Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007


My apologies for being both late and unprepared. Just too much going on today in my life and nothing eyecatching in the news, so no blog. I’ll be back next week.

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Getting Out of Iraq

Getting Out of Iraq

Could we withdraw with honor and without endangering Iraq’s future? Our biggest ally, Britain, seems to think so:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday announced that he will trim Britain's forces in Iraq nearly in half, withdrawing 2,500 troops by early 2008. "The next important stage in delivering our strategy is to hand over security to the Iraqis, and it is to move from a combat role in the rest of Basra province to overwatch," Brown said in a speech to Parliament. Politically, this move will be popular with the British public, which favors a U.K. troop withdrawal. It will also distance Brown from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose unwavering support for the Bush administration's Iraq policies led to domestic political defeats for his Labor Party. Strategically, it will likely help the security situation in southern Iraq. Since an early September withdrawal of British forces from Basra, attacks in the region have dramatically decreased. In his speech yesterday, Brown explained that since British forces "handed over our base in Basra City in early September, the present security situation has been calmer."

DWINDLING COALITION OF THE WILLING: Brown's announcement comes after a visit to Iraq last week, where he had initially announced that 1,000 British troops would withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2007. A senior British official told the AP yesterday that by the end of 2008, all the country's troops may be out of Iraq. After the United States, Britain has the largest force in Iraq. Approximately 170 British troops have died since the March 2003 invasion, and public support for the war continues to wane. A recent PIPA poll shows that 65 percent of Britons want troops out of Iraq within a year. Yesterday, "more than 2,000 people marched from London's Trafalgar Square to Parliament to demand a complete withdrawal of British troops." In another sign that Bush's infamous Coalition of the Willing continues to dwindle, the Czech Republic also yesterday announced that it would be withdrawing its 100 troops.

REMOVING A TARGET: When the British first announced in February that it would possibly withdraw its troops, the Bush administration tried to spin the news as progress. "I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," said Vice President Cheney. But the Basra region, where Britain's troops are concentrated, has been the central front in a "turf war between rival Shi'ite groups." British troops were "frequent targets"; 41 soldiers were killed this year, the most since 2003. A Nov. 2006 Pentagon report to Congress contradicted Cheney's claims of success, listing "Basra as one of five cities outside Baghdad where violence remained 'significant.'" But since British troops have begun to leave the region, the security situation has improved. Yesterday, Brown noted, "In the last month, there have been five indirect fire attacks on Basra Air Station compared with 87 in July." Basra residents have "begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear." "The situation these days is better. We were living in hell. ... [T]he area is calm since their [the British] withdrawal," said Iraqi housewife Khairiya Salman. The need to remove coalition forces in order to improve security in Iraq was underscored by a British think tank report released yesterday. The Oxford Research Group analysis concluded that the "'war on terror' is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements."

SMEARING THE BRITISH: Earlier in the year, the Bush administration had no shortage of praise for the Britain's work in Iraq. In February, Cheney said that British forces had "made progress in southern Iraq." In July, Bush said of Brown, "I found a person who shares [my] vision and who understands the call." But when word broke that Britain would begin withdrawing its forces, the White House lost no time in criticizing its ally. "There's concern about Brown," a senior White House foreign policy official told The Daily Telegraph, adding that there has been "'a lot of unhappiness' about how British forces had performed in Basra." In August, Ret. Gen. Jack Keane, who was vice chief of staff during the 2003 Iraq invasion and remains a key adviser to the Bush administration, accused the British of plans to "cut and run." He argued that instead of withdrawing, the British should escalate the number of troops in Basra, similar to Bush's failed "surge" in Baghdad. – “The Progress Report”, October 9, 2007. Center for American Progress Action Fund

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

What National Security? What Freedom?

More and more often, I find myself asking what people mean when they say things like, “Our troops are fighting for our freedom.”

Exactly what freedom are they talking about? I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that nothing the U.S. is doing in Iraq is doing anything to protect anyone’s freedom. Iraq has become Al Qaeda’s training ground. We have given the Iraqi people the freedom to fight among themselves to decide who will ultimately get to have control over the lives of the others, but little freedom of any other kind.

Stateside meanwhile, the rights of the people are ground to dust under the boots of unconstitutional restrictions. It isn’t just BushCo. Although they are to my mind the most egregious offenders I have ever seen, they are just the culmination of long years of effort by powerful people to garner more and more power to themselves, and the only way you can amass power to yourself is to take some away from someone else.

The United States Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear the case of a man who, by every account from U.S. newspapers to the Chancellor of Germany, was illegally and falsely detained and tortured in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. That program is BushCo’s approach to interrogating people they suspect of terrorism. In this case, the man was Khaled Al-Masri. BushCo said he was connected to 9-11 even though they had no proof. After being horribly tortured in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, he was dumped on a hill in Albania in the middle of the night when the CIA determined that he was innocent.

And now, because the Bush Administration says his testimony would damage national security, the last possible U.S. court won’t hear his case. He has no legal recourse – no further power to exercise - and the program of extraordinary rendition goes on.

What is the risk to national security here - That the location of the prison would be compromised? That the methods we use to torture people would be disclosed and Al Qaeda could train its people to resist them?

None of the above. The real risk to national security here is the risk that someone – anyone – could be whisked off in the middle of the night to undergo months of the kind of torture Mr. Al-Masri endured and then be able to do absolutely nothing about it.

That’s the kind of risk the Jews and homosexuals faced in Nazi Germany. That’s the kind of risk the Hutus of Rwanda faced at the hands of the Tootsies. That’s the kind of risk that powerless people all over the world have faced since the beginning of time, and it is the kind of risk that our founding fathers sought to eliminate by establishing a democratic government based on the constitution.

The risk to national security is autocratic government that stifles dissent. The risk to national security is a court system that only serves to rubber stamp an autocratic government. The risk to national security is a Congress that only serves to rubber stamp the Executive Branch.

And the GREATEST RISK to national security is an apathetic and complacent citizenry that will not force its representatives to act responsibly.

Is the freedom our troops are fighting for the freedom for our government to wrongfully imprison and torture people?

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Populist

As I have long called myself a populist, I was not particularly surprised when a copy of a newspaper called “The Progressive Populist” showed up in my mailbox this week-end. When you subscribe to the kind of stuff I do – “The Nation”, “Utne Reader” and “Mother Jones” – you are likely to received something from the left once in a while. I was surprised, though, to see that this little paper is published in Storm Lake, Iowa. I grew up not far from Storm Lake, and I guarantee you it was no hot-bed of pink prose then.

The more I looked through the paper, the more impressed I became. It’s letter to the editor revealed that its readership comes from all across the country, and the articles within were written by well-known and highly respected people from Ralph Nader to John Dean.

Dean’s article, Broken Government, echoed my thoughts about how the Republican party has gone from the conservative guardian of state’s rights to the repressive proponent of Executive Power. Like many of you, I have gone from being a Republican voter to being an Independent. Dean has gone from being a high-level lawyer within the Republican party to a Washington warrior fighting against the transformation (read perversion) of the American system from a Constitutional government designed to protect the rights of the citizenry to a power brokered system designed to enhance the power of the Republican party.

To put it in a nutshell, Dean closed his article by telling about a friend who happened to call him as he was finishing the article. He describes his friend as a lifelong Republican from the Nixon Whitehouse who voted for Bush and Cheney twice because he knows them personally. Asked for an off the record comment about the current situation, this was the man’s response:

“Just tell your readers that you have a source who knows a lot about the Republican party from long experience, that he knows all the key movers and shakers, and he has a bit of advice: People should not vote for any Republican because they are dangerous, dishonest and self-serving. While I once believed that Governor George Wallace had it right, that there was not a dime’s worth of difference in the parties, that is no longer true. I have come to realize the Democrats really do care about people who most need help from the government; Republicans care most about those who will only get richer because of government help. The government is truly broken, particularly in dealing with national security, and another four years, and heaven forbid not eight years, under the Republicans, and our grandchildren will have to build a new government, because the one we have will be unrecognizable and unworkable.”

Dean and his friend definitely have the picture. The Republican party has definitely sold out the citizenry in general in favor of the top earning 5% who pull them around by the nose. I wish I felt as strongly about the Democrats as his friend does, but I do agree that in spite of their willingness to push initiatives like NAFTA and the lack of spine they have been showing in the Congress every day since last November, they are more a party of the people than the Republicans can even pretend to be.

That’s not the only reason that, no matter who their candidates are, they will get all my votes next November, but that’s certainly reason enough.

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Friday, October 5, 2007

Who Supports Our Troops?

War protesters are constantly faced with the criticism that they are not supporting the troops. It is hard for us to understand how we could be more supportive than to pull them out of unnecessary harm’s way. If our critics can’t understand that, how do they frame this from The Center for American Progress Action Fund?:

IRAQ -- ARMY DENIES BENEFITS TO NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS WHO SERVED 22 MONTHS IN IRAQ: Approximately 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently returned home after serving serving 22 months tours -- longer than any other ground combat unit. Members of the group suffered nine fatalities and were awarded dozens of Purple Hearts. But the Army wrote the orders for 1,162 of these soldiers for 729 days, making them ineligible for full educational benefits under the GI Bill, which requires written orders saying they were deployed for 730 days or more. These soldiers were shorted more than $200 per month for college. First Lt. Jon Anderson believes that the military deliberately cut short their orders to avoid paying the soldiers' education benefits. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally," he said. "I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership." Six members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D) and Norm Coleman (R), have asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to investigate the matter. Coleman said that it's "simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq." Geren has reportedly assured the lawmakers that the cases "will be reviewed on an expedited basis, so that those who qualify can attend school next semester."

Now I ask you. Who is more supportive of the troops; the critics of the war or the engineers of the 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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Racial Divides

This morning’s paper was enough to make my blood boil. Story after story was based on racial discrimination. It began with the tale of a deaf student held hostage and painted with symbols of the KKK, then moved on to the horrible tale of Llibagiza’s Rwandan experience that culminated in her beatific ability to forgive, and then on to Dallas where the good old American tradition of hateful race relations keeps on keeping on.

The straw that broke my back, though was the letter to the editor from Ron Reese who thinks that affirmative action is discriminatory and that there was no racially based privilege in this country prior to 1960. What rock has this guy been living under?

Prior to 1954, Mr. Reese’s family might have felt like there was no racially based privilege because his race had full control of all the privileges. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, anyone other than a Caucasian or those who could pass for Caucasian was ever granted equal status with us Wasps.

Affirmative action is not the extension of special privileges to people other than Wasps. It is the extension of equal access to the same rights enjoyed only by Wasps up until its passage. If it now and again offers a job or a service to a person of color while rejecting a Wasp with better qualifications, it is a slight that doesn’t even come close to the societal slights that narrow minded Wasps like Mr. Reese continue to wish they could impose on people of color.

Without affirmative action, the black people of this country would not have been able to enjoy the wide-ranging acceptance they now find. Without affirmative action and desegregation, we Wasps would never have been privileged to learn about, participate in and be welcomed by the culture of African-Americans. Without the Civil Rights Act and subsequent measures taken to level the playing field for all races, this country would have necessarily been riven by racially generated anger of much greater intensity than exists here today.

Given the continued and growing negative attitudes of people like neo-Nazis and other racial haters, there is no doubt that we are in for more racially based anger in the future, but we ought to expect that until the day comes when we can finally accept one another for the content of their character as Rev. Martin Luther King dreamed we one day would.

Be still Mr. Reese. Consider that you nor I nor anyone else in the world is any better than anyone else in the world because of the color of their skin. Then focus for a minute on the beauty and power of Ms. Llibagiza’s ability to forgive and then, even though her skin is darker than yours, try to become one-half the person she is and understand that we are trying, through affirmative action to seek forgiveness for the wrongs of our past. To seek forgiveness for our transgressions is as powerful an act as to forgive, so if all races can achieve that, we will at last be on equal footing.

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We Need the Draft

The flap today is all about Blackwater. Erik Prince testifies before an investigative committee on the hill that his boys are all sweet professionals while answering questions about instances like on of his drunken professionals killing another security guard then being spirited out of the country before he could be tried by the Iraqis. Isn’t that just the kind of behavior you want your country to be represented by?

This blog has discussed America’s mercenaries several times in the past. What it all boils down to for me is that if the people of America want to have some say in how the military is used and whether they would rather pay private companies three times the money to do military jobs or have the military do it themselves, they will have to reinstate the draft.

If everyone’s sons and daughters were obligated to provide two years of service to their country, everyone would pay a lot more attention to the uses to which those sons and daughters were put.

The far right wingnuts can rant all they want about how we lost Vietnam because Congress cut off the funds, but the true fact is that Congress withdrew funding because the right thinking people of the United States were fed up with seeing their children turned into cannon fodder for no valid purpose.

Another pure fact is that the privatization of military functions has cost – not saved – us money. To top that off, as the size of our mercenary forces grows the likelihood and frequency of the kind of inappropriate behavior that has brought Prince before the Senate multiply.

Draft enough people to fill all the needed military and supportive positions and then demand that they be used only for valid purposes. For instance, if we weren’t now spending all our human and monetary capital in the totally out of line war in Iraq, we could perhaps do something positive for the people of Myanmar.

As long as the American people are so isolated from the impacts of the war, they will remain complacent in their support of or inaction regarding that war. Involve the people directly and we will begin to see more responsible action from our government. As I see it, draft into national service, whether military, military support or world community service is the straightest path to that goal.

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Congressional Columbus Day
Here’s a nice recap of this year’s legislative process on the military appropriations:
On May 9, the full House Armed Services Committee approved the bill. While some funding for the Airborne Laser program (a component of the national missile defense system) and for other programs was restored, the funds came from other missile defense programs, leaving the top line cut to missile defense at $764 million. The Committee also agreed to the $45 million reductions from the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed and $24.9 million from the facility to build new plutonium cores for weapons, while agreeing to increase the Pentagon's Cooperative Threat Reduction program by $50 million to $398 million and increase the Energy Department's nuclear non-proliferation programs by $150 million to $1.8 billion.
On May 17, the House adopted the bill by a vote of 397 - 27. Before final passage, the House: rejected 136 - 288 a DeFazio (D-OR) amendment to bar a U.S. attack on Iran without prior Congressional approval; rejected 202 - 216 an Andrews (D-NJ) amendment to bar spending in the bill on planning contingency operations in Iran.
On September 11, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved $459.3 billion for the Pentagon, about $3.5 billion less than the President's request but about 9.5% higher than the last fiscal year. The funds for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will be considered separately, as in the House of Representatives. The Subcommittee approved $8.5 billion for missile defense, a cut of $310 million from the Pentagon request, reducing funding for the third missile defense site in Europe by $85 million, eliminating all funds for the Space Test Bed and fully funding the Airborne Laser program. It also cut $15 million of the $30 million for the Navy work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead. The Subcommittee also approved an amendment ordering a review of how nuclear weapons are handled after a recent incident in which six nuclear bombs were mistakenly flown over several states.
On September 12, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill.
The full Senate may consider the bill this week. The portion of the request to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now reach $192 billion -- is not likely to be considered until October or November, or even early next year.
While they can’t find the moral fiber to rein BushCo in, the Congress is able to find a way to take a few days off for Columbus day:

Congressional Recess Schedule
October 5 - 14 Senate Columbus Day recess
November 9 Target House adjournment
November 16 Target Senate adjourment
Columbus certainly has a long day, doesn’t he?!! Well, surely all those hardworking Senators and Congressmen will spend the week visiting all the Indian tribes that will be so wildly celebrating Columbus’ arrival. I don’t know why I rail against it so – nothing much has changed since the pilgrims sunk their flag into the soil of Jamestown and the soul of the native American – we still rape and plunder and take whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want.

I’ve long thought that the planet would be better off if human kind just eliminated itself, but maybe all it would take would be for the rest of the races to bump us WASPs off!

Burma is ruled by one of the worst military dictatorships in the world. This week Buddhist monks and nuns began marching and chanting prayers to call for democracy. The protests spread and hundreds of thousands of Burmese people joined in -- they've been brutally attacked by the military regime, but still the protests are spreading.

I just signed a petition calling on Burma's powerful ally China and the UN security council to step in and pressure Burma's rulers to stop the killing. The petition has exploded to over 200,000 signatures in a few days and is being advertised in newspapers around the world, delivered to the UN secretary general, and broadcast to the Burmese people by radio. We're trying to get to 1 million signatures this week, please sign below and tell everyone!

Thank you for your help!

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

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Monday, October 1, 2007

In a story headlined, U.S. Embassy, Iraqi leaders criticize Senate proposal, the local paper reported today on the Senate’s nonbinding resolution to divide Iraq along ethnic lines. This proposal is so bad that even the U.S. embassy in Iraq thinks it stinks and the Iraqi quasi-government agrees with them.

That embassy, by the way, is in itself one of the biggest slaps in the face the Iraqis have had to endure under American occupation, so it takes a really stupid move on the part of the American government to get any Iraqis to agree with anything the embassy says. The U.S. has built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad and is staffing it with enough military and diplomatic personnel to make it a major city on its own. If Russia did that in Springfield, would Ozarkans believe that they had no permanent designs on the region?

But I digress – back to the Senate proposal. I guess – given that the Congress hasn’t really accomplished anything of value for at least eight years - it’s no real surprise that our Senate could spend its time on a measure so blatantly arrogant is trying to tell another nation that it should split into separate provinces based on ethnicity, but it still galls me.

What do our elected leaders think their function is? They have recently declined to send BushCo any messages at all to curb their warlike tendencies but instead they spend their time passing resolutions condemning an advertisement run by MoveOn and now this ethnic borders proposal.

Are we witnessing Nero’s fiddling or what? Is there anyone in elected office with the fortitude to stand up and disown the rest of them?

Yes, some Senators and Congressmen do – Byrd and Kucinich come to mind – so a more salient question might be why won’t the American people support people like those two? Why can’t such people be viable candidates for the presidency? Why is it that we are always saddled with the responsibility of voting the lesser of two very apparent evils into the most important office in the world?

We debate whether gays should be married and ignore the rape of the constitution. We argue over whether stem cells should be destroyed and ignore the murder of a nation. We watch fake candidates for national office spending billions in the quest for power and ignore children starving in the streets of every country in the world. In the name of “freedom” we send our children to die in war to unseat a tyrant we created and ignore tyrants in Myanmar who shoot their children down in the streets for demanding their freedom.

We should all hang our heads in shame, and maybe we ought to hang a few Senators while we're at 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