Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to stick it to Bush

The American public spoke loudly and clearly when we sent a bunch of useless Republicans packing last year in the mid-term elections. It seems that many Democrats in Congress still didn't get the message, though. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) didn't get it, and still doesn't even after Cenk Uygur laid it out for him. Democrats have been bending over backwards to give Mr. 29% everything he asks for, then they wonder why we're all pissed at them. Here's a clue for Congress: do your damn jobs. We're sick and tired of your capitulation whenever Bush and his cronies throw tantrums when any of you propose bills he doesn't like. Make the Republicans filibuster in the Senate. Make Bush veto popular bills. Ted Kennedy gets it.

The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.
Let him veto FISA. Let him show the world who he really works for. Americans aren't all complete idiots. Those of us paying attention understand what's happening. We expect you to protect our rights. We expect you to uphold your oath of office to preserve and protect the Constitution. If you don't, we'll find someone else who will.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is the human race doomed?

James Lovelock, the scientist who first detected the widespread presence of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere, sat down with RollingStone magazine a couple of months ago to discuss global warming:

At the age of eighty-eight, after four children and a long and respected career as one of the twentieth century's most influential scientists, James Lovelock has come to an unsettling conclusion: The human race is doomed. "I wish I could be more hopeful," he tells me one sunny morning as we walk through a park in Oslo, where he is giving a talk at a university. Lovelock is a small man, unfailingly polite, with white hair and round, owlish glasses. His step is jaunty, his mind lively, his manner anything but gloomy. In fact, the coming of the Four Horsemen -- war, famine, pestilence and death -- seems to perk him up. "It will be a dark time," Lovelock admits. "But for those who survive, I suspect it will be rather exciting."

In Lovelock's view, the scale of the catastrophe that awaits us will soon become obvious. By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. "The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia," Lovelock says. "How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable." With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth's population will be culled from today's 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes -- Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

By the end of the century, according to Lovelock, global warming will cause temperate zones like North America and Europe to heat up by fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, nearly double the likeliest predictions of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sanctioned body that includes the world's top scientists. "Our future," Lovelock writes, "is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail." And switching to energy-efficient light bulbs won't save us. To Lovelock, cutting greenhouse-gas pollution won't make much difference at this point, and much of what passes for sustainable development is little more than a scam to profit off disaster. "Green," he tells me, only half-joking, "is the color of mold and corruption."

The man is a ray of sunshine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Conventional wisdom

Ever wonder why you don't hear anything but standard talking points on the regular news shows? This video may explain a lot.

Arthur Silber is right again

Given the recent revelations that many Democrats were made aware that waterboarding was being employed by the CIA back in 2002, Americans should be raising holy hell. This is beyond outrageous. As usual, Glenn Greenwald is all over it.

This story was obviously leaked by Republican operatives to damage the Democratic leadership, and it has had the desired effect. Rightfully so. Senator Biden is right about what should happen next: a special counsel must be appointed to conduct a criminal investigation. Every member of Congress who knew about this, Democrat or Republican, must be held accountable. If Jay Rockefeller had any integrity, he would resign from the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee immediately. His inaction is inexcusable. The whole purpose of his committee is to provide oversight of government intelligence activities and ensure conformity with the laws and Constitution of the United States. They have failed miserably.

What happened to the very explicit statement by George Bush that "this government does not torture people?" After World War II, the United States prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American soldiers because it was considered torture. What happened between then and now to make it not qualify as torture any more? Is 9/11 going to be our perpetual excuse for every evil act committed by our government that we ignore?

Several months ago, Arthur Silber said,

But for the reasons set forth above (and a full case would fill many volumes), the Democrats are not going to impeach any of these criminals, barring events entirely unforeseeable at present. And they will not for one overwhelmingly significant and determinative reason: always with regard to the underlying principles, and frequently with regard to the specifics, the Democrats are implicated in every single crime with which they would charge the members of the administration. The Republicans' crimes are their crimes.
Anyone want to take any bets on what becomes of this affair? I predict it will get swept under the rug, like all the other illegal activities perpetrated by the current administration, for precisely the reasons Arthur put forth. Democrats won't do anything about Republican lawbreaking because they are just as guilty. Despite their protestations to the contrary, Democrats have demonstrated that they are not actually opposed to the "corporatist, authoritarian, warfare state" that is the United States government. Unlike their Republican counterparts, however, Democrats are just too wimpy to come right out and say it. Their base wouldn't stand for it and there would be little left to differentiate the two parties. The Democratic strategy is to express phony outrage and publicly condemn the actions of the administration, but not actually do anything about it because they will find it useful if they win the presidency next year as they anticipate. The real battle is not between Democrats and Republicans; it's between the have and the have nots. All of us in the latter category just don't realize it.

Another Bush cheerleader has a change of heart

Former Bush speechwriter, Mathew Dowd, was once a part of the 2004 Bush Campaign's all-star team responsible for smearing John Kerry when he called for withdrawal from Iraq. Dowd's 22-year-old son is now getting ready to be deployed to Iraq and he's suddenly changed his mind about the war. Funny how that happens, isn't it? Kind of like how the brave souls of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders talk all tough, but refuse to put their money where their mouths are despite being of prime military recruitment age.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Iraqi Christians gone or dead

Oh, the irony.

From the time of Jesus, there have been Christians in what is now Iraq. The Christian community took root there after the Apostle Thomas headed east.

But now, after nearly 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians are being hunted, murdered and forced to flee -- persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq's religious civil war. You'd have to be mad to hold a Christian service in Iraq today.


"You were here during Saddam’s reign. And now after. Which was better? Which was worse?" Pelley asked.

"The situation now is clearly worse" than under Saddam, White replied.

"There’s no comparison between Iraq now and then," he told Pelley. "Things are the most difficult they have ever been for Christians. Probably ever in history. They’ve never known it like now."

"Wait a minute, Christians have been here for 2,000 years," Pelley remarked.

"Yes," White said.

"And it’s now the worst it has ever been," Pelley replied.

To understand the history of Iraqi Christianity, start with the Last Supper. One saint to the right of Jesus is the Apostle Thomas, who took the gospel and headed east after the death of Christ.

In modern times, under Saddam, Christians were treated much the same as Muslims; Saddam's right hand man, Tariq Aziz, was Christian.

Before the war, it's estimated there were about a million Christians in Iraq. They were a small minority, but free to worship, free to build churches, and free to speak the ancient language of Jesus, Aramaic. But, after the invasion, Muslim militants launched a war on each other and the cross.

On Sunday, Aug. 1, 2004, five churches were bombed. The Iraqi Christian community, which had survived invasions by Mongols and Turks, was driven out under American occupation. No one can be sure, but Canon White estimates most of Iraq's Christians have fled or been killed. Those still here are too old, too ill or too poor to run.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ahh, torture -- can you smell the testosterone?

As has been noted in the past, conservative Republicans, especially Catholic ones, love the idea of torturing people. It must make them feel manly to think about going all Old Testament on people who aren't white conservative Christians. This was once again in evidence during the last Republican debate when a focus group of undecided Republicans registered their responses to answers by each of the candidates electronically.

When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.
Fox's "24" certainly appears to have had the desired effect. Naturally, these same Republicans who sport wood and drool uncontrollably at the thought of crushing a man's testicles in a vice believe that us dirty libruls who oppose torture are a bunch of pussies and terrorist lovers.

Americans are supposed to be better than this. In a previous era, enemy soldiers tried to find Americans when they wanted to surrender because they knew they would be treated humanely. Given that the military now regularly recruits white supremacists and individuals with criminal records so they can meet their recruitment goals because nobody with a conscience (or a functioning brain) is signing up to be IED fodder for the Bush war machine these days, we now have some soldiers who actively seek to torture and kill innocent civilians. Granted they are a very small minority, but it's still happening. And they're doing it in our name.

It's sad and shocking, though not surprising, to see the effect that some of our knuckle-dragging leaders have had on the populace. It's past high time for people of character to take charge again and call these Neanderthals out on their disgusting beliefs.