Barack Obama is as heterosexist as Bill Clinton.
When Will the International Community Condemn Israel's Campaigns of Ethnic Cleansing Against the Palestinians?
The tremendous bigotry against Arabs and Muslims makes many people shut off their brains when the subject of the Israel/Palestine conflict comes up. Facts become evil, not just irrelevant. One fact that is largely censored is that Israel has been waging campaigns of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians for decades. Here are some examples of what Israel has done.
- Gradually seizing land in Palestine for Jewish only settlements.
- Requiring building permits for construction in Palestine, and routinely denying such permits to Palestinians. The locals who build without the permits by the foreign power, Israel, get their homes demolished.
- Putting Gaza under a long siege in order to try to drive the people out of there.
- Launching far more terrorist attacks against the Palestinians than the Palestinians have launched against Israel.
- Building a "security wall" in the middle of Palestinian territory, cutting off families and communities.
- Requiring that Palestinians go through numerous "security checkpoints" designed to destroy social cohesion and economic viability in Palestine.
- Claiming that Israel has rights to Palestinian territory.
- Dishonestly playing the role of the victim in order to justify what they are doing to the Palestinian people.
I'm not terribly fond of Hamas, but I know why they are so popular among the Palestinians. They are the only organization left that fights back against Isreal's ethnic cleansing campaigns.
These are ugly truths that are largely censored by the corporate media. But, we need to face them. Our country pays a major part of the bill to maintain this ethnic cleansing.
It should be no secret by now that Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church/Box Store represent the most extreme fringe of the Christian Right, despite their efforts to put on a more benign public face on their hateful ministry. Anyone who is familiar with fundamentalist churches in Orange County, CA knows how that game is played.
Barack Obama's decision to invite Warren was just plain horrible. It will give Warren more power and prestige while aiding and abetting his fundraising. Giving such a prominent role to someone who has dedicated a significant part of his life to promoting discrimination and violence against women and queers is irresponsible and dangerous.
Why hasn't Obama taken back the invitation?
For eight years, we have had a Bush regime that has treated the slightest change of policy as weakness. Any admission of a mistake has been taken as a colossal surrender. This old style politics has frozen this administration in the most backward and counterproductive policies.
So far, Obama is following along in the politics of ego over common sense. If Obama can't admit that he was wrong to invite Rick Warren, will he ever be able to admit that he was wrong about anything?
I'm catching up on my end of year giving, and I thought I would share the names some of organizations that I gave to in hopes of helping them out a bit. I know these are difficult times, but those difficulties are affecting non profits too. If you haven't been screwed over yet by the crappy right wing economy, I urge you to support some of these organizations or other groups working to make this world a better and more progressive place.
(American) Foundation for AIDS Research:
I'm not clear if the word "American" is still in the title, but amFAR has been the most activist and research oriented of the big money AIDS organizations. They won't let people forget that the world needs a cure for AIDS. Treatments for AIDS are much better than nothing, but they aren't good enough.
I certainly complain enough about rightist bias in the corporate media. I might as well financially support independent media. Common Dreams is a wonderful progressive news and opinion aggregator. They also have a listing of press releases called Progressive Newswire which is great fodder for blog postings.
This is the best radio/tv news magazine in the country. Amy Goodman and her crew get out more information than corporate media outlets with much larger budgets. Like a lot of liberal and progressive bloggers, I regularly quote Democracy Now stories.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF):
There are lots of organizations that support state/church separation. One thing that sets FFRF apart is that they take state/church separation cases from plaintiffs who are atheists. Many other groups refuse to out of prejudice or because they are afraid that such plaintiffs cannot win. (They can and often do win.) FFRF also does excellent work educating the public about atheists and atheism.
NYC's LGBT Center:
Like a variety of queer community centers in this country, this center in Manhattan provides a central place and meeting spaces for a variety of community groups. If you can, please support your local lgbt center. If you don't have one, try asking around and seeing if there are people working on bringing one to where you live.
they make a huge difference.
Pride @ Work:
This lgbt labor group has worked hard on including gender identity in ENDA, supporting union organizing, and teaching unions how to write lgbt supportive contract. Supporting Pride @ Work is a great way to accomplish a lot of things with a single donation.
This is one of the Pacifica Network stations in NYC. They have an excellent queer radio show, Out-FM. You can listen to WBAI online or at 99.5 FM in the NYC area to gain a variety of perspectives you won't get from corporate media outlets.
Don't give until it hurts, but please find worthwhile organizations to help get through these terrible times.
We keep getting a bunch of bull about "clean coal" from coal companies, pundits, and politicians. There is no such thing as "clean coal." Hat tip to Marc Crispin Miller for pointing to the video of Monday's enormous coal sludge spill in Tennessee.
Here's the description from CNN:
Estimates for the amount of thick sludge that gushed from a Tennessee coal plant this week have tripled to more than a billion gallons, as cleanup crews try to remove the goop from homes and railroads and halt its oozing into an adjacent river.
TVA officials originally said the cleanup would take four to six weeks. Now they say they aren't sure.
TVA officials originally said the cleanup would take four to six weeks. Now they say they aren't sure.
The sludge, a byproduct of the ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville. The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, according to the TVA.
TVA's initial estimate for the spill was 1.8 million cubic yards or more than 360 million gallons of sludge. By Friday, the estimate reached 5.4 million cubic yards or more than 1 billion gallons -- enough to fill 1,660 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Environmental advocates say the ash contains concentrated levels of mercury and arsenic.
The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River. At least 300 acres of land has been coated by the sludge -- a bigger area than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Yeah, coal is really, really clean.
Here's the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's commentary on the disaster (12/26/08 Press Release):
Knoxville, Tenn. (Friday, Dec. 26) – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is calling the recent TVA Kingston Fossil Plant ash spill a historical energy disaster, causing undetermined consequences to water, land, residents and wildlife in Roane County, Tenn.
“We are saddened by the environmental devastation brought on by the coal ash spill at the TVA site in Kingston, Tennessee,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “SACE believes that TVA, TDEC and the EPA should be erring on the side of caution and encouraging residents and others at the site to avoid bodily contact with the ash, which when dried can become airborne. Along with the lead and thallium officially found in the ash, there is a strong probability that levels of arsenic, cadmium and potentially mercury will be found.”
Dr. Smith continued by stressing that safety precautions should be taken by residents in the affected area.
“This is clearly one of the most severe environmental disasters of East Tennessee,” Smith said. “There are multiple pathways in which people can become potentially affected by these heavy metals, including bodily contact, drinking water, air pathways and aquatic wildlife and fish, and we feel that appropriate warnings should be expressed to ensure the safety of Tennessee residents.”
The nonsense about "clean coal" has been refuted by a coalition of environmental groups at ThisIsReality.org. They have a list of facts which focus on coal, global warming, and other air pollution. When you add coal plant waste to the picture, it gets even more disturbing.
Then, there's the practice of cutting off mountaintops to get coal more cheaply, another dirty, yet common, practice. Don't forget that coal mining is terribly dangerous, and that green jobs are much safer.
The more you learn about coal, the more depressing it gets.
Here are last year's top five censored news stories, according to Project Censored. You might also be interested in their Top 25 Censored Archive.
These lists of censored news stories should be cautionary to liberal bloggers. It is far too easy to let the subject matter of political blogs be driven too much by the corporate media, who themselves have a rightist bias.
1: Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century—the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous “Killing Fields” during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
2: Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
Leaders of Canada, the US, and Mexico have been meeting to secretly expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with “deep integration” of a more militarized tri-national Homeland Security force. Taking shape under the radar of the respective governments and without public knowledge or consideration, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP)—headquartered in Washington—aims to integrate the three nations into a single political, economic, and security bloc.
The SPP was launched at a meeting of Presidents George W. Bush and Vicente Fox, and Prime Minister Paul Martin, in Waco, Texas, on March 31, 2005. The official US web page describes the SPP as “. . . a White House-led initiative among the United States and Canada and Mexico to increase security and to enhance prosperity . . .” The SPP is not a law, or a treaty, or even a signed agreement. All these would require public debate and participation of Congress.
3: InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
More than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect and provide information on fellow Americans. In return, members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public, and at times before elected officials. “There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate Total Information Awareness program (TIPS), turning private-sector corporations—some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers—into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” according to an ACLU report titled “The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.”
4: ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
A resurgence of US-backed militarism threatens peace and democracy in Latin America. By 2005, US military aid to Latin America had increased by thirty-four times the amount spent in 2000. In a marked shift in US military strategy, secretive training of Latin American military and police personnel that used to just take place at the notorious School of the Americas, in Fort Benning, Georgia—including torture and execution techniques—is now decentralized. The 2008 US federal budget includes $16.5 million to fund an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador, with satellite operations in Peru. With provision of immunity from charges of crimes against humanity, each academy will train an average of 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials throughout Latin America per year in “counterterrorism techniques.”
5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
President Bush has signed two executive orders that would allow the US Treasury Department to seize the property of any person perceived to, directly or indirectly, pose a threat to US operations in the Middle East.
The first of these executive orders, titled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq,” signed by Bush on July 17, 2007, authorizes the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, to confiscate the assets of US citizens and organizations who “directly or indirectly” pose a risk to US operations in Iraq. Bush’s order states:I have issued an Executive Order blocking property of persons determined 1) to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq . . . or 2) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order . . .
Lou Dobbs has gone on and on about a NAFTA highway. In the process, he has botched the real story here. That clown screws up everything he touches.
The fact that the same corporations that own the government are supplying it with information on the private lives of Americans doesn't surprise me. However, that doesn't make it even slightly less dangerous.
The policy of a possible seizure of assets of people who disagree with the Bush regime shows the growing totalitarianism in this country. No wonder the corporate media largely ignored this story.
Previous Censored News Stories:
It seemed odd that Barack Obama would embrace the divisiveness, bigotry, triangulation, and pandering to dangerous religious extremists which were so common in the old politics. Yet, that is exactly what the President Elect did by giving such an important platform at a presidential inauguration to Osama bin Warren.
It could be that Obama is just bigoted against women, queers, and non Christians. However, the timing makes me wonder.
Blagojevich, an Illinois politician responsible for choosing the individual who would replace Obama in the Senate, had been arrested on charges of trying to sell that Senate seat. Obama comes from the world of Chicago politics, an incredibly corrupt world indeed. Was Obama involved in Blagojevich's alleged crimes? Was Obama involved in other corrupt activities by the Illinois governor?
You have to admit the timing of the Rick Warren invitation is highly suspicious. When a politician appears to be engaging in the politics of distraction, it is useful to question what he or she is trying to distract people from.
Photo credits (top to bottom):
Rick Warren should not be playing a major role in a Barack Obama's inauguration. Warren has devoted a major portion of his life promoting oppression, bigotry, and violence against women and queers. Obama is following the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policy of pandering to heterosexist and misogynistic religious extremists. So much for "Change You Can Believe In."
Obama's invitation to Warren is a vicious, personal attack against every woman in this country.
Obama's invitation to Warren is a vicious, personal attack against every queer in this country.
One thing that people in DC for this disgraced inauguration should do is to boo that bigoted extremist the minute he starts spewing his bullshit until he shuts his hateful mouth. America needs to send a message that bigotry and militant fundamentalism have no legitimate role to play in politics or society as a whole.
You may also wish to contact some of Obama's people over this outrage (hat tip to Break the Terror).
firstname.lastname@example.org (Parag Mehta is Obama’s LGBT liaison in the transition team.)
I'm not the first to realize that people should boo a vicious bigot like Osama bin Warren.
How to Handle Obama's Choice of Rick Warren to Give Inauguration Invocation (Recursivity)
Barack's Obama's decision to invite notorious hate monger Rick Warren to participate in an unconstitutional inauguration invocation certainly is generating controversy in the queer community. It also is a rather blatant attack on state/church separation.
By injecting religion into a government function, Obama is following in the footsteps of his bigoted predecessors in violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. It sends a message of hatred and disrespect to all Americans who are atheist or agnostic. It sends a personal message that President Elect Obama does not consider me a full citizen of my own country.
Obama's choice of a dangerous religious extremist like Warren to participate in this attack on my rights as an atheist is even more disturbing. Any sensible lgbt person who voted for Obama must have at least some sense of regret at this point. I'm so relieved I voted for Cynthia McKinney.
Rick Warren has dedicated a major potion of his life to promoting hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and violence against women and queers. President Elect Obama has legitimized this kind of behavior by inviting Warren to participate in an inauguration.
It is sad that Obama campaigned on uniting the country, but is doing something so divisive and hateful. Obama should be rejecting the divisive and dangerous behavior of the Christian Right, not legitimizing it. The Taliban's regime in Afghanistan should have taught everyone about the dangers imposed by pandering or catering to militant, religious fundamentalists like Rick Warren.
When you combine women, queers, and freethinkers you have a majority of US citizens. How can Obama unite the country by attacking and demeaning a majority of the people who live here? Barack Obama is acting like as much of a divider as George W. Bush.
Politics in here New York reminds me of sex in West Virginia. It's all relative...er...relatives.
Very little is being done about the rampant corruption on Wall St. A significant part of this is due to having an empty suit as New York's Attorney General. Andrew Cuomo simply isn't doing his job. His father, Mario Cuomo, was an excellent governor, but that is hardly any reason to let his lackluster son trade on that name.
In the November 2008 elections on Staten Island, the Republican candidates for Congress and Supreme Court were related. The Democrats were husband and wife. The Congressional seat was held before by Vito "Mr. DWI" Fosella, who got where he is in politics based on his family name.
That punctuates the depressing nature of news reports that Andrew Cuomo and another undeserving member of a prominent political family, Caroline Kennedy, are the frontrunners on the list of people who might be chosen by Gov. Paterson to fill the seat of Hillary Clinton. Of course, she is someone else whose rise in politics was due to trading on a family name.
I'm not going to pretend that this massive nepotism is unique to New York. Look at the evil Bush KKKlan members who have been in elected office in other states. Al Gore never would have gotten anywhere in politics if not for his family. There are Kennedy's in office in several states. However, nepotism in office is quite common in New York, where the government is much more inept than in most parts of the country.
This is so banana republic.
Members of prominent political families have relatives and cronies that pressure members of their parties to go along with their political aspirations. More competent and deserving people are squeezed out.
This might seem unfair to the politicians who don't have the right names, but I'm more worried about the public. Oligarchies are undemocratic and breed corruption and ineptitude. We have seen what a terrible senator Hillary Clinton has been, and Jeb Bush was an execrable governor in Florida. Then, there's always George W. Bush.....
There really should be a constitutional amendment to ban grandparents, parents, spouses, siblings, uncles, nephews, children, grandchildren, and first cousins from being able to hold appointed or elected office. In a country of over 300,000,000 people, no one can seriously claim that we will lack qualified people to take their place. On the contrary, banning nepotism in office would increase the quality and competence of office holders.
In American, anybody can be President, but it helps to have certain parents.
The latest horrifying Obama appointee is at an agency that is particularly important these days, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Obama made one of the worst appointments possible by choosing New York City Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan.
Under Donovan's and Bloomberg's leadership, housing here in NYC hasn't even kept up with population growth. Middle class and poor people aren't just being squeezed out of Manhattan. The same thing is happening in Queens and Brooklyn. Most of the government money to subsidize affordable housing for middle class and lower income people here is being misused to develop luxury condos that need no government subsidies.
It turns out that Donovan is a yet another Clinton Administration retread (AFP 12/13/08).
Donovan, currently the New York City Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, is an architect who previously served in the Housing Department under former president Bill Clinton.
Obama is sending a clear message with this appointment: middle class and poor people suffering in the housing crisis can go fuck themselves.
The idea of Jerry Lewis getting any kind of Oscar is weird, given his complete lack of talent. However, there are more morally charged reasons for opposing this.
From Queers United 12/12/08:
Tell The Academy - No Humanitarian Award for Comedian Jerry Lewis
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen Jerry Lewis to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award to be given during the Oscar ceremony in February, 2009. The award "is given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry," says the academy.
Controversy is building around the selection due to Lewis' repeated anti-gay slurs on television, including ones he made during his annual Muscular Dystrophy association telethon, and as recently as last October, on Australian TV, the latter shortly after an apology for his insults.
Many are in agreement that Lewis has done amazing things for those in need, but due to the recent passing of Prop 8, his recent slurs, and the fact that this is a humanitarian award, a call for the academy to change its choice has been made.
CALL TO ACTION: To voice your disapproval, contact AMPAS by emailing them at email@example.com or call them at (310) 247-3000.
Thanks for this guest post from our friends over at Unite The Fight.
Another reason why Lewis should not be given a "humanitarian award" has to do with his condescending attitude towards people with Muscular Dystrophy. From a press release from the American Association of People with Disabilities - August 2001:
Activists Call on Disability Community to Protest Jerry Lewis Telethon!
Washington, DC - With less than three weeks remaining until the Labor Day Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, disability activists have announced their plans to protest the event. Lewis, who has repeatedly outraged activists with frequent offensive comments and his "pity" approach to raising money on the telethon, has drawn renewed fire recently for responding to telethon protesters by saying, "If it's pity we'll get money. . . . Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!"
In response, activists have set up www.stoppity.org, a web site dedicated to removing Lewis from his position as chairman of the MDA, and asking MDA stop using misleading stereotypes of people with disabilities in its fundraising. Included on the site is a petition, located at www.stoppity.org/petition.php, requesting MDA to make these changes. The site also aims to educate visitors about the disability community's objections to Pity, and the Telethon's part in promoting it. In less than three days since its launch, over 100 people have signed the StopPity.org petition -- many of them people with disabilities who have left strong comments about the telethon and the Pity it promotes.
The campaign has the ambitious goal of getting 2000 signatures by Labor Day of this year to deliver to MDA and its sponsors. "We hope that disability advocates across the country will get the word out about this campaign," said Taylor Hines, the founder of the site, who has a neuromuscular disease covered by MDA. "The pity Lewis and the telethon promote hurts all of us in the disability community. It encourages others to see us as pathetic, childlike and useless and thus interferes with our quest to obtain real equality and respect in society. We must speak out for ourselves this Labor Day, or Jerry Lewis will speak for us."
The websites are old and out of commission, but the points are still valid.
I also would encourage you to learn more about the current activities of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Many people want to see struggles against various forms of bigotry and discrimination as isolated. This enables them to maintain some of their prejudices against others while fighting for their own equality. This poses two major problems.
1) Oppressed people by their very natures have less power. Working together makes such groups stronger.
2) The psychological mechanisms of bigotry and economic motivations behind encouraging bigotry are similar across all the lines. Failing to resist one form of bigotry helps the wealthy and powerful to psychologically condition people to have other prejudices.
Of course, anti union and anti middle class sentiment plays a role in efforts by Senate Republicans to block the auto worker bailout. It also provides a convenient pretext.
It's become pretty obvious, at least to me, that the GOP is using a desperate and risky political strategy. They are doing everything they can to make the economy implode, hoping that Democrats will be blamed for it in 2010. They won't be satisfied until the current recession becomes a depression. Of course, if voters pay attention to who is blocking legislative action, it will backfire big time.
This shows how intellectually and morally bankrupt the GOP has become. They are willing to deliberately trash the country in a pathetic attempt to regain power. These days, I'm not to thrilled with the excess of conservative policies being accepted by "Democrats." However, I can't help but notice how much the Republicans deserve to lose elections, by huge margins. They seem obsessed with being the greater of two evils.
Hillary Clinton is one of the least diplomatic people I've ever heard of. Why is she going to be Secretary of State? WTF?
That was my initial reaction to Obama choosing Ms. Clinton as Secretary of State. Clinton is notorious for trying to bulldoze over anyone who disagrees with her or changing the subject when confronted with inconvenient facts. Her persona is disturbingly similar to that of John Bolton.
Upon further reflection, a larger problem has occurred to me. Hillary Clinton has been involved in militant, fundamentalist prayer groups on Capitol Hill for some time now. Those are clubs you don't get to join unless you are one of the fundie flock. She often speaks in the language of the Christian Taliban too. Ms. Clinton's Christian extremism, like George W. Bush's militant, Christian fundamentalism, is a news story that has been largely censored by the corporate media, but it is quite important.
Can a Christian extremist like Clinton be an effective diplomat when dealing with foreign leaders who are Muslim?
There was a time when the US was so powerful that we could have nominated a talking monkey as Secretary of State, and the world would have to cow tow to us. Those days are over, largely thanks to the failed rightist Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policies of the past 28 years that have devastated our country militarily, economically, politically, and morally.
In this multipolar world, we need effective diplomacy from people who can think rationally about people of non-Christian faiths and about people with no religious faith at all. There are strong reasons to doubt that Ms. Clinton is capable of being diplomatic in general, much less rational about non-Christians.
Photo credits (top to bottom):
World Economic Forum
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Mira (on the wall)
As part of this ongoing series on the last years Top 25 censored news stories according to Project Censored, I thought I would highlight an excellent resource of theirs:
List of Links to Independent News Sources
Now, here are items 6-10.
6: The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
In a startling affront to American freedoms of expression, privacy, and association, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 1955) passed the House on October 23, 2007, by a vote of 404–6. The Senate is currently considering a companion bill, S. 1959. The act would establish a national commission and a university-based “Center for Excellence” to study and propose legislation to prevent the threat of “radicalization” of Americans.
Author of the bill Jane Harman (D-CA) explains, “We’re studying the phenomenon of people with radical beliefs who turn into people who would use violence.”
UPDATE BY JESSICA LEE
While civil liberties and religious freedom groups credit independent journalists and grassroots activists with helping to stall the passage of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, some members of Congress continue to push for Internet censorship and racial profiling as necessary to prevent “homegrown terrorism.”
The House of Representatives approved the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act in October 2007 by a 404-6 vote, but widespread opposition forced the Senate to shelve the bill. As of June 1, 2008, no vote was scheduled or expected during the current legislative year.
7: Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
While the guest worker program in the United States has been praised and recommended for expansion by President Bush, and is likely to be considered by Congress as a template for future immigration reform, human rights advocates warn that the system seriously victimizes immigrant workers. Workers, labor organizers, lawyers, and policy makers say that the program, designed to open up the legal labor market and provide a piece of the American dream to immigrants, has instead locked thousands into a modern-day form of indentured servitude. Congressman Charles Rangel has called the guest worker program “the closest thing I’ve ever seen to slavery.”
8: Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
On December 7, 2007, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disclosed on the floor of the US Senate that he had declassified three legal documents of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) within the Department of Justice that state:
1. An executive order cannot limit a president. There is no constitutional requirement for a president to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the president has instead modified or waived it.
2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.
3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.
9: Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are coming forward to recount the brutal impact of the ongoing occupations. An investigation by the Nation (July 2007) and the Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Spring, Maryland, in March 2008, which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and brought together over 300 veterans, have made their experiences public. Soldiers’ harrowing testimony of atrocities they witnessed or participated in directly indicate a structural problem in the US military that has created an environment of lawlessness. Some international law experts say the soldiers’ statements show the need for investigations into potential violations of international law by high-ranking officials in the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Though BBC predicted that the Winter Soldier event would dominate headlines around the world that week, there was a near total back-out on this historic news event by the US corporate media.
10: APA Complicit in CIA Torture
When in 2005 news reports exposed the fact that psychologists were working with the US military and the CIA to develop brutal interrogation methods, American Psychological Association (APA) leaders assembled a task force to examine the issue. After just two days of deliberations, the ten-member task force concluded that psychologists were playing a “valuable and ethical role” in assisting the military. A high level of secrecy surrounding the task force prohibited disclosure of the proceedings and of members and attendees. It wasn’t until a year later that the membership was finally published on Salon.com, revealing that six of nine voting members were from the military and intelligence agencies with direct connections to interrogations at Guantánamo and CIA black sites that operate outside of Geneva Conventions.
Members of the American Psychological Association have voted to prohibit consultation in the interrogations of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or so-called black sites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency overseas, the association said on Wednesday.
The vote, 8,792 to 6,157 in a mail-in balloting concluded Monday, may help to settle a long debate within the profession over the ethics of such work. Psychologists have helped military and C.I.A. interrogators evaluate detainees, plan questioning strategy and judge its psychological costs. The association’s ethics code, while condemning a list of coercive techniques adopted in the Bush administration’s antiterrorism campaign, has allowed some consultation “for national security-related purposes.”
Commentary and Analysis
All of these items have a common thread. Corporate media outlets are generally covering up misconduct commited by the Bush regime or with their encouragement or orders. It's interesting to note how most Americans are being kept in the dark about things that should make Americans cringe with shame. No wonder most people in this country are perplexed at the anti American sentiments abroad.
Project Censored referenced the efforts of Pacifica radio station KPFK and CorpWatch in their War Comes Home site, which has an audio archive of the Winter Soldier testimony. The Pacifica stations carried live coverage of the Winter Soldier hearings, in contrast to corporate media which censored the story. The text archives from Iraq Veterans Against the War also were mentioned.
You may be interested in the following YouTube Playlist: Winter Soldiers testimony
This blog also has done some coverage of the Winter Soldier hearings and the lead up to them.
Info From Winter Soldier - Part 4 - Sleep Deprivation of Prisoners in Iraq
Info From Winter Soldier - Part 3 - Winter Soldier on YouTube
Info From Winter Soldier - Part 2 - Taking Pictures With Corpses
Info From Winter Soldier - Part 1 - Traumatic Brain Injury
Action Alert: "Why Are Winter Soldiers Not News?"
Report on the Thursday Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Fundraiser
Previous Censored News Stories:
I've already blogged a couple of times about this issue.
Anti Union and Anti Middle Class Sentiments Behind the Corporate Media's Attacks on the Automotive Bailout
FAIR Responds to Demonization of Autoworkers by ABC
Congress has acted like a bunch of proverbial fiddling Neros instead of acting in a responsible fashion and passing the auto worker bailout. It's time to support efforts to put pressure on Congress. The AFLCIO has an Action Alert urging our lawmakers to pass the bailout, which they are referring to as a "bridge loan" for the auto industry. The default email text (which you should replace with your own words) follows:
An emergency bridge loan for our domestic automakers, enabling them to keep the production lines moving, is a necessary step to revitalize the U.S. auto industry, protect American jobs and begin rebuilding our economy.
The automakers have submitted plans to cut costs and strengthen products, and the UAW announced that workers will do their part, too. The bridge loan requested by the automakers and endorsed by the UAW is not a blank check like the ones Henry Paulson has handed out to Wall Street banks.
I urge you to act now to protect our auto industry and help save the jobs of millions of workers, both in and out of the auto industry. Millions of Americans are counting on your leadership.
Yes, the CEOs at the Big Three have been lousy at their jobs. However, that's no reason to punish the workers who have no say in who runs the company. It certainly is no reason to throw hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work during a deep and long recession.
You don't need to be a union member to take action. In fact, it would help if a lot of non-union people joined in solidarity with the union movement. All of us will suffer if the economy is sabotaged by politicians to corrupt or cowardly to pass the bailout, a bailout that is dwarfed in comparison by the Financial industry bailout.
Please Take Action Now!
I am so sick of seeing political operatives using Karl Rove style spin to defend Obama's conservative appointees and Republican policy positions on avoiding a windfall profits tax for Big Oil, on continuing the endless war on Iraq, on keeping the rich from paying anywhere near their fair share in taxes, and on other important matters.
Hildebrand's Huffington Post nonsense shows why I've lost all trust and respect for the Obama administration, and they haven't even taken office yet. Look at this garbage:
I could go on and on. The point I'm making here is that our new president, the Congress and all Americans must come together to solve these problems. This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren't progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you, that isn't the way he thinks and it's not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn't, suggest that our president surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the president of all the people - not just those on the left.
This nonsense insults peoples' intelligence for a variety of reasons.
1) Executive Branch Appointments Matter
Executive branch appointees make an enormous amount of policy decisions that don't make the nightly news, but which cumulatively have a huge effect on peoples' lives. With the Obama administration already loaded up with so many rightist nutjobs, many people will suffer needlessly. Some people literally will die needlessly.
2) Liberals Gave Bill Clinton a Chance:
Does Hildebrand think liberals suffer from historical amnesia? During the transition and early in the Clinton administration, liberals were bombarded with bullshit from Clinton operatives about how we had to "give him a chance." He took that chance to govern like a rightist Reagan/Bush Republican. We have been betrayed just as badly by Phonycrats like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Any liberal who trusts a Democrat who starts governing from the right should be ashamed.
3) It's Never Premature for People to Call for the Government to Address Their Grievances.
In a democracy, people don't wait for permission from an authority figure, even one as minor as Hildebrand, to speak out. Those appointments belong to the people even more than they belong to Barack Obama. We have a right to say "no" when they represent the same administrations and interests that got our country into this terrible mess.
4) These Aren't the Most Qualified People
Let's look at this cast of losers and Clinton/Bush retreads. Robert Gates is a Bush family crony whose only "accomplishment" as Defense Secretary was repeatedly lying to the American people about the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton has very few qualifications to serve in any administration. She is just trading on her husband's name in much the same way that another empty suit in New York politics, Andrew Cuomo, has built a career on trading on his father's name. Nepotism and cronyism are not change you can believe in.
What the fuck is Larry Summers doing as Obama's senior economic adviser? The man is an arrogant, incompetent ignoramus on almost everything, and this description is especially apt in the field of economics. Summers' push for financial deregulation and corrupt, corporate trade deals like NAFTA make him one of the people most personally responsible for the Crash of 2008 and our horrible recession. These are the most glaring examples of a set of appointees who are neither qualified or even interested in taking the kinds of actions that will get us out our mess.
5) Where Is an Openly Queer Cabinet Appointee?
On of the ways that Bill Clinton discriminated against the queer community was by not appointing even one openly queer Cabinet member during his entire administration. So far, Obama is heading in the same bigoted direction.
If Rovian bs is all that liberals are going to get from the Obama administration, we need to wake up. So far, Obama has worked to continue the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policies of the last 28 years. Obama is getting less like FDR and more like Herbert Hoover every day.
There is no way I can ever take anything Steve Hildebrand says seriously after this. What a hack.
In a previous posting, I complained about the anti union and anti worker agenda behind the corporate media's demonization of the auto worker bailout. It looks like I'm not the only one noticing this. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has a recent Action Alert on ABC's role in all of this.
People have a lot of sympathy for the workers in the auto industry, and, understandably, nil sympathy for the CEO. So, ABC decided to attack the auto workers themselves in order to undermine the strongest basis of support for the bailout.
ABC's Overpaid Autoworkers
In an attempt to explain the plight of the Big Three U.S. automobile manufacturers, ABC's World News used a wildly misleading statistic regarding autoworkers' pay.
On the December 3 edition of the ABC newscast, reporter Chris Bury took aim at the supposed inflexibility of the United Auto Workers: "But the union did not offer to give back the big stuff, pay and benefits that remain a fundamental problem. Ford, Chrysler and GM pay union workers more than $73 an hour in wages and benefits. Japanese plants here shell out just over $44. For GM, that translates into $1,500 more per car more than Toyota has to pay."
This factoid, which is a favorite of the industry--and, increasingly, of the media as well (see Media Matters, 11/22/08)--has been exposed as misleading for some time. In the New Republic (11/21/08), Jonathan Cohn called it "wildly misleading," and cited an analyst for the Center for Automotive Research who determined that "average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007." The much higher figure, according to Cohn, results from a mathematical sleight of hand. "The cost of all employer-provided benefits--namely, health insurance and pensions--and then dividing by the number of workers." In other words, costs related to retired workers, who well outnumber current employees, are used to create an inflated figure that is misleadingly labeled as current labor costs.
Writing in Portfolio (11/18/08), Felix Salmon called it a "ridiculous number," adding: "Now that GM's healthcare obligations are being moved to a UAW-run trust, even that fictitious number is going to fall sharply. But anybody who uses it as a rhetorical device suggesting that U.S. car companies are run inefficiently is being disingenuous." The United Auto Workers also has a page on their website debunking the industry figures (http://www.uaw.org/barg/07fact/fact02.php).
And as the Wall Street Journal reported (11/20/08), "During the past three years, the union agreed to eliminate tens of thousands of production jobs, reduce healthcare coverage for union retirees and slash wages for new hires--moves that essentially level the playing field between the Big Three auto makers and their foreign-owned rivals." The paper went on to explain that these concessions are significant: "Analysts believe the changes will bring the average cost of union labor to less than $50 an hour by 2010 or 2011, in line with Toyota Motor Corp.'s labor costs. The Harbour Report, a closely watched scorecard of auto-plant productivity, earlier this year found that in 2007 the average per-vehicle labor costs for the Big Three in 2007 was no more than $260 above Toyota's"--far from the $1,500 premium ABC claimed GM pays.
ABC did include a quote from UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, saying that he "bristled at blaming auto workers"--but ABC's newscast was as much behind the finger-pointing as the industry is. As economist Dean Baker noted (Beat the Press, 11/18/08), this misinformation has serious consequences: "It certainly can affect public support for a bailout if they are led to believe that autoworkers are paid much more than is actually the case." ABC should correct the record.
Tell ABC that it should correct its December 3 report that inaccurately characterized autoworker salaries.
ABC World News
I encourage you to check out the UAW's page debunking this corporate media bullshit. The page has other information that does a good job of explaining how salaries and benefits work in that industry that are similar to how they work in many other areas of the economy.
Barack Obama was elected in large part because of his promise to end the Iraq War and we want to hold him to that pledge. You can send Obama and his transition team a letter asking him to sit down with leaders of the peace and anti-war movement to talk about bringing home our troops. Read CODEPINK's “Let’s Talk” invitation to the President-elect below, add in your own words, sign your name and zip code, and send your letter. Your letter will be automatically sent to Obama via the www.change.gov website through a few clicks on our website--now there's action magic!
There was one significant disagreement I had with the alert, which sends a message to the Obama transition team. I edited the default text to ask Obama to meet with secular peace groups and deleted the names of the two religious groups CODEPINK listed. The involvement of religious groups in politics violates state/church separation and discriminates against atheists. I suspect other atheists reading this will have similar concerns and will make edits to the language as well.
Please Take Action!
When the corporate media start to chastise corporate executives, it should make you suspicious. A good example of this is the not so mainstream media's war of words against the automotive bailout. The same media outlets that pushed a $700 billion bailout for banks and brokerage firms have been pushing just as hard against a much, much smaller automotive industry rescue.
They are up to something.
Some rightist pundits have openly expressed the real agenda behind efforts to block the bailout. In "Auto Bailout Aimed at Unions, Not Companies" on TheStreet.com (11/18/08), Debra Borchardt overtly spelled part of out the real agenda. Often, you need to read business news to find out what the corporations are really doing.
The bill circulating in the House of Representatives would allow the automakers to continue making payments to the trust fund established to fund obligations for retiree health benefits.
The automakers established the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association in 2007 to get the health plan funding off their books. VEBAs, a popular tool for distressed companies, also help protect retirees' benefits in case the companies go bankrupt, according to Voluntary.com. Obviously both the automakers and the union saw the writing on the wall last year and began making strategic moves to prepare for it.
The only problem is that the automakers ran out of cash to keep feeding the beast. Starting in July, the companies began requesting payment deferrals. The UAW granted the request, but the union is getting antsy for its money.
No healthcare for those damned middle class retirees. Only the rich should get that. What is Congress thinking?
Kathleen Pender got down and dirty in the San Francisco Chronicle 11/20/08, arguing in favor of bankruptcy filings for automakers. If you keep scrolling down a while, you find the dirt.
Many employees lose their jobs. The businesses that go into Chapter 11 on average come out with about half the workers they had before they started downsizing, LoPucki says. "The employment loss is not caused by bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is simply the recognition that you needed to shrink the business."
In bankruptcy, unions are forced to renegotiate contracts. Members of the United Auto Workers have benefits that far exceed what most Americans have, including generous retiree health plans and pay for time they are furloughed. Those would undoubtedly shrink in bankruptcy.
In other words, the corporate media want to take benefits from retirees and to make unions give up wages and benefits for people who still have jobs. This isn't just about autoworkers. Good union jobs put upward pressure on wages and benefits throughout the economy. This is an effort to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the rich in the long term, taking advantage of a crisis in the short term.
The crack about "benefits that far exceed what most Americans have" is particularly interesting. It is an appeal to envy and resentment, when collective political action and solidarity actually can help all the middle class and poor people being screwed.
Shock Doctrine anyone?
Here's a lighthearted explanation of the Roman holiday, the Saturnalia, from LAist. In case you don't know, Saturnalia is the holiday that Christmas is based on.
The Romans are often bagged on as being the Borg of the ancient world: assimilating barbarian cultures left and right, stealing the style and grace of the Greeks, tossing the odd Christian to lions. Yet, you must admit they did know how to PARTY, especially during those barren winter months.
In antiquity, the feast of Saturn or Saturnalia was celebrated from about December 17th through the 23rd. It was a winter solstice festival in honor of the merry old god of the seed and its sowing, and if he was cranky, the blighting of crops. His fertile wife, Ops, goddess of plenty, was also celebrated around this time. Janus (the two faced fella who gives his name to next month) supposedly started the tradition in remembrance of the Golden Age of Saturn's rule. You know, way, way, way back in mythic times, when everyone was equal and free and the "man" wasn't around to keep us down.
This high spirited festival engendered many of our own holiday traditions such as extravagant feasting, kissing under the mistletoe, lighting candles, wearing silly hats, exchanging gifts and the odd orgy. Woo Hoo!, who needs Christmas?
So this week, why not celebrate the really ancient traditions or at least add a Roman twist to your festivities? Instead of the usual Christmas dealee, I am having some friends over tomorrow for a Saturnalia party. We will feast on decadent finger foods (the ancients didn't believe in forks), drink copious amounts of vino and spirits, and don wreaths or the traditional Saturnalia Phrygian cap, which looks a hell of a lot like a Santa hat. We'll also try our hands at a bit of friendly gambling, as the Roman's encouraged games of chance during Saturnalia time. The odd orgy part? Well, perhaps I'll screen Fellini's Satyricon instead of White Christmas. Then again, my friends are pretty darn odd. Wink!
Why do stores say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Sexy Saturnalia"? Why don't the media acknowledge this important and fun holiday? Why do they keep up with all the pious Christmas stuff when the whole thing is really about food, wine, sex, and temporarily inverting the social order?
This stinks! Where is Bill "Falafel Man" O'Reilly when you really need him?
World AIDS Day isn't supposed to be a schmaltzy acknowledgment that AIDS is still around. It was originally intended to be a call to political action. People are still dying, at home and abroad. "Abstinence only" scams are still being funded in the US and Africa, despite the fact that they are succeeding in the real agenda: promoting the spread of HIV. That money should be going to genuine HIV prevention programs. Drug companies have way too much influence over AIDS research, and there needs to be a focus on the cure.
In the meantime, here are some actions you can take to fight AIDS.
Support AMFAR's call for a national AIDS strategy.
Join Housing Works in opposing anti-needle exchange Rep. Jim Ramstad as "Drug Czar."
Obama's national security team is rather disturbing, to put it mildly. The two marquee nominations, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense are absolutely execrable. Neither has sound judgement on foreign policy in general and especially on matters of war and peace. Both are dishonorable, rightist war mongers who should never hold any office in government. Their support of the Bush agenda of endless war is downright sickening.
The choice of Eric Holder as Attorney General was unwise as well. He is a Clinton administration retread, which raises questions about his ability to serve in any administration interested in meaningful change. His involvement in Bill Clinton's corrupt pardons (a typical Republican behavior of a supposedly "Democratic" president) also should make one pause.
The choice of a former general as National Security Adviser is an error as well. This undermines civilian control of the military.
Susan Rice as UN ambassador is less disturbing than the previously mentioned nominees. Her status as a Clinton administration retread is not good, to put it mildly. But, at least she supported Obama rather than Clinton during the campaign. That might be a hopeful sign.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano also is a Clinton administration retread. However, she was a lawyer for Anita Hill which suggests she has some integrity. She also has experience running a state government, which should help at Homeland Security.
Obama's appointees have all the markings of being a somewhat more competent set of administrators for the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush agenda. They have shown little interest in moving the country in a more rational and productive direction, especially on foreign policy.
Obama has made a huge mistake. Liberals and progressive better get ready to fight this administration with all of our efforts. Obama has given the middle finger to all the people who voted for him in the Democratic primaries.