Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Seven O’Clock News.

Throughout my life the music of Paul Simon, with and without Art Garfunkel, has spoken deeply to me. In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel released an album called “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” on which the final cut was the duo singing “Silent Night” as a newscast slowly rose in volume in the background.

It was powerful.

The last, loudest, section of the newscast dealt with the Vietnam War. The parallels to today are staggering, and the last sentence especially could be taken directly from a Dick Cheney speech:

In Washington, the atmosphere was tense today as a special sub-committee of the House Committee on Un-American activities continued its probe into anti Viet Nam war protests. Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans. Former Vice-President Richard Nixon says that unless there is a substantial increase in the present war effort in Viet Nam the U.S. should look forward to five more years of war. In a speech before the Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S. That’s the 7 o’clock edition of the news, Goodnight

It is saddening how little we as a country have learned over the last 40 years.

I can’t keep up.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Is it possible to become completely inured to the travesty and lies which have become our government? I read things on a daily basis, and find sometimes that I have to will myself to see them as important, in the grand scheme of things. In any other administration, these would be scandal enough. Today, they are ignored as simply standard news.

  1. The Washington Post reports that oil executives were indeed part of Cheney’s secret energy task force. So? Well as recently as last week the oil executives denied this before congress (though the republican majority would not have them, as would be normal, sworn in before testifying). Basically, we’ve always known this, despite Cheney’s repeated denial. While the country was suffering under the largest increase in gas prices in it’s history, the oil companies were making record profits.
  2. The General Accounting Office shows that a decision was made by the Food and Drug administration to restrict access to a “Morning After” pill for political reasons, before the usual scientific reviews were even completed.
  3. The administration has already spent us so far into debt, according to comptroller general of the United States, that we may never be able to recover from it.
  4. Our government is maintaining secret prisons overseas, many leftovers from the soviet gulags, and our Senate Majority leader is more concerned about how this information became known, rather than the violation of international standards, not to mention our own laws, it represents.

  5. Investigators for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have shown the former chairman (who resigned recently, just before this report came out) broke numerous laws in hiring, and isolating the corporation from political influence, using his illegally to advance a conservative agenda.
  6. Republican Sources are reporting that the president is behaving irrationally, not talking to his own advisors:

    The president’s reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

    The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

    Am I unreasonable to be alarmed that a president, defensive and uninformed at the best of times, is withdrawing from regular contact with anyone except his mommy, and three mommy surrogates?

  7. The CIA has used foreign airports for illegal transportation of detainees, without the knowledge of their government, causing our nominal allies to attack us:

    The Spanish government had no knowledge of the alleged flights but a judge was investigating them, Alonso told Spanish television channel Telecinco.

    “If it were confirmed that this is true, we would be looking at very serious, intolerable deeds because they break the basic rules of treating people in a democratic legal and political system,”

  8. The Pentagon, after first denying it, has admitted to using chemical weapons in Fallujah. In this case White Phosphorus, which when used correctly can illuminate a battlefield, but when fired at people, sticks to the skin, burning and maiming.
    Didn’t we invade Iraq because of Saddam’s inhuman use of chemical weapons? (Or was it because of 9/11, or Nuclear weapon production, or to bring democracy, or whatever lie is being told today.)

There are daily outrages such as these, with no critical response in the media, no coordinated attempt to investigate.

Meanwhile, the current death total for American Service Personnel stands at 2072. (Remember less than three weeks ago the news of it passing 2000?) Add to this the approximately 280 civilian “contractors” of the military that have been killed
(Convenient how these numbers never make the official death totals). That gives a total of 2352 American deaths alone in Iraq. The total casualties from 9/11 were approximately 2986. How long before the administration manages to kill more Americans in this war than Al Qaeda managed? This means ignoring, of course, the 10′s of thousands of Iraqi dead, the tens of thousands of American wounded, the wounded and dead from our allies, and the untold devastation in Iraq.

How can we let ourselves become inured to this?

If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention!

Another Liberal Rant

In foreign policy, Bush I was an internationalist out to build a “New World Order” after the Cold War. However, post-9/11, Bush II converted to a neoconservatism that calls for unilateral American intervention in the Middle East and the Islamic world, to bring down dictators and establish democracy.

Thus, in March, 2003, Bush, in perhaps the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history, invaded an Arab nation that had not attacked us, did not want war with us, and did not threaten us—to strip it of weapons we now know it did not have.

Result: Shia and Kurds have been liberated from Saddam, but Iran has a new ally in southern Iraq, Osama has a new base camp in the Sunni Triangle, the Arab and Islamic world have been radicalized against the United States, and copy-cat killers of Al Qaida have been targeting our remaining allies in Europe and the Middle East: Spain, Britain, Egypt and Jordan. And, lest we forget, 2055 Americans are dead and Walter Reed is filling up.

True to the neoconservative creed, Bush launched a global crusade for democracy that is now bringing ever closer to power Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, and Shia fundamentalists in Baghdad and Basra.

Democratic imperialism is still imperialism. To Arab and Islamic peoples, whether the Crusaders come in the name of God or in the name of democracy, they are still Crusaders.

Man, I wish I could write like that! Who is this articulate spokesman for the left’s attack on the Bush administration? Somebody by the name of Patrick Buchanan. Hmm… where have I heard that name before?

Has he ever actually read the New Testament?

From Pat Robertson:

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city,”

“And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”

One can’t help but wonder if Robertson has actually ever read the book which he uses to make his fame and fortunes.

Cheney, the US, the UN, and torture

‘Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offense under the law of the United States. No official of the government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. US law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a ‘state of public emergency’) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension.’

(Report of the United States to the UN Committee against Torture, October 15, 1999, UN Doc. CAT/C/28/Add.5, February 9, 2000, para. 6.)

Article VI, section 2 of the United States Constitution:

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Treaties entered into by the US are co-equal with the constitution as the supreme law of the land. Lest you think this only refers to states’ abilities to override treaties, do some research. Case law would not support that.

Wouldn’t advocating against the constitution be an impeachable offence when you have sworn to uphold it?

Just a thought.

Locally

On Tuesday I spent most of the day passing out sample ballots at my local poll. Yes, I was one of those annoying people who tackle you as you try to get in to vote, stuffing literature in your hand. It was painful.

I would strongly favor a law prohibiting campaigning within 200 feet of the polling place, or on the grounds, parking lots and walkways of the polling place, whichever is greater. If you haven’t decided for whom you are voting before then, you probably shouldn’t be voting. Unfortunately, until such a law is passed, candidates and both parties will feel it necessary to be annoying, as long as their opponents are.

On the upside, for the first time in my memory two democrats were elected as Warrington Supervisors. In a district with a 2-1 Republican registration advantage, this is amazing. Local politics often don’t follow party lines, though. In this case reform-minded Republicans held two of five seats on the board. When the reform candidates lost in the primary they then chose to support the democratic candidates. It was somewhat surreal to see a Republican supervisor greeting people at the poll, and asking them to vote for the democrats.

At any rate, we do now have two democrats on the board. In contrast to recent supervisors, they aren’t employed by the people who have been getting township construction contracts. Amazing.

At one point during the day a black lincoln pulled up in front of the poll and two people wearing black suits and sunglasses got out and went to the trunk. I noticed two Bush stickers on the rear bumper, and since Bush supporters obviously have no qualms about murder, I was beginning to suspect the shotguns were about to come out to deal with the upstart dems outside the poll.

Fortunately, all that came out were the wrapped hoagies for the republican poll workers. (The democrats got homemade sandwiches and cookies, but we don’t have all that money from the construction)

From the Washington Post:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

My god, what have we become? We are using the Soviet era gulags, condemned worldwide, as our own gulags to hold prisoners indefinately, and torture them?

It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas, according to several former and current intelligence officials and other U.S. government officials. Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA’s internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.

Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA’s approved “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law. They include tactics such as “waterboarding,” in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.

Read the full article, it’s terrifying. At what point have we completely abandoned our moral highground? When do we become just a latter day Soviet Empire, bent on world domination, regardless of what is right or wrong?

I believe in moral absolutes. Some things are just wrong, and good people don’t do them. Our country was founded on such beliefs:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We are, more and more, ceasing as a nation to be “good people.”

I am ashamed.

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!

humans and subhumans, I guess.

Trent Lott, regarding the search for a new Supreme Court Judge:

I want the President to look across the country and find the best man, woman, or minority that he can find.

A choice of one out of three? An interesting, and perhaps psychologically revealing, way to subdivide the options.

A distinction to be proud of.

From Democracy Now:

According to the New York Times, Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss met with Senator John McCain last week to urge him to exempt CIA officers from a proposed ban on torture. Three weeks ago the Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of any detainee held by the government.Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly said the CIA needed to be exempt because the president needs maximum flexibility in fighting the so-called war on terrorism. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch declared that the U.S. has now become “the only government in the world to claim a legal justification for mistreating prisoners during interrogations.”

Remember a time, not too many years ago, when it was easy to take pride in the U.S? Back during a period where we were seen as the fountain of democracy, setting a standard of justice for the world?

If America is the greatest country in the world, it is because of our system of justice, our protection of individual freedoms, our tolerance of those withwhom we disagree, our protection of minorities. It is not the colors of the flag, but the ideals for which the flag stand. So many people have the flag on their car antenna, or as a bumpersticker. I hope they give occasional thought to what is behind it.

If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention!


2000 God Bless Our Troops God Forgive George Bush