Saturday, November 12, 2005

"bubblecave" from Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

Albert Einstein

Friday, November 11, 2005

enhanced portrait emphasizing cloud shine in a galaxy far, far away. Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"Politics makes lies seem truthful and murder reasonable."

Tony Black Feather (Lakota)

Captain Future's Log

Fox in the Henhouse, Wolf at the Door

Sure, we're all sick to death reciting the tragic actions, bold and destructive deceptions and mind-boggling mistakes of Bush Corps, and sick to death of hearing them. But we aren't being inundated only by Bush-bashing as politics or as Internet sport. There is real damage being done. One by one, our public institutions are being dismantled, corrupted and destroyed. Our ability to respond to the challenges of the future, which could become crucial at any moment, are being greviously wounded if not utterly demolished.

Think Katrina. Think FEMA. And if anyone believes that private corporations are up to the challenge, they've earned an all expenses paid vacation in Iraq, where the privatization of war and intelligence gathering has resulted in one disaster after another, even given that it was a fool's errand to begin with.

A lethal combination of ideological dogmatism, cronyism and corruption has led to psychotic priorities and actions. The evidence is hitting hard every single day.

The worst is that it affects institutions and offices that even ideological, politically and economically corrupt and crony-prone leaders of the past have been sane enough to leave alone. Like public health. Transportation. The Army.

Iraq is the playground for psychotic priorities based on ideological dogmatism and a truly frightening ignoring of facts that contradict those priorities and assumptions when they conflict with the ideology. The tragic harm has been done to the people of Iraq, to American soldiers (and those of other countries) and families, to American prestige, and by creating new reasons for terrorism and a huge training ground for terrorists---all of this damages our present and our future.

We also saw what the Iraq war has done to our National Guard and its ability to do its historic job that Americans depend on the Guard to do, when its personnel and equipment were in Iraq instead of Louisiana and Arkansas in the aftermath of Katrina. Now there are fears for what it is doing to the armed forces.

Bob Herbert wrote this in the NY Times: "The Army, for example, has been stretched so taut since the Sept. 11 attacks, especially by the fiasco in Iraq, that it's become like a rubber band that may snap at any moment. ..Last December, the top general in the Army Reserve warned that his organization was "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force" because of the Pentagon's "dysfunctional" policies and demands placed on the Reserve by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As one of my colleagues at The Times, David Unger of the editorial board, wrote, "The Army's commitments have dangerously and rapidly expanded, while recruitment has plunged."

What happens when psychotic priorities are wedded to this administration's penchant for cronyism? Again we saw that in Katrina, and now we're seeing it in the potentially greater challenge of avian flu. As Jeremy Scahill reports in The Nation and on
Democracy Now!, Bushcorps has "systematically de-funded" public health programs, specifically those that would prepare the nation for an avian flu threat, and provided massive funding for research into technologies to "fight a possible anthrax or smallpox attack, which almost no one in the public health or national security community was saying was an imminent threat, except people close to Dick Cheney." Specifically, Scooter Libby.

According to Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, also interviewed on the same DN program by Amy Goodman, we are completely unprepared for any sort of health emergency.

Why not? "... the influence of politics and ideology and strategies to promote a particular point of view, undermining something that should have been above and beyond any kind of political consideration...The problem there, of course, is that the whole health care system is so fragile and so eroded over this last couple of decades that we don't even have that capacity in place right now to make anybody feel very confident that we can handle the number of people who might be affected by a pandemic flu. "

One reason for this now is that these efforts are being run by a Bushcorp crony, Stewart Simonson, who has no credentials other than being an ideological Republican. 'I mean, every single administration in American political history has put cronies and pals and donors into political positions," Dr. Redlener said. " But normally, typically, those people get – you know, they become the ambassador to Liechtenstein or the deputy undersecretary of commerce, where, in effect, it really doesn't matter who's in those positions. What's striking about this administration, since they got into power, is the placement of people into critical positions, where the national security or the public health is at stake."

Here as in all actions by Bushcorps the cronyism and neocon foreign policy is all in the service of the ideology that began reshaping America in the Reagan administration: the destruction of public institutions, to be replaced by "private" corporations, with the purpose of profit, not public service or the public good.

This is clear in Bush's new flu initiatives, and Republican backed legislation called Bioshield 2. It would, said Scahill, "remove all corporate accountability and liability for pharmaceutical companies that manufacturer vaccinations -- vaccines that hurt people or kill people, and secondly it creates a federal agency that would be the only agency exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. "

"This whole thing has gotten so bizarre and Byzantine, "added Dr. Redlener," and permeated with this sort of electrifying high intensity politics and economics that the real goal of all of this, which is to literally make us safer in the event of a pandemic or any kind of major disaster, that gets lost in the shuffle. You can't even sort it out now. So even issues like the Bioshield bills, which are terrible bills, basically, for a variety of reasons..."

One of which is that this proposal does nothing to ensure there are mechanisms to produce vaccines and anti-viral medications when they are needed. In other words, the entire public purpose.

Bushcorps relentless push for privatization made news this week as well when the administration fired the president of Amtrak because he wasn't going along with their plans to break up and privatize pieces of the national railroad transportation system.

According to the
New York Times, the man they fired, David Gunn, " is known as a rail-turnaround artist. He was brought in to fix the New York City subway system in the 1980's, and provided leadership in the construction of the subway system in Washington. "Just two months ago he was praised by the chairman of the same governing board that fired him: "Mr. Gunn has done, as far as I am concerned, a splendid job." He said Mr. Gunn had "righted a ship that was listing and about to spill over."

But Gunn wouldn't agree to their plans. "They want at least one transportation mode that is totally free market," Mr. Gunn said. But highways, airports and ports are all federally subsidized, he said, decrying "all this angst over an operating deficit of 500 million bucks for the whole country, and the bulk of money going into capital or infrastructure."

What's this relentless privatization about? "...the largest transfer of public wealth to private pockets in the history of this country, says Si Kahn, co-author of The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy, interviewed this week on Democracy Now! He continued:

"We're seeing this in Iraq, where the goal of this administration is to see how much of the money that should be going to all sorts of other issues and other causes can be put into private pockets. Think Halliburton. Think Lockheed Martin. This is what is going on, and it is the undermining of public space, of the public good, of public welfare, is a deliberate strategy to undermine the ground that belongs to all of us: the common wealth, the commons, those things that create public good, that create a humane society."

Added his co-author, Elizabeth Minnich: "The most important thing to emphasize over and over again is precisely that shift from the public, that which belongs to us, services, goods, values that we have held dear, that we have government established to protect and to provide for us, being opened up to for-profit exploitation, in which case two things key happen. One is, goods that are supposed to be for the people, that we set aside, that we established as rights for the people, which is democratic to the core, being taken over by for-profit corporations for private pockets, dispersed away from the people most directly affected. This is anti-democratic in the extreme. "

But it's been consistently sold as simply a more efficient way to provide services the public wants and needs, using the invisible hand of competition, the magic of the marketplace, instead of bureaucratic waste and abuse.

And it's all a lie. "The whole notion that gets repeated time and again is that the privatizing corporations can do a better job," Minnich said.
"People ask us this every time: 'But aren't they more efficient?' No, they do not do a better job. "

"And efficiency," Kahn added, "in corporate terms, means efficiency in generating a profit. It means efficiency in returning the maximum amount of money to the corporate directors and executives and to the majority shareholders."

And the result is, as everyone who say The West Wing debate knows, that wasteful government delivers health care through Medicare with administration costs of under 2% of revenue, while private health care insurance corporations typically devote a third or more to administration, not to mention lobbying and advertising.

We have done worse than letting the fox guard the henhouse, these authors say, we've invited them inside. Is there any wonder that our health care system is shambles, our privatized prisons and schools are a scandal, our privatized war is beset with expensive failure and lack of accountability for hired killers and torturers? Or that public institutions bled dry by ideologues of privatization can't meet their challenges? How can we be surprised when there are no chickens left?

Critics may claim that alarmists have been crying wolf over failures caused by ideologues, corporate greed and privatization, but we made it through the 80s and we're still here.

Eight years of Clinton slowed it down. But in 2005, after just five years of G.W. Bush, they should be reminded that even in the cautionary tale about the boy who cried wolf prematurely, the story ends when his cries are ignored, but unfortunately for everyone, the wolf finally comes.

Pat Robertson, self-appointed wrathmeister
and argument against intelligent design Posted by Picasa
And if Darwin's Not Available, Brownie Does A Heck of a Job


Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Later Thursday, Robertson issued a statement saying he was simply trying to point out that "our spiritual actions have consequences."

"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."

Robertson made headlines this summer when he called on his daily show for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Scene from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which today
became the first fruits of election victory, as a weakened
Republican Congress took the provision allowing oil drilling
there out of the appropriations bill. S. Bangerjee photo. Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"time and beauty are the same
light and water"

Octavio Paz
Repubs Stymied in their Class War Offensive

House GOP Leaders Scuttle Budget-Cut Vote
The Associated Press Thursday, November 10, 2005; 5:51 PM

WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders scuttled a vote Thursday on a $51 billion budget-cut package in the face of a revolt by lawmakers over scaling back Medicaid, food stamp and student loan programs.

The development was a major setback for the GOP on Capitol Hill and for President Bush, who has made cuts to benefit programs a central pillar in his budget plan.

The decision by GOP leaders came despite a big concession to moderates Wednesday, when the leaders dropped provisions to open the Arctic National Refuge to oil and gas exploration, as well as a plan allowing states to lift a moratorium on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Captain Future's Log

You Say You Want An Evolution

On the same day that the Kansas state school board passed a requirement that Intelligent Design must be considered as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in science classes, voters in Dover, Pennsylvania unseated the local school board members who mandated mention of Intelligent Design in its ninth grade science classes. Score one for each side?

Maybe. Except that the fight goes on in Kansas, while in Dover it’s over. There’s some good reasons why.

I happen to know a teacher at the Dover high school, the wife of a close friend. They both live in a nearby town, also in the rural middle of Pennsylvania (my home state.) Like rural Kansas, Dover is very conservative. There were no polls to depend on for this school board election, so my friends were worried. They saw lots of campaign signs for the pro-ID candidates, and heard that several local churches were supporting them. The area had just been through a widely publicized trial on the issue that took place almost precisely 80 years after the famous Scopes trial on the teaching of evolution in Dayton, Tennessee.

Coincidentally, as the Dover trial was underway, L.A. Theatre Works was beginning its extensive national tour of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial, a staged version of the radio play adapted from the Tennessee court transcripts by Peter Goodchild. I caught the first performance here in Arcata, which starred Edward Asner as William Jennings Bryan and John de Lancie as Clarence Darrow. (It will eventually make its way to York, PA, down the road from Dover.) This play was chosen to tour because the audio version was the Theatre Works production most requested by public school teachers.

Goodchild’s text and historical background makes clear that there was a great deal more at issue in the Tennessee trial than Darwin versus the Biblical creation story. In 1925, Darwinism was seen as justifying an amoral and violent struggle for dominance that demeaned human and Christian values of compassion and community. More specifically, it was seen as a prime influence on Germany (through Nietzsche) and its belief in conquest and might makes right that resulted in the carnage and societal upheaval of the Great War. It was an attack on the human spirit by godless, animalistic and mechanistic science.

These ideas had evolved from those held by Darwin’s opponents in his own time, when self-proclaimed Darwinists themselves proposed several dubious inferences with social and political implications. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Darwin had the luck to please anybody with an ax to grind.” Depending on whose ax it was, Darwinian evolution proved that human progress is inevitable, that human failure is inevitable, that the rich have a duty to be selfish because they naturally deserve to inherit the earth, and all that distinguishes humans from other animals is ethical and unselfish behavior.

We have as rich a stew of projections, derivations and inspirations in our time, though we tend to simplify the storyline to an either/or. It’s an easier story to fit into soundbites and fundraising appeals. It’s also irresponsible. Any subject as complex as Darwinian evolution, as science or as insight into the human condition or the nature of life, that winds up being the center of conflict between two opposing and dogmatic sides, is being distorted and misused, eventually by all sides.

Which brings us back to Dover. Sometimes the complicated is oversimplified, and other times the cacophony quiets to a few simple considerations. According to what I’ve read and what my friends tell me, a lot of people there didn’t like being subjected to all the attention, particularly in a controversy provoked by school board members who had never been elected, but were appointed to fill vacancies. They especially didn’t like what the controversy was doing within the high school. Most teachers were furious with the rule and civil disobedience was a real possibility.

The successful candidates, who ran as a group, talked about the church/state, science/religion issues, but also about returning attention to the school and above all, the students. And this may be where the ID battle was lost: parental concerns for the education of their children trumped everything else. After all the posturing and theorizing, all the grand principles at issue, it likely came down to parents who want their children to get the best education they can, which means from good teachers in a well-ordered school. Regardless of what they believe about the origin of species, they likely know that the same science everyone in the world studies is something their children will need to know in the twenty-first century.

Nobody knew for sure that this is how it would turn out in Dover. But it did turn out that way, and in most places, it probably will.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

CA to Gov (and U.S. to GOP): Whatever You Got, I'm Against It! Posted by Picasa
Repudiation Day (West Coast)

The Governator has met the Big Terminator, and is going down, down, down. California voters are rejecting all of the governor's initiatives, and all the propositions he supported. In fact, in a sweeping repudiation of the special election itself that Governor Schwarzenegger called, all of the initiatives on the ballot are on their way to defeat. The last to turn was Prop 75, which sought to restrict unions from using their funds for political advocacy. It was narrowly passing until Los Angeles votes started coming in. When about 14% of LA County's votes were counted, and about 57% of the state's precincts reporting, Prop 75 slipped into the NO column.

It's been estimated that $300 million was spent on this election, with the strapped state government paying out $60 million.

Repudiation Day (Part II)

Swing State:
St. Paul (MN) voters punished Mayor Randy Kelly on Tuesday for standing with President Bush a year ago, denying the Democrat a second term in Minnesota's capital city.

Former City Council member Chris Coleman, also a Democrat, routed Kelly by a more than 2-to-1 margin in unofficial returns with most precincts reporting. Ahead of the election, independent polls showed voters were primed to fire Kelly, and most cited his 2004 endorsement of the Republican president as the reason.

No sitting St. Paul mayor had lost a campaign since 1974. Kelly had a personal election streak that spanned just as long, covering his quarter-century in the Legislature and first term as mayor.

Also reported: in the election in Dover, PA, every seat on the school board up for election was won by opponents of requiring Intelligent Design to be taught in high school biology classes.
Repudiation Day (part 1)


It's official. New Jersey Sen. John Corzine and Virginia Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, both Democrats, have won their states' hotly contested gubernatorial elections Tuesday, sending a loud message to President Bush that his political currency is depleted.

The victories over Doug Forrester and Jerry Kilgore in NJ and Virginia respectively are widely considered an important barometer into the current political climate and the future election prospects of the Republican Party and its leadership, which has been embroiled in controversy, scandal and policy failure.

Both elections took a contentious turn in the 11th hour. Bush appeared Monday and Tuesday with Kilgore, who earlier in the month kept his distance from the embattled president. "You know where he stands, and you know he can get the job done," Bush said this week. The two men campaigned together on the heels of Kilgore's attack ads that painted the Democrat as an anti-death penalty liberal who condones murder. Kaine has stated his religious opposition to capitol punishment, yet has said he'd enforce Virginia's death penalty laws if elected.

Virginia is a red state which Bush carried in 2004 with 54% of the vote, though no Democratic presidential candidate has won Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. However, Virginia's voters often put a Democrat in the Governor's mansion. Kaine is the 5th Democrat in the past 25 years to be elected to the state's highest office. His victory is significant in terms of what it represents on a national scale and what it could mean for both the Democrats and the GOP in next year's midterms.

Over in New Jersey, Corzine managed to fend off a last-minute attack ad from the Republican challenger, businessman Doug Forrester, which featured Corzine's ex-wife saying he "let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too." Right down to the wire the candidates, both multi-millionaires, duked it out over taxes, government waste and charges of corruption.

Tuesday's victories affirm what many pundits have been suspecting, and many within the GOP itself have been fearing, that the current Republican leadership is in serious trouble. That President Bush, once an important asset to incumbents seeking re-election, is now a huge political liability. After Tuesday's deflating losses to Democratic opponents, it's almost certain that Republicans will increasingly be finding themselves "out of town" and/or "attending to prior commitments" the next time Bush shows up.
The Big Repudiation

CBS News

In a poll of registered voters, CBS News asked IF 2004 ELECTION WERE HELD TODAY…
who would you vote for?
John Kerry 41%
George Bush 36%

Of those polled, 46% said they voted for Bush in 04, 45% for Kerry, 6% didn't vote, 7% wouldn't say, 2% voted for Nader. In this poll, 13% they'd vote for someone else, 6% still wouldn't vote.
THREE More Years??!!??

from "President Bush's Walkabout"-- editorial in the New York Times

After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long.

In Argentina, Mr. Bush, who prides himself on his ability to relate to world leaders face to face, could barely summon the energy to chat with the 33 other leaders there, almost all of whom would be considered friendly to the United States under normal circumstances.

It's amazing to remember that when Mr. Bush first ran for president, he bragged about his understanding of Latin America, his ability to speak Spanish and his friendship with Mexico. But he also made fun of Al Gore for believing that nation-building was a job for the United States military.

The White House is in an uproar over the future of Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, and spinning off rumors that some top cabinet members may be asked to walk the plank. Mr. Bush could certainly afford to replace some of his top advisers. But the central problem is not Karl Rove or Treasury Secretary John Snow or even Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary. It is President Bush himself.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Monarch butterflies across America Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"We are the trees, yet sit beneath the tree,
among the leaves we are the hidden bird,
we are the singer and are what is heard."
Conrad Aiken

Another endangered part of the Great Mystery Posted by Picasa
Flying With the Butterflies, To Let Them Be

from "To Save Endangered Butterfly, Become a Butterfly"
New York Times


"Sometimes I felt like a butterfly, not a man," said the curly-haired, blue-eyed Francisco Gutiérrez, who is known as Vico. "I can now feel what they face in some of the different parts of the Canada, the United States and Mexico."

He had traveled more than 4,375 miles from Montreal to Michoacán State, following the monarch butterflies at low altitude. He logged more than 90 hours of flying over 72 days, averaging about 60 miles a day, stopping dozens of times to talk to scientists and butterfly fanatics, in a feat of aviation meant to call attention to the insect's precarious situation.

The first waves of butterflies were fluttering into the dense fir forests here as Mr. Gutiérrez landed to a hero's welcome from two governors, representatives of the United States and Canadian governments, several government officials, dozens of school children dressed as butterflies, native American dancers and a Mazahua Indian chief.

The chief, Margarito Sánchez Valdez, bathed the aviator in incense, wreathed his neck with marigolds and blessed him in the name of Shefi, a butterfly spirit, and Mysyohimi, the Mazahua's supreme deity.

Omar Vidal, the director of the Mexico office of the World Wildlife Fund, acknowledged that the flight was a publicity stunt, but one with the best intention: to call attention to the plight of the monarchs. Illegal logging continues to eat away at the preserves where the butterfly winters. Pesticides in the United States and Canada wipe out the milkweed on which the insect feeds and lays its eggs. Hard winters that some scientists believe are linked to climate changes caused by greenhouse gases have decimated the butterflies in Mexico.

The monarch's annual migration is a natural mystery. In August, as the days shorten, the butterflies go into sexual hibernation. Then they fly down to Mexico, returning always to the same forested hills in Michoacán, where they find the perfect balance of coolness and humidity to remain alive for several months. Finally, in March, they return to the southern United States, lay their eggs and die.

Their offspring then wend their way northward with the sun, going through a number of generations during the summer, until the last generation senses a hint of winter in the air in August and begins the long return to Mexico.

"The first and still the most important end of the flight was to call attention and raise the awareness of all people about the marvel of this migration," Mr. Vidal said. "It's a unique phenomenon in the insect world."

After six years of trying, Mr. Gutiérrez, who is 44, had almost given up finding sponsors for his project, except for the World Wildlife Fund. Then in June, Gov. Lázaro Cárdenas Batel of Michoacán suddenly decided to back the idea. Mexico's telephone giant, Telcel, also donated some money.

One of the high points of the flight came early on Sept. 6, when Mr. Gutiérrez flew his ultralight, Papalotzin, an indigenous word for the monarch, over Niagara Falls with a cloud of butterflies beneath him.

Mr. Gutiérrez said the butterflies fly much like gliders, using updrafts to climb to between 4,500 and 5,000 feet, then taking advantage of winds to help them on their way. They can travel as much as 90 miles a day.

Their sense of navigation is astonishing, he said. When they enter Mexico, the butterflies rise as high as 13,000 feet as they head toward the highlands. He followed groups of the insects throughout the journey, over Niagara Falls, down to New York City, and to Washington. He then traveled southwest to Oklahoma, then south through Texas and into Mexico, through all kinds of weather, hunkering down when the butterflies did.

Along the way, he met with leading butterfly experts and artists and environmentalists fascinated by the migration. Though he and his ground crew had planned only three events along the route, he received dozens of requests to land. The trip was filmed for a documentary.

While Mr. Gutiérrez's landing here generated a sense of good will toward the butterflies, environmentalists and local political leaders say the struggle between the government and the loggers is far from over. The pace of logging has slowed but the cutting continues, they said.

The World Wildlife Foundation has set up a $6.5 million fund to pay people living around the butterfly reserves to report on logging rather than harvesting trees. Most of the sanctuaries are part of large tracts, known as ejidos, owned jointly by their residents. But the loggers also bribe local officials and farmers.

Some people take money from both sides and allow the logging to continue in any case. Satellite photos compiled by United States scientists show vast reaches of the 138,000-acre reserve have been logged and cleared, often by armed gangs who pay off the authorities.

Mr. Vidal said the only solution was to teach people to make money from tourism in the densely forested mountains, not only during the winter butterfly season but in the summer as well. A pilot project to do just that has been started in the most popular reserve, known as El Rosario.

"You have to offer a different way of making money to the landlords," Mr. Vidal said. "The vigilance payments alone are not enough."

Mr. Gutiérrez, whose father, Agustín, was a famous stunt pilot and skydiver, said he did not consider his journey to be a major feat of aviation, nothing like Brian Milton's 1998 flight around the world in an ultralight. He said he undertook the trip only to dramatize the need for all three countries to cooperate to save the butterfly. He used his moment in the limelight to emphasize that pesticides in the United States have done as much to harm to the insects as has deforestation in Michoacán.
IRS Doesn't Like Christians Who Cross George

from "Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning"
Los Angeles Times

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The letter went on to say that "our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article."The IRS cited The Times story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus."

As Bacon spoke, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a co-celebrant of Sunday's Requiem Eucharist, looked on.

"We are so careful at our church never to endorse a candidate," Bacon said in a later interview."One of the strongest sermons I've ever given was against President Clinton's fraying of the social safety net."

Telephone calls to IRS officials in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles were not returned. On a day when churches throughout California took stands on both sides of Proposition 73, which would bar abortions for minors unless parents are notified, some at All Saints feared the politically active church had been singled out.


Torture Doesn't Work---Except
to Make New Enemies

from "Man on Fire--Not!" [excerpts; emphasis added]
by Larry Johnson

Mr. Johnson worked with the Central Intelligence Agency and was a Deputy Director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism.

I think Dick Cheney has been watching too many Hollywood flicks that glorify torture. He needs, instead, to get on the ground and talk to the folks he is ostensibly trying to empower to torture.

Unlike Dick I have spoken with three CIA operations officers in the last three months--all who have worked on terrorism at the highest levels--and not one endorses torture or believes it will help us. In fact, they believe it will hurt us on many levels.

Two of my friends served in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. If the suicide bombing of the World Trade Centers was not enough justification for hooking Haji up to battery cables, I don't know what is. My friends recognized correctly that their mission was to gather intelligence not create new enemies. If you inflict enough pain on someone they will give you information, but, unless you kill them, they will hold a grudge. As far as the information goes there is no guarantee it will be correct.

What real CIA field officers know from their work with actual sources is that whatever shortterm benefit can be derived from torture will be offset by the new enemy you have created. It is better to build a relationship of trust, no matter how painstaking, rather than gain a short term benefit that puts you on par with a Nazi concentration camp guard.

And that's the point. We should never use our own fear of being attacked as justification to dehumanize ourselves and another human being in our pursuit of so-called truth.


Monday, November 07, 2005

More Aurora in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
S. Bangerjee photo. Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts."

Tao Te Ching (#61, Stephen Mitchell trans.)
The West Wing: The Fake Debate

The President of Projection is what I used to call Bill Clinton, when I heard people getting mad at him for not pushing more of the liberal agenda, and this was at the beginning of his first term when he was trying, and getting smacked down in Washington for the effort. In fact, the presidency is a job that an actual person has to perform, and the executive branch is a collection of lots of people who all have the same 24 hour day as the rest of us.

But it can't be ignored that the presidency is symbolically much more than that. People will always project their hopes and dreams, their standards and expectations, however unrealistic, on the single figure who all Americans are eligible to vote for. We need that symbol of our sense of ourselves.

So to many people, including me, the real President for the last six years has been Jeb Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen on The West Wing. If for no other reason that he has better writers. He was able, through word and deed, to articulate what many of us would hope our President would be.

Now The West Wing is changing administrations. This season so far has been largely devoted to the campaign between Democrat Rep. Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) and Republican Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda.) To add the breathing room of fantasy to its "ripped from the headlines" topicality, it's Santos who is from Texas (a Latino liberal) and Vinick who is from California (conservative but not far right.)

Sunday night was the Sweeps gimmick: a show almost entirely given over to a scripted candidate debate, done live twice (for eastern and western time zones) and shot much like a network presidential debate (although the director had an uncanny habit of knowing exactly which one was going to say something important, and having the camera on him as he said it.)

Today the reviews are coming in. Tom Shales of the Washington Post and Doug Elfman of the Chicago Sun Times were underwhelmed. The Associated Press reported that the faux debate was seen by an estimated 9.6 million viewers, up from the 8.2 million that followed the show to its early Sunday night slot from its accustomed 9p Wednesday this season. Several stories criticized the use of the NBC News logo, which was kept on the screen while TV newsman Forrest Sawyer acted the part of a TV newsman running the debate---and could get a supporting actor nomination, while demonstrating just how much the oncamera news role is acting rather than reporting.

As a piece of theatre, script author Lawrence O'Donnell (a Clinton White House vet who does political consulting when he's not producing TV) immediately opened the possibilities for real drama by having Senator Vinick suggest that the stifling rules of non-engagement be loosened and the candidates really debate. When Santos agreed, the participants were free to ramble, ask each other sharp questions, interupt and argue.

O'Donnell mixed in some reminicent moments---Santos explaining his "I voted for it before I voted against it" statement, Vinick pulling a fountain pen from his pocket to emphasize his intent to veto something, just as Bill Clinton during a State of the Union message, when he thought opponent might spoil his supposedly popular health care plan by making it less than universal. They did that, all right.

There were the West Wing moments we've come to know and love when we finally hear someone articulately and cogently express a position the way we've been waiting for, as when Santos defends the title of "liberal." People who watched the whole debate learned things from "both candidates," like the hyper-efficiency of Medicare compared to corporate health care, or the burden of heavy taxation in Africa.

But my overwhelming impression of the debate content was that it's Lawrence O'Donnell, a pragmatic middle of the road liberal, talking to himself. There was some edge to Santos and Vinick, but not much. I'll bet a social evening with O'Donnell would result in the same basic mix of sensible and provocative opinions.

In terms of performance (West Coast version), Alda seemed much more at ease with the live format, and he owned the stage. Smits had his moments, but he didn't seem at home in this form.

To further confuse realities, Zogby, the real polling firm, has been polling on voter/viewer preferences as if this is a real race, although the electorate is restricted to West Wing viewers. They even did a snap poll after the debate. As reported by MSNBC, Santos/Smits won it, 54 percent to 38 percent, but Vinick/Alda gained in overall preference: in the pre-debate poll, 59 percent favored Santos to 29% for Vinick.

It shouldn't be too surprising that West Wing fans favor the Democrat. While the producers are tempted by the dramatic possibilities of switching to a Republican administration, they would risk losing a chunk of the show's core viewers (including me. One Republican President at a time is more than enough.) Clues to a Santos victory are found less in the substance of debate issues than in the fact that supporting characters in the Vinick campaign are less well developed than among the Dems. Plus a Vinick victory would likely mean an instant and near total change in the cast, several of whom are involved enough in the Santos campaign to make the transition. TV dramas seldom replace a cast wholesale except as a last ditch effort to cut costs and win a new audience.

So President Bartlett will be gone, and that alone will be a tough change for this series to weather. Of course, there's the possibility that this is the show's last season, though that's not yet part of the buzz. I shudder to think what the next three years would be like with George Bush as the only President of the U.S.

Although if her show can weather its own creative storms and survive the season, there could be Geena Davis.

Not yet part of the pressgeist, but
half the country may be ready... Posted by Picasa

Captain Future's Log

Catching Up on the DC Soap (Can This Administration Be Saved?)

So what happens next in the tragic soap opera of the Bush administration? Will Rove go aroving, will Scooter scoot to the prosecutor with the goods on Cheney? What's Fitzgerald up to anyway?

Not knowing, can't say, but if reading the pack journalism pressgeist, and between the lines of unsourced or unnamed sourced stories of recent vintage is the equivalent of reading tea leaves, here's some idea of what people who think they know are thinking.

You'll recall that the conventional wisdom way back when Scooter was indicted 10 days or so ago was that Karl Rove had dodged a bullet and would escape indictment. By the end of this past week, the feeling was building that Rove was likely to be indicted after all. Maybe this week, maybe next week.

After warning that Fitzgerald might not indict anyone, John Dean changed his tune. "Having read the indictment against Libby, I am inclined to believe more will be issued," he wrote. " In fact, I will be stunned if no one else is indicted."

The fickle finger of fate started pointing Rove's way with shadowy reports of vague prosecutorial activity in Rove's neighborhood. Then an inside story was leaked (apparently with press secretary Scott McClellan's fingerprints all over it) about growing opposition among White House staff to Rove sticking around.

Finally, Time wrote the obituary, in a story that looked to me to have Rove's pudgy digit tracks all over it, suggesting that Rove had accomplished what he set out to do, now he was tired and wanted to spend more time with his family. Time also predicted other personnel changes that last week everyone said Bush would never make. But they make sense covering for Rove's departure, like Lyndon Johnson eliminating his entire cabinet from consideration for vice president in 1964 so he wouldn't have to explain why he didn't pick Bobby Kennedy.

Scooter hobbled to court last week, his attorney loudly proclaiming his innocence. Some observers swear he will never go to trial, others think he'll just try to string it out long enough to get a pardon. But a name that kept appearing on every story of dastardly deeds last week was Dick Cheney.

John Dean wrote that "when one studies the indictment, and carefully reads the transcript of the press conference, it appears Libby's saga may be only Act Two in a three-act play. And in my view, the person who should be tossing and turning at night, in anticipation of the last act, is the Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney."

Cheney was also the chief target of some Republican attacks on the fake case for the Iraq war. He was the patsy in chief for spreading the lies of a known terrorist liar linking al Qeda and Iraq, even after the guy recanted, according to a New York Times story.

The Washington Post went after Cheney for creating and supporting US policies and practices using torture, and the lead story in today's Washington Post is: "Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials."

So does this mean Cheney is going to be indicted? Could be. But John Dean doesn't believe it will be because Libby falls for the alleged Fitzgerald strategy of big fish, bigger fish. Dean wrote:

Will Libby flip? Unlikely. Neither Cheney nor Libby (I believe) will be so foolish as to crack a deal. And Libby probably (and no doubt correctly) assumes that Cheney - a former boss with whom he has a close relationship - will (at the right time and place) help Libby out, either with a pardon or financially, if necessary. Libby's goal, meanwhile, will be to stall going to trial as long as possible, so as not to hurt Republicans' showing in the 2006 elections.

So if Libby can take the heat for a time, he and his former boss (and friend) may get through this. But should Republicans lose control of the Senate (where they are blocking all oversight of this administration), I predict Cheney will resign "for health reasons."

Perhaps the more interesting question at this point is why is Cheney suddenly so popular? Is he really the Satanic Machiavelli, or is there a campaign to give him up as the fall guy? (It wouldn't be a set up, exactly, since there's no doubt he's done all the awful things attributed to him, and more.)

By this past week only a few lonely voices were asking, where was Bush in all this? Did Rove really deceive him, or did he know all about the Plame outing? And what is his responsibility for lying us into war, and approving and defending torture?

Three polls came out last week, all with similiar and similiarly devastating numbers for Bushcorps. But two of them asked a couple of interesting questions, especially when you put them together. When asked if Congress should consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the reasons for invading Iraq, about 53% said yes. And in another poll, when asked if they thought Bush did lie us into the Iraq war, about 53% said yes. You do the math.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

painting by Max Ernst. Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. But the most important thing is---it must be something you cannot possibly do!"

Henry Moore

Don't look now--they've got you surrounded. AP photo. Posted by Picasa


Our Courageous Media: Telling Truth to (Greviously Wounded) Power

from "Where Were They When We Needed Them?" By Rich Miles
t r u t h o u t

In the October 17 issue of US News and World Report, editor in chief Mortimer Zuckerman published a scathing description of the shortcomings of the Bush administration in a back-page editorial titled "One Swampy Mess."

Two days later, Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff when Powell was Secretary of State, revealed much of what he knew about the Cheney-Rumsfeld 'cabal' that circumvented regular channels of decision-making in the State and Defense departments, allegedly to ram through policies including the Iraq War that otherwise might have withered under public scrutiny.

And in an interview published in the Financial Times of London two days BEFORE Zuckerman, Bush 41's friend Brent Scowcroft let loose with his grave misgivings about the basic honesty and competence of his pal's son's presidency. There have been several more high-profile defections from the lockstep Republican Bush 43-as-god ideology, notably in both houses of Congress, but also including such stalwart Bushian apologists as the National Review, the Wall St. Journal, and even (gasp!) Fox News. It's starting to look like jackals on a carcass, now that the head elephant is weakened enough to be attacked, along with his coterie.

Those of us who opposed the near-election, then Supreme Court installation, then God forbid the RE-election of George W. Bush, have known at least the basic outlines of what is being said against Bush these days for at least 5 years, so the only part of the recent revelations that come as a surprise is the sheer brazen balls of these people, and the clarity of the perfidy they've perpetrated on America.

Many in the blogosphere, and even a few in the MSM, have been saying things like this, with different details, for the entire time W has been on the national political radar, and some have suffered grievously for their efforts - witness Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame (who did not herself ever do anything to harm the Bush administration), Gen. Eric Shinseki, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, and a host of others recently documented by Nick Turse of

Norman Solomon, in a Perspective piece at that same web site, points out that not only have the people who knew what was really going on kept their counsel until now, when it's too late to bust Bush out of office, but that the nation's newspaper of record, the New York Times, was complicit in leading the country to war, but now has taken on the self-righteous mantle of a late-arriving Cassandra, telling us now what many of us who have never supported Bush have known for years - that there are not and never were good and compelling reasons for the US to send our children to war in Iraq. Quite the contrary, the whole war was fabricated at virtually every level, as several observers said it was.

So my question to these Bush-bashers-come-lately is: where the hell were you people when we needed you?

In the year 2004, those of us working our butts off to get Bush canned stood by and watched as pure lies, gross innuendo, delegated attack politics, guilt by alleged but never proven association, and religious-cum-patriotic posturing scuttled our man Kerry (with a little help from the man himself, it must be said), and caused the weak-minded, the magical thinkers, and the venal to re-elect the most corrupt president in American history because the filth came too fast and furious for anyone to counter, and most of our national news voices didn't really even try.

And now that Bush is weakened by events, individuals and news organizations who could, if they had had the courage, if they had told what they knew BEFORE November 2, 2004, have averted the disaster which is the second George W. Bush administration, are all jumping on the anti-Bush bandwagon, telling us that they knew all along how incompetent, how corrupt, how duplicitous and hypocritical Bush and his thugs are, and their consciences make them come clean now.

Well, those of us on the ground knew it too - many of us have known it since before 2000 - and we watched helplessly as voice after voice in opposition to the crime that is Bush were either ignored by the MSM, or actually buried even deeper by the journalistic cowards who would not stand up to what was obvious to the rest of us - that the American people, their safety, their happiness and success and values mean nothing to Bush et al. What matters is power, and redistributing wealth upward, and more power.

So to Mort Zuckerman, who prior to October 17, 2005, was one of the most reliably jingoistic supporters of all things Bush and Republican, and all the others who didn't have the simple humanity to do all in their power to defeat Bush one year ago, I say: SHAME on you. Our country, and our position in the world, and our children - our children, Mort! - will be decades recovering from the Bush administration.

We knew. We tried to tell you. Almost everything we feared would happen in a second Bush term has come to pass, just as many of us predicted it would. And you weren't listening, and so your sudden epiphanies mean nothing to us.

Don't blame us - we voted for America.
He's Not Heavy--He's Big Brother

You might note in these excepts from the Washington Post Sunday story that the FBI is collecting information on private citizens which may be shared with "appropriate" but unspecified private entities. The stealth possibility here is not only government intrusion, but corporate intrusion. And you can take that to the bank.

from the Washington Post

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.

National security letters offer a case study of the impact of the Patriot Act outside the spotlight of political debate. Drafted in haste after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law's 132 pages wrought scores of changes in the landscape of intelligence and law enforcement. Many received far more attention than the amendments to a seemingly pedestrian power to review "transactional records." But few if any other provisions touch as many ordinary Americans without their knowledge.

Senior FBI officials acknowledged in interviews that the proliferation of national security letters results primarily from the bureau's new authority to collect intimate facts about people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Criticized for failure to detect the Sept. 11 plot, the bureau now casts a much wider net, using national security letters to generate leads as well as to pursue them. Casual or unwitting contact with a suspect -- a single telephone call, for example -- may attract the attention of investigators and subject a person to scrutiny about which he never learns.

An image in need of improvement, perhaps by improving
what the image is of? Posted by Picasa
Wal Mart Is Good For You---No Questions, Please
Washington Post

By Amy Joyce

One of the world's most private of public companies went public in an unusual way when it hosted a presentation of nine academic papers on Wal-Mart's impact on the economy, the retailer's latest move to repair its image.

The embattled retailer commissioned the independent economic research firm Global Insight Inc. to do a study and invite academics to present their own research at the conference. The presentations were made yesterday for an audience of about 150 in the District.

The event was a strange hybrid of academics and public relations at which attendees toted around registration information in plastic Wal-Mart shopping bags. A room full of people asking questions was reminded -- after a journalist asked about a statistic in a paper -- that reporters were not allowed to take part in the Q&A.

Outside, Wal-Mart critics greeted attendees. About a dozen demonstrators with the United Food and Commercial Workers union and its Wake Up Wal-Mart organization gathered outside the J.W. Marriott to protest the conference, some arrayed behind a large Wake Up Wal-Mart banner.

A few others handed out fliers headlined "Research Confirms: Wal-Mart Needs to Change" that touted some of the more critical findings of the academic papers. Security guards checked attendees' identification before allowing them to the registration table.

The conference's sessions featured statistics, charts and econometric models. The papers focused on different aspects of the world's largest retailer, finding positive and negative impacts. Academics and economists were rapt during the most arcane portions of the presentations; reporters, less so.

The conference comes at a time when Wal-Mart is battling critics over its image. Dueling movies about Wal-Mart are being released, and chief executive H. Lee Scott recently asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, a move that appeared to be part of an approach outlined for Wal-Mart by a consulting company to counter negative public perceptions.

Wal-Mart's conference was a year in the making, according to Bob McAdam, the company's vice president of corporate affairs. It was designed in part to counter anti-Wal-Mart sentiment, which McAdam said has resulted in studies with misguided statistics and conclusions. Labor unions and community groups argue that the company does not provide decent wages or health care to its workers and that it crushes small business.

A handful of the papers presented at the conference were at least partly critical. But the Global Insight study, paid for by Wal-Mart, painted the company in a positive light. Neither Wal-Mart nor Global Insight would disclose how much Global Insight was paid.

The other presenters, many of whom have been studying Wal-Mart for some time, received no compensation. Global Insight solicited papers, which it then selected "for relevance, methodology and academic rigor," regardless of papers' conclusions, the economic forecasting firm said.

The Global Insight analysis found that Wal-Mart saved consumers $263 billion during a 19-year period. It also found that by 2004, the company created 210,000 net new jobs. The firm's methodology was reviewed by an outside advisory board of economic experts.

Among the findings in other presentations: that the average state spends about $898 per Wal-Mart worker in Medicaid expenditures; that items typically sold in drugstores, such as aspirin and shampoo, decline in price when Wal-Mart enters a market; and that Wal-Mart stores had an adverse effect on retail employment, total employment and total payroll per person in the South, where Wal-Mart stores are numerous and where they have been open the longest.