership a right. This was not "judicial activism". The court simply upheld the Constitution as it is written.

(The picture above courtesy of Ken Lunde at http://www.praxagora.com/lunde/firearms.html
)

Friday, March 09, 2007

U.S. Government Muzzles Scientists

If you're a scientist going abroad on business for the U.S. government, truth should not be your primary concern. Instead, you should focus on presenting Bush's position - even if that position is wrong.

Memos from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to scientists going abroad have been exposed by two environmental groups - the National Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The memos state that any scientist traveling abroad on government business must understand that climate change, sea ice and polar bears are delicate subjects. The memos say that top officials of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must be assured that the traveling scientist "understands the administration's position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues".

In other words, toe the party line or don't go! After all, a scientist speaking the truth is a nightmare for the Bush administration. In the neocon world of Bush and Cheney, science is not determined by experimentation - it is hatched in the Oval Office.

Doesn't this tell us that Bush knows he is wrong on these issues? If he was even close to right, there would be no need to suppress the truth or muzzle U.S. scientists.

Eben Burnham-Snyder of the Natural Resources Defense Council says, "The administration has a long history of censoring speech and science on global warming. Whenever we see an instance of the Bush administration restricting speech on global warming, it sends up a huge red flag that their commitment to the issue does not reflect their rhetoric."

It is very troubling to see our president trying to hide the truth, and it has to make one wonder how many other truths he is trying to hide. Can we believe anything he says?

We need a president who will tell Americans the truth - even if it is a truth that he does not like.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Pot Calling The Kettle Black

For years now, the United States has accused China (among other nations) as being guilty of human rights violations, and I have no doubt that this is probably true. But now China is returning the favor. Today China accused the United States of human rights violations.

China said the U.S. has no right to criticize human rights in other countries when it has serious human rights violations of its own. The Chinese report said, "As in previous years, the State Department pointed the finger at human rights conditions in more than 190 countries and regions, including China, but avoided touching on the human rights situation in the United States."

The Chinese pointed out serious problems in America such as child poverty, racism, mistreatment of prisoners, the place of women in our society, and the civilian deaths in Iraq. Of course they are right.

And the situation has just gotten worse since George Bush and Dick Cheney took office. Now we can add invasion of privacy rights, denial of habeas corpus, military "kangaroo" courts, inequitible tax laws, and mistreatment of immigrants.

Sometimes I think the only right Bush wants us to have is the right to agree with whatever he wants to do. Anything else is surely a violation of "national security". Under Bush and Cheney, corporations have more rights than citizens do.

Maybe it's time for the U.S. to stop hurling accusations at other countries until we start to work on our own human rights problems. Until then, we are just the pot calling the kettle black.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How Long Before The Pardon Comes?

Another Republican bites the dust. This time it's White House insider "Scooter" Libby. Yesterday, Libby was found guilty of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. I don't think the verdict really surprised anyone - his guilt was pretty obvious.

The only real questions are what will his sentence be, and when will Bush pardon him. The electronic media are fond of saying that he could get 25 years, but that is very unlikely. The media always wants to report the extremes. I think it's more likely he'll get less than 10 years - probably more like five.

But don't expect him to actually serve any real time. The right-wing noise machine will crank up to make the case for a pardon, and I expect Bush will cave in to them and pardon him. Bush has given the right-wing nuts everything else, so why would he hold out this time?

Their best argument is that Libby was just a "fall guy", thrown under the bus to save the necks of higher-ups (Rove and Cheney). While I think Libby was as guilty as hell and needs to serve some time behind bars, I have to admit the "fall guy" argument has some merit.

Even the Libby jury thinks this is the case. While they knew he was guilty, several said, "Where is Rove? Where is Cheney?" They knew who the guiltiest of all were, and they were not in that courtroom. They will never be punished for their crimes.

But as guilty as Libby is, I don't expect him to actually serve any time. He will probably delay his needed incarceration with an appeal bond and some fancy legal footwork, as the rich and powerful usually do. Then, Bush will issue a pardon.

My guess is that the pardon will come sometime this Fall. I'd love to hear what the readers think. When do you think the pardon will come?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Plea For Justice For David Hicks

Below is more good stuff from our friend Korova at Mask of Anarchy. Is this really the kind of "justice" we want America to be showing the rest of the world? The United States used to be a beacon of justice. Because of the "military tribunals" we are now becoming a sick joke.

I Am One Of The Lucky Ones

I'm a little older than a lot of the bloggers I know, and lately I've been thinking about the times I grew up in, and how that has affected my entire life and made me a better person. In the last few years, I've come to the conclusion that I'm one of the lucky ones.

I don't mean lucky in the sense of having a lot of money or worldly possessions - my family was poor. I grew up on a 160-acre cotton farm in North Texas. The farm was not big enough to make much money, and most of his working life my father had a second job in addition to farming.

As a child, I was barefooted most of the time because my one pair of shoes was designated to be worn only to school, to town and to church. But I was still one of the lucky ones.

I was lucky because I was not taught to hate at home. You see, I am old enough to remember that the "good old days" were not all that good. I can still vividly remember seperate water fountains, bathrooms and schools for Whites and Blacks. I can remember African-Americans being denied access to resturants. It hasn't been all that long ago - just a little over forty years.

I remember Gays having to stay "in the closet" to avoid being beaten and ostracized. I remember women being denied an equal opportunity to better their lives. I know that much inequality still exists, but it was worse back in those supposed "good old days".

I never understood why things were that way, and still don't. I remember asking my father why. He just said, "Some people are stupid" and wouldn't discuss it further. I think he was frustrated that his children had to witness such insanity.

My father required only three things for another human to earn his trust and respect, and none of those three things had anything to do with a person's race, ethnicity, religion (or lack of it), sex or sexual preference. His requirements were:

1. Be a hard worker
2. Be honest
3. Be willing to help your neighbors

If you did these three things, then you could easily earn his respect. I guess he taught me well, because to this day I still think he was right.

But one thing he didn't teach was hate. Hating a person for something they had no control over simply did not fit his simple moral code. Thinking you were better than someone else didn't either.

It was my good fortune to be raised by this hard-working, honest and generous man. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to say the same, but there are many in our world who were not so fortunate.

That is why I say - I am one of the lucky ones.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Democratic Insiders List Their Preferences

An article in the Los Angeles Times says that Hilary Clinton is the favorite of Democratic party "insiders". The article must have been written by a Clinton supporter, because that is a very generous interpretation of what the numbers actually show.

The Times polled every member of each state's delegates to the Democratic National Committee. Since every delegate was polled, and not just a random survey, there is no margin of error in the poll. What did the poll of party insiders show? Here are the numbers:

No favorite...............30%
Clinton.....................20%
Edwards...................15%
Obama......................11%
Gore.........................10%
Richardson..............09%
Others......................05%

I don't read the above numbers as showing that Clinton is the favorite of party insiders. In fact, the poll clearly shows that 4 out of 5 party insiders do NOT support Clinton. The real leader in this poll is "no favorite".

The poll really shows that none of the so-called "big three" candidates (Clinton, Edwards and Obama) have been able to break out of the pack and become the clear leader. No candidate is anywhere near gathering majority support yet.

This has to be disappointing for the "big three", considering the campaigning they have done and the extensive media coverage they have received. This poll really contains good news for only one candidate - Bill Richardson.

A couple of months ago, most experts had Richardson pegged as a minor candidate with only 1-2% support. This poll puts him up near the big dogs with a strong 9% showing (only 2 points behind Obama and a scant 6 points behind Edwards).

And he has done this while being virtually ignored by the media. Just imagine what he might be able to do with equal media coverage!

It is still very early. We still have nearly a year to go before primary season arrives. I believe that by this Fall the media will be forced to admit that Richardson is a major candidate, and will have to give him the media coverage that he deserves. Then things could get really interesting.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Federal Courts Not Interested In Justice

When I was growing up, I was taught that the primary interest of the courts in America, especially the appeals courts, was to ensure that justice was done in our judicial system. Under the Bush administration, that is no longer true.

The primary purpose of our federal courts under Bush is to protect the dirty secrets of lawbreakers in the CIA and other government organizations. Consider the following case.

On New Year's Eve of 2003 Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was trying to legally enter Macedonia. He was kidnapped by CIA operatives and "renditioned" to a CIA-run prison in Kabul, because he was mis-identified as an associate of the 9/11 hijackers.

He was held there illegally, secretly and without charges for five months. While there, he was beaten and sodomized with various objects in an attempt to extract information that he did not have. In fact, after the five months of torture they realized they had kidnapped the WRONG PERSON!

The Bush administration has not denied that this happened. They are still convinced they have the right to do anything to anyone as long as they use the magic words "national security".

Khaled el-Masri felt he had been wronged - imagine that! He sued George Tenet, the CIA and the corporations who owned the airplanes used to illegally transport him to Kabul. But instead of hearing his legitimate case, the court dismissed it, saying the case could not go forward because it would reveal national security secrets.

He then appealed this outrageous dismissal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Surely he could get justice from them - right? Wrong! They backed up the ridiculous action of the lower court.

Judge Robert King, who wrote the cout's opinion, said that the case could only go forward by using "evidence that exposes how the CIA organizes, staffs and supervises its most sensitive intelligence operations."

ACLU attorney Ben Wizner probably puts it best when he says, "What's most troubling about this is it literally grants the CIA complete immunity to engage in any kind of misconduct."

It also shows us that under the Bush administration, the priorities of our federal judicial system have changed. The number one priority is to cover up crimes committed by government organizations. The second priority is to not embarrass the Bush administration. If we're lucky, administering justice comes in a distant third. Disgusting!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Where's The News?

Looking at the "news" headlines the last couple of weeks, it's not hard to see why many Americans are ignorant of what is happening in this country and the world. Many Americans are very poor at world geography and history. They couldn't even find such countries as French Guyana, New Guinea, Burkina Faso and Oman on a map.

How many of your neighbors do you think could tell you what is happening in Sudan, Dardur, Venezuela or Lebanon right now? And these are countries that have had a tiny bit of coverage lately.

I'll bet nearly anyone you meet could tell you what's happening with Anna Nicole Smith or Britney Spears though. After all, these have been the top stories on all the news programs lately. But is this really news?

When I was younger, news giants like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntly and David Brinkley filled us in on what was happening in our country and the world. They left the entertainment updates to others because they knew it was not really news.

Nowdays, a good part of a newscast is spent advertising the networks other shows that are coming up. This is even true for the so-called 24 hour news stations. Maybe it is time to remind these networks just what news is.

I forget who said it, but I like this definition. News is what makes those in power uncomfortable - everything else is either publicity or propaganda.

How can we expect Americans to be educated to what is going on in our country and the world, when all we give them is publicity and propaganda?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Richardson Talking Some Sense About Iran

The Bush administration seems in a headlong rush to get us into a third war before we have even extricated outselves from the current two failures they have provided. They have moved another carrier group into striking range of Iran, and almost daily they hurl threats at Iran. Threatening another country is what Bush calls "diplomacy".

No one wants Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. There is no doubt that would make our world a much more dangerous place. The more countries that have nuclear weapons, the more likely one of them will actually use them. But what can we do? Surely Bush is not right in his belief that the only two options are threats or military action.

Take note of these words from a saner politician:

No nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons, but many have chosen to do so. The Iranians will not end their nuclear program because we threaten them and call them names. They will renounce nukes because we convince them that they will be safer and more prosperous if they do that than if they don't. This feat will take more than threats and insults. It will take skillful American diplomatic leadership.

These are the words of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and he is right. We cannot afford to go to war with Iran at this time, and threatening them will only increase their determination to stay on their current path. What we need is real diplomacy, where nations sit down with each other, treat each other with respect, and find common ground on which to solve mutual problems.

While Bush rushes headlong into another war, and Clinton and Obama seem interested only in giving each other a black eye, there is a candidate with real solutions to our problems - Bill Richardson.

And this is not just talk. Richardson has the diplomatic experience and skills to actually get things done. He has proven time and again in the past that even those we consider "outlaw" nations will respond to reason if they are treated respectfully by people that they trust. Bill knows how to establish that trust and create that respect. He understands what real diplomacy is and knows how to use it properly.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a president who understood that there are many kinds of power other than military power? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a president who knew how to create good will among nations rather than turning the world against us? Bill Richardson would be that kind of president.

I implore you to ignore the flash and dazzle of shallow candidacies, and opt instead for competence. That is what Bill Richardson offers and that is what America so desperately needs.