Friday, June 29, 2007

It's Deja Vue All Over Again

The head-to-head clash between the legislative and executive branches of our government under BushCo is finally about to happen. The papers color it as a partisan situation by always being sure to insert the words Democratic controlled every time they say Congress, but the fact is that prominent members of both parties want more information than the whitewash – oops – I mean Whitehouse is willing to give them.

Congress is seeking documents and testimony about the firings of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, issues related to the Iraq war, misuse of executive power, and warrantless wiretapping. The Whitehouse response – Executive Privilege.

Now let’s see, where have we heard that before? The echoes of Richard Nixon resound. Like the old saw about how you can tell if a politician is lying – his lips are moving – you can take abuses of power for granted when a president claims executive privilege. It’s a sure sign that the hounds are close to baying treed.

I just think it’s too bad that Bush and Cheney aren’t fighting off indictments and not just subpoenas. If this really were the purely partisan fight the press likes to paint, those two would have been wearing stripes long ago.

I could go off on another rant about the Democrat’s motivations here, but the main point today is a bit of glee in seeing the rats poised on the gunnels of this sinking ship of ours. I don’t have any faith in them at all, but here’s hoping this Congress somehow gets its act together well enough to run them into the sea.

At this point that’s about the only thing either party could do that would win back any of my affection. That said, I have to add that it’s the Republicans – not the Democrats - who have the most to gain by turning against BushCo. Everyone expects (or wants) the Democrats to attack. If the Republicans did it, they would be making a statement about their return to solid conservative values. It sure would be nice to see that, but I’d bet the farm that both parties will just continue to prove that they aren’t worth the powder to blow your nose.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Religion vs. religion

As often happens, my thoughts this morning are influenced by a report aired on NPR’s Morning Edition in combination with what I’m reading.

Morning Edition’s story was an interview with a reporter just home from Afghanistan and particularly a city there which is under the most Taliban influence. That city, she said, was a terribly paranoid place where people shied away from appearing in public unless absolutely necessary. The reason for this is that they can’t tell who is and who isn’t Taliban, but there is a high probability that if they are observed doing something that some Taliban member thinks is inappropriate, they stand a good chance of ending up dead. To die of natural causes there is considered a gift from God.

In this country there has for several years been a rising tide of right wing oriented religious groups that in my mind are different from the Taliban only in degree. I have a friend who belongs to such a group. He feels that I don’t respect his right to religious choice, but I do. I just don’t respect his religion. His right to choose a religion is not an issue with me at all. My problem is with the religion he chose. In my mind anyone who acts to condemn people of other faiths or those whose actions they don’t like is a spiritual terrorist. To pick and choose the phrases from a chosen “Holy Book” to follow while ignoring a great many others from the same book and then claiming every word of that “Holy Book” as interpreted by some “reverend” is the undeniable word of God is the work of a narrow mind easily misled.

I believe it was Thomas Paine who said, “You may rely on a good man to generally do good things, and you may rely on an evil man to generally do evil things, but it takes religion to make a good man do evil things.”

I have another friend whose views tend to move along the same lines as mine in this area. He just lent me a book of essays by David James Duncan. The title is “My Story as Told by Water.” One of the first essays laid all this out much more clearly than my paltry writing skills allow, so I’d like to share a passage with you:

“Capitalist fundamentalism, I still believe, is the perfect Techno-Industrial religion, its goal being a planet upon which we’ve nothing left to worship, worry about, read, eat, or love but dollar bills and Bibles. My boyhood worry, though, was that this world might not be techno-industrial. Maybe the world God made is natural, it ‘industry’ a bunch of forces like gravitation, solar rays, equinoctial tilt, wind, tides, photosynthesis, sexuality, migration. And if the world is natural, I’d fret if it was the natural world that God loved enough to send His son to die for it, then it might not be such a God-pleasing thing to spend my life converting that world in to industrial waste products, dollar bills and Bibles.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Democratic Party Perfidy

In a message responding to yesterday's blog, a reader tells me that our local branch of the Democratic Party has decided to "ostracize" members of the peace movement because we are refusing to march lockstep with the party line. Fact is, as yesterday's blog asserted, I think that we in the peace movement need to act more stringently in our dealings with the party on the grounds that they refuse to march lockstep with the wishes of the people.

The vast majority of people in this country are now on record as being against this war. Petitions being circulated on the question of impeaching Richard (dick) Cheney are coming back over 99% in favor. Meantime, the Democratic Party refuses to take action on either issue. What lockstep do they want us to march to? -- Status quo in the war? -- Abusive executive powers?

It appears to me that the peace movement in this country has no established party to which to turn.

Here's a post from People for the American Way. If you are not in the same part of Missouri, the names and numbers given will be of no use, but if you read this blog, chances are you have all your reps' numbers on hand. Please give them a call today.

National Day of Action: Tell Congress to Restore Habeas Corpus

Today, thousands of activists are rallying on Capitol Hill and visiting with their members of Congress as part of a Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice. The goal is to get Congress to act fast on several pieces of pending legislation that would undo parts of theMilitary Commissions Act of 2006, a law that drastically undermines core American values pertaining to due process protections and basic civil rights.

Whether or not you already signed our petition to restore habeas corpus, please make sure your members of Congress hear from you personally. Call today and let them know Americans will not tolerate torture and secret prisons, and tell them to fully restore habeas corpus.

Sen. Kit Bond
Phone: (202) 224-5721
Sen. Claire McCaskill
Phone: (202) 224-6154
Rep. Roy Blunt
Phone: (202) 225-6536

After you call, you can let us know how it went with our online call report form at

And if you have not done so already, please sign our petition at

Finally, this from Progressive Democrats of America:

These Democrats are for War AND Torture
Democrats who voted against the McGovern Amendment on 5/10/2007. Democrats Who Opposed Closing the School of the Americas Torture Training Center.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Although I signed on as a delegate to Unity08 very early on and have watched with interest as loyalties for candidates seemed to come and go, I have stayed out of the discussion both in that forum and among my friends and acquaintances. The primary reason for that has been that I am not convinced that amalgamating the two top parties is a useful solution given that both are so corrupt.

Yesterday's Amy Goodman interview on the War and Peace Report with Salt Lake City, Utah mayor Rocky Anderson, though, has led me to a thought on the subject that I think bears consideration. Anderson began the interview by slamming his old friend Mitt Romney for selling out, but concluded by saying that the Dems have backed away from impeaching Bush because they want the Bush record to be an issue in the next election.

I have long thought, even more cynically, that the only reason the Democrats could have for not impeaching the worst administration in the history of the country is that they see ways they could use some of the power now shifted to the executive branch. In any case, Anderson finally voiced publicly what every disgusted Democrat has been thinking ever since our new Democratic majority took impeachment off the table – that he has had it up to his ears with the party. He was adamant in his distaste for what it has become.

At that point, my little light bulb lit up. Yes, that's exactly what we've all been thinking, but our response has been to rant and rail in an attempt to convince the Dems to rethink the impeachment issue. The fact is, though, that if we are right about their motivations, they will never give up their shot at tyrannical power any more than Bush will. That being the case, perhaps Democratic voters could make a bigger impact by foregoing impeachment of the Bush Administration in favor of first going for a softer target – Pelosi.

I know, you think I've gone completely off the deep end, but give it a moment's thought. What could send the Dems a stronger message than to tell them in no uncertain terms that their hemming and hawing is totally unacceptable, and how better to tell them that than to throw their chosen figurehead out of office without waiting for an election to do it?

Could it be done? Probably not, but it would be easier than impeaching Bush without every Democrat backing the effort. Could it send a strong message to the Dems if enough of their disgruntled minions went public with the word that they were willing to try and throw them out? I think so. Is there another way to send as strong a message? Not that I've seen. I'm sick of writing letters, blogs and editorials and getting either no response or some wimpy two-faced excuse.

I have absolutely no clout with anyone, but I sure would like to see what would happen if someone with an inside track laid a petition with about 100,000 Democratic voter's signatures on it on Rocky Anderson's desk proposing that he lead the charge to oust this unresponsive Democratic leadership on behalf of the citizenry.

If that were to happen, who else do you think Anderson could get to join him in the effort? I'm betting on Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Robert Byrd for starters. Now somewhere in that group is a ticket I could get behind if they opened by renouncing their party as it now operates.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Monday, June 25, 2007

American Military Poised to Revolt

A couple of weeks ago, this article appeared on a website I watch.

IRAQ -- ACTIVE DUTY GENERALS WILL "REVOLT" AGAINST BUSH IF HE MAINTAINS ESCALATION INTO 2008: Appearing on NBC's Chris Matthews Show yesterday, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker reveals that sources within the military are warning of "a revolt from active-duty generals if September rolls around and the president is sticking with the surge into '08.'" Noting that retired generals such as Gen. John Baptiste have already begun voicing their discontent with the President's strategy in Iraq, Tucker added that the generals "don't want to fall by the wayside like the generals in Vietnam did, kept pushing a war that they knew was lost." When President Bush vetoed the Iraq timeline legislation earlier this month, he claimed that "the measure would 'impose impossible conditions on our commanders in combat' by forcing them to 'take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, DC." But despite past claims that "the right force level" will be determined by "the sober judgment of our military leaders," the Bush administration has a proven track record of disregarding the advice of military leaders. As recently as last December, when the White House was first pushing its escalation plan, the administration explicitly ignored "the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." If Tucker's sources are correct, it appears the commanders on the ground in Iraq are getting tired of "taking fighting directions" from the politician "6,000 miles away" in the White House. And they might not stay quiet for long.

I'm sure many Americans would find that story disturbing, but from my perspective it's about time. I can remember a Pentagon that was reluctant to send its soldiers to war. Part of my education at Iowa University was required ROTC where that reluctance was taught as doctrine.When a Pentagon staff becomes eager to respond to inappropriate Whitehouse leadership, the grunts take the brunt of it on front lines they should never have been asked to hold. It happened in Vietnam and now it's happening in Iraq. It's too bad that it has taken such huge abuses as extended and repeated tours of Iraq duty to bring the military brass to the realization that they are in the wrong place. They should have known it from the beginning. But at least they are arriving at the right conclusion. It is beyond high time for us to get our troops out of harm's way.Do we owe Iraq a debt for what we have done there? You bet, but we don't owe them the continued blood of our children. We should be ready to commit a great deal of our resources to bringing Iraqi refugees home, and to helping any Iraqi government to establish peace and rebuild, but we should not keep our soldiers at risk there one minute longer than it takes to pull them out.

If Mr. Bush - against all evidence - has any modicum of wisdom, he will pull them out before they rise up to slap him for what he has done to them.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Friday, June 22, 2007


One of the biggest and most controversial issues in the U.S. today is immigration. Our politicians bicker back and forth about amnesty and unearned benefits while ignoring the fact that our economy and that of every country producing gewgaws for the marketplace rides on the backs of cheap laborers. Always has. Probably always will.

But there is another problem related to immigration that we ignore as though it didn’t exist. On his Link TV show Viewpoint yesterday, James Zogby explored the refugee problem we have created for the people of Iraq.

So what’s the magnitude of the problem? Here’s a bit of what the Baltimore Sun had to say about the situation:

“Iraq has been called the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. The largest numbers – 1.2 million, at last count – are in Syria, with another 750,000 in Jordan, 200,000 in the Persian Gulf states and 100,000 in Egypt. As an estimated 50,000 more arrive per month, the neighboring countries have begun to construct new barriers, physical and bureaucratic, to entry. Including the 2 million internally displaced Iraqis, nearly 15 percent of the Iraqi population is displaced inside or outside the country.”

We hear talk of the need to keep our troops in Iraq because it would be unfair to have upset the country and then walk away while it’s still a mess. I find some resonance in that argument, but the refugee situation has turned my thinking around. The numbers are just so staggering. Fifty thousand refugees a month, that’s what we are creating over there.

All other considerations aside, forcing so many people out of their homes into the streets is an unforgivable thing to do. We read the body count of American soldiers in the papers every day, and sometimes even the number of Iraqi dead, but these people, too, are casualties of this war, and what do we hear about them from the U.S. press? Nothing, nada, zilch.And where are they going? The internal displaced are homeless, living with relatives or in temporary housing in regions mostly populated by others of the same religious sect. Most who have migrated are in Syria – one of those countries our president would rather not talk to. Well why the hell should they want to talk to us?

We have created this enormous burden that they are forced to bear. We have done nothing about it.Look at those numbers in the Sun article again and then tell me how many refugees have come to the U.S. Hmmm, the U.S. isn’t even mentioned there, is it? Well, there’s good reason for that. So far, the U.S. has accepted 70 people. Seventy people!! Oh but we’ve pledged to take more.

So how many have we pledged to take? 7,000. That’s right, seven thousand. Oh how generous we are. If we wanted to live up to the “moral standards” Bush keeps waving around like a flag, we would invite every person we displaced to come and live among us and we would pay reparations for every life we have unnecessarily taken.

Everyone would come out ahead if we pulled our troops out immediately then spent half the money we are spending every day on war on helping the people we’ve displaced to live as well as circumstances allow then return to their homeland as soon as the horrors we’ve created have subsided.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Presidential Ethics and The Emperor's Clothes

Isn’t it wonderful to have a president with such high moral standards?

Washington watchers yesterday got a full load of Mr. Bush’s idea of morality, but it was hard to watch it without putting on your hip boots. I mean he piled it so high you couldn’t help but step in it.Destroying human embryos for stem cell research, W said, crosses a “moral line”. A moral line? He also called it unethical. This from a guy who wouldn’t know an ethic if it kicked him where he sits. The full quote was, “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical.”But destroying human life to the tune of a few thousand a month to save American access to oil is ethical?? Give me a break. This guy holding forth on ethics is like the devil delivering the commencement address at a nunnery.

The Democrats should be jumping on him with both feet. So what do they say?

Nancy Pelosi: “Stem cell research offers the potential of lifesaving treatment and enjoys the overwhelming support of the American people.”

Ted Kennedy: “Today’s veto, like last year’s, is a cruel betrayal of the hopes of millions of patients and their families across America whose hope for a brighter future and a healthier life depend on stem cell research. President Bush is as stubborn and wrong about stem cell research as he is about Iraq.”

Not a word of protest about Bush’s duplicity from the left’s farthest leaning leaders. This during the buildup to a presidential election. No wonder nobody follows their lead – they aren’t leading.

The press ought to be washing Bush’s mouth out with soap, so who among them compared willingness to wage pre-emptive war to unwillingness to support medical research? None I could find. Who among them spoke of the lack of ethic shown in Mr. Bush’s more than 700 signing statements asserting his right to ignore the law, or his support of torture and extraordinary rendition, or his destruction of internal communications or his . . . well, I could go on, but you get the point. The answer to all of these is: None I could find.

When the emperor not only has no clothes, but is jumping up and down and pointing at everything that flops, somebody ought to call him on it. It would be funny if the subject weren’t so serious.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bring Humanity to Power

Remember President Eisenhower's warning to beware of the military industrial complex? (If not, I suggest you read it or another good source for excerpts is the film "Why We Fight" another of the many that all Americans should be required to watch!)

Here's a little check on how well we've taken Ike's advice:
"George Schultz was secretary of the treasury and chairman of the Council on Economic Policy under Nixon, served as Bechtel president, and then became secretary of state under Reagan. Caspar Weinberger was a Bechtel vice president, and general counsel, and later the secretary of defense under Reagan. Richard Helms was Johnson's CIA director and then became ambassador to Iran under Nixon. Richard (dick) Cheney served as secretary of defense under George H.W. Bush, as Halliburton president, and as U.S. vice president to George W. Bush. Evan a president of the United States, George H.S. Bush, began as founder of Zapata Petroleum Corp, served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under presidents Nixon and Ford, and was Ford's CIA director."—Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins, Berrett-KoehlerPpublishers, Inc., 2004.

We Americans hassle about separation of church and state all the time while we ignore the elephant under our noses. We need to do a little shouting about the separation of corporate/military and state.

I'd bet that in all the history of the country there has never been a time at which a greater portion of the national product had to do with war. There certainly has never been a time of more blatant profiteering from war. When a president can create a war so that his corporate cronies can capture market share and then award multi-billion dollar contracts for "reconstruction", etc., our moral compass has surely been sunk in the murky waters of corporate and national greed.

John Perkins labels our present form of government a "corporatocracy". I call it "aristomocracy". Whatever you call it, it is sick and is spreading its madness all over the globe. We all need to do all we can to bring throw into the gutter where it belongs the kind of imperial thinking our government has always tended toward and has now fully manifested and somehow bring humanity to power.

Impossible in the face of the forced two party, winner takes all electoral system now in place? Probably, but we could make a hell of a lot of noise and some impact on political methodology if we were indignant enough. The constitution does still give us a bit of power after all. Between now and November, 2008 is prime time to exercise it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More on Adam Kokesh

Yesterday I received an email from Adam Kokesh. You may remember him as the subject of an earlier blog who was recalled into active duty because, as a reservist, he wore an unmarked Marine uniform while protesting the war in Iraq. The military considered giving him an Other Than Honorable discharge, but ultimately gave him a General discharge instead. That means that he won’t have to serve in the military any more, but he has chosen another path to service to his country.

Adam pledges to put his efforts into stopping this war. His method is to work through Iraq Veterans Against the War.

In my response I asked him to go further than that. Here is what I said:

More power to you. You are right that our democracy has failed. The struggle is much larger than just this war or this administration. Our nation must move from its imperial warlike policies to policies designed for the benefit of all people, not just the upper 10% in this and allied nations. Stop this war by all means, but go much further as well.

Be well. Fight hard. Keep in mind that the world's well-being depends
upon America stopping its rape and pillage policies. Stop this war, then turn toward stewardship of the world's resources. That and nowhere else is where our future lies - whether good or bad - it's up to you.

Adam replied with a one-liner: I promise you, we will take this one further.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a group that could have a meaningful impact on public opinion. As a voice against the war, who has more credibility than those who have served in it? Additionally, who, other than Iraqi citizens has been more of a victim of the war than those called to fight in the service of this corrupt administration?

To donate online, go to then click on “Support IVAW,” then click on “Donate Now”. Their top project is to establish a base in Washington DC that they are calling IVAW House. If you want to support that effort go also to “DC IVAW HOUSE” in the “Special Project Support Window.”

Need more reasons to fight against this war? Take this from

IRAQ -- LOW EFFECTIVENESS OF ESCALATION RAISES QUESTIONS OF LONG-TERM OCCUPATION IN IRAQ: Last week, a fatal bombing that destroyed the Samarra Askariya mosque, which was also severely damaged one year earlier, raised questions as to the efficacy of the U.S. troop escalation. U.S. News and World Report reports this week that "[e]arly indications are far from encouraging" for the escalation. "While sectarian killings appear to have declined at least temporarily in the capital, the Pentagon reports that overall violence levels nationwide remain as high as ever. Indeed, even as U.S. troops boost their presence in some Baghdad neighborhoods, many insurgents appear to have simply moved to outlying provinces that now have a much thinner security presence." Insurgents continue to attack American soldiers at record levels, for example, with May being one of the deadliest months for American forces in the entire war. Despite the clear evidence against the escalation's effectiveness, administration and military officials are attempting to play down expectations of progress by this fall and instead are endorsing a protracted troop presence. Last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding U.S. general in Iraq, stated that "we haven't even started the surge yet," despite nearly all of the 28,000 troops being in place at the time. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Petraeus admitted that he didn't expect the "surge" to be done by September, the date set for Petraeus's supposedly make-it or break-it report to Congress. Petraeus then went on to endorse the "Korea model" for Iraq, which envisions keeping troops in the country for decades. "[T]ypically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years," he said.

ESCALATION IS STRENGTHENING AL QAEDA: The new Pentagon report "documents the movement of significant numbers of Sunni insurgents linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq, confirming anecdotal reports of Al Qaeda fighters leaving Al Anbar and setting up new bases in Diyala province." But the report also shows that the violence "has moved beyond the well-publicized flare-ups in Diyala," to Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and the northern city of Tal Afar, "once touted by the White House as a case study in how its new counterinsurgency plan could be effective." During confirmation hearings last week for the new "war czar" Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) quoted "the top CIA expert on radical Islam," who told him recently that the U.S. presence in Iraq is generating more terrorists. "[I]n his opinion, our presence in Iraq is creating more members of Al Qaida than we are killing in Iraq," Bayh said.

More power to Adam and all the other vets who are fighting to stop this horrible war.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Tyranny

Do you still have any doubts that the administration prefers tyrannical dictatorship to democratic process? These stories from the June 14 issue of “The Progress Report” which is the newsletter of ought to help clear the water.

ETHICS -- TOP WHITE HOUSE AIDES SUBPOENAED IN U.S. ATTORNEY PROBE: Yesterday, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees issued subpoenas to former White House counsel Harriet Miers, "who first suggested a mass firing of prosecutors after the 2004 elections," and former White House political director Sara Taylor, who figured prominently in efforts to name Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas. "Let me be clear: this subpoena is not a request, it is a demand on behalf of the American people for the White House to make available the documents and individuals we are requesting to help us answer the questions that remain. The breadcrumbs in this investigation have always led to 1600 Pennsylvania," said House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI). The White House has continued to insist that it is willing to make officials available only for private interviews with no transcripts. But as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) notes, "The White House cannot have it both ways -- it cannot stonewall congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses, while claiming nothing improper occurred." Taylor's lawyer said yesterday that he would accept the Senate Judiciary Committee's subpoena. But this move does not mean that Taylor will testify, because the "White House appears likely to assert executive privilege try to block the subpoena." If the White House refuses the subpoenas, "Leahy and Conyers could move to hold the White House in contempt, then forward those citations to the full House and Senate for approval."

CIVIL LIBERTIES -- FBI SEEKING TO CREATE CONTROVERSIAL SIX-BILLION RECORD DATABASE: In the name of fighting terrorism, the FBI is seeking to create a new $12-million data-mining program that "bears a striking resemblance" to the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program. Documents predict that this new program "will include six billion records by FY2012. This amounts to 20 separate 'records' for each man, woman and child in the United States." Citing the FBI's "track record of improperly -- even illegally -- gathering personal information on Americans," House Science and Technology Committee members Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) requested last week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the proposal. In 2005, the GAO found that the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force did not comply with all privacy and security laws. Earlier this year, an Inspector General's report found that the FBI had repeatedly violated regulations while using National Security Letters to "obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors." In addition, an internal FBI audit published today by the Washington Post found "that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years." "[T]wo dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have." These repeated violations of federal law are made worse in light of the fact that such data mining techniques have yet to be proven effective in counter-terrorism operations. A recent Cato Institute study found that programs similar to this new FBI program are likely do little but "flood the national security system with false positives -- suspects who are truly innocent."

CIVIL RIGHTS -- SENATORS GRILL FEC NOMINEE OVER CONTROVERSIAL TENURE AT JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: A Senate committee confirmation hearing on four nominees to the Federal Election Commission grew "heated" yesterday as senators focused in on one of the nominees, Hans von Spakovsky, who has become a lightning rod for criticism over his controversial tenure in the Justice Department. On Tuesday, the day before the hearing, six former officials in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division wrote a letter to the committee, asserting that von Spakovsky "was the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairwoman of the committee, said it was "very unusual" that so many career lawyers at the Justice Department publicly questioned his actions. Asked about his alleged role in blocking a 2004 investigation into voter discrimination against Native Americans in Minnesota, von Spakovsky claimed that he did not "remember that complaint at all." Von Spakovsky's claim of a faulty memory led Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) to remark, "[Y]our memory failed you, but we have seen that that is an affliction that many people in the Department of Justice suffer from," referring to the frequent use of the phrase "I don't recall" in recent congressional testimony by other Justice officials such as former Missouri U.S. Attorney Bradly Schlozman and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The committee did not vote on the nominees yesterday, as Feinstein wanted to give von Spakovsky a chance to respond in writing to the letter from the former Justice officials, as well as for him to fill in details he said he could not remember during the testimony. Feinstein has said she is "leaning toward" voting against von Spakovsky.

In a closing quickie, the newsletter points out that the focus of civil rights litigation has shifted from issues related to race to those having to do with religion. Now, given the administration’s argument that it would never appoint prosecutors based on political orientation, how do you suppose that could have happened?

In the meantime, the Pentagon has reported that 40% of the soldiers returning from Iraq are suffering mental health problems and that 25% of them are presenting serious problems like PTSD and significant depression.

Our troops are being held in-country under dangerous and unstable circumstances too long for them to be able to escape these effects. Then when their problems surface, we not only fail to have adequate services to help them, but company commanders and others ridicule them and add immeasurably to the problem.

All of which goes to support the bumper sticker on my car – “Support our troops. Impeach our president.”

And what are the Democrats going to do about all this? They will maintain the status quo, pointing out Republican errors, but doing nothing to correct them. After all why rock the boat? As they see it, the only important thing they deal with is the effort to regain control in Washington, D.C. After that, they can start relining their friends’ pockets in the same way the Republicans do for theirs. What their actions say is that nothing else matters.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Friday, June 15, 2007


For more years than most people have lived, I have been an outside observer of the machinations of our government, and still I don’t fully understand how it is that well intentioned people who finally achieve election to high office become enemies of the world’s well-being.

This morning I listened to an interview with Senator Jim Webb, a man who often makes sense in his statements. He was talking about how he could reconcile his antipathy for the Iraq war with his feelings when his son elected to join the military and take part in that war even though he doesn’t support it. He talked of his family’s long history of service in the military from the American revolution on down and of how his father, a military man himself, tried to keep Webb from going to Viet Nam because he disagreed with administrative policy and abuse of power through misuse of troops at the time. Now Webb disagrees with administrative policy and feels the troops are being misused, too, but he reconciles these feelings with his fears for his son’s well-being by rationalizing (my word, not his) that a soldier – someone who has the moral fortitude to fight for his country – has no choice but to follow orders and do his best to bring his people home alive. Webb also mentioned that his feelings and actions as a father were different from his feelings and actions as a Senator, but didn’t elaborate on what a Senator could or should do.

To me this is insanity. Three generations willing to risk their lives for causes in which they do not believe is not a sign of patriotism. It is putting blind faith in a system that has proven time and again to be unworthy of that trust.

As a family, the Webbs are committing the same error that we as society make every time we honor commitment to military service above commitment to moral justice. To offer blind support for a government that consistently acts only in concert with its own economic interests while ignoring the interests, needs, and well-being of the citizenry of the world and even its own citizens is not to stand on the high moral ground. It is, on the contrary, to take the low road of repressing one’s own instinctive distaste for Machiavellian principles in order to embrace the socially blessed image of the patriot willing to “die for one’s country”. No one dies for one’s country except in defense when that country is under direct attack. In every other case, we are asked to die for our country’s economic interests, and it is high time that we refused to do it.

I have recently begun reading a book that will most likely end up next to “Flyboys” on my list of required reading for all citizens. It is John Perkins’, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. In it he describes his recruitment, training and actions as an EHM as he and his colleagues call themselves. It’s worth a read just to learn about the existence and day-to-day doings of these folks, but he also includes a good bit of information about the effects of what they do, and the only conclusion a sane person can draw from it all is that our country has long been embarked on a soulless journey that drags everyone it touches through unnecessary hell. Our politicians spout high and mighty morality stories, but the results of their actions are pure evil.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

“Today we see the results of this system run amok. Executives at our most respected companies hire people at near-slave wages to toil under inhuman conditions in Asisan sweatshops. Oil companies wantonly pump toxins into rain forest rivers, consciously killing people, animals, and plants, and committing genocide among ancient cultures. The pharmaceutical industry denies lifesaving medicines to millions of HIV-infected Africans. Twelve million families in our own United States worry about their next meal. The energy industry creates an Enron. The accounting industry creates and Andersen. The income ratio of the one-fifth of the world’s population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995. The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diet, sanitation services, and basic education to every person on the planet.

And we wonder why terrorists attack us?”

Putting your life on the line so we can rape another country is not patriotism, it is madness. Isn’t it time we stopped? If we want to show our patriotism, why not show it to the world and not just to one country? Why not stand up and shout, “Enough?”

That’s right. I’m a peacemonger, and the reactions my neighbors have to my behavior amaze me. People in America are more afraid of peace than they are of war. I guess it is human nature to be more comfortable with the devil you know than the angel you’ve never seen. That’s why John Lennon’s plea still rings out – Give peace a chance. Isn’t it time we did? After all, what have we got to lose?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Exercise Your Power to Stop Theirs

Please notice a new link on this page called Vote To Impeach Cheney. If you use it to contact usalone, you will find a gateway to lots of good information. Right now, you can use it to vote your mind about the impeachment of dick Cheney. You may vote either way, so no matter what you think of the idea, please vote.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent another link around to several friends of mine including a fellow tennis umpire whom I hold in especially high esteem. He is a thoughtful man, but he refused to enter the impeachment fray on the grounds that impeachment would never happen and he wanted his Senators and Representatives to work on the nuts and bolts that keep our country running.

I didn’t respond to him because I did not want to seem argumentative at the time, but just in case you feel the same as he did, I will say here that I do not buy that argument. My feeling is that if we just ignore this administration’s lies, sins, and – yes -crimes then we are giving tacit permission for future administrations to do the same and more. I believe that if this administration’s transgressions are allowed to stand, we are no more than a couple of generations away from authoritarian rule so terrible that we would look back on the Bush Administration as the good ol’ days.

What this administration is doing is laying the ground work for tyranny. If the people of the country don’t show enough savvy to put a halt to it, the high and mighty will certainly take advantage of it, but too many people seem to take the position my friend has taken.

Maybe they think that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t. Action does, but to take action a person must first recognize that action is needed. The one advantage BushCo gives us is that they are clumsy and totally unsubtle in their approach. It seems a great pity that so many citizens seem unwilling to make even the tiny amount of effort it takes to see through BushCo’s overbearing power grabs and then take action to stop it. And when all the action that’s required is to occasionally click your mouse on a meaningful link, why not do it?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Open Our Government

Yesterday I wrote about the Department of Justice and Alberto Gonzales. That afternoon the OMB watch sent a message that included the following synopsis:

DOJ Update:
Kyl Unveiled as FOIA Foiler
Shortly after supporters of the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in Our National (OPEN) Government Act began aggressive online and telephone campaigns to discover the senator who had placed an anonymous hold on the bill, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) acknowledged that he was blocking the legislation. Kyl explained that the move was at the behest of the Department of Justice, which he explained had "uncharacteristically strong objections to the bill."

I thought this was worthy of inclusion in today’s blog because it is a story I had mentioned last week, too. My point then was the irony of an anonymous hold on a bill aimed at governmental openness. Now to that irony we can add the blatant involvement of the Department of Justice in support of an indefensible Bush administration position that government should be less open.

This administration, in addition to the commonly cited multitude of sins it carries, is also the most secretive government in history. If the day-to-day activities of a government in a democratic republic cannot be carried on openly, they are not activities the people should support.

So why is openness in government so important?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What Is Our National Ethic?

For many years I have watched what I think is the erosion of our national ethic. A few stories in today’s news provide contrasts that keep the question of ethics in the air.

: The Senate has been hotly debating whether or not Mr. Bush’s nominee to head the Department of Justice, Alberto Gonzales, is qualified for the job. Republicans like Orin Hatch and Arlen Specter argue that his personal record of achievement as the first Hispanic-American to rise to such heights should give him a free pass to the position. Democrats argue that no one of any reputation or race should be given the position if he has supported torture, reduction of citizen and resident rights, and the politicization of the Department of Justice.

For me, just the fact that he rose to the Supreme Court judgeship in Texas under W is a strong indicator. W only likes those who are unquestioningly loyal and anybody unquestioningly loyal to W is a fool in my view.

But the issue here comes down to party politics. Republicans contend the whole debate is Democratic party politics, but the questions the Dems have raised seem to me to have validity. The Republican position squelches debate on or investigation into these legitimate questions by polarizing the debate.

Once again party politics a la Newt Gingrich trumps concerns about the future of our country.

RICHMOND, Va. - The Bush administration cannot legally detain a U.S. resident it believes is an al-Qaida sleeper agent without charging him, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday. The court said sanctioning the indefinite detention of civilians would have “disastrous consequences for the constitution — and the country.”

In the 2-1 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the federal Military Commissions Act doesn’t strip Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and the only person being held as an enemy combatant on U.S. soil, of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court.

It ruled the government must allow al-Marri to be released from military detention.
“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the President calls them ‘enemy combatants,’ would have disastrous consequences for the constitution — and the country,” the court panel said.

Al-Marri’s lawyers argued that the Military Commissions Act, passed last fall to establish military trials after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, doesn’t repeal the writ of habeas corpus — defendants’ traditional right to challenge their detention.

As Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales has already said that he will fight this decision. So I ask you, is the U. S. Court of Appeals just marching to the beat of Democratic Party politics or is there, perhaps, some validity to their arguments?

Finally, here is an article I have had on hold as a draft since April. I think it speaks volumes about the current Washington, D.C. ethic.

ETHICS -- SECRET HOLD BLOCKS OPEN-GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION FROM REACHING SENATE FLOOR: On April 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the OPEN Government Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The bill, which has garnered support from more than 100 organizations, would improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by reducing "delays in releasing government records requested under FOIA by creating incentives for public officials to comply with the law." The House passed a similar measure earlier this year but the bill was blocked from reaching the Senate floor for a vote yesterday. A "Republican senator called the Minority Leader's office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold." "It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered by a secret and anonymous hold," said Leahy in a statement. This is not the first time a secret hold has been used to block open government legislation from reaching the floor. In Aug. 2006, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) put a hold on a bill to create a searchable public database of all federal grants and contracts. Steven's role was revealed only after online public advocates and journalists forced senators to go on the record about whether they placed the hold or not.

It seems to me that the party politics that daily blocks the efforts of either party to accomplish anything positive for the country also blocks the potential for any good to come from the present Congress. If history doesn’t look back on this period of American politics and find it abhorrent, I will have missed something along the way. The combination of a bullheaded, arrogant and hegemonic administration with a Congress whose only concern is party politics has made for many years of the most wasteful and damaging world leadership seen since Rome fell.

It is obvious that Congress no longer has a strong enough sense of ethics to act responsibly. Do the people of this country understand ethical behavior well enough to throw out the rat pack that runs things from D.C.? It seems doubtful to me, but I sure would like to be proven wrong about that.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Monday, June 11, 2007


It has become a common slogan, but thinking globally and acting locally is no cliché. I think it’s THE WAY to actually having a direct impact through our own actions.


To begin with, there is a very important matter coming soon to the Senate Floor in a national capital near and dear to you! It has to do with reestablishing the right of Habeas Corpus that was stolen from the people of the world through The Military Commissions Act recently rushed through the Congress. Send a message to your Senators today. It’s simple, just click on this link and let Senator Leahy help you through the process.

While you’re at it, why not ask your senators to vote “No Confidence” for Alberto Gonzales today. Word is that the Senate vote will fail to send the right message today, but for people interested in reasserting concern for human rights back into our government and deal a blow to BuschCo for politicizing the Department of Justice support for ouster is a must. Many Republicans believe Gonzales should go, but won’t vote for it because that would be supportive of a Democratic effort. Aren’t you sick of seeing party affiliation determine votes on issues of importance to the people?


I spent Sunday in a volunteer job – cooking chicken and brats for a conference of Missouri Stream Team volunteers. For those unfamiliar, the State of Missouri sponsors a program called Missouri Stream Team in which people volunteer, undergo training, join or form a team, select a 100 yard long stretch of a stream and then monitor the stream’s health two to four times a year. The data they gather is invaluable in assessing the quality of our state’s water and waterways. (If you’d like more info on the program, email me or comment here, and I’ll respond.) Here is one of the stories related as part of the conference program.

Within the city limits of Springfield there is a stream called Ward Branch that has been downgrading for years. Its banks routinely collapsed and there was very little life in its waters. Recognizing that no single agency could do the whole job, a coalition of local agencies was formed including City Parks, Division of Natural Resources, The Watershed Committee, MO Stream Team, and the MO Department of Conservation. (If I’ve left anyone off the list, please forgive me and let me know.)

I had recently noticed that a long stretch of this stream had recently been decked out with white rock along both banks, but seeing only from a distance, thought that it was just the old channelization process that ultimately ruined so many streams in our state in the past. Wrong again! Unseen from the highway from which I had viewed the project, are rocks buried along the inside bends and strips of mulch parallel to the streambed throughout the rockwork. The mulch is planted with appropriate water tolerant natural plants according to their proximity to the water. More plantings were also made in the riparian corridor atop the banks. (30 volunteers planted more than 1500 trees and shrubs. My shame is that I wasn’t one of them.) Within five years, I was told, the rocks will be only barely discernable, the stream will rebuild its old bed by depositing gravel, and the stream will be well on its way back to health. Pictures already confirm this. The land has all been ceded to the city parks commission, and a greenway has been built along the stream so folks can enjoy and participate in the project.

There are many examples of inter-agency and citizen cooperation in the ecological concerns of the area, but this one is a true gem that demonstrates the effects of stewardship in dramatic fashion. The streambed has already begun to heal, and in just a few years everyone living near that stream or having anything else to do with it is going to see what working together can accomplish.

What a great example of thinking globally and acting locally. The more we can do to enhance the quality of the world’s water, the healthier our planet stands to be for our children and grandchildren and all the children of the earth. It’s also a great example of being the change you wish to see in the world. I hope your Sunday was as informative and as much fun for you as mine was. If it not, get involved in a project like this or start one yourself. From then on your Sundays and those of everyone around you will be better.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Friday, June 8, 2007


Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are two agencies that enjoy a highly respected international reputation for their work in shedding light on the dark corners of the human community. They have worked for years to call attention to inhumane treatment of prisoners and unfair restrictions to the rights of citizens around the world.

Now they have joined forces with several other agencies including several from Great Britain in announcing that the United States of America (North America, that is) is secretly holding 39 prisoners the U.S. suspects of terrorism.

Six British and U.S. human rights groups compiled the report that calls on the U.S. to disclose the identities, fate and whereabouts of all detainees.
• Read the report at the Amnesty International Web site.
• And/or the PBS report from All Things Considered, June 7, 2007 below:

A coalition of human rights groups on Thursday released the names of 39 terrorism suspects it believes are being secretly held by the United States.

The names of what the coalition calls "ghost" detainees were published in a 21-page paper, "Off the Record: U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearance in the 'War on Terror,' " that was compiled by six British and U.S. human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Detainees on the list include two men named in the Sept. 11 commission report as al-Qaida operatives. Another is a man who was named one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists and was confirmed by U.S. officials to have been seized in 2005 in Pakistan.

The report says details about the detainees were gleaned from information from former detainees and government and military officials, who asked not to be identified. The report was posted on Amnesty International's Web site Thursday.
"For many of them, for most of them, we at least know their full names and we normally know when they've been arrested, and then we have different details about where they've been held or who has seen them," said Anne Fitzgerald, a senior adviser for Amnesty International. "What we don't know for any of them is what's happened to them and where they are now."

According to the report, those who are being detained are from many different countries, including Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Spain. The report also says the detainees are believed to have been seized in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan, then transferred to secret U.S. detention facilities.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said: "There's a lot of myth outside government when it comes to the CIA and the fight against terror. The plain truth is that we act in strict accord with American law, and that our counter-terror initiatives — which are subject to careful review and oversight — have been very effective in disrupting plots and saving lives."

The report calls on the U.S. government to disclose the identities, fate and whereabouts of all detainees, and to put a permanent end to the CIA's secret detention and interrogation programs.

President Bush last year acknowledged the existence of secret detention centers, but he said the prisons were empty. Fitzgerald said she doubts that is still the case. Asked about the report Thursday, State Department spokesman Tom Casey would go no further than what President Bush said last year.

"In terms of the issues that are raised there, again, I think the president made clear in his remarks in September 2006 what kind of programs we were operating and the terms and conditions of them. And I really just don't have anything to add to that," Casey said.

NPR's Rob Gifford and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In another notable story, the Italian Constitutional Court begins a trial-in-absentia of 25 American CIA agents and a U.S. Air Force Colonel today for the abduction of a suspected terrorist from Italy.

The Italian government has tried to block the court’s effort, but it is going forward. Of course, no Americans will appear at the trial, nor will the U.S. ever officially recognize the right of the court to try Americans, but the process will hold the U.S. practice of “extraordinary rendition” up to the light of day.

It would be more appropriate and more widely reported if the matter were taken to an International Court, but that would take government action by Italy, whose leaders are more concerned about their relationship with Washington, D.C. than the rights of the people on its streets. It wouldn’t change anything in the U.S. where the government will not recognize the right of any court to try U.S. officials for anything.

Nor would it bring the story to wide publication by the American press. As discussed here yesterday, this story offers too much opportunity for criticism of American policies for our press to give it much circulation.

So, the Italian court can go ahead and come to any conclusions it wishes, and their decision will have little or no impact here at all. No individual found guilty there will ever be extradited to serve a sentence for kidnapping or torture of the prisoner kidnapped, no government official here will be held responsible for violations of Italian law, and, most definitely, no policy will change in the U.S. where kidnapping and torture are considered okay as long as the victim is probably a terrorist and preferably a Muslim.

But make no mistake – a government that maintains policies that allow kidnapping and torture of foreign citizens is a government that is only a step or two from applying the same policies to its own citizens, and is certainly guilty of breaches of the laws of other countries and the violation of human social mores.

Mr. Bush on Tuesday said that the world should not tolerate rogue nations trying to impose their ideology on other nations. Was he looking in the mirror when he said that or does he really believe that the U.S. has the right to do what he condemns in others?

A government that stifles discontent, dissent and even subversive and terroristic behavior through kidnapping, extraordinary rendition and torture is not a government that the American people should support, but the population, by and large, seems unable to see the danger in allowing their government to act this way,
but as Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Many citizens feel that this behavior is all right because terrorism is a special case, but those kidnapped are suspected, not convicted of terrorism. Finally, we must consider our responsibilities under treaties and international law. Here is what the Amnesty International report has to say about that, "Enforced disappearances involve violations of treaties binding on the United States, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. They also violate international humanitarian law."

If one man's rights are in danger, all men's rights are in danger.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Yesterday’s blog presented the viewpoint of one citizen who has decided to leave the United States and return to Germany in order to escape the growing tyranny of the U.S. government. I agree with his belief that the administration of George W. Bush uses tactics that threaten our very system of government.

Whether or not a person buys into the theory that the neo-cons have backed Bush in order to subvert our Constitutional form of government into an autocratic form, (see: Is There Any Doubt Now That It Is A Coup Attempt?
By CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream) an objective look at the way the administration has functioned and the kind of draconian measures it has put in place through legislation could not possibly lead one to conclude that they are striving to ensure openness in government and absolute freedom for the people! What follows is a list of items 9 through 16 from a list of 20 impeachable offenses compiled by

9. Acting to strip United States citizens of their constitutional and human rights, ordering indefinite detention of citizens, without access to counsel, without charge, and without opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, based solely on the discretionary designation by the Executive of a citizen as an "enemy combatant."
10. Ordering indefinite detention of non-citizens in the United States and elsewhere, and without charge, at the discretionary designation of the Attorney General or the Secretary of Defense.
11. Ordering and authorizing the Attorney General to override judicial orders of release of detainees under INS jurisdiction, even where the judicial officer after full hearing determines a detainee is wrongfully held by the government.
12. Authorizing secret military tribunals and summary execution of persons who are not citizens who are designated solely at the discretion of the Executive who acts as indicting official, prosecutor and as the only avenue of appellate relief.
13. Refusing to provide public disclosure of the identities and locations of persons who have been arrested, detained and imprisoned by the U.S. government in the United States, including in response to Congressional inquiry.
14. Use of secret arrests of persons within the United States and elsewhere and denial of the right to public trials.
15. Authorizing the monitoring of confidential attorney-client privileged communications by the government, even in the absence of a court order and even where an incarcerated person has not been charged with a crime.
16. Ordering and authorizing the seizure of assets of persons in the United States, prior to hearing or trial, for lawful or innocent association with any entity that at the discretionary designation of the Executive has been deemed "terrorist."

Are these really impeachable offenses? To answer that, you need to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

Are they dangerous signs of a tyrannical bent within the administration? To my mind, there is no question at all. What else besides tyranny could they represent? I sure won’t buy the argument that they are actions taken to ensure my security. Nothing any foreign person or government has done during my lifetime has ever done more to shake my sense of security than the actions this administration has taken over the past six years.

Are they reminiscent of the governmental approach taken by Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in the Germany of the 1930s? To me, the detention of either citizens or non-citizens based on a determination made, not by a court of law but by an administration official, combined with restrictions that make it impossible for them to argue or even declare their innocence is tyranny of the highest order. Is it Fascist? Well, it ain’t democratic!!

Another characteristic of tyranny is the actions it takes to stifle dissent. Under an autocrat, only sycophants (psychophants?!) are allowed positions within the government or the military. Recent news has carried stories of this tendency in the military and even more on the politicization of the Department of Justice and the disappearing agency behind it (American Center for Voting Rights). Witness after witness has come revealed the political screening process that has resulted in the firing and replacement of attorneys unwilling to toe the party line with those who are. Most of those witnesses have come from the sycophantic ranks who could be considered hostile to the investigation, but even they cannot successfully hide, deny or whitewash the obvious attempt to stack the DOJ with attorneys willing to prosecute non-existent voter fraud and pursue party-oriented investigations.

How does a justice system operate in a Fascist setting? Free and open, maybe, and with unbiased prosecutors? Or could it be that such a government would find it advantageous to have a justice department that was willing to prosecute (read persecute) anyone who holds a different view from the administration? Isn’t this exactly the advantage that the Bush Administration has been seeking? More tomorrow.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

American Fascism?

Shortly after W took office, discussion began among my friends about the resemblance his administration’s approach to governance to the rise of Fascism in Germany in the 30s. I have seen nothing in the years that have passed since then to convince me that this was not a fair characterization.

Yesterday a friend sent me a story that really hits home on the subject. Give it a read and see if you don’t agree. I have written many times on the political chicanery BushCo has employed in its manipulation of public opinion and policy over the years, but have only occasionally brushed up against the role of the press.

In case you didn’t follow the link above, here is an excerpted reference to Nazi Germany: “. . . the news refused to question the government, and the ones who did were not in the newspaper business much longer.”

BushCo is a little more subtle these days, but not all that much. Ask the wrong question at a Bush press conference and a reporter will be relegated to the back row and ignored. Ask too many questions and she will no longer be invited to attend. Hitler’s Brownshirts used to just bomb the offices of newspapers that printed criticism of government policy. BushCo buddies just use ridicule and twisted reporting. FOX “accidentally” reports on television that John Conyers is being tried for fraud and other ethics violations. No one outside of Keith Olberman and Bill Moyers are reporting strong truths about the administration on widely viewed media. Oh, I forgot that Bill Moyers no longer has his Frontline show on PBS, does he? Wonder why that is. You can frequently see him on Democracy Now! on Link TV, but how many people even know that Link exists? Why is Olberman allowed to rant? Well, he isn’t on the network news and allowing one tiny voice accomplishes a couple of things – he can be pointed to as evidence that the press is free to speak its mind and at the same time he can be pointed to as the shrill voice of irrational dissent with the footnote that his irrationality is obvious because his is the only voice saying these things.

Moyers, by the way, is coming back as the PBS token dissenter. Since his suspension from Frontline he has been particularly vocal in his condemnation of the press for its failure to investigate and report on BushCo’s many, many transgressions of law and ethics. He is the strongest and best voice currently speaking to the death of the free press in this country.

A good part of the problem, of course, is the loss of the multiple owners of independent newspapers that used to dot the country. Our press is basically owned by about a half dozen conglomerates these days, and their voice is stringently muted in favor of profits heightened not by critical analysis of administrative policy but by “human interest” stories. After all, it’s so much more fun to follow the twists and turns of Brittany Spears’ pathetic little life than trying to follow the machinations of political manipulations.

Top all this off with the replacement of printed news with TV sound-bites, and there is precious little in-depth information available to people unwilling to do their own research. In this kind of an atmosphere, it is almost embarrassingly simple to wave the flag and sell a few million “support the troops” bumper stickers and have folks feel like that’s all the justification needed to keep a good war going.

In the meantime though, back in the shadows behind the scenes where, thanks to the silent press, domestic freedoms are eroded by all kinds of legislative sleight-of-hand, and the construction of the neo-cons’ vision of American hegemony stalks its malevolent way onward and downward.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Updates and Backdates

Update: Adam Kokesh had his hearing yesterday. Accused of protesting the war while wearing a uniform, Kokesh was faced with the possibility of having his Honorable discharge reduced to Other than Honorable. The result would have been difficulty finding employment and loss of Veterans Administration privileges. What the commission ultimately did was give Kokesh a General discharge. He will retain his privileges and probably not be significantly impaired in his searches for employment.

It was probably the lightest punishment the commission felt they could mete out. After all, they must have felt they had to do something in order to fall short of underwriting his protest of the war, but it is certainly not a ringing note of approval for the war, either.

Update: Two Guantanamo Bay detainees were relieved of charges yesterday by American judges who said that they did not fit the definition of an illegal combatant as they would have to be in order to be tried in this court. Is this affront to humanity also finally going to come apart at the seams?

Update: In its Nation/World section yesterday, the local paper posted an article headlined, “Congress sidestepping pork rule”. The upshot being that the Democrats who took over Congress declaring that they would open the legislative process to the sunshine and eliminate pork barrel spending are ignoring their own rules. Or, even worse, twisting them so that they can attach “earmarks” for their pet projects after bills have moved far enough through the legislative process that the pork cannot be effectively challenged.
So much for the honest government promise the Democrats used to buy our votes.

Backdate: In cleaning up my ragged computer files yesterday I came across the following article. Please note the date and consider what has changed in the last five years –

11/20/02 I awoke this morning again obsessed with the state of affairs in our country. I believe that the U.S. is entering the darkest period of its history. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that President Bush enjoys a 70% popularity rating according to polls.

I believe that Bush is the greatest danger to American and world freedom on the face of the earth today. His eager rush to war with Iraq when combined with the passage of the War Powers Act and the Homeland Security Act set the stage for not only world-wide aggression, but also for unprecedented internal exercise (read abuse) of power. Other acts have also granted power while removing checks and balances. The Justice Department has been given the power to invade the privacy of American citizens in ways that were banned in the seventies.

I was raised as a deeply patriotic American. A believer in America’s role as the savior of freedom and justice on the European and Asian Continents in WWII, I could never before hear the Star Spangled Banner and watch the flag rise without a spine-tingling, nearly tear producing surge of pride and awe. Now I wonder if I will ever again see it without a chilling shiver going up my spine and thoughts of our imperialistic abuses of our power.

The America I saw in my prior mind’s eye was a nation dedicated to peace and justice throughout the world. Over the years, I have noted many instances of our breaking away from that ideal – Viet Nam, Grenada, Panama, Iran-Contra, post-Desert Storm. I never thought during any of those wrong-headed abuses of power, though, that I would see the day when the American Congress would hand away its control over a President’s desire to declare war on another sovereign nation nor agree that the Executive Branch should have the power to “preemptively” strike at another country.

I would not be in such despair over all of this if the people were not in support of it. I can’t understand and am shamed by their willingness to see this country degenerate into the world’s meanest bully. What a horrible comparison to the shining strength of a country willing to use its power to free the rest of the world from the tyrannies of WWII.

George Bush could not more clearly state his disdain for American heritage if he publicly defecated on the flag.

America has the nuclear power to blow away every nation on earth in a day. Now we want to use our military might to attack any country our president sees as threatening – regardless of the fact that they could no more than ruffle a hair on our national head. Even 9/11 was minor compared to the devastation we have wreaked and are poised to wreak on the rest of the world. I read yesterday that for every American who died on 9/11, we have killed 500 Iraqi children with our blockade of that country.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Today Mr. Bush’s popularity level is around 30% at best. One poll listed 88% of American citizens as against the war. So what is BushCo’s reaction? Why, hold the course, of course. To hell with what the people think or want. What’s important is what King George took office to do.

Isn’t it time we ran this tyrant and his sycophantic (or is it psychopathic) followers along with him. While we’re at it, let’s run the Democrats out, too, and start over. Is there a Populist in the house?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Whisper of Truth?

Finally, something in the newspaper that smacks of truth about terrorism. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was quoted in Sunday’s paper as having said that fighting terrorism will require a focus on “combating poverty and other underling causes of extremism.”

Here’s a quote for an article by Robert Burns, an AP military writer:

"On the negative side of the ledger, I think we have not made enough progress in trying to address some of the root causes of terrorism in some of these societies, whether it is economic deprivation or despotism that leads to alienation," he (Robert Gates) said.
He called for more "creative thinking" to address the root causes of Islamic extremism, but he added that even those efforts will not be the complete answer to winning what he called a long war on terrorism.”

Reasonable folk of all stripes have known for a long time what it would really take to quell terroristic furor, but the government of the U.S. has concentrated on using firepower – showing power instead of strength of character. Well before we invaded Iraq, and perhaps even before we invaded Afghanistan – my memory doesn’t serve me well here – Osama bin Laden issued a proclamation stating his reasons for approving of 9-11; including our predatory foreign economic policies in the list.

Gates, of course, didn’t refer to economics in that way. His implication is that the economic deprivation involved arises from despotism within the nations giving rise to terrorism. His ultimate plea was for help from Asian nations on the grounds that the U.S. couldn’t win this war alone.

He only eluded (or is it deluded?) two minor aspects of reality. First, he ignored the fact that outright, high-tech warfare is not a viable method of combating terrorism. Second, he mentioned economic deprivation, but it would have been nice – though political suicide – to have recognized the U.S. complicity in generating foment through the economics linked militaristic policies of rape and plunder that have been in force for the entirety of American history.

As I have asked repeatedly in this blog and many times over the years before beginning these posts, who will be the next terrorist; the son whose father we kill or the father whose son we feed?

Gates was asking for Asian guns. He should have been asking for forgiveness and passing out American butter.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Power of Sychophancy

The Bush Administration is widely known for demanding sychophancy from their underlings. On today’s Morning Edition news show, Guy Raz did a fairly extensive story on the impact of this attitude on the military.

Donald Rumsfeld was among the most famous BushCo “leaders” for demanding unquestioning loyalty. As Raz points out in his story, Rumsfeld was quick to get shed of General Shinseki when he protested before the invasion that stabilizing Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of American troops. Never mind that the general was right. What was important was that he was not in sync with the administration’s line.

Retired General Easton called the defense department’s process for selecting generals from then on “the Rumsfeld Screen”, which he meant to indicate that no one would be selected for top rank unless he first demonstrated that he would toe the party line. The upshot of this is that for the last six years, only administration yes-men received top rank promotion. The upshot is that as time has gone on under this administration, the military spokesmen have come to sound more and more like administration politicians.

It may be backfiring, though. As Raz points out, a poll of 1,000 officers published by The Military Times indicates growing disenchantment with administration views. Another indication is that five years ago 80% of military cadets called themselves Republicans as opposed to the less than 50% who now say they are Republicans.

Maybe the Rumsfeld Screen has finally become the Bush Seive. Let us pray.

Finally, today’s newspapers bring us the final irony. Thrashing about wildly for a legacy while at the same time seeking to make sure his corporate cronies don’t suffer any setbacks, W has stepped forward in a feeble attempt to set the agenda on the global warming issue. Ooops! Sorry, George, I forgot we’re suppose to say climate change issue. (Somehow that’s now deemed to be a less threatening term, and, after all, it isn’t what you say that counts any more, it’s how you say it. Syntax is everything!)

I think W is in for a quick bitch-slap on this one, though. He won’t find many yes-men to nod and scrape for him on the world stage, and that’s the good news. (Maybe the prez should just hand this one to the head of NASA. His ability to make embarrassingly uninformed comments puts him at the head of the bobble-head class.)

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR