Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Obama Health Plan

By Atul Gawande
New York Times Guest Columnist
As a surgeon, I’ve worked with the veterans’ health system, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies. I’ve seen health care in Canada, Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. And I was in the Clinton administration when our plan for universal coverage failed. So, with a new health reform debate under way, what I want to tell you in my last guest column is this:

First, there is not a place in this world that is not struggling to control health costs while providing high-quality, easily accessible care. No one — no one — has a great solution.

But second, whether as a doctor or as a citizen, I would take almost any system — from Medicare-for-all to a private insurance voucher system — over the one we now have. Job-based insurance is bleeding away the viability of American businesses — even doctors complain about the cost of insuring employees. And it has left large numbers of patients without adequate coverage when they need it. In the last two years, for example, 51 percent of Americans surveyed did not fill a prescription or visit a doctor for a known medical issue because of cost.

My worry is less about what happens if we change than what happens if we don’t.

This week, Barack Obama released his health reform plan. It’s a puzzle how you are supposed to regard presidential candidates’ proposals. They are treated, by campaigns and media alike, as some kind of political G.P.S. device — gadgets primarily for political positioning. So this was how Mr. Obama’s plan was reported: it is a lot like John Edwards’s plan and the Massachusetts plan signed into law by Mitt Romney last year; and it has elements of John Kerry’s proposal from four years ago. In other words — ho hum — another centrist plan. No one except policy wonks will tell the proposals apart from one another.

Well, all this may be true. And if what you care about is which candidate can one-up the others, it is rather disappointing. But if what you care about is whether, after the 2008 election, we’ll be in a position to finally stop the health systems’ downward spiral, the similarity of the emerging proposals is exactly what’s interesting. I don’t think you can call it a consensus, but there is nonetheless a road forward being paved and a growing number of people from across the political spectrum are on it — not just presidential candidates, but governors from California to Pennsylvania, unions and businesses like Safeway, ATT and Pepsi.

This is what that road looks like. It is not single-payer. It instead follows the lead of European countries ranging from the Netherlands to Switzerland to Germany that provide universal coverage (and more doctors, hospitals and access to primary care) through multiple private insurers while spending less money than we do. The proposals all define basic benefits that insurers must offer without penalty for pre-existing conditions. They cover not just expensive sickness care, but also preventive care and cost-saving programs to give patients better control of chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma.

We’d have a choice of competing private plans, and, with Edwards and Obama, a Medicare-like public option, too. An income-related federal subsidy or voucher would help individuals pay for that coverage. And the proposals also embrace what’s been called shared responsibility — requiring that individuals buy health insurance (at minimum for their children) and that employers bigger than 10 or 15 employees either provide health benefits or pay into a subsidy fund.

It is a coherent approach. And it seems to be our one politically viable approach, too. No question, proponents have crucial differences — like what the individual versus employer payments should be. And attacks are certain to label this as tax-and-spend liberalism and government-controlled health care. But these are not what will sabotage success.

Instead, the crucial matter is our reaction as a country when the attacks come. If we as consumers, health professionals and business leaders sit on our hands, unwilling to compromise and defend change, we will be doomed to our sliding global competitiveness and self-defeating system. Avoiding this will take extraordinary political leadership. So we should not even consider a candidate without a plan capable of producing agreement.

The ultimate measure of leadership, however, is not the plan. It is the capacity to take that plan and persuade people to find common ground in it. The politician who can is the one we want.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a New Yorker staff writer, is the author of the new book “Better.” He has been a guest columnist this month.

Injustice 5, Justice 4

A New York Times Editorial states:
"The Supreme Court struck a blow for discrimination this week by stripping a key civil rights law of much of its potency. The majority opinion, by Justice Samuel Alito, forced an unreasonable reading on the law, and tossed aside longstanding precedents to rule in favor of an Alabama employer that had underpaid a female employee for years. The ruling is the latest indication that a court that once proudly stood up for the disadvantaged is increasingly protective of the powerful...."

Also See:

China Through Kristof's Looking Glass

According to Nicholas Kristof in today's Times op ed, "If the Chinese government continues to nurture the rule of law, China could increasingly move toward greater democracy."

Maybe. But they have a long way to go.

And let's hope they don't model their "rule of law" after ours .... where the heads of government need not obey the laws they are sworn to uphold or answer to the people.

From Torture to Plaintiff: a Pilgrim's Progress in China
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times

Every evening in a little village near this coastal city, peasants gather in a private home and do something that used to be dangerous. They pray.

They are Christians gathering in a little “house church,” reflecting a religious boom across China. But their story also underscores another trend: the way the legal system here offers hope of chipping away at the Communist Party dictatorship.

The tale begins a year ago when the authorities here in Shandong Province raided this house church and carted 31 Christians off to the police station. Such crackdowns are the traditional way the Communist Party has dealt with house churches in rural areas, and some Christians have even been tortured to death.

But this incident ended differently.

Tian Yinghua, a 55-year-old evangelical Protestant who runs the church in her living room, was outraged after she was ordered jailed for 10 days.

“We had done nothing wrong at all,” explained Ms. Tian. “We weren’t criminals.”

So Ms. Tian contacted a prominent Christian and legal scholar in Beijing, Li Baiguang, who traveled to Shandong Province to do something that once would have been unthinkable: Sue the police.

Even more unthinkable, Ms. Tian won. The police settled the case by withdrawing the charges. The police also formally apologized, paid symbolic damages of 1 yuan (a bit more than a dime) and promised not to bother the church again.

It was a historic victory for freedom of religion in China — and, even more important, for the rule of law.

“The police don’t bother us at all,” said another church leader, Wang Qiu. “They just stay away.”

That seems to be a growing pattern. The central government’s policy toward religion is much more relaxed than a few years ago, and in coastal areas the government usually lets people worship freely.

“In most places, it’s no problem today,” said Mr. Li, who himself was imprisoned for more than a month two years ago for his legal activism. “It’s just a problem in backward areas, or if you directly attack the Communist Party.”

Mr. Li, who enjoys a bit of protection because President Bush invited him to the White House last year, says that last year he filed suits like this one in eight provinces. The other he lost, but even in those cases the authorities were shaken enough that they have stopped harassing Christians, he says.

“On the surface we lost,” he said. “But in reality, we won in every case.”

Han Dongfang, a Chinese labor activist now exiled to Hong Kong, says that he has also found that suing the authorities is often an effective way to increase labor protections. Mr. Han was a leader in the Tiananmen protests of 1989, but now he is trying to bring about change from within. “I believe this is the way to develop a civil society, not through a revolution,” he said.

Of course, the legal system is still routinely used to oppress people, rather than to protect them. China imprisons more journalists than any country in the world, and one of them is my Times colleague Zhao Yan. Judges never go against the Communist Party; what they can do is rectify local injustices where the higher party officials are indifferent.

Moreover, even when lawsuits are allowed to go forward, many Chinese police and judges are so corrupt that they sell themselves to the highest bidder.

A common saying, which I even saw in an illegal poster pasted on a government building in Beijing, goes: “The bandits used to hide in the hills. Now the bandits are in the courthouses.”

Still, the rule of law has gained immensely since the 1980’s, when a defense attorney was imprisoned for having the temerity to claim that the police had arrested the wrong man and that his client was innocent. If the Chinese government continues to nurture the rule of law, China could increasingly follow the path of South Korea and Taiwan away from autocracy toward greater democracy.

Easing the repression could also change the religious complexion of China. Estimates of the number of Chinese Christians vary widely, but the number may be approaching 100 million, many of them evangelical Protestants who aggressively recruit new believers. And with the more relaxed policy, the numbers are soaring.

“In 20 to 30 years China will have several hundred million believers,” said Mr. Li, the lawyer who helped the Shandong church. “That will make China the biggest Christian nation in the world, with more Christians than the entire U.S. population.”

Photo Credit: Nicholas Kristof. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

They've Earned It

Taming the Giant Corporation

By Ralph Nader
This column heralds a pioneering conference next month in Washington, D.C. But first a little background.

Back in the nineteen thirties, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went on the national radio and declared what the basic necessities were for the American people - a wage that can support a family, decent housing, the right to health care, a good education and future economic security.

Sound familiar today? It certainly would sound familiar to a majority of the American people. The struggle for livelihood, the struggles to escape poverty, calamitous health care bills, mounting debt, gouging rents and failing, crumbling schools continues year after year.

What’s that French saying - “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Things have changed for the rich and corporate, though. The rich have gotten richer. The talk now is about the super-rich and the hyper-rich. The richest 1 percent of people in this country has financial wealth equal to the combined financial wealth of the bottom 95 percent.

The big corporations are more avaricious than ever. The past decade’s corporate crime wave, dutifully reported in the major business media-newspapers and magazines-demonstrates how trillions of dollars were looted, or drained away, from tens of millions of small investors, pensioners and workers.

In FDR’s time, the CEOs of the top 300 corporations paid themselves about 12 times the average wage in their company. Now the “top greed” registers 400 to 500 times what the average workers eke out in a full year. WalMart is an example of that sheer self-serving power at the top.

All this is occurring while the big companies deliver comparatively far less to the economic well-being of the American worker. The CEOs are otherwise preoccupied with figuring out how they can outsource more American jobs to China and India, how they can hollow out more communities and ship whole industries to those and other countries, many under authoritarian rule, that promise to keep the CEOs’ operations at costs close to serfdom.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the CEOs say it is necessary to flee our country-where they were nurtured to their size and profits-in order to keep up with global competition. But they never urge outsourcing their own CEO jobs to hardworking, bilingual executives in the Third World willing to work for less than one-tenth of the U.S. CEOs’ pay package.

Besides, who wrote the rules (NAFTA, WTO) that define the global competition? Big Business and its lawyer-lobbyists.

Uncle Sam has bent over to give Big Business what it has demanded in the past 25 years. Huge tax reductions, compared to the prosperous nineteen sixties. Massive deregulation, or the abandonment of law and order against criminal, negligent or defrauding corporations. Your tax dollars were transferred in the form of subsidies, handouts, giveaways and bailouts to demanding, mismanaged or corrupt large businesses.

Still, it was not enough coddling to keep these giant companies from casting aside what allegiance they had to our country, its communities and people. The companies’ standard is to control them or quit them as these CEOs see fit.

When BusinessWeek Magazine answered a resounding YES to its cover story in 2000 “Too Much Corporate Power?” the editors were not kidding. They even wrote an editorial saying that “corporations should get out of politics.” I guess they meant that since corporations do not vote, and are not human beings, that they should not be honing in on what should be the exclusive domain of real people.

More and more conservatives believe that Big Business (Wall Street vs. Main Street) is out of control and stomping on conservative values. They don’t like corporate welfare, corporate eminent domain against the little guys, commercial invasion of privacies, WTO and NAFTA shredding our sovereignty, corporate crimes (Enron, Worldcom, etc.) or Big Government on behalf of Big Business Empires around the world.

They are appalled by corporations directly selling bad things and violent programming to their children, whom these companies teach to nag parents.

It is time for the American people to get off the defense and take the offense against corporate power, the way it was done in the consumer, environmental and worker areas from 1965 to 1975 and beyond to new frontiers of subordinating the big corporations to the rights and necessities of real people.

Toward those objectives, hundreds of leading advocates, scholars and activists will convene on June 8-10 in Washington, D.C. to address how to subordinate raw corporate power to the will of the people.

The title of the conference tells its content: “Taming the Giant Corporation: A National Conference on Corporate Accountability.”

Conference speakers include: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman; Robert Monks, veteran leader for corporate governance; Mark Green, president, Air America Radio; Robert Greenstein, Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Ron Daniels, President of Institute of the Black World in the 21st Century; Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Lori Wallach of Public Citizen and many more distinguished persons.

If you wish to attend the entire conference, including the Saturday evening dinner, go to for details or call 202-387-8030. Hurry up. Space is available but seating is limited.

© 2007 Ralph Nader
Photo Credit: Ralph Nader. (The Michigan Daily)

End the War: Sign The Iraq Vote Pledge

I pledge to vote against every Senator and Representative who approves funding to continue the disastrous Iraq War.

We have already given far too much of our blood and treasure - and killed far too many Iraqis - for a war based on lies. We are now occupying a hostile nation divided by civil war for the benefit of military contractors and Big Oil.

The only way to support our troops is to bring them home NOW, and no funds should be used for any other purpose. If Congress fails to bring our troops home, I will do everything I can - and urge everyone I know - to defeat pro-war Senators and Representatives, both in my party's primary elections and in the November general election.


Bush's Monica Problem: The Gonzales Mess

Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas report for Newsweek:
Almost 30 DOJ Officials Threatened To Resign Over Gonzales Hospital Visit To Ashcroft....

... and According to Newsweek, President Bush's role "has remained shadowy throughout the controversy over the eavesdropping program. But there are strong suggestions that he was an active presence. On the night after [former AG John] Ashcroft's operation, as Ashcroft lay groggy in his bed, his wife, Janet, took a phone call. It was Andy Card, asking if he could come over with [Alberto] Gonzales [now attorney general] to speak to Ashcroft. Mrs. Ashcroft said no, her husband was too sick for visitors. The phone rang again, and this time Mrs. Ashcroft acquiesced to a visit from the White House officials. Who was the second caller - one with enough power to persuade Mrs. Ashcroft to relent? The former Ashcroft aide who described this scene would not say, but senior DOJ officials had little doubt who it was - the president." ...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iran Arrests Grandma

Iran Arrests Grandma
By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
Man, was I wrong about Iran.

I thought this regime was powerful and self-confident, and actually felt strengthened since we destroyed its two main enemies — the Taliban and Saddam. That could not be further from the truth. This Iranian regime is afraid of its shadow. How do I know? It recently arrested a 67-year-old grandmother, whom it accused of trying to bring down the regime by organizing academic conferences!

Yes, big, tough President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the man who shows us how tough he is by declaring the Holocaust a myth — had his goons arrest Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year-old scholar, grandmother and dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, while she was visiting her 93-year-old mother in Tehran. Do you know how paranoid you have to be to think that a 67-year-old grandmother visiting her 93-year-old mother can bring down your regime? Now that is insecure.

It’s also shameful. Haleh directs the Middle East program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. She went to Iran in December to visit her aging mother — a trip she’s made regularly for the past decade. According to her husband, Shaul Bakhash, himself a renown Iran expert in the U.S., while Haleh was traveling to the Tehran airport on Dec. 30, to return home, she was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men — Iran’s Intelligence Ministry always needs three men and three knives when confronting a grandmother — and they stole her belongings and her U.S. and Iranian passports.

This was followed by six weeks of intermittent questioning by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Then, on May 7, Haleh was arrested. Yesterday, she was formally charged with “endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners,” an Iranian spokesman said — apparently because of her work organizing academic conferences of Iranian and U.S. experts.

Why does Iran’s leadership do such a thing? Because its hard-liners fear relations with the U.S. and want to scuttle the Iran-U.S. dialogue that began this week in Baghdad. Just like Castro’s Cuba, Iran’s mullah dictators thrive on their clash with America. The conflict gives them status among anti-American countries, our sanctions allow them to explain away their poor economic performance, and U.S. “threats,” both real and imagined, allow them to crush all legitimate dissent by labeling it part of a U.S. conspiracy.

What to do? Obviously, one option is a military strike combined with fomenting revolution. But that could easily leave us with another unstable, failing state in the Middle East. I don’t want to create another boiling Iraq. A second option would be more economic sanctions to change the regime’s behavior. The third option is engagement aimed at restoring relations.

Alas, the Bush Iran policy has dabbled in all three, but never committed itself to one, and, as a result, Iran’s hard-liners have been strengthened. The only way out of our corner now is to get some leverage. And leverage can come only from stepped-up economic sanctions — particularly doing something to bring down the price of oil, Iran’s lifeblood — combined with aggressive engagement, like declaring that we don’t seek the toppling of the regime and that we are ready, if Iran curbs its nuclear program, to restore full diplomatic and economic ties the next day.

In other words, our only hope of either changing this Iranian regime or its behavior, without fracturing the country, is through a stronger Iranian middle class that demands a freer press, consensual politics and rule of law. That is our China strategy — and it could work even faster with Iran. The greatest periods of political change in modern Iran happened when the country was most intensely engaged with the West, beginning with the constitutional revolution in 1906.

Unfortunately, the Bush strategy — diplomatic/economic isolation plus high oil prices — has only frozen the regime in power and transformed it from mildly repressive to a K.G.B. state with a nuclear program. So now we face an Iranian regime that is both powerful and paranoid.

It has the resources to snub the world and its own people’s aspirations. Yet, no matter how much this regime tries to buy off its people with oil money, it knows that many despise it. It’s actually afraid of its own people more than anyone — so afraid it even criminalizes scholarly exchanges between Iranians and Americans that the regime can’t control.

That’s why a 67-year-old grandmother — whose only crime is getting people together in public to talk about building a better Iran — is such a threat.

Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

How We're Animalistic -- in Good Ways and Bad

By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
The odd thing is that conservatives wear pinstriped suits. They love the ancients so much that they really should be walking around in togas. The main contribution of the Greeks to modern American politics may have been Michael Dukakis, who once climbed the Acropolis in wingtips.

But that doesn’t stop conservatives — especially the Straussians who pushed for going into Iraq — from being obsessed with ancient Greece, and from believing that they are the successors to Plato and Homer in terms of the lofty ideals and nobility and character in American politics — while Democrats merely muck about with policies for the needy.

Harvey Mansfield, a leading Straussian who taught political science at Harvard and who wrote a book called “Manliness” (he’s for it), gave the Jefferson lecture recently at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington.

It was an ode, as his book is, to “thumos,” the Greek word that means spiritedness, with flavors of ambition, pride and brute willfulness. Thumos, as Philip Kennicott wrote in The Washington Post, “is a word reinvented by conservative academics who need to put a fancy name on a political philosophy that boils down to ‘boys will be boys.’ ”

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Mansfield did not mention the war, which is a downer at conclaves of neocons and thumos worshippers. But he explained that thumos is “the bristling reaction of an animal in face of a threat or a possible threat.” In thumos, he added, “we see the animality of man, for men (and especially males) often behave like dogs barking, snakes hissing, birds flapping. But precisely here we also see the humanity of the human animal” because it is reacting for “a reason, even for a principle, a cause. Only human beings get angry.”

The professor used an example, naturally, from ancient Greece to explain why politics should be about revolution rather than equilibrium: “What did Achilles do when his ruler Agamemnon stole his slave girl? He raised the stakes. He asserted that the trouble was not in this loss alone but in the fact that the wrong sort of man was ruling the Greeks. Heroes, or at least he-men like Achilles, should be in charge rather than lesser beings like Agamemnon who have mainly their lineage to recommend them and who therefore do not give he-men the honors they deserve. Achilles elevated a civil complaint concerning a private wrong to a demand for a change of regime, a revolution in politics.” Mr. Mansfield concluded: “To complain of an injustice is an implicit claim to rule.”

The most recent example of the Hellenization of the Bush administration is the president’s choice for war czar, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, who says he loves the Greek military historian Thucydides.

Other Thucydides aficionados include Victor Davis Hanson, who was a war-guru to Dick Cheney when the vice president went into the bunker after 9/11 and got into his gloomy Hobbesian phase. (Hobbes’s biggest influence was also Thucydides.)

Donald Kagan, a respected Yale historian who has written authoritatively on the Peloponnesian War, is the father of Robert Kagan, a neocon who pushed for the Iraq invasion, and Frederick Kagan, a military historian who urged the surge.

I called Professor Kagan to ask him if Thucydides, the master at chronicling hubris and imperial overreaching, might provide the new war czar with any wisdom that can help America sort through the morass of Iraq.

Very much his sons’ father, the classicist said he was disgusted that the White House, after a fiasco of an occupation designed by Rummy, “is still doing one dumb thing after another” by appointing General Lute, a chief skeptic of the surge.

Professor Kagan said that one reason the Athenians ended up losing the war was because in the Battle of Mantinea in 418 B.C. against the Spartans, they sent “a very inferior force” and had a general in command who was associated with the faction that was against the aggressive policy against the Spartans.

“Kind of like President Bush appointing this guy to run the war whose strategy is opposed to the surge,” he said dryly.

With cold realism, Thucydides captured the Athenian philosophy in the 27-year war that led to its downfall as a golden democracy: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

What message can we take away from Thucydides for modern times?

“To me,” Professor Kagan said, “the deepest message, the most tragic, is his picture of civilization as a very thin veneer. When you punch a hole in it, what you find underneath is hollow, the precivilized characteristics of the human race — animalistic in the worst possible way.”

Compared to Iraq, the Peloponnesian War was a cakewalk.

Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Part II: Sheehan Quits Peace Movement

Good Riddance Attention Whore
By Cindy Sheehan
I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called “Face” of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such “liberal blogs” as the Democratic Underground. Being called an “attention whore” and being told “good riddance” are some of the more milder rebukes.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a “tool” of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our “two-party” system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the “left” started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of “right or left”, but “right and wrong.”

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt “two” party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an “attention whore” then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a “grateful” country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford, Texas? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too…which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the “face” of the American anti-war movement. This is not my “Checkers” moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America…you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It’s up to you now.
Photo Credit: Cindy Sheehan. (

Part I: Sheehan Quits Democratic Party

An Open Letter to the Democratic Congress
Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party

By Cindy Sheehan:
Dublin, Ireland

Dear Democratic Congress,

Hello, my name is Cindy Sheehan and my son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 04, 2004 in Sadr City , Baghdad , Iraq . He was killed when the Republicans still were in control of Congress. Naively, I set off on my tireless campaign calling on Congress to rescind George's authority to wage his war of terror while asking him "for what noble cause" did Casey and thousands of other have to die. Now, with Democrats in control of Congress, I have lost my optimistic naiveté and have become cynically pessimistic as I see you all caving into "Mr. 28%"

There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands.

Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: "Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel." Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will BushCo be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political "courage" to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.

Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how "well" that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering? The American electorate are getting disgusted with weaklings who blow where the wind takes them while frittering away our precious lifeblood and borrowing money from our new owners, the Chinese.

I knew having a Democratic Congress would make no difference in grassroots action. That's why we went to DC when you all were sworn in to tell you that we wanted the troops back from Iraq and BushCo held accountable while you pushed for ethics reform which is quite a hoot...don't' you think? We all know that it is affordable for you all to play this game of political mayhem because you have no children in harm's way...let me tell you what it is like:

You watch your reluctant soldier march off to a war that neither you nor he agrees with. Once your soldier leaves the country all you can do is worry. You lie awake at night staring at the moon wondering if today will be the day that you get that dreaded knock on your door. You can't concentrate, you can't eat, and your entire life becomes consumed with apprehension while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then, when your worst fears are realized, you begin a life of constant pain, regret, and longing. Everyday is hard, but then you come up on "special" upcoming Memorial Day. Memorial Day holds double pain for me because, not only are we supposed to honor our fallen troops, but Casey was born on Memorial Day in 1979. It used to be a day of celebration for us and now it is a day of despair. Our needlessly killed soldiers of this war and the past conflict in Vietnam have all left an unnecessary trail of sorrow and deep holes of absence that will never be filled.

So, Democratic Congress, with the current daily death toll of 3.72 troops per day, you have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473 more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts because of your cowardice and avarice. How can you even go to sleep at night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you have created escape you? It will never escape me...I can't run far enough or hide well enough to get away from it.

By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings.

Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of an illegal and immoral bloodbath. And you know you mean to continue it indefinitely so "other presidents" can solve the horrid problem BushCo forced our world into.

It used to be George Bush's war. You could have ended it honorably. Now it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo.

The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.

We do not condone our government's violent meddling in sovereign countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq .

We gave you a chance, you betrayed us.

Cindy Sheehan
Founder and President of
Gold Star Families for Peace.

Founder and Director of
The Camp Casey Peace Institute

Eternally grieving mother of Casey Sheehan

A Grim Memorial Day

My Way News reports:
"Americans have opened nearly 1,000 new graves to bury US troops killed in Iraq since Memorial Day a year ago. On Saturday, the military reported that eight US soldiers were killed in separate attacks. At least 3,451 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003...."
I don't even want to imagine how many more will die between now and whenever Congress decides to exercise its Constitutional authority and end this horrific occupation ....

Technorati tags: , , ,

Sunday, May 27, 2007

When Lunatics No Longer Hold Sway

Trust and Betrayal
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
“In this place where valor sleeps, we are reminded why America has always gone to war reluctantly, because we know the costs of war.” That’s what President Bush said last year, in a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Those were fine words, spoken by a man with less right to say them than any president in our nation’s history. For Mr. Bush took us to war not with reluctance, but with unseemly eagerness.

Now that war has turned into an epic disaster, in part because the war’s architects, whom we now know were warned about the risks, didn’t want to hear about them. Yet Congress seems powerless to stop it. How did it all go so wrong?

Future historians will shake their heads over how easily America was misled into war. The warning signs, the indications that we had a rogue administration determined to use 9/11 as an excuse for war, were there, for those willing to see them, right from the beginning — even before Mr. Bush began explicitly pushing for war with Iraq.

In fact, the very first time Mr. Bush declared a war on terror that “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated,” people should have realized that he was going to use the terrorist attack to justify anything and everything.

When he used his first post-attack State of the Union to denounce an “axis of evil” consisting of three countries that had nothing to do either with 9/11 or with each other, alarm bells should have gone off.

But the nation, brought together in grief and anger over the attack, wanted to trust the man occupying the White House. And so it took a long time before Americans were willing to admit to themselves just how thoroughly their trust had been betrayed.

It’s a terrible story, yet it’s also understandable. I wasn’t really surprised by Republican election victories in 2002 and 2004: nations almost always rally around their leaders in times of war, no matter how bad the leaders and no matter how poorly conceived the war.

The question was whether the public would ever catch on. Well, to the immense relief of those who spent years trying to get the truth out, they did. Last November Americans voted overwhelmingly to bring an end to Mr. Bush’s war.

Yet the war goes on.

To keep the war going, the administration has brought the original bogyman back out of the closet. At first, Mr. Bush said he would bring Osama bin Laden in, dead or alive. Within seven months after 9/11, however, he had lost interest: “I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure,” he said in March 2002. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

In all of 2003, Mr. Bush, who had an unrelated war to sell, made public mention of the man behind 9/11 only seven times.

But Osama is back: last week Mr. Bush invoked his name 11 times in a single speech, warning that if we leave Iraq, Al Qaeda — which wasn’t there when we went in — will be the winner. And Democrats, still fearing that they will end up accused of being weak on terror and not supporting the troops, gave Mr. Bush another year’s war funding.

Democratic Party activists were furious, because polls show a public utterly disillusioned with Mr. Bush and anxious to see the war ended. But it’s not clear that the leadership was wrong to be cautious. The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet.

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.

Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

The Educated Giant

By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
Taishan, China

With China’s trade surplus with the United States soaring, the tendency in the U.S. will be to react with tariffs and other barriers. But instead we should take a page from the Chinese book and respond by boosting education.

One reason China is likely to overtake the U.S. as the world’s most important country in this century is that China puts more effort into building human capital than we do.

This area in southern Guangdong Province is my wife’s ancestral hometown. Sheryl’s grandparents left villages here because they thought they could find better opportunities for their children in “Meiguo” — “Beautiful Country,” as the U.S. is called in Chinese. And they did. At Sheryl’s family reunions, you feel inadequate without a doctorate.

But that educational gap between China and America is shrinking rapidly. I visited several elementary and middle schools accompanied by two of my children. And in general, the level of math taught even in peasant schools is similar to that in my kids’ own excellent schools in the New York area.

My kids’ school system doesn’t offer foreign languages until the seventh grade. These Chinese peasants begin English studies in either first grade or third grade, depending on the school.

Frankly, my daughter got tired of being dragged around schools and having teachers look patronizingly at her schoolbooks and say, “Oh, we do that two grades younger.”

There are, I think, four reasons why Chinese students do so well.

First, Chinese students are hungry for education and advancement and work harder. In contrast, U.S. children average 900 hours a year in class and 1,023 hours in front of a television.

Here in Sheryl’s ancestral village, the students show up at school at about 6:30 a.m. to get extra tutoring before classes start at 7:30. They go home for a lunch break at 11:20 and then are back at school from 2 p.m. until 5. They do homework every night and weekend, and an hour or two of homework each day during their eight-week summer vacation.

The second reason is that China has an enormous cultural respect for education, part of its Confucian legacy, so governments and families alike pour resources into education. Teachers are respected and compensated far better, financially and emotionally, in China than in America.

In my last column, I wrote about the boomtown of Dongguan, which had no colleges when I first visited it 20 years ago. The town devotes 21 percent of its budget to education, and it now has four universities. An astonishing 58 percent of the residents age 18 to 22 are enrolled in a university.

A third reason is that Chinese believe that those who get the best grades are the hardest workers. In contrast, Americans say in polls that the best students are the ones who are innately the smartest. The upshot is that Chinese kids never have an excuse for mediocrity.

Chinese education has its own problems, including bribes and fees to get into good schools, huge classes of 50 or 60 students, second-rate equipment and lousy universities. But the progress in the last quarter-century is breathtaking.

It’s also encouraging that so many Chinese will shake their heads over this column and say it really isn’t so. They will complain that Chinese schools teach rote memorization but not creativity or love of learning. That kind of debate is good for the schools and has already led to improvements in English instruction, so that urban Chinese students can communicate better in English than Japanese or South Koreans.

After I visited Sheryl’s ancestral village, I posted a video of it on the Times Web site. Soon I was astonished to see an excited posting on my blog from a woman who used to live in that village.

Litao Mai, probably one of my distant in-laws, grew up in a house she could see on my video. Her parents had only a third grade education, but she became the first person in the village to go to college. She now works for Merrill Lynch in New York and describes herself as “a little peasant girl” transformed into “a capitalist on Wall Street.”

That is the magic of education, and there are 1.3 billion more behind Ms. Mai.

So let’s not respond to China’s surpluses by putting up trade barriers. Rather, let’s do as we did after the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957: raise our own education standards to meet the competition.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Kristof. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

The Framers Got It Right: Congress is the Decider

George Lakoff and Glenn Smith write:
The Rockridge Institute issues a call to action in response to Congress's passage of the Iraq supplemental spending bill.

Critics of Congress's passage this week of the Iraq supplemental spending bill lament a lack of political courage. But Congress would find it easier to act courageously if the public understood the constitutional stakes. And that public understanding requires correct and persistent framing by Congress itself. What needs to have been framed - indeed what still needs to be framed - is Congress's constitutional responsibility and power to set the course on military missions like Iraq....

Bill Moyers Interviews Maxine Hong Kingston

(Click Photo for Video)
Bill Moyers writes:
"For all the words Maxine Hong Kingston has poured onto the page from her own life and mind, for the many years Maxine Hong Kingston has been coaxing words from others. In 1993 she put out a call to veterans to join her in workshops devoted to turning their experiences into poems, novels, and essays. Here in the hills of Northern California, over 500 veterans...from every war since World War II have taken part, and some of their finest work has now been published in this book, 'Veterans of War; Veterans of Peace.' For many of them it has been a life-changing, even life-saving, experience."

Photo Credit: (

Sunday Reader

Time to brush up on your facts, folks. The following are MUST READ'S for all who are searching for Truth in the Land of Doublespeak:

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bush's Fleurs du Mal

By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
For me, the saddest spot in Washington is the inverted V of the black granite Vietnam wall, jutting up with the names of young men dying in a war that their leaders already knew could not be won.

So many died because of ego and deceit — because L.B.J. and Robert McNamara wanted to save face or because Henry Kissinger wanted to protect Nixon’s re-election chances.

Now the Bush administration finds itself at that same hour of shame. It knows the surge is not working. Iraq is in a civil war, with a gruesome bonus of terrorists mixed in. April was the worst month this year for the American military, with 104 soldiers killed, and there have been about 90 killed thus far in May. The democracy’s not jelling, as Iraqi lawmakers get ready to slouch off for a two-month vacation, leaving our kids to be blown up.

The top-flight counterinsurgency team that President Bush sent in after long years of pretending that we’d “turned the corner” doesn’t believe there’s a military solution. General Petraeus is reduced to writing an open letter to the Iraqi public, pleading with them to reject sectarianism and violence, even as the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr slinks back from four months in Iran, rallying his fans by crying: “No, no, no to Satan! No, no, no to America! No, no, no to occupation! No, no, no to Israel!”

W. thinks he can save face if he keeps taunting Democrats as the party of surrender — just as Nixon did — and dumps the Frankenstate he’s created on his successor.

“The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland,” he told Coast Guard Academy graduates. “The enemy in Iraq does. Nine-eleven taught us that to protect the American people we must fight the terrorists where they live so that we don’t have to fight them where we live.”

The president said an intelligence report (which turned out to be two years old) showed that Osama had been trying to send Qaeda terrorists in Iraq to attack America. So clearly, Osama is capable of multitasking: Order the killers in Iraq to go after American soldiers there and American civilians here. There AND here. Get it, W.?

The president is on a continuous loop of sophistry: We have to push on in Iraq because Al Qaeda is there, even though Al Qaeda is there because we pushed into Iraq. Our troops have to keep dying there because our troops have been dying there. We have to stay so the enemy doesn’t know we’re leaving. Osama hasn’t been found because he’s hiding.

The terrorists moved into George Bush’s Iraq, not Saddam Hussein’s. W.’s ranting about Al Qaeda there is like planting fleurs du mal and then complaining your garden is toxic.

The president looked as if he wanted to smack David Gregory when the NBC reporter asked him at the news conference Thursday if he could still be “a credible messenger on the war” given all the mistakes and all the disillusioned Republicans.

“I’m credible because I read the intelligence, David,” he replied sharply.

But he isn’t and he doesn’t. Otherwise he might have read “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” in August 2001, and might have read the prewar intelligence reports the Senate just released that presciently forecast the horrors in store for naïve presidents who race to war because they want to be seen as hard, not soft.

Intelligence analysts may have muffed the W.M.D. issue, but they accurately predicted that implanting democracy in Iraq would be an “alien” idea that could lead to turbulence and violence; that Al Qaeda would hook up with Saddam loyalists and “angry young recruits” to militant Islam to “wage guerrilla warfare” on American forces, and that Iran and Al Qaeda would be the winners if the Bushies botched the occupation.

W. repeated last week that he would never retreat, but his advisers are working on ways to retreat. After the surge, in lieu of strategy, come the “concepts.”

Condi Rice, Bob Gates and generals at the Pentagon are talking about long-range “concepts” for reducing forces in Iraq, The Times reported yesterday, as a way to tamp down criticism, including from Republicans; it is also an acknowledgment that they can’t sustain the current force level there much longer. The article said that officials were starting to think about how to halve the 20 American combat brigades in Iraq, sometime in the second half of 2008.

As the Hollywood screenwriter said in “Annie Hall”: “Right now it’s only a notion, but I think I can get money to make it into a concept and later turn it into an idea.”

Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

A Convenient Scapegoat

Operation Freedom From Iraqis
By Frank Rich
The New York Times
WHEN all else fails, those pious Americans who conceived and directed the Iraq war fall back on moral self-congratulation: at least we brought liberty and democracy to an oppressed people. But that last-ditch rationalization has now become America’s sorriest self-delusion in this tragedy.

However wholeheartedly we disposed of their horrific dictator, the Iraqis were always pawns on the geopolitical chessboard rather than actual people in the administration’s reckless bet to “transform” the Middle East. From “Stuff happens!” on, nearly every aspect of Washington policy in Iraq exuded contempt for the beneficiaries of our supposed munificence. Now this animus is completely out of the closet. Without Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to kick around anymore, the war’s dead-enders are pinning the fiasco on the Iraqis themselves. Our government abhors them almost as much as the Lou Dobbs spear carriers loathe those swarming “aliens” from Mexico.

Iraqis are clamoring to get out of Iraq. Two million have fled so far and nearly two million more have been displaced within the country. (That’s a total of some 15 percent of the population.) Save the Children reported this month that Iraq’s child-survival rate is falling faster than any other nation’s. One Iraqi in eight is killed by illness or violence by the age of 5. Yet for all the words President Bush has lavished on Darfur and AIDS in Africa, there has been a deadly silence from him about what’s happening in the country he gave “God’s gift of freedom.”

It’s easy to see why. To admit that Iraqis are voting with their feet is to concede that American policy is in ruins. A “secure” Iraq is a mirage, and, worse, those who can afford to leave are the very professionals who might have helped build one. Thus the president says nothing about Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, the worst in the Middle East since 1948, much as he tried to hide the American death toll in Iraq by keeping the troops’ coffins off-camera and staying away from military funerals.

But his silence about Iraq’s mass exodus is not merely another instance of deceptive White House P.R.; it’s part of a policy with a huge human cost. The easiest way to keep the Iraqi plight out of sight, after all, is to prevent Iraqis from coming to America. And so we do, except for stray Shiites needed to remind us of purple fingers at State of the Union time or to frame the president in Rose Garden photo ops.

Since the 2003 invasion, America has given only 466 Iraqis asylum. Sweden, which was not in the coalition of the willing, plans to admit 25,000 Iraqis this year alone. Our State Department, goaded by January hearings conducted by Ted Kennedy, says it will raise the number for this year to 7,000 (a figure that, small as it is, may be more administration propaganda). A bill passed by Congress this month will add another piddling 500, all interpreters.

In reality, more than 5,000 interpreters worked for the Americans. So did tens of thousands of drivers and security guards who also, in Senator Kennedy’s phrase, have “an assassin’s bull’s-eye on their backs” because they served the occupying government and its contractors over the past four-plus years. How we feel about these Iraqis was made naked by one of the administration’s most fervent hawks, the former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, speaking to The Times Magazine this month. He claimed that the Iraqi refugee problem had “absolutely nothing to do” with Saddam’s overthrow: “Our obligation was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.”

Actually, we haven’t fulfilled the obligation of giving them functioning institutions and security. One of the many reasons we didn’t was that L. Paul Bremer’s provisional authority staffed the Green Zone with unqualified but well-connected Republican hacks who, in some cases, were hired after they expressed their opposition to Roe v. Wade. The administration is nothing if not consistent in its employment practices. The assistant secretary in charge of refugees at the State Department now, Ellen Sauerbrey, is a twice-defeated Republican candidate for governor of Maryland with no experience in humanitarian crises but a hefty résumé in anti-abortion politics. She is to Iraqis seeking rescue what Brownie was to Katrina victims stranded in the Superdome.

Ms. Sauerbrey’s official line on Iraqi refugees, delivered to Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” in March, is that most of them “really want to go home.” The administration excuse for keeping Iraqis out of America is national security: we have to vet every prospective immigrant for terrorist ties. But many of those with the most urgent cases for resettlement here were vetted already, when the American government and its various Halliburton subsidiaries asked them to risk their lives by hiring them in the first place. For those whose loyalties can no longer be vouched for, there is the contrasting lesson of Vietnam. Julia Taft, the official in charge of refugees in the Ford administration, reminded Mr. Pelley that 131,000 Vietnamese were resettled in America within eight months of the fall of Saigon, despite loud, Dobbs-like opposition at the time. In the past seven months, the total number of Iraqis admitted to America was 69.

The diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose career began during the Vietnam War, told me that security worries then were addressed by a vetting process carried out in safe, preliminary asylum camps for refugees set up beyond Vietnam’s borders in Asia. But as Mr. Holbrooke also points out in the current Foreign Affairs magazine, the real forerunner to American treatment of Iraqi refugees isn’t that war in any case, but World War II. That’s when an anti-Semitic assistant secretary of state, Breckinridge Long, tirelessly obstructed the visa process to prevent Jews from obtaining sanctuary in America, not even filling the available slots under existing quotas. As many as 75,000 such refugees were turned away before the Germans cut off exit visas to Jews in late 1941, according to Howard Sachar’s “History of the Jews in America.”

Like the Jews, Iraqis are useful scapegoats. This month Mr. Bremer declared that the real culprits for his disastrous 2003 decision to cleanse Iraq of Baathist officials were unnamed Iraqi politicians who “broadened the decree’s impact far beyond our original design.” The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is chastising the Iraqis for being unable “to do anything they promised.”

The new White House policy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has joked, is “blame and run.” It started to take shape just before the midterm elections last fall, when Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memo (propitiously leaked after his defenestration) suggesting that the Iraqis might “have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.” By January, Mr. Bush was saying that “the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude” and wondering aloud “whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.” In February, one of the war’s leading neocon cheerleaders among the Beltway punditocracy lowered the boom. “Iraq is their country,” Charles Krauthammer wrote. “We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.” Bill O’Reilly and others now echo this cry.

The message is clear enough: These ungrateful losers deserve everything that’s coming to them. The Iraqis hear us and are returning the compliment. Whether Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is mocking American demands for timelines and benchmarks, or the Iraqi Parliament is setting its own timeline for American withdrawal even while flaunting its vacation schedule, Iraq’s nominal government is saying it’s fed up. The American-Iraqi shotgun marriage of convenience, midwifed by disastrous Bush foreign policy, has disintegrated into the marriage from hell.

While the world waits for the White House and Congress to negotiate the separation agreement, the damage to the innocent family members caught in the cross-fire is only getting worse. Despite Mr. Bush’s May 10 claim that “the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially” since the surge began, The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the number of such murders is going up. For the Americans, the cost is no less dear. Casualty figures confirm that the past six months have been the deadliest yet for our troops.

While it seems but a dim memory now, once upon a time some Iraqis did greet the Americans as liberators. Today, in fact, it is just such Iraqis — not the local Iraqi insurgents the president conflates with Osama bin Laden’s Qaeda in Pakistan — who do want to follow us home. That we are slamming the door in their faces tells you all you need to know about the real morality beneath all the professed good intentions of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though the war’s godfathers saw themselves as ridding the world of another Hitler, their legacy includes a humanitarian catastrophe that will need its own Raoul Wallenbergs and Oskar Schindlers if lives are to be saved.

Photo Credit: Frank Rich. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Part II: Ron Paul On The Issues


When a Republican seems to be too good to be true, he probably is. Take a look at Paul's voting record on the following issues:
  • Voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research.

  • Voted YES on funding for health providers who don't provide abortion info.

  • Believes in no federal funding of abortion, and is pro-life.

  • Paul is Rated 0% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record.

  • Voted YES on restricting bankruptcy rules.

  • Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC.

  • Voted YES on ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions. (May 1998)

  • Rated 67% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record.

  • Voted YES on replacing illegal export tax breaks with $140B in new breaks. (Jun 2004)
    (Vote to pass a bill that would repeal an export tax break for U.S. manufacturers ruled an illegal trade subsidy by the World Trade Organization, while providing for about $140 billion in new corporate tax cuts. Revenue raising offsets would decrease the cost of the bill to $34.4 billion over 11 years. It would consist of a buyout for tobacco farmers that could not go over $9.6 billion. It also would allow the IRS to hire private collection agencies to get back money from taxpayers, [strange for a guy who says citizens should pay no tax, huh?] and require individuals who claim a tax deduction for a charitable donation of a vehicle to obtain an independent appraisal of the car.)
  • Voted YES on Bankruptcy Overhaul requiring partial debt repayment. (Mar 2001)

  • Rated 46% by the US COC, indicating a mixed business voting record. (Dec 2003)

  • Rated 60% by CURE, indicating mixed votes on rehabilitation.

  • Voted NO on $84 million in grants for Black and Hispanic colleges.

  • Supports a Constitutional Amendment for school prayer.

  • Voted NO on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions. (Feb 2002)

  • Voted NO on banning soft money and issue ads. (Sep 1999)

  • Unlimited campaign contributions; with full disclosure. (Dec 2000)

  • Abolish federal Medicare entitlement; leave it to states. (Dec 2000)

  • Rated 56% by APHA, indicating a mixed record on public health issues. (Dec 2003)

  • Voted YES on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight. (Apr 2006)

  • Voted YES on continuing military recruitment on college campuses. (Feb 2005)

  • Rated 67% by SANE, indicating a mixed record on military issues. (Dec 2003)

  • Rated 100% by FAIR, indicating a voting record restricting immigration. (Dec 2003)

  • Voted YES on zero-funding OSHA's Ergonomics Rules instead of $4.5B. (Mar 2001)

  • Rated 47% by the AFL-CIO, indicating a mixed record on union issues. (Dec 2003)

  • Voted NO on strengthening the Social Security Lockbox. (May 1999)

  • Rated 30% by the ARA, indicating an anti-senior voting record. (Dec 2003)

  • Voted NO on establishing "network neutrality" (non-tiered Internet). (Jun 2006)
This guy is, to put it mildly, schitzophrenic in many of his positions.

He's not all bad, but he's sure no "Dream" either.

Also See:

Stop Dreaming: Ron Paul is Real

If you are a Democrat who has never contemplated voting Republican ... you'll think again after you watch this video.

Trouble viewing this video? CLICK HERE.

Congressman Paul's consistent voting record prompted one of his congressional colleagues to say, "Ron Paul personifies the Founding Fathers' ideal of the citizen-statesman. He makes it clear that his principles will never be compromised, and they never are." Another colleague observed, "There are few people in public life who, through thick and thin, rain or shine, stick to their principles. Ron Paul is one of those few."

You can learn more about Ron Paul and his platform at: Ron Paul 2008

Friday, May 25, 2007

Calling all Horse Lovers

Good News!

On May 24, horse slaughter for human consumption became illegal in Illinois when Governor Rod Blagojevich signed House Bill 1711 into law.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Molaro (D, 21) and Sen. John Cullerton (D, 6), and backed by The HSUS, H.B. 1711 was passed decisively by the Illinois Legislature, with a Senate vote of 39-16 and a House vote of 74-41.

Effective immediately, this legislation also shut down the only horse slaughter facility operating in the United States, the Cavel International slaughterhouse in DeKalb. This is an incredible victory for horses and we are enormously grateful to all of the Illinois animal advocates who helped make it happen!

The HSUS has written to Cavel International officials to urge them to relinquish horses currently in their custody, en route to the facility or on Cavel property to sanctuaries. We have offered to coordinate the rescue and adoption of those animals, as we did with the 30 "Miracle Horses" rescued from Cavel last month.

It's a historic moment that this statewide ban has passed, but our campaign to halt horse slaughter for human consumption at the national level continues. Unless Congress acts to protect horses, thousands of these creatures could face grueling trips to slaughter facilities in Canada and Mexico.

Take action now to help pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and ban horse slaughter for human consumption nationwide. Let us use the momentum from this exciting victory in Illinois to move forward with renewed vigor in our fight on the federal front.

Thank you for all you do for animals.


Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

P.S. In more good news for Illinois, H.B. 201/S.B. 518 to ban Internet hunting and H.B. 9 to allow courts to issue pet protection orders in cases of domestic violence have also passed and are now awaiting the Governor's signature!

Copyright (c) 2007 The Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS). All Rights Reserved.
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 | 202-452-1100 |