Friday, November 28, 2003

"The Turkey Has Landed" is the headline in a British newspaper today, and what would we do without the Brits and other European nations who retain the quaint notion that journalism exists to call things the way they are?

At least one reporter who traveled with the president got to wear a flak vest, though such vests are in short supply among the soldiers who dined with the only military deserter to ever become Commander-in-Chief. Soldiers are asked to buy their own vests, while the Bush administration continues to cut both soldiers' and veterans' benefits every way possible. In fairness to the White House, U.S. military and veterans' hospitals have been abysmal for years; now, other services are being cut back or eliminated.

It's a shame the president didn't spend more than two and a half hours in Iraq: If you blow up an entire country, the least you can do is take some time out to sift through the rubble.

Monday, November 24, 2003

A few days ago, someone visiting my home struck up a conversation about the situaiton in Iraq. This was an intelligent man, whom most would call "moderate" in his political thinking. Brief comments about the war led to comments about the media and about spin.

"Some demonstration in London," he said. "They talked so much about it, and then I saw on TV that there were only 400 people at the most."

I explained to him that he was watching television coverage of the night before the demonstration, and those were a few people standing around warming up for the big event. The demonstration occurred the next day, I explained, and there were a minimum of 100,000 people on the streets--some say there were 200,000.

He thought about this. "Oh," he finally said, "I guess they didn't want us to know about that."

If an intelligent person is taken in by the corporate television distortions of reality, then what of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are not especially intelligent? What of those who are "too busy" to look around and notice that everything from our physical safety to our water is being destroyed by one of the greediest, most calculating, heartless and dishonest governments in recent history?

Friday, November 21, 2003

News flash! The divorce rate in the U.S. is actually higher by a small margin among born-again Christians than for those who profess no faith at all.

I am not making this up. It didn't come from a dreaded "liberal source." It came straight from the mouth of the reactionary, moralizing Dr. James Dobson.

How could this happen? How could the American-familes-are-being-destroyed-by-liberals-Jesus-loves-me-and-hates-you crowd have so many marital problems? Let me guess: The women are fed up with being treated as inferior to men? The wall of ignorance that shuts out the world increases the family's stress? The "discipline" used on the children causes them to act out even more and escalates family dysfunction?

Or is it just the drinking, drugging, gambling, pornography and adultery that sometimes leaks out of a very repressed, addictive personality?

These are the same people, mind you, who rail against single-parent families, families with gay parents and families in which both parents work outside of the home. These are the people who do not believe in the husband and wife being equal partners. Marriage, they will tell you, is a sacred institution.

But, it turns out, maybe not.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

There seems to be almost total agreement that Michael Jackson molested a child at his Neverland Ranch. "He's as guilty as he can be," a caller said on a major talk show today.

Of course, only Jackson and his alleged victim know if Jackson committed a crime. However, I have spent years working with sex abuse victims and perpetrators, and as far as the reality of sex abuse goes, it appears highly unlikely that Jackson is guilty.

A decade ago, he was accused of sexually abusing a child, and the parents--saying they did not want their child to have to testify--accepted a $20,000,000 settlement. In all those years, not one other victim came forward to say s/he had been molested by Jackson. Now along comes another accuser, and--so far--no one else has come forward with a similar story.

Pedophiles often abuse hundreds of children. They have a compulsive disorder that renders their behavior uncontrollable. If Jackson is indeed a pedophile, where are the victims? Years have gone by, and they have been silent. This is particularly interesting, in light of the tone that has been set in recent years by the Catholic Church scandals.

Of course, it is entirely possible that Jackson is guilty, but on its surface, this does not appear to be a viable case.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"Is" has never been "is" like "is" is with Rush Limbaugh. Here is his explanation of how he is not a hypocrite:

"People are saying that I am a hypocrite, as I was using drugs. Yet, I was telling people to lead a moral life and do the right thing. Okay, if what I was saying to do was the right thing about whatever subject, does the fact that I may not have been doing it myself mean that it's not right to do? My behavior doesn't change right and wrong. And just because I may have been doing something that appeared to be contradictory to what I was suggesting others do doesn't mean that what I was suggesting others do is wrong.

You know, the critics want to harp on all this hypocrisy. There's no hypocrisy in this, because there is no weakening of right and wrong simply because some people don't choose to live that way in certain areas of their lives."

Hello! A more appropriate statement might be: "OxyContin fried my brain."

Yes, Rush, to preach against something and--at the same time--perform the behavior you are telling others is hypocrisy. Look it up in a dictionary. The fact that the behavior was wrong doesn't mean you aren't a hypocrite: It means you are!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Both the president and his wife like to tell us how the United States liberated the women and girls of Afghanistan (remember Afghanistan?), but we have not done any such thing. Though it is true that that the Taliban is no longer in power, only the more urban women and girls have seen any changes in their lives. In rural areas, girls still do not go to school, and pre-adolescent girls are still traded into marriage.

Throughout Afganistan, threats are still made to women if they speak out against repression or if they refuse to wear burquas or try to send their daughters to school. Rape and domestic violence are common. The "legal system" is a joke, when it comes to women's rights. Sexual abuse by law enforcement officials is common.

If the Bush administration really cared about the rights of Afghan women and girls, they would do something about it. And if Americans really cared, they would demand that something be done about it. Given that neither the White House nor Americans in general have cared much about the rights of American girls and women, that is probably too much to expect.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Hail Mary Landrieu! The senator from Louisiana, during last night's filibuster, was a ball of fury, giving a speech that made all of the others appear lackluster. Though Landrieu said she would use "every minute" of her alloted half hour, she finished early, having said everything she needed to say in a focused and very angry piece of oratory.

Landrieu, who is always articulate and can be quite funny, was fed up with the phony accusations that Democrats don't want to put a woman or a minority on the federal bench. That, of course, is a ridiculous argument, and it had Landrieu going.

She read aloud a quotation from Judge Janice Brown that described the doom and collapse of society that occur when the government intervenes in people's lives, then she wondered what must have been the apocalyptic consequences of government intervention when Rosa Parks took a seat on the bus. She read another quotation that suggested older people were trying to sponge off of the government, and said it insulted "all the grandmothers of Louisiana, who not only raise their children, but sometimes their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren."

She told a wonderful story about Homer Plessy, an African American man in Louisiana, who--long before Rosa Parks defied the law--boarded a bus, knowing he would get in trouble with the law. The man had light skin, Landrieu said, and he was chosen for the task "because he was white enough to get on the bus, and black enough to get arrested."

Landrieu's finest moment came when she refused to yield to Orrin Hatch. "I will not yield," she said. He interrupted her again: "I will not yield." And finally--"I WILL NOT YIELD!" Hatch was then told that Landrieu had the floor.

I'll say.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Houston conservative radio talk show host Jon Matthews has been arrested for indecency with a child. Imagine that--yet another God-fearing, the-nation-is-going-to-hell right-wing authority figure has committed an act that is reprehensible.

The hypocrisy list does go on. Compulsive gambling, drug addiction, adultery, breaking and entering, perjury, extortion, mail fraud, tax evasion, auto theft, assault and battery, possession of child pornography, child molestation. Quite a gallery of moralizing charcters are on it:

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh
Proclaimed "morality czar" William Bennett
Former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani
Former House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich
Former Speaker of the House-to-be Bob Livingston
Florida Legislator David Jaye
California judge Ronald Kline
Former West Virginia Governor Arch Moore
Colorado House Speaker Doug Dean
Former West Virginia Senate President Dan Tonkovich
Virginia House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr.
California Congressman Darrell Issa
Former West Virginia Congressman Patrick Swindall

Who will be next?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The voters of California elected as their governor a sex offender who appears to have helped conspire to destroy the state's energy system. The voters of Mississippi elected as governor someone who is openly racist and who is tightly connected to corporate lobbying interests that have conspired to destroy the nation's democratic foundation. This weekend, the voters of Louisiana will elect a governor. Neither candidate is progressive, but one, Bobby Jindal, is frightening.

Jindal is opposed to abortion under any circumstances, including to save the life of the mother. He has vowed to "aggressively enforce" all abortion reporting laws and all informed consent laws. He is a right-wing Christian who favors the display of Christian symbols in and around public buildings. He enthusiastically supports the Bush administration's constitutionally flawed faith-based initiative and intends to establish it in Louisiana if he is elected. Jindal has also vowed to prohibit anti-discrimination legislation on behalf of gay citizens, and to pass a law prohibiting gays from adopting children.

Just as frightening, Jindal is the hand-picked candidate of outgoing governor Mike Foster, who, during his term in office--when he wasn't fishing--conspired with industry to make Louisiana virtually free of pollution laws, encouraged an effort to remove the boundary between church and state, and bought at least one mailing list from David Duke.

Jindal is running against Lt. Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who--despite her conservative leanings--is known as an effective administrator and an honest woman. Oh, yes--and not an insane, misogynistic extreme right-wing Christian.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

In the 19th Century, "scientists" declared that animals were so inferior that they could not feel physical pain; therefore, it was all right to slit their throats, boil them alive, cut them up in experiments, etc. This kind of denial made it "okay" for people to treat animals with barbaric cruelty.

Now, we know that animals feel terrible pain when we cut them, beat them, kick them, boil them alive, push them with electric prods, and pour chemicals into their eyes. But we still do it. The human race has become so arrogant, we no longer need to be in denial about the suffering of other creatures--we just permit it because it is cost-efficient, and because we do not care.

Interestingly, the same people who express shock when they learn that somone has hurt a puppy or abandoned a horse will sit down and eat a dinner of cows or chickens that have endured unspeakable horror. Or put on mascara or shaving cream that has been tested by torturing rabbits and cats.

Monday, November 10, 2003

It is hard for some of us to understand why people eat meat. Meat is not a necessary part of the human diet, and in fact, tends to do more harm than good to the human body. Meat from animals shot with hormones is definitely not recommended for one's health.

For some of us, the idea of killing creatures so that we may eat or wear them is shocking. Unfortunately, our culture is such that animal parts cannot be avoided. I have narrow feet and cannot find any type of human-made shoes that fit me, and I would be willing to wear ugly ones. Most of the drugs we take are tested on animals (some medical labs are more humane than others, it should be pointed out), and animal parts are hidden in practically every product we buy.

Some people say "What's wrong with leather? The cow has already been killed for food." The obvious response to that is "What went wrong went you learned logical reasoning?"

For people who do believe that it is morally acceptable to eat meat, I still do not understand how they can eat meat that is not from free-range animals who were humanely slaughtered (a term that troubles me). If an animal is to be slaughtered for food, and if people think that is morally acceptable, that is one thing. But for animals to go through what they go through before they are killed, and for people to eat that meat is--to me--morally unacceptable, no matter what.

There is no longer any question about the horrific practices of livestock farms and the livestock industry in general. Hogs are kept in small crates and cannot even turn around. Veal calves are kept in tinier crates and overfed so that they will get fat. Laying chickens are kept in tiny compartments that are often filthy. The chickens raised for meat are kept in similar conditions (their living "space" is about 8 by 10 inches), their bones break easily, and they are often alive when they are thrown into scalding water to remove their feathers.

There are laws in the United States and throughout the world to protect farm animals from cruel slaughter, but the laws are neither obeyed nor enforced. It is not unusual for cattle to be kicked, beaten, and skinned alive. They are prodded with electric prods and de-horned without anesthesia. Mishandling of them in transport often results in broken bones. The cows who are injured are not treated, but just thrown down and left to suffer until they are slaughtered. During slaughter, animals are frequently left to bleed to death.

There appears to be no movement in the churches to stop the cruelty. Indeed, you can usually find some supermarket fried chicken at a church supper. But there is no movement in any secular groups (save the animal rights organizations) to address this horrible cruelty, either.

Leonardo da Vinci called people's bodies "burial places; graveyards for the animals they eat."

Thursday, November 06, 2003

When the well-liked and highly regarded Patricia Ireland was named chief executive of the YWCA just six months ago, it seemed like an excellent choice. It was an excellent choice. Ireland, in her 10-year stint as president of NOW, created Project Stand Up for Women, and was instrumental in helping many women get elected to public office. Ireland also served as an advocate for the international movement to protect the rights of women and girls.

Now, she has been fired. The Y apparently offered her a chance to resign, and she refused to do so. The YWCA Board of Directors has been vague about its reasons for firing Ireland, but it does seem that they are no longer very interested in advocacy being part of their mission. And conservative groups, especially the infamous, sex-obsessed Traditional Values Coalition, appear to have put pressure on the Board to get rid of Ireland.

First, it is a scary sign of the times that the YWCA is no longer interested in advocating for women and girls, and that its board would so easily cave in to pressure from a far right-wing group. And second, who could possibly not have known everything Ireland stood for when she was hired? She is one of the most famous feminists in the world.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

There are people who say that the current administration has "restored dignity to the White House." By that, they mean "morality."

That would be amusing if it weren't so frightening. Let's start with the president, whose career record indicates he was a failure as a businessman, but that didn't stop him from making money. According to the SEC, Bush failed on four occasions to file share sales declarations to the SEC during a period when Harken Oil's shares hit bottom. During one 8-month lapse, he made $1,000,000. He claims he filed the report, but the SEC has never found it.

The SEC "investigated" what--to the rest of us, was obviously insider trading--but somehow never got around to interviewing any of Harken's directors. Oh, and the "investigator" just happened to be the same man who did Bush's legal work when he acquired the Texas Rangers. And Bush's father just happened to be president of the United States at the time of the investigation.

Then there's the matter of Bush's "military service." During a period of approximately one year, he failed to appear for National Guard duty. By military standards, an absence of more than 30 days is not considered AWOL, but desertion. It was no surprise that--during the 2000 election--the Bush campaign refused to release Bush's military records.

I'm going to let the alcohol and cocaine go, because Bush's substance indiscretions occurred in the past and there is no evidence that he still commits them, but how odd that the public immediately overlooked the DWI and the possession of illegal drugs. Just imagine--if it had been a non-Republican. (For the record, however, Bush refers to his substance abuse as being part of his "youth," but he was 30 when he received the DWI.)

There is also the matter of the innumberable lies Bush has told since he was elected. The Iraq war lies should be obvious to everyone by now. It would take me several paragraphs to review the other major lies of his administration, but here is a good summary.

On to Dick Cheney. As late as 6 weeks ago, the vice president swore-yet again--that he had severed all his ties with Halliburton. His exact words were: "I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years." However, Cheney receives deferred compensation from Halliburton under an arrangement he made in 1998, and also retains stock options. Obviously, the vice president's office is definition-challenged in a major way.

Let's look at the Iraq oil field cleanup and other post-war tasks. Who just happened to get the no-bid contracts for cleaning up the very large mess? If you guessed Halliburton (via its subsidieary, Kellogg Brown & Root), give yourself a gold star. Whose contract was recently extended, then extended again? Right again! The companies who were heavy donors to Bush's campaign have made billions of dollars already. And no one is monitoring the cost or quality control of any of the jobs.

Now let's move on to former Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who was accused of lying under oath to a Senate committee. White, a former vice-chairman of that other Dick-Cheney-loves-us corporation, Enron Energy Services, didn't do too badly when Enron went under, either: His salary was $5.5 million, and he received severance pay of $1 million. Oh, and just before Enron went under, he just happened to have the wisdom to sell $3 million worth of Enron stock.

That brings us to John Poindexter. Surely everyone remembers him. Though he is no longer the head of the terrifying Information Awareness Office, his reputation preceded him to that post. Poindexter, along with Oliver North, was behind the Iran-Contra affair that occurred during the Reagan administration. Poindexter was charged and found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and the destruction of evidence. Poindexter's conviction was eventually overturned, but even if did not commit the crimes for which he was charged (which is doubtful to most observers), he was still the admitted architect of a reprehensible scheme.

How are you liking the dignity and morality so far?

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is running for governor in Mississippi, and there is a good chance that he will win.

On July 19, Barbour attended a barbeque put on by the
Council of Conservative Citizens, and far right-wing organization that formed from the old White Citizens' Councils of the 50's and 60's. A photo of the barbeque appears on the CCC's website, and there is Barbour, plain as day, standing among his fellow Conservative Citizens.

The website is nauseating. Racism is openly defended, and women are attacked for doing anything that doesn't involve staying home with children. Feminism is skewered, as is Martin Luther King Day. Barbour was asked to have the photo removed, but he refused.

Obviously, the people of Mississippi are not offended by Barbour's association with those who despise women and people of color, just as the people of California were not offended by a candidate known for humiliating and assaulting women.