Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bellwether for King George

Image from The Commons, a blog that offers an itemized list of the King's court, "Like the Mafia, Only Dumber," among other tidbits. Check 'em out.

CNN poll compared the dissatisfaction with Congress among voters from 1994 to 2006:

Just weeks before crucial midterm elections, a new poll says nearly three quarters of Americans see Congress as out of touch, much as they did in 1994, the last time the minority party took control of Capitol Hill.
Seventy-four percent of respondents to a new Opinion Research poll say Congress is generally out of touch with average Americans.
That's a 75% negative rating in 1994 and 74% now in 2006. The latest Gallup poll (10/9-12/06) reports a congressional disapproval rating of 71%. Other polls give advantage to Democrats winning the House. You can even play the Iowa Electronic Markets on which party will win the Senate and the House. The odds favor a House Democratic takeover.

The almost daily revelations of some new Republican under investigation, before an ethics committee, sentenced to a jail term, or pleading guilty stacks up. Ney, Cunningham, the Mark Foley enablers, Libby, Abramoff and his buddies, Reed, Ralston, Rove, Mehlman. Plus the Texas exterminator, Tom DeLay, and more recently, Curt Weldon (R-PA). The list grows and incites a throw the bums out voter uprising. BooMan posted a report from Rep. Henry Waxman, Ranking Member of the House Government Reform committee, "on the relationship between Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm and the White House." All 93 pages of smoldering corruption.

So what if voters fed up with Washington Republicans vote the Democrats in as the majority in the House and give them more seats in the Senate? What's next? I have some advice for what it's worth.
  • Weed out corrupt Democrats now: Time to clean house. Steny Hoyer has been too cozy with K Street so neutralize him. Do it. The Republicans will unleash the hounds so the Dems had better sweep up first and have replacements ready after resignations for personal reasons. The Information Age makes everyone with shady dealings vulnerable. Don't serve up anything to the Republicans. They'll gleefully make up stuff so that's challenge enough. Take the lead. Shore up the party by cutting the dead limbs off.
  • Voter reform: Voter fraud must end and correcting the e-voting scam-flam must top the list. Put democracy first with a paper trail for audits. That will counter Republican gerrymandering over the past decade and should foster more voters, probably more Democratic voters. Extended voting hours helps especially Democratic-leaning working moms.
  • Subpoena power: Investigate war profiteering and the gross malfeasance of Iraq's reconstruction. Every bloody detail. Follow the money trail and Cheney may line up in the crosshairs like a shady Agnew only worse. This first investigative effort can pay off big in softening up Republicans, put them on the defensive before going after bigger game like impeachment, Patriot Act revisions, warrantless wiretapping, and the detainee bill. War profiteering will disgust Americans by reminding 'em of the Iraq debacle and corrupt Republicans. No one will be able to paint Dems obstructionists if they're going after swindlers of the people's money and the buzzards who profited from a war that killed and maimed civilians and U.S. soldiers. Revamp oversight but chose the battles wisely and build on them.
  • Attach legislation to bills Bush can't veto: You know, war appropriations with a minimum wage increase attached to it. Let's play chicken, shall we, with an unpopular president? Most Americans want out of Iraq. Let the debates begin. Democrats must remember the mandate is to stop King George from unsuccessfully colonizing another country.
Just a few ideas to get the ball rollin'. With so many repairs to make, the goal is to pave the way to 2008 to further more restoration. Progress one step at a time and leap when the Republicans stumble. Be prepared for both and take the opportunity to pitch the high hard fast balls. The nation's immediate future relies on controlling the Dauphin from further foreign policy blunders like Iraq and nuclear proliferation in the world. Steering us back from the ranks of rogue nations would be nice but hard to do until Bush is gone.

I'm sure more ideas with come to me. Campaign finance reform, enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations, overhauling the prescription drug bill fiasco, to name a few. And there are other political strategies in tamping down the religious Right's hyperbole and remaining visible in local communities but that's another topic. In the meantime, tour around the mind of the Bush follower and then there's the attack of the "falafel King" on Nancy Pelosi. I smell conservative desperation. Sales of paper shredders may be brisk inside the Beltway.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The magic jukebox

By Guest Columnist Genet

The traditional jukebox has just been upgraded to a song of the ages master selector. Songs are now almost unlimited.

What hasn't changed is the range of what people are listening to. So although you could play any song you wanted practically, I still hear them playing the same old top 40s hits. The average person did not have the memory of songs, albums or artists that they could recall, and thus type into the music search engine.

The Internet has information galore but what hasn't changed is the acute math anxiety in one of my colleagues. She is so math phobic that she has been unable to even fill out the 401K paperwork at my company to start getting this valuable benefit. I tried to explain this to her in very simple language and I even offered to help her to do the paperwork in a gentle and non-threatening way, but still she felt ambivalent.

A lot of women out there have husbands who earn the bulk of the money, while the wives bring in maybe $30-$35,000 a year. They don't feel very committed to their jobs and a lot of times don't envision even being in a job for five years, which is how much time it takes to be 100% vested. That means the company's matching contributions become available to the employee. There are a lot of women out there who are one paycheck away from poverty.

So we have this huge information age and yet the populace seems oddly cut off from it in so many ways.

I read a very uplifting book recently called, Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use It, by Naomi Wolf. It came out around 1993 and it's a powerful commentary on how women are unaccustomed to having and using power.

Women are the majority in this country, and if we even each contributed $24 to a political campaign supporting other women candidates, the "genderquake," as Wolf describes it, would be enormous. This is just politics.

But we have to know the songs we want and be able to spell the artist's names to get the magic jukebox to play. We have to take ourselves seriously and have our own 401K plan going, so we don't just live on a husband's income.

We can be confident as women to use power and to know we have a lot more of it than we did in 1970.

This exercise of power and money forces politicians to change. They may be the usual good old boys, but if women band together to make change, they'll go along with it.

Naomi Wolf mentioned a surprising statistic. She said that women don't ask for higher salaries. When companies don't want women to apply for a particular job, they simply raise the salary higher -- more men then apply, but women become afraid of all that money.

One thing I've learned as a lesbian is that I don't really care what men think of women and I'm not all that interested in what straight women think of me. I want to go forward and find the allies I enjoy and I'll leave the homophobic types behind. It doesn't matter that most of the straight population has no idea how to ally with a despised minority. It makes no difference that most straight people are even unaware of the discrimination going on all around them.

It's about choice and my desire to have a lot of control over my life and income. I had to go up to the magic jukebox and find the right song for me. In fact, I got tired of the rap music and top 40s boring tunes one night and so I decided to find The Sound of Music. I put that theme on and right away several women came up to me to complain. I just smiled, and said, "You can play anything you want." Suddenly, they realized that, "Hey, their music was driving me nuts all evening," and yet I had not bothered to complain. I simply added my own songs to the mix.

That's what women can do. Women can add their own power and songs to the mix.
The more money you use to support the world you want, the more songs you choose, and the more retirement plans you engage, the more you too will feel powerful.

Women can unite for the good of women worldwide. We don't even have to agree on abortion or other "hot button issues." I don't expect straight women to really know much about a radical lesbian intellectual world. But I do expect them to back good women candidates and create a real democracy where majorities of women actually hold majorities in Congress. I expect women to work through their fear of money and power, and go for it.

Can conservative women and radical women unite over the idea of higher pay for women? Yes. Can we unite over our desire for childcare and federal funding for women? Can we make charities give more of their assets to women's and girl's programs, when now they only contribute a pittance. Women give the majority of their incomes to charity far more than men. Men are stingy compared to women.

Women can use their power of the majority to rule, and when they do this, those conservative men will just back away and change. They won't be able to deny women once they control the Judiciary Committee. You won't see those smirks on conservative male Supreme Court nominees any longer. You won't have just one woman on that committee having to deal with the arrogance of a male majority.

There is the magic jukebox for women. All you have to do is put your dollars in and everyone will dance to your tune.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More allegations beyond Mark Foley

Heard something about this on CNN that an AP story online confirms (with emphasis added):

Allegations of improper conduct toward House pages, which do not involve ex-Rep. Mark Foley, were discussed Monday by the board overseeing the program, a Democratic lawmaker said.
Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., the only Democrat on the House Page Board, would not elaborate on whether the discussion involved lawmakers. He said, however, that none of the allegations discussed have been proven.
Kildee commented after he testified before the House ethics committee on the Foley matter. He said the House Page Board held the discussions in a conference call.
"It was about other allegations and I'd like to leave it at that," he said. "Let me just say, not about Mr. Foley. It's only been allegations."
Wasn't there something about a Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) camping trip? Today, the ethics panel...
...questioned a Louisiana congressman's top aide who told the House speaker's office last fall that a male page received questionable e-mails from Foley.
Royal Alexander, chief of staff to GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander but no relation, defended his office's handling of the matter after the teenager's parents complained about Foley.
"I'm very proud of our office. I'm very proud of our page and his family and what they've been through," Royal Alexander said after his closed-door testimony. He would not answer questions.
I don't think Royal dropped any bombshells, but who knows? Earlier:
Foley’s former top aide, Kirk Fordham, has told investigators that he told Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, at least three years ago of problems regarding Foley and pages - including the alleged page dorm incident.
Fordham told the panel that Foley tried to enter the page dorm while drunk several years ago, according to one source familiar with Fordham’s actions. Palmer strongly denied Fordham’s account, and the discrepancy is one of the major conflicts the committee must resolve.
Maybe someone entirely new has stepped forward. A WaPo Reuters story reports the allegations involve a second lawmaker. That's different than the AP story in which Kildee "would not elaborate on whether the discussion involved lawmakers." So what changed? The Daily Telegraph in Australian added this nuance:
Mr Kildee said he and other board members had a conference call earlier in the day about "other allegations, not about Mr. Foley."
He indicated the page board had talked about the matter with the second politician.
We'll hear more soon. To be sure. The knives are out.

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Short cuts

All the talk about North Korea, Iran, and nuclear proliferation
brought this Robert Longo artwork to mind entitled, The Sword of the Pig.
Longo's, Government, is below
.

As heard on CNN, a few notes from Bill Schneider on an opinion poll about North Korea: A majority of Americans oppose U.S. military action against North Korea and 77% say the Iraq War makes it harder for the U.S. to deal with North Korea. On North Korea, which president shoulders more blame? George W. Bush, 53% and Bill Clinton, 43%.

The midterm election could bring a turn of fortune with a record number of women in the Senate:
The door to the women's club in the traditionally male-dominated Senate appears to be inching wider. If polls hold true, there will be a record number of women in the Senate next year, up from the current all-time high of 14 - nine Democrats and five Republicans... In Minnesota, Democrat Amy Klobuchar leads Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy 49%-41%, according to a Mason-Dixon poll from late September. In Missouri, Democrat Claire McCaskill narrowly leads Republican Sen. James Talent, 44%-41%, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. USA Today: Women look to gain more ground in Senate
Still, change crawls, "stubbornly molasseslike," to quote Bonnie Erbe.

"The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally," so much so that it's too much for Kansas.

In Pennsylvania, Republican cronyism gets busted:
Federal agents raided the home of the daughter of U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) and his longtime friend Charlie Sexton this morning.
The agents departed Karen Weldon's three-story brick home on Queen Street in Philadelphia with arms loaded with boxes.
Another Republican gets into trouble for lying:
Former FDA chief Lester Crawford was charged Monday with lying about his ownership of stock in companies regulated by his agency.
The Justice Department accused the former head of the Food and Drug Administration with falsely reporting that he had sold stock in companies when he continued holding onto shares in the firms governed by FDA rules.
What? Only two corrupt Republican stories for today? It's early.

More and more unpopular, 64% of Americans oppose the Iraq War, up 10% since June:
Women led the opposition, with seven in 10 saying they oppose the war and only 28 percent saying they favor it, the lowest support among women in any CNN poll taken since the invasion more than three years ago.
Support among men was at 40 percent to 58 percent opposed. The telephone poll, carried out by Opinion Research Corporation, was carried out Friday through Sunday. (CNN poll PDF)
Why is our government so screwed up? Why is Iraq such a quagmire? What's wrong with Congress? Republican priorities:
The current Congress has shown no inclination to investigate the Bush administration. Last year The Boston Globe offered an illuminating comparison: when Bill Clinton was president, the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether Mr. Clinton had used the White House Christmas list to identify possible Democratic donors. But in 2004 and 2005, a House committee took only 12 hours of testimony on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
I wonder how many hours of testimony will get clocked on the Mark Foley investigation.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Iraq For Sale, the documentary

See it! Buy it!

The Nation's editor Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in September of Iraq For Sale:

Now, an important new documentary reveals more about the waste, war profiteering and lives wrecked by corporations and this administration in our name. Iraq for Sale, directed by Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed and Uncovered), reveals the impact of this criminal and moral corruption on the lives of soldiers, whistleblowers, survivors and ordinary Americans back home.
Greenwald's film exposes the long-time personal connections between this administration and the profiteers and investigates Blackwater Security Consulting, Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, and CACI International, finding such travesties as truck drivers – told they would be kept out of harm's way – forced to drive into battle zones unprotected; mercenaries used for combat operations and interrogations and soldiers training civilians to, ultimately, outsource their own jobs at much higher salaries so that friends of the administration can rake in obscene profits.
Iraq for Sale demonstrates, once again, the urgent need for an independent war profiteering commission modeled after the fearless work of the Truman Commission during World War II.
To locate a screening, visit the official website for Iraq for Sale here.

The cost of the war revised September 2006 also offers a breakout available by state.

The Seattle Times wrote in January that the cost of the war could reach $2 trillion.

Bush wants to stay the course in Iraq. Well, his cronies like the profits so I doubt they will object. I wonder how many of the good ol' boys have pumped money into keeping rubber-stamp Republicans in power? If Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress, let's hope for a full investigation into war profiteering abuses. No excuses.

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The Denial of David Kuo's, Tempting Faith

How thick is the armor beneath the robe?

Carpetbagger posted observations about James Dobson's response to David Kuo's, Tempting Faith, a fascinating exposé of how Republicans and the Bush Administration exploited Christian conservative nuts. Basically, "just plain goofy" denies being used:

The far-right GOP base has probably suspected for years that they're being used, cynically, by Republican elites who don't genuinely care about the movement's agenda, and here's a White House insider coming forward to say all of their fears are absolutely true. How would a group like James Dobson's Focus on the Family respond? According to an email the group sent to its members this morning, the group refuses to believe its lying eyes.

"The release of this book criticizing the Bush administration's handling of its faith-based initiative program seems to represent little more than a mix of sour grapes and political timing. David Kuo's book doesn't hit shelves until next week, but excerpts released by media outlets paint the picture of a dissatisfied federal employee taking shots at the White House effort to connect faith-based nonprofit groups with legitimate societal needs.

"Big media will no doubt play this story to the hilt in the next several weeks, because it allows them to take aim at two of their favorite targets: President Bush and socially conservative Christians. Sadly, Kuo's characterization of his former colleagues, bosses and mission — mischaracterizations, really — will be fed to the public as truth."

I realize it must be difficult for a mark to come to terms with the fact that he's been conned, but this is pretty silly.

First, Focus questions the timing of the book. The truth is, Kuo started raising concerns about what he saw at the White House Faith-Based Office in February 2005. This isn't some last-minute, 11th-hour shocker intended to affect the elections.

Second, if Kuo's book, "Tempting Faith," was written with the midterm campaigns in mind, he wouldn't aim to help Democrats — Kuo in an evangelical conservative Republican.

Third, Kuo is a "dissatisfied federal employee"? Well, obviously. Kuo went to the White House to work on an initiative he genuinely believed in. Once there, he found charlatans who didn't care about the religious right, or helping the poor, or the initiative itself. He stuck around, tried to make things work, but finally resigned in frustration. Of course he's a "dissatisfied federal employee." Why is that an insult?

The truth is, groups like Focus on the Family should be thanking Kuo. Rove & Co. are all smiles when dealing with Christian conservatives in person, but behind closed doors, the faithful are derided and mocked. It would appear to be useful information for those who've been scorned.

Kuo has ripped back the curtain for Dobson, but instead of expressing appreciation, Dobson and his allies have asked that the curtain be put back where it was. They prefer the masquerade, thank you very much.

Quite right. Dobson has built a papal empire through his Focus on the Family organization, and by George, he's not going to let a whippersnapper like David Kuo cast doubt upon his clout. With millions of followers, a direct line into the Oval Office, Congress, and fellow theocrats, Dobson will not relent. He has too much at stake:

Despite the prominent political role he played, Dobson dismissed the notion that he is a presidential kingmaker. ''It's clear that there is a growing awareness among conservative Christians that it's time to stand up and be counted in the marketplace of ideas," Dobson said. ''I'm just one of them who happens to have a public platform through which to communicate what we believe."

Many others have a different perception. As Ralph Neas, president of the liberal group People for the American Way, has said: ''There is no question that James Dobson is the most powerful and most influential voice on the religious right." Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, described Dobson as ''the most respected and influential person in evangelical Christendom."

[...]

From an 81-acre campus with a spectacular view of the Rockies, where Focus on the Family relocated in 1993, Dobson sits at the top of a humming dispensary of advice and activism. Four spacious brick buildings give the site the look of an office park. The organization, which has its own ZIP code, distributes 4 million pieces of mail from its headquarters each month. Books, brochures, DVDs, and pamphlets are available on subjects as varied as ''Why ADHD Doesn't Mean Disaster" to ''Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage." The products are distributed in exchange for a voluntary donation.

Each of the organization's 1,400 employees must have an active religious life. Some 150 phone attendants answer a total of 5,000 phone calls a day, 90 percent of which pertain to a family concern that is addressed through printed, audio, or video materials. The remaining 10 percent involve ''counseling issues," such as teenage substance abuse or gambling in the family, said Paul Hetrick, the Focus vice president for media relations. For these calls, Focus employees offer advice over the telephone, by letter, or direct the caller to other help.

Now consider the far-right views promoted by Dobson:

Dobson was raised by a Nazarene preacher who spent hours praying on his knees every day. Strict interpreters of Scripture, Nazarenes advocate a lifestyle that discourages alcohol, tobacco, and premarital sex. Husbands are recognized as the head of the household, and adolescent social situations such as dances are closely monitored.

Dobson's book ''Dare to Discipline," which was published in 1970 and condoned spanking in its criticism of permissive parenting, has sold more than 3 million copies. Thirty-five years later, the phenomenal growth of the ''ministry," as Dobson describes Focus on the Family, has given him the opportunity to move beyond tips about rebellious teenagers to influencing a broad swath of the American electorate.

The problem with the pope of Focus on the Family is his way is the almighty way. So David Kuo's revelations couldn't be right since Dobson is, after all, God's omnipotent servant and designate. Ha!

Carpetbagger cited an LATimes article in which the denials are flying from the main protagonists of the book. David Kuo charges that:

...then-White House political director Ken Mehlman issued "marching orders" to use the faith-based initiative in 20 House and Senate races, [and to] avoid appearing overtly political, Mehlman said his staff would arrange for congressional offices to request visits from the faith-based program officials.

Mehlman's reaction:

A spokeswoman for Mehlman, who is now chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he did not recall the directives mentioned by Kuo. As political director, she said, "it was Mehlman's job to both engage outside groups and inform decision makers in the White House about support for the president's agenda."

Another unsurprising denial came from the WH...

...with help Thursday from two former officials popular among evangelicals — former speechwriter Michael Gerson and former faith-based initiative director Jim Towey.

Gerson called Kuo's account "laughable," while Towey cited a December 2002 e-mail from Kuo expressing positive feelings about the program's progress in promoting "compassionate conservatism."

"He doesn't seem to have been working at the same White House where I worked," Towey said. "I had marching orders from the president to keep the faith-based initiative nonpolitical, and I did."

Still, neither Gerson nor Towey denied Kuo's assertion that politics did factor into the initiative.

[...]

Kuo is not the first insider to accuse the White House of politicizing the faith-based program. John J. DiIulio Jr., the first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, resigned after seven months and was quoted as saying that the White House was run by "Mayberry Machiavellians" who sometimes put politics ahead of other causes.

Ron Suskind wrote of John DiIulio back in January 2003 for Esquire, which also paints an unflattering portrait of Karl Rove. DiIulio:

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

In reading Suskind, I can totally believe that Rove referred to Christian conservatives as the "nuts." Frankly, I'm surprised Rove didn't use stronger language.

One tiny ray of light peeked out, an inkling that evangelical leaders recognize their political symbiosis without delusions about Rove's strategery:

[Leading religious conservative Paul] Weyrich said that Bush and many of his aides were genuinely interested in the [faith-based] program. But, he added, "I don't have any illusions about Rove. I think that he advocates conservatism because he believes it's the way to win."

Take that, Monsieur Rove.

Maybe all the Christian evangelicals should pull out of the GOP and form their own political party. Yeah.

Leslie Stahl reports on David Kuo's story of how "religious leaders have been manipulated and corrupted for political gain" in, A Loss of Faith, on CBS 60 Minutes this Sunday, Oct. 15. Must see.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Chris Matthews on Republicans and Iraq

Why doesn't Matthews just tattoo it on his forehead?

Tweety eyed the new seeds poured into his bowl:
On the October 11 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews declared that the "best critics" of the war in Iraq "are the Republicans." He added that "it's not the lefties" and "it's not [Rep.] John P. Murtha [D-PA]," but rather the "smart, grown-up Republicans who are questioning this policy and calling for a change."
Attaboy, Tweety. More treats to come. And with that, he rang the bell on his mirror.
MATTHEWS: The real grown-ups, gentlemen, and Margaret -- is that the best critics of this war are the Republicans. [Sen.] John Warner [R-VA], the chairman of the Armed Services [Committee] -- it's not the lefties, it's not Jack Murtha out there even. It's the smart, grown-up Republicans who are questioning this policy and calling for a change.
Got the picture? Democrats call for a change and the air waves indignantly quake with the thunder of cut and run accusations. Republicans call for a change, and... Poof! It's smart and grown-up.

Eureka! The Brits must be grown-up too.

My apologies to the majestic creature, the elephant.

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Tempting Faith: How Bush suckered Christian evangelicals, Part 2

Picking up from earlier revelations--how the Bush Administration duped Christian conservatives--MSNBC's Keith Olbermann broadcast the second installment on, Tempting Faith, David Kuo's new controversial book.

John Amato (Thanks, John!) at Crooks and Liars posted a transcript and video of Olbermann's show.

Reading the MSNBC transcript shows just how the nuts--Karl Rove's term for Christian evangelicals--were exploited (with emphasis added):

...Kuo writes that the Faith-Based Office was so starved for support from the Oval Office that it was forced to transform itself into a political arm of Republican campaign efforts.

David Kuo is himself a self-described conservative Christian. His personal, and his religious assessment of Mr. Bush, is nowhere near the most newsworthy of Kuo's revelations in our report tonight.

[...]

In Kuo's eyes, today's national Christian leaders were being used. They didn't have the same shrewdness Billy Graham had in the '70s, to question whether Nixon was using him for his appeal to religious voters.

In fact, Christians who voted for Mr. Bush based on his religion, may have ended up hurting the very people Jesus sought to help: the poor.

But when Senator Chuck Grassley tried to rewrite Mr. Bush's 1.7 trillion dollar tax cut to include six billion in tax credits for groups helping the poor — tax credits that Mr. Bush himself had publicly proposed — Kuo says Bush's assistant told Grassley to drop the charity tax credits. The White House had no interest.

The cuts Mr. Bush did want made things worse for charities.

Kuo claims that the estate tax cuts discouraged charitable giving, costing charities an estimated 5 billion dollars.

The ultimate impact of Mr. Bush's tax cuts, he says, was to brutalize the very charities Mr. Bush once identified as his top priorities. After only a year, charitable donations were down dramatically, and some charities had shut down.

Kuo says the White House was more concerned with the appearance of doing something.

He says the Faith-Based office wasn't even set up during the 2001 transition until Mr. Bush took office and Karl Rove gave a transition volunteer less than one week to roll out the entire Faith-Based Initiative.

The volunteer asked how he should do that, without staff, without an office, or without even a plan.

According to Kuo, "Rove looked at him, took a deep breath, and said, "I don't know. Just get me a f–ing faith-based thing. Got it?"

After that, it was easier to push faith-based legislation, rather than faith-based funding, because legislation was a cheaper way to show the president was supposedly doing something.

Bush assistant Margaret Spellings, now the Education Secretary, asked Kuo for legislation and said she didn't care what kind, any kind of faith bill would do, he writes.

When the office got a substantive bill – a bill backed by every senator from Santorum to Clinton, the only hold-up was a green light from Josh Bolten or Andy Card.

They didn't get the green light.

What kind of bill did get such a support?

Kuo says the White House liked the issue of religious hiring… not because it was a real issue affecting real charities, but because it was divisive and that made good politics.

"Tempting Faith" also suggests that the Bush White House would use anything for politics.

[...]

...Kuo asked whether Karl Rove still wanted to let Falwell attend the National Service [after his inflammatory remarks about 9/11].

Even while Ground Zero was still burning, politics still mattered.

Rove let Falwell attend, as long as he stayed off-camera. While others wept, Kuo says, Falwell laughed about something with another conservative leader. Spotting Barbara Bush, Falwell remarked on how "frumpy" she looked.

Even choosing the new faith-based director, Jim Towey, was an issue of politics.

Rove put out the word that for Towey to get the job, he had to get as many cardinals as he could to vouch for him.

He did and he got the job.

Kuo freely admits he, too, is no stranger to the politics of conservative compassion. He writes he spent much of the '90s lobbying for it.

But at the time, he says the top Republican donors had no interest in fighting poverty. They had other enemies in mind, and told Kuo they would provide lavish funding if the target was not poverty but instead, the Clintons.

And Kuo would know about this. By the early '90s, he was already a conservative insider, part of Jack Kemp's think tank, "Empower America."

To help bring about the 1994 Republican revolution, Kuo writes that he and his team taught more than 600 candidates how to run for office: By blaming President Clinton for the nation's sad state of affairs at the time. Kuo writes they tried to ignore the fact that Clinton had only just started in office after 12 years of [the] administrations of Reagan and Bush.

Together with fellow Christian Mike Gerson-now Bush's top speechwriter-Kuo writes he wrote political speeches to appeal to religious audiences, even when the speakers did not want to give those speeches.

Jack Kemp removed religious "values" language from a speech he was to give to the Southern Baptist Convention. So, instead, Gerson and Kuo snuck in a few phrases that evangelicals would recognize, but lay people would not. Kuo calls it a “code” that would continue to be used in speeches over the years by politicians including John Ashcroft, Ralph Reed, Bob Dole… and George W. Bush.


The "Jesus is my savior" lipservice Republicans provide may give evangelicals comfort as a thar one of us-ins tribal identifier. Sadly, the denial that such rhetoric is a fake promise uttered by rapacious con men hurts evangelicals.

The tragic irony in Kuo's account is that millions of Christian evangelicals live middle class lives, some with low incomes, struggling with finances and debt, dealing with parenting issues, education, health care, and other domestic concerns. Their challenges can lead them to feel "persecuted." Too often they look for a scapegoat and blame the wrong foe; enemies their peers and leaders tell them are their persecutors. Cunningly without a speck of morality and sometimes maliciously, Republicans, realizing how evangelicals believe the devil is the source of the pitfalls and misfortunes in life, have aimed the blame with help from the popes of propaganda like a cannon at a political and social target. The secularists, the liberals, the Clintons, the Democrats, and anyone akin to homosexuals, feminists, and abortionists is code word, Satan. And the neocon's popes who intermingle politics and religion in branding themselves the chosen leaders of social conservatives, complied with the GOP strategy and got rich, powerful, and famous, too, in the process. A convenient alliance, no? You can hear in Falwell's words from the Olbermann or Crooks and Liars video clip who he condemned as the enemy among us behind the 9/11 attacks:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians, all of them who tried to secularize America... I point the finger in their face and say, you helped this happen.

Don't think for one minute that Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, or Tony Perkins don't know what they're doing. They have an ideological agenda, some with political aspirations, and they aim to win their personally ambitious crusade by any means possible. They will play the outraged dupes if the truth penetrates the public awareness of their collusion, conscious or unconscious, in step with the Republican strategy to use the Christian flock like indentured servant voters.

In the end, GOP leaders and the popes of propaganda inadvertently, if not intentionally in the case of the smirking executioner from Texas, increased the suffering of millions of middle-class evangelicals economically, legally, educationally, and medically. Some believers pay the ultimate price in an unnecessary war.

Self-aggrandizing calculation is the primary brain function in Kuo's story married with the impulse of sadistic callous hearts who marched America into record-breaking debt, a culture of corruption, and armed conflict. There's nothing Jesus-like in any of these accomplishments.

Christian evangelicals need to get over the idea that if thar not like us-ins, thar agin us. That's hogwash, the same magically thinking that asserts marriages across America will suddenly dissolve into fairy dust if gays and lesbians can marry. What's that say about their gullibility?

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Violence against women worldwide

Women! Let us join together to heal our plight.

On Tuesday, the United Nations issued a report collected from studies involving 71 countries:

Violence against women is "severe and pervasive" worldwide, with at least one in three women experiencing abuse by an intimate partner at some point in their lives...

Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Ocampo called violence against women...

..."a pervasive phenomenon – it's really a global problem that has to be addressed."

"According to the quantitative estimates, which certainly underestimate the amount of violence that occurs, at least one out of three women experiences violence at some stage of their lives," he said. "The report states that the major form of violence takes place at the domestic level, in the households ... and it takes place in societies throughout the world."

In addition to spontaneous violence, the report also condemned what it found to be high levels of institutionalized violence, such as female circumcision, estimating that 130 million girls and women living today had undergone this practice.

Women are not receiving adequate protection from their governments, the report said, finding that 102 member states had no specific laws on domestic violence. The report also found that martial rape was not a prosecutable offense in at least 53 states, and only 93 have laws to prevent female trafficking.

Rachel Mayanja, the secretary-general's special adviser on gender issues, said the curtain has been raised on violence against women and it's now time to act in a coordinated way "to try and eliminate this scourge."

"We are going to try to end impunity — (ensure) that those who are violating women will be prosecuted, will be punished, and that none of them will be allowed to continue to prey on their women," she told the news conference. "This is the hope — that this study can galvanize this kind of action."

The report urged governments to take action to bridge the gap between international policy and national laws, including securing gender equality, gathering more data on violence against women and allocating more funding for its prevention.

Violence against women affects whole societies, the report said, citing the costs of treating women injured both physically and emotionally, the effect of the violence on children, the loss of employment productivity, and the cost of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Additionally, fearing abuse from a sexual partner, women don't get tested for HIV, don't divulge their HIV status, or seek medical treatment.

"We cannot make poverty history unless we make violence against women history," U.N. Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said in a statement.

In July, Martha Nussbaum at The Nation reviewed Catharine A. MacKinnon's book, Are Women Human?

In the two most deeply troubling articles in the collection, "Genocide's Sexuality" and "Women's September 11th," MacKinnon examines the internationally accepted definitions of genocide and terrorism, and argues that many acts of men against women meet one or both of these definitions. As defined under the UN convention on genocide, genocide is either killing or inflicting serious bodily or mental harm on members of a group, with intent to destroy that group either entirely or in part. The groups mentioned are "national, ethnical, racial, or religious" groups: So in that sense violence against women clearly doesn't qualify. On other grounds, however, one could argue that a great part of violence against women does involve a similar infliction of "serious harm" on women because they are women, and its aim can be said to be to destroy "in part"--for "destroy," if mental harm is sufficient for genocide, must mean not "kill" but "remove from the ranks of the fully human"--something that happens to women all the time.

At that time I wrote:

We hear of post traumatic stress disorder and its usual association with soldiers of war but the most common PTSDs are those not of men in war, but of women in civilian life. Judith Herman, M.D., in her book, Trauma and Recovery, described the "domestic captivity" of women and children, "those subjected to totalitarian systems in sexual and domestic life, including survivors of domestic battering, childhood physical or sexual abuse, and organized sexual exploitation." A quick glance of domestic violence statistics... will confirm that the casualties of the private sphere rival those in the public sphere. I repeat MacKinnon's question, so why isn't this political?

The question begs an answer, doesn't it? Well, actually it demands solutions.

Here in America, Bonnie Erbe of U.S. News & World Report writes:

Right now there are 14 women in the U.S. Senate (five Republicans nine Democrats) and 67 in the U.S. House (24 Republicans and 4 Democrats.) As recently as 31 years ago, there were 19 women in th U.S. House and none in the Senate. That number has risen in each election–stubbornly molasseslike, according to some anxious observers (present company included), but risen nonetheless.

John Fortier, an American Enterprise Institute scholar writing in the Hill newspaper, says the current climate favors women. He writes: "Research shows that women do just as well as men in running as incumbents, challenging incumbents, and running for open seats. As more seats open up and as the number of women running for office increases, so inevitably does the number of women in Congress rise. According to the Center for American Women in Politics, there are 139 women running for the House on major-party tickets and 12 in the Senate, significantly up from 20 years ago. And as the National Council on State Legislatures reports, the pool of potential female candidates with political experience is deep, as women make up 22.6 percent of state legislatures."

Still, it's unclear whether this year will turn out to be another "Year of the Woman" in national politics. At least, things do not appear to be shaping up that way. While women may hold more seats in Congress, it could be just a handful more. The Hill, for example, projects a gain of one or two seats for women in the U.S. Senate and a pickup of six to 10 seats in the House. What's more, I've been hearing a lot about women securing major-party nominations to challenge other women in this political season, and I've wondered whether 2006 might be a record year for women in that regard. Sorry, nope, says the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. In 1998, 14 women ran against women (one in the Senate and 13 in the House). This year, there are 11 such woman vs. woman races–nine in the House and two in the Senate. So, unless there is a sudden turn of events, the pace of change will remain, well, stubbornly molasseslike.

Politically, more women must step up. It's too late for this year's election but all of us women need to keep the eye on the prize: Get women elected, support women running for office (except for the Republican Stepford Wives), and change the laws to abate violence against women.

IMAGES: Raise The Veil: Repent and Raise The Veil: Forbidden from artist Tricia Grame.

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Happy birthday!


Dear birthday goddess,

I wish you all the best for this year and many more to come.

The best is yet to come.

So... happy birthday to you.

You know who you are. ; )

Tempting Faith: How Bush suckered Christian evangelicals

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC obtained a copy of David Kuo's new bombshell of a book, Tempting Faith, that ought to make Christian evangelical heads spin:

More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider’s tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities.

The office’s primary mission, providing financial support to charities that serve the poor, never got the presidential support it needed to succeed, according to the book.

Who is David Kuo?

“Tempting Faith’s” author is David Kuo, who served as special assistant to the president from 2001 to 2003. A self-described conservative Christian, Kuo’s previous experience includes work for prominent conservatives including former Education Secretary and federal drug czar Bill Bennett and former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

Some of the damaging revelations include RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, "Bush's brain" and WH strategist, Karl Rove, and the president:

[Kuo] says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

One of those "targeted races" included the hatchet job against Max Cleland of Georgia to ordain the rubber-stamp Republican Saxby Chambliss.

According to Kuo, “Ken loved the idea and gave us our marching orders.”

Among those marching orders, Kuo says, was Mehlman’s mandate to conceal the true nature of the events.

Kuo quotes Mehlman as saying, “… (I)t can’t come from the campaigns. That would make it look too political. It needs to come from the congressional offices. We’ll take care of that by having our guys call the office [of faith-based initiatives] to request the visit.”

Nineteen out of the 20 targeted races were won by Republicans, Kuo reports. The outreach was so extensive and so powerful in motivating not just conservative evangelicals, but also traditionally Democratic minorities, that Kuo attributes Bush’s 2004 Ohio victory “at least partially … to the conferences we had launched two years before.”

With the exception of one reporter from the Washington Post, Kuo says the media were oblivious to the political nature and impact of his office’s events, in part because so much of the debate centered on issues of separation of church and state.

In fact, the Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.

Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. “Finding these examples became a huge priority.… If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn’t that bad at all.”

In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on “compassion” social programs, Kuo claims he discovered “we were actually spending about $20 million a year less on them than before he had taken office.”

The money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda, Kuo claims.

“Many of the grant-winning organizations that rose to the top of the process were politically friendly to the administration,” he says.

Kuo describes the prejudice for Bush-supporting religious organizations:

More pointedly, Kuo quotes an unnamed member of the review panel charged with rating grant applications.

“But,” she said with a giggle, ‘When I saw one of those non-Christian groups in the set I was reviewing, I just stopped looking at them and gave them a zero … a lot of us did.’”

“Tempting Faith” contains several other controversial claims about Kuo’s office, the Bush White House and even the 1994 Republican revolution in Congress.

Many of those revelations and others will be the topic of discussion on Thursday night’s edition of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” (with added emphasis)

You can also view Keith Olbermann's video, which relates more details than what I've cited from the MSNBC story. Crooks and Liars (God love 'em) posted the transcript of last night's Olbermann broadcast. Excerpts:

...Now, as the [Mark] Foley cover-up has many evangelical Christians wondering whether the G.O.P. is really in sync with their values, "Tempting Faith" provides the answer: No way.

Kuo, citing one example after another of a White House that repeatedly uses evangelical Christians for their votes — while consistently giving them nothing in return;

A White House which routinely speaks of the nation's most famous evangelical leaders behind their backs, with contempt and derision.

Furthermore, Faith-Based Initiatives were not only stiffed on one public promise after another by Mr. Bush — the office itself was eventually forced to answer a higher calling: Electing Republican politicians.

Kuo's bottom line: the Bush White House is playing millions of American Christians for suckers.

[...]

So how does the Bush White House keep 'the nuts' turning out at the polls?

One way, regular conference calls with groups led by Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and radio hosts like Michael Reagan.

Kuo says, "Participants were asked to talk to their people about whatever issue was pending. Advice was solicited [but] that advice rarely went much further than the conference call. [T]he true purpose of these calls was to keep prominent social conservatives and their groups or audiences happy."

They do get some things from the Bush White House, like the National Day of Prayer, “another one of the eye-rolling Christian events,” Kuo says.

And “passes to be in the crowd greeting the president when he arrived on Air Force One or tickets for a speech he was giving in their hometown. Little trinkets like cufflinks or pens or pads of paper were passed out like business cards. Christian leaders could give them to their congregations or donors or friends to show just how influential they were. Making politically active Christians personally happy meant having to worry far less about the Christian political agenda.”

When cufflinks weren't enough, the White House played the Jesus card, reminding Christian leaders that, quote, “they knew the president's faith” and begging for patience.

And the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives?

According to Kuo, “White House staff didn't want to have anything to do with the Faith-Based Initiative because they didn't understand it any more than did congressional Republicans . They didn't lie awake at night trying to kill it. They simply didn 't care."

[...]

Kuo says they tried to prove their political value by turning the once-bipartisan faith-based initiatives into a political operation.

[...]

The Office was also, literally, a taxpayer-funded part of the Republican campaign machinery.

In 2002, Kuo says the office decided to "hold roundtable events for threatened incumbents with faith and community leaders … using the aura of our White House power to get a diverse group of faith and community leaders to a 'nonpartisan' event discussing how best to help poor people in their area."

White House Political Affairs director Ken Mehlman "loved the idea and gave us our marching orders. There were twenty targets." Including Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and John Shimkus in Illinois.

Mehlman devised a cover-up for the operation. He told Kuo, "It can't come from the campaigns. That would make it look too political. It needs to come from the congressional offices. We'll take care of that by having our guys call the office to request the visit."

Kuo explains, "this approach inoculated us against accusations that we were using religion and religious leaders to promote specific candidates."

[...]

By that time, Kuo had left the White House, concluding that "it was mocking the millions of faithful Christians who had put their trust and hope in the President and his administration. Bush knew his so-called compassion agenda was languishing and had no problem with that."

If you would question Mr. Kuo's credibility, you should know his former boss also quit the White House complaining in his one public interview that politics drove absolutely everything in the Bush administration. There is more, much more revealed in Tempting Faith… how Jack Kemp was tricked into sounding like a religious conservative without even knowing it; Jerry Falwell's astonishing behavior at the 9/11 Day of Remembrance and considerably more as our Countdown exclusive of Tempting Faith continues here tomorrow night.

I unfortunately don't get MSNBC via my cable TV subscription to watch tonight's broadcast but check Countdown with Keith Olbermann for more.

What a scandal! I've already pre-ordered Tempting Faith that releases Monday, Oct. 16. Should be a very, very interesting read and that's an understatement.

So when will congressional investigations begin? In January 2007? I hope so. Our taxes were looted and the public trust was exploited by the Bush presidency and the Republican-controlled Congress for partisan political purposes.

As for Christian evangelicals, will they realize they were scammed? Will they trust their theocon leaders, Robertson, Dobson, Perkins, et al, or will the popes of propaganda claim they were conned, too? More importantly, will the national press report this scandal?

I will say one thing: Keith Olbermann deserves an award for consistently reporting on the abuses of the Bush Administration. Props to Keith for continuing the legacy of Edward R. Murrow. I doubt, however, Bush will award Keith the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That's for sure.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Coming Out Day

Pam Spaulding offers a summary of lots of data so click the link. A snip:

October 11 is National Coming Out Day. The theme is "Talk About It."

The big news this year is information that should put fear into the hearts of The Base -- 70% of heterosexual adults now know someone gay.

And -- those with an out gay or lesbian family member raises the typical American's support for full marriage equality by 17 percentage points.

The above results are from two studies being released by HRC, one by Harris Interactive and the other, "'Coming Out' and Americans' Attitudes on Gay Rights," from the Hunter College Center for Sexuality and Public Policy.

Additional findings:
* 92% of self-identified gays said they are out to close friends
* 78% said they are out to their parents
* A majority are out to other people in their lives, including grandparents, cousins, acquaintances and casual friends, and coworkers and colleagues.

Pam's House Blend can always keep you up on LGBT issues so bookmark Pam's site.

Bravo to all the gays and lesbians who are out of the closet!

IMAGE: The arresting graphic of the Statue of Liberty draped in the rainbow flag came from here. C'est fantastique!

The source of Mark Foley emails

Jonathan Weisman of WaPo reports the Democrats did not orchestrate an October Surprise to affect the midterm elections despite what Faux News and the yammering con-apparatchiki say (with emphasis):

Two of the news media's sources of Mark Foley's sexually explicit instant messages to former House pages said this week that they came forward to expose the Florida congressman's actions, not to help the Democrats in the midterm elections.
[...]
Those 2004 e-mails -- dubbed "over-friendly" by House Republican leaders -- originally leaked out of the office of Rep. Rodney Alexander (La.), a Republican. But, Republicans say, they still may have come from a Democrat on his staff. Alexander changed parties in 2004.
The timing of the e-mails' release appears to be more of a coincidence than an "October surprise," designed to affect the outcome of the elections. It took more than a year for the e-mails to be published because one publication after another decided not to print them.
The one media outlet that did, ABC News, took them public in late September only because the lead reporter, Brian Ross, had put the story on hold for more than a month as he pursued stories commemorating the anniversaries of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
"There was never a plan to undermine the GOP or to destroy Hastert personally, as the speaker has vaingloriously suggested," Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for Harper's, said on the magazine's Web site yesterday. "I know this with absolute certainty because Harper's was offered the story almost five months ago."
Silverstein said his source was a "Democratic operative," the same source that had provided the e-mail exchanges to the St. Petersburg Times in November 2005. Both the magazine and the paper declined to publish a story. But the source "was not working in concert with the national Democratic Party," Silverstein added. "This person was genuinely disgusted by Foley's behavior, amazed that other publications had declined to publish stories about the emails, and concerned that Foley might still be seeking contact with pages."
A second source emerged, however, just last month, peddling the e-mails to several other publications, including The Post. And Ross of ABC News has stressed that his initial source was a Republican.
[...]
"I decided that it was in the best interests of kids in general, pages and my friends specifically that Foley be dealt with quickly and swiftly so that he couldn't hurt anyone else," the Republican student wrote in his e-mail. "We've seen how long the Justice department and every other government bureaucracy can take to deal with criminal issues and abuse. I knew the media would be the fastest way to get Foley the justice he deserved."
As for The Post's source, Foley's initial response to the disclosure of the e-mails finally persuaded him to share his information, he said.
"When the first e-mails came out, Foley's campaign came out saying it was all a well-timed Democratic smear. Those rumors were unfounded, and I knew that to be untrue," the Democratic former page said. Before the ABC News report, "we were reluctant to take on Congress as young politicos ourselves, but when first blows were made, there was no harm in coming forward," he added.
So enough with the conspiracy theories. The matter is just a plain ol' coverup emanating from a state of denial in the GOP-run Congress. Hastert needs to go.

McCain the stooge


Oh, great. Another Republican stooge who's a presidential contender:

Sen. John McCain, a likely 2008 U.S. presidential contender, blamed former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday for failing to stop an unfolding nuclear threat from North Korea in the 1990s.

The Arizona Republican also took a swipe at Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York senator and possible Democratic rival for the White House.

"I would remind Senator (Hillary) Clinton and other critics of the Bush administration policies that the framework agreement of the Clinton administration was a failure," McCain said in a statement, referring to a 1994 deal under which North Korea agreed to halt work on a plutonium-based nuclear facility, partly in exchange for free fuel oil deliveries.

"The Koreans received millions of dollars in energy assistance ... and what did the Koreans do? They secretly enriched uranium," McCain said.

"We had a carrots-and-no-sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn't work, we offered another."

So explain, why did Bush give North Korea $95 million in 2002 without the Framework "requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it [had] not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors." ??? And why did Bush antagonize North Korea by violating the Beijing agreement? McCain conveniently didn't offer any explanations because that would be completely truthful. He's another Republican who's not too swift on facts but full of bull... um, propaganda. Just what we don't need--another GOP kook. Digby has more:

What were they thinking? Now you have McCain out there talking total nonsense about North Korea and since he's been portrayed not only as an expert, but as a highly moral and decent man whom everyone including the president should trust, the media and everyone else are raptly listening to his crazy utterances like a bunch of fangirls.

The problem is that he's going to be an even worse problem than Bush in many ways as he emerges as a presidential contender. He's just as much of a warmonger, and just as wrong about everything, but he's got this phony bipartisan "credibility" that's going to make the slam dunk run-up to the Iraq war look like a a serious foreign policy debate. Which Democrats are going to be able to summon the nerve to oppose the great McCain when he tells tells the country that in his "expert judgement," we need to launch WWIII?

The country just can't afford any more of these kooks running the government --- and McCain is as kooky as any other Republican, possibly even more than most when it comes to national security. Unless the Democrats start yanking him off that pedestal soon, it's going to get more and more difficult for them to do it.

For the real scoop on the North Korea situation, this article by Fred Kaplan remains the gold standard. Hint: Massive screw-up, and it wasn't Clinton's.

Doesn't the GOP have anyone better that McCain? Nah, they don't. Too much red Kool-Aid rots the brain to the point that the reflexive response is to serve up another "It's Clinton's fault" red herring. Despite all the finger-pointing at Bill, he's still way more popular--before he left office and even now--compared to Bush. Democrats need to jump on McCain ASAP to unmask Curly before the GOP forces another stooge on voters trumped up as a viable candidate in 2008. Nothing could be further from the truth. Na-ah-uh-ah-uh-ah-uh-ah.

655,000 dead Iraqis

While Faithful Republicans stubbornly and blindly declare their obedience to the GOP, I doubt they have a scintilla of awareness of the consequences of their votes. Their "I see no evil in the GOP" will support the continuation of a failed and destructive Bush foreign policy that has produced death, death, death.

How moral is this?

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.
The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.
It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.
The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.
Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.
[...]
While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.
Don't tell me the Republicans value families. Just ask the Iraqis.

UPDATE: Mahablog provides an in-depth post on the John Hopkins/Lancet study. Be sure to read comments by DrSteveB who also posted a PDF link to the entire report. Although the 2004 study may have been flawed in the rush to publish the report, the methodology of this 2006 report is sound. But right-wingers including Bush don't buy it. Well, maybe because they live in a state of denial. As always.

PHOTO CREDIT: By Mohammed Adnan -- Associated Press Photo

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bush ignored North Korea's nuclear program

The new TIME Magazine cover says it all, doesn't it? The view is what North Korea saw as George forked over $95 million in 2002 with no strings attached. Both FDL and The Nitpicker have the scoop that the American press won't report but Jesus General snips the quote that puts this N. Korea threat into perspective:

Don't despair over North Korea's nuclear test. It's part of Our Leader's plan to build a case for bombing Iran. That's why he waived North Korea's inspection requirements back in 2002:
In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors.
Why would Our Leader bomb Iran to punish North Korea? For the same reason he attacked Iraq to punish Al Qaeda. It's what emperors do.
Welcome back to Wingnutsylvania where our leaders invade a country with no nuclear threat to the US and ignore, oh, I dunno, things like a CIA briefing, "Bin Laden Determine to Strike In US." Why would George give North Korea $95 million and then waive inspection requirements? You figure him out. I think Bush is psycho.

UPDATE Oct. 10: Bush pulled a double-cross on North Korea:
Paradoxical as it may seem, Pyongyang staged the test as a last-ditch effort to jump-start a bilateral dialogue on the normalization of relations that the United States has so far spurned. Over and over, I was told that Pyongyang wants bilateral negotiations to set the stage for implementation of the denuclearization agreement it concluded in Beijing on Sept. 19, 2005, with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.
Washington focuses on Article One of the accord, in which North Korea agreed to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." But what made the agreement acceptable to Pyongyang was the pledge in Article Two that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations."
In North Korean eyes, it was a flagrant violation when, four days after the agreement was signed, the United States in effect declared economic war on the Kim Jong Il regime. The Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions designed to cut off North Korean access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting and money laundering.
The sanctions issue has given the initiative to hard-liners in Pyongyang, who can plausibly argue that the sanctions are the cutting edge of a calculated effort by dominant elements in the Bush administration to undercut the Beijing agreement, squeeze the Kim regime and eventually force its collapse.
To be sure, the United States should take action against any abuse of its currency. But the financial sanctions are not targeted solely against counterfeiting and any other illicit North Korean activity. They go much further by seeking to cut off all North Korean financial intercourse with the world. The United States has warned financial institutions everywhere, Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said Aug. 23, "of the risks in holding any North Korean accounts."
Foreign businessmen and diplomats in Pyongyang told me of numerous cases in which legitimate imports of industrial equipment to make consumer goods have been blocked by the banking sanctions. This slows down the efforts of North Korean reformers to open up to the outside world and curtails economic growth. So far, the sanctions do not appear to be undermining the regime, but North Korean leaders can feel the noose tightening.
The Bush administration says that it is not pursuing a policy of "regime change," but the president did tell Bob Woodward that he would like to "topple" Kim Jong Il, according to Woodward's book "Bush at War." Recently, when a State Department official told Levey that the sanctions should distinguish between licit and illicit North Korean activity, Levey replied, "You know the president loves this stuff." Robert Joseph, John Bolton's successor as undersecretary of state for arms control, said at a recent State Department meeting that he hoped the sanctions would "put out all the lights in Pyongyang."
To advance U.S. security interests, the United States should agree to bilateral negotiations. It should press North Korea to suspend further nuclear and missile tests while negotiations on normalization proceed, freeze plutonium production and make a firm, timebound commitment to return to the six-party talks. In return, the administration should negotiate a compromise on the financial sanctions that would reopen North Korean access to the international banking system, offer large-scale energy cooperation and remove North Korea from the State Department's list of terrorist states, thus opening the way for multilateral aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, all of which North Korea is actively seeking to join.
Bush doesn't do diplomacy especially those actions that could diffuse a war. He likes blowing stuff up and oppressing the already oppressed innocent North Koreans. Yeah, our president is a psycho and foreign affairs buffoon.

250 million children raped

Saw this via the Salon Dauo Report from Morgaine at What She Said!

Over 250 million children raped each year...

Morgaine cited a United Nations report:

They include 73 million boys and 150 million girls, according to a United Nations report prepared by Secretary General Kofi Annan’s independent expert, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. Save the Children Director Dumisani Mnisi, at a workshop closing ceremony for station commanders last Thursday, shared the content of the study with police officers. “The Pinheiro study finds that shocking levels of violence affect the lives of children in all parts of the globe,” Mnisi stated.

The report states that, usually, the [250 million] children are raped by someone within the family circle. It further estimates that between 133 and 275 million children, annually, witness domestic violence.

Pinheiro also found that corporal punishment such as caning and beating was still standard practice in schools in a number of countries, and often results in school drop-outs. He estimates that between 20 and 65 percent of school age children claim to have been verbally or physically bullied in a 30-day period. Also, he reports that 126 million children are involved in hazardous work, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by employers while institutionalised children [whether in orphanages or detention facilities] are at a particular risk of violence from the staff responsible for their care including torture, beatings, isolation, restraints, rape and harassment. Meanwhile, violence in the family in the form of harsh punishment is common in both industrialised and developing countries. Children in all regions have reported the physical and psychological hurt they suffer at the hands of their parents and care-givers.

The report also states; “over 500 000 children a year die as a result of homicide with between one and two million treated for violence-related injuries. The majority of violent acts against children are said to be perpetrated by people who are part of their lives such as parents, teachers, schoolmates, employers and care-givers. In only 16 States has all violence against children been prohibited, leaving the vast majority of the world’s child population without adequate legal protection from violence.

“Violence against children incurs extraordinary costs to society and is linked to lifelong social and health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anti-social and aggressive behaviour, substance abuse, lung, heart and liver diseases, impaired academic and work performance, problematic peer relations and greater involvement with the criminal justice system,” states the report.

I agree with Morgaine:

Matriarchal cultures don't view children or their mothers as property. That's a really important concept that we really need to get down under and comprehend its effects. We have to root it out of our psyches. Sexual abuse is not common in undisturbed indigenous cultures. James DeMeo has traced the source of sexual and physical violence against children to a region he calls Saharasia, beginning around 4000 b.c.e. It has spread through modern cultures as patriarchy moved throughout the world. Its origins lie in sexual and somatic repression coupled with violent treatment of infants and children. It's a remnant of a time when dominant cultures reacted to starvation with violence, greed, theft, slavery and genocide overrunning peaceful, agrarian matrifocal societies. Over the millenia, these abberant human behaviors have become institutionalized. We've been taught from infancy that these are natural tendencies that civilization must overcome. We've been taught to admire warriors, robber barons, slave traders - the Stanley Kowalski's and Gordon Gekko's of the world. There is nothing normal or human about this behavior.

Get that. It's not normal. Healthy humans don't wage war, rape, steal, kill one another for any reason. It isn't natural - it's sickness. Hurting each other is sickness. Taking more than you need, taking from one another that which is not freely given is sick. Humans are social, cooperative beings. We have the capacity for empathy - all mammals do. The natural instinct of the human animal is to protect babies. Even other species will protect babies from different animals - I've seen huge dogs lie quietly while kittens nap on their backs, and I've seen more than one pet dog or cat intervene when a parent attempted to "discipline" a child. The irony is that physical "discipline" does just the opposite - violence, aggression, and delinquent behavior in youngsters is a direct result of violent and oppressive treatment.

I know I'm repeating myself. I feel as if I'm shouting in the wind. What will it take to make us wake up to the fact that human beings are naturally peaceful and cooperative? What is going to bring us back to that natural instinct to protect children. To feed them if they're hungry, to soothe them if they're frightened, to allow them to grow strong and unbroken by anger or intimidation? To stop the multi-generational cycle of sexual abuse of children?

[...]

There's a meme going around Live Journal these days that begins with the following quote:

"Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?" - Ernest Gaines

My question is Why is it, as a culture, we find it more necessary to spank a child than to hug it? Both questions have the same answer - patriarchal dominance and erotophobia.

Yup, I agree. And who is perpetrating most of this abuse? Anyone one want to guess? This latest news report didn't say but a 2003-2004 Save The Children paper commissioned by the Alliance Gender Task Force for the UN Global Study on Violence against Children offers this (PDF) summary:

An analysis of the global persistence and even escalation of violence in all areas of life, including homes, communities, institutions, and armed conflicts, reveals that the vast majority of people damaged by the decisions made and the actions carried out by those in power (largely men) are children (and women). For example, children constitute almost half of the 27.4 million refugees and the 30 million displaced people worldwide (http://www.un.org/rights/concerns.htm). Some facts about and forms of violence against children and the different gender impacts follow this introduction.

Particular forms of violence, such as sexual exploitation or incest, occur disproportionately against girls, although some studies show that in some Asian countries sexual abuse of boys is nearly as common as of girls. In addition, other cultural forms of violence, such as dowry related abuse and acid throwing, in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India for instance, only affect girls and women, and carry life-long health consequences (e.g. mutilation; disfigurement) or even result in death.

Self-inflicted violence in the form of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, increasingly found in Europe, also mainly affect girls. Certain forms of violence, however, such as the recruitment of boys into armed groups and drug gangs, involve a greater proportion of boys as both victims and perpetrators. Other instances of gender-based violence mainly affecting boys are the murders of street boys in Central and South America carried out by police or death squads who argue that they are preventing future violent crimes.

Gender-based violence also occurs in the process of bringing up children in their family homes and in educational institutions where corporal punishment is considered an educational tool (Innocenti Digest, No.2). This kind of violence against the child is also gendered: while physical punishment is more often inflicted upon boys, girls suffer an enormous amount of psychological abuse to force them to conform to traditional gender stereotypes. Assumptions that boys are physically stronger than girls and that physical abuse helps them grow as proper men underlie these differential expressions of gender-based violence. In addition, discriminatory ideas about children being inferior to adults, and that parents are entitled to use violence to educate their children are also seen in the use of punishment as an educational tool.

[...]

It is well documented that men, in general, have power and control over women and girls, often through violence. This appears as a global phenomenon, taking different forms that cross cultures, and being perpetuated through patriarchal structures and by the socio-economic situation of the perpetrators and the abused women and children (UN, 1996). Girls and boys are socialised into differentiated gender roles that place them within unequal structures of power. Gender inequality disempowers girls by giving them unequal access to resources and not allowing them to participate in decisions that affect them within the family and community. Although this seems to be the general treatment both boys and girls receive from adults, discrimination against girls and women and devaluing views of them, disadvantage girls even more than boys in certain matters. Girls, for example, have less access to education than boys because they are primarily seen as future wives and mothers.

Gender inequality is entangled with power relations, with issues of who defines cultural values and practices, and with the wider framework of social relations between families and communities (e.g. racial, ethnic, caste and social class inequalities). The Optional Protocol to the CRC (art. 10.3) recognises poverty and underdevelopment as root causes and facilitating factors of the trafficking of children for the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography. Poverty plays an important role in perpetuating gender-based violence by creating the material background that makes children of poor families vulnerable to certain forms of violence like those mentioned above. Children affected by abuse while living in the streets or working in forced labour, for instance, are denied access to knowledge, information and education. This, in turn, prevents them from improving their economic situations and forces them to raise their own children in poverty, thereby making them vulnerable to violence and continuing the cycle of disadvantage and oppression.

Pitiful, truly pitiful. The statistics for child abuse and violent crime in America don't make the picture any less pitiful. Violence, oppression, abuse is rampant and most of the perps are male. Visit the Dept. of Justice and explore F.B.I. crime stats for proof and the ugly reality.