Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Gasoline Mileage = National Security

A group of former national security officials has joined with environmentalists to push for better gas mileage. America’s oil addiction is a serious national security threat. This groups wants Bush to dedicate $1 billion to developing lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. This organization includes defense and intelligence officials from the past three administrations.

The group also dismisses hydrogen-powered vehicles — which Bush keeps falling back on — since they will take decades to develop. They stress that stricter mileage standards could cut our oil imports in half, and that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not a solution.

One member of the group said “It's strange bedfellows but this is actually the real American majority. It's common sense.”

It’s about time. Traditionally, national security has always been the big smokescreen whenever there’s a debate about drilling; anyone who’s against drilling in a national park loves Osama bin Laden and wants to have another 9/11 attack. When the debate shifts to fuel economy, the national security bugaboo suddenly vanishes, and the whole debate gets framed as a bunch of treehuggers threatening America’s Free Enterprise system.

Finally, a little focus. Someone more “credible” than an environmentalist is spelling out the obvious: fuel economy is a national security issue.

The AARP campaign against Social Security “reform” is outspending the White House. If you want to bring 1929 back, sorry, you're being outspent nearly three to one by AARP. Uh oh...

Let's speculate what USA Next will come up with for their next anti-AARP hatchet job. Let’s see — this is kinda fun — picture a group of AARP members attending a black mass, and one of the candles sets the American flag on fire, and then the camera shows some AARP members engaged in some un-Godly, sick, perverted acts with animals while simultaneously ejaculating on the Bible.

Think that's about par for the course? What do you think USA Next has up their sleeve? Anyone care to guess?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Will the Radical Right Self-Destruct?

The Radical Right wingnuts have Jumped The Shark. Their 15 minutes are almost up. The Terri Schiavo Show was the biggest flop since Gigli. And they’re still spinning and re-spinning the Weapons of Mass Destruction, I mean, uh, Iraq’s connection with 9/11, oops, er, you know, the Saddam Hussein/bin Laden connection, oh, I mean, uhh, hey look, the Iraqis are voting. See, it was worth 2,000 American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of billions of dollars. Right?

Most Americans believe that the Iraqi invasion was wrong, Bush handled everything poorly once the war started, and the number of American casualties is unacceptable. The governments of England and Australia — possibly the last two countries the U.S. hasn’t alienated — are sinking in the polls, mostly because of their support for the war in Iraq.

These political disasters (plus the Social Security fiasco) should have the Radical Right cowering in the corner right now. If the Democrats (or even moderate Republicans) can find a spin doctor with one tenth the shrewdness of Karl Rove, now is the time.

The hypocrisy and twofaced-ness of Bush and his puppetmasters has never been so clear, so blatant. A “Culture of Life”?!?!? Sure, if you’re a fetus or a vegetable. Everyone else, F$#&!*# Off. Support Our Troops!! (Pssst -- then we’ll cut their benefits when they come home.) And on and on. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The Schiavo Republicans (I got that term from the Rude Pundit’s post of 3/28) need to be painted into a corner and forced to fight for their political lives. Make them squirm.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Abortion, DeLay and Medieval Pharmacists

An Idaho abortion law was overturned by an Appeals Court, and the Supreme Court yesterday refused to intervene. The Supreme Court will let the Appeals Court ruling stand: the “emergency” provisions of the Idaho law were too strict. The law would have required parental consent for anyone under 18 to get an abortion, except in cases of “medical emergency.”

OK, so the upcoming battle over the next Supreme Court nominee isn’t red-hot enough yet; let’s throw a little more gasoline on the fire. At this rate we’re gonna have to call in the National Guard to keep order during the next judicial hearing. Oops — that’s right, we can’t; they’re all in Iraq…

Just when you think you already know how sleazy and two-faced Tom DeLay is, more filth keeps oozing into the media. In 1988, Mr. Sanctity of Life Himself was faced with the same life or death decision as the Schiavo family. His father had been injured in a tram accident and was near death. After doctors told the family that the father would remain in a vegetative state, the DeLay family made the painful decision to end life support. (Note: In this case DeLay wasn’t surrounded by TV cameras and sanctimonious politicians.)

DeLay later filed a successful lawsuit against the manufacturer of the faulty machine part that caused his father’s accident. Yes, this is the same Tom DeLay who has constantly pushed for tort reform, reduction in product liability, and has gone on and on about evil trial lawyers and “frivolous, parasitic lawsuits.”

And now, even the Wall Street Journal has condemned DeLay in an editorial. A milestone! At this point he’s almost reached the Albatross stage, where his opponents are hoping he’ll stay and be an embarrassment to Republicans.

What’s the difference between a pharmacy and the Spanish Inquisition? No, this isn’t a riddle — I'm asking. In a 21st century version of the Scarlet Letter, some pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning after pills, on “moral” grounds. Hey Asshole, you’re a pharmacist!! Either do your job or get the F%$# out of there. If you’d rather be a preacher, go preach.

What’s next, a fireman who thinks fire is God’s Will and it’s not Man’s place to intervene?

If you think pharmacists should be filling prescriptions instead of trying to be High Priests or Grand Inquisitors, please sign This Petition.

Check out Brother Kenya's post from yesterday on this same subject.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Neocons: A Parasite on the Republican Party

If you’re young, or just recently started following politics, you probably think the Republican party has always been this band of right wing mouth-breathing warbots. But this isn’t the real Republican party. Think of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” A parasite — the Neocons — is using the Republican party as its host.

This interview with U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter will blow you away. Even if you've already suspected these things, you'll still be shocked.

The Neocons have played a background role for a long time; it’s only recently that they’ve oozed into such a powerful position. President Bush Senior used to refer to them as “the crazies in the basement.” Reagan also tried to keep a rein on them. Reagan looks like a bleeding-heart liberal compared to this Neocon band of “Republicans.”

It’s hard to believe the party of Richard Nixon (who signed a lot of environmental and civil rights legislation) and Dwight Eisenhower (who first warned us about the military industrial complex) could have deteriorated into this band of power crazed maniacs.

The goal of the Neocons? Nothing less than total world dominion. True to their nature as parasites, the Neocons will latch themselves onto whichever host will serve their purpose. The Republican party, the U.S. government, multinational corporations — these all serve as convenient temporary vehicles for the Neocons’ ultimate goal.

This interview with Scott Ritter is long but well worth reading. Hopefully you’ll save it and/or e-mail it to your friends; this information needs to be distributed as widely as possible. Not knowing about this global menace isn’t going to diminish it. As the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t following you.

Paul Wolfowitz in charge of the World Bank? Not good.

The term “Neocon” has such a neutral, mechanical sound to it; they should be called something more chilling, more repulsive; something to accurately reflect what they really are. Nazi parasites? Neanderthal goons? Hitler wannabes? Let’s have a contest.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bush's Poll Ratings: Faaallling! Going Dooowwn!

One of the phoniest, sleaziest and most transparent political gimmicks in history has backfired. Thank God. If this Terri Schiavo sideshow had worked, who knows what sleazy cheap-ass three-ring circus Bush and his Bitches would be planning next. Don’t even go there.

Fortunately, most Americans — of all political viewpoints — have seen right through the shameless pandering of Bush, DeLay, Frist and the other Taliban wannabes.

A poll taken this week shows Bush’s overall approval rating at 45%; another poll gives him a 43% rating. Bush’s popularity has slipped even among his most supportive groups: men, self-described conservatives and churchgoers.

Most Americans — including Evangelicals and conservatives — disapprove of Bush and Congress intervening in the Schiavo case.

A famous saying needs to be rephrased: Once in a great while you actually can go wrong underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

Our latest Straight Face Test results: Tom DeLay pretending to get all maudlin and touchy-feely over an invalid he’s never even met — FAIL.

One bright spot in this whole shitstorm: if you’re feeling ill and don’t have medical coverage, try using the Senate’s new psychic healer, Bill “Send-Me-A-Video-And-I’ll-Diagnose-You” Frist.

Friday, March 25, 2005

How "Patriotic" is the Patriot Act?

The Patriot Act is under attack again, and this time it isn’t just from spineless liberals and America-hating leftists. Members of the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the ACLU, and the Free Congress Foundation have formed a coalition to fight certain provisions of the Patriot Act.

The new group — Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances — will be lobbying Congress to repeal the infamous “sneak and peek” searches conducted without the property owner’s knowledge. They want to reduce prosecutors’ newfound ability to obtain people’s records from businesses and libraries (without that person‘s knowledge). And they want to modify the overly broad definition of “terrorist,” which presently includes just about anyone the government doesn’t like.

Before you dismiss this as just another bunch of tree huggers and wusses: members include Bob Barr (one of the ringleaders of the Clinton impeachment) and Grover Norquist. You can find out more about the group here.


In the past few years Republicans have been contradicting more and more of their slogans and platitudes, but with the Terri Schiavo case they’ve completely become everything they hate. Republicans have always spoken out against:

Big Government meddling in people‘s lives;
states’ rights and local autonomy being overridden by the federal government;
activist judges;

On top of all that, Bush and his Harem (formerly known as Congress) are now using the tactics of Moslem fundamentalists and theocrats.

In medieval Moslem societies, if the government thought a private family tragedy had certain religious significance, they’d publicize the issue for a long period, totally humiliate everyone involved, and then bring down the full force of the government. Sound familiar?

This longtime tradition had pretty much died out until Moslem fundamentalists revived it in the 1970s. Boy George has had some strange bedfellows, but Moslem fundamentalists are the strangest yet.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Identity Theft: A Solution?

Identity theft victimizes 10 million people a year. When you find out that your Social Security number and credit card numbers have been stolen, your first reaction is probably a dumbfounded, numb feeling of “oh God, what do I do now?” Other than keeping a close eye on your credit report, there hasn’t been much else you could do. Until now. (Maybe.)

Some state legislators are considering the idea of putting a security freeze on the credit reports of identity theft victims. California citizens already have the right to put a security freeze on their credit reports, and now 20 state legislatures are considering this idea.

If you choose to freeze your credit report, nobody can access the information or obtain a new credit card or take out a loan on this account. It’s locked down. As a consumer attorney puts it, “this puts the consumer in the driver's seat over their personal information.”

As you’ve probably guessed, the retail and credit industries are less than enthusiastic about this idea. So far this proposal has been derailed in Utah and Indiana by armies of lobbyists. But the movement is gaining momentum in other states. We’ll see…

While most people are terrified at the prospect of identity theft, some companies are drooling over the marketing opportunities presented by this tragedy.

Equifax, one of the largest credit bureaus, is selling a $100-a-year package to consumers called Credit Watch, which lets consumers know if there’s “unusual activity” going on in their credit reports. Equifax sent an e-mail to all its Internet affiliates, urging them to take full advantage of the hysteria over identity theft.

The Identity Theft Resource Center has described this as “profiteering at its worst.”

So, we have two possible solutions to identity theft: 1) You’re in the driver’s seat, able to lock down your account and prevent anyone from accessing your information or obtaining a loan or credit card; the credit industry doesn’t like this idea. 2) Credit bureaus can sell you a useless gimmick to make you feel like your credit information is “safer.”

Hmmm…Which of these approaches do you think will be chosen by our coin-operated legislators? Anybody want to guess?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Free Parking

As our energy problems get worse and worse, politicians at all levels — from city councils to the U.S. Congress — will have to start looking for ways to stop wasting fuel. And guess what may be ultimately headed for the chopping block (don’t shoot the messenger): Free Parking.

As the population becomes more aware of how many ways fuel is wasted — everything from poor mileage to improperly inflated tires — our millions of free parking spaces are looking more and more like that proverbial sore thumb.

When new parking spaces and garages are built, there’s less land for housing and office/industrial space, and real estate prices go up. People are encouraged to drive instead of using mass transit if they know there’ll be a free parking space waiting for them. Excessive dependence on cars plus increased housing prices equals urban sprawl.

And these problems all reinforce each other. Mass transit deteriorates because everyone would rather drive. Thousands of people move to a small outlying community where housing is cheaper; then the housing prices go way up in this formerly outlying community, and thousands of people move still further away to find cheaper housing. Zillions of new parking spaces, garages and lots are built, and the cycle continues…

In 2002, $374 billion was spent nationwide to subsidize off-street parking. In other words, “free parking” isn’t free.


If you’re between the ages of 34 and 39 and you’re in favor of the war in Iraq, you probably thought you were too old to go over there and get in on the action. Well, Good News!

Because of recruitment problems (I wonder why), the enlistment age has now been extended to 39. No longer do you have to sit on the sidelines, frustrated at being too old to get in there and Kill The Enemy. You go, Guy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Terri Schiavo

Remember that scene from The Shining where Shelley DuVall sneaks over to the typewriter to peek at the manuscript her husband has been working on? And it turned out to be nothing but “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Over and over and over. Page after page, nothing but “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Hundreds, thousands of times. And the horrified, terrified look that crosses her face as she realizes that her husband has gone completely and totally bonkers, cuckoo, blotto...

After about a half hour of blog surfing, there are soooo many blogs talking about nothing but Terri Schiavo. After a point my head starts spinning, my vision starts to blur, and I know just how Shelley DuVall felt reading “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over and over.

It finally just turns into this meaningless nonsense word, and I’m terrischiavo at the point of terrischiavo just seeing this same terrischiavo word, this terrischiavo mantra, out of the corner of my eye, embedded terrischiavo in sentences, hanging in the margins; it’s everywhere.

By this point I’m half expecting to turn around and see Jack Nicholson standing behind me with that manic, twisted nobody-home grin, holding an axe…

OK, here’s my request: most rightwing bloggers are moving, thinking and writing in total lockstep, coordinating their daily topics and buzzwords right down to the tiniest detail, right? OK, uh, could you guys take turns doing the Schiavo Shuffle? Do it in shifts, sort of? You know, some sort of group arrangement like “OK, Group A will write about Terri Schiavo today, and Group B will write about gay marriage, Ward Churchill, or anti-war protesters who hate America; and tomorrow we’ll switch.” Millions of online readers would be eternally grateful for the partial respite, the dialing down.

Oh, and this obsession with Terri Schiavo is all about principle and compassion, right? Has nothing to do with politics? In this column by Peggy Noonan, she comes right out and says that if Republicans are unable to save this woman’s life, they’ll face a backlash from their core voters.

Isn't it great to know this whole crusade isn’t about politics or a power grab or anything like that. Terri Schiavo is more than just a political football.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Pentagon: Trim That Excess Fat and Waste

A new survey indicates 65% of Americans want to reduce the Pentagon budget. Now. War or no war. They want the Pentagon money shifted to deficit reduction, education, job training, veterans’ benefits and renewable energy development.

When asked how much of a reduction they wanted, the average amount given was $131 billion, or 31% of the Pentagon budget. The average respondent also favored adding $24 billion to the budget for developing renewable energy sources.

Are you listening, Congress? According to this poll, it’s no longer political suicide to try injecting a little sanity into our government’s twisted sense of priorities. What are you waiting for? Let’s go!


Have you signed The Petition yet? It’s a letter to the Federal Election Commission (text already filled in; just fill in the fields and click on Send) demanding that all Internet communication (that’s us!) be protected from government control. As the saying goes, I might not agree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. All bloggers are in this together.

Thank you Jet at God Dem! for providing the link.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

War On Drugs

If you’re in favor of the War on Drugs, you probably think our trillion dollar crackdown is aimed at the top drug pushers and kingpins. Not a chance. No government program in our history has ever had as many unintended consequences as the War on Some Drugs.

What’s the most common category of drug-law felons? Women with children. Many of these women are drug dealers’ wives or girlfriends who played little or no role in any crime. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is all it takes to get caught up in a sweep. When these prisoners can’t or won’t roll over on their husbands/boyfriends, they get the kind of sentence usually reserved for murderers and rapists.

One side effect of these long sentences: mothers being cut off from their children. The children’s lives are often ruined by this separation. (Hey, all you “Family Values” types, here’s a cause for you.)

Drug treatment programs have repeatedly been shown to be more effective, and less costly, than incarceration. When children are involved, the combined cost of incarceration and placing the children in a foster home is seven times the cost of a drug rehab program. If you’re a fiscal conservative, think of all the tax dollars being wasted here.

But, for the hateful bigots who would rather demonize all drug users, it just feels good to lock ‘em all up and throw the key away.


The cause of protecting bloggers from government control has been mostly publicized by conservative bloggers. Just to show that this is a crucial issue for both sides: Democratic Senator Harry Reid has introduced a bill to exempt all internet communication from campaign finance laws.

Give ‘Em Hell, Harry! Hands off the Internet!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

America is Threatened by Terrorists and Wimps

America is in danger of another 9/11-style (or even worse) terrorist attack, but that’s not our only threat. Equally dangerous are those international Frenchsissy organizations like the International Criminal Court. This is according to a Pentagon document which says America’s strength is being challenged by “a strategy of the weak.”

This strategy of the weak includes “international forums, judicial processes and terrorism.” Ooookay. Nothing like giving equal weight to a terrorist attack and an international hearing. Let’s see, suicide bombers crash planes into the World Trade Center, and some limpwristed wine-sniffing diplomat is trying to discuss international law; and both of these events are equally infuriating! Riiiight!!

Douglas Feith, the number 3 official at the Pentagon, said “We need to think broadly about diplomatic lines of attack, legal lines of attack…”

Other threats include “waffling” allies. Rumsfeld gave the example of Spain abruptly withdrawing 1,300 troops from Iraq last year. International resentment of America’s global influence is another danger the Pentagon is warning us about.

This document also stresses the importance of our allies providing bases for American forces. Uh, since these are sovereign countries, shouldn’t this be an internal matter for the people of those countries to decide?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Where is Osama bin Laden? Who?!?!?

American and Pakistani officials have vowed to keep looking for Osama bin Laden, but they acknowledged the trail was cold. The Pakistani president said they had a dragnet surrounding the area where they thought he was hiding (about 10 months ago), but they’ve since lost track of him. White House spokesman Scott McCllellan had no new information but confirmed that bin Laden “remains a high priority.”

McClellan also made the earthshaking observation that bin Laden “is someone who has been on the run.” Whoa!! Stop the presses!!

U.S. officials, while admitting that the trail has gone cold, are also playing down bin Laden’s importance. They’re saying he’s more like a non-executive chairman of the board, rather than a CEO. Well, maybe. But then again, if you’re unable to solve a problem, the easiest way to save face is to say “oh, that didn’t really matter anyway. No biggie.”

In a related story, the Homeland Security Department has been going over some possible scenarios for future terrorist attacks. Possibilities include:

An exploding liquid chlorine tank, killing 17,500 people and injuring more than 100,000;

Spreading pneumonic plague in the bathrooms of an airport, sports arena and train station, killing 2,500 and sickening 8,000 worldwide;

A prolonged anthrax attack, infecting 350,000 and killing over 13,000;

A nuclear bomb (no estimate of casualties).

With these cheerful possibilities, and our inability to capture bin Laden, do you think it’s more important for our troops to be:

a) still quagmired in Iraq after two years; or

b) stationed here in America, protecting us against future 9/11 attacks?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

We Want OIL

Good news for the oil industry — years of bribery have finally paid off. Their coin-operated senators did just as they were told yesterday. Good news for everyone who wants to move up to that bigger, heavier SUV — go for it! Get that Biiggg One that gets .6 miles to the gallon. And good news for the previously depressed Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska. Maybe now he can pull in his lower lip and quit stamping his foot like an 8-year-old.

By a 51-49 vote, the Senate voted to allow the ANWR drilling amendment to be inserted into the 2007 budget bill. This way they can make an end run around the certain filibuster that would have prevented drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. With 55 Republicans in the Senate, there must have been at least four Republicans who displayed a — Gasp!! — conscience. (Warning: The Great Leader does not permit that. Report immediately for re-indoctrination.)


Tuesday’s guilty verdict against WorldCom’s former CEO might pave the way for further convictions of corporate sleazebags.

Prosecutors had no documents linking former CEO Bernard Ebbers to the multi-billion dollar fraud committed by WorldCom, and Ebbers “admitted” that he “had no clue” that his subordinates were carrying on like this. (What in the F$#&*% was he being paid a 7-figure salary for? To stare out the window?)

And yet he was convicted.

The senior pusbags at Enron have been planning the same “Huh?!? I didn’t know” defense; this offers greater hope for their convictions.

California’s former attorney general said in 2001 that he’d like to personally escort Kenneth Lay to his prison cell and introduce him to his 300-pound cellmate. Maybe he’ll get his wish.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Will the Senate go on Strike?

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to shut down the Senate if the Republicans go through with their threat to eliminate the filibuster. Give ’em Hell Harry!! You go, Guy!! Unlike his predecessor, Tom Daschle, Reid has a spine; and previously non-existent backbones seem to be growing throughout the ranks of Senate Democrats. It’s about time!

The Senate will return in early April after a 2-week recess, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is expected to carry out his long-threatened move to eliminate the filibuster. Reid accused Bush and Senate Republicans of trying to “break down the separation of powers and ram through their appointees to the judicial branch.” He also accused Bush and Frist of harboring “a desire for absolute power.”

The way the Republicans have steamrolled and bulldozed their way over the opposition, you’d think they had won the election with 99% of the vote. They’ve already achieved many of the goals that the Far Right has been wet dreaming about for decades, and they’re on the cusp of dismantling Social Security and raping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The filibuster is a tradition dating back to the 1850s; both parties have a long history of using and overusing this tactic. Any attempt to derail this tradition for short-term gain (i.e. absolute power for the current president) is going to backfire.

The House Ethics Committee came to a standstill several days ago. Democrats on the committee finally had enough ninth inning rule changes designed solely to protect Tom DeLay every time he fell into the sleaze pool.

A strike in the Senate would be far more drastic. But if the Republicans insist on eliminating every time-honored procedure that stands in their way, they’re asking for it.


Are you worried that you might be turning into a Republican? Feeling a little anal? Take this test and see if you have any of the serious warning signs. (And thank you Preemptive Karma.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Stop the Fake News

A series of “facts” reported on the evening news turns out to be nothing more than a pre-packaged, ready-to-serve report that was prepared by a government agency and sent to TV stations all over the country. Russia before the collapse of the Soviet Union? Nope. Right here in the U.S.A.

Government infomercials disguised as “news” are becoming a more and more common occurrence. The Bush administration has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating these fake news reports.

This fake “news” epidemic has already been reported at The Cranky Liberal Pages. Now you can do something about it here. Please take a minute to send this boilerplate e-mail to the FCC demanding that they stop these infomercials disguised as news (or at least require the media to label them as an infomercials).

I saw the link on Blogging Out Loud, but you’ll probably (hopefully) be seeing it at a lot more sites. It is illegal to present a political infomercial without identifying it as such.

If enough of these e-mails are sent, perhaps the FCC will take some time out from their witch-hunt for “indecent” TV programs and pay more attention to the real indecency: government propaganda disguised as news.

Well, we can dream, can’t we?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Freedom On The March?

Democracy is getting a foothold in Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine and Georgia; and this is great. But democracy is also flourishing in several South American countries, and this is being greeted by a stony silence (even hostility) from the Bush administration.

The most prominent example is Bolivia. It’s been (technically) a democracy since 1982, but until recently it was under such a tight rein by multinational corporations and the World Bank that it was little more than a colony. Johann Hari of The Independent has an excellent, much more detailed article on this. It’s kind of longwinded, but well worth reading.

Under orders from the World Bank, the Bolivian government allowed Bechtel (a huge multinational) to step in and privatize the nation’s water supply. In a country where thousands of people die each year because of insufficient water supplies, Bechtel doubled the price of water.

In 2000 the Bolivian people rose up and forced their government to take back their water supply from Bechtel. (The multi-billion dollar Bechtel Corporation sued the Bolivian government, and there wasn’t a peep out of those who are usually spouting off about tort reform and too-many-lawsuits.)

More recently, the nation’s coca farmers — who had been cooperating with the U.S. War on Drugs by not growing coca leaves — have decided that their meager livelihoods are more important than coddling the families of rich drug addicts 4,000 miles away.

Freedom is on the march, George. Aren’t you happy? Isn’t this great?!?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hands Off Those Corporate Farm Subsidies

President Bush (to his credit) had requested large cuts in the subsidies that go to large agribusiness operations. Congress, however, remembering who some of their wealthiest contributors are, has decided instead to take most of the money from nutrition and land conservation programs that are run by the Agriculture Department.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) is especially gung ho about making cuts in the Food Stamp program. If you aren’t familiar with Saxby Chambliss, well, where to begin…

Saxby Chambliss is a high-ranking member of the 101st Fighting Chicken Hawks Brigade (I stole that phrase from Unfair Witness). In his 2002 campaign for the Senate, he waged one of the filthiest, lowest campaigns in history against the incumbent, Max Cleland. Cleland lost both legs and one arm during his combat service in Viet Nam, and Saxby Chambliss campaigned against him by comparing him to Osama bin Laden and calling him soft on terrorism.

Chambliss was old enough to be drafted during the Viet Nam war, but he had higher priorities and was able to get a draft deferment. And 35 years later, here's this Chicken Hawk campaigning against a triple amputee from the same war that Chambliss himself had weaseled out of, by comparing him to bin Laden.

And the most disgraceful part of this is, it worked. He got elected.


All right, you rabid environmentalists, look at what you’ve done. Poooor poor Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is “depressed” because of his longtime inability to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. He told a news conference that he was optimistic about this year’s chances for oil drilling in the ANWR, and then went on to describe his “clinical depression” to reporters.

Now, aren’t you treehuggers ashamed of yourselves?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

You probably didn’t read about this in your high school or college history text, but 300 people were killed in a race riot in Tulsa in 1921. All were black. Thousands more were left homeless. An entire black neighborhood — which had been a thriving, prosperous area known as the “Negro Wall Street” — was destroyed.

It all started when a black man was arrested after a fight with a white person. Rumors started spreading that the man was about to be lynched, and there was a confrontation between blacks and whites in front of the jail.

After violence erupted, hundreds of white men deputized by the police department armed themselves and rampaged through the black neighborhood. The Oklahoma National Guard was called in, and they arrested every black person in sight. This left a mob of whites free to loot and burn 42 square blocks of homes, businesses, schools and churches.

The Tulsa race riot has been so little-known, most Tulsa residents aren’t even aware of it.

Since the time of the riot, more than 100 unsuccessful suits have been filed to recover damages. A grand jury actually concluded that the riot was the fault of the city’s black residents for “believing in equal rights, social equality, and their ability to demand the same.”

I guess we've had some improvement since that bleak, disgraceful chapter in our history.

Friday, March 11, 2005

We Support Our Veterans — NOT!!

If you’re a soldier fighting in Iraq, BYOB doesn’t refer to a booze party. It means Bring Your Own Bullets. The Defense Department is supposed to reimburse soldiers for the money they’ve had to spend buying their own protective gear, medical supplies, armor for their Humvees and global positioning devices. This reimbursement hasn’t happened yet.

Under a law passed last year, the Pentagon had until February 25th to come up with a reimbursement plan. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who sponsored the bill, said “very simply, this is either negligence on their part, because they were not happy with this when it passed, or it’s incompetence. It’s pretty outrageous when you have all their rhetoric about how much we care about our people in uniform.”

In addition, of course, veterans’ benefits are about to be reduced as part of the 2006 budget now before Congress. And the bankruptcy bill that just passed has deleted all protections for soldiers and veterans. Lost your job while you were fighting overseas? Tough shit, Deadbeat. Quit whining and pay up!

Behind all the patriotic slogans and chestbeating, our “leaders” have been stabbing our soldiers in the back. Again.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

More Fun and Games with Tom DeLay

All the PR spinning and flailing in the world doesn’t seem to be enough to keep Tom DeLay from sinking into the sleaze pool. At some point even his bitches on the House Ethics Committee might have to stop bailing him out and “revising” the rules every time he gets nailed for something.

Here is the inside story on Tom DeLay. OK, this article is obviously just a parody, but then how can you slander someone who’s already so slippery? More than any other current politician, DeLay combines ruthlessness and sleaze into one sordid, unsavory mess.

Several e-mails are now pointing to DeLay’s involvement in a fundraising scandal for a political action committee that’s being investigated for election violations. The e-mails were from an indicted fundraiser who’s connected with Texans for Republican Majority and DeLay’s political action committee.

The scandal is related to the 2002 elections in Texas. Five Democrats who lost the statewide election filed suit, alleging that DeLay’s political action committee used $600,000 in illegal corporate contributions.

An attorney involved in the case has said “Everyone’s known DeLay was involved. We were surprised to see the extent he was involved in regards to corporate contributors.”

Earlier, the House changed its ethics rules to make it harder to indict its leaders, and allowing the House Majority Leader to stay in power even if he is under indictment. Also, some of the membership of the House Ethics Committee has been replaced with people who will be more, uh, “flexible” in dealing with the sleazy actions of House “leaders.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"Decency" Rules for Cable TV?

The broadcast industry is complaining about “unfairness” — their TV and radio programs are more tightly regulated than cable TV and satellite radio. And they want a “level playing field.” Funny, they weren’t too concerned about the angle of the playing field when our public airwaves were being gobbled up by two or three bloated corporations.

Since the broadcast industry gets what it wants, the Senate and House Commerce Committees are concerned about this issue of “fairness.” No hearings have been scheduled — yet.

The broadcast executives don’t want to just come out and say “we want to squelch our competitors at the cable stations.” Their stated “reasoning” is that 85% of Americans have cable TV subscriptions, and they access their local broadcast channels through their cable service; hence there shouldn’t be any distinction between broadcast and cable channels.

My guess is, if Congress tries to regulate Cable TV and satellite radio, they’ll be waking up a sleeping giant that they’ll wish they hadn’t disturbed. Regardless of people’s political viewpoints, they like their cable TV. The Shield, the Sopranos, the raunchy comedians on Comedy Central (and even more so on HBO and Showtime) — judging by these shows’ popularity, they’re not being watched exclusively by godless leftwing pagans. A huge cross section of America would be outraged by any government tampering with their viewing habits.

You may remember, during the first Bush presidency, the one Bush veto that got overridden by Congress had to do with cable TV rates. The underlying message should have been clear: you can start wars, reduce people’s benefits, plunder the environment, but don’t fuck with our TV.

Maintaining existing “decency” controls on broadcast TV is one thing. But taking away the freedom of cable TV, which tens of millions of us have grown accustomed to? Well, as one of the Watergate conspirators noted more than 30 years ago, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Congress = Whorehouse

If you like pornography, start drooling! The Senate is in the throes of “debating” the infamous bankruptcy bill. The sex is hot and heavy as our slutty senators lie down and spreadeagle themselves for their johns in the credit industry. If you could catch a venereal disease from this kind of sex, our promiscuous lawmakers would have more Syphilis, Gonorrhea, AIDS and Herpes than all the brothels of the world put together.

Several proposed amendments to the bankruptcy bill — including the two rival proposals for increasing the minimum wage — were voted down in the Senate yesterday. When the credit industry tells its hookers to bend over, they bend oooover.

The popular stereotype is that only deadbeats and parasites declare bankruptcy. In reality, the debt cycle — penalty fees plus the drastically increased interest rates after one late payment — can make it impossible for debtors to dig their way out. By the time an individual has filed for bankruptcy, he/she has often repaid an amount greater than their original credit card debt plus double-digit interest, but still owes a staggering amount because of penalties.

A judge in Cleveland, ruling against Discover in their continuing persecution of one of their cardholders, said “How is it that the person who wants to do right ends up so worse off?”

When this bankruptcy bill becomes law, here is a trend that’s likely to increase: a bankruptcy attorney in North Carolina said that “people would be better off if they stopped paying” once they get in over their heads. Once you stop paying, creditors write off the debt and sell it to a debt collector. He said “They may harass you, but your balance doesn't keep rising. That's the irony.”

For Christians who are looking for moral issues, here is what the Bible says about usury and excessive interest.

Note: I sincerely apologize to any prostitute who was offended by being compared to the United States Congress.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bush to America: "Our Little Secret"

More than any past president, Bush has been overusing a little-known executive power known as state-secrets privilege. This privilege is being used to squash court challenges to some of the government’s anti-terror tactics, and this same privilege might defeat a lawsuit by a former FBI employee who claims that botched translations of intelligence data contributed to the 9/11 attacks.

In the best known case, Bush is trying to invoke state-secrets privilege against a lawsuit to uncover information about rendition — the CIA’s practice of sending terror suspects to foreign countries to be tortured.

If you’re concerned about civil liberties and open government, Bush’s overuse of state-secrets privilege is a terrible trend. We’re going the wrong way. This is setting a precedent for more and more government secrecy in general. It’s become much more difficult to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act, and to get information about individuals who’ve been rounded up in the war on terror.

As with all presidents, there’s the nagging question of whether certain information is being guarded for national security reasons, or because releasing the information would reveal corruption or negligence. Declassified documents have revealed many cases where the state-secrets privilege was invoked by past presidents just to avoid embarrassment, and not to protect national security.

Openness in government, and an alert watchful press — unlike the corporate lapdog that passes for “media” today — are essential to a thriving democracy.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

No More Overtime Pay?

The Senate has two competing measures for increasing the federal minimum wage. Both measures are amendments that may be inserted into the bankruptcy bill that’s currently being debated (more on the bankruptcy bill in a future post). And Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) is trying to insert an amendment that would eliminate weekly overtime pay.

The minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour; the last increase was in September 1997. After adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage is now at its second lowest level of the past 45 years.

Ted Kennedy wants the minimum wage increased, in several stages, to $7.25 per hour by the middle of 2007. Santorum is pushing for an increase to just $6.25 an hour, in addition to eliminating weekly overtime pay. He wants to replace the 40-hour week with an 80-hour two-week period. In other words, an employee could be forced to work 50 or 60 hours in one week, with no overtime pay, as long as the total doesn’t exceed 80 hours in a 2-week period.

Christ, what’s next for the chopping block? Let’s see, these Child Labor laws sure are intrusive. Who needs a bunch of Socialistic bureaucrats meddling in the personal affairs of employers? And those wimpy safety regulations for coddling the workforce — don’t get me started…

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is likely to be approved soon by the Senate. Bush has been drooling over this since 2000, and it’s closer to reality now than ever before. Same as they did last year, the Republican leadership has inserted this bill into a major budget measure, which can’t be filibustered. Last year this tactic almost worked — until several Republican senators defected and voted against the drilling.

This year, with a larger majority in the Senate, Republicans are on the verge of realizing their longtime wet dream of raping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

As they’ve been doing for several years, they’re trying to frame this as a national security issue — any oil we get from Alaska is oil we won’t be buying from OPEC. During the 2002 midterm elections, the mouth-breathing wing of the Republican party was actually accusing drilling opponents of loving Osama bin Laden and hating the 9/11 victims.

It’s been shown that improvements in gas mileage, and increased use of mass transit, would save more oil than the amount estimated to be in ANWR. But somehow this same national security paranoia never comes up when legislators are trying to pass energy conservation measures.

Go figure.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Bush out of step with America

Bush does not share the priorities of most Americans, on either domestic or foreign issues. This is the result of the latest New York Times/CBS poll. 63% said Bush has different domestic priorities than most Americans. Bush’s overall approval rating was 49%, same as last month.
Jobs, health care and Social Security were rated the three most important domestic issues. 50% said Democrats were more likely to make the right decisions about Social Security; 31% favored Republicans.

Did you think foreign policy was Bush’s strong suit? 58% said the White House does not share their priorities on international affairs.

69% said converting Social Security to private accounts was a “bad idea.” Nearly four out of five said the government has some responsibility toward ensuring a decent standard of living for the elderly.

Bush’s one bright spot: 53% think the situation in Iraq is improving. That’s up from 41% last month.

Now, it’s all fine and good that Iraq has had elections, and open and spirited (if a little violent) debates. Yes, most Iraqis are probably better off than they were under Saddam Hussein. But when the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs are shouting this at the top of their lungs, they’re trying to sweep a few things under the rug.

Remember, we didn’t invade Iraq because we wanted to be all warm and fuzzy and throw out that mean old Saddam and replace his government with a democracy. We invaded because Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. No. Hussein was affiliated with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Noop. He was connected to our September 11th tragedy. Huh uh. Every emergency declared by Bush turned out to be false. The reasons for our invasion kept changing; each one turned out to be a lie.

So while we’re all basking in the afterglow of Iraqi elections and democracy — I‘ve got a little scheme.

I have this loud obnoxious neighbor (don’t we all?). I think I’ll spread some hysterical rumors around the neighborhood that this guy is a major drug dealer, he has underworld connections and he’s armed to the teeth. We’re gonna form a vigilante squad and we’re gonna kill him.

Eventually the truth will come out: he wasn’t a drug dealer, and he had no weapons and no underworld connections. And I’ll just tell everybody “hey, look how much quieter the neighborhood is without him. Do you miss his loud stereo at 3 a.m.? Do you miss those shouting matches at all hours of the night? His wife and kids aren’t walking around with black eyes and bruised faces any more. What, you wish he was still here?”

Think I can pull this off? Hello Karl?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Fred Phelps

On Tuesday, the people of Topeka, KS voted to retain a local gay rights ordinance. 53% voted to keep the ordinance. Even for the conservative Midwest, it was surprising the vote was so close. The person leading the recall effort was the Rev. Fred Phelps, probably the most filth-spewing, hate-filled person in America. The recall drive should have been totally derailed by its association with Phelps (whose headquarters are in Topeka).

Phelps’ favorite pastime is attending the funerals of AIDS victims and shouting out anti-gay slogans during the ceremony. He also attended the funeral of Matthew Shepard — the gay college student beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998 — for that same purpose.

Phelps’ personal copy of the Bible probably reads, in full: bla bla bla bla… “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” …bla bla bla bla…

If you really want to test your First Amendment convictions, here is Phelps' website. You’ll be appalled; infuriated. In case you want to express your disagreement with him, here is his e-mail address. Not that I’m making any suggestions about sending nasty messages or anything; that would be wrong.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Goodbye, Andy Sipowicz

Well, it’s the end of an era. Last night was the series finale of NYPD Blue. This show started in the Fall of 1993 -- 11½ years ago. That’s a loooong time. If you were a senior in high school when this series started, you’re pushing 30 now. Etc.

This show was really good for the first 6 or 7 years or so. Not great, like Hill Street Blues (Bochco’s first and best series). Hill Street was the best police drama ever; so realistic you could be there. New York Undercover was the only other police show that even came close to that “being there” sense of realism.

(OK, actually E-Z Streets was the best police drama of all time — early 1996 — but you’ve never heard of it so why am I even mentioning it? There were probably eight people in America who even watched it, judging by the rock-bottom ratings. It was taken off the air after about 4 episodes. God, it was dark, mean, intense, powerful; it makes The Shield look like Leave It To Beaver.)

NYPD Blue always seemed too much like a Hollywood production compared to the realism of Hill Street. That, and the fact that Dennis Franz (Sipowicz) was the only original cast member still on the show (Medavoy joined early in the first season). The entire cast turned over several times during the life of the series.

But it was a good program, within that context of “here’s a famous director, creating a badass cop who deals with the worst dregs of society. This way, cameraman!” A few years ago we quit watching it; it was becoming more and more of a bloated soap opera where the characters just happened to be cops instead of lawyers or doctors. I think their Jump The Shark moment was that contrived tearjerker ER-style episode(s) where Simone (Jimmy Smits) died. If I want ER or General Hospital, I know what channel they’re on.

We started watching the show again just a few weeks ago when we found out the series was wrapping up.

Good News: The Shield starts up again later this month. YEEAAARRGGHHH!!!!!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Sprawl Control vs. Property Rights

Sprawl control, or smart growth, is the concept of allowing population growth within the city limits while maintaining an open space buffer between cities. This has been the most effective way to accommodate population growth while still protecting forests, farmland and the quality of life in small towns. This approach has been derailed in Oregon by a voter initiative passed last year; and developers nationwide are drooling with anticipation.

Measure 37 requires the government to pay compensation to property owners when land-use restrictions reduce the value of their property. If the government can't pay, the landowners can develop their land as they see fit. Cool!!! Hey, I want to cut down all the trees in our yard and build a 14-story apartment complex on the property. What, I’m not allowed to? Show me the money!

The passage of Measure 37 shows the importance of the Almighty Spin. Countless radio commercials featured the frail voice of an elderly woman saying she was unable to divide up her 40 acres for her children. “I’m 91 years old, my husband is dead and I don’t know how much longer I can fight.” She might as well have thrown in “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Looking beyond the spin, however, the reality is that small family farmers had virtually no connection to the Family Farm Preservation political action committee that bankrolled Measure 37. Timber companies and real estate interests were the biggest contributors.

This trend is spreading across the country. A struggling small property owner is turned into a poster child for a “fairness” campaign that’s financed by developers, timber and mining interests.

A similar initiative is now being considered in Washington, and the same principles of spin and perception are clearly demonstrated. When a poll asks whether a property owner should be allowed to fulfill his retirement dream by subdividing some of his land, respondents take the side of the property owner. When asked if they want their rural community overrun with condos and strip malls, most respondents say no.

Let’s hope the voters in Washington can learn from the mistakes of their neighbor to the south.