January 14, 2006

"A grave threat"

More news on Iran, from this morning's Washington Post. I'm struck, as I was in my post earlier today, by the pejorative language President Bush insists on peddling to the American public, in statements like:
"Iran, armed with a nuclear weapon, poses a grave threat to the security of the world."
And, referring to the Iranian President's previous statements about wiping Israel from the map:
"The development of a nuclear weapon, seems like to me, would make them a step closer to achieving that objective."
This hyperbole from Mr. Bush is clearly designed to mislead U.S. citizens into believing that Tehran is just a heartbeat away from launching some sort of nuclear attack. Scary stuff - if it were true. But since most experts agree that Iran is, at minimum, 5 to 10 years away from having the technology and materials necessary for an atomic bomb, these statements by our Fearmonger in Chief are an insult to our collective intelligence.

And they're once again creating a dangerous misperception about an Islamic country, and a so-called "threat" that simply doesn't exist.

Mr. Bush's bluster, if allowed to continue unchecked, will only make the situation worse - a dubious talent he has displayed on a variety of issues throughout his Presidency. As the Post notes:
Iran bristled at the pressure. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that if it is taken to the Security Council, "the Iranian government will have to stop all its voluntary cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog," according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iran has been voluntarily allowing inspections since the International Atomic Energy Agency began investigating the country's nuclear program in 2003, but the country is not bound by any international law to continue the arrangement. Despite the rhetoric, Iran has not started assembling centrifuges or enriching uranium, according to officials in contact with IAEA inspectors.
So let's see if I have this straight. Iran is allowing IAEA inspections. It has not begun building power plants, let alone a weapons development program. Even if Tehran started today on a secret bomb project, the nation is probably a decade away from creating a nuclear weapon. And it is being monitored by China, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, India, all of whom still oppose belligerent action against Iran, since such action would only "complicate the issue."

Yet our President insists on overstating the "danger" posed by Iran, and in so doing, promises only to further destabilize the situation. To create a barrier to continued IAEA access and inspection. To inflame the passions of Iran's already erratic President, and perhaps forcibly set him on a course which has never truly been his intention.

So tell me again - who is in actuality "a grave threat to the security of the world"? In my opinion, the answer is crystal clear.

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Good stuff

Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch describes the ongoing battle of Bush v. Reality, and why "2007 may prove the year of constitutional crisis in the United States."
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From AmericaBlog, a quick look at the "new and improved" Medicare mess.
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Courtesy of firedoglake, important information and links on domestic spying, the unitary Executive, and just who should investigate.

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Tehran Two-Step

Here's the type of reporting on the escalating Iranian situation that we're not getting enough of at home. Be sure and read this article in today's Guardian Unlimited, an intelligent, balanced, factual summation of the growing tensions and rhetoric over Tehran's intention to develop domestic nuclear power.

As I've said many times in the past (see sidebar, on Iran), despite the erratic and inflammatory behavior of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there still is no concrete evidence that his nuclear goal is anything other than the creation of civilian controlled power plants. President Bush's repetitive " 'cause I say so" accusations are based on... what, exactly?

And while Ahmadinejad's reckless public statements make him appear slightly unhinged, the Cowboy in Chief continues to spew some belligerent rhetoric of his own. The Guardian notes:
President George Bush indicated that the time for talking had passed. A nuclear Iran, he said, would be a threat to global security, adding that it was "logical that a country which has rejected diplomatic entreaties be sent to the United Nations security council".

"Using the guise of a civil nuclear weapons programme to get the know-how for a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," he said after talks with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
I'm particularly intrigued by how it is that Georgie "knows" all this with such certainty. We all remember how accurate his last "slam dunk" prognostication about Middle Eastern regimes and atomic weapons proved to be. And making such a threatening allegation is something any sane person can see will only paint Ahmadinejad further into a corner - and increase his blustering, as a means of saving face with his own citizenry. The report continues:
One of Britain's most senior military officers said yesterday he strongly opposed any attack on Iran. "The impact would be absolutely horrendous," Sir Alan West, the first sea lord, told British defence journalists. He made it clear he was talking about a military strike by Israel as well as by the US. "Getting involved in military action would be a very silly thing to do."

Sir Alan's warning reflects widespread concern in the British military about the Bush administration's reliance on military action or threats to solve complicated issues. There is also anger about comments by British ministers that Iran is responsible for roadside bombs which have killed a number of British soldiers and contractors in Basra. There is no hard evidence that Iran was responsible, they insist.
I know what you're thinking. Do I trust the Iranian President? Not really. But do I think that Iran has as much right as any sovereign nation to study and develop peaceful nuclear technology for civilian use? Absolutely. And do I believe all the usual Administration talking points dutifully repeated in our MSM, the ubiquitous references to "a nuclear Iran" as if we are once again mere moments away from the horror of a mushroom cloud? Not on your life - and neither should you.

The international community is understandably concerned over such a delicate situation in Tehran. But, as is obvious from this piece in the Toronto Star, they are equally worried about a U.S. position which has "echoes of the run-up to the Iraq war." I'm trying to remain optimistic that diplomacy will prevail, and that a compromise can be reached that will not further isolate Tehran from the West for the wrong reasons.

But with a make-believe Texas Ranger in the White House, it's awfully hard to believe.

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January 13, 2006

The dissemination of lies

I know, I know. I've completely neglected the blog today, due to circumstances beyond my control. I did, however, spend a great deal of time in the car rushing to and fro, and decided to listen in on the "opposition", specifically Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly's respective radio broadcasts - just to get an idea of what their millions of gullible but loyal fans are being spoon-fed about the major issues of the day.

And now that a few hours have passed and my blood pressure has come down to only mildly life-threatening levels (aided in no small part by my naval friend Captain Morgan and a certain questionable substance useful in the treatment of glaucoma and chemotherapy patients!), my question of the day is this:

Where the hell is the FCC?

Without going into intentionally forgotten detail, I have to admit I was stunned by what I heard. Oh, I expected to ideologically disagree with the two hosts and the right-of-center philosophies I knew they'd espouse. And though a little civility from the moral values crowd would have been nice, five years of being characterized as "traitorous", "hateful", "seditious", and "anti-American" by virtually every angry Conservative mouthpiece has made me, like most Liberals, develop a pretty thick skin to all sorts of hypocritical name-calling. So that honestly didn't bother me either.

But what (almost literally) drove me off the road was the ceaseless repetition of blatantly false information. The misquoted, misleading, misrepresentation of known facts. The willful dissemination of lies.

It occurred to me that while the FCC has specific guidelines "protecting" the nation from the (gasp!) sight of a human nipple or the (horrors!) mention of the word "fuck", guidelines which it vigorously enforces under the current Administration, the Commission apparently has no rule governing the broadcast of things that are simply untrue - at least not one that its current chairman Kevin A. Martin is willing to enforce.

And that I just don't understand.

Now it's one thing if the fabricated facts being fed to an empty-headed public by such influential radio figures have to do with Brad and Jen and Angelina. Those tall tales are regrettable, even repulsive, yet in the scheme of things they don't amount to much. But it's another thing entirely when those falsehoods concern matters of grave importance, and are being used to sway a significant percentage of the population toward unwarranted support of issues with real consequence.

Things like Iraq's "connection" to 9/11. The Social Security "crisis". The torture and indefinite detainment of suspected "enemy combatants". The tenor of the Alito confirmation hearings and the big "crying" scandal. The "imminent threat" of a nuclear Iran - or a non-military San Francisco. The "necessary" wiretapping of American citizens.

Unlike some fraudulent gossip about silly Hollywood celebrities, misinformation on these topics affects the nation in demonstrably harmful ways. Bad legislation is written into law. Civil rights are violated and/or eliminated. Potentially violent divisions in our citizenry are fostered and exacerbated.

Young men and women are needlessly sent to die.

Yet despite the seriousness of the consequences that result from this ongoing litany of misdirection, there seems to be no regulatory body charged with guaranteeing that the information dispersed to the American public is actually based on proven fact, or ensuring that misinformation presented as truth (because of the potential harm that can arise based on said deception) is subject to swift rebuke, prosecution, and punishment.

If only Media Matters were granted some real legal power!

It seems ridiculous to me that the FCC will enthusiastically pursue Howard Stern for some trivial monologue about vaginas, but has no mission to prevent Rush Limbaugh from spreading lies about the FISA Court in an effort to excuse and solidify support for the Bush Administration's illegal surveillance activities. Or to chastise James Dobson for hysterical untruths about same-sex marriage. Or to fine any station that allows Ann Coulter to say anything at all!

The closest relevant FCC regulation is one addressing "Hoaxes" - under which I could probably make a case against the broadcasts I heard today, and have been affronted by in the past. After all, Commission Section 73.1217 states:
This rule prohibits broadcast licensees or permittees from broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if: (1) the licensee knows this information is false; (2) it is foreseeable that broadcast of the information will cause substantial public harm; and (3) broadcast of the information does in fact directly cause substantial public harm.
I suppose it would depend on your definition of "a crime or a catastrophe" or what connotates "public harm." But I think many of us would agree that Administration behavior concerning election tampering, 9/11, Iraq, Plamegate, Katrina, NSA wiretapping, torture, SEC violations, to name a few, might just qualify for those labels. So why, I wonder, isn't the broadcasting of false and misleading information about those items seen as contributing to public harm, and stopped at the source?

We continue to live in a society which seems clearly to have its priorities backwards - and it's getting worse by the minute. Have we as a nation suffered greater harm from a glimpse of Janet Jackson's exposed breast, or from the constant reiteration of lies about Saddam's link to al Qaeda. "We report, you decide" only works if we're all getting the truth. The FCC should be charged with doing more than just protecting us from bad words - it should prevent the insidious spread of false ones as well.

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Passionate case

Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman makes this passionate case for the removal of the President in The Nation magazine. A veteran of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, Ms. Holtzman writes:
A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government.

The framers of our Constitution feared executive power run amok and provided the remedy of impeachment to protect against it. While impeachment is a last resort, and must never be lightly undertaken (a principle ignored during the proceedings against President Bill Clinton), neither can Congress shirk its responsibility to use that tool to safeguard our democracy. No President can be permitted to commit high crimes and misdemeanors with impunity.

But impeachment and removal from office will not happen unless the American people are convinced of its necessity after a full and fair inquiry into the facts and law is conducted. That inquiry must commence now.
I can't say I disagree. Read on.

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January 12, 2006

Two gems

The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. --Mark Twain
Because all work and no play truly does make Jack - and Bob - a dull boy, I invite you to take a break from the relative horrors of your day with these two gems. Special thanks to Star A. Decise (now why does that sound so familiar?) at The Enigmatic Paradox for helping to unleash them on an unsuspecting world. And even if you have seen them before, do it again - it could be just the thing for a winter's Thursday. Enjoy!

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Political will, media unwillingness

Here's a must read Op-Ed by freelance writer Lynne Glasner concerning Washington corruption, what "legal" is, and a timid and misleading press that's blurring fact with fiction - and calling it "balance". Money quote:
In their attempt to be "objective" the media reports the "facts" in a moral vacuum, which strips the report of its context, making it seem as if there are two equally justifiable sides. This is not objectivity; in fact, it lends credibility to the immoral, corrupt or mendacious by including it as if it were worthy of the same consideration.
And more...
The Republican machine has been volleying for power for the past two decades, organizing, positioning and manipulating so that when they finally were able to take over both the executive and legislative branches, they could drag out the big guns and empty the war chest into the pockets of selected friends in Congress. Pssst. Let's not forget what legislators do for a living: they write the laws. Guess what? A lot of the laws have been carefully crafted with tiny print that says that at least some of the activities of Abramoff and his pals are not exactly illegal.
Gracias, Ivan S., for the link.

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Bob Herbert hits the nail on the head in today's New York Times with his essay on "The Lawbreaker in the Oval Office". Taking Mr. Bush to task over the President's illegal domestic surveillance activities, Mr. Herbert writes:
It has become fashionable to say that this controversy is about the always difficult problem of balancing civil liberties and national security. But I think the issue is starker than that. The real issue is President Bush's apparent belief - stoked at every opportunity by that zealot of zealots, Dick Cheney - that he can do just about anything he wants (mistreat prisoners, lock people up forever without filing charges), and justify it in the name of fighting terror.
As the President continuously reminds us, "There's an enemy out there." It should be tragically obvious to Americans by now that the enemy has become Mr. Bush himself.

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(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Mr Herbert's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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With friends like these...

It looks like President Bush can add one more passionate and committed group to his much-ballyhooed "Coalition of the Willing" in the struggle against al Qaeda - and I'll bet you can't guess who it is. As the New York Times reports this morning:
Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Islamic Army fought a bloody battle on the outskirts of [Taji, a city north of Baghdad].

The battle, which the insurgents said was fought on Oct. 23, was one of several clashes between Al Qaeda and local Iraqi guerrilla groups that have broken out in recent months across the Sunni Triangle.

American and Iraqi officials believe that the conflicts present them with one of the biggest opportunities since the insurgency burst upon Iraq nearly three years ago. They have begun talking with local insurgents, hoping to enlist them to cooperate against Al Qaeda, said Western diplomats, Iraqi officials and an insurgent leader.
That's right. The Sunni insurgents. It would seem that the same Islamic Army fighters Mr. Bush referred to as "terrorists" just a short time ago, are our latest hope for victory against the... well... uuuuh... you know... the REAL terrorists.

What's also reassuring is the immediate sense of kinship that's developed between our new allies and the ol' Red White & Blue now that the former have seen how really bad those al Qaeda thugs are after all - just like the latter's been a-tellin' 'em from the git-go. As an example of the way in which our insurgent buddies plan to help us in Mr. Bush's "War on Terror", a local imam recounted a heated confrontation he'd had with foreign al Qaeda fighters:
"Why are you driving the troubles into our town?" the Sunni cleric said he asked the men. "If you want jihad, the U.S. military is there."
With friends like these...

Now, don't get me wrong - I've thought for quite some time that some sort of communication with the insurgency has been needed, certainly so if we ever hope to convince this disaffected group that it has a viable stake in a unified Iraq. And you know what? The violent fanatics comprising the loose-knit band of international criminals known as al Qaeda really are dangerous, irrational, and contemptible, and need to be opposed by all reasonable inhabitants of the globe.

But experience tells us that we simply cannot trust the Bush Administration to view this "big opportunity" with nuance and intelligence - or with an understanding of the larger, long term picture. The President's approach to everything so far, both at home and abroad, has been to seize upon wedge issues, and ham-handedly bludgeon that wedge as deep as is necessary for a self-serving short term goal. The fact that the first reaction from American officials was focused on "enlist[ing] them to cooperate against al Qaeda," and not on the potential for realistically addressing broader Sunni concerns and altering insurgent misgivings about a unified Iraq, only confirms that hypothesis.

Or maybe not. Maybe it's just me that's bothered by the news that our "biggest opportunity" in Iraq right now is simply (big breath) USING this new enemy of our bigest enemy (even though that first enemy was our other enemy just last month) because what's MOST urgent in rebuilding Iraq is increasing the violence against that main enemy instead of making it a priority to work peacefully with our former enemy toward more constructive ends, (breathe) conveniently ignoring the fact that our ex enemy is still really a current enemy since they see US as an enemy not so much different from that other foreign enemy, (almost there!) and not caring that our ex enemy is just taking advantage of U.S. hatred for our mutual enemy by joining forces only 'til we can go back to being their enemy again.


All of which will virtually guarantee - as it has so often in the history of American foreign policy - that this former enemy will never truly become a friend.

I do think it's important to begin some meaningful dialogue with the Sunni insurgents, even if it is just a shared distaste for al Qaeda that's opened the door to such communication. So I hope the Administration sees that the real importance of this window of opportunity is not just to add more bodies to "our side" out on the killing fields, and instead focuses genuine attention on Sunni issues and grievances, and helps steer them in a more peaceful, productive direction. The U.S. has clumsily, recklessly, and shortsightedly tried that old "enemy of my enemy" routine before, with a fundamentalist Afghan rebel leader named Osama.

And that's what started this whole mess to begin with.

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January 11, 2006

Protecting (?) the troops

Hilary Clinton has called for an investigation into why American troops are still being placed in harm's way without adequate body armor - which, by the way, has been readily available for years at the minimal cost of $260 per soldier.

As I noted a few days ago (thanks again to The Enigmatic Paradox), this situation is simply inexcusable. Reacting to a secret Pentagon study which showed that as many as 80% of all fatalities caused by upper body wounds could have been prevented with proper armor, Senator Clinton said,
It's our duty to protect our men and women in uniform. They are protecting us, our interest. They have been sent there by our president. The very least we can do is give them the very best body armor and armored vehicles.

The president speaks out strongly and even harshly from time to time about issues he thinks are important. Let's hear him speak about men and women who wear the uniform of our country.
Hear, hear, Senator. When every American in Iraq could be provided with this vital protection for a total of approximately $50 million, there is no acceptable excuse for not having done so already. Mr. Bush is quite adept at paying lip service to the idea of "supporting the troops". The reality of his commitment, however, would appear to be another thing entirely.

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You simply must take a look at this excerpt from writer Eliot Weinberger's What I Heard about Iraq, courtesy of The Psychotic Patriot's James Raven and the London Review of Books. How has this nightmare been allowed to happen on our watch?
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Thanks to Big Fat Liberal and The Progressive, an interview with the Dalai Lama in which he offers some typically sage observations on Iraq, terrorism, human values, and the future between Tibet and China.
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Finally, here's a searing indictment of Mr. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program by author Greg Palast, via BlondeSense. Wait 'til you see the test questions that are a part of the state examination. Is this really the way to educate a nukuler nashun?!

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"Voluntary compliance"

In his most recent editorial, the New York Observer's Joe Conason decries the non-existent enforcement of mining safety regulations under Bush Administration guidelines and budget cuts, and explains why the Sago tragedy should remain in the media's spotlight a good deal longer. Mr. Conason writes:
The sad but safe assumption about the Sago miners is that when their funerals are over, we will forget about them, their mourning families, and the working conditions that still threaten so many like them. We will forget and, with occasional exceptions in the pages of liberal magazines and daily newspapers, we won't be reminded until the next mesmerizing catastrophe shows up on the cable channels.


Unfortunately the hard truth is that under this government, the scant measures we undertake as a nation to protect miners and other workers in dangerous industries are growing smaller. The budgets of federal regulatory agencies are cut. The officials appointed to run those agencies tend to be former industry executives who display no enthusiasm for enforcing safety regulations. They prefer "voluntary compliance."
Conason then gives an appalling example of the deadly failure of "voluntary compliance" to address violations at Sago, due primarily to an absence of penalties that might have served as an incentive (as if anything beyond worker safety should have been needed) for corrective action by the mine's owners:
During the last three months of 2005, including an inspection that took place less than two weeks before the explosion, federal inspectors found 46 safety violations at Sago, including 18 deemed "significant and substantial." The proposed fines for those infractions came to $2,286. When a 62-year-old miner died at another mine owned by ICG last year due to the company's failure to fix a safety violation, the resulting fine was only $400.
When are the President's apologists in the middle and working classes going to finally realize just how dangerous this Administration and its chummy country club attitude is to their financial and even physical safety?! It's time for Conservatives to begin sharing some of the load we Liberals have been shouldering alone for over 5 years, and start seeing the Bush business model for the elitist monster it is.

We need to demand real responsibility of our leaders in Washington, and must call for an end to the lackadaisical dismissal of workers' rights and protection that has become a trademark of our supposedly "booming" economy. If a refusal by Sago's owners to correct known violations led to the terrible events of last week, then those individuals are criminally responsible in no small way for the miners' deaths.

And we should insist that they, and all those complicit in the Sago situation, be held accountable. That includes a government that has steadily let this and other industries literally get away with murder at our expense, and has openly pledged to do more of the same for the next three years.

Mr. Conason is right to hope that the media will not let this story become a forgotten "flavor of the week." As he concludes,
Print journalists will do the job, but their impact is minimal compared with television, which must prod us when we begin to forget. Are CNN's Anderson Cooper and the other correspondents who hovered around Sago merely empathetic voyeurs? Quite literally, we shall see.

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In an offbeat news item from the Associated Press, the "Father of LSD" celebrates his 100th birthday today. An interesting article about this serious Swiss chemist, who still has hopes for the medical application of his mind-bending discovery.

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I've been busily noodling with a number of small adjustments to The Hue and Cry in the interest of making it a more useful site for those of you who stop by. Via the sidebar, you'll now have easy access to a Google search engine that can either prowl the web, or this site specifically.

I've also added links to a good sampling of news sources outside the U.S ('cause it's only smart to find out what the neighbors are sayin'!), and a number of environmental, research, and disaster relief organizations worthy of a look or three.

I hope these small changes put a greater amount of information at your fingertips, and help in some way to make us all more knowledgeable, respectful, prepared global citizens.

Happy exploring! --BP

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way. --Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960)

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January 10, 2006

Thanks for nothin', Harry

A great deal is going to be made of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte's remarks while meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this past Saturday. And, to tell the truth, it should be.

I mean, when you accept the moniker "Ambassador of Goodwill" for a respected international organization, you tacitly acknowledge, and willingly submit to, a certain level of etiquette and diplomatic conduct. Obviously, it is a level that restrains expressions of candor far more than those of private citizens. Equally obvious is that Mr. Belafonte violated that unwritten code of restraint, and an individual of his intelligence should simply have known better no matter what his admirable personal passions or justified frustration with the Bush Administration.

Unfortunately, anticipated reaction to this gaffe will also have a negative effect on what has been the growing ability of Mr. Bush's opponents to be taken seriously by his jittery apologists. What will be lost in the swift and regrettable furor over Harry's slip of the tongue will be the potential for a non-partisan examination of changes needed in the current Administration's attitudes toward Latin America, toward its "War on Terror", and toward the way America is perceived around the globe.

And that's the real shame.

Because within the actual wording of Mr. Belafonte's decidedly undiplomatic tirade there is truth. A truth that will go undebated and uncorrected because of the size of this reprehensible misstep. A truth about the conundrum faced while looking at the objective definition of "terrorism" and how it does apply to American foreign policy - depending, of course, on your subjective point of view.

A truth about the message sent when the world compares 3,000 murdered Americans to over 30,000 dead Iraqis, killed as a result of an unprovoked attack on a nation which posed no immediate threat to anyone but itself. A truth about systematic suspension of basic human ethics, evidenced by years of White House policies sanctioning torture, rendition, and the murder of unarmed detainees.

A truth about subjugating an entire domestic population with a ginned-up, chronic atmosphere of fear, fueled by an unhealthy ration of insidious religious fundamentalism. A truth about an organized plan ten years in the making for the forced military domination of the Middle East. A truth about the labels actually affixed on the U.S. by a significant percentage of the world's population, precisely because of Mr. Bush's ongoing and imperial belligerence.

With even a quick glance at the decades-long ineffectiveness of American policy in Latin America, it's certainly easy to see why Mr. Belafonte's little outburst was so warmly received by Mr, Chavez. In addition, the Venezuelan leader is undoubtedly still stinging from Pat Robertson's horrid call for Chavez's assassination - and the total lack of immediate outrage directed toward the good reverend by Mr. Bush or the Majority Party.

Nevertheless, Mr. Belafonte committed a crucial error on the field, made even more tragic because it threatens the second-half momentum that's been shifting to our side of the ball. It would be encouraging - and probably naive - to believe that A) the "Goodwill Ambassador's" embarrassing diatribe will be swiftly and justifiably condemned as the breach of etiquette it was, and B) brushed aside by Conservatives just as quickly as the Robertson outburst, so we can all get back to addressing those transgressions listed above on national and legal levels.

I fear, however, that these truths will be drowned out in a sea of criticism to come. Nice goin', Harry. Thanks for nothin'. Many of us have agreed for some time that this President is, by strict definition, a "tyrant" and a "terrorist", and have been successfully winning over a few hearts and minds of our own in that respect. Too bad your performance on Saturday won't really help support that message at all.

This once, Harry, you picked the wrong time and place to start singing.

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(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", the archived NYT article linked in the post is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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January 09, 2006

Sorry, wrong number

Now this is interesting.

From AmericaBlog, a little item concerning "a Web site that sells phone records, for cells and land-lines, for $110 a pop." To anyone. For virtually anyone else's phone number.

I don't know about you, but I don't really like that idea. Remind your elected representatives that there's something they can - and should - do about it.

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Hat trick

I'm on the run today, tackling a video project that A) benefits a very worthwhile Progressive organization, B) pretty much necessitates my uninterrupted concentration for the next 24 hours or so, and C) is, thank God, billable! In the interim, and until I again have time to try and cobble together an original observation, check out these three editorials in today's New York Times:
The paper criticizes Mr. Bush's seventeen recess appointments for "the low caliber of some of his choices, his disinterest in bipartisan consensus and his aversion to any form of accountability, whether to the Senate, the courts or the public."

Bob Herbert takes aim at the Administration, one whose actions too often mirror the imperial view of Richard Nixon: "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

And six diverse op-ed contributors, including former prosecutors, Presidential advisers, and professors of law, pose a total of 30 questions they'd like answered by Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings this week. Let's hope the Senate still reads newspapers, and hasn't adopted all the bad habits of the White House.
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(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Mr Herbert's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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January 08, 2006

Wascally Wabbit

Here's an interesting bit of news about our old friend Tom DeLay, courtesy of Fired Up America. You know, some things are just wrong...

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Raise your voice

Another terrific essay by Star A. Decise of The Enigmatic Paradox, in which the blogger condemns
...the thunderous silence greeting yesterday's New York Times article that hundreds of American soldiers have died because they lacked the most effective body armor due to Pentagon indifference and bureaucratic snafus worthy of an addendum to Catch-22.

[A] secret Defense Department study found that additional body armor, which has been available since 2003 for about $260 a copy, probably would have saved the lives of 80 percent of the marines killed in the last two years by upper body wounds.
Where is our collective outrage at - or even cursory interest in - this appalling revelation? In the Highway Bill alone this year, the federal government pledged $24 billion to "pork projects". To think that it has not unanimously agreed to spend what amounts to $50 million, in a simple effort to fully protect every man and woman it has recklessly ordered into harm's way, is incomprehensible. That we, the people, have not made a louder noise about this situation is, in a word, inexplicable.

It's about time we started. Raise your voice, America.

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The anti-Coulter

Brad Friedman of Mother Jones serves up this interesting look at rational Republican and founder of Citizens for Principled Conservatism Daniel Borchers, specifically his open condemnation of GOP harridan Ann Coulter. As Mr. Borchers says, Coulter's " 'New McCarthyism' is poisoning millions of minds."

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A rational plan

Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski weighs in with a rational plan to end our military involvement in Iraq, courtesy of today's Washington Post. Mr. Brzezinski writes:
[W]ith a more open decision-making process in the White House, greater political courage on the part of Democratic leaders and even some encouragement from authentic Iraqi leaders, the U.S. war in Iraq could (and should) come to an end within a year.
From your lips to God's ear, Mr. B.

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Supreme risk

Be sure to read these three essays on the worrisome qualities of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, who begins Senate confirmation hearings this week. Perhaps the Boston Globe's commentary puts it best, stating:
His ideology captures everything extremist about the Bush administration. If confirmed, Alito would serve as Bush's enabler. He would give Bush effective control of all three branches of government and the hard-right long-term dominance of the high court.

Given the administration claims of an extra-legal presidency, what's most disturbing is the handy convergence of Alito's own conception of executive power and that of Bush.
Mr. Alito's ascension to the highest court in the land could pave the way for expansion of Executive power and erosion of American civil liberties for a generation to come. His confirmation would virtually assure us of an escalation in the abuses perpetrated against the very core of American democracy by Bush and company, not just for three more years, but for as many as thirty.

It's up to us to let our Senators know that three additional decades of potential SCOTUS support for imperial Executive arrogance must be opposed. The risk to our future as a free nation is too great to ignore.

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