Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Politics and Morality of the Death Penalty

One of the oddest things about those who support the so-called pro-life position on abortion is that most of them also favor the death penalty.

While civilized society in much of the world has rejected the death penalty as a holdover from the Middle Ages, conservative Americans have pushed to re-establish the death penalty. Perhaps consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but when it comes to morality, the taking of another life is not a trifling matter and cannot be seen as promoting life under any circumstances.

Is it possible that conservatives can concede that support of the death penalty is not a pro-life position? From the latest Mother Jones comes this provoacative piece about some conservative Catholics who are rethinking the death penalty.

Privatization and the Mackinaw Center

Margie Williams is mad and I can't blame her. She passed along this typical bunch of nonsense that passes as research from the Mackinac Center to Benefit the Rich and Perpetuate Economic Injustice. The article alleges taxpayers are being well served by the privatization of Mt. Pleasant's school lunch programs. But Margie noted in her e-mail to me, "Of course Chartwells saves money! It pays it's workers dirt, treats 'em like dirt, and hasn't any workers that are about to retire!"

Michigan's right-wing think tank financed by rich know-nothings like Lon Morey has spent much of its efforts on justifying privatization, another part of the economic injustice movement to reward the wealthiest and make the rest of us poorer.

How does it serve taxpayers to take away retirement benefits and health care from some of our citizens? It simply redistributes wealth and shifts responsibilities for society's problems. It's true that Michigan spends a lot of money on schools, but the real problems have nothing to do with school lunch programs, janitorial compensation or teacher salaries. But don't expect to hear the Mackinac Center talking about nationalizing health care and consolidating school districts.

More on this later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Brilliant Poet Declines First Lady's Invite Eloquently

Here is an open letter from the poet Sharon Olds to Laura Bush
declining the invitation to read and speak at the National Book
Critics Circle Award in Washington, DC. Feel free to forward it
along if you feel more people may want to read it.

Sharon Olds is one of most widely read and critically acclaimed poets
living in America today. Read to the end of the letter to experience
her restrained, chilling eloquence.

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children.

Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students -- long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing.

When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit--and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief hat the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition", flying people to other countries where they will be
tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.



Thanks to Al and Nancy Lewis for sharing this with us.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Just Another Good Republican Out For Himself

Was anyone really surprised when another Republican was caught in another corruption scandal? This time it was Good Old Boy Randy "Duke" Cunnigham from a nice safe gerrymandered Republican district on the outskirts of San Diego. Taking bribes from a defense contractor -- not too surprising.

This is what his web site bio had to say about him among other things:
"Several organizations have honored Congressman Cunningham for his work in Congress. Most notably, he has been recognized for his work as a fiscal conservative by such organizations as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Taxpayer's Union, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He has also been recognized by education groups for his tireless advocacy and by several law enforcement organizations for his tough-on-crime position."
That last part really gets me. He was tough on crime. Now it's crime's turn to be tough on him. Hope they hang the bastard and vote to reserve the death penalty ONLY for elected officials who betray the public trust. Do you suppose someone who buys a yacht and a Rolls Royce and only makes $160,000 a year might just be a tad suspicious. We shouldn't be surprised by the corruption, but the arrogance and stupidity is amazing. But what do you expect from a Republican Congressman? They take care of themselves first.

Here are some of the gifts Rep. Cunningham admitted receiving.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Montana Republican Subject of Probe Involving Sag Chip $3 million Federal School Grant

A Wall Street Journal article, Federal Influence-Peddling Inquiry Casts Wider Net, indicates that another Republican, U.S. Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, is a subject of the Jack Abramoff probe looking at misdeeds related to a lobbying firm that bilked millions from Indian tribes across the nation including our local, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.  Under former Chief Maynard Kahgegab, the tribe sought a federal grant to help build a new school. Additional details can be seen here from the Montana newspaper, the Missoulian headlined Report: Burns part of lobbyist probe

Iraq War Vets Could Be Part of the New Congress in 2006

Although there aren’t any yet in Michigan, at least eight Iraq war veterans have announced they are running for Congress next year and 7 of the 8 call themselves Democrats. It seems that 2006 is shaping up as one of those watershed years where major changes are about to take place.

What is compelling these war vets to run? Check out the details in this Boston Globe story headlined, Veterans take on new battle: Run for office

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Politics and Morality: Topic at Thursday ICDP Meeting

Former President Jimmy Carter believes America’s real moral values are endangered and we are facing a moral crisis and the religion writer of a Chicago newspapers calls Bush policies evil while some analysts contend voters continue to prefer Republicans to protect “moral values.”  

“Politics and Morality” will be the topic of the December ICDP meeting this Thursday. An interesting panel of writers and scholars will lead the discussion at the ICDP meeting that begins at 7 p.m. at the Isabella County Office Building. Among the special guest panelists are Dr.Robert Noggle and Dr. Nancy White from CMU and Joel Welty, local writer and activist in the free thought movement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What Did the President Know and When Did He Know it?

Another smoking gun comes from yesterday's National Journal entitled "Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept from Hill Panel."

The latest story from one of Washington's most trusted publications counters another Bush-Cheney lie -- that Congress had the same info the President had. They didn't. Bush knew 10 days after 9/11 that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda and now refuses to turn over the document that proves he is lying.

How long can Republicans in Congress keep sitting on their hands? How much more evidence do timid Democrats need that John Conyers was right all along? We will see.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is This The Last Straw in the Iraq Fiasco?

It looks like the Iraq War has past the tipping point. So many people are seeing through the lies of the Bush administration on Iraq that it is now clear it can't go on much longer. Many of us felt after the Downing Street Memo(DSM) became public, that would be the last straw. How can anyone deny the Bush administration had lied to us and was just trying to come up with an excuse to go to war? The lies and cover-up continue.

Of course, it took the foreign media to break the DSM story. Now comes a new story that puts the lie to the latest denials and proves the Bushes were making things up and lying through their teeth. Not only were they lying, they were using millions in federal dollars to fabricate an entire scenario to justify taking out Saddam Hussein. This time it is an American publication that broke the story of John Rendon. No, it's not the New York Times or Washington Post or 60 Minutes, it's Rolling Stone Magazine with a copyrighted story titled, "The Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon, Bush's General in the Propoganda War." It's a long scary fascinating read.

Chavez Playing Robin Hood With Venezuelan Oil

With home heating oil and natural gas prices expected to cost more than ever you would think that some of our national officials would try to do something about that. But with the Bush administration and it's Republican Congress more interested in cutting programs to help the poor and lowering taxes to the rich, there isn't much expected out of Washington.

But Venezelan President Hugo Chavez, who recently worked hard to kill CAFTA, is now working to help not only the poor of his own country, but the poor in the good old USA too. It seems Venezuela's nationalized oil business which own 6 refineries and 14,000 gasoline stations in the US, is going to sell home heating oil to America's poor in a number of cities for about $1.35 a gallon vs the average $2.25 a gallon currently.

The New York Daily News has the story that should shake up America's oil companies whose first reaction when they saw the disaster from Katrina was to raise prices. Instead of trying to find ways to help, America's oil companies found a way to kick people while they were down. Of course, they made record profits before backing off amid threats of federal sanctions.

Which raises the question, how can we privatize our oil businesses so the people can share in the profits like they do in Venezuela?

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Wal-Martization of Mt. Pleasant: Can It Be Stopped?

Maybe we all should have been reading the Morning Sun on May 22, because a few times a year the local rag actually does have something important to say. Although Rick Mills rarely agrees with us on anything, the whole concept of secret deals and behind the scenes maneuverings to “improve” our economic development is highly questionable in a real democracy, not to mention downright patronizing – as if citizens can’t possibly know what kind of economic development is best for them.

If you didn’t get to see the Wal-Mart movie at Park Auditorium last Tuesday, you missed the best movie of the Democracy Film Series. A standing room only crowd approaching 200 people packed the 7 p.m. showing even though there were numerous other things going on in the community that night.

Wal-Mart’s plans for Mt. Pleasant apparently now include not only a huge new super center around the corner from the existing Mt. Pleasant store, but a new Sam’s Club and new huge warehouse/distribution center. One of the major points of the movie is that Wal-Mart has been able to achieve it’s low cost goals by exploiting other people both locally and internationally and by having taxpayers subsidize its operations. It also uses predatory pricing practices to run opposition out of businesses and then raises prices after the competition has been vanquished in a community.

Do we really want or need more of Wal-Mart in our community? One could readily argue that if any community needs more jobs our adjacent counties to the north, south and west of us do. Thanks to stable job situation at the casino, on campus and other major employers, Isabella County’s unemployment rate is just about 3% while our neighboring counties are more than 7%. In Gratiot County there is already an underused Interstate access south of Alma formerly crowded with oil tankers from the now demolished Total refinery. There is also plenty of open land there where a Wal-Mart distribution center could be accommodated without Michigan taxpayers chipping in for a new Interstate access ramp.

Our Republican dominated legislature apparently sees nothing wrong with taxpayer subsidies to Wal-Mart, but now there is a growing movement nationwide to at least bring some of the worst aspects of Wal-Mart under some control.

What, if anything, can we do about it? Is it too late? Stay tuned.

How many more cities, George?

How many more cities will have to be inundated before George Bush reconsiders his policy on global warming? It’s an honest question. New Orleans will never be the same, but what if London and New York are no longer habitable? It sounds like a B-movie, but most recent evidence suggests doing nothing about global warming is not a viable option.
The new evidence is compelling. Ocean levels may increase by 20 feet and the Gulf Stream that has made Europe habitable may no longer exist and make the climate more like Labrador. More information like this should be more widely known in the next few days. The rhetoric to impeach George Bush needs to speed up. He is destroying our planet.

Speak Out at Camp’s Office Draws Modest Crowd

Many of us couldn’t make it to Midland last Wednesday to the Speak Out at Congressman Camp’s office to protest the drastic Reverse Robin Hood budget cuts favored by the rich and powerful and their Republican lackeys. But the anti-Camp movement did indeed show up.

Democratic activist Christine Barry from Shiawassee County has pictures on her website about the event.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Iraq Fallacy Exposed

The biggest fallacy about the war on Iraq is that it is part of the war on terrorism. The war in Afghanistan WAS directly linked to the war on terrorism because that is where the 9/11 terrorists were trained and where Osama Bin Laden directed operations.

The Downing Street memo makes it clear the whole Iraq thing was a lie from the beginning, yet the Republicans keep compounding the lie that it is part of the war on terrorism, when in fact the presence of Americans in Iraq is creating terrorists.

We are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them and it is a no win situation. Now the Republicans are going after a decorated war veteran who represents a district in Western Pennsylvania for aiding and abetting the enemy. The Pennsylvania Congressman simply noted American troops are a catalyst for violence in Iraq. He exposed the fallacy of continuing a policy that is not working and never could because it is premised on a lie.

Rep. John Murtha must have known what was coming when he called for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, but he went ahead anyway and issued the most damning statement thus far of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and the Iraq fallacy. He also condemned the intelligence, the conduct of the war, the war itself and offered this:

“Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out. Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

County Fairgoers Told Us in August The War was Over

Way back in August at the Isabella County Fair we talked to hundreds of Democrats and Republicans and the sense we got then was the people were way ahead of Democratic leadership on opposition to the war in Iraq. Our post on Aug. 14 now looks psychic after today's events in Washington. Today now even the most conservative of Democrats, a former Marine and veritable champion of the Pentagon, calls for US troops to be out of Iraq in 6 months. When Rep. John Murtha, of Pennsylvania sees the light and outlines a plan for withdrawal two months after we knew it was over at the county fair, that is remarkable. Working the County Fair was an eye opener for all of our ICDP fair workers. It was fascinating to see there really is a tremendous amount of Democratic support out there if we just ask for it. Although our focus was on Social Security and the minimum wage at the time, many of the people wanted to talk Iraq.

Give em hell, Harry and John too. Makes us feel good to see Dems representing the people who sent them there. Yes, Bush and Cheney will call us names, but f**k them. This is not about Dems and Repubs, it is about a failed and stupid endeavor to take us into war at any cost. Murtha needs a pat on the back. Here is where to send him one easily: Shame on Them: Tell Col. Murtha Not to Back Down

We can't wait to see Carl and Debbie join the chorus.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bush and Machiavelli?

I think that Bush, or more likely his advisors such as Karl Rove, have been reading Machiavelli.

In Machiavelli's "The Prince", he writes in chapter 17, "that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting."

Later on he writes, "I conclude, therefore, with regard to being feared and loved, that men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others, and he must only contrive to avoid incurring hatred, as has been explained."

America used to be loved around the world, but under Bush's rule, especially in the last few years, it has become hated. He wanted to make us feared after 9/11, so that no one would dare attack us, but he failed and now we are hated in many countries around the world.

Protest On Wednesday Morning at Camp's Office in Midland

Tom Ford from Shiawassee County is coordinating the protest at Rep. Dave Camp's Midland Office to protest the Reverse Robin Hood budget cuts that would make major cuts in student loans, food stamps, medicaid and other programs to the tune of more than $50 billion, while cutting taxes mostly for the rich that totals more than $70 billion.

The protest is at 10:30 a.m. outside the offices of Dave Camp in Midland. Complete details are available at the site. Please take the time to sign in here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Obscene Oil Industry Profits -- How They Did It on NOW

You could see why the PBS show NOW has no corporate sponsors on this evening's broadcast. Bill Moyers old show did a marvelous expose (Pain at the Pump) tonight on what is really behind those outrageous oil company profits. It's a neat anti-competitive set-up that includes restricting supply and manipulating prices and under current laws there is not much we can do about it. It's a great 20 minute segment on what the oil industry did to us.

With the aid of some industry whistle-blowers, old insider documents and industry analyists, NOW told the story of how the oil industry has positioned intself to prosper every time they screw up or something bad happens to restrict supply. Imagine having a business where the less product you have, the more money you make. While oil company officials testified with a straight face that the huge profits are just good old market supply and demand, they failed to mention that the concentration in the industry and lack of regulation by their buddies in the people's government allows them carte blanche to have their way on pricing.

It would have been nice if the press had paid some attention to the testimony of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard who called for new federal legislation to effectively deal with oil company price gouging. Do you suppose our Republican Attorney General would even be aware there is a problem or dare I say Mike Cox is on the side of the oil companies?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dems Rewriting Iraq History? Hell, Yes!!!

President Twig today accused Democrats of rewriting the history of Iraq. When history includes lies, distortions, and misconceptions history needs a rewrite.

You gotta hand it to Karl Rove. When you are under attack, you don't admit anything and you attack the attackers. Smart strategy that might work with the small percentage of people who have blind faith that the emperor has clothes.

But for the rest of us, Bush's counter-attack smells as rotten as the rest of the nonsense about WMD's and the Saddam-Al Queda connection.

It brings to mind another bit of history that has been revised too about Viet Nam and George Washington. The Gulf of Tonkin attacks were a lie and it wasn't really true that Washington cut down a cherry tree. The only difference between Washington and Bush is that one could never tell a lie and the other could never tell the truth.

When history needs a rewrite, who better to do it than Democrats. Now we need to work on rewriting the history of the 2000 and 2004 elections. Most historians got that wrong too.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Gotta Feel Gooooood About Tuesday Elections

The signs were ominous both across the country and even locally that government for the people can work if folks put their minds and hearts to the task of winning back the country. The Tuesday, Nov. 8 election said nationally that the politics of greed. corruption and torture are not what the American people want.

Locally, the people said that leaders who support the common good and even promote projects that will cost money, but have a positive community purpose, a real investment in community, will be successful. Adam Miller, one of the staunchest supporters of our local Democratic Party, running in a non-partisan election for Mt. Pleasant City Commission, showed courageous political leadership in championing the Borden Building project, a multi-million dollar public-private cooperative historical preservation and development project. The voters responded favorably granting Adam a well-earned re-election to the city commission where he has served as Mayor of Mt. Pleasant. It's great to see a young courageous politician doing what's right to move a community forward.

It was also pleasing to see the community supporting our local schools system with 3-1 support for a renewal millage.

But even more compeliing for the future of our country was the clear repudiation of George Bush who rushed to help a Republican candidate for Governor in Virginia. The Democrat won. In California the Terminator is on his way to being terminated and the thinly disguised right wing agenda was defeated there too.

Republican think tanks will be working hard to put a new face on neanderthal trickle down economics calling it by new names and coming up with new schemes and rationalizations for stealing from the poor and middle class, but it doesn't really work just putting more lipstick on this trickle down pig. It's still a pig and now it is beginning to look grotesque.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Would It Be Immoral to Hang Cheney by the Thumbs?

One can make a case that the Bush administration has not lost it's moral compass because it never had one. The issue of torture is a case in point. You can not torture people in our country because it is unconstitutional. The US also has signed the Geneva Convention which prohibits torture and yet, depite proof that torture does not garner reliable information, our vice president is doing everything he can to allow torture to continue unabated.

By every standard of human decency, torture is immoral. But our evil vice president behind closed doors has been pushing Republican senators to look the other way and at the very least allow an exemption so the CIA can torture folks at will. Now there is evidence his efforts to champion torture have been going on for some time

Republican Sen. John McCain, who knows torture first hand, is leading the charge against Cheney's assault on real American values. Chickenhawk Cheney, who talks tough, managed to sit out the VietNam War while McCain was a POW. Does anyone in this Bush Administration have a shred of decency left?

I'll vote for anyone for Congress next year who says they will work to impeach Bush and Cheney. The votes should be there. What more evidence do we need besides illegal wars and promotion of torture?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bush Policies Not Just Immoral, But Downright Evil, says Chicago Religion Writer

Chicago Sun-Times Religion writer, Cathleen Falsani makes the case that cutting aid to the poor while giving tax cuts to the rich is more than immoral in this well-written column titled "Bush administration's moral compass is lost."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reid's senate drama...

...great theatre for America.

Check out this great synopsis of the Senate shut down orchestrated by Sen. Reid.

Once again, bravo to Senator Reid.

(via AmericaBlog)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Give "em Hell, Harry!!!

Today I was proud to be a Democrat. Sen. Harry Reid, our minority leader in the Senate, and a bunch of other Dems got together and decided they had enough BS and foot dragging on holding the President accountable on lying us into Iraq.

It's about time the Democratic members of the US Senate got some spine. Glad to see Carl Levin was right in there amongst the rabble rousers. Now we need to show them the Dems really are the opposition, not just Republican light. I am gonna send Harry an attaboy e-mail.

(Go here for the email form --bob)

(Update- Read DailyKos on why Reid did it. There is a whole litnany of reasons. Also, the Republicans caved, I am hearing talk that a 3 Dem and 3 Rethug committee will have a report out by Nov 14th.)