Thursday, June 19, 2008

Environmental Friendliness, Bush Administration Style

White House press secretary Dana Perino referred to Bush administration efforts to drop a "Congressional ban on safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling." 

Environmentally friendly? Isn't it more friendly to avoid drilling at all in an effort to preserve clean water and coastlines? Especially when "the Energy Information Administration says that even if both coasts were opened, prices would not begin to drop until 2030."

This reference to "friendliness" is one more example of Bush administration Orwellian double speak when it comes to the environment. One is reminded of the administration's "Clear Skies Proposal," which weakened the Clean Air Act. This drilling initiative is nothing more than Bush's and Cheney's granting one more windfall to the big oil companies at the expense of the environment, while deceptively claiming to be acting on behalf of the public. Whenever this administration claims to have the public's interests at heart, always substitute "the public" for "corporations."

Naturally, McBush is embracing the administration's latest proposal.

Missing Guns

According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "more than 30,000 firearms are unaccounted for in gun dealers' inventories nationwide." A senior representative of the group stated, "We've seen that guns the dealers claim are lost are frequently sold to gun traffickers and sold off the books."

NYC Mayor Bloomberg has led efforts to prosecute such rogue dealers, who sell weapons that end up used in crimes in the city.

The article states that dealers are not required to keep a regular inventory of their guns. So what does the NRA say about that?

"No one in American should place any faith in any alleged study coming from the Brady Center," said  Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA. Now there's an incisive rebuttal of the Brady Center's findings! It came from the Brady Center, so it must be wrong!

The spokesman continues, "There are plenty of laws on the books that address that issue..." Apparently not enough. 

Nicholas Colucci of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reassures us that most of the shops with missing firearms had "gone out of business" and that none were missing from "90 percent of the inspected businesses." Well that's reassuring! What about the other 10%? Why shouldn't 100% of firearms shops be required to keep a regular inventory?

Please see the link on this page, below right, to find out more about the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McBush: The Title Fits–Not "Maverick"

Elizabeth Bumiller's front page article in the New York Times (6/17/08) asks, "Is McCain Like Bush? It Depends on the Issue." This title evades the issue. McCain is indeed like Bush according to Bumiller's own evidence. Accompanying the article is an outline on how the two are similar and how they differ. The similarities win--and they win big--by a score of 13-5. Note some of the critical ways in which the two are similar:

• Abortion–McCain not only opposes the use of federal money for abortion (he, like Bush, would condemn poor women to dangerous back alley procedures), but he explicitly calls for Roe v. Wade to be overturned--something even Bush doesn't do. Do the Hillary backers who are considering voting for McCain know this?
• Iraq–McCain's only difference with Bush is in the handling of the war; in his view, the "surge" should have started earlier. He has repeatedly backed the war despite the fact that its original justifications have fallen apart.
• Habeas Corpus–McCain supports the denial of habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees. 
• Health Care–McCain wants to give a refundable tax credit of $5,000 to families buying their own insurance. That would really go far in making payments over the course of the year! He also joined Bush in opposition to expanding children's health insurance.
• Taxes–McCain has flipped on this; after his early criticism, he now wants to make Bush's tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires permanent. He wants to expand corporate welfare.
• Wiretapping–McCain believes that Bush's permitting the National Security Agency to monitor American's international phone calls and emails without warrants was constitutional.

So where's the "maverick" in all this? No doubt, McBush is a proper title–and a vote for McCain is a vote for a third Bush term.

Congratulations to California's First Gay Married Couple

At left, Mayor Gavin Newsom presides over the wedding of longtime gay rights activists Del Martin, 87, seated, and Phyllis Lyon, 84. The couple has been together for 50 years. Congratulations to them, and to the state of California for ending state-mandated discrimination against gay couples. May the entire country follow suit. I can't understand those conservatives who, while professing a belief in small government and individual freedom, want the government to deny the right of gays to consecrate this ultimate bond. And does anyone have the right to stand in judgment and vote in a proposition on whether gays can marry? The fact is that the California Supreme Court upheld the principle of equal protection under the law. As for the argument that marriage between a man and a woman is the "pillar of civilization," I haven't noticed the sky falling in Canada or Massachusetts since gay marriage became legal there. Amazingly, my own straight marriage has also remained intact since Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon exchanged vows.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kathleen Parker's Frightening Prospects

Kathleen Parker, in "Braking for euphoria," states, "Republicans want to stop Obama for all the right reasons (increased government confiscation of earnings, redistribution of wealth, and the prospect of President Obama empowering enemies through therapeutic chats)." Confiscation"? Translation: raising the tax rate on capital gains and on millionaires and billionaires in general. "Redistribution of wealth"? So the gilded age we've been living in during the Bush era may subside, and the rest of us, who have been coping with an ever higher cost of living, may have a bigger slice of the pie. How frightening! "Therapeutic chats"? The Bush administration's refusal to negotiate with those we don't like--and who else is there to negotiate with?--has been tremendously successful, right?

Ms. Parker also states, "...McCain has differed with Bush on the most important issues, from climate change to torture to the surge, which McCain urged long before Bush ordered it." "Torture"? Then why did McCain vote against "an intelligence bill that would ban the CIA from using waterboarding as an interrogation tactic"? ("McCain drops the torture ball" by Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe, February 16, 2008). As far as the surge, the only difference is that McCain would have started it sooner. That's a difference in timing, not in their views of the war itself. The bottom line is McCain's support for Bush's unnecessary war and his determination to continue it if he wins the White House.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Truth About the Iraq War

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently came out with a report that exposes the Bush administration's hyping of intelligence to justify invading Iraq. One is reminded of the Downing Street Memo, the minutes of a meeting between the British Prime Minister's senior ministers on July 23, 2002. According to the minutes, Washington intelligence was "being fixed around the policy" and "The case was thin."

This latest report lays bare the willingness of the Bush administration to go to war despite the lack of intelligence justification:

The report shows that there was no intelligence to support the two most frightening claims Mr. Bush and his vice president used to sell the war: that Iraq was actively developing nuclear weapons and had longstanding ties to terrorist groups. It seems clear that the president and his team knew that that was not true, or should have known it — if they had not ignored dissenting views and telegraphed what answers they were looking for.

Over all, the report makes it clear that top officials, especially Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, knew they were not giving a full and honest account of their justifications for going to war.


As for Dick Cheney's claim that "...there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction" and "...is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us," the report makes clear:

Actually, there was plenty of doubt — at the time — about that second point. According to the Senate report, there was no evidence that Mr. Hussein intended to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, and the intelligence community never said there was.

Read more

Threatening Iran

Who doesn't believe that the war in Iraq is enough of a catastrophe? I suppose those neocons who now want to attack Iran. The most compelling paragraph from the New York Times editorial "Threatening Iran" is the following:

Unlike in 1981, when Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, there is no single target. A sustained bombing campaign would end up killing many civilians and still might not cripple Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran also has many frightening ways to retaliate. And even Arab states who fear Iran shudder at the thought of America, or its ally Israel, bombing another Muslim country and the backlash that that could provoke.


Read more

If It's For Our Veterans, McCain's Against It

John McCain joins George Bush in his opposition to the Webb Amendment, which would expand benefits for veterans to help them pay tuition and other benefits at four-year public universities. The problem? The military still needs its fighting men and women in uniform, not in classrooms. How else, if McCain's elected, can he keep soldiers on a treadmill of deployment to Iraq?

McCain's opposition to the Webb Amendment is part of a longtime pattern of non-support for our troops and veterans. From Veterans For Common Sense:

Since everyone is at least a bit familiar with John McCain’s record when it comes to strolling through a market in Baghdad with hundreds of his closest guards, or how he wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years (except when he flip flops on that).

But not that many really, truly know just how horrific his voting record is when it comes to the troops. And it is pretty consistent – whether it is for armor and equipment, for veteran’s health care, for adequate troop rest or anything that actually, you know, supports our troops.


Read more

At Home With Amos Oz

Amos Oz, one of Israel's preeminent authors and essayists, has been an longtime advocate of a two-state solution and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. His interviews are always worthy reading. Give the man a Nobel already!

Since 1967, Amos Oz has stood at the edge of the Israeli political wilderness proclaiming his truth: The only choice that exists for Israelis and Palestinians is a two-state solution. Even as his stature rose as a writer, novelist and journalist, Oz's voice could barely be heard over the roar of the conflict. At times dismissed as a hopelessly idealist radical, Oz has remained steadfast. Only now are his words finally resonating, as most people in Israel and the Palestinian territories come to the same conclusion.

Born in Jerusalem in 1939, Oz is a member of an Israeli literary generation that is accustomed to being part of the political vanguard. Founder of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), he was active in the Labor Party for many years and later joined the Meretz Party. Shimon Peres once suggested that Oz would make a good prime minister but unlike his friend, the writer Vaclav Havel—who became President of Czechoslovakia—Oz has resisted the call, preferring his quiet, book-lined study to the frenetic life of the Knesset.

Moment editor Nadine Epstein recently interviewed Oz in the basement office of his modest home in the town of Arad in the Negev Desert. During their conversation, Oz looked back on Zionism and the country's 60-year history and forward to the future of Israel—and the Jewish people.


Read more

Israel's 'American Problem'

An excellent analysis by Jeffrey Goldberg on American Jewish leaders--and politicians--whose support for West Bank settlements impedes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ultimately jeopardizes Israeli security.

WHEN the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, arrived at a Jerusalem ballroom in February to address the grandees of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (a redundancy, since there are no minor American Jewish organizations), he was pugnacious, as is customary, but he was also surprisingly defensive, and not because of his relentlessly compounding legal worries. He knew that scattered about the audience were Jewish leaders who considered him hopelessly spongy — and very nearly traitorous — on an issue they believed to be of cosmological importance: the sanctity of a “united” Jerusalem, under the sole sovereignty of Israel.

These Jewish leaders, who live in Chicago and New York and behind the gates of Boca Raton country clubs, loathe the idea that Mr. Olmert, or a prime minister yet elected, might one day cede the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the latent state of Palestine. These are neighborhoods — places like Sur Baher, Beit Hanina and Abu Dis — that the Conference of Presidents could not find with a forked stick and Ari Ben Canaan as a guide. And yet many Jewish leaders believe that an Israeli compromise on the boundaries of greater Jerusalem — or on nearly any other point of disagreement — is an axiomatic invitation to catastrophe.


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"I'm Voting Republican"

After the disastrous Bush administration and the damage that the Republican agenda has done to this country, I can't figure out why anyone would vote for the GOP--especially when presented with the prospect of a third Bush term under McCain. This video explains why individuals support the party that stands for an unnecessary war, an economy in the tank, millions without health care and an energy policy adrift.

McCain's Campaign Pledge: More Wars

Haven't we had enough unnecessary wars, so costly in lives and treasure? Not according to John McCain. If you have children, he wants them ready for the next invasion.

McCain the "Maverick" Strikes Again

The Supreme Court has upheld the habeas corpus rights of detainees to challenge their designation as enemy combatants, striking a blow against the Bush administration's efforts to shred the Constitution. Obama supports the decision, but McCain is "concerned" and asks us to pay attention to the dissenting opinion of Justice John Roberts. Once again, McCain the "maverick" sides with Bush. According to McCain, "These are unlawful combatants; they're not American citizens." How can he be sure that every detainee at Guantanamo is a combatant? Because the imperial president says so? And doesn't habeas corpus protect the rights of non-citizens? The Supreme Court's vote was 5-4, which emphasizes the importance of defeating McCain in November and stopping the Court's rightward drift.