Monday, December 19, 2005

On Charity-Super Rich Not So Generous

Study Shows the Superrich Are Not the Most Generous

David Cay Johnston, a reporter for the New York Times, has been reporting on income taxes and related issues for decades. Here is his latest. This article points out why we cannot rely on "trickle down" charity to take care of the needs of the most vulnerable of us.

The tax nuts, those who want to abolish all taxes, claim that the needs of the less fortunate will be taken care of by the private charity sector. That has never been the case, and it is not the case now, even in these days of spendthrift giveways to the ultra rich on the part of a government gone insane. Charitable giving has actually dropped as a percentage of income among the rich since the tax cuts took effect.

The proliferation of non-profit organizations is the privatization of what should be government functions. I am not complaining, mind you, that we have non-profit organizations, but rather, that the government uses them to shirk its ministerial duties.

I strongly recommend a sober and well-researched book by Johnston: Perfectly Legal.

December 19, 2005
Study Shows the Superrich Are Not the Most Generous
Working-age Americans who make $50,000 to $100,000 a year are two to six times more generous in the share of their investment assets that they give to charity than those Americans who make more than $10 million, a pioneering study of federal tax data shows.

The least generous of all working-age Americans in 2003, the latest year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available, were among the young and prosperous - the 285 taxpayers age 35 and under who made more than $10 million - and the 18,600 taxpayers making $500,000 to $1 million. The top group had on average $101 million of investment assets while the other group had on average $2.4 million of investment assets.

On average these two groups made charitable gifts equal to 0.4 percent of their assets, while people the same age who made $50,000 to $100,000 gave gifts equal to more than 2.5 percent of their investment assets, six times that of their far wealthier peers.

Go to Original--Study Shows the Superrich Are Not the Most Generous

Monday, December 12, 2005

over 100,000 Iraqis now dead

In evaluating Bush Estimates 30,000 Iraqis killed in Gulf War II, there are three options to consider. One, that the President's staff doesn't have the courage to brief him about the true human costs of his war, or that he doesn't care, or that he is flat-out lying for political gain.

Over a year ago, the medical journal Lancet, one of the most respected publications in the West, reported that over 100,000 Iraqis had died due to this war. As the violence has not diminished in Iraq, but only increased, it stands to reason that the figure is much higher now.

Furthermore, the office of the President has been understating our casualties. That's right. Minimizing the cost of war will ultimately cost the Republican Party its power, and I hope that happens in 2006. We cannot afford to take any more of this "conservative" administration that consistently underestimates the costs of everything it undertakes.

The war, Medicare prescription benefits, you name it. Our federal deficit is now running in the area of EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS and growing every second. How long do you want your grandchildren to pay for the deadly trajectory of the Bush administration, and those Republican administrations that preceded it? Why are we allowing the Bush administration to mortgage our future even more with this illegal and immoral war?

Nooooo doubt about it-Goebbels and us

By Deb

The nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court ought to be the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The nuclear option should be used. The Democrats will either have to show some backbone or watch, for the next 40 years or so, as the now-creeping fascism smartly picks up its pace.

Our grandchildren will wonder why we just went along with the takeover. They will read German history before WWII and say, look. You knew what happened then. It wasn't so long ago. Why didn't you heed the warnings?

Think I'm kidding? Go take a look at the speeches of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of (Love) Propaganda. This choice comment hit me right between the eyes.

The positive national discipline of the German press would never have been possible without the complete elimination of the influence of the liberal-Jewish press. That happened only because of the years-long work of our propaganda.
Joseph Goebbels, 1934

Jesus welcome in the public square, but not Calvin Klein

Go to article

Jennifer Moses writes a good commentary on the "religion in public" issue. However, as a left wing radical grandmother of three, I have to say this. Equating liberalism with the inability to comprehend why people are horrified to see 16 year olds in CK undies on billboards across America, and hear music that incites violence and sexual license is "radically" off the mark.

Liberals do not find this sort of thing acceptable. It coarsens the culture and turns children into base consumers of titillation that leads them to purchase products that will help them realize some advertising executive's idea of fantasy. The only people who find this commercialization of sex and violence reasonable are corporations. They increase their market shares by shoving these messages down the throats of our children.

Liberalism, rather, is the ability to appreciate and tolerate other lifestyles without passing judgment. It is NOT a free ticket to display coarsely sensual or degrading material in the public domain.

I think that if you polled a hundred people in San Francisco or St. Louis, you would come up with the same answer if you asked this question: do you want to see billboards with pictures of 20 foot high people clad in flimsy panties, you would get the same answer: NO!

In other words, if you want to stop this sort of cheapening and demeaning imagery in the public square, limit corporate free speech. Jesus would approve and so would I.

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Book Review: Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 911

Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 911

Edited by Ann Fagan Ginger
NY, Prometheus Books, 2005
524 pages, $24

Order at the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute website,, or ask your bookseller to carry the book.

Want to help your city report human rights violations to the UN? This books shows you how.

Challenging US Human Rights Violations Since 911 is a shocking chronicle of rights violations that have been perpetrated by the United States, in your name, since 911. Ann Fagan Ginger catalogs these violations, but also demonstrates for us that resistance is not futile, and tells us how to resist. Challenging will challenge the reader to question deeply the real aims of the Bush administration.

Informed people know that immigrants have been detained without warrant for months and years on end, and have been beaten, tortured, and died at the hands of the representatives of the United States government for no other reason than their country of origin. They also know that these unspeakable acts violate the U. S. Constitution and the international treaties that we have ratified. Ratified treaties do not represent some vague promise to comply with the terms of the treaty. Rather, they are the highest law of the land, in equal standing with the Constitution. How do we know that? The Constitution says so, in Article 4. In theory, most Americans agree with the aims of these treaties. After all, this is what liberty really means: the ability to walk the streets without having to carry identification papers or suffer illegitimate abuse simply because of how they look, and the right to express their views.

The terrible harms visited upon immigrants may fail to move certain readers. Shame on them. That logic is akin to saying that when a bank is robbed, it was asking for it. Just as disturbing and more numerous are the many violations visited upon American citizens. A man born an American citizen was demoted from his position in the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2002 because he was of Lebanese extraction. When he filed a formal complaint, he was accused of having ties to terrorists. He filed suit and prevailed in court. Such denials of basic human rights and dignity are also very expensive for US taxpayers. He won a judgment of $305,000.00.

Ginger states that her explicit goal in writing this book is to mobilize shame. The mobilization of shame is a recurring phenomenon in our history, and leads to temporary improvements in conditions for the victim du jour and related groups. One need only look to recent history for examples of this mobilization. The Geneva Convention was developed in the aftermath of World War II, when the inhumane and deadly treatment of prisoners of war became public. World governments supposedly renounced genocide in the wake of the Holocaust. The House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC), headed by the infamous Republican senator Joseph McCarthy, Jr., was dismantled and its aims discredited when decent Americans discovered that the targets of the committee were not a threat to anyone. Lives were destroyed in the quest to induce fear and control political expression by unconstitutional means.

It is time to mobilize shame again. This alarming yet ultimately hopeful book, read widely, should do the job. The reader will find clear and direct prose, unburdened by jargon, full of talking points.

The nearly 300 pages of reports of violations are just one aspect of this multifaceted work. Challenging provides the text of the laws violated, copious notes, and exhaustive documentation that should wear down the wall of ignorance built by the most dedicated know-nothing.

Challenging also contains a grassroots human rights advocate toolkit. Ginger’s forty-year-long dedication to framing issues in terms of the ratified treaties as well as US Constitutional Law provides a solid legal background for communities to engage their local governments in a dialog with the highest levels of US and UN governmental bodies. The United States has an obligation under the treaties it has ratified. It must submit reports on the state of human rights as stated in the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Bush administration has issued exactly zero requests to states for these reports. However, that does not mean that we cannot report on our own initiative.

The City of Berkeley recently took matters into its own hands, at the behest of the community members, and now submits an annual report of the condition of human rights in the city to the United States and the UN. You can do it too. Challenging shows you how.

"Dumb" Conservatives v. "Smart" Conservatives

Dumb Conservatives v. Smart Conservatives

By Deborah Lake

The Bush administration is pushing like the devil to make the tax cuts for the top 1% permanent. They need to pay for that somehow, is the common view. Well, here's the plan to do it... raising taxes on most everyone else.

Reagan's tax "reforms" in the 1980's hurt middle class and working class taxpayers while helping those who didn't need it. Bush's program does even more harm than Reagan's. Homeowners will lose significant deductions, and those seeking the benefits of home ownership will be less likely to buy a home.

Sigh. If anyone still thinks that George Bush shares their values, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for you. Or maybe some nice swampland in Florida?

What perplexes the heck out of me, I must admit, is the terrible short-sightedness of a policy proposal like this. Even if they can get the legislature to support and vote for something like this, which they can, (see CAFTA vote armtwisting and bribery scam), it's terrible public policy for those who support capitalism.

See, support for US style capitalism is sustained by a solid, prosperous middle class willing to back the moves of the ultra rich. Why? The middle class sees itself as an auxiliary beneficiary. The Bush administration, although not the first to do so, has taken the structures that create a middle class for granted. Or it has actively worked to dismantle those structures, as it demonstrates by this latest proposal.

Like I keep saying, there are dumb conservatives and smart conservatives. FDR knew how to protect capitalism by giving it a smiley face. The Bushes, well, are just in the bush league here.

Someone said to me, "Do you know why George Soros is so pissed off at GWB? He has exposed the mechanisms at the heart of the system for everyone to see. The little man behind the curtain."

Better Off Without Religious Fundamentalism

ZNet Commentary
Better Off Without Him October 23, 2005
By George Monbiot

Are religious societies better than secular ones? It should be an easy question for athiests to answer. Most of those now seeking to blow people up - whether with tanks and missiles or rucksacks and passenger planes - do so in the name of God. In India, we see men whose religion forbids them to harm insects setting light to human beings.

A 14th-century Pope with a 21st-century communications network sustains his church's mission of persecuting gays and denying women ownership of their bodies. Bishops and rabbis in Britain have just united in the cause of prolonging human suffering, by opposing the legalisation of assisted suicide. We know that the most dangerous human trait is an absence of self-doubt, and that self-doubt is more likely to be absent from the mind of the believer than the infidel.

But we also know that few religious governments have committed atrocities on the scale of Hitler's, Mao's or Stalin's (though, given their more limited means, the Spanish and British in the Americas, the British, Germans and Belgians in Africa and the British in Australia and India could be said to have done their best).

It is hard to dismiss Dostoyevsky's suspicion that "if God does not exist, then everything is permissible."(1) Nor can we wholly disagree with the new Pope when he warns that "we are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which ... has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."(2)

(We must trust, of course, that a man who has spent his life campaigning to become God's go-between, and who now believes he is infallible, is immune to such impulses).

The creationists in the United States might be as mad as a box of ferrets, but what they claim to fear is the question which troubles almost everyone who has stopped to think about it: if our lives have no purpose, why should we care about other people's?

We know too, as Roy Hattersley argued in the Guardian last month, that "good works ... are most likely to be performed by people who believe that heaven exists. The correlation is so clear that it is impossible to doubt that faith and charity go hand in hand."(3)

The only two heroes I have met are both Catholic missionaries. Joe Haas, an Austrian I stayed with in the swamp forests of West Papua, had spent his life acting as a human shield for the indigenous people of Indonesia: every few months soldiers threatened to kill him when he prevented them from murdering his parishioners and grabbing their land.(4)

Frei Adolfo, the German I met in the savannahs of north-eastern Brazil, thought, when I first knocked on his door, that I was a gunman the ranchers had sent for him. Yet still he opened it. With the other liberation theologists in the Catholic church, he offered the only consistent support to the peasants being attacked by landowners and the government.(5) If they did not believe in God, these men would never have taken such risks for other people.

Remarkably, no one, until now, has attempted systematically to answer the question with which this column began. But in the current edition of the Journal of Religion and Society, a researcher called Gregory Paul tests the hypothesis propounded by evangelists in the Bush administration, that religion is associated with lower rates of "lethal violence, suicide, non-monogamous sexual activity and abortion". He compared data from 18 developed democracies, and discovered that the Christian fundamentalists couldn't have got it more wrong.(6)

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion ... None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction."

Within the United States "the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest" have "markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast where ... secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms".

Three sets of findings stand out: the associations between religion - especially absolute belief - and juvenile mortality, venereal disease and adolescent abortion.

Paul's graphs show far higher rates of death among the under-5s in Portugal, the US and Ireland and put the US - the most religious country in his survey - in a league of its own for gonorrhea and syphilis. Strangest of all for those who believe that Christian societies are "pro-life" is the finding that "increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator ... Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data."(7)

These findings appear to match the studies of teenage pregnancy I've read. The rich countries in which sexual abstinence campaigns, generally inspired by religious belief, are strongest have the highest early pregnancy rates(8). The US is the only rich nation with teenage pregnancy levels comparable to those of developing nations: it has a worse record than India, the Philippines and Rwanda(9). Because they're poorly educated about sex and in denial about what they're doing (and so less likely to use contraceptives), boys who participate in abstinence programmes are more likely to get their partners pregnant than those who don't(10).

Is it fair to blame all this on religion? While the rankings cannot reflect national poverty - the US has the world's 4th highest GDP per head, Ireland the 8th - the nations which do well in Paul's study also have higher levels of social spending and distribution than those which do badly. Is this a cause or an association? In other words, are religious societies less likely to distribute wealth than secular ones?

In the US, where governments are still guided by the Puritan notions that money is a sign that you've been chosen by God and poverty is a mark of moral weakness, Christian belief seems to be at odds with the dispersal of wealth. But the UK - one of the most secular societies in Paul's study - is also one of the least inclusive, and does rather worse in his charts than countries with similar levels of religion. The broad trend, however, looks clear: "the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have ... come closest to achieving practical "cultures of life"."(11)

I don't know whether these findings can be extrapolated to other countries and other issues: the study doesn't look, for example, at whether religious belief is associated with a nation's preparedness to go to war (though I think we could hazard a pretty good guess) or whether religious countries in the poor world are more violent and have weaker cultures of life than secular ones. Nor - because, with the exception of Japan, the countries in his study are predominantly Christian or post-Christian - is it clear whether there's an association between social dysfunction and religion in general or simply between social dysfunction and Christianity.

But if we are to accept the findings of this one - and so far only - wide survey of belief and human welfare, the message to those who claim in any sense to be pro-life is unequivocal. If you want people to behave as Christians advocate, you should tell them that God does not exist.


1. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1879. The Brothers Karamazov.

2. Joseph Ratzinger, 18th April 2005. Homily. Vatican Radio.

3. Roy Hattersley, 12th September 2005. Faith does breed charity. The Guardian.

4. See George Monbiot 1989, Poisoned Arrows: an investigative journey through Indonesia. Republished 2004 by Green Books.

5. George Monbiot, 1991. Amazon Watershed. Michael Joseph, London.

6. Gregory S. Paul, 2005. Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look. The Journal of Religion and Society, Volume 7.

7. ibid.

8. Figures from the UNFPA's State of World Population report 2003 for births per 1000 women between 15 and 19 years old are presented in graph and graphic form at:

9. ibid.

10. Alba DiCenso et al, 15th June 2002. Interventions To Reduce Unintended Pregnancies Among Adolescents: Systematic Review Of Randomised Controlled Trials. British Medical Journal 324:1426.

11. Gregory S. Paul, ibid.

Democracy in the Balance, Sojourners Magazine/August 2004

by Bill Moyers

How do we nurture the healing side of religion over the killing side? How do we protect the soul of democracy against bad theology in service of an imperial state?

I trace my spiritual lineage back to a radical Baptist in England named Thomas Helwys who believed that God, and not the King, was Lord of conscience. In 1612 Roman Catholics were the embattled target of the Crown and Thomas Helwys, the Baptist, came to their defense with the first tract in English demanding full religious liberty. Here's what he said "Our Lord the King has no more power over their [Catholic] consciences than ours, and that is none at all. …For men's religion is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer it; neither may the King be judge betwixt God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatever. It appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure."

The king was the good King James I - yes, that King James, as in the King James Bible. Challenges to his authority did not cause his head to rest easily on his pillow, so James had Thomas Helwys thrown into prison, where he died.

Thomas Helwys was not the first or last dissenter to pay the supreme price for conscience. While we are not called upon in America today to make a similar sacrifice, we are in need of his generous vision of religious freedom. We are heading into a new religious landscape. For most of our history our religious discourse was dominated by white male Protestants of a culturally conservative European heritage, people like me. Dissenting voices of America, alternative visions of faith, race, and gender, rarely reached the mainstream. It's different now. Immigration has added more than 30 million people to our population since the late 1960s. The American gene pool is mutating into one in which people like me will be a minority within half a century.

America is being re-created right before our eyes. The world keeps moving to America, bringing new stories from the four corners of the globe. Gerard Bruns calls it a "contest of narratives" competing to shape a new American drama.

The old story had a paradox at its core. In no small part because of Baptists like Thomas Helwys and other "freethinkers," the men who framed our Constitution believed in religious tolerance in a secular republic. The state was not to choose sides among competing claims of faith. So they embodied freedom of religion in the First Amendment. Another person's belief, said Thomas Jefferson, "neither picks my pocket not breaks my bones." It was a noble sentiment often breached in practice. The Indians who lived here first had more than their pockets picked; the Africans brought here forcibly against their will had more than their bones broken. Even when most Americans claimed a Protestant heritage and practically everyone looked alike, we often failed the tolerance test; Catholics, Jews, and Mormons had to struggle to resist being absorbed without distinction into the giant mix-master of American assimilation.

So our troubled past with tolerance requires us to ask how, in this new era when we are looking even less and less alike, are we to avoid the intolerance, the chauvinism, the fanaticism, the bitter fruits that mark the long history of world religions when they jostle each other in busy, crowded streets?

It is no rhetorical question. My friend Elaine Pagels, the noted scholar of religion, says "There's practically no religion I know of that sees other people in a way that affirms the other's choice." You only have to glance at the daily news to see how passions are stirred by claims of exclusive loyalty to one's own kin, one's own clan, one's own country, and one's own church.

These ties that bind are vital to our communities and our lives, but they can also be twisted into a noose.

Religion has a healing side, but it also has a killing side. In the opening chapter of Genesis - the founding document of three great faiths - the first murder rises from a religious act. You know the story: Adam and Eve become the first parents to discover what it means to raise Cain. God plays favorites and chooses Abel's offering over Cain. Cain is so jealous he strikes out at his brother and kills him. Sibling rivalry for God's favor leads to violence and ends in death.

Once this pattern is established, it's played out in the story of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and down through the centuries in generation after generation of conflict between Muslims and Jews, Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims, so that the red thread of religiously spilled blood runs directly from East of Eden to Bosnia, Beirut, Belfast, and Baghdad.

In our time alone the litany is horrendous. I keep a file marked "Holy War."

It bulges with stories of Shias and Sunnis in fratricidal conflict. Of teenage girls in Algeria shot in the face for not wearing a veil. Of professors whose throats are cut for teaching male and female students in the same classroom.

Of the fanatical Jewish doctor with a machine gun mowing down 30 praying Muslims in a mosque. Of Muslim suicide bombers bent on the obliteration of Jews. Of the young Orthodox Jew who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin and then announced to the world that "Everything I did, I did for the glory of God." Of Hindus and Muslims slaughtering each other in India, of Christians and Muslims perpetuating gruesome vengeance on each another in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, groups calling themselves the Christian Identity Movement and the Christian Patriot League arm themselves, and Christians intoxicated with the delusional doctrine of two 19th-century preachers not only await the rapture but believe they have an obligation to get involved politically to hasten the divine scenario for the Apocalypse that will bring an end to the world.

Sadly, Christians, too, can invoke God for the purpose of waging religious war.

"Onward Christian Soldiers" is back in vogue and the 2lst century version of the Crusades has taken on aspects of the righteous ferocity that marked its predecessors. "To be furious in religion," said the Quaker William Penn, "is to be furiously irreligious."

THIS IS A TIME of testing - for people of faith and for people who believe in democracy. How do we nurture the healing side of religion over the killing side? How do we protect the soul of democracy against the contagion of a triumphalist theology in the service of an imperial state? At stake is America's role in the world. At stake is the very character of the American Experiment - whether "we, the people" is the political incarnation of a spiritual truth - one nation, indivisible - or a stupendous fraud.

There are two Americas today. You could see this division in a little-noticed action this spring in the House of Representatives. Republicans in the House approved new tax credits for the children of families earning as much as $309,000 a year - families that already enjoy significant benefits from earlier tax cuts - while doing next to nothing for those at the low end of the income scale. This, said The Washington Post in an editorial called "Leave No Rich Child Behind," is "bad social policy, bad tax policy, and bad fiscal policy.
You'd think they'd be embarrassed but they're not."

Nothing seems to embarrass the political class in Washington today. Not the fact that more children are growing up in poverty in America than in any other industrial nation; not the fact that millions of workers are actually making less money today in real dollars than they did 20 years ago; not the fact that working people are putting in longer and longer hours just to stay in place; not the fact that while we have the most advanced medical care in the world, nearly 44 million Americans - eight out of 10 of them in working families -
are uninsured and cannot get the basic care they need.

Nor is the political class embarrassed by the fact that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it's been in 50 years - the worst inequality among all Western nations. They don't seem to have noticed that we have been experiencing a shift in poverty. For years it was said that single jobless mothers are down there at the bottom. For years it was said that work, education, and marriage is how they move up the economic ladder. But poverty is showing up where we didn't expect it - among families that include two parents, a worker, and a head of the household with more than a high school education. These are the newly poor. These are the people our political and business class expects to climb out of poverty on an escalator moving downward.

For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented levels of economic and political power over daily life. In 1960, the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent was 30-fold. Four decades later it is more than 75-fold. Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society was benefiting proportionately and equality was growing.
That's not the case. As an organization called The Commonwealth Foundation Center for the Renewal of American Democracy sets forth in well-documented research, working families and the poor "are losing ground under economic pressures that deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation, and civic life."

And household economics "is not the only area where inequality is growing in America." We are also losing the historic balance between wealth and commonwealth. The report goes on to describe "a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power." That drive is succeeding, with drastic consequences for an equitable access to and control of public resources, the lifeblood of any democracy. From land, water, and other natural resources to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and even to politics itself, a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift in the direction of private control.

And what is driving this shift? Contrary to what you learned in civics class in high school, it is not the so-called "democratic debate." That is merely a cynical charade behind which the real business goes on - the none-too-scrupulous business of getting and keeping power so that you can divide up the spoils.

If you want to know what's changing America, follow the money.

Veteran Washington reporter Elizabeth Drew says "the greatest change in Washington over the past 25 years - in its culture, in the way it does business and the ever-burgeoning amount of business transactions that go on here - has been in the preoccupation with money." Jeffrey Birnbaum, who covered Washington for nearly 20 years for the Wall Street Journal, put it even more strongly "[Campaign cash] has flooded over the gunwales of the ship of state and threatens to sink the entire vessel. Political donations determine the course and speed of many government actions that deeply affect our daily lives."

It is widely accepted in Washington today that there is nothing wrong with a democracy dominated by the people with money. But of course there is. Money has democracy in a stranglehold and is suffocating it. During his brief campaign in 2000, before he was ambushed by the dirty tricks of the Religious Right in South Carolina and big money from George W. Bush's wealthy elites, John McCain said elections today are nothing less than an "influence peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder."

THAT'S THE SHAME of politics today. The consequences: "When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it is ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price, and most of them never see it coming," according to Time magazine. Time concludes that America now has "government for the few at the expense of the many."
That's why so many people are turned off by politics. It's why we can't put things right. And it's wrong. Hear the great Justice Learned Hand on this "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.'" He got it right: The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars, more clothes, or more vacations than anyone else. But they don't have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.

I know: This sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago, in a powerful polemic by a wealthy right-winger, William Simon, who was soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. By the end of the '70s, corporate America had begun a stealthy assault on the rest of our society and the principles of our democracy. Looking backward, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warning signs at the time.

What has been happening to the middle and working classes is not the result of Adam Smith's invisible hand but the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual collusion, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that has made an idol of wealth and power, and a host of political decisions favoring the powerful monied interests who were determined to get back the privileges they had lost with the Depression and the New Deal. They set out to trash the social contract; to cut workforces and their wages; to scour the globe in search of cheap labor; and to shred the social safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control. Business Week put it bluntly: "Some people will obviously have to do with less….It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more."

To create the intellectual framework for this revolution in public policy, they funded conservative think tanks - the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute - that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.

To put political muscle behind these ideas, they created a formidable political machine. Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post, one of the few journalists to cover the issues of class, wrote: "During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperative action in the legislative area." Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the Religious Right - Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition - who happily contrived a cultural war as a smokescreen to hide the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the war.

And they won. Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in America and the savviest investor of them all, put it this way: "If there was a class war, my class won." Well, there was, Mr. Buffett, and as a recent headline in The Washington Post proclaimed: ‘Business Wins With Bush."

Look at the spoils of victory: Over the past three years, they've pushed through $2 trillion dollars in tax cuts. More than half of the benefits are going to the wealthiest 1 percent. You could call it trickle-down economics, except that the only thing that trickled down was a sea of red ink in our state and local governments, forcing them to cut services and raise taxes on middle class working America.
Now the Congressional Budget Office forecasts deficits totaling $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. These deficits have been part of their strategy. The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us, when he predicted that President Reagan's real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions.

President Reagan's own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as much. Now the leading right-wing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to "starve the beast" - with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the U.S. government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.

Take note: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and Religious Right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children's children are ready for retirement; and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war.

And, yes, they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of producing a news magazine I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn't have made up the things that this crew in Washington have been saying. The president's chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy. The president's Council of Economic Advisers reports that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president's labor secretary says it doesn't matter if job growth has stalled because "the stock market is the ultimate arbiter." And the president's Federal Reserve chair says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in Social Security - but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway.
You just can't make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing.

But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans and the poor - and to the workings of American democracy - is no laughing matter. It calls for righteous indignation and action. Otherwise our democracy will degenerate into a shell of itself in which the privileged and the powerful sustain their own way of life at the expense of others and the United States becomes another Latin America with a small crust of the rich at the top governing a nation of serfs.

OVER THE PAST few years, as the poor got poorer, the health care crisis worsened, wealth and media became more and more concentrated, and our political system was bought out from under us, prophetic Christianity lost its voice.

The Religious Right drowned everyone else out.

And they hijacked Jesus. The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, "The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor." The very Jesus who told 5,000 hungry people that all of you will be fed, not just some of you. The very Jesus who challenged the religious orthodoxy of the day by feeding the hungry on the Sabbath, who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast, who raised the status of women and treated even the tax collector like a child of God. The very Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple. This Jesus has been hijacked and turned into a guardian of privilege instead of a champion of the dispossessed. Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist, sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don't work, and punitive public policies.

Let's get Jesus back. The Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight-hour work day.

Let's get back the Jesus who caused Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop.

The Jesus who called a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor - 10 years before the New Deal. The Jesus in whose name Dorothy Day challenged the church to march alongside auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. The Jesus who led Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.
That Jesus has been scourged by his own followers, dragged through the streets by pious crowds, and crucified on a cross of privilege. Mel Gibson missed that. He missed the resurrection - the spiritual awakening that followed the death of Jesus. He missed Pentecost.
Our times cry out for a new politics of justice. This is no partisan issue.

It doesn't matter if you're a liberal or a conservative, Jesus is both and neither. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or Republican, Jesus is both and neither. We need a faith that takes on the corruption of both parties. We need a faith that challenges complacency of all power. If you're a Democrat, shake them up. If you're a Republican, shame them. Jesus drove the money changers from the temple. We must drive them from the temples of democracy. Let's get Jesus back.

But let's do it in love. I know it can sound banal and facile to say this.

The word "love" gets thrown around too casually these days. And brute reality can mock the whole idea of loving one another. We're still living in the shadow of Dachau and Buchenwald. The smoke still rises above Kosovo and Rwanda, Chechnya and East Timor. The walls of Abu Ghraib still shriek of pain. What has love done? Where is there any real milk of human kindness?

But the love I mean is the love described by Reinhold Niebuhr in his book of essays Justice and Mercy, where he writes: "When we talk about love we have to become mature or we will become sentimental. Basically love means...being responsible, responsibility to our family, toward our civilization, and now by the pressures of history, toward the universe of humankind."

What I'm talking about will be hard, devoid of sentiment and practical as nails. But love is action, not sentiment. When the church was young and fair, and people passed by her doors, they did not comment on the difference or the doctrines. Those stern and taciturn pagans said of the Christians: "How they love one another!" It started that way soon after the death of Jesus. His disciple Peter said to the first churches, "Above all things, have unfailing love toward one another." I looked in my old Greek concordance the other day.
That word "unfailing" would be more accurately rendered "intense."

Glenn Tinder reminds us that none are good but all are sacred. I want to think this is what the founders meant when they included the not-so-self-evident assertion that "all men are created equal." Truly life is not fair and it is never equal. But I believe the founders were speaking a powerful spiritual truth that is the heart of our hope for this country. They saw America as a great promise - and it is.
But America is a broken promise, and we are called to do what we can to fix it - to get America back on the track. St. Augustine shows us how: "One loving soul sets another on fire." But to move beyond sentimentality, what begins in love must lead on to justice. We are called to the fight of our lives.

Bill Moyers, host of PBS' Now with Bill Moyers, has received more than 30 Emmy Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism. Moyers was senior news analyst for the CBS Evening News and Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is adapted from Moyers' keynote address ( available by clicking here) at Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004 conference this May in Washington, D.C.

Liberals more moral than Conservatives

Go to original

Walking the walk on family values
By William V. D'Antonio October 31, 2004

PRESIDENT Bush and Vice President Cheney make reference to "Massachusetts liberals" as if they were referring to people with some kind of disease. I decided it was time to do some research on these people, and here is what I found.

The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1.

But don't take the US government's word for it. Take a look at the findings from the George Barna Research Group. George Barna, a born-again Christian whose company is in Ventura, Calif., found that Massachusetts does indeed have the lowest divorce rate among all 50 states. More disturbing was the finding that born-again Christians have among the highest divorce rates.

The Associated Press, using data supplied by the US Census Bureau, found that the highest divorce rates are to be found in the Bible Belt. The AP report stated that "the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people." The 10 Southern states with some of the highest divorce rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. By comparison nine states in the Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

How to explain these differences? The following factors provide a partial answer:

More couples in the South enter their first marriage at a younger age.

Average household incomes are lower in the South.

Southern states have a lower percentage of Roman Catholics, "a denomination that does not recognize divorce." Barna's study showed that 21 percent of Catholics had been divorced, compared with 29 percent of Baptists.

Education. Massachusetts has about the highest rate of education in the country, with 85 percent completing high school. For Texas the rate is 76 percent. One third of Massachusetts residents have completed college, compared with 23 percent of Texans, and the other Northeast states are right behind Massachusetts.

The liberals from Massachusetts have long prided themselves on their emphasis on education, and it has paid off: People who stay in school longer get married at a later age, when they are more mature, are more likely to secure a better job, and job income increases with each level of formal education. As a result, Massachusetts also leads in per capita and family income while births by teenagers, as a percent of total births, was 7.4 for Massachusetts and 16.1 for Texas.

The Northeast corridor, with Massachusetts as the hub, does have one of the highest levels of Catholics per state total. And it is also the case that these are among the states most strongly supportive of the Catholic Church's teaching on social justice issues such as minimum and living wages and universal healthcare.

For all the Bible Belt talk about family values, it is the people from Kerry's home state, along with their neighbors in the Northeast corridor, who live these values. Indeed, it is the "blue" states, led led by Massachusetts and Connecticut, that have been willing to invest more money over time to foster the reality of what it means to leave no children behind. And they have been among the nation's leaders in promoting a living wage as their goal in public employment. The money they have invested in their future is known more popularly as taxes; these so-called liberal people see that money is their investment to help insure a compassionate, humane society. Family values are much more likely to be found in the states mistakenly called out-of-the-mainstream liberal. By their behavior you can know them as the true conservatives. They are showing how to conserve family life through the way they live their family values. William V. D'Antonio is professor emeritus at University of Connecticut and a visiting research professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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Friday, December 9, 2005

Saddam Murdered His Own People, and so did US

Of Microbes and Mock Attacks:
Years Ago, The Military Sprayed Germs on U.S. Cities
Jim Carlton / Wall Street Journal 22oct01
[ Anthrax's Deadly Persistence Can Be Seen in Bomb Experiment From World War II ]

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fifty-one years ago, Edward J. Nevin checked into a San Francisco hospital, complaining of chills, fever and general malaise. Three weeks later, the 75-year-old retired pipe fitter was dead, the victim of what doctors said was an infection of the bacterium Serratia marcescens.

Decades later, Mr. Nevin's family learned what they believe was the cause of the infection, linked at the time to the hospitalizations of 10 other patients. In Senate subcommittee hearings in 1977, the U.S. Army revealed that weeks before Mr. Nevin sickened and died, the Army had staged a mock biological attack on San Francisco, secretly spraying the city with Serratia and other agents thought to be harmless.

The goal: to see what might happen in a real germ-warfare attack. The experiment, which involved blasting a bacterial fog over the entire 49-square-mile city from a Navy vessel offshore, was recorded with clinical nonchalance: "It was noted that a successful BW [biological warfare] attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas," the Army wrote in its 1951 classified report on the experiment.

Now, with anthrax in the mail and fear mounting of further biological attacks, researchers are again looking back at the only other time this country faced the perils of germ warfare -- albeit self-inflicted. In fact, much of what the Pentagon knows about the effects of bacterial attacks on cities came from those secret tests conducted on San Francisco and other American cities from the 1940s through the 1960s, experts say.

"We learned a lot about how vulnerable we are to biological attack from those tests," says Leonard Cole, adjunct professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey and author of several books on bioterrorism. "I'm sure that's one reason crop dusters were grounded after Sept. 11: The military knows how easy it is to disperse organisms that can affect people over huge areas."

In other tests in the 1950s, Army researchers dispersed Serratia on Panama City, Fla., and Key West, Fla., with no known illnesses resulting. They also released fluorescent compounds over Minnesota and other Midwestern states to see how far they would spread in the atmosphere. The particles of zinc-cadmium-sulfide -- now a known cancer-causing agent -- were detected more than 1,000 miles away in New York state, the Army told the Senate hearings, though no illnesses were ever attributed to them as a result.

Another bacterium, Bacillus globigii, never shown to be harmful to people, was released in San Francisco, while still others were tested on unwitting residents in New York, Washington, D.C., and along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, among other places, according to Army reports released during the 1977 hearings.

In New York, military researchers in 1966 spread Bacillus subtilis variant Niger, also believed to be harmless, in the subway system by dropping lightbulbs filled with the bacteria onto tracks in stations in midtown Manhattan. The bacteria were carried for miles throughout the subway system, leading Army officials to conclude in a January 1968 report: "Similar covert attacks with a pathogenic [disease-causing] agent during peak traffic periods could be expected to expose large numbers of people to infection and subsequent illness or death."

Army officials also found widespread dispersal of bacteria in a May 1965 secret release of Bacillus globigii at Washington's National Airport and its Greyhound bus terminal, according to military reports released a few years after the Senate hearings. More than 130 passengers who had been exposed to the bacteria traveling to 39 cities in seven states in the two weeks following the mock attack.

The Army kept the biological-warfare tests secret until word of them was leaked to the press in the 1970s. Between 1949 and 1969, when President Nixon ordered the Pentagon's biological weapons destroyed, open-air tests of biological agents were conducted 239 times, according to the Army's testimony in 1977 before the Senate's subcommittee on health. In 80 of those experiments, the Army said it used live bacteria that its researchers at the time thought were harmless, such as the Serratia that was showered on San Francisco. In the others, it used inert chemicals to simulate bacteria.

Several medical experts have since claimed that an untold number of people may have gotten sick as a result of the germ tests. These researchers say even benign agents can mutate into unpredictable pathogens once exposed to the elements.

"The possibility cannot be ruled out that peculiarities in wind conditions or ventilation systems in buildings might concentrate organisms, exposing people to high doses of bacteria," testified Stephen Weitzman of the State University of New York, in the 1977 Senate hearings.

For its part, the Army justified its experiments by noting concerns during World War II that U.S. cities might come under biological attack. To prepare a response, the Army said, it had to test microbes on populated areas to learn how bacteria disperse.

"Release in and near cities, in real-world circumstances, were considered essential to the program, because the effect of a built-up area on a biological agent cloud was unknown," Edward A. Miller, the Army's secretary for research and development at the time, told the subcommittee.

But in at least one case -- the bacterial fogging of San Francisco -- the research may have gone awry. Between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 of 1950, a Navy mine-laying vessel cruised the San Francisco coast, spraying an aerosol cocktail of Serratia and Bacillus microbes -- all believed to be safe -- over the famously foggy city from giant hoses on deck, according to declassified Army reports. According to lawyers who have reviewed the reports, researchers added fluorescent particles of zinc-cadmium-sulfide to better measure the impact. Based on results from monitoring equipment at 43 locations around the city, the Army determined that San Francisco had received enough of a dose for nearly all of the city's 800,000 residents to inhale at least 5,000 of the particles.

Two weeks after the spraying, on Oct. 11, 1950, Mr. Nevin checked in to the Stanford Hospital in San Francisco with fever and other symptoms. Ten other men and women checked in to the same hospital -- which has since been relocated to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. -- with similar complaints. Doctors noticed that all 11 had the same malady: a pneumonia caused by exposure to bacteria believed to be Serratia marcescens. Mr. Nevin died three weeks later. The others recovered. Doctors were so surprised by the outbreak that they reported it in a medical journal, oblivious at the time to the secret germ test.

After the Army disclosed the tests nearly three decades later, Mr. Nevin's surviving family members filed suit against the federal government, alleging negligence. "My grandfather wouldn't have died except for that, and it left my grandmother to go broke trying to pay his medical bills," says Mr. Nevin's grandson, Edward J. Nevin III, a San Francisco attorney who filed the case in U.S. District Court here.

Army officials noted the pneumonia outbreak in their 1977 Senate testimony but said any link to their experiments was totally coincidental. No other hospitals reported similar outbreaks, the Army pointed out, and all 11 victims had urinary-tract infections following medical procedures, suggesting that the source of their infections lay inside the hospital.

The Nevin family appealed the suit all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to overturn lower court judgments upholding the government's immunity from lawsuits.

Today, the U.S. military is again patrolling San Francisco's coastline, guarding against someone who might try to copy the Army tests of half a century ago. Local officials say such an attack is unlikely, given the logistical problems of blasting the city without Navy ships.

Partly as a result of Mr. Nevin's death, says Lucien Canton, director of San Francisco's emergency services, "one thing we now know is that it takes an awful lot of stuff to produce casualties, especially in a place like San Francisco that always has a stiff breeze."


Aftermath of Terror Anthrax's Deadly Persistence
Can Be Seen In Bomb Experiment From World War II
Guatam Naik / Wall Street Journal 18oct01
Gazing at Gruinard Island across a stretch of blue water, Bill Richardson says dreamily: "It's bathed in sunshine and is quite lovely. It's not at all foreboding or evil."

Just a decade ago, though, the tiny Scottish isle was probably the most dangerous place in Britain. During World War II, British scientists secretly detonated several anthrax-laden bombs on Gruinard to study their potential for biological warfare against the Germans. Scores of sheep died after inhaling the bacteria.

Amid an expanding number of cases of anthrax exposure in the U.S., the Gruinard experiment may hold valuable lessons. It showed that a carefully calibrated explosion could turn liquid anthrax into a deadly inhalable form, the same type that killed a man in Florida and has been found in the U.S. Senate's offices. The British test also demonstrated that once anthrax is unleashed, it has amazing staying power: Gruinard was off-limits to people for more than 40 years because its soil continued to harbor vast amounts of highly infective anthrax spores.

It took an unprecedented four-year effort -- and vast quantities of formaldehyde mixed in seawater -- before the island was rid of the deadly bacteria. "It was possible to decontaminate an area of limited size," says Richard Manchee, the British microbiologist who led the cleanup, "but a large area would be very expensive and difficult."

Today, Gruinard is a lot like it was before the war -- an idyllic and remote 500-acre island, home to rabbits, birds and seals but no people. There probably is still some anthrax lying around, but not enough to cause harm, say scientists. Sheep were recently allowed to graze there, and none contracted the disease. Signs that once warned people to "Keep Off" have been pulled down.

Still, few locals venture there. "There's very little reason to go," says Mr. Richardson, who runs a post office on the mainland a mile away and has never set foot on Gruinard.

Britain began its tests on the island in October 1940 in response to rumors that Germany had launched a bioweapons program. British scientists had already tested anthrax in sheep and guinea pigs at a military lab called Porton Down, but to test the bacteria's effectiveness in the open air, they needed a remote location.

Gruinard Island, in the northwest of Scotland, was perfect. Owned by a local family, it sat in the middle of a blue bay and was surrounded by craggy mountains. For security reasons, it was given a new name: X Base.

The anthrax project was led by Dr. Paul Fildes, a microbiologist who had also been a naval surgeon in World War I. In July 1942, Dr. Fildes and his team placed a "wet culture" of anthrax in a bomb and used a gantry to suspend the device six feet above the ground. Several sheep were placed in open wooden crates downwind, and the bomb was exploded electrically. Within three days, the sheep began to die from inhaling the anthrax spores. Even animals placed 250 feet away succumbed.

"The reality of bioterror warfare had been proven," says an official at Porton Down familiar with the tests.

Emboldened by the results, the British team tried alternative methods. They fired anthrax bombs from mortar guns into the ground. One was dropped from an airplane, but it was badly aimed and fell harmlessly into a marsh. In October 1942, a similar device dropped from a Blenheim bomber on a seashore in South Wales did detonate; several sheep died of anthrax.

The data collected from such experiments were clear-cut. "On a weight for weight basis, [anthrax] was 100 to 1,000 times more potent than any then known chemical agent," writes Graden Carter, a historian at the Porton Down lab, in a book about the lab's various activities. "It was deduced that death in personnel were certain to follow an exposure."

By this time British scientists had also successfully carried out experiments with "cluster bombs," devices that carried 100 four-pound individual bombs. Gruinard was too small to test such devices, but other countries were willing to help. Under a project known as N bomb, the U.S. agreed to produce anthrax at a plant in Terre Haute, Ind., while Canada agreed to test cluster bombs loaded with the deadly bacteria.

But the war ended, and the N bomb plan was abandoned. The Porton Down scientists now faced a problem. To preserve the secrecy of their project, and because the island was heavily contaminated with anthrax, they couldn't return Gruinard to its original owners. So in 1946 Britain acquired it for 500 pounds (about $725 at today's rate of exchange), with the promise that the owners could eventually reacquire it for the same amount.

The scientists were in for a surprise. While many expected that the anthrax spores would die away or disappear in the wind, they didn't. Scientists measuring the contamination each year between 1947 and 1979 found that the infestation levels stayed the same. Puzzled members of Parliament began to ask why Britain continued to own the island -- and why it remained off limits. There were few answers.

Finally, in 1986, the British government decided to undertake a large-scale cleanup of Gruinard. After testing various chemical agents, the scientists hit upon the best one -- formaldehyde. They built an entire irrigation system on the island, an intricate network of spray tubes, and soaked the ground in 280 tons of formaldehyde, diluted in 2,000 tons of seawater, for about one year. Soil samples were tested at various distances away from the center of the anthrax bomb explosions. "When we got three samples that weren't contaminated, we stopped," says Mr. Manchee, the cleanup leader.

In April 1990, a junior defense minister was taken by boat to the island, where he declared Gruinard safe and removed the warning signs. The next month, "Anthrax Island," as it had come to be called, was returned to its original owners.

These days, few people visit this remote bit of Scotland. Occasionally, bird-watchers show up to seek a pair of white-tailed eagles that make their nest on Gruinard. But they don't row across.

Says Mr. Richardson, the local postmaster: "They prefer to see the birds from the shore."

Extreme bias: a mental disorder?

Damn straight.

Psychiatry ponders whether extreme bias can be an illness. Of course it is. Have you ever driven anywhere with a peace sign affixed to your car? I have. As a result of my simple exercise in self-expression, I have been closely followed, boxed in, and suffered various other forms of vehicular intimidation while traveling at 70 miles an hour.

A few months ago, after two young people were RUN OVER BY A TRUCK at a rally in Garden Grove, CA, I wrote an article titled Driving While Peaceful. In it, I described several incidents I personally witnessed wherein some crazy rightwingnut threatened perfectly innocent people with suffering and death.

Here ya go:

I was driving into the city the other day. I was in the fast lane in preparation to transition to another freeway. I glanced in my rearview mirror, and saw a large vehicle close on my tail. I speeded up thinking that I could open space between us.

No good. The vehicle stayed right on my bumper. I considered tapping the brake pedal, but feared that would lead to a traffic hazard. Next I knew, the vehicle was only about three feet back. My adrenalin surged in anticipation of a collision. Rather, he changed lanes in the narrowest space imaginable, and pressed ahead of me in the lane to my right, nearly sideswiping me.

Now, what could explain such dangerous behavior? The vehicle was a Ford Expedition, the hugest piece of polluting iron that Ford makes. The Expedition averages 13 mpg on premium fuel. I had a peace sign on my rear window. He had an American Flag on his. Oh, you could try to explain this by surmising that he was in a terrible hurry to get somewhere. But it seemed not. He simply pulled a carlength ahead and stayed there for four miles, until his offramp appeared.

This is not the first time that I have been vehicularly intimidated due to my plea for peace. I travel down a major interstate several times a year to visit family. Seldom do more than a hundred miles go by without some jerk in a big car or pickup truck either sitting on my bumper or pacing me so they can stare at me.

Here's my question. Now what on earth would make people so angry that they would risk a traffic collision? The idea of peace? The idea that I want it? The idea that I say that I want it publicly?

Why are those who are most anxious to declare their patriotism the angriest at me? At least 75% of the time, these angry drivers have American Flags on their windows, bumpers, or on their antennas. And I look about as american as anyone else.

If I could hear what they were saying it bet it would sound something like this: I bet she's oneathem America-haters. I would like to dispute that contention. I am an American who seeks peace. How can I be an America-hater when I am American? Next, someone will call me a self-hating American. Giggle.

This is not the first time I have noted this bad behavior. After the 2000 election debacle, I was standing in front of my local courthouse with other concerned Americans talking about what happened. Community leaders had called a meeting. Some of the people were standing near the curb. I watched in horror as an gray-haired white man in a Jeep Wrangler aimed his vehicle along the curbline and accelerated to 60 miles an hour. Many people had to fling themselves out of his path.

Now, I bet he thinks he is just a regular American patriot. But I wonder what his defense would have been in the Court Room had he injured or killed someone in his fit of rage.

Unfortunately, injuries occurred in the last public incident, near Los Angeles. A supporter of the Minutemen struck two young people with his vehicle, then ran. What a hero!

As I was driving home from school one afternoon in 2003, I sat behind a Mercedes Benz. We were stopped at a light. An elderly homeless woman's shopping cart projected slightly into the crosswalk. When the light turned green, the Mercedes driver aimed his car directly at her cart as he accelerated, then swerved at the last minute.

Now, after he did that, I wonder if he thought to himself...I must be crazy.

Fourteen Signs of Fascism

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism
by Lawrence Britt
Spring 2003
Free Inquiry magazine

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism ("Fascism Anyone?," Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The excerpt is in accordance with the magazine's policy.

The 14 characteristics are:

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .

Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Copyright © 2003 Free Inquiry magazine
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

find the reprint @ Vets for peace!

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Democrats lack a moral compass and wonder why people don't know what they stand for

Naturally, the Democrats Fear Backlash!

"Democrats, who have not controlled the White House since 2000 and the House in more than a decade, have tried over the past year to put aside deep philosophical differences and rally behind a two-pronged strategy to return to power: Highlight the growing number of GOP scandals and score Bush's unpopular war management."

When you try to play both ends against the middle, the results are usually unsatisfactory.

The two-pronged strategy? Legislate like the neoconservatives whenever you think you can get away with it. When your constituents notice, act like a "moderate" Democrat, which is what the liberal Republicans used to be. No wonder the Democratic Party has lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. If you do not have convictions, you can't expect people to follow you. Democrats are even afraid of being called liberal any more.

"'We have not blown our chance" of winning back the House but "we have jeopardized it," said a top strategist to House Democrats, who requested anonymity to speak freely about influential party leaders. "It raises questions about whether we are capable of seizing political opportunities or whether we cannot help ourselves and blow it" by playing to the liberal base of the party.'"

Oh heaven forbid that you play to the base of the party, the base that gives you life. Its the liberals who staff your phone banks, who walk precincts, who forward messages to their friends. As a matter of fact, most of the Democrats I work with on these sorts of projects tend more toward Green. Its your liberal base, the people with the conviction that human rights are more important than corporate profits, who keep the Democratic Party alive as a grassroots entity.

So go ahead, Democrats, ignore your so-called liberal base and watch yourselves continue to lose power.

Its just plain embarrassing to be a Democrat now. We have witnessed the Democratic Party blow TWO elections. These should have been a slam dunk. George Bush is a draft-dodging inarticulate child of the rich who mangles the English language and came into the political arena as a right-wing extremist.

Because the Democrats are unable to find a moral compass, Bush was able to take over the government of the United States, and to disastrous results. Stop trying to be like the Republicans, who have caused the deaths of over 2,000 innocent American young people in Iraq, the maiming of tens of thousands of same, and the deaths of over 100,000 Iraq innocents. Just for starters.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Failing Grades

Well of course they are getting failing grades. Everything the neoconservatives claim to do for people is mere show. A spectacle. During the Bush-Kerry debates, Kerry pointed out that our shipping ports, our biggest vulnerability, were not secure. Bush's reply? We have spent $30 Billion on ports. Kerry missed a golden opportunity to point out that the Republicans were just throwing money at problems and not accomplishing anything.

They may have allocated or dispersed the money in contracts to cronies, who have delayed payment to those who have done some minimal work. Or siphoned off the money for some other project. But our ports were not secured then, and they aren't secured now, according to the 911 Commission and its successor.

Of course, this is not an isolated incident. Witness the vast sums of contract money that have gone astray under the control of Halliburton in Iraq, and in our South, already, in the aftermath of Katrina.

And of course, the Democrats immediately seized on the report. The Bush administration means only to control public opinion to stay in power, not to actually do anything that's constructive or effective.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Fact v. Opinion-Why so much confusion?

Ask a rightwinger to define the word "fact." Get ready for a blank stare, drooling, or hostility. Rightwingers are unable to debate effectively because they cannot even agree on common definitions for words, just for starters.

Let's start with the word "fact."

What is a fact? Something that can be demonstrated objectively by evidence.

Main Entry: fact
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin factum deed, real happening, something done, from neuter of factus, past participle of facere to do, make
1 : something that has actual existence : a matter of objective reality
2 : any of the circumstances of a case that exist or are alleged to exist in reality : a thing whose actual occurrence or existence is to be determined by the evidence presented at trial —see also finding of fact at FINDING, JUDICIAL NOTICE question of fact at QUESTION, TRIER OF FACT —compare LAW, OPINION

Everything else is an opinion.

Main Entry: opin·ion
Pronunciation: &-'pin-y&n
Function: noun
1 a : a belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge b : a formal expression of a judgment or appraisal by an expert —see also opinion testimony at TESTIMONY —compare FACT

Seems to me that many people on the right can't muster a fact to save their lives. Wish I was wrong. So, here I am, in the battle of my life, trying to bring boring but essential facts to light. I would rather be reading poetry or walking on the beach, but there you have it.

On the Two Libertarianisms

Let’s talk about libertarian conservatives for a bit, since David Broder, in Congress Finally Stands Up, mentions the phrase. There are two different kinds of libertarian, not just one. My friends like to joke that libertarians are Republicans who like to smoke pot. We met a few of those in law school.

I call myself a libertarian as well. But I am a social libertarian, not a capitalist libertarian. Libertarians often claim that they have no religion. I beg to differ. They are fundamentalists in the same way that religious conservatives are: they believe in the propaganda of capitalism whole-heartedly, without a clue as to what they are supporting.

Any student of Adam Smith, the so-called father of capitalism, would know that Smith supported public works and the public commons. He spoke of “enlightened” self-interest, not unmitigated greed and avarice, as a satisfactory social order. Paraphrasing Smith, any time you see three businessmen talking together, you can bet they are up to no good.*

The fact is: there are TWO political axes, not just one. There is left and right. Then there is libertarian and authoritarian. You can find out where you place on the grid of political thought by going to and answering a few simple questions.

After you take the test, let’s engage in dialog about what your placement on the grid really means.

*"People of the same trade seldom meet together", Smith writes, "even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or some contrivance to raise prices."

Windfall for the Dimwitted?

by Deborah Lake

George Will likes to position himself as a libertarian. In order to be a CONSISTENT libertarian, it would behoove him to take the view that monopoly control of strategic assets like oil would be a bad thing.

In Windfall for the Dimwitted, Will takes Byron Dorgan to task for asking that oil companies cough up some of their exhorbitant profit over the last quarter. The implication that Dorgan should be strangled for proposing laws that Will disagrees with is disturbing, but a daily horror that we have become accustomed to, and the topic of another article for sure.

Will calls the profits "unimpressive" without stating the dollar amount. Taking issue with his characterization, I see that news reports state third quarter profits at $32 billion. That impresses the heck out of me.

Will, fond of making bad analogies, compares oil company margins to that of Coca Cola, with the claim that oil companies don't make nearly as much money as Coke does per dollar. Somehow, that is supposed to evoke sympathy in the reader?

The fact is that oil rights should have never been turned over to private corporations. Oil is a gift from the planet and should be controlled by the people who sit on the planet rather than a few cowboys who depend on our military support to keep their rigs operating. When they need taxpayer support via military bases and legislation, they claim to be a vital American interest. But when it comes time to be a good patriotic American corporate citizen, they hold up their paws and whimper about how their profits aren't really all that much in the grand scheme of things. In the same edition of the Washington Post, we see that auto companies are lining up for government bailouts. Now, where is their taking control of their own lives, their sense of personal responsibility supposed to come in, like it does for everyone else?

Some assets should never have been turned over to private control. The most frightening of those is water. Water operations have been increasingly privatized over the last 25 years. I can wait for the day when my obedience is commanded or my water supply will be cut off. Think I'm being a conspiracy theorist? Ask the people of many nations who have been structurally adjusted by the IMF just how well its working. Do people have to die for the right to drinking water? Yes, they do.

Ask the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia, how it played out for them.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

On the Divinity of the United States

by Deborah Lake

The United States of America is a very fortunate country indeed. We have no borders we need defend with massed soldiers. Our last foreign invasion before 911 was during the the early 1900s when Pancho Villa roamed Texas.

As we moved westward, we were able to plunder most of what we needed for all necessary domestic production from the people who had custody of it.

We exist largely in a temperate climate zone, which has enabled us to grow our own food for most of our history.

We have a form of government which, derived from the liberal principles conceived by European philosophers, has led to the legal enfranchisement of men without property, women and people of color.

We are not, however, specially blessed by a divine being. Our good fortune should not be used as an excuse to dominate the rest of the world. That would be hubris, not humility and gratitude for all of the natural advantages that we have.

The Constitution was not divinely inspired. If it were, there would have been no provision that slaves were 3/5 of a person for voting purposes.

This is not about race. Most conveniently, the 14th Amendment has been used to protect corporate rights about 95% of the time, and protect the rights of people of color about 5% of the time.

The US, under the control of corporations and under pressure from religious fundamentalists, has become a rapacious plunderer. This is not Godlike behavior. As a matter of fact, it doesn't make us much different than the Taliban or Al Qaeda...except that we have the power to deliver weapons of mass destruction just about anywhere at any time in less than 30 minutes.

Take that, Domino's. We can beat your time any time.

We have 700 military bases in 135 nations. These bases are not protecting Americans from harm. They are protecting corporate plunder operations. We ought to just say no. These plundering operations impoverish and immiserate the regular people in the host countries. These people are just like you and me. They want to earn enough money in a reasonable amount of work hours so that they can raise their families in peace.

For the sake of regular Americans and the regular folk just like us everywhere else, it is our job to stand up and control the prideful monster that the US has become.

God (or the divine or undivine being of your choice) bless and protect us all from corporate domination of government.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On Tax Breaks

By Olivia LaRosa - November 30, 2005

You cannot help poor people by giving rich people money. I have never heard one person who got a tax break say, "Oh my gosh! Now I can put my neighbor to work."

The fact is: 35 years ago, corporate tax revenues amounted to about 50% of the total income tax revenues each year. Now, its about 5%. And all of the Bush tax breaks are not permanent yet.

They claim that they only want to pay their fair share. Looks to me like they think their fair share is a big fat zero.

I keep making a proposal to every tax resister I meet, on the right and the left. People on the right seem uncomfortable about it.

There's how it goes. We give the flat tax people their flat tax, regressive and punitive to the less well off as it is. The catch is: taxpayers get to check a box that states whether they want their taxes to go to the military or social programs and infrastructure.

I think its a great idea. I think that if implemented, we would see some REAL political action. People could vote with their money.