Thursday, November 30, 2006
A Matter of Civility
George Will Knocks Jim Webb (D, VA)
Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." Webb told The Post:
"I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall. No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. [But] leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is."
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
A Mixed Bag - News from Here and There
The Libby Zion Case * Saudis threaten Big Tobacco * Pakistani Court rules in favor of Mother of Misbah Rana * Slaughter of Civilians in Iraq
Barron H. Lerner in the Washington Post: "Many people have vowed to avenge the untimely death of a relative. Lawyer and journalist Sidney Zion actually did so -- to the benefit of patients and doctors-in-training nationwide."
After his 18-year-old daughter Libby died within 24 hours of an emergency hospital admission in 1984, Zion learned that her chief doctors had been medical residents covering dozens of patients and receiving relatively little supervision. His anger set in motion a series of reforms, most notably a series of work hour limitations instituted by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), that have revolutionized modern medical education.
Just about everyone involved in the Libby Zion case -- her father, her doctors and the people who testified at the trial that eventually resulted -- has a different account of what happened. But there are some undisputed facts.
Libby was a college freshman with an ongoing history of depression who came to New York Hospital in Manhattan on the evening of Oct. 4, 1984, with a fever, agitation and strange jerking motions of her body. She also seemed disoriented at times.
Unable to diagnose her condition definitively, the emergency room physicians admitted her for hydration and observation. As the physician of record, Raymond Sherman, a senior clinician who had treated several members of the Zion family, approved the decision by phone.
On the hospital ward where she was sent, Libby was evaluated by two residents: Luise Weinstein, an intern eight months out of medical school, and Gregg Stone, who had one additional year of training. They, too, were not quite certain of Libby's diagnosis. Stone termed it a "viral syndrome with hysterical symptoms," suggesting that Libby was overreacting to a relatively mild illness. The doctors prescribed a shot of meperidine, a painkiller and sedative, to control her shaking. Sherman approved the plan by phone.
The events of the next several hours will always remain controversial. At about 3 in the morning, Weinstein went off to care for some of the 40 other patients she was covering. Stone went to sleep in an adjacent building, where he would be available, if necessary, by beeper.
After the doctors left, Libby became more agitated. The nurses contacted Weinstein at least twice. Weinstein ordered physical restraints to hold the patient down and prevent her from hurting herself. She also prescribed an injection of haloperidol, another medication aimed at calming her down. Busy with other patients, Weinstein did not reevaluate Libby.
Libby finally fell asleep, according to the nurses, but when a nurse's aide took her temperature at 6:30 a.m., it was 107, dangerously high. Weinstein was called and emergency measures were tried to lower the temperature. But Libby Zion suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Weinstein called her parents, telling them doctors had done everything they could.
To the doctors at the hospital, the case was an inexplicable "bad outcome" in which a healthy young woman had died of a mysterious infection.But the more Sidney Zion learned of the circumstances of Libby's death, the more he rejected this assertion. He became convinced his daughter's death was due to inadequate staffing at the teaching hospital. And he grew determined to ensure that others not fall victim to the same gaps in the teaching hospital system that he blamed for his daughter's death.
Saudi Arabia has warned that it will sue global tobacco firms unless they pay the full cost of treating patients suffering from smoking-related illness.
The health ministry said it had already rejected a lower offer from the tobacco firms, though did not say what level of compensation it was seeking.
A 12-year-old schoolgirl must return to her mother in Scotland, a judge in Pakistan has ruled.
Misbah Rana, also known as Molly Campbell, is at the centre of a custody battle between her estranged parents.
The military said the soldiers searching the building also found the bodies of two women.
Iraqi police said all the dead were civilians from two families.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division * William Faulkner
Ann Scott Tyson in the Post:
Fort Stewart, GA.
Col. John Charlton, commander of the division's 1st Brigade, which next month begins its third Iraq tour in four years, stepped forward. "Be thankful for your families, your health, and for every day that you're alive," he advised. The brigade's mission, he said, is to bring peace to Iraq's volatile western Anbar province and its capital, Ramadi, which he said despite progress remain "a dangerous area, a very dangerous area."
"Take this time . . . to be thinking about those soldiers represented behind or in front of you," he said, "and as you'll notice, there's still some space on the sidewalk there for more trees."
This week, U.S. troops will have been fighting in Iraq longer than they did in World War II, with no relief in sight. Soldiers from 1st Brigade preparing at Fort Stewart for their third Iraq tour have been spending as much time in Iraq as at home. The rotations -- a year in Iraq followed by a year at home -- dictate soldiers' most intimate decisions: They mandate when troops can marry and have children. They sever relationships that cannot sustain the stress of absence or danger. And they lead some couples to pray for the war to end.
After the memorial service, Lt. Col. Doug Crissman gathered his 1st Brigade soldiers and sent them on leave with a warning not to get hurt, go to jail or go AWOL.
"You're all a little bit nervous. Hell, I'm nervous," said Crissman, of Burke, Va., who commands the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. "The Army is asking us to do some tough stuff."
Then his voice softened as he nudged his troops to be attentive to their families. "I need you to think about this visit a little differently," he said. "Spend time with them. . . . Tell them you love them."
- I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.
- Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
Monday, November 27, 2006
For The "Eye Contact" President the Next Stop Is Jordan
First it was Putin, then Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq
The Washington Post
"As violence in Iraq continues to mushroom, President Bush travels to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday and Thursday. Bush is coming under increasing pressure from the new Democratic Congress to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. But Maliki might push Bush for more support as he tries to govern a country torn by sectarian strife."
The gathering is fraught with danger for Maliki. Both Shiite and Sunni leaders have criticized the prime minister; one prominent Sunni religious leader warned that the violence in Iraq could swell throughout the Middle East if the global community continues to back Maliki. Adding to the tension, Shiite politicians led by anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who form a key constituency for Maliki, are threatening to boycott the government if Maliki goes ahead with Thursday's meeting.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
AK-47, A Cheap and Efficient Killing Machine
Drug runners like them; terrorists like them; Shias like them, so do the Sunnis; the CIA supplied them to pro-American groups in various trouble spots in the world. Mind boggling. ".......responsible for about a quarter-million deaths every year" is what Larry Kahaner wrote in the Post about the light weight automatic weapon created by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Truly a "Weapon of Mass Destruction".
- The AK-47 has become the world's most prolific and effective combat weapon, a device so cheap and simple that it can be bought in many countries for less than the cost of a live chicken. Depicted on the flag and currency of several countries, waved by guerrillas and rebels everywhere, the AK is responsible for about a quarter-million deaths every year.
- In Latin America, AKs ended up in the hands of drug cartels and anti-government rebels. Just as the CIA shipped AKs to Afghanistan, it did the same in Nicaragua in the early 1980s, sending arms to the contras in their fight against the Soviet-backed Sandinistas.
- In their battles against U.S. forces, many al-Qaeda fighters and tribal groups still carry the same AKs that the CIA had purchased more than a decade earlier. The first U.S. soldier to die by hostile fire in Afghanistan -- Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman of San Antonio -- was killed by a teenager shooting an AK.
- Although coalition bombing in 1991 destroyed much of Iraq's air force, Scud missiles and tanks, Saddam Hussein's regime retained its small weapons, including AKs. By March 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Iraqi arsenals included seven to eight million small arms. These weapons -- which U.S. planners did not consider a major threat when the invasion began -- would prove deadly for American troops once major hostilities ended.
- The AK has pierced through popular culture, too. In 2004, Playboy magazine dubbed it one of the "50 Products That Changed the World," ranking it behind the Apple Macintosh desktop, the birth-control pill and the Sony Betamax video machine. Rappers Ice Cube and Eminem mention AKs in their lyrics. And in the movie "Jackie Brown," actor Samuel L. Jackson captures the weapon's global cachet: "AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every [expletive] in the room."
- Now 85, tiny, feeble, nearly deaf, his right hand losing control because of tremors, Kalashnikov is often haunted by the killing machine he has bestowed upon the world. "I wish I had invented a lawnmower," he told the Guardian in 2002.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
The Quagmire that Is Iraq
Iraq * Shifting Stance on Climate Change
Leaving Iraq, Honorably
by Chuck Hagel
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.
Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.
The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"
"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"
Hofmeister and other top energy company leaders, such as Duke Energy Corp.'s chief executive, James E. Rogers, back a proposal that would cap greenhouse gas emissions and allow firms to trade their quotas.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Panic on K-Street
"Times, They Are A-Changin"
Jeffrey Birnbaum in the Post:
- Labor and environmental representatives, once also-rans in congressional influence, are meeting frequently with Capitol Hill's incoming Democratic leaders. Corporations that once boasted about their Republican ties are busily hiring Democratic lobbyists. And industries worried about reprisals from the new Democrats-in-charge, especially the pharmaceutical industry, are sending out woe-is-me memos and hoping their GOP connections will protect them in the crunch.
- "Change is in the air," said Melinda Pierce, a senior lobbyist for the Sierra Club. She had never even been invited to meet with Republican House leaders, but since Election Day, Democrats have welcomed her advice.
- Dan Danner sees change in the opposite direction. The top lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business has attended meetings with Republican leaders at least twice a month for the past 12 years. But he has yet to see any of the new Democratic crowd and doesn't expect to anytime soon. "That's a significant difference," he said.
- A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.
- The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "is expected to be a problem," it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "will strengthen his ability to challenge us."
- The e-mail also mentions that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) "has worked closely" with the company and that the firm's PAC had supported six Democratic senators who faced reelection. "These relationships should help us moderate proposals offered by Senate Democrats," the e-mail says.
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
-- Bob Dylan
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Not "Bring 'em on", Mr. President, Bring them home
Thanksgiving 2006 * Three and Half Years of An Unjust War
- Associated Press/Washington Post November 20, 2006
- LONDON, Nov. 19 -- Military victory is no longer possible in Iraq, former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.
- Kissinger presented a bleak vision, saying the U.S. government must enter into dialogue with Iraq's neighbors -- including Iran -- if progress is to be made.
- "If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he said.
Tomorrow, as Americans gather to celebrate this great holiday, there will be many homes in which the shadow of the war in Iraq will be present. Families will think of their loved ones serving in Iraq; some will try to cope with the memories of the dead, and others think of caring for the injured.
Those of us who have not been directly affected by the war must not forget them and the hundreds of thousands of hapless Iraqis caught in the turmoil.
Let's hope that come Thanksgiving 2007, the soldiers will be home.
A few years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving column that people seemed to like, so I've reprinted it annually. Here it is again, slightly revised:
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is comfortably free of the strident religious and/or militaristic overtones that give the other holidays their soft emanations of uneasiness.
At Christmas, for instance, we are required to deal with the divinity of Christ -- I know some of you folks have made up your minds about that one, but not me -- and on the Fourth of July we must wrestle with the question of whether all those simulated aerial bombardments represent the most useful form of nationalism available.
At Thanksgiving, all we have to worry about is whether we can wholeheartedly support A) roasted turkey, B) friends and C) gratitude. My opinions on these matters are unambiguous; I am in favor of them all. The Squanto-give-corn stuff has been blessedly eliminated from the iconography, so the thrill of Thanksgiving is undiminished by caveats, codicils or carps. That alone is something to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving provides a formal context in which to consider the instances of kindness that have enlightened our lives, for moments of grace that have gotten us through when all seemed lost. These are fine and sentimental subjects for contemplation.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Democrats and Ethics
Reform - How Far Will They Go ? * Slimy Pair: Murdoch and O.J.
Jonathan Weisman in the Post:
Despite divisions among Democrats over how far to go in revising ethics rules, House leaders plan a major rollout of an ethics reform bill early next year to demonstrate concern about an issue that helped defeat the Republicans in the midterm elections.
But they will do it with a twist: Instead of forwarding one big bill, Democrats will put together an ethics package on the House floor piece by piece, allowing incoming freshmen to take charge of high-profile issues and lengthening the time spent on the debate. The approach will ensure that each proposal -- including banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists as well as imposing new controls on the budget deficit -- is debated on its own and receives its own vote. That should garner far more media attention for the bill's components before a final vote on the entire package.
"This will be the most significant ethics and lobbying reform that Congress has ever voted on," promised Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), one of the point men on the effort.
The approach may be the first indication of how the Democrats plan to use their ability to control the House agenda as the majority power, setting the terms of debate while lifting the strict rules that Republicans used to curtail dissent.
By Lisa de Moraes and Bob Thompson
News Corp. has spiked its O.J. Simpson book and TV special in the face of public and professional outrage over the project, in which the former football star describes hypothetically how he would have killed ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said yesterday in a brief statement. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."
Monday, November 20, 2006
The Moving Finger - Bush and The Neocons
The lovefest is over * Bring Back Military Draft ?
(Note: last month the menu went back to French Fries and French Toasts.)
Peter Baker in the Post:
- Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush
- The weekend after the statue of Saddam Hussein fell, Kenneth Adelman and a couple of other promoters of the Iraq war gathered at Vice President Cheney's residence to celebrate. The invasion had been the "cakewalk" Adelman predicted. Cheney and his guests raised their glasses, toasting President Bush and victory. "It was a euphoric moment," Adelman recalled.
- Forty-three months later, the cakewalk looks more like a death march, and Adelman has broken with the Bush team. He had an angry falling-out with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this fall. He and Cheney are no longer on speaking terms. And he believes that "the president is ultimately responsible" for what Adelman now calls "the debacle that was Iraq."
The Mess That Is Iraq
Charles Babington, Washington Post
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) has long advocated returning to the draft, but his efforts drew little attention during the 12 years that House Democrats were in the minority. Starting in January, however, he will chair the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Yesterday he said "you bet your life" he will renew his drive for a draft.
"I will be introducing that bill as soon as we start the new session," Rangel said on CBS's "Face the Nation." He portrayed the draft, suspended since 1973, as a means of spreading military obligations more equitably and prompting political leaders to think twice before starting wars.
"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," said Rangel, a Korean War veteran. "If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft."
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Fall and Fungi
San Francisco Bay Area
Wild mushrooms are one of the bounties of fall. AC and I went on our first (this season) foraging expedition for chanterelles and and returned with four lbs in prime condition.
For An Intellectually Challenged President
Excerpts from "Time for your Vietnam History Lesson, George" by Mary Riddell in The Observer.
Iraq's tomorrow looks bleak, but its conflict will have an end some day. All Bush and Blair can do now is to hasten peace in any way they can. That means talking to Iran and Syria, without ruinous preconditions, and recognising that diplomacy is usually less lethal than aggression.
Vietnam and Iraq have an identical message, for all their differences. One country offers a story of hope, the other - for now - of hopelessness. But the moguls of Hanoi and the morgues of Baghdad tell the same narrative of misbegotten war. So much blood running down the gutters of history, all shed for nothing.The President's insistence on a 'victory' in Iraq blinds him to the outcome of another ill-fated war
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The Evil That Man Does
Mahmudiya, Iraq, March 12, 2006 * 502nd Infantry Regiment
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- A soldier who was sentenced to 90 years in prison for conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and kill her and her family said he knew his actions would harm support for the U.S. military's mission in Iraq.
At his sentencing Thursday, Spc. James P. Barker, one of four Fort Campbell soldiers accused in the March 12 rape and killings, begged Iraqis not to cast judgment on other troops.
"I do not ask anyone to forgive me today," he tearfully told the judge. "I don't know how that would be possible after what I have done. I do ask the Iraqi people not to blame my brothers still fighting in Iraq."
Barker pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others to avoid the death penalty.
The killings in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad, were among the worst in a series of alleged attacks on civilians and other abuses by military personnel in Iraq.
See: The Neocons' War and A Girl Named Abeer Hamza
The 502nd Infantry Regiment and Abeer Hamza
Friday, November 17, 2006
There They Go Again
The Abstinence (from sex) Brigade * Repugnicans ? DemoGlad by Mark Fiore
Christopher Lee in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."
Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday.
Keroack, an obstetrician-gynecologist, will advise Secretary Mike Leavitt on matters such as reproductive health and adolescent pregnancy. He will oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that, according to HHS, are "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons."
The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, was the latest provocative personnel move by the White House since Democrats won control of Congress in this month's midterm elections. President Bush last week pushed the Senate to confirm John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and this week renominated six candidates for appellate court judgeships who have previously been blocked by lawmakers. Democrats said the moves belie Bush's post-election promises of bipartisanship.
The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.
The President continues to say "Democrat Party" instead of Democratic Party. Not known whether it is his inability to pronounce the last two letters. His problem with pronounciation of "nuclear" is a fact. What if we start saying "Repugnicans" instead of Republicans?
But for us it is time to be happy and forgiving. Take a look at Mark Fiore's animated strip DemoGlad©. It is guaranteed to make you feel good -- not the Bushies but the rest of us.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
End of the 'Run Amok' Presidency
Elephants' Graveyard * Democrats and 'K' Street
- It has been obvious for some time that, as President of the United States, George W. Bush is in very far over his head. He does not know how to use power wisely. He will now have a Democratic Congress to restrain him, and, perhaps, to protect him—and us—from his unfettered impulses. This may not be the Thanksgiving he was looking forward to, but the rest of us have reason to be grateful.
'K' Street Kerfuffle
Special interest groups are readjusting to the new reality. Lobbyists with Democratic connections are back in favor. There is little doubt that some members of the 110th Congress will succumb to the temptations and be persuaded to drink from the pail. That is how our system works. Would they stoop as low as their predecessors? Let's hope that they do not.
As Guard Changes in Congress, Lobbyists Scramble
NY Times 11/15/06
K STREET DEMS SUDDENLY VERY POPULAR: Republicans do not cede control of Congress for nearly two months, but money, power and influence are already beginning to change hands. The political economy, at least here in the capital, is humming for Democrats.
Democratic lobbyists are fielding calls from pharmaceutical companies, the oil and gas industry and military companies, all of which had grown accustomed to patronizing Republicans, as the environment in Washington abruptly shifts.
The Republican Party lost its grip on Congress and is now bracing to lose its hold over K Street, the bustling corridor that has become synonymous with the lobbying industry. The so-called K Street Project, an effort engineered by Republicans to dominate the trade, is unraveling, and Democrats say they intend to pass sweeping reforms rather than reverse the project for their benefit.
"What!" said the Prior, "would you master stay our benefactor's soul in Purgatory?" "Ay," said the officer, coldly, "an ye will not pray him thence for naught he must e'en roast."
-- Ambrose Bierce (The Devil's Dictionary)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Talking Jesus Dolls - WWJD ?
Toys for Tots
A talking Jesus doll has been turned down by the Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program.
But the charity balked because of the dolls' religious nature.
Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and "we don't know anything about their background, their religious affiliations," said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va.
As a government entity, Marines "don't profess one religion over another," Grein said Tuesday. "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family."
Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity's decision left him "surprised and disappointed."
"The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids," La Roe said. "I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible."
According to the company's Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus, dressed in hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals, recites Scripture such as "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." It has a $20 retail value.
Grein also questioned whether children would welcome a gift designed for religious instruction. "Kids want a gift for the holiday season that is fun," he said.
The program distributed 18 million stuffed animals, games, toy trucks and other gifts to children in 2005.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
GOP's Third World Strategy In Maryland
Voter Fraud: Ehrlich and Steele's Dirty Tricks Exposed
The six Trailways motorcoaches draped in Ehrlich and Steele campaign banners rumbled down Interstate 95 just before dawn on Election Day.
On board, 300 mostly poor African Americans from Philadelphia ate doughnuts, sipped coffee and prepared to spend the day at the Maryland polls. After an early morning greeting from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s wife, Kendel, they would fan out in white vans across Prince George's County and inner-city Baltimore, armed with thousands of fliers that appeared to be designed to trick black Democrats into voting for the two Republican candidates.
The glossy fliers bore photos of black Democratic leaders on the front. Under the headline "Democratic Sample Ballot" were boxes checked in red for Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, who were not identified as Republicans. Their names were followed by a long list of local Democratic candidates.
Nearly a week later, a fuller picture has emerged about how the plan to capture blacks' votes unfolded -- details that suggest the fliers, and the people paid to distribute them, were not part of a hurry-up effort but a calculated strategy.
Republican leaders have defended the Election Day episode as an accepted element of bare-knuckle politics. But for many voters, it shattered in one day the nice-guy images Ehrlich and Steele had cultivated for years.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The 109th Congress - Final Session
More than a "Lame Duck" Session * Kiran Desai
|We would like to see carefully crafted legislation to provide a legal framework for the administration's warrantless surveillance program, but the measures that have been proposed so far go overboard in giving carte blanche to the administration. This is an important subject -- and one that ought to be taken up by the 110th Congress. Meanwhile, the president's last-ditch push to win confirmation of controversial U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton during the lame-duck session isn't a particularly good omen of presidential willingness to compromise with Democrats. Mr. Bolton's nomination is a matter the White House would do better to drop, for the lame-duck session and beyond, if Mr. Bush is serious about that new tone he talked about the day after the election.|
Citizenship in Bush's America
I get the feeling that here in the Silicon Valley a majority of the Indians are likely to be supporters of President Bush and the Republicans. Kiran Desai is not a resident of California. It was interesting to read comments by this year's Booker Prize winner -- that she put off going through the citizenship process because of her "disapproval of the president's foreign policy". Perhaps an extreme view but understandable. I love my adopted country. There are times though when I am not proud of what our government does.
By Martin Roberts Wed Nov 8, 12:31 PM ET
Indian novelist Kiran Desai said she may never have won the Booker Prize, one of the world's most prestigious literary awards, had George W. Bush not been U.S. president - as he put her off becoming an American citizen.
The Man Booker Prize is open only to British and Commonwealth citizens and Indian-born Desai has yet to apply for a U.S. passport, although she has lived in New York for 20 years.
"George Bush won once and he won the second time and I couldn't bring myself to (apply)," Desai said late last month in an interview in Toronto as she voiced her disapproval of the president's foreign policy.
"So I really owe George Bush my Booker, in an odd way. It's really very funny."
Desai, 35, became the youngest woman to capture the 50,000 pound ($95,000) prize last month with her sweeping novel "The Inheritance of Loss." The book's narrative ranges from undocumented workers in New York to political violence in the foothills of the Himalayas during the 1980s.
The novelist divides her time between New York and New Delhi, and while she finds traveling difficult on an Indian passport, she said it helped her maintain an essential contact with her roots while penning her prize-winning book.
"I couldn't have written this book without being interested (in India), I felt very Indian while writing it," she said.
"With politics in the United States, my immediate thought is how is this going to affect India or the Third World, who are they letting into the country, who they happen to be bombing."
But Desai is quick to point out that her book deals with an underclass that is exploited in rich and poor countries alike.
Applause and a bouquet for Kiran Desai.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Sunday After the Election (2006)
Poems by Karen Karpowich and Yehuda Amichai
Near the band shell are Elms planted
for heroes of a forgotten war.
The trees create a thick canopy.
It’s cool. No grass grows.
A narrow path is pounded out by joggers
who pass never noticing the plaques
filled with names.
A child might say this place is haunted.
I only feel its sadness.
Young men who fought and died
never knowing what it is to live.
I walk here each day.
My pace quickens at its dark center.
Half The People In The World
Half the people in the world love the other half,
half the people hate the other half.
Must I because of this half and that half go wandering
and changing ceaselessly like rain in its cycle,
must I sleep among rocks, and grow rugged like
the trunks of olive trees,
and hear the moon barking at me,
and camouflage my love with worries,
and sprout like frightened grass between the railroad
and live underground like a mole,
and remain with roots and not with branches, and not
feel my cheek against the cheek of angels, and
love in the first cave, and marry my wife
beneath a canopy of beams that support the earth,
and act out my death, always till the last breath and
the last words and without ever understandig,
and put flagpoles on top of my house and a bomb shelter
underneath. And go out on raids made only for
returning and go through all the apalling
between the kid and the angel of death?
Half the people love,
half the people hate.
And where is my place between such well-matched halves,
and through what crack will I see the white housing
projects of my dreams and the bare foot runners
on the sands or, at least, the waving of a girl's
kerchief, beside the mound?
Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), Translated by Chana Bloch And Stephen Mitchell
Saturday, November 11, 2006
You too, God !
Our President and the so called "Christian Right"
After the election of 2004, I wrote:
"Post election ruminations in a Judeo-Christian Land
Slouching towards fundamentalism.
- As the results of the midterm elections sank in this week, religious leaders across the ideological spectrum found something they could agree on: The "God gap" in American politics has narrowed substantially.
- Religious liberals contended that a concerted effort by Democrats since 2004 to appeal to people of faith had worked minor wonders, if not electoral miracles, in races across the country.
- Religious conservatives disagreed, arguing that the Republican Party lost religious voters rather than the Democrats winning them.
---Heraclitus (544-483 BC)
Friday, November 10, 2006
Massacre at Beit Hanoun
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" ?
As the major suppliers of military hardware to the Israelis, we are not free from responsibility in the deaths and destruction. There is pressing need for negotiating a settlement. Unfortunately, we have squandered our moral authority. The Bush administration's distaste for Hamas made it sit back and give full support to Israel. But Hamas came to power after legitimately held election. Disregarding that fact is neither right nor prudent.
Beit Hanoun (BBC)
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has said an army artillery barrage that killed 18 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was the result of a "technical failure".
He said troops had targeted an orange grove from which rockets had been fired on Wednesday, but instead hit homes in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.
The victims, including several children and women, were buried in Beit Hanoun on Thursday amid emotional scenes.
Palestinian officials described the killings as a massacre.
"I'm very uncomfortable with this event. I'm very distressed, Mr Olmert was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency..
"I checked it and I verified it. This is not the policy," he said.
But military operations against suspected Palestinian militants would continue, he added, admitting that further mistakes "may happen".
- "BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip, Nov. 9 -- This farming community buried the al-Athamnah family Thursday, after marching through muddy streets bearing the bodies of the dead aloft and reaffirming in angry chants its commitment to war with Israel.
- Tens of thousands of Palestinians squeezed through narrow lanes here a day after Israeli artillery shells killed 20 civilians, all but three of them from the same family. The Israeli military announced Thursday that the bombardment of the neighborhood was the result of a "technical failure in the artillery radar system."
- "You see the sadness everywhere," said Rawda Hamad, 40, one of scores of women in enveloping black gowns who had gathered at the burial site. "And violence will bring violence."
Jonathan Steele comments in The Guardian: "A profound pessimism has taken hold of Israel"
- The Israeli artillery fire that claimed 18 civilian lives in Beit Hanoun this week is the worst single attack in Gaza for six years. Whether it will prompt an end to Hamas's moratorium on suicide bombings hangs in the balance, but the attack - said by Israeli officials to be an error - has clearly put Israel on the moral defensive.
- Even if the shells had been properly aimed, they would still reflect the same shockingly disproportionate response that Israel inflicted on Lebanon this summer after two soldiers were captured in a cross-border operation by Hizbullah guerrillas. Three months after the 34-day war against their northern neighbour, Israelis are still debating what, if anything, it achieved.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
President and Barney - Good News Comes in Spades
Defeat for George Allen in Virginia * Defeat for Richard Pombo in California
11:05 AM Pacific time
Sen. George Allen will concede the Virginia race to Democrat Jim Webb, giving Democrats a majority vote in the U.S. Senate, CNN.
The San Francisco Chronicle (Editorial 11/9/06)
- TO FULLY understand Tuesday's Democratic victory, look no further than California's 11th Congressional District.
- It was there that Jerry McNerney, an obscure Democratic candidate with almost no political experience, toppled Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, a powerful member of the Republican majority in Congress.
- Pombo suffered from being a protége of disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who elevated this San Joaquin County rancher with a hatred of many environmental regulations to chairman of the House Resources Committee. He also had received contributions from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
- Pombo's efforts to weaken environmental regulations inspired the anger of environmentalists who, among many others, flooded his district to promote McNerney's candidacy. Almost the entire volunteer effort was run independently of the Democratic Party.
- The GOP selection of Pombo to head a committee charged with guarding the nation's environment was one of the most cynical acts of its now shattered majority. His departure from Congress is long overdue.
From Across the Atlantic : "Thank You, America"
And More Bushspeak - The Frat Boy Lives
Thank You, America
For six years, latterly with the backing of both houses of a markedly conservative Republican Congress, George Bush has led an American administration that has played an unprecedentedly negative and polarising role in the world's affairs. On Tuesday, in the midterm US congressional elections, American voters rebuffed Mr Bush in spectacular style and with both instant and lasting political consequences. By large numbers and across almost every state of the union, the voters defeated Republican candidates and put the opposition Democrats back in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time in a dozen years.
When the remaining recounts and legal challenges are over, the Democrats may even have narrowly won control of the Senate too. Either way, the results change the political landscape in Washington for the final two years of this now thankfully diminished presidency. They also reassert a different and better United States that can again offer hope instead of despair to the world. Donald Rumsfeld's resignation last night was a fitting climax to the voters' verdict. Thank you, America.
To read the complete editorial, go to the link in The Guardian, UK.
A few gems from the president's press conference on November 8th.
- And while the ballots are still being counted in the Senate, it's clear the Democrat Party had a good night last night. And I congratulate them on their victories.
- "To the people of Iraq: Do not be fearful."
- BUSH: As you take the difficult steps toward democracy and peace, America's going to stand with you. We know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it.
- My point is is that, while we have been adjusting, we will continue to adjust to achieve the objective. And I believe that's what the American people want.
- Somehow it's seeped in their conscience that, you know, my attitude was just simply "Stay the course." "Stay the course" means let's get the job done, but it doesn't mean staying stuck on a strategy or tactics that may not be working. So perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining that we're constantly adjusting.
- And so the fresh perspective (ph) on what the American people here today is we're constantly looking for fresh perspective.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Hubris Vanquished - "I Could've Danced All Night"
A Joyful Morning * Bullies and Buffoons Depart Center Stage
--Alcuin (735-804),in a letter to Charlemagne
On that day I certainly did not expect the political landscape to change so drastically within two years. But the Republicans helped; led by a dictatorial president they became power mad and self-destructed. The arrogant president will no longer have a subservient House of Representatives at his beck and call. It is uncertain whether the Republicans would be able to maintain their majority in the Senate, but if they do Vice President Cheney (Dr. Strangelove) might have to emerge from his secret bunker often to be the tiebreaker.
Blue is Beautiful
The following deserve special mention.
- Santorum: Sanctimonious Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania who wrapped himself in Bible and the flag, sank. Pass it on.
- Harris: Katherine Harris -- the champion of theocracy who, as Florida's secretary of state, engineered gross violations of voters' rights in 2000,-- got hammered. Pass it on.
Applause for South Dakotans who voted against the draconian abortion ban introduced by bigots in their state.
Remember that results of the 2006 Midterm Elections are more about their loss than your victory. The American people voted against them and you won by default.
The president gleefully created a bloody mess in Iraq and some of you helped him to do it. There is no easy way out. But the majority of the Iraqis don't want us there. Look for solutions, avoid platitudes.
Don't go to bed with the K-Street gang. Think of what happened to those who did. When you are courted by the lobbyists, remember you don't get something for nothing.
Support the proposed H.R. 4682: Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006
Give god a rest. A lot of bad things have been done in his name during the past six years.The separation of church and state, as envisaged by Thomas Jefferson, served the nation well in the past.
Your words and actions will be judged just as the members across the aisle were judged. Make sincere efforts to reach bipartisanship.
You're there to serve your constituents -- all of them -- not select groups represented by lobbyists.