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Can We Reunite the United States of America?

 

A Toast to Charles Darwin on his 200th Birthday.
February 12th 2009


One hundred and fifty years ago the Universe was a perfect clockwork mechanism, with humankind as the mainspring around which the intricate machine was built. The heavenly bodies moved according to The Creator’s plan, and all the Earth and the myriad web of life upon it were put here for our benefit. The Universe had design, it had purpose, it had a center.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin changed that Universe. Upon publication of his life’s work, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”, humankind was no longer the center of the Universe, and the Universe had lost its purpose, its center. Humans were just another part of nature, just another animal. The year 1859 was a bad year for anthropocentrism.

It is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and he deserves a hearty toast from us all on this occasion. Not because he set modern biology on its current path 80 years before biologists begrudgingly acceded to his insight, but because he brought biology to the masses. At once, biology became both controversial, and exciting. No other single theory in biology has so thoroughly and simultaneously set biologists and laymen alike at each others throats.

No other theory has so thoroughly shifted the ground of the debate over human origins and the place of humans in the Universe.

While the mechanisms and details of evolution will be debated for centuries to come, the basic premise set forth by Charles Darwin, that “descent with modification” and “natural selection” of the most successful offspring are the two bases of evolution, will endure.

In modern biology, the debate still rages over the mechanisms of “descent with modification”. But the idea that natural selection, operating inexorably at many levels, is responsible for ensuring that the most highly fit organisms survive and reproduce, is unquestionable.

So I offer a toast to one of the greatest biologists and thinkers of all time. Happy birthday Charles. Here’s to you.

JRM


 

Why Republicans Can’t Win Elections Fairly
October 23rd, 2008


They purge voter rolls of eligible Democrats while simultaneously undermining groups such as ACORN which work diligently to register poor people so they can vote. Link

They control many local voting districts, and willfully limit the size of polling places, and the number of machines available, especially in Democratic strongholds, in order to make voting as difficult as possible. Link

They work tirelessly to change the laws to limit the number of poor and disenfranchised who would be able to vote with everything from laws mandating photo IDs, to laws that limit the number of places where voting machines can be set up, in order to ensure long lines in Democratic districts. Link

They even hand out pamphlets in Democratic precincts that tell voters that their candidate is a Democrat, when they are actually a Republican (e.g., the Robert Ehrlich campaign in 2006 in Maryland). Link

Then come the smears. Barak Obama is a terrorist “Who is the real Barak Obama?”. He’s not a real American. Link

This is followed by Robocalls which pump out more ad hominem smears, without a shred of information on what a McCain/Palin administration would do for you. They don’t want you to think about what they would (or wouldn’t) do to fix the economy, or fix our infrastructure, or improve our schools. Nothing about healthcare costs, or college costs, or anything else that might be important to the public. Link

Why do they do these despicable, un-American, un-Democratic things?

Simple. Because they are a minority within our country.

Conservatives make up no more than 35% of our country’s electorate. In order to win, they need to depress the overall turnout, turn off independents, put impediments in the way of voters in Democratic districts, illegally purge voter rolls of eligible Democrats, smear the other party with ad hominem attacks, and lie, lie, lie.

They have no other recourse if they want to win. The fewer people who vote, the better their chances of winning.

But they don’t want you to think about any of these things. They just want to poison the well. They want you to say, “a pox on both their houses”. They want you to stay home, or give up if the line at the voting booth is too long.

Don’t get mad, get even. If you want to poke a sharp stick in the proverbial Republican eye, then first you need to make sure you haven’t been purged from the voting rolls. Contact your local election board or go here to check: Vote

Then make sure you bring a book or MP3 player to the polling place when you go to vote. There is nothing that angers anti-Democratic Republicans more than patient, determined Democratic voters.

JRM


 

DON’T VOTE FOR OBAMA!
October 8th, 2008

 

A vote for Obama is a vote for the status quo. 

A vote for Obama is a vote for the two party system.

All politicians are the same. 

Your vote will be stolen anyway. 

The machines don't work, and no one counts provisional ballots. 

The duopoly is broken. 

If voting could change things, it would be illegal. 

Don't vote for the lesser of two evils. Evil is evil. 

The elections are fake anyway. 

If it's close, the Supreme Court will have the last say. 

You are powerless. Your vote is meaningless. 

Give up. 

Don’t vote. 

Sincerely,

  Karl Rove


 

Is McCain the Republican's Mondale?
Sept. 2nd 2008

Current common wisdom suggests that John McCain will be the next president of the United States, in part because he is supposedly experienced, and in part because he has “earned” the privilege through his years in the Senate. However, the parallels to the Mondale campaign of 1984 seem inevitable, and do not bode well for Mr. McCain and his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin.

In the 1984 presidential campaign, Democrats were hopeful that Walter Mondale had the experience and temperament to beat Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. for the White House. Senator Mondale then chose the inexperienced and wholly unknown congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro from NY as his vice presidential pick, a choice which in retrospect did not improve the chances of winning the election. Reagan and Bush won in a landslide, with Mondale and Ferraro only taking Minnesota and the District of Columbia. This was one of the worst defeats in modern presidential campaign history.

If we take a quick look back at the politics of the mid 1980s, the so-called Reagan revolution was underway, and the Democratic-controlled Congress was increasingly unpopular. The liberal politics of the 1960’s and 1970’s were coming to an end, and “trickle down economics” and pro-business policies were on the rise. The political pendulum was swinging fast. This era then led to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 during Bill Clinton’s first term, and the rest is history.

If we examine the McCain campaign with respect to the Obama campaign, several striking similarities to the election of 1984 stand out. First is the political ascendancy of the Democrats as the Bush era comes to a close. The Bush era is marked by greater public disdain, distrust, and disgust than even the “stagflationary” Jimmy Carter era.

Second is the star power of Barack Obama as compared with McCain, who seems out of touch, grouchy and sour. Senator Obama draws huge enthusiastic crowds, while McCain has trouble even getting reporters to attend his speeches. This star-power effect was clearly the case with Ronald Reagan, who was B movie Hollywood star, but a grade-A political star in the mid 1980’s, at least as far as Republicans and many independents were concerned. Mondale couldn’t even begin to match Reagan’s popularity at the time. This is also true of Obama and McCain, except in reverse.

Then there is the cross-over vote potential. Reagan was known for drawing in many so-called Reagan Democrats, which helped usher in the landslide of the 1984 election. However, this time around it looks like a great deal of the cross-over voting will be independents and Republicans voting for change.

Problems with the economy helped Reagan win reelection in 1984, whereas the current economic problems are almost certain to help Obama rather than McCain. Of course, after winning re-election, Reagan’s economic policies led to the S&L crisis and massive tax-payer funded bailout, but that’s a another story.

The one similarity to the 1984 campaign that now seems inevitable is the choice of an unknown woman politician as the vice presidential candidate. Walter Mondale chose a New York congresswoman that virtually no one outside of New York had ever heard of. Similarly, John McCain chose Sarah Palin, a governor virtually unknown outside the state of Alaska. Palin’s current “trooper-gate”, and unwed pregnant daughter problems aside, it is clear to most people that McCain chose her as a running mate for purely political reasons in an attempt to lure Hillary Clinton supporters to the McCain camp. This was the charge leveled at Mondale back in 1984. The choice of Palin will certainly not help bolster McCain's maverick status, and will paint him instead as a faux maverick.

It will be very interesting to see if the election of 2008 plays out as a mirror image of the election of 1984. I doubt highly that Barack Obama will be able to manage the same type of landslide that Ronald Reagan did in the election of 84, but I am growing more hopeful every day that after the public has a chance to listen to McCain and Obama over the next two months, that they are going to opt for a reversal of politics, with the pendulum swinging rapidly away from the Bush era, and toward the Obama era.

JRM


 

Republicans Rally Round Torture and Imprisonment without Trial
June 14th, 2008


It used to be the case that Republicans would rally around flag burning, gays in the military, assault gun bans and other non-issues that really don't affect our country at all. How many here have been personally harmed by assault gun bans? But now, in this election year where they are trying to paint the first African-American candidate for president as a terrorist sympathizer, they've decided such trivialities are just not up to the task.

So what have neocon conservatives decided to rally around this election year? You guessed it, the pressing need to torture prisoners and hold them indefinitely without trial.

Sure, they will still go after missing lapel pins, pledge of allegiance, and terrorist fist-bumping, because they are morally and politically bankrupt when it comes to policies, or priorities. But these Neanderthal, tribal tirades against Senator Obama and his wife are not resonating beyond the ditto-head, neocon authoritarian followers. They need something with a bit more edge than mere verbal association with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

No, this time around, they need to try a different tactic, and the one they seem to be settling on is to rally around ending habeas corpus, and legalizing torture. The recent Supreme Court decision (5-4 split) to uphold habeas corpus (the right to a trial by jury) for Iraq and Afghanistan detainees has sent the neocons into a fit. Supreme Court Justice Scalia called the decision to uphold the Constitution disastrous, devastating and tragic.

Last Friday on the nationally syndicated Diane Rehm radio talk show, a conservative commentator, I believe it was David Brooks, argued forcefully that waterboarding did not constitute torture because there were no lasting effects (except, of course, when it leads to actual drowning). It is doubtful that conservatives really believe that waterboarding isn’t a form of torture, or that indefinite detention without the right to a trial is constitutional. That's not the point. They need rallying cries to get their base motivated. They know that their base of authoritarian followers and ditto-heads aren’t well informed, and that they love the tough guy, red meat kind of issues that will quickly enrage them against the Democrats. Richard Samp, who is the chief counsel of the conservative Washington Legal Foundation, was quoted as saying; “as a political matter, it will help to rally those inclined to believe the Supreme Court is out of control.”

John McCain opined that the Supreme court; “rendered a decision yesterday that I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

So there you have it. As far as neocons are concerned, Supreme Court justices ruling in favor of the constitution are “out of control”. Ergo, “we must elect John McCain so that we can finish stacking the Supreme Court with more Antonin Scalias”.

Somehow, that seems more like a rallying cry for liberals, progressives and independents to elect Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.

JRM


 

Conservatives with a Conscience?
May 28th, 2008


Scott McClellan, ex-White House spokesperson, has written a book about his experience as resident Bush administration propagandist. His main conclusion is that the Bush administration is in permanent campaign mode, and will lie, distort and manipulate to get its political way, even when going to war against a nation that did not attack the US.

The book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception”, is scheduled to be released on Monday. Scott McClellan was known for his “deer-in-the-headlights” style of press conference, constantly looking flummoxed and off balance. This turns out to be the case, as he describes how "I could feel something fall out of me into the abyss as each reporter took a turn whacking me. It was my reputation crumbling away, bit by bit."

So, as many have hoped over the last 7 years, it looks like some conservatives do have a conscience, and need to set the record straight after being forced to lie and deceive as a part of their job description. Let us hope further that this is the tip of the iceberg, and that more conscience-tattered administration officials end up spilling their guts to assuage their guilt.

There is really nothing new in the book that we haven't heard before, it’s just that we haven't heard some of the details straight from one of the perpetrator’s mouth. McClellan details how the Bush administration, through him and others, lied the United States into a war in Iraq: “Over that summer of 2002, top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

So McClellan confirms what the White House has denied since the run-up to the Iraq war, that it was a war of choice undertaken for political reasons. Untold thousands are dead as a result.

McClellan also confirms that he was lied to about Scooter Libby’s and Karl Rove's involvement in the CIA leak case. They were not only involved, they had private meetings at the White House in order to get their falsified testimony straight.

One of the more important confirmations in McClellan’s book is the fact that Bush is insecure and incapable of admitting mistakes. McClellan noted that a more secure person would have had the wherewithal to admit error. But not Bush Jr., who is so insecure and stubborn that he cannot change his mind, and cannot admit that he has made any mistakes. Combined with the unyielding, toxic political atmosphere created by Bush, Cheney and Rove, this intransigence has harmed the United States domestically and internationally in ways that will continue to play out for years to come.

Conservatives with a conscience? Bring ‘em on!

JRM


 

Bush's Dilemma
May 22nd, 2008


Problem:
In order to fully control the oil supply from the Middle East the Bush administration needs to destabilize Iran, and then attempt to install a US friendly government there. The US military currently occupies Afghanistan to the east, and Iraq to the west of Iran, but as long as the US has little or no sway with the Iranian government, the US does not have full geopolitical control of Middle Eastern oil reserves.

The Bush administration's plan for geopolitical domination of Middle Eastern oil has always involved destabilizing the Iranian government, even if this means limited airstrikes under the pretense of eliminating the stalled, incipient Iranian nuclear program. Indeed, the Bush administration has spent untold billions flexing its muscles by moving the US military into and around the Persian Gulf, and using covert assets to undermine confidence among the Iranians.

However, the Bush administration's slavish adherence to supply side Reaganomics, and their stubborn insistence that it is best the way to a strong economy, may eventually be the undoing of their imperialist plans for Iranian oil.

The dilemma: Bush's military occupations of both Afghanistan and Iraq, while simultaneously saber rattling at Iran, have had a significant impact on the price of oil over the last several years. Instability in the world’s most oil-rich region resulting from the US military occupations, lack of international dialogue, and demonization of political leaders in Iran and neighboring countries, account for the lion's share of increases in the price of oil. As the price of oil shot through $100 a barrel, and now resides above $130 per barrel, at the same time that the US dollar is nearing all-time lows against foreign currencies, the buying power of the average American family has declined precipitously. As the economy moves more certainly into a recession, and as home values continue to decline, the Bush administration's economic policies are becoming less and less popular with the public.

This leads to Bush's dilemma. Any air strikes against Iran directed at destabilizing that nation's government will immediately send oil prices above $150 per barrel. At this price, the recession will worsen greatly as energy costs bleed over into almost every other sector of the economy. But the status quo is barely better for Bush.

Because this is an election year, and the country is headed into a deeper recession, Bush needs to do something more than send out checks for a couple hundred bucks to taxpayers in order to turn the economy around. This is an essential aspect for any incumbent administration in the run-up to an election. However, they are also desperate to play the war card one more time to try and rally the American people again behind Middle Eastern adventurism in the name of fighting “terrorism”.

It's a Catch-22. If they don't attack Iran, they don't get the “rally round the flag” effect, but if they do attack Iran, they drive the price of oil even higher, further deepening the recession here at home. Is there a way out for Bush & Co.?

I am certain that the talk in the West Wing regularly turns to ways that the government can accomplish the incompatible goals of repairing the economy while simultaneously bombing Iran into submission. However I do not see any way to reduce oil prices other than to reduce tensions and instability in the Middle East. That not only involves negotiations with Iran but also negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban, while simultaneously reducing the US military footprint throughout the region. This is clearly not going to happen on Bush's watch. As such, we will be heading into the next election with high oil prices, high tensions throughout the Middle East, and a sagging economy at home. This could drive Bush to desperate measures as the election approaches. Only time will tell if they can figure a way out of Bush's dilemma.

JRM


 

Death Toll Due to Tainted Heparin in US Rises to 81
April 22nd, 2008


Federal officials in the US now say that the death toll due to adverse reactions to contaminated heparin coming from China has risen to 81, whereas Chinese officials dispute that any deaths were caused by the contaminant. In a tit-for-tat finger-pointing exercise, officials from both countries insist that they be allowed to inspect the manufacturing plants in the other country.

Currently, the US does not have an agreement with the Chinese government to allow inspection of Chinese food and drug manufacturing facilities. Chinese officials insist that this would only be allowed if Chinese officials were granted the reciprocal right to inspect all US food and drug manufacturing plants.

According to the NY Times, however, based on the current funding and staffing levels, the F.D.A. would take 27 years to inspect every foreign medical device plant that exports to the United States, 13 years to inspect every foreign drug manufacturing plant, and 1,900 years to examine every foreign food processing plant.

Congressman John Dingell, Democrat from Michigan, is calling for increased funding for the FDA, but has met resistance from the Bush administration which does not think that significantly increased funding is necessary. Funding for agencies that are actually tasked with protecting American lives, such as the FDA and the USDA, is not considered as important by the Bush administration as funding the military, supposedly to protect the American public from terrorism.

According to the FDA’s website, the FDA is requesting $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2009 to protect America's food and drug supply. This is approximately the same amount of money that the US government spends on the Iraq war every week. This puts Iraq war funding at approximately 50 times greater than the government's attempt to make sure the food you eat and the drugs you are given at the hospital are safe.

Clearly, as US citizens, we are not getting the types of protections we need from our government, and that we pay for with our taxes. The war in Iraq is costing American lives, not protecting them. Taking a single week’s worth of funding from the Iraqi budget and putting it into the FDA budget would double the FDA budget overnight. But as long as the Bush administration has any say in the matter, that will not happen.

Write your senators and congressional representative and ask them to support increased funding for the FDA. That money could easily be pulled from the Iraqi war budget if troop levels were dropped significantly. When the Bush administration tells you they are protecting you from terrorists, don't believe them. More people have died from tainted heparin in the last several months in the US (81) than have died from terrorism in the US in the last six years (0).

JRM


 

MindWars
April 20th, 2008


The NY Times was shocked, shocked! to learn that major news outlets have been spinning the Iraq war for 6 years using “military analysts” with direct financial connections to military contractors who were reaping huge war profits. I am certain they were also shocked to find out that one of those major news outlets that was spinning the war with the help of paid propagandists was the New York Times itself.

In a 7600 word account that had the feel of an article that had been written years ago, and shoved in a drawer to rot because managing editors didn't want to touch it, the Times details the nepotistic connections between military analysts featured in news reports and the military contractors profiting from the Iraq war. I wouldn't be surprised if the article was pulled from the drawer, dusted off, and updated before publishing this Saturday on the front page of the New York Times.

Some notable quotes from the article include:

“Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records … These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.”

“The Pentagon itself has made covert payments to Iraqi newspapers to publish coalition propaganda. Rather than complain about the “media filter,” each of these techniques simply converted the filter into an amplifier. This time, Mr. Krueger said, the military analysts would in effect be “writing the op-ed” for the war.”

Referring to the Vietnam War, Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News analyst from 2001 to 2007 noted:

“We lost the war — not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped,” he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars — taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach “MindWar” — using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.

“Some analysts said that even before the war started, they privately had questions about the justification for the invasion, but were careful not to express them on air.”

“Some e-mail messages between the Pentagon and the analysts reveal an implicit trade of privileged access for favorable coverage. Robert H. Scales Jr., a retired Army general and analyst for Fox News and National Public Radio whose consulting company advises several military firms on weapons and tactics used in Iraq, wanted the Pentagon to approve high-level briefings for him inside Iraq in 2006. “Recall the stuff I did after my last visit,” he wrote. “I will do the same this time.”

“The strategic target remains our population,” General Conway said. “We can lose people day in and day out, but they’re never going to beat our military. What they can and will do if they can is strip away our support. And you guys can help us not let that happen.”

“General, I just made that point on the air,” an analyst replied.

“Let’s work it together, guys,” General Conway urged.

“An analyst said at another point: “This is a wider war. And whether we have democracy in Iraq or not, it doesn’t mean a tinker’s damn if we end up with the result we want, which is a regime over there that’s not a threat to us.”

“Even as they assured Mr. Rumsfeld that they stood ready to help in this public relations offensive, the analysts sought guidance on what they should cite as the next “milestone” that would, as one analyst put it, “keep the American people focused on the idea that we’re moving forward to a positive end.” They placed particular emphasis on the growing confrontation with Iran.“

“A spokeswoman for Fox News said executives “refused to participate” in this article.”

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the entire sordid affair of turning the corporate media into a propaganda wing of the Pentagon and the Bush administration is that even when news outlets understood the connections between their analyst and contractors in Iraq, they went out of their way to avoid asking them any tough questions about conflicts of interest. What you don't know can’t hurt you, right?

Well we can certainly hope that this article will not just be a one time deal with the corporate media getting back in lockstep with the Pentagon Monday morning. They have lost all credibility now even with much of their own staff, and certainly with a large proportion of the American public.

It will also be interesting to see if there is any reaction from Congress in terms of investigating the links between military contractors and media outlets. My guess is, based on their past performance, that they won't touch it.

One thing you will never hear from the corporate controlled news media is the fact that they have been scooped time and time again for the last five or six years by liberal blogs and websites such as OpEdNews.com.

Mindwars indeed. Where do you get your news from?

JRM


 

The Coming War with Iran
April 12th, 2008


If the Bush administration, the New York Times, and the Washington Post get their way, the US military will commence with missile and air strikes against Iranian targets before the November elections.

Articles this morning both the Washington Post and the New York Times reprised their roles in the run-up to the Iraq war by beating the drums for war against Iran. Al Qaeda is no longer their favorite bogeyman as their focus has shifted to the regime in Iraq's neighbor to the east.

Clearly, both the New York Times and the Washington Post understand full well that their unquestioning regurgitation of administration talking points in late 2002 and early 2003 were low points in their journalistic enterprises. As such, it is difficult to understand how both news organizations could be retracing the same journalistic mistakes they made before the Iraq war with highly unreliable reporting from the likes of Judy Miller.

Let's be clear, we are not fighting Iranians or Al Qaeda in Iraq. We are fighting the Iraqis who are trying to gain control and drive out the US military occupation force. Any marginal influence by Al Qaeda or Iran is irrelevant compared to dealing with homegrown, Iraqi militias.

This is always the case with protracted military occupations of foreign countries. We tried to blame Cambodia for the problems in Vietnam, and began secretly bombing that country during the Vietnam War. As long as the US military occupies Iraq, and sows the seeds of civil war in that nation by our very presence, we will be fighting Iraqi militias on both sides of that civil war. A civil war made possible by US military intervention.

Bombing Iran under the pretense that they are engaging in a proxy war in Iraq will not solve any problems, but will exacerbate all problems faced by the US military there. It is possible that the administration is bluffing in order to prod Iran to back down on a number of issues. But that does not seem to be the Bush administration’s style, which prefers riding in on horseback and shooting wildly in all directions. Don't even bother asking questions later.

Considering the now constant din of administration warnings concerning Iran it seems likely that they are intent on widening the war in the Middle East before the fall elections here in the US. With the help of news organizations such as the Washington Post and New York Times they hope to drum up enough support for such actions. But if the American people have any say in the matter, the US will pull its troops out of the Middle East, rather than widening and deepening the conflict.

JRM


 

Protecting America’s drug supply
March 24th, 2008


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the US agency charged with ensuring a safe food supply, and that drugs sold in the US are both safe, and effective.

According to a number of reports in the Washington Post, New York Times and elsewhere, understaffing and underfunding at the FDA has made them incapable of performing those tasks adequately.

We have heard quite a bit over the last year about toxin-tainted pet foods and children's toys containing high levels of lead coming into the United States from China's unregulated industrial system. Without pollution standards, work safety standards, or quality control standards, China's industries are virtually beyond any form of serious oversight at this point in time. In contrast with stories about tainted pet food and lead-filled children's toys, problems with tainted pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical ingredients coming out of China have gotten somewhat less attention, in part because most adverse reactions and deaths had occurred outside the US.

That is until a number of heparin-related deaths in the US were reported recently in the Washington Post. The number of deaths in the US due to tainted heparin coming from China is still in question, but the death toll ranges from 19 to over 40 since last Fall. Heparin is a complex carbohydrate containing large amounts of sulfur which has been used for decades to prevent blood clotting during operations, patient dialysis and when collecting blood. Heparin if found at high levels in certain tissues of the body, and pharmaceutical grade heparin is typically extracted from cow lungs and pig intestines.

How did seriously contaminated heparin end up in US hospitals when the FDA is supposed to prevent such incidents from occurring?

The story begins in 2006, in Guangdong province on the highly industrialized southeast coast of China. Pig farmers were noticing that their pigs were getting very sick. Pregnant females would deliver sick or dead piglets, and infected young pigs developed a number of respiratory symptoms, and characteristic skin and ear discoloration. The pathogen that caused the outbreak is apparently a virus known to cause “blue-eared pig disease” as farmers call it, and “porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome” as it is known to scientists. Most Chinese pig farmers call the new illness “high fever disease”. The disease spread rapidly among pig farms along the eastern coast of China throughout 2006 and into 2007. The Chinese government has not released statistics on the magnitude or scope of the outbreak, and initially they resisted all requests for virus samples from scientists around the world.

This particular viral disease was first identified in the United States in 1987, and then in several other countries in 1991 including the Netherlands and Canada. The original virus strains have now spread worldwide, but the those strains isolated in North America and Europe were usually not fatal for infected pigs. Based on genetic analyses, the outbreak of the virus in China appears to involve a much more deadly variant of the virus. Because it affects the pigs reproductive systems and respiratory systems more severely than other organs, the virus is known as PRRS, standing for “porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome”, as noted above. The newly mutated form of the PRRS virus arose in the same area of China’s highly industrialized southeastern coast (Guangdong province) that saw the rise of the mutated avian flu virus. As a scientist, this makes me wonder if industrial pollution in the food and water fed to livestock may be compromising the animal’s immune systems, and making it easier for viruses to mutate and spread throughout large, crowded herds with diminished immune responses. But I digress from the story.

As the disease spread, and pigs started dying in large numbers, Chinese farmers began to panic, and rushed the remaining animals to market. It is not known if the infected animals presented any risk to those who consumed the resulting pork products, but nonetheless, the viral epidemic that spread throughout Chinese pig farms has had far reaching consequences not only in China, but throughout the world.

The story takes a turn in 2007 as pig populations declined precipitously in China. It is not known outside of China how many pigs had to be destroyed in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease to the entire country. But one estimate reported in the Public Library of Science estimated that over 2 million pigs were infected. Reports of the disease surfacing in nearby countries suggest that any effort to at containing the outbreak were unsuccessful. Pork prices in China skyrocketed and the decline in the size of pig herds led directly to the problems that surfaced in 2007 with tainted heparin produced in China.

Heparin is present in granules in cells of the body called “mast cells”, which are found in pig intestines in large numbers. The process of making heparin in China begins at small farms and larger slaughterhouses where pigs are processed for pork products. The intestines are collected and can be processed by steam or by chemical extraction methods which yield a crude heparin product that must be processed further before use in humans. As pig populations in China plummeted through 2007, a severe shortage of pig intestines threatened the heparin supplies.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal: “Wang Xiangyang, a factory director at the Zhaoyang Intestine & Casing Factory in Shandong, for instance, says his company has been forced to use sheep innards in addition to pig intestines because of a shortage of pig supplies. "We can't get enough pig intestines," Mr. Wang says. "There are a lot of people around who need them."

The company that produced the tainted heparin is “Scientific Protein Laboratories” (SPL), a Wisconsin based company that has supplied heparin to the US for 3 decades. In 1999, SPL partnered with a Chinese firm and set up a processing plant in Changzhou China to collect and process heparin locally. The plant was approved by the FDA to provide heparin to the US in 2004, despite the fact that the plant in Changzhou had not been FDA inspected. The FDA admitted last month that it had violated its own policies by neglecting to inspect SPL’s Chinese plant before approving the drug for sale in the US.

Most of the raw heparin supply comes from small, family-run workshops near slaughterhouses, which send the extracts to larger "consolidators" before they reach refining plants like the one owned by SPL in Changzhou, near Shanghai. It is still unclear where the problem originated, but it most likely began in the family-run workshops that extracted the crude heparin from hog intestines. As the supply of pig intestines declined in 2007 those family workshops more than likely had severe difficulty in meeting supply quotas. They were faced with the choice of informing SPL in Changzhou that they could not meet demands for the crude extract, and lose much-needed income, or they could try to find a cheap heparin substitute to spike the extracts with. This second option would be difficult unless the substitute purified and tested as though it were heparin.

The two graphs here are so-called “mass spectrograms” from the FDA of a tainted heparin sample (top) and an uncontaminated sample (below). In mass spectrometers compounds are ionized, and the ions separated based on their mass. Ions of different mass show up at different positions along the graph. The height of the peaks on the graph are proportional to the number of ions detected.

As you can see from FDA's own analysis of a tainted heparin product there is nearly twice as much of the contaminant (“additional feature”) as there is actual heparin. However, heparin and the contaminant are very near one another in terms of size so they come out very close to one another on the mass spectrograms. The fact that the compound was chemically similar to heparin, and did appear to have blood thinning properties, made it very difficult initially for the FDA to determine what the contaminant was. Obviously, someone along the supply chain figured out a way to make a heparin like substitute which was difficult to differentiate from the real thing.

After much additional work the FDA came to a conclusion about the tainted batches - the “heparin-like contaminant” is a highly sulfated form of chondroitin sulfate, a much less expensive extract of animal cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate is one of the main ingredients in many over-the-counter arthritis relief supplements. It is extracted from the cartilage of animal carcasses. It is chemically similar to heparin except that it lacks the high level of sulfur content. As such, the chondroitin sulfate  extracted from cartilage would have to be chemically modified to make it similar to heparin.

Now that the contaminant has been identified it becomes much simpler to outline a possible scenario for what happened. It is not known if the pig farmers who collected the pig intestines and processed the crude heparin extracts could have known enough to have produced the contaminant. However, it would be a simple matter of reacting the cartilage extract with sulfuric acid in order to increase the sulfur content to that found in heparin. It may be some time before we find out which portion of the supply chain from crude extracts to finished heparin that batches were spiked with highly sulfated chondroitin sulfate, but it is virtually impossible that this could have happened accidentally. To my knowledge there is no possible commercial use for sulfated chondroitin sulfate except that it would have heparin-like properties and be difficult to differentiate from real heparin. That is until it was injected into human patients, many of whom became extremely ill, while some became so ill they died.

The F.D.A. has received over 785 reports of injuries and serious adverse reactions associated with the use of tainted heparin in the US, with at least 19 deaths attributed to the contaminated blood thinner. As reported by the Washington Post, a series of independent assessments, including one by the FDA’s own Science Board, have found that the FDA is increasingly overwhelmed by its responsibilities, and is no longer capable of protecting the public from unsafe drugs and food, particularly those coming from China. There is a growing consensus on Capitol Hill that the FDA needs a rapid infusion of money if it is to protect the US food and drug supplies. Based on recent stories of toxic pet food, lead-filled children’s toys, and toxic pharmaceuticals, that is probably an understatement.

Final note: The US government under George Bush is spending billions of dollars a week to supposedly protect you from terrorism, while at the same time spending far, far less to protect American’s food and drug supplies. Obviously, the government’s priorities are not matched to the realities of our modern, globalized world.

JRM


 

Open Letter to the Washington Post
February 15th, 2008


Dear Editor,

I read with great dismay the opinion piece by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell supporting pending legislation on the administration’s spying program and retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that carried out the domestic spying.

What Mr. McConnell gave us was more of the same vague fear mongering, without any substantiation that spying on Americans without court order was necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. There has never been one shred of evidence that spying on Americans is the way to protect America, nor is there any evidence that spying on Americans will stop future terrorist attacks.

Indeed, the administration had plenty of warning before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but failed to act, undermining the notion that acquiring information invariably leads to proactive deterrence. Intelligence agencies are awash in information from many sources, and can not possibly sort and analyze the data they are currently receiving. Adding to that flood of information with warrantless wiretapping will only exacerbate that problem. Intelligence agencies need better information, not just more of it, and you don’t get that type of good intelligence with blanket wiretapping of US citizens.

Mr. McConnell and the administration have not offered any evidence or rationale as to why they, and the telecom companies, should be above the laws of our nation. Playing the fear card is not a rationale, it is an appeal to emotion. If we are a nation of laws, then there can be no such thing as retroactive immunity for corporations that have potentially broken the law. Without congressional investigations, we would have no idea what we were granting immunity for.

Sincerely,

John R. Moffett Ph.D.
Gaithersburg, MD

JRM


 

The “Let McCain Win” Strategy
February 2nd, 2008

 
In the last couple of weeks, as it became more likely that John McCain would be the Republican nominee, and as Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards were tossed aside by early Democratic primary voters, a bizarre idea kept cropping up in my head. That Americans need to suffer significantly greater hardships before they will finally reject Republican political philosophy.

Listening to John McCain on the stump talking about 50 to 100 more years of war in Iraq, and more wars to come, it got me thinking that maybe a four year dose of McCainian hegemony is exactly what the US electorate needs to snap it out of its apathy and indifference. Just maybe, America will need to suffer a severe Republican tax cut, trickle-down economics-induced recession, and protracted wars across the globe before they will finally have had enough of Republican economics and empire building. Much more death and destruction meted out by the American military-corporate complex.

Maybe, and I have heard it from others, what America needs is four more years of unbridled, psychotic Republican rule and oppression, and just maybe John McCain is the right man for that job. Maybe Democrats who find the two remaining Democratic candidates much less than what they had hoped for in a progressive choice for president, should just sit this one out and let McCain win so that the bad times will continue to roll. Indeed, four years of McCain could be the final nail in the Republican Party's coffin. Like a drunk, or a drug addict, maybe America needs to hit bottom before it can start the process of recovery.

Then, after I regain control of my hypothalamus and limbic system, I find it relatively easy to suppress those urges. Emotional responses are really great when you're getting married or being chased by a lion. They probably don't play out so well when picking a president.

So without wasting any more of your time, I'll just quickly go over some of the rational reasons why almost any Democrat other than Joe Lieberman would be a better choice for President than John McCain or any of the current Republican candidates.

1)      John McCain thinks we can “win” the Iraq war by staying indefinitely

2)      Bolstering the five vote Republican majority in the Supreme Court

3)      American spending priorities will never shift from the military to the US infrastructure with McCain as president

4)      say goodbye to any kind of universal health care coverage

5)      say hello to even more regressive, pro-corporate tax policies

6)      forget about any kind of middle east peace accord

7)      paint a nuclear bunker buster bull's-eye on Iran

There are plenty more reasons, but you get the idea. Just calculating the number of lives saved by getting out of Iraq sooner is more than enough reason to make sure John McCain never becomes president of the United States. The Supreme Court has been handing down some terrible rulings recently, and that will only continue unabated if the court is stacked with more ultraconservatives.

So when that little voice in your head says, “maybe America hasn’t suffered enough at the hands of the Republican party yet”, take out that mental stick and beat your hypothalamus into submission.

JRM


 

Open Letter to My Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Concerning the "Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" HR1955


Monday, January 14, 2008

Dear Congressman Van Hollen,

I am greatly dismayed at your response (given below) to my letter opposing HR 1955, a bill which has nothing to do with protecting America from any real threat. Stopping “domestic terrorism” requires standard law enforcement, and you don’t need to enhance the Bush administration’s citizen spying program any further. Even looking into ways that other countries spy on their citizens is not an acceptable approach. There is virtually no domestic terrorism, so “studying it” is a waste of time and money. That money could be much better spent on biomedical research, if your aim was to save lives.

It is time for the Democrats to forcefully reverse the anti-constitutional actions of the Bush administration, not further them. It is time to subpoena Bush administration officials, and make sure they appear, unlike Harriet Miers and Karl Rove. Congress is supposed to be a coequal branch in protecting and defending the Constitution from enemies, both foreign and domestic. Currently, the gravest domestic threats to our constitution do not come from terrorists, they come from the Bush administration’s disregard for US and International law.

I do not want the government to protect me from terrorists. That is not the government’s function. Your function is to represent your constituents in your legislative actions, and protect and defend the constitution, not help an out of control administration spy on Americans in order to “protect them”.

I hope that after hearing from more exasperated constituents, you will reverse your decision to support HR 1955. Simply bolster standard law enforcement agencies, and let them do their jobs, within the law and constitutional limitations. I am sick and tired of hearing about terrorism. More people die from drunk drivers in a few months than in all US terrorist attacks throughout history.

I am not sure that you understand how vehemently people oppose the Bush administration’s policies, and how that anger is rubbing off on the Democrats for going along with just about every aspect of these disastrous policies.

I am greatly disappointed with the Democrats, and my future political activism will be directed toward much more drastic change in the status quo than many of the current Democrats are offering.

I request a specific reply.

Dr. John R. Moffett


Previous letter from Congressman Van Hollen

Dear John :

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to HR 1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

This bill seeks to provide mechanisms to gather information about domestic terrorism like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It sets up a Congressional Commission and a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States to research causes, motivations, and potential means of domestic terrorism. It also allows the Departments of Homeland Security and State, in cooperation with the Attorney General and other federal entities as appropriate, to look into methods countries like the United Kingdom , Canada , and Australia , have implemented to stop domestic terrorism and, if appropriate and permitted by the Constitution, develop similar solutions in the United States .

The bill is meant to explore motivations and means of domestic terrorism and provide legislative recommendations on how the United States can address it. It does not provide authorization for any action against people or organizations.

The bill also explicitly states, "The Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism as described herein shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents." It requires that the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer of the Department of Homeland Security monitor all actions under the bill to ensure that no constitutional rights are violated and report annually to Congress.

It is important that we understand domestic terrorism, as we must understand international terrorism. Ultimately, the bill gives us the means to learn more about domestic terrorism while protecting our vital constitutional rights .

Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with me, and please do not hesitate to let me know whenever I may be of service.


Sincerely,
Chris Van Hollen
Member of Congress


 

Though the mills of politics grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.
Jan 7th, 2008


For the past five or six years the political winds, or the political pendulum if you will, has begun to swing back from Reagan era conservatism and trickle-down economics towards American populism and Jeffersonian democracy. This shift has not occurred among politicians, or the corporate media talking heads, but at the grassroots level of American politics. We the people.

Perhaps it required an unprecedented, and unconstitutional wake-up call from the likes of Bush and Cheney to alert the American electorate to the dangers posed by a government whose checks and balances have been thwarted by the executive branch. Just maybe, the Bush and Cheney administration’s blatant malfeasance is exactly the tonic that a somnolescent American public needed to stir them to political action.

When you hear politicians talk about change, listen carefully to what they say next, when they try to explain what precisely they mean by change. If that recipe for change does not include a serious challenge to the current corporate mentality that puts profits above people, economy above equality, and corporations above the law, then it may not be the type of change you had in mind.

Political movements don’t happen in a moment, even if heads are lost at the gallows. The Republicans worked slowly over the last 3 decades, step by step, to take the Congress and White House. The Democrats can’t expect to move the political pendulum faster than it can naturally go. Political mills grind slowly, but in the end, they produce the results that the majority dictates. Be part of the progressive political mill, and help the progressive majority grow. Once Democrats have control, then the political mill can begin to work on them to move the agenda to the left.

Political change doesn’t move like a bullet train, it grinds like a mill, seeming at times exceeding slow.

JRM


 

Dear New Hampshire,
Please Draft Al Gore


A small but well organized campaign staffed by volunteers is working hard to draft Al Gore in the New Hampshire Democratic primaries by write-in vote. Al Gore has not decided to run, but the Draft Gore campaign is designed to get enough write-in votes in the NH primary to convince Mr. Gore that there is massive grassroots support for him to run for president 

Let's go over the reasons for drafting Al Gore to run for president. First off, he actually won the 2000 election and had the presidency taken from him by five members of the Supreme Court, several of whom had been appointed by Pappy Bush. Righting this wrong will go a long way toward healing our nation 

Second, no one running on the Democratic side has anywhere near the level of experience in running this country that Al Gore has. If you want someone who is progressive in the White House, someone who cares about our Constitution and who knows what they are doing, you want Al Gore.

Third, if you are concerned about our environment and how it is being degraded on a daily basis, no other Democratic candidate even comes close to a total commitment to the environment as Al Gore.

Fourth, if you are concerned that your civil rights and freedoms have been eliminated one after the other, and this worries you, then you want someone like Al Gore in the White House who will work tirelessly to reverse the Bush administration's domestic agenda.

Fifth, if you think that far too many US tax dollars have been squandered in unnecessary wars overseas, and that that money would be much better spent in the United States on things like education and infrastructure, then you want a progressive like Al Gore in the White House.

Finally, if you think that the United States has shunned diplomacy and foreign relations over the last seven years, and you believe that this makes the United States less safe and less influential, then you want someone with a solid record in diplomacy as president. That would be Al Gore.

If you live in New Hampshire and you think that Al Gore should run for president, you can donate your time to help the draft Gore movement leading up to the New Hampshire primaries on January 8th. If you don't live in New Hampshire you can still help by donating to the cause.

Al Gore's name will not be on the ballots in the upcoming NH primaries, but you can still vote for him by write-in vote. If everyone who is interested chips in time or money, and Al Gore gets more write-in votes than candidates like Biden and Dodd, it could just be enough of an impetus to bring Al Gore into the race.

You can help out here: Draft Al Gore NH

JRM


 

Why Rational Democrats, Progressives, Independents and Leftists Should Unite Now
December, 5th, 2007


I have heard all the arguments about spineless, corporate Democrats in Congress, and I agree completely. They have let us, and the constitution, down. So what is our course of action for the next election? We work to unite the left behind the most progressive candidate possible.

The primary reason for needing to unite and work together now is obvious. The primaries are fast approaching. The candidate that the primaries choose will limit our voting options for 2008 on the Progressive/Liberal side to one. There isn’t going to be a viable Green Party or any other candidate, so you will be forced to vote for the Democrat, or no one. If you want to have any choice at all on who that person on the Progressive side is, you need to do something now, not in November 2008.

Now, while all of us who are not right-wing conservatives still have the opportunity, we need to work together to get the most progressive candidate nominated.

Here is an approximate ranking of the current Democratic candidates from conservative (first) to liberal (last). The order is very fuzzy, of course, because the issues and opinions are very diverse.

Biden > Clinton > Dodd > Richardson > Obama > Edwards > [Gore] > Kucinich

If you count Mike Gravel, he would be the most liberal of the bunch, but he is an even longer shot than Al Gore.

If you think that Ralph Nader or Michael Moore are going to win the presidency, you might as well just give up now. I’m not saying don’t work to build up third parties, I’m saying it is too late to try to field a viable 3rd party candidate for 2008. That is a future project.

For Ron Paul fanatics… Ron Paul is not a liberal or a progressive, he is a right-wing, anti-government conservative. If you’re a progressive who thinks that government is (or is supposed to be) a critical and beneficial part of our society, you don’t want to have anything to do with Ron Paul.

If you want a sure bet, highly-qualified and honest progressive as president, just work your ass off to draft Al Gore and help get him elected. The deadline to get him to commit is fast approaching.

Short of that, work for and vote for your favorite progressive Democratic candidate, keeping in mind that the Joe Lieberman (DLC) wing of the Democratic party is very much like the George Bush (Neocon) wing of the Republican party as regards corporate ties and proclivities.

I think that any of the more progressive Democrats (Richardson > Obama > Edwards > Gore > Kucinich) would make a good, or maybe even a great president. I’m not so sure about the other, more corporate/defense industry friendly Democrats. They would be a lot better than Bush, but then again, that’s setting the bar really, really low.

All of us also need to research, and work to nominate the most progressive candidates in our state and local governments. It is critical that we all do the necessary research on our local candidates online, and in local papers, early in the process, so that we can work to make a difference. Waiting for the general election, and then just checking boxes or pressing buttons isn’t going to get you the government you want. You’ll need to put in some effort now, before your choices are both limited, and undesirable.

JRM


 

“Discoverer” of DNA gets Foot in Mouth Disease

October 19th, 2007


Dr. James Watson of the famous Watson and Crick team credited with the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule is embroiled in controversy after stating in an interview that Blacks were not as intelligent as Whites.

Dr. Watson, now 79 and Chancellor of  the Cold Spring Harbor laboratory in New York, was quoted as saying that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa.” And then continued “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.”

Dr. Watson has had a somewhat controversial career from the beginning. Despite the fact that he and fellow scientist Francis Crick received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work on the structure of nucleic acids, many scientists have noted that Watson and Crick did very little research themselves on the structure of DNA. Rather, they were known for schmoozing Dr. Rosalind Franklin in the early 1950s as she laboriously and carefully collected x-ray diffraction data of crystallized DNA molecules. Watson and Crick used the x-ray data, which gave the overall structure and dimensions of DNA, and then used ball and stick models to work out the precise structure of the DNA molecule. Dr. Rosie Franklin didn't even get a T-shirt that said “I did all the hard work, but they got the Nobel”.

Where Dr. Watson ran into trouble in his recent interview was with the age old canard that equates intelligence and test scores. The funny thing about testing is that it is done with tests. And where do you learn how to take tests? Usually at school. Anyone who is as intelligent as Dr. Watson should know all too well that testing shows how well you take tests, not how intelligent you are.

Overall, when ranking humans by so-called racial groups, Oriental people score highest on standard tests, Jewish people score high but slightly lower than Oriental people, Caucasians score slightly lower still, and Blacks usually score lower than whites on average. Such test results do not indicate that Oriental people are the most intelligent, it indicates that they have been trained better to take tests. It says nothing about inherent underlying intelligence. The rank order on test scores simply shows that different groups of humans receive different amounts of test training in school. If Whites were trained to take tests as thoroughly as Oriental children they would score just as high, and it works that way across all groups.

All that such test scores show is that education is not doled out evenly among the population. It is an indictment of education systems not a measure of innate intelligence.

Dr. Watson should know better than to give himself such a serious case of foot in mouth disease.

JRM


 

Phasers, the World Trade Center, and Discrediting the Left

September 30th, 2007


According to some, the World Trade Center buildings could not have collapsed as fast as they obviously did, and therefore must have been destroyed by directed energy weapons which caused “molecular dissociation” of the building materials.

The latest hero of this movement is Dr. Judy Wood, formerly of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Dr. Wood has a web site on her supposed evidence that the World Trade Center buildings did not collapse, but in fact were destroyed by energy beams.

After reading through the tedious article, which was filled with leaps of ill-logic and lots of photos that showed no evidence of directed energy weapons, or phaser fire, or “molecular dissociation”, I am amazed that people can so easily confuse science fiction with science fact.

I am not going to bother refuting the arguments anymore, that has been done very well by others. I am much more interested in what I feel is a concerted effort to divide, demoralize, and discredit the progressive movement.

For all you conspiracy theorists, this may be a new one that you had not thought of, which is much more plausible than the idea of phasers taking down the World Trade Center buildings.

George Bush and Dick Cheney were in charge during the worst attack against Americans on US soil in US history. They blew it as badly as anyone in charge could have blown it. They ignored all the warnings and did absolutely nothing to protect the country. As Democrats and progressives began scoring points against the administration by pointing out their extreme ineptitude and negligence, Karl Rove comes up with the idea of circulating wild 9/11 conspiracy theories all over the Internet to discredit detractors.

Everyone knows that hired Republican trolls prowl progressive websites and comment sections. It would be very easy for them, posing as liberal commenters, to begin spreading rumors that were outlandish to most people, but intriguing to some. The initial conspiracy theories suggested that pre-planted explosives and cruise missiles were involved in the destruction of the World Trade Center and the damage to the Pentagon. All sorts of details were eventually added, including who had access to the buildings in such a way that the detonation charges could have been planted, who might have actually pressed the button to detonate the charges, etc.

More recently, the conspiracy theories have turned clearly away from doubtful yet plausible explanations such as controlled demolition to the idea that top-secret military molecular dissociation energy beams were used to deliberately destroy the buildings. In case you hadn't noticed, this is precisely what phasers from Star Trek were supposed to do.

I am sure that many conspiracy theorists are well intentioned progressives, and are also very sincere, yet I have a very strong feeling that some small proportion of the 9/11 conspiracy movement includes planted conservative trolls. That's my conspiracy theory. And it's just a theory, not a fact. Their purpose would be to discredit all 9/11 conspiracy theories as outlandish. It also helps confuse the issue, and tarnish the left-wing progressive movement in general because the movement is composed of people who can not even agree on simple basic facts such as the fact that there are no such things as phasers.

If George Bush and Dick Cheney had taken the presidential daily brief’s warnings seriously throughout August 2001, and had implemented tighter security measures at airports, the disasters of September 11, 2001 could have easily been avoided. I believe that the conspiracy theory they wanted to distract everyone's attention away from is the one that seems most plausible. The administration was looking for a so-called “Pearl Harbor-like event” to galvanize the country behind a war against Iraq. The news that an attempted terrorist attack against the United States was imminent, maybe a small bomb on a Subway train for instance, might have actually been considered good news to Bush and Company.

Then came a Pearl Harbor-like event beyond their wildest imagination.

Think of the expression on George Bush's face as he sat reading My Pet Goat to a gradeschool class, and then was told about the second plane striking the World Trade Center. His expression was completely consistent with them expecting a small, ineffective attack, and just like everything else he has ever done, getting it completely wrong.

This is still the only 9/11 conspiracy theory I have heard that makes any sense whatsoever, and it is the one I believe they are trying to distract everyone from with the outlandish ideas being offered by people like Dr. Wood. Whether Dr. Wood believes these things, or has other motives, I can not say, but this type of conspiracy theory divides progressives, and tarnishes them all with an unfairly broad brush.

“Fire the phasers Dick!”,

“No Mr. President, the honor is yours”...

JRM


 

It's Sunday Morning, Do You Know Where Your Nukes Are?

September 23rd, 2007


My colleagues and I went to the NIH the other day to meet with a doctor who is interested in trying an experimental treatment for a fatal genetic disorder. Our lab has been developing the treatment for several years. The meeting was to coordinate efforts to get rapid FDA approval for testing the treatment on one afflicted baby, who will die without treatment. What does this story have to do with nukes? Bear with me.

When we arrived at the entrance gate to the NIH we had to stop our car at a checkpoint populated with many armed guards and had to show our IDs, which indicated that we were from the military university across the street from the NIH. We were nonetheless ordered out of the car, and asked the deposit the contents of our pockets into trays before being herded through not one but two separate metal detector devices. The car was then searched as we waited. We were allowed to collect our belongings and given temporary NIH IDs, and then got back in the car and proceeded slowly down the road into the NIH campus.

We were stopped again a short while later and had to show the temporary NIH tags that we were just given. Preceding again into the NIH campus we got to the building where the meeting was to take place. We were stopped again and this time the steering wheel of the car was swabbed and the trunk of the car searched again. Finally, we were allowed to park the car and go to the meeting.

My point in bringing all of this up is that security at government and military facilities in the United States is at an absurdly high level. Far higher than necessary considering that the NIH is basically like a university campus, not a military nuclear storage facility.

And yet an article in the Washington Post today which details how six nuclear tipped cruise missiles were “accidentally” flown from Minot air base in North Dakota to Barksdale base in Louisiana chalks the whole incident up to lax security procedures… at a nuclear storage facility.

The official story so far goes like this. Minot air base stores nukes with non nukes in the same igloo bunkers. The type of cruise missiles that were being retrieved from the bunker were AGM-129s, which can only take two types of warhead; nuclear, or dummy nuclear. The nuke warheads are color coded red, and the dummies color coded silver. Silver good… red bad.

The munitions custodian officer who was in charge of retrieving the missile pods from the bunker reportedly “did not notice” that 6 of the missiles had red warheads, and proceeded to move them to the tarmac for loading onto the wings of an aging B52H bomber. After loading 6 nukes on one wing, and 6 dummies on the other wing, a flight officer reportedly only bothered to check the wing that contained the dummy warheads, and then without looking at the other group of missiles, cleared the plane for takeoff.

Separated from the rest of the world only by a chain link fence, the plane sat on the tarmac for 15 hours unguarded, with the unguarded missiles having the equivalent nuclear destructive power of  60 Hiroshima bombs. The next day, the nukes were flown to Louisiana in a plane that was not rated for transportation of nuclear weapons, creating what nuke experts call a “bent spear” incident, meaning an unauthorized movement of weapons outside the chain of nuclear command.

After landing at Barksdale air base, the plane and nukes sat unattended again for 9 hours before the nukes were “noticed” by one airman who was involved in removing them from the wings.  All in all, the nukes were out of authorized command and control for over a day.

The official story of confusion and negligence is very disturbing. If true, it indicates that our nuclear weapons supply is very poorly guarded, at a time when military security is supposedly at an all time high due to be so-called “war on terror”. The other possibility, that munitions officers and flight crews were ordered to move the missiles secretly, listed as AGM 129 cruise missiles with dummy warheads, is even more disturbing. Either way, something is very wrong here.

So, what does this all have to do with our meeting at the NIH? Security at the NIH was extremely high, and even though we had ID cards from a neighboring military university, the guards went through all the motions. Considering that nuclear weapons were involved at Minot, it is hard to understand how security there could have been so much more lax. The question remaining in my mind is, was it simply lax nuke security, which is terrifying, or was it ordered from higher up, which is even more terrifying? I wonder if we will ever have an answer.

Oh, and by the way. The FDA refused our request to try to save the baby with the fatal genetic disease.

JRM


 

Plan A

September 19th, 2007


From the beginning, George Bush and friends have insisted that there was only one plan for Iraq… Plan A.

Nobody, not even Condi Rice, wanted to speculate about any Plan B.

So let’s go over plan A.

First, invade a beaten, sanction-starved and bombed-out country that happens to be sitting on the third largest oil reserve in the world, and then grab the oil fields, while letting everything else descend into chaos.

“Stuff happens” says Don Rumsfeld.

Then disband the Iraqi army and the police force, who might have been able to keep law and order in the chaotic situation, and then institute CPA order #17 which states that US military personnel and contractors can not be prosecuted under Iraqi law for crimes they commit.

Then, turn the previous leader over to a gang of thugs who hang him, and then start a multi-year occupation of the country, using strong-arm tactics on the population, and causing untold “collateral damage”. As things get worse, continue to occupy the country without end, killing tens of thousands of Iraqis, many being innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.

Then maintain the conditions for mass sectarian killings, low grade civil war, mass refugee movements, and further chaos everywhere. Let the local militias do whatever they want in their areas of influence.

Then tell the American public on the TV that a continued heavy-handed military occupation of Iraq is essential to quell the same violence caused by the invasion and draconian occupation of Iraq. Tell the American people with a straight face that leaving Iraq will result in the very same problems that invading Iraq caused.

Turn an oil-rich country into cauldron of death so that you have an excuse to stay there forever with your military. Cause all the death and destruction, and then warn that the obvious solution - ending the military occupation - will make the chaos you caused worse. This is akin to stepping on a hornets nest, but then refusing to back away from the swarm of stinging hornets because moving away will make the hornets angrier… “they might follow you home”.

Once you have made a total mess of Iraq, and allowed sectarian killing and mass displacement to go unchecked for years, then you could threaten to repeat the entire process in Iran to ensure you have an endless excuse to keep your military in the region… right near the oil.

So when someone asks you, “why would they consider something so crazy as bombing Iran?” You can reply “Plan A friend, Plan A”.

JRM


 

Paranoia Are Us
September 5th, 2007


I have always wondered why so many Americans seem so completely disconnected from the political process, despite the fact that what politicians do can drastically affect their everyday lives. Laws that are passed determine your country’s direction, the wars we fight, your taxes, your freedoms and your family’s benefits as members of our society.

At some level, this disconnection from the political process is not unlike children ignoring their siblings, hoping they will go away and let them play the videogame. But your siblings dramatically affect your life as you grow up, and politicians dramatically affect your life, and your family’s wellbeing, every single day.

I have inquired among friends, both those vocal about politics, and those quiet on the subject, and rarely do I get any meaningful answers as to why they do not contact their congressperson or Senators about what is going on in our country right now. However, yesterday a good friend who is often vocal about politics, but who never contacts their representatives, admitted that he never contacts representatives or write newspapers because he did not want to be on some list with the FBI or NSA.

This got me to thinking in more detail about the age-old question of the government utilizing fear and paranoia to silence any opposition among the citizenry. Clearly, many Americans now fear their government sufficiently to remain silent.

Thinking back to pre-Kristallnacht Germany and the silence of the many, this is an ominous sign.

I do not know what can be done to rouse the courage of citizens, who rightly fear their government now, to make their voices heard by their representatives.

I do know that widespread fear-induced complacency is a sign of a serious societal malady.

There are reasons for silent Americans to take heart, and to finally speak out. First, there is safety in numbers. There are too many strong voices at play in America now, on the Internet, on the radio with hosts like Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann, and with journalists like Keith Olbermann, even on TV. It isn't possible at this point for the fear mongers to put the genie back in the bottle.

Also, the fear mongers are losing control. Their fear tonic is slowly losing its potency as they cry wolf far too often, and then point their fingers at sheep and cry wolf again.

Finally, the fear mongers organizational structure is breaking down. Between the pending court cases, congressional investigations, resignations right and further right, and in-fighting among the fear mongers as to how to maintain control, their ability to play the fear card is diminished further with every passing day.

There are many other reasons why Americans are disconnected from politics and their government, from pure apathy, to ignorance to just being too damn busy. But a significant proportion of silent Americans are afraid of their government, and don’t want don’t want to be put on “a list”.

If you have thought that your voice is not important, and that the politicians don't care, and if you have worried that writing Congress will put you on a list that you do not want to be on, but you nonetheless still have hope that America can be turned around, then do the right thing and tell your congressional representatives how you feel. Write them, call them, stop by their office, whatever you feel you can do.

As I have said before, the silent wheel gets the shaft. Don’t be a silent partner to some possible future American Kristallnacht. Become a squeaky wheel and help take your country back from the fear mongers.

JRM


 

Hey GI Joe, What You Doing With That Gun in Your Hand?
August 16th, 2007


Bush, Cheney and Rove say that the army supports the war in Iraq, and that our soldiers are getting all they need. But one statistic you won’t hear out of George Bush, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove’s mouth is that the active duty soldier suicide rate has reached a 26 year high.

Other statistics they won’t want you to know include that 20 % of our soldiers have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, and that more than 1 in 3 returning soldiers have sought mental health treatment.

These findings, while possibly shocking to George A’W’OL Bush, will not be surprising to psychiatrists or mental health professionals, who understand that long term military occupations in the midst of insurgencies inevitably cause extreme stress, depression, and even suicide among the over-extended troops.

The Bush administration continues to declare that they have strong support for the Iraq war among our troops overseas, but the statistics tell another story. Suicide and PTSD rates don’t reach multi-decade highs when the troops are doing well, and when they support the government’s policies. They reach such highs when troops are demoralized, and see no end in sight - no hope on the horizon.

The two most obvious solutions to the problem are 1) Bring the troops home now, and 2) triple funding for the Veterans administration, and hire on many more health care professionals.

These things will not happen until George Bush is either impeached, or if the troops are very unfortunate indeed, in early 2009 after Bush is put out to pasture in Crawford. How he will then live with his conscience, if he has one, is another matter altogether.

JRM


 

Ronald Reagan said “Government IS the problem”
August 4th, 2007


Twenty five years later, I’ll turn it around for the sake of historical symmetry.

American business IS the problem.

Right wing think tanks, corporate leaders, media moguls and rich Republicans in the government have long been working together to grease the wheels of industry, but before they can fully realize that goal, they first need to finish the job of demonizing, hobbling, de-funding, disparaging and finally using the very power of the government to eliminate government functions, oversight and prosecutions.

They have nearly accomplished what they set out to do. From the Justice Department to the courts, and FEMA, FDA, and all other agencies, the US Government is dying.

Government records indicate that perhaps as many as 80,000 bridges in America are rated structurally marginal or poor. The electrical, phone, water, sewage, highway, port, railway, airport, education and even industrial infrastructures of this country are aging, and in many cases could be considered marginal, or poor. That includes not just decrepit bridges you may drive on every day, but also deteriorating nuclear power plants, octogenarian skyscrapers in earthquake zones, suspect water treatment systems, the pothole-ridden roads you drive on, the sub-standard levees in places like New Orleans, and the laughing stock power grid that fails everywhere on a regular basis.

The bridge collapse in Minneapolis is already being used by corporate America to push for privatization of the highway system. Just imagine toll roads everywhere, roads that will become even more decrepit over time in order to ensure maximal profits. Corporate reps ask defiantly, “why shouldn’t somebody make money on it?”

The government is always sluggish to do what is right, and what is necessary, but eventually, critical things often eventually get done, even though they may be a more than “a dollar long and a day late”. But ever since half of the American electorate, with the help of the Supreme Court, put government-hating businessmen in charge of everything for the last six years, the national infrastructure, public health, education and even our troops have been far more neglected than usual.

This neglect is not negligent, it is planned. Corporatists have endeavored for years to make everyone hate all politicians, hate the government and hate everything associated with them. As you can tell, the plan is working.

The complete and permanent marriage of government and corporations in America is not an inevitable fate. Government in America can be what the people make of it… if they work hard enough. It took blood during the Revolutionary war, and the reign of the Pinkertons in the Gilded Age, but it will only take organization and perseverance now if the people can unite against the Corporateocracy.

The uniting part is hard. Very hard.

Currently, business IS the problem. Until we return to the ancient and now quaint Aristotelian idea that the purpose of business craft is to excel at what they do, to serve their customers, make a fair profit, and to be a productive part of the community, we will be the victims of a perverted system that puts quarterly profits and shareholders above everything else, including the quality of life, and indeed, above life itself.

What can be done?

I suggest that progressive organizations coordinate rolling “buy boycotts” for various goods and services targeted at the large corporations that are part of the problem. This would focus initially on corporate media, and their advertisers. It would have to include letter writing and phone call campaigns to make our intentions unmistakable. It could move to energy companies and other sectors that have a stranglehold on our government, media and society.

This would only work if progressives were willing to do the hard work necessary. If  most progressives are too busy, and would rather not be bothered, then there is no chance that this could work. It would be both difficult, and time-consuming. But if you want to do something, I suggest that you pick your favorite progressive organization, join it, and work to coordinate with other organizations, local and nationwide, to plan and execute consecutive and effective boycotts. If this became a national news story due to the persuasive effects on businesses, it could help shift the debate and the political center of gravity to the left, and away from impending corporatocracy.

As I’ve said before, money doesn’t talk, it screams bloody murder. We’ve got to use our collective buying power as consumers to scream bloody murder. If you’re mad as hell, and don’t want to take it anymore, there is no better way to express it than what you do with your money. And besides, money is the only thing that the corporatocracy cares about.

JRM


 

Misplaced Republican Spending Priorities Part II
August 2nd, 2007


As I was getting ready to write about how the Republicans have let the country’s infrastructure collapse, just like the 8-lane Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed yesterday at rush hour, I saw Stephen Crocket’s article on misplaced Republican spending. This got me all riled up about wasted lives and wasted money again.

It is difficult to pick apart the US budget in an itemized fashion, but it is undeniable that the US is spending a massive amount of taxpayers money on the military and secret programs… money that many Americans would most likely prefer to be spent other ways. Estimates of how much the US spends per year on the military, “homeland” security, intelligence agencies and secret projects (like the terrorist surveillance program) can not be accurate, because these figures are not fully public. But the number is between $700 billion and a trillion dollars (1000 billion dollars) per year.

Compare this with somewhere around $28 or so billion for The national Institutes of Health. That means that we spend about 30 times as much money on our military industrial complex as we do on biomedical research into potentially curable diseases.

As General Norman Schwarzkopf once said… if hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a foreign attack, we would mobilize the entire country to fight back. He then said that is exactly what happens every year when hundreds of thousands of people die unnecessarily every year from potentially curable diseases. But instead of putting more money into research, we put it into the military industrial complex.

Dollar for dollar, spending money on NIH saves many more lives than military spending, which actually takes lives, rather than saving them. There is no threat to the US now that is going to take even as many lives as are lost from a single type of cancer, let’s say breast cancer (about 40,000 per year).

Many Americans still have a love affair with the military, as though it were something romantic and majestic, rather than something destructive and harmful, even to the soldiers who serve. Biomedical research just doesn’t have that ability to capture people’s imaginations. But it is one of the most important things we can do with our tax dollars.

The horrific collapse of the Interstate Highway bridge in Minneapolis yesterday highlights the other major victim of our perverse military spending. The infrastructure of the country is crumbling, but we are trying to rebuild Iraq, rather than rebuilding America. The steam pipe explosion in Manhattan, the power blackouts, the repetitive explosions and fires at oil refineries all are symptoms of an aging infrastructure that needs immediate attention.

But as long as we occupy Iraq, we will be spending money that we don’t even have, money that we must borrow from foreign banks and will have to repay with interest, to keep the oil fields of Iraq in US hands. That money should be spent here in the US, on biomedical research, infrastructure, education and to meet other critical needs right here at home. By the way, we spend about 10 times as much to finance the debt every year as we spend on NIH research, just to put the debt in perspective.

To be honest, you shouldn’t write congress about this right now. Right now we need to push for investigations and impeachments, and to get out of Iraq immediately, so unfortunately, these other critical issues need to go on the back burner for now. Just keep in mind that your family members will most likely die prematurely from a potentially curable disease like cancer or heart disease, not from a terrorist attack.

JRM


 

The Third Pearl Harbor
July 31st, 2007


Speaking of the September 11th 2001 attacks Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of  Nebraska said, “This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don't think that I overstate it,".

The Bush administration and it’s supporters wanted Americans to be afraid, cooperative and compliant. That is still what they want.

There has been quite of bit of discussion lately about Bush and Cheney declaring martial law and canceling the 2008 election. I personally don’t think they could pull it off, but the bits and pieces of information that have come out certainly makes the suggestion seem to have some merit. Many of these have been outlined is a recent article by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis.

Some of the evidence that points toward a non-electoral power grab:

1) Under “Unitary Executive theory”, Bush has issued many signing statements that preclude him and his administration from being bound by legislation passed by Congress.

2) One particularly worrisome directive is National Security Presidential Directive 51, which states in part: "Enduring Constitutional Government," or "ECG," means a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, coordinated by the President… to execute constitutional responsibilities and provide for orderly succession, appropriate transition of leadership, and interoperability and support of the National Essential Functions during a catastrophic emergency”.  

This clearly states that the President can declare an emergency, and then do what he deems necessary to “…provide for orderly succession, [and] appropriate transition of leadership…”  That pertains directly to succession of power… for example, during elections.

3) The awarding of a $385 million contract over five years to Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of defense contractor Halliburton, to build internment camps in the US to deal with a possible future “immigration emergency”, or in the case of a “national emergency” could be used to house “relief workers”. 

4) The domestic spying program which bypasses the FISA court could most certainly be used to follow the activities of citizens who would try to organize to stop any Bush power grab.

5) The ability to declare almost anyone an “enemy combatant” which then precludes them from exercising their habeus corpus rights is also troubling in this regard.

There are many other facts that are also troubling, but there is one thing that is critical, which is missing from the proposed scenarios.

The Third “Pearl Harbor Type Event”.

I don’t see increased illegal immigration, or progressive’s protesting in the streets, or any of the normal things that happen in the country every day would provide the cover they would need to pull off a non-electoral power grab. That leaves another large terrorist attack, or other national emergency, to present itself at just the right time. Bush can’t count on bin Laden for this one.

Since Bush and FEMA apparently don’t consider a category 4 hurricane destroying a major US city as a national emergency, I think we can safely say it would have to be a massive “terrorist attack”, in order to be elevated to an election-canceling event.

Al Qaeda has no current incentive to attack the US, because it would give Bush more power and prestige. So if Bush and Cheney can’t count on terrorists to give them the excuse they need, they will have to come up with an excuse of their own.

I personally am not much of a conspiracy theorist. However, if you are then you need to round out this coup plot to make it believable and workable. You also need all the pieces of the puzzle in place if you are going to try and thwart the plan. As such, you will need to try to determine based on their actions and public statements what type of third Pearl Harbor event they might be planning.

Many possibilities come to my mind that could scare everybody to death without causing loss of life, including for example an explosion at an aging nuclear power plant. If done properly, the reactor could be shut down safely without loss of significant radiation, but if the incident were blamed on terrorists it would still provide the requisite emergency and public panic.

Any plausible theory that involves the implementation of presidential executive order 51 and the use of internment camps to deal with the rabble requires the so-called third Pearl Harbor type event. If such an event occurs in the next 15 months, I may be forced to join the ranks of the conspiracy theorists.

JRM


 

Want to Fight Back Against the Right Wing Noise Machine?
July 28th, 2007


Last week O’Reilly made a pitiful attempt to undercut funding for the Yearly KOS meeting by trying to get Jet Blue to pull support. O’Reilly said that the Daily KOS was a “hate site”. His miniscule attempt pretty much fizzled, but O’Reilly nonetheless claimed total victory because Jet Blue asked for their logo to be removed from the list of sponsors.

The Daily KOS and other progressive web sites are turning the tables on Bill O’Reilly and asking their readers to flood his advertisers with complaints about the hateful nature of his broadcasts.

Two of the advertisers for O’Reilly’s show are Lowes and Home Depot. Lowes appears to have received enough calls to pull ads from O’Reilly’s show (they may have actually pulled them back in January), and now the focus may be turning to Home Depot.

If you are tired of writing your representatives in Congress and getting form letters in return, now is your chance to do something that will have a real effect. Nothing sends conservatives running for the hills like a threat to their revenue streams. Money screams, so let your money do the work for you by shopping elsewhere, and by telling Home Depot that you are doing so because they advertise on a “hate show” called the O’Reilly Factor, which airs on “Fox News”.

O’Reilly is going to go crazy if that all-powerful “hate site”, the Daily KOS, with our help and the help of other progressive sites, can actually convince more advertisers to pull support for his lying blather.

Home Depot Contact Number:

Call 1-800-430-3376 to speak directly with a Customer Care specialist about your comment or complaint, or email the here.

JRM


 

Dear Progressives: Organize or Squabble, Which Is It?
July 26th, 2007


There is an enormous chasm forming among liberals, progressives, and leftists, and the reason why is obvious.

A quick perusal of the comments sections on many recent articles at OpEd News demonstrates that traditional Democrats and more progressive or liberal leaning activists are no longer in agreement about the way forward for the United States. The primary reason for the lack of coherence in the movement to undo what Bush Co. have done can be laid squarely at the feet of the Democrats in Congress. They're hesitance to move forward with articles of impeachment have infuriated the left.

This obvious fact has apparently still not sunken in with the myopic congressional Democrats. They think that Bush Co. will destroy itself without any help from them. Yet history shows that the electorate rewards strong words followed by strong actions, and rejects weakness and capitulation when important principles are at stake.

There is also a history lesson that progressive activists should consider taking home as well. That lesson is that the Republican Party got where it did by holding together a tenuous coalition of completely disparate political groups including evangelicals, libertarians, corporate CEOs, and redneck Joe six-packs. These people not only have nothing in common, they would probably kill each other if locked in the same room for several hours.

I still feel that Democrats and progressives/liberals/leftists have far more in common than the Republican Party's factions do. What they don't have is organization. Instead we have many disorganized political and issue groups.

The Republican Party has never been in more disarray in my lifetime. This is the best opportunity that liberals and progressives have had in recent memory to crush the corporate controlled power structure that the Republicans have built up since the 1980s. But it is not going to happen if Democrats, liberals, progressives, and leftists spend as much time as they have been squabbling with each other rather than organizing and moving forward.

I am astounded at how much disarray the left is displaying now. If we can’t rally at times of such threat to our democracy, and instead argue back and forth about how we need a third party, then we will never take back the country. The Republicans didn’t take control by squabbling, they took control by organizing.

If you really are interested in taking the country back from the corporate puppet masters, then I urge that we start organizing far better than we have to date. If liberals and progressives organize well enough and early enough in the election process, they can shift the debate, and even make a huge difference as to which candidate we nominate to run for president. Don't like Hillary Clinton? Then organize to help Dennis Kucinich get the nomination. I’m with you. Don’t like corporate-loving Democrats? Then work to nominate someone who does not have such strong corporate ties. Think a third party candidate can win? Then you’d better start organizing right now, rather than arguing.

What I would like to see in response to this post is a series of suggestions for improving organization, and a list of candidates and issues that we can support. If a majority of responses are about how Democrats have failed us, with no suggestions for actually fixing the situation offered, then I’m afraid that we are doomed to more of the same.

JRM


 

When Comity Turns to Tragic Comedy
July 23rd, 2007


The Democrats in Congress have a lower approval rating than George Bush despite the fact that the Democrats have not broken any laws, tortured any prisoners, or stripped away the rights of any citizens. The reason is not too surprising - the Democrats were elected by a majority of Americans to investigate the reasons for going to war, and to begin undoing the mess that Bush and Cheney have put us in. But so far, the Democrats in Congress have resisted doing the hard things that are necessary to hold the administration accountable for their malfeasance.

What are the major reasons for the Democrats reticence?

The first is money. The Democrats are just as dependent on donations from large corporations whose lobbyists are swarming Washington like locust in a wheat field. Many of these corporations are defense manufacturers and contractors, and they are not about to let Democrats spoil their military contract gravy train. Even liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy are putting multi-million dollar earmarks into bills to keep the money flowing to their donors. If the Democrats push an anti-war agenda too hard, they will lose all monetary support from the defense industry.

But that doesn’t explain the lack of investigations aimed at possible impeachment charges against Cheney and Bush. Theoretically, they could pursue impeachment while still funding the military, thus not jeopardizing their friendly connections to the military industrial complex.

I believe that the primary reasons for the lack of impeachment proceedings are a combination of concern about being perceived as too partisan (Hatfield/McCoy syndrome), and the fact that Democrats are still caught in the archaic Congressional mental trap known as “comity”. Comity is the notion, long ago abandoned by Republicans, that doing the people’s business was a cooperative effort requiring civility, and respect for other’s points of view. Indeed, the Republicans long ago abandoned all comity, and all decency in their interactions with Democrats in Congress, so it is a tad quaint that the Democrats are still locked in a 1950’s mindset where they think the Republicans will play fair, and respect the Democrat’s input. They don’t, and they won’t.

Democrats need to wake up, and realize that the Republicans will always play hard ball, and will do anything to pass their preferred legislation, while blocking the Democrats efforts by any means at their disposal. If Democrats intimate they might filibuster a terrible, partisan Supreme Court nominee, the Republicans bring up the “nuclear option” of eliminating all filibusters permanently. As soon as the Democrats suggest they might set a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the Republicans immediately rush to filibuster. No shame, no honesty, no decency, and certainly no comity.

At this point the Democrat’s comity is becoming more like a tragic comedy than bipartisanship. Call your congressperson immediately and urge them to support HR 333, which is Dennis Kucinich’s bill to begin impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney. Representative John Conyers has said if he gets three more co-signatures on HR 333 he will bring it before the House. It does not guarantee it will go forward or that it will get enough votes, but it needs to be done as soon as possible. While you're at it, urge your congressperson to invoke “inherent contempt” charges against Harriet Miers and bring her before the Congress to testify.

It's high time that the Democrats stop slathering comity all over the Republicans when they only get black eyes in return. Comity Schmomity… it's time for a bare knuckles fight.

JRM



 

Why Liberals are More Dangerous than Terrorists
July 17th, 2007


Think about it. Terrorists are an absolute necessity for furthering the Bush regime’s plans. Without terrorists, they could not justify Afghanistan, Iraq, torture, illegal spying on US citizens, stripping away habeus corpus rights, Guantanamo, outing Valerie Plame, or any of the other debacles they have foisted upon America and the world.

There is only one thing standing it their way, preventing them from doing whatever they think will bring them more power and wealth.

Liberals.

In the absence of a functioning media to inform the public, liberals and progressives are the only thing standing in the way of a complete power grab by the neo-cons. This makes them far more dangerous than terrorists.

Indeed, the terrorists are a necessary part of their plans, so terrorists must not be brought to justice (think Osama Bin Forgotten).

Further, liberals threaten to bring back fiscal responsibility, including higher taxes on the wealthy, which is akin to a “war on wealth”, according to Kudlow the Crackpot on CNBC.

Liberals threaten their plans to dismantle government, deregulate business, wage endless and highly profitable wars, and control the strings of power in perpetuity. Terrorists aren’t a threat, they are a critical tool… a prop… a crutch.

Liberals, on the other hand, are the most dangerous thing in the world.

JRM


 

Welcome to the New Gilded Age
July 15th, 2007


The New York Times has a must-read article on its front page today for all of you working folk who have been patiently waiting for manna from heaven. The article describes how we have entered a new Gilded Age where government becomes irrelevant, and the philanthropy of the super-rich will take care of the teeming masses. Indeed, the Times states that the super-rich are proud of the role they are playing in the new Gilded Age, creating vast wealth which they can someday trickle down upon the rest of us.

And who, in its inestimable wisdom, has the Times credited with helping usher in the new Gilded Age? Was it that old stalwart of conservatism, Ronald Reagan? No, in fact they credit Bill Clinton, the president who never missed a chance to deregulate big business, as a principal architect of the new gilded age. Mr. Clinton was the president who revoked  the 2nd “Glass-Steagall Act” in 1999, legislation which was enacted in 1933 after the great depression. This legislation prohibited banks from being involved in both commercial and investment banking, and set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Company to insure customer deposits.

Elimination of this prohibition, along with a relaxation of anti-trust scrutiny, permitted American banks to merge and move into multiple sectors without regulation. This repeal is credited, in part, for letting the good times roll. The Times notes that not all economists are on-board with the repeal, and the deregulation. Arthur Levitt Jr., a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has publicly lamented the end of Glass-Steagall. Mr. Levitt was quoted as saying, “I view a gilded age as an age in which warning flags are flying and are seen by very few people,” referring to the potential for a Wall Street firm to fail or markets to crash in a world of too much deregulation. “I think this is a time of great prosperity and a time of great danger.”

Talk about raining on the parade! Mr. Levitt obviously needs to get with the program. Corporate CEOs are now worth hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars, and they swear they are not going to take it with them. Honest. They are all going to become philanthropists and give it back to the little people who toiled under them for so long. Considering that many of these guys are already in their 40s or 50s, and some even in their 60s, we only have a few more decades to wait before all the trickling down begins.

In the meantime, we can revel in their continuing generosity as they, for example, refurbish Carnegie Hall. It was getting so run down after all. There is nothing worse than going to the opera in a rundown theater!

Note to teeming masses: get out the popcorn and plop down in front of the tube. It won't be long now before the new Gilded Age culminates, and then rains riches down upon your head, like manna from heaven. Oh lucky you.

JRM


 

Bake Sale Military
July 11th, 2007


When Donald Rumsfeld set about to “modernize” and reduce the size of the US military, he was actually working to more fully privatize and monetize the US military. As taxpayers, what we get is less bang for the buck, literally.

The direct costs of the Iraq war are well over 442 billion dollars to date, and this figure does not include veterans care or benefits, lifetime medical costs for seriously inured and maimed troops, mental health care, re-equipping the military and repairing damaged equipment, the construction and maintenance of massive, permanent military complexes all over Iraq, and unaccountable future “blowback costs” associated with increased anti-US violence and terrorism. It also does not include hidden costs (black ops, covert initiatives, bribes to foreign officials, etc.), of which we know little or nothing other than they are certainly adding significantly to the overall costs of the occupation of Iraq.

Despite these huge costs, our military remains under-equipped, under-trained and over-extended. How could this be the case with the United States military - the largest, most far-reaching and expensive military system ever assembled in the history of the world? How is it that military families have to organize local bake sales to raise enough money to get flack-jackets, helmet liners and even air conditioners to their sons and daughters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? How could it be that our military personnel have to rummage through dumps to find additional armor to bolt to their humvees?

This is the another in a long line of neo-con con-jobs on the American people. The US spends more taxpayer dollars on the military than all other nations combined, but where does all that money go? Powerful people are getting very rich on the war and occupation at both the troop’s, and taxpayer’s expense.

The Rove Chicken-Hawk Military Formula: Declare that “Democrats want to cut and run”, then say “the President supports the troops”, and then cut veterans benefits and leave the troops in harm’s way without an occupation strategy or an exit strategy. Don’t forget to save money by under-equipping the troops so you can hire a hundred and thirty thousand expensive contractors to do military jobs. Halliburton’s profits are through the roof. The military industrial complex is loving this war.

The neo-cons will keep attacking the Democrats for “not supporting the troops” if they try to cut off the Halliburton gravy train, while all the time stifling military concerns about over-deployments, under-equipment, and the unaccountability of military contractors who are creating enemies in Iraq much faster than we can deal with them.

The fact of the matter is that Iraq is the most “for-profit” war that the US has ever engaged in, and it was accomplished with the foreknowledge and direct complicity of the members of the Cheney secret energy task force (the oil companies, and major military suppliers). However, the Iraqi government, as weak and compliant as they are, have so far refused to pass the oil-sharing legislation handed to them by Cheney. This puts a bit of a monkey wrench into Cheney’s plans for unfettered access to, and enormous profits from Iraqi oil. But nonetheless, the profits continue to pour into Halliburton, and all the other military contractors.

So the reason that our troops are under-equipped and over-deployed is simple.

Profits.

When you shift the US military from a government run operation into a private, for-profit organization, you will end up short-changing the troops in order to boost the bottom line. It’s the same logic as when you privatize schools, FEMA, health care, or any other critical government function. The profit motive bleeds the system until it no longer functions properly, while costs skyrocket. Profits soar as functionality and accountability decline.

If we are going to use corporate metaphors to frame the issue, then We the People constitute millions of board members and investors for our government. We pay the taxes that make the system run, and we decide who the next chairman of the board is.

It is high time that We the Board Members of the United States government push to fire the CEO, and his CFO, Dick Cheney, and take the country back from the huge multinational corporations. It is time to stop spending our national treasure on foreign wars, and instead use it to rebuild our schools and the national infrastructure. We need to keep constant pressure on the Congress to end the Iraq war, and to de-privatize our military. We need to de-privatize the entire government. In a nutshell, we need to rapidly undo the neo-con con-job of monetizing our government for the benefit of a small handful of corporate executives. It is time to end the Bush/Cheney corporatocracy. Maybe then, military family bake sales will become a thing of the past.

JRM


 

Darwin Strikes Back
(Of Molecules and Men)
June 30th, 2007


Proponents of Intelligent Design have used the notion of irreducible complexity to bludgeon evolution theory by insisting that complex biological structures ranging from the human eye to the bacterial flagellum could not have evolved in stages because none of the intermediate versions would have functioned properly. They have never offered evidence for this notion of irreducible biological complexity, they simply declare it by fiat as an inescapable logical conclusion. Unfortunately for Intelligent Design, scientists are striking back and providing detailed evidence about the evolution of complex biological structures.

Intelligent design advocates chose poorly when they selected the compound eye of vertebrates as one example of a complex biological structure that could not have evolved in stages. Even first-year biology students know about eye spots in planarians which are simple pigment patches at the front of the worm that are connected to their simple nervous system. They can only sense light versus dark, but that is enough for them to get by as planarians. There are many intermediate forms of eyes in the animal kingdom ranging from simple pits in the skin lined with receptor cells, all the way up to the compound eyes of animals with their cornea and lens arrangement. Fossils of trilobites that are over 500 million years old show they possessed eyes very similar to those of modern day insects. Our complex eyes clearly evolved from the simpler eyes in ancestral species, and the presence of the critical light-receptive pigment called “opsin” in all animals highlights this shared ancestry. The same molecule is used to sense light in worms, jellyfish, eagles and humans.

But what about the evolution of complex molecular structures, such as Intelligent Design’s perennial favorite, the bacterial flagellum? For details on how the flagellum most likely evolved stepwise from a bacterial secretory system, see this excellent article.

Scientists are increasingly using genetics and molecular biology to dissect probable evolutionary steps in the formation of various molecular devices in animals, and one such recent study by Ken Kosik and colleagues has looked at cellular junctions in certain species of sponges.

Yes, sponges really are primitive animals, not just absorbent kitchen cleaning items. Sponges are among the simplest of multicellular animals, and they lack internal organs, including a nervous system. However, the mobile larval form of a species of sponge which has been studied extensively has been found to possess the majority of genes for making a critical part of neural synapses, even though the sponge larvae do not even have nerve cells. Instead, they have cells called flask cells.

The flask cells of these larval sponges have many features of primitive sensory cells, including a cilia and secretory vesicles. Despite the fact that the larva have no nervous system, they nonetheless possess approximately 70% of the genes required to make the complex structure of neural synapses known as the “postsynaptic density” (PSD). PSD’s are the receptive part of a synapse which receives signals in the form of neurotransmitters released by other nerve cells. So if these sponges don’t have a nervous system, why would their larvae need so many genes associated with synapses?

The answer is that they appear to be using these genes to make signaling structures that are distantly related to neural synapses in animals. The genes associated with PSD’s in the sponges show a remarkable similarity to the related genes in animals that possess nervous systems, including the structural elements that hold the molecules into a functional array.  The authors note that these proto-synaptic structures are not only likely candidates for the evolutionary stepping stones to synaptic contacts between neurons, they may represent prototypical cellular junctions in general which could have led to the development of many specialized junctions between cells found in later-evolving animals.

The take home message from such studies is that the same genes and molecules are used over and over again by different animals to perform many different functions, and that these simple building blocks can be mixed and matched in differing ways to produce increasingly complex molecular devices and organ systems. This derived complexity in no way undermines the notion of evolution, it fortifies the theory immensely. Rather than being another gap in human knowledge about evolution, molecular biology is demonstrating how very complex biological structures can evolve from simpler systems by making use of modular units that can be combined in many different ways, with each change making the system function more robustly. Eye spots are just fine for worms, but not for eagles, and yet the 550 million years of evolution between them provided innumerable opportunities for step by step improvements in vision.

Intelligent Design proponents don’t provide us with scientific data, they provide us with uninformed commentary and conjecture. Their arguments may work well with the uneducated public, but they are not based on scientific facts. The main underpinning of their arguments rests entirely on the concept of irreducible complexity. But Darwin is striking back with scientific data that shows how life is like a self-assembling Lego set, mixing and matching simple building blocks to make increasingly complex structures. When Darwin strikes back, he does so with great vigor and eloquence.

JRM


 

More US Personnel Killed in Iraq than Reported
June 16th, 2007


Because of their abuse and extreme overuse and over-extension of our military troops in Iraq, the Bush administration has been forced to rely more and more on private contractors to fill various roles in Iraq that were previously restricted to military personnel. These private contractors are being drawn into conflicts on a daily basis, essentially making them paid military mercenaries. They operate outside of US and Iraqi law, and they are being killed and wounded in a private war that has gone mostly unreported in the US press.

Today, the Washington Post reported that the number of contractors/mercenaries that have been killed and wounded has gone unreported.

They note that contractors have been “…taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.”

“The U.S. military has never released complete statistics on contractor casualties or the number of attacks on privately guarded convoys. The military deleted casualty figures from reports…”…the military wanted to hide information showing that private guards were fighting and dying in large numbers because it would be perceived as bad news.”

On one list alone that included only a small portion of the total contractor force, 132 security contractors and truck drivers had been killed, and 416 had been wounded since the Fall of 2004.

One particularly terrible incident was described in the Washington Post article this way: “On May 8, 2005, after dropping off a load that included T-shirts, plastic whistles and 250,000 rounds of ammunition for Iraqi police, one of Holly's convoys was attacked. Of 20 security contractors and truck drivers, 13 were killed or listed as missing; five of the seven survivors were wounded. Insurgents booby-trapped four of the bodies. To eliminate the threat, a military recovery team fired a tank round into a pile of [US] corpses, according to an after-action report.”

These shifts in US policy mean that the United States is privatizing its military on a massive scale. Among the troubling aspects of this trend is that private contractors operate outside military law, and outside of Iraqi law, and are not accountable to anyone except for their employers. Further, deploying as many as 100,000 contractors in Iraq is costing US taxpayers up to 10 times more than it would cost to deploy the same number of military troops. Finally, there is the fact that both contractors and Iraqis are being killed in large numbers beyond the sight of the press and the American people.

This trend will only continue under Bush, because of the massive corporate profits being realized by “security” and “supply” companies, and in fact this may be the blueprint for the Bush/Cheney remaking of the entire US military into a substantially privatized “for profit” military force.

The US is building dozens of permanent military bases in Iraq, and is planning up to two dozen more spread across Africa “to fight global terrorism”. Obviously, Bush and Cheney want a vastly expanded military presence throughout the world, and it will be a presence of a highly privatized nature.

Write your Senators and Representative, and tell them that you not only want the war in Iraq ended now, but that you want our military to return to a defensive military posture, one that does not include private contractors. Privatizing military functions can even put military troops in greater danger, because profit motives can outweigh safety procedures. If these companies were not making huge profits, they would never even consider sending their employees into harms way. But money talks… no, it screams bloody murder.

JRM


 

Defeatocrats
June 5th, 2007


No, I’m not talking about those rhetorical bombs lobbed by chicken-hawk Republicans at the Democrats who want to bring the troops home, I’m talking about the progressives, liberals and democrats that have already thrown up their arms in disgust, and given up after the passage of the supplementary Iraq funding bill.

I have listened carefully to both sides of the arguments that have played out across the internet and mainstream media. I have heard how disgusted anti-war activists are at the passage of the supplemental funding bill, and I have listened to the Democratic candidates excuses for passing the bill at the recent CNN debate. Joe Biden made the case for passage (not enough votes until we have a democratic president), and Mike Gravel and John Edwards chastising the others for their compliance with Bush on war funding.

We have all heard both arguments, and most of us probably find neither argument satisfying.

Let me try to put the frustration into perspective. If you were Karl Rove planning on how to divide and conquer the resurging Democratic party, what would you do? You would use the frustration over the passage of the Iraq funding bill to divide democrats and progressives.

You could even have your minions, posing as liberals, post comments at progressive web sites saying that they are tried-and-true progressives that have “given up on the democrats”. Hopefully, they would get other progressives to agree, and chime in.

It is the same old story of trying to reduce the progressive and democratic turnout in the next election. These are the common canards:

“All politicians are the same”

“They didn’t stand on principle”

“We put them in power, and they let us down”

OK. We’ve heard them all. But all the complaining doesn’t get us anywhere, and it doesn’t fix the massive number of problems confronting our nation.

If progressives fragment this easily, on losing one vote, even on the biggest issue facing us, then we are in big trouble. We have to be more resilient than that. You can’t ignore the congressional investigations that have finally begun after 6 years of Republican rubber stamps, and you can’t expect the Democrats to fix 6 years of malfeasance, plunder and deceit in 6 months.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Democrats are faultless, far from it. But if you want honest, concerned politicians running this country, you’re going to have to work harder to change the system, and get money out of the picture. That’s not just the next chapter, that’s a whole different story.

In closing let me say that I am looking at this with both principle, and strategy, in mind. Both converge at the same point, which is that Democrats and progressives need to come together and redouble their efforts. If you try to form a third party now (Green Party al la 2000) you will divide the vote, and lose the election. Let’s worry about third and fourth parties after we take our country back.

What we don’t need now is for progressives to curse, declare failure, and take our ball home. Think of what Karl Rove would want… and do the exact opposite.

JRM


 

9/11 Conspiracy?
May 21st, 2007


Was our government complicit in the 9/11 attacks?

The PDF file linked to below is from Skeptics Magazine earlier this spring. It goes over all of the evidence in great detail. Anyone researching the topic must read this article before coming to any conclusions.

Personally, I think Bush and Cheney are far too incompetent to pull off anything like the conspiracy theorists propose. Instead, I think they just played the tragedy for all it was worth, and then a whole bunch more.

Skeptics Magazine: "9/11 Conspiracy Theories"


 

King George says:
 “Let Them Eat Poison”
May 20th, 2007


“Mom! This food tastes funny…”

“Eat your poisoned food from China Tommy; it’s good for… um… the economy”.

As the story slowly unravels from the sluggish, mostly quiescent US press it turns out that China has been shipping toxic food products to the United States for years, and over-worked, under-funded federal inspectors have known all about it.

From the Post today: “Under the Bush administration in particular… if a proposed regulation does get past agency or department heads, it hits the wall at the White House Office of Management and Budget.”

The Bush Office Of Management and Budget has never seen a food safety regulation it liked, and indeed plans are in the works to allow chicken to be imported from China despite the obvious risks to consumers.

Further from the Post: “Trading with the largely unregulated Chinese marketplace has its risks, of course, as evidenced by the many lawsuits that U.S. pet food companies now face from angry consumers who say their pets were poisoned by tainted Chinese ingredients. Until recently, however, many companies and even the federal government reckoned that, on average, those risks were worth taking.”

Unfortunately for US consumers, as outlined in the article, cheap Chinese imports have driven many US manufacturers out of business so that for example, 80% of the ascorbic acid used to preserve foods in the United States comes from China. Many other products such as the now infamous wheat gluten are made almost exclusively in China now. Avoiding Chinese food products or additives is almost impossible in the United States because there are no labeling laws that mandate US manufacturers to list the country of origin for their ingredients.

So all of you out there who are arguing in favor of libertarians and further deregulation, beware of what you wish for, you might just get a mouthful of toxins, with love, from China.

JRM


 

A Letter to Congress From an
American Abroad
May 7th, 2007


It is time to impeach the President and Vice President.

The failure of the State Department to allow Mr. Simon Dodge to testify to Congress about his warning regarding the Niger uranium hoax is the final straw for me.  This administration has nothing left to offer our country.  Moreover, its behavior strengthens my belief that it continues to do lasting damage to the governing of the country.  I say “no”.   This administration must end before more they do more damage.

Impeachment is the way to end it. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that the president and vice president deliberately lied to the American people in order to foster support for a war of aggression against a country that was no threat to the United States.  This crime alone demands investigating. 

The horrors and destruction unleashed by this devious act make it clear to the entire world that my country has lost its way.  Not only has my country violated the lofty principles that my ancestors fought for, but it eroded the goodwill built up by the sacrifices that generations of Americans have made to our friends overseas in the name of democracy, justice, and charity.   We need to end the hypocrisy by judging this administration as we would any other government who defied the will of its people and who caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.   Without doing this, we will lose what moral suasion we have left.

Stepping back to see the sweep of events since September 11, I’m aghast that the Bush Administration so blatantly used the most horrific act in American history for such narrow-minded, self-serving and destructive ends.   One simply has to see that Osma bin Laden has never been found and yet a country unrelated to 9/11 is now in ruins in the name of a “war on terror”, whatever that means.   One simply has to see that it was the oil ministry that was protected by troops during the siege of Bagdad 4 years ago, not the precious cultural heritage of the people of Iraq housed in their national museum.   How more obvious can it be that this war isn’t to save the Iraqi people and it isn’t to protect the United States?  

And it is not just the war.  The arc of possible corruption by this administration covers election fraud, firing of attorneys for political reasons, using government resources for political reasons, and illegal wiretapping of US citizens. It is setting an example world-wide for debasement of fair and responsible governing. 

The legislative branch of my country has the responsibility and authority to correct criminal behavior on the part of the executive branch.  I have watched the new Congress act.  It has done well, but still doesn’t have the teeth to stop this travesty of the executive branch.  Impeachment proceedings will give it teeth.        

I write this letter from Argentina, where I have been living for 3 months.  You are probably well aware this is a country where 20 years ago citizens were kidnapped, tortured and killed for political reasons.  You may not be aware how corrosive those memories are to Argentines today. My friends here still flinch at the thought of those days and speak bitterly of the government of that time.  They are left with a core distrust of their country’s leaders.   Perhaps it will take another generation for Argentina to come out from under that evil shadow. 

Has the Bush administration become the “evil” that it sought to displace by overthrowing Saddam Hussein?  Perhaps 20 years from now, the deaths of our soldiers and deaths and the horrors suffered by the Iraqi people in these days as a result of this war will make American’s distrust their government and feel lasting shame for what was done.  If this administration is not held accountable, then America may never get the healing it needs to overcome the shame of our deeds. 

Sincerely Yours,

James G. Barrett


 

China IS poisoning the World…
Literally
May 6th, 2007

 


In a masterful piece of investigative reporting, the New York Times describes today how unregulated Chinese chemical companies have shipped tons of deadly diethylene glycol (anti-freeze) around the world mislabeled as food/pharmaceutical grade glycerin, killing thousands of people in at least seven countries.

In fact, by the time the diethylene glycol wound up in countries ranging from Panama to India and Bangladesh, the manufacturer's name had long been removed from the containers, and falsified test results had been added stating that the contents were 99.5% pure glycerin. Instead, the drums contained almost pure diethylene glycol with several contaminants.

In at least one drug poisoning incident in Bangladesh, doctors estimate that thousands, or even tens of thousands of people were killed after taking a fever medication made with diethylene glycol rather than glycerin. In a more recent incident in Panama, hundreds of people were killed after drinking cough syrup made with diethylene glycol.

The article at the New York Times is very well written and I recommend that everyone read it carefully, and then think about how many foods and pharmaceuticals they and their families consume without any idea where the ingredients in those products came from. The USDA and FDA currently only test a minuscule fraction of the foods and drugs sold in the US.

China is giving us a firsthand look at what happens when America exports unregulated capitalism to the rest of the world. Republicans and Libertarians alike believe that capitalism can be self-regulating in the absence of government oversight. China and other developing capitalist countries prove this notion completely false.

Republicans and Libertarians want to further deregulate American industry while simultaneously dismantling oversight agencies such as the FDA and the USDA. If they can't eliminate these agencies, they will de-fund them and staff them with corporate cronies.

It is likely that the recent revelations about tainted pet food and now tainted pharmaceuticals are just the tip of the iceberg. The diethylene glycol contamination from China has been going on since at least 1992 without being disclosed to the general public. It seems very likely that many more such incidences of food and drug contamination have gone unreported as yet.

It is also interesting to note that glycerin is a common ingredient in certain pet foods and that diethylene glycol causes kidney failure as in the case of the recent pet poisonings. It would be useful, I think, for the FDA to test tainted pet foods for the presence of this toxic solvent.

Republicans and Libertarians beware of what you wish for, you just might just reap the “benefits” of unregulated capitalism in your child’s next bottle of cough syrup.

JRM


 

Is China Slowly Poisoning
the World?

May 1st, 2007
 


Yesterday the New York Times confirmed what I reported here last week, that the Chinese contaminant found in pet food, melamine, is not particularly toxic.

It is virtually impossible to reconcile the number of animals made sick or killed by the pet food contamination originating in China with the fact that the major “contaminant” does not cause kidney failure, or death. So what is sickening pets, and what about the fact that farm animal feed has also been found to be contaminated?

When melamine was first reported to be the source of the poison in pet food, my first reaction as a pet owner and scientist was to check the material safety data sheet (MSDS). This is the official safety documentation that chemical companies must ship with their products.

Melamine is listed as causing skin, lung and eye irritation, but it is not particularly toxic. Indeed, even prolonged exposure is not known to aggravate existing medical conditions. With just a little bit of digging, the New York Times found that farmers in China have been using melamine for years to artificially boost protein ratings in low-quality plant protein products. One signature characteristic of protein, unlike fats and carbohydrates, is that it contains a significant amount of nitrogen. Melamine is a nitrogen-rich compound that fools the color test in laboratories to erroneously report high levels of protein when in fact little or no protein needs to be present.

Unless there is something important about melamine toxicity that is not known by scientists, then it is probable that melamine is not the major or only culprit in the pet food illnesses and deaths.

So then what exactly is causing the recent spate of pet illnesses and deaths? As a scientist I must initially conclude that there is not enough data to come to a firm conclusion. However, that does not mean that we cannot make well educated assumptions. Because melamine is not particularly toxic and is not known to cause kidney failure, it is logical to assume that there are other contaminants in pet food in addition to the melamine.

Obviously, Chinese farmers, chemical producers, and food additive distributors have no compunction against putting harmful or even toxic compounds into products that are to be consumed by either animals or humans. China has a history recently of putting business interests far ahead of human interests. Manufacturers in China have few restrictions on how they operate and whether or not they are permitted to pollute the air and water. Cancer rates have soared in many parts of China that have become industrialized. It has been noted by Western journalists that the smog is so thick in some Chinese cities in that you can stare at the sun without worry because it looks like a dim orange ball in the sky.

Another assumption that we can make based on what is known about toxicology is that it is not uncommon for two mildly toxic compounds to have a cumulative effect  that is far more toxic than either compound alone. As such, it seems quite likely that other chemical contaminants originating in China, which have not yet been identified, are also present in Chinese food products. Melamine would almost certainly put a strain on the kidneys because it contains a great deal of nitrogen, and one of the major functions of the kidneys is to clear excess nitrogen from the body in the form of urea (present at high levels in the urine). If Chinese farmers and food product distributors have been putting other toxic compounds into their products for similar, nefarious reasons as they have been using melamine, then it seems quite possible that two or more mildly toxic compounds are having a synergistic effect in causing kidney damage, and eventually failure.

The New York Times and other sources have reported that melamine has also been found in livestock feed in the US, and in several cases in the livestock as well. This suggests that melamine and other contaminants have also entered the human food chain here in America, as well as abroad.

I suggest that the presence of melamine in food products be considered as a “marker” of contamination, rather than being the primary, toxic contaminant.

As China's industrial base grows exponentially without the benefit of government regulations for public safety, the deadly effects which are so clearly in play in that country will spill over to other countries that import Chinese food products. As China's burgeoning industries slowly poison the Chinese people, they are also slowly poisoning the rest of the world. I hope that Western governments crack down on Chinese food product imports until, in the future, Chinese government policies provide substantially more protection for consumers than is now the case.

Notes Added 5/2/07: Today, the Washington Post reported that 2.5 million chickens were fed tainted food and subsequently entered the human food supply. An additional 100,000 chickens in Indiana have been scheduled for destruction.

Recently several laboratories have reported the presence of three other compounds in the urine of animals fed melamine contaminated food. The three compounds included cyanuric acid, amilorine and amiloride. All three of these compounds are breakdown products of melamine, indicating that the melamine is being metabolized by the animals it is fed to. None of these chemicals is considered particularly toxic at the concentrations found in animal urine. Some investigators have noted that when melamine and cyanuric acid are combined they can result in crystal formation which is similar to that observed in the kidneys of affected animals.

However, this does not explain the spike in animal illnesses and deaths that occurred recently because as the New York Times reported, Chinese farmers have been adding melamine to protein concentrates shipped to the United States for years. The outbreak in pets was acute, and did not appear to be due to chronic exposure to low levels of melamine.

As such, it still seems likely that other contaminants were being added to Chinese food products in recent months, and that these may have interacted with melamine and its breakdown products to cause kidney failure. What is clear from the information so far discovered is that the human food supply has definitely been contaminated with non-food chemicals originating in China. What is not known is what other possible contaminants were present, or how they might accumulate in people eating tainted meat, possibly leading to adverse health effects that may not show up for some time to come.

JRM


 

  You Are What You Eat:
The Politics of Pet Food
April 24th, 2007

If you are a cat or dog owner, you almost certainly know about the pet food recall associated with numerous pet illnesses and deaths in recent months. But you probably don’t know much about the details, or the politics and economics behind the pet food debacle, or how these relate to your family’s food. If you thought the food safety problem was limited to pet foods… think again. The Bush administration has gutted the FDA, and all foods are now less safe.

What’s in pet food anyway? Why is it “pet food”, and not just regular food? Is it especially nutritious and wholesome for pets as most vets would have you believe? The answer is no, pet food is not especially wholesome or nutritious, and in fact it can contain things that should not be in food at all. There are two independent food streams in the United States, human food and pet/animal food. Neither is completely safe, but the animal food stream is particularly suspect.

Pet food is made from what giant, multinational agribusiness considers “byproducts” of human food production - stuff that is mostly unfit for human consumption. Much of it would become costly garbage if industry could not legally make it into dog and cat food. Basically, you would never feed it to your pet if you knew what was in it. Pet food agribusiness is a $30 billion a year mega-industry in the US, and it is growing every year.

The delightful industry term for animal byproducts is “offal” - carcass parts that cannot be used for human food, which are automatically slated for animal food production at the slaughterhouse. “Offal” has been estimated to amount to approximately 40 billion pounds per year in the US, and often contains significant amounts of rancid rendered fats, oils and grease. It also includes bacterial- or parasite-contaminated carcass parts which could not pass human food inspection. This is especially true because offal contains animal intestines and their contents, which are rich in e-coli. Next time you scrutinize the stuff in a can of cat or dog food… think “offal”.

On top of the issue of contaminated or diseased carcass parts there is now the looming issue of toxic Chinese food-additive contamination in many pet foods in the United States. It was a serious wake-up call for pet owners that so many different products produced by so many different pet food companies could all become contaminated. This fact showed clearly that both “premium” and plain pet foods contained low-quality ingredients from uncertain sources.

At first the contaminated pet food showed up mostly in the US, but eventually surfaced in other places, such as South Africa and Puerto Rico. The critical questions quickly became “what poison” and “what source”? At first it was thought that a rat poison called aminopterin was responsible. Then the focus quickly shifted to a chemical called melamine, which is used primarily in the making of plastics. The culprit “food product” was thought to be contaminated wheat gluten from the Chinese manufacturer “Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co”. Because melamine contains a huge amount of nitrogen, it would give a very high “protein reading” when inspectors employed the simple chemical color test typically used to quickly assay protein content in a food product. This made some sense as to why melamine would show up at high levels in cheap Chinese wheat gluten product – as a despicable, unethical attempt to artificially jack up the protein rating.

However, there is a slight problem with the melamine hypothesis. The affected pets are thought to have died from kidney failure, but melamine is not known to cause kidney failure. The amount of melamine required to cause death is very large, far beyond the amount found in contaminated pet foods. The main health issues associated with chronic melamine exposure include cancer and reproductive damage. Indeed, there is no data that suggests that melamine even in significant doses can cause acute adverse effects such as kidney failure and death. The levels of melamine found in the pet food were far below those considered acutely toxic.

So what caused the animal sickness and death, and where did it come from? Some investigators have noted that ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in anti-freeze, does cause acute kidney failure in animals. Many pets die every year from drinking anti-freeze drained out of car radiators because it has a sweet smell and taste. However, it does not seem likely that sufficient levels of ethylene glycol could get into pet foods.

As such, it seems very likely that the actual culprit has still not been found. It may turn out to be melamine, but more likely it will turn out to be something else not yet identified. In either case, the FDA would very much like Americans to think that the situation is well in hand. It is far from well in hand, and in fact, the FDA is overwhelmed, underfunded and understaffed. It is also being hamstrung by an administration that despises government oversight of business.

So what can you do? Make your own pet food. It is more time-consuming than opening a can or dumping some kibble in a bowl, but a varied and nutritious diet based on human-grade foods will greatly increase the chances that your pet will have a healthy diet, and a long life. Dogs and cats are fully domesticated animals, and have evolved over thousands of years along side people, eating left-over scraps of food. They are well adapted to a human-centered diet, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just wrong.

It is critically important to note that the problem isn’t limited to the food your pet eats - there are serious problems with the food you eat too. It’s the same functionally deficient FDA that is supposedly watching out for you and your family by inspecting foods produced in the US and those imported from other countries. There have never been so many food producers as there are now, and in modern times there has never been less FDA action. As this situation worsens, people are getting sick from contaminated spinach, peanut butter, and now new cases have been reported, again, about people getting sick from e-coli tainted beef.

It goes further - it has been reported that livestock have been fed large amounts of animal feed which was contaminated with melamine, or whatever unidentified toxic substance has been killing pets, thus putting people at risk from the “pet food contamination problem”. By eating animals, people are thus subjected to the animal food stream.

Eating less meat, and more organic produce is a great way to improve your health, and reduce your exposure to potentially toxic compounds in the food supply. Dogs also do very well on a diet rich in rice, vegetables, oatmeal, eggs, and other non-meat items, but cats need to eat mostly meat. Both cats and dogs should be given appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin supplements if they are getting human food.

While the human food stream is far from perfect, it is still substantially better than the animal food stream.

You are what you eat. So be highly vigilant about what you, your family, and your pets eat.

JRM


 

Save Air America Radio
April 16th, 2007


The new president of Air America Radio, Mark Green, has taken it upon himself to gut the progressive network and fill it with bland, middle-of-the-road talk show hosts.

It is ironic that the big discussion issue on AAR today is the "firing" of US attorneys. The irony is that Mark Green basically just fired Sam Seder, one of Air America's most popular daytime hosts. He is going to put a New York City talk show host who calls himself "Lionel", virtually unknown to the Air America Radio audience, on in Sam Seder's place. This is a slap in the face to AAR's loyal audience.

If you are a fan of Sam Seder, consider writing to Air America to tell them that Sam is the heart and soul of AAR, and that killing his daily show will hurt the network, not help it. The address is comments@airamericaradio.com. Be polite, but make sure that Mark Green knows that you are not happy.

JRM


 

Why CNN Can’t Tell You the Truth
April 9th, 2007


Progressives have long wondered why CNN and other TV news media have been so incapable of focusing on real issues and coming to conclusions based on reported facts. Why do they bash Democrats and puff-piece Republicans? The answer is simple. The TV news media are gaming the system for their own profit.

TV news organizations are not in the business of providing the audience with the information necessary for them to be well-informed citizens, but rather are in the entertainment business dedicated to making profits. However, in order to be profitable, TV news organizations have, I think erroneously, decided that they must also play the politics game to stay in the black.

Examples of slanted reporting and misinformation abound. Listening to the corporate media denigrate Speaker Pelosi’s recent diplomatic efforts in the Middle East was enough to make Progressives both concerned, and nauseous. From Suzanne Malveaux's “big wet kiss” comment on CNN to the news ticker declaring “Pelosi's bad trip”, and implying collusion with terrorists, the corporate media truly outdid themselves this time.

But if you think about it, the news media have a lot to lose if the American public catches on to their little game. The truth of the matter is that the corporate media enjoys the unregulated and highly profitable news/entertainment environment at play in the United States today, and the way that system is insinuated with political money. Every two years hundreds of millions of dollars flow from political contributors to politicians and their action committees and then on to the news media ad departments. Many news organizations operate in the red until the next election cycle comes around, when the profits begin pouring in again.

Money is always at the forefront of all journalists minds when election years come around, even if they don’t seem sure why the issue is so important to news organizations. They blather on about who is making more money, and what that money race means for the election, as though money could be equated with competence, temperament or any background that might make the candidates suitable for the job in question.

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/03/thinkagain_campaign_spending.html

Indeed, George Bush was the journalist’s pet candidate in both 2000 and 2004, not because he was qualified to be president, but because, they say, he was more personable than Al Gore or John Kerry. Gore and Kerry never had nicknames for the White House press corp. Backslapping fun on Air Force One being apparently more important to “journalists” than competence or capacity. But behind all that joviality remained the facts that Bush would be more corporate friendly, would cut corporate taxes, and would permit media consolidation.

The corporate media not only have no reason to tell you the truth about how corrupting the influence of money in politics is, they have every reason to keep you in the dark, or at least misinformed. We will never have meaningful campaign finance reform in the United States as long as the news media make dirty money through slanted, sensationalist politicking. It is clearly in their best interest to attack anyone who threatens the current campaign financing system. And that explains the constant attacks on Democrats who might actually bring campaign finance reform laws to the table.

CNN cannot tell you the truth because the truth would destroy the very gravy train that feeds them. Write CNN and tell them you are sick and tired of their slanted reporting, and tell them you are going to boycott their advertisers unless they get back to unbiased reporting. That might actually get their attention.

JRM


 

Offense Spending, and
Gusher-Up Economics
April 7th, 2007


It is time to end the charade. If our country attacks foreign nations preemptively, then our Defense Department becomes an Offense Department, and defense spending becomes offense spending. The concept of offense spending has many disturbing connotations.

Ever since Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation on his departure from the White House to beware the military-industrial complex, the United States has increasingly engaged in aggressive wars more for economic reasons than geopolitical ones. During the Korean War President Eisenhower learned firsthand about the insatiable nature of war profiteering.

The Bush and Cheney administration have, however, elevated the size and scope of the military-industrial complex to something that even President Eisenhower would not have thought possible. Combining huge no-bid, cost-plus contracts with massive military supplemental bills and a complete lack of congressional oversight by Republicans, the Bush administration has managed to chew through over half $1 trillion on the Iraq war in just four years. Impressive, even by military-industrial complex standards.

That money, virtually all of which was borrowed from foreign banks, has not simply evaporated into thin air, but rather has gone into the bank accounts of many large corporations including Halliburton/KBR, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, GE, Boeing, Raytheon and many, many others.

http://iraqforsale.org/

But this is not ordinary war profiteering, this is coordinated industry-government collusion and manipulation that benefits corporations with huge no-bid contracts and unprecedented profits, and the government with “economic growth” that can be used in campaigns to gain and retain power in Washington.

Cheney’s secret “energy taskforce” meetings brought together oil company executives to get them onboard with the invasion of Iraq long before the war began, and even before 9/11 ever offered up the excuse of a “war on terror”. These meetings led to exclusive, no-bid contracts being awarded to American and Brit oil companies for “extraction rights’ in Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/15/AR2005111501842_pf.html

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,2020560,00.html

Part of the deal was greatly reduced taxes on oil companies, with concomitant drastic increases in profits. But there is much more in it for the complicit corporations. Enactment of Iraqi hydrocarbon law, written by oil company lobbyists, ensures that US and British oil companies will get extraction rights amounting to at least 80% of the oil reserves in Iraq. This is a bold and brazen grab for the natural resources of Iraq, which will not benefit the Iraqi people in any way.

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/03/30/201/

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/01/236/

British Petroleum (BP) has been keenly interested in Iranian (Persian) oil since it’s inception in the early years of the 20th century.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BP

In the modern world, corporate collusion with government is considered by oil executives as essential for monetizing oil reserves around the world for their profit.

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/02/266/

It should also be noted that the privatization of the US Armed Forces has proceeded at a highly accelerated rate during the Bush administration. Nearly as many private contractors are deployed in previously military positions in the Middle East as enlisted personnel. This is unprecedented and dangerous. There is no chain of command, and no system of accountability for mercenaries and other private contractors deployed in war zones. It is costing the taxpayers tens, or perhaps hundreds of billions of extra dollars to privatize our military industrial complex. Our money is flowing to these corporations like never before.

http://www.commondreams.org/views07/0316-28.htm

The end result of gusher up economics is that taxpayers will be funding the military-industrial complex and offense spending ad infinitum, as will their children and grandchildren.

For me the truly sad part about all of this is that the American government should be working for the benefit of the greater common good rather than for the benefit of oil companies and war profiteers. When a huge proportion of our tax dollars go to funding offense spending on offensive wars the big losers are not only the victims in countries like Iraq, but the US taxpayers whose money is being funneled directly to those running large energy companies and military contractors. The rest of us are on the losing end of this deal.

US taxpayer dollars would be far better spent rebuilding the infrastructure of our country, and on biomedical research to prevent unnecessary death from cancer, heart disease, stroke and other potentially treatable disorders. Instead, our government spends nearly 50 times as much of your money on offensive military actions as they do on biomedical research. Lobbyists for the large corporations are swarming Washington, but almost none of them are there seeking funding for the NIH or other research institutes. Write your representatives and demand that less money be spent on the military, and more be spent on biomedical research which will actually save American lives. Stop funding offensive military actions around the world, and make the world a better place.

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

http://www.house.gov/

JRM


 

Open Letter to Maryland Representatives
March 29th, 2007


As a constituent of yours I am extremely dismayed that Maryland opted to purchase and use highly unreliable proprietary electronic voting systems for our elections. I and many others in Maryland wrote prior to that decision urging you to not purchase the questionable equipment, unfortunately without success.

I now urge you to pass legislation this session that would mandate an official, voter verified, auditable paper trail for all Maryland elections. Unfortunately, the voting machines our state currently uses provide no way to ensure votes are counted accurately, and no way to recover lost votes if equipment fails.

The Maryland House recently passed a bill (HB18) that includes 3 provisions 1) a paper record of each vote, 2) the paper record would be the basis for official ballot recounts and audits, and 3) random audits to verify the accuracy of election results.

These provisions are only a start, because I believe that private companies MUST not be allowed to control the proprietary software running on these dubious voting machines.

Further, the Senate version of the bill has been amended in committee and now includes none of the above noted provisions.  This is outrageous, and unacceptable. It is time to fix the problem NOW, before the next election.

Marylanders are watching closely and will accept nothing less than completely transparent and fully auditable voting systems that can be verified to be accurate and secure. That is not possible as long as the software running on these machines cannot be examined. I demand that corporations which manufacture these machines provide the source code for their software to be analyzed by experts. Nothing else short of that is acceptable and no excuses should be accepted.

JRM


 

Terror Me Once, Shame on You...
March 26th, 2007


Zbigniew Brzezinski has an important Op Ed at the Washington Post, that should be mandatory reading for all members of Congress, Republican or Democrat. Liberals have been saying for years that you can't have a "war" against "terror". Terror is a tactic used by many different groups around the world to disrupt and demoralize people, and you obviously can't have a war on a tactic. Can you have a "war on flanking maneuvers"? A war on "overwhelming force"? No.

There is no war on terror. There is a concerted effort by our government to panic the American people so that BushCo can funnel billions to war profiteers, while simultaneously making a power grab for the oil wells in Iraq.

The only way to fight terrorism is with international law enforcement. You can't find and kill small groups of terrorists with the US military. It is a sham, and the public needs to demand an end to the war in Iraq, and the obscene spending on the military.

More people die prematurely every day in the US from potentially treatable conditions than have ever died from terrorism in all of history, but we spend 30 to 40 times more money every year on the military than we do on medical research in the US. Why? It is time to reverse those numbers, and cure diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer disease. Write your representatives and tell them to fund biomedical research, not the phony 'war on terror'.

SENATE

HOUSE

JRM


 

How They Put the ‘Con’ in Neo-Con
March 11th, 2007


It is no coincidence that the Republicans give lip service to so many causes while actually ignoring them, or worse, working to undermine them. It is their modus operandi. This is how con-men work.

Confidence schemes only work if the victims are properly distracted and properly misled. Con men steal people's money by simultaneously appealing to their self interest, while secretly working to undermine it.

George C. Scott’s famous quote from the movie, The Flimflam Man; “you can't cheat an honest man”, is unfortunately untrue. Con-men can, and often do cheat honest men.

The Republican Party of George Bush and Dick Cheney is nothing like the Republican Party of days gone by. They have rapidly and recklessly morphed the Republican Party into a gang of modern day con men.

The Walter Reed, VA Hospital scandal clearly makes this point. The Republicans continually bash Democrats for not supporting our troops because the Democrats want to bring the troops home. The whole time the neo-cons are yelling and screaming about the Democrats wanting to cut and run, they are actually cutting veterans benefits and letting wounded soldiers languish in appalling conditions without proper care. For the neo-cons, our troops are pawns in their political games, acting as both cannon fodder for their elective war, and a bludgeon to attack Democrats with.

Other examples of their con man methods abound. Everything from their Clear Skies Initiative to their Healthy Forests Initiative to the Patriot Act to the No Child Left Behind Act does exactly the opposite of what the name implies. The clear skies initiative permits more pollution by industry, the healthy forests initiative permits more logging, and the patriot act would never have been signed by true patriots. The No Child Left Behind Act leaves many children far behind.

It has gotten to the point where you can literally assume that the administration will be feverishly working to do the exact opposite of what they say in public. When President Bush insists in a speech that domestic spying requires a warrant, you can be darn sure they are bypassing the FISA court. When the president declares that he values the Constitution, you know that he actually thinks it's a quaint old document that does not apply to him. When Bush said in public that they are not planning for attacks on Iran, you can be sure that carrier battle groups have already been dispatched and that the planning is well underway.

The neo-cons chose an oddly appropriate name for their movement. Based on their MO, you would have thought they would have called themselves the “Honest Party”. At least that way they would have been consistent.

JRM


 

Open Letter on XM-Sirius Merger
February 28th 2007


Dear Congressman Conyers,

First I want to thank you for your work in the Congress for all these years. I have always appreciated the fact that you fight for progressive causes.

As an owner of two XM satellite radios and an IT professional, I urge you to reject the XM - Sirius satellite radio merger for a number of important reasons.

1) the agreement signed by the two companies must be more than just a piece of paper that can be thrown in the garbage. Both companies agreed that they would not merge in order to to maintain competition in this small but growing market.

2) nothing has changed since that agreement was signed. Public airwave radio, MP3 players, Internet audio streaming, etc. were all in place long before XM and Sirius satellite radio signed the non-merger agreement. No new technologies that compete with satellite radio have come out since that time. 

3) the argument that the merger will benefit consumers is ludicrous. What will prevent the merged company from raising rates, or forcing customers to buy new equipment in order to access both networks? There will be no competition whatsoever.

4) the idea that Internet audio streaming can replace satellite radio is absurd on its face. The whole point of satellite radio was that it was going to give us much better audio quality than streaming audio on the Internet. When there is only one company to go to, consumers will be forced to pay for the services of a single satellite monopoly without any other option.

5) currently many new automobiles come with either a Sirius or XM satellite radio preinstalled. As soon as the companies merge this will basically force all new automobile owners to ante up to a single company in order to activate their car radio. The idea that AM/FM radio competes with satellite radio is also ridiculous. Why did they even start new satellite radio companies if AM/FM radio provided the same services?

Finally, I do not see how this proposed merger will fix the problems at the two satellite radio companies. Both companies paid way too much money to a few celebrities in the hopes that it would bring on many more listeners. That did not happen to the extent that they expected and they probably should renegotiate those contracts in order to get costs down. Consumers should not be saddled with that bill because executives made the wrong choices. I do not listen to Howard Stern or Oprah Winfrey and could care less about their shows.

Please do not let these duplicitous corporate officials confuse the issue and make it seem as though everything has changed since that agreement had been signed. There is absolutely no benefit for the consumer, only the probability that new equipment will need to be purchased and increasing fees will have to be paid.

 
Best wishes,
 
Dr. John R. Moffett
Gaithersburg MD

Email Congressman Conyers: John.Conyers@mail.house.gov


 

Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Impeachment
February 24th, 2006


It is impossible to exaggerate the stark difference between the impeachment of President Clinton and the impending impeachment of President Bush.

There is currently no talk of impeaching President Bush or Vice President Cheney in the US House of Representatives, but there are measures moving through the state legislatures in at least three states, Washington, Vermont and New Mexico. Hopefully more states will take up similar legislation.

This grassroots movement around the country to bring law and order back to our executive branch is precisely the opposite type of proceeding from the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. President Clinton's impeachment was initiated at the top levels of the Republican elite hierarchy, and pushed through the House by rich, white, ultra-conservatives without significant public support. By the time those proceedings were done, President Clinton had an approximately 70% approval rating with the public.

President Bush's current approval rating is approximately 30%, and even that hard core conservative base of 30% is very uneasy about President Bush's capabilities and proclivities. There is currently little impetus in the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings, but the grass roots movement is expanding rapidly. If enough states pass joint resolutions to initiate impeachment proceedings, it may force Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to take up impeachment hearings in a serious way.

This is the big difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, Republicans are authoritarians who do things from the top down, whereas Democrats and progressives are populists and do things from the ground up. It will be a wonderful expression of our democratic society if the impeachment of Bush and Cheney are brought about by the actions of hundreds of thousands of patriotic Americans who want to reclaim their country from the corporate, Republican elite.

JRM


 

Money Trumps, uh... Peace... Sometimes
February 16th, 2007

Cindy Sheehan has written a very good piece on George Bush's comment at a news conference that "Money Trumps Peace".

Wow, how could this not be a huge controversy that Mr. Bush thinks that financial interests are more important than human lives? Despite the fact that Bush was referring to the European Union, he clearly said what he said because he believes it to be true, that profits are more important than lives.

To those who say that impeachment is impossible, or a waste of time, I simply say that George Bush is a criminal by every definition of the word, and he must be brought to justice, or his crimes against our country and the world will be repeated.

JRM


 

Victory is Not an Option
February 11th, 2007

There is a must read Op-Ed at the Washington Post today, written by William Oden, President Reagan's director of the National Security Agency. He lays out the hard, cold facts about President Bush's failure in Iraq, and the absurdity of the neo-con arguments for staying there. It's nice to see the Washington Post waking up to the disasters wrought by Bush and Company. Let's hope that dinosaurs like the NY Times stop supporting the neo-con agenda, and start scrutinizing the Bush administration and it's destructive policies.

JRM


 

The Goose That Laid the Rotten Eggs
February 5th, 2007


The Democrat's approach to dealing with George Bush and the Republicans in Congress has basically been to let them destroy themselves through their own incompetence and blundering. This tactic, while frustrating for Democrats, has been wildly successful. George Bush’s poll ratings hover around 30% positive and 60% negative, and those numbers reflect Bush's performance in the absence of any sustained or focused criticism from Democrats.

While Dick Cheney has been highly instrumental in facilitating anti-Bush sentiment, it must be noted that George Bush himself deserves the lion's share of credit for his own low poll numbers. Indeed, George Bush's low approval ratings have helped drag down the Republican Congress's poll numbers in concert. George Bush is most certainly the goose that keeps laying rotten eggs in the lap of the Republican Congress.

This brings up the question of the rationale of pushing for impeachment. I personally am a strong proponent of the idea, because no one should be above the law, including the president. However, there is something to be said for the counter argument that impeachment of Bush and Cheney would be like killing the goose that laid the rotten eggs in the Republican’s lap. George Bush and Dick Cheney are the best thing that has happened to the Democratic Party since John F. Kennedy was elected. They are the gift that keeps on giving over and over and over again. No amount of rhetoric coming from the Democrats could have achieved the same goal.

I should mention that this line of thinking might eventually seep into the clouded minds of Republicans, who must at this point start to recognize the immeasurable harm that Bush and Cheney have done to their party. In fact, if they were smart, they would help the Democrats initiate impeachment against both of these men. It would be the best thing they could do for their party, while at the same time having the beneficial side effects of being good for the country and the world at large.

It's a tough choice for Democrats, but I still say that we are a nation of laws, not men, and as such we need to cook the goose and move on.

JRM


 

The New US Isolationism
February 4th,2007


For most of American history, the United States has been an isolationist nation which shunned foreign entanglements. Even during the Revolutionary war there was much argument over whether or not to enlist the help of the French to defeat the British. Isolationism, and non-interventionism were championed by our founding fathers. In his farewell address as the first president of the United States George Washington commented:

“Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

Isolationism and non-interventionism persisted through the 1800s, including the Civil War, right up until the US intervened in World War I in response to Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare against US merchant ships.

Isolationism returned to the US throughout the 1920s and 30s, but was subsequently wiped from the political landscape after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Since World War II the US has increasingly taken on the role of policemen of the world, often with very negative consequences, including protracted wars in North Korea and Vietnam. The war in Iraq ushered in a new imperialist phase in modern US interventionism with the Bush administration’s clumsy attempt to control a portion of the Middle East’s oil fields.

However, the Bush administration's nearly unilateral interventionist approach in Iraq has ironically led to a new form of US isolationism, an isolationism from without rather than from within. With their heavy-handed tactics, unwillingness to negotiate, and insulting rhetoric the Bush administration has alienated many traditional European allies such as France and Germany. They have inflamed anti-US sentiment throughout the Middle East and among Muslims everywhere, while at the same time disillusioning the rest of the civilized world from the notion that the US is playing a positive international role.

The combination of unnecessary military force, disdain for the Geneva conventions, disregard for international treaties and laws, and shunning any form of negotiation with nations we deem unfriendly has precipitated strong anti-US sentiment across the globe. This burgeoning anti-US reaction is diplomatically isolating the United States further and further from both allies and non-Allied nations alike. The result is a self imposed neo-isolationism that is neither desirable nor intended. Consequently, the US is losing its ability to influence events around the world, while becoming increasingly isolated and distrusted.

George Bush’s isolationism is the unintended consequence of unilateral policies which are perceived as both irrational and aggressive by most nations of the world. But unlike the isolationism of pre-World War II America, we may find it much more difficult to extricate ourselves from this new form of isolation. It is still unclear how difficult it will be for the next president to undo the diplomatic damage wrought by George Bush. President Bush seems congenitally incapable of negotiation, and as such the United States will remain isolated from the rest of the civilized world until he is no longer president. Both America, and the world, wait impatiently for that day.

JRM


 

What are American Kids
Dying For?
January 23rd, 2007


So President Bush can stall as long as possible before admitting failure in Iraq.

Robert Freeman has a must-read piece at Common Dreams on the parallels between why we failed in Vietnam, and how chicken-hawks Bush and Cheney made certain we would fail in Iraq.

Ever heard of running down the clock?


 

To Serve the Machine
January 12th, 2007


When our government prioritizes secrecy above all else, and the political and corporate elite form national policy in secret, our country is no longer led by a government that is by, for, and of the people, but rather we are led by a government that is by, for and of the very same elite who make policy in secret. The rest of us simply live and toil to pay the taxes and to serve their machine.

Our current economy operates according to the neo-conservative fiscal doctrine of supply side economics. It is time to end the long backward march toward robber barons, corporate trusts and indentured servitude. The minimum wage is going up slightly, but that trend needs to continue with cost-of-living increases every 2 years. We also need to stop the insane level of “M&A” (mergers and acquisitions) being permitted with little oversight or concern for true competitiveness in the market place.

Then we need to work for universal health coverage, and we need to stop spending social security funds on other projects.

Meaningful immigration reform simply requires strong legislation with stiff penalties for companies hiring illegal immigrants to do labor in the US. This will drive some prices up, but that is the price of  putting more Americans back to work.

Finally, we need to start moving jobs back to America, rather than sending more jobs overseas.

It’s time to bring back the middle class in the United States of America, so that millions of Americans don’t feel like they toil endlessly simply to serve the corporate machine.

JRM


 

The No-Legged Stool
January 12th, 2007


The new Bush plan for Iraq was described in the Senate armed services committee hearings this morning as a three-legged stool. The analogy was that a stool would not support its occupant without all three legs. The three legs of the Bush plan for Iraq are 1) additional troop reinforcements being sent to Baghdad and Anbar province, 2) a new willingness by the notoriously unwilling Iraqi puppet government to start cracking down on sectarian violence, and 3) more money to bribe the Iraqis that we don't kill.

Unfortunately for our troops and for the world, President Bush's plan is more like a no-legged stool than a three-legged stool. There is no reason to think that another surge of 20,000 US troops would be enough to clear and hold a country of 24 million people with porous borders to Iran and Syria. Further, there is absolutely no reason to think that the Iraqi government can or will do anything about the growing sectarian violence in that country. Finally, much of the money we have dumped into Iraq in an attempt to either rebuild infrastructure destroyed by us, or to get the Iraqi people back to work has disappeared without a trace. The infrastructure has not been rebuilt, and most Iraqi men are still not gainfully employed, although they may be working for the insurgency pro bono.

The fact of the matter is that a functional stool must have three sturdy legs. A no-legged stool ensures you will fall flat on your ass. Personally, I doubt this plan would work even if all three parts were realized, but I think just about everybody would agree that it will be a miracle if all three legs of the plan can be successfully implemented.

The only rational way out of Iraq is the Baker-Hamilton Iraq study group plan. Virtually none of that plan is being implemented by our decider in chief, so we can expect a further erosion of the situation in Iraq over the next several months. Chicken hawks like Joe Lieberman say that no one has presented a viable alternative plan, but he knows that is a lie. He knows as well as everyone else that the Baker-Hamilton plan is much more likely to succeed, but it doesn't concur with his neoconservative beliefs. As such, the plan does not exist for him.

It will be interesting to see how long the Bush administration can string the Congress and the American people along in this failed endeavor by claiming that failure is not an option. Failure has already occurred, and all that a troop escalation will reap is more violence and death.

JRM


 

Great News for President Bush
January 11th, 2007


The next election is almost 2 years away. That's the best possible news for Bush & Co., because it means that their policies and blunders will not be subject to voter anger, frustration, and disgust for a long time to come.

President Bush's speech to the nation last night was three years, 3000 dead, $500 billion and a shattered army too late. And his solutions to the disaster he has created in Iraq were nothing short of insane.

Now he says that we will take and hold neighborhoods in Baghdad? Why not three years ago?

Now he says he will get the Malaki government in Iraq to do their job? Why didn't he do that last year?

Now he says more troops will fix the problem? Why didn't he arranged for that before the invasion?

The most disturbing thing about President Bush's speech was not the air of unreality and the intransigent denial, but instead was the threat to drastically escalate violence in Baghdad as a means of freeing the Iraqi people. He lamented that the US Army had not been tough enough on the people they were trying to free, and that this was going to change. If I were living in Baghdad, I'd be gathering my valuables and running for the hills as fast as I could.

Many of the problems our troops encountered in Iraq were due to the heavy handed tactics they used on the Iraqi people. Escalating that violence against the residents of Baghdad and Anbar province will most certainly result in even greater violence against US troops and even more injuries and death.

Congressional Democrats will throw a few roadblocks in the way of President Bush's escalation debacle, but in the end if he orders troops deployed, then they will be deployed into harms way no matter what. Nonetheless, the Democrats need to make it as difficult as possible and make absolutely certain that everyone knows it's Bush's war.

Bush and company are sending another carrier battle group and Patriot missile batteries to the Middle East which suggests that he delusionally believes that he can attack Iran without serious consequences. Heaven help the world if Bush is that delusional.

The great news for President Bush remains the fact that the next election is still almost 2 years away. Impeachment sounding better to any of you yet?

JRM


 

A “New” Way Forward
January 5th, 2007


President Bush's hollow new slogan for his impending troop buildup in Iraq is certain to join his infamous repertoire of Orwellian doublespeak, for which his administration will most assuredly become noted by future historians.

President Bush's “new way forward” in Iraq is the same as his old way, which is, of course, “stay the course”, with more overextended troops being put in harms way.

Thank goodness Nancy Pelosi mentioned yesterday that the greatest issue facing the new Congress now is the problem in Iraq. Simply stating this fact should be enough to calm Democratic fears that the new Congress is not going to work quickly toward fixing Bush's disaster.

The Democrats need to show some real backbone here and demand that the Bush administration and Defense Department outline what they are trying to accomplish, and offer a detailed plan and timetable on how they will do so. Clearly, the Bush administration is unwilling to negotiate with anybody in the Middle East except at the point of a gun, and as such the situation will continue to deteriorate there unless Democrats intercede.

The Iraq war is one of the greatest debacles ever embarked upon by the United States, and prolonging that disaster will only increase its infamy in the history books. The Democrats must not be a party to this ongoing disaster, and must instead reverse course and begin to remove troops from the war-torn Middle East.

The Republicans and Neo-con-artists whispering in their ears have been wrong at every turn about everything. It is almost impossible to bat zero, but somehow they have managed just that. It's time to take control of the situation and to rescue our beleaguered troops from the civil war that Bush has created in Iraq. If the Democrats do not act to reverse course there, they will inherit some of the blame for Bush’s disastrous war.

JRM


 

When Kings Go Mad
December 24th, 2006


King George was going mad, and his council did not know what to do with him.

No, I do not speak of King George III in his latter years as monarch of England, I speak of George W. Bush, and his slide into what can only be described as a self-made mental purgatory, a form of madness as real as any suffered by George III.

The analogy may not be totally daft. The war with the colonies hadn’t gone the way King George had planned, and then the whole Napoleon mess made matters even worse.  King George’s appointed Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, and all the other ministers and magistrates, didn’t know what to do with the addle-brained King as he slowly and recurrently lapsed into madness.

Now two centuries later we in the colonies find ourselves strapped with our own King George, this time anointed by five appointed magistrates, but again a king who seems to be slipping inexorably towards madness. Those around him in his administration are not sure what to do with the troubled King. He babbles on about success and victory even as his blundering defeat stares him squarely in the face.

While we cannot simply replace our King George with something like the Regency Act of 1811, we can certainly consider the United States equivalent, congressional investigations followed by articles of impeachment, if they are warranted by the evidence.

When Kings go mad, the country, and the world, suffer greatly. Inaction only prolongs the suffering.

JRM


 

The Winning Game
December 6th, 2006


When the war in Iraq is framed as a win or lose proposition it seems apparent that there is no option but to win. However the way we frame questions is critical.

Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates says we are not winning in Iraq, but he says that does not mean our troops aren't putting in 110%.

Agreed. But I suggest the question is framed incorrectly. The question is not whether we are winning or losing, but whether we are achieving tactical goals. Winning and losing refer to outcomes in games, rather than strategic or tactical applications of military force. When applying strategic or tactical force around the world, it is important to achieve tactical, as well strategic goals that have been clearly defined prior to conflict.

When the president and Republicans say that we must “win” or “succeed” in Iraq they are completely missing the point. If you are actually trying to achieve military goals, you obviously need to define both the tactical and strategic goals, and you must achieve them effectively in a reasonable period of time with a minimal loss of life. But if you fail to define the goals, then how can you even define winning or losing?

President Bush’s simpleminded approach to everything he does undermines his ability to accomplish anything, or succeed at anything. If you put together a great football team but fail to tell them that the object of the game is to get the ball to the goal line, then how are they supposed to win? If you project military force around the world but fail to tell the generals what the strategic and tactical goals of the operation are, how are they supposed to accomplish nonexistent goals? Only an idiot would set up such an obviously ill-conceived military expedition.

The situation is deteriorating on a daily basis in Iraq and there is nothing that the Iraq study group can do to fix the problem at this point. We are past the point where a change in tactics, or definition of what the goals in Iraq are could possibly make any difference. What are our options? My guess is that now the only viable option is to begin withdrawing troops and hope that the Iraqi military and police forces can deal with the growing violence. It will certainly leave the country in chaos, but how is that any different than what we have now? It's going to be chaos whether we are there or not.

The main question is will the violence spread to other countries? Bush has botched the job so badly, and inflamed tensions so thoroughly in the Middle East that such an outcome is becoming more and more likely. Congressional investigations into the malfeasance of the Bush administration, if they lead to impeachment of the president and vice president, could put our country in a position to begin negotiating with the various factions in Iraq, as well as with its neighbors, in a meaningful way. That may be the only way out that does not result in decades of intense violence throughout the region.

JRM



 

The Times are not a changin’
November 30th, 2006


I have noticed that the Washington Post has been trending toward some level of criticism of the Bush Administration, especially since the election mandate, but the even more sluggish and procrustean NY Times still remains in a pre-November 7th mindset. As a perfect example, I note how both brontosaurian establishments described the announcement that Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa was running for president as a Democrat in the 2008 election. First, the Post’s headline:

Wash Post 11/30/06

Vilsack Running for President

-Iowa governor criticizes President Bush, calls for changes in energy and foreign policies.

And now the headline from the once-estimable Times:

NY Times 11/30/06

First Democrat Joins White House Race

-Tom Vilsack's candidacy could – charitably – be called an uphill climb.

Now ask yourself - which headline provides information, and which provides slanted opinion? Does the NY Times headline mention which state Governor Vilsack is from, or that he is the Governor? Does it mention anything about what he is calling for, or his criticism of President Bush?

Of course not. That would be informative, rather than anti-liberal rhetoric.

In their desperate attempt to not be liberal… indeed to be anti-liberal, the NY Times will continue for some time to fret more over Nancy Pelosi’s wardrobe, and John Kerry’s jokes than over the incendiary Mid-East policies of the Bush administration. They seem to still be in some sort of Judy Miller induced trance – incapable of recognizing that the country has rejected the Republican’s so-called agenda, and is crying out for change.

JRM


 

Stay the Failure
November 18th, 2006


George W. Bush finally made it to Vietnam, about 37 years too late to help those of his generation who fought and died there. He used his rich and powerful father's family connections to avoid that potentially deadly fate, so he could stay home and drink beer with the other rich kids who were able to avoid the draft.

In a tour-de-force of irony, George Bush traveled to Vietnam this week and proclaimed that he learned the lesson of that failed war when he said; “One lesson is, is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while. We'll succeed unless we quit.”

The absurd implication is that if we had stayed in Vietnam, we would have succeeded. This despite the fact that it was only after we left Vietnam that the country eventually turned itself around and embraced capitalism. Bush’s remarks display a complete lack of cognizance of history, or geopolitics, and instead seem to be a stark affirmation of his delusional view of the world, and disregard for the harm his policies have wrought.

Stay the failure will be Bush’s epitaph, and history will not look back kindly on his authoritarian presidency, and the war of choice he prosecuted in Iraq. The long-term repercussions of stay the failure in Iraq will ensure distrust and even hatred of America throughout many parts of the world where goodwill would have had much more positive outcomes.

Stay the failure sounds like a plan to continue war profiteering for the military industrial complex for years to come, rather than a plan to calm a riotous Middle East. It is time to admit that military force can not solve social and political problems in the Middle East, but that it can exacerbate them. Stay the failure? Only if you don’t care about America, or the rest of the world.

JRM


 

America's 12 Step Plan for Recovery (from Republican corruption and malfeasance)
November 9th, 2006


1. Begin to move the troops from Iraq to nearby bases in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, rotate the troops who have been deployed the longest back home.

2. Bolster the UN forces in Afghanistan and finish the job going after Osama bin Laden.

3. Pass a federal election bill that mandates that all elections in the US meet certain criteria in terms of machine reliability and rules for counting and recounting votes.

4. Pass lobbying reform that opens all meetings between lobbyists and US Representatives at any level of government to the press and public.

5. Pass a new fairness doctrine for public airwaves media behavior that is immune to Supreme Court intervention - strengthen laws against government funded propaganda.

6. Restore habeas corpus and eliminate military tribunals. All US detainees must go through the US court system. Outlaw all forms of detainee mistreatment with very stiff criminal penalties for those who break the law.

7. Legislate against war profiteering with severe penalties including jail time.

8. Eliminate the Homeland Security Department and restore FEMA to its previous cabinet position. Restore the FISA court to mandatory status and shut down the secret spying programs implemented by the Bush administration.

9. Raise the minimum wage to at least $7.50 an hour.

10. Pass legislation that provides public funding for all US elections and eliminates all private donations. It's time to stop legislator "dialing for dollars". Our representatives need to be doing their jobs, not schmoozing on the phone.

11. Pass new House and Senate ethics rules with severe criminal penalties

12. Pass laws that prevent gerrymandering of congressional districts and legislate new rules for how boundaries can be drawn and redrawn.

This is just the beginning of getting our country back on track. Additional moves will be required including a much fairer tax system, and a reduced commitment to obscene military expenditures. We need to pay down the national debt while also increasing funding for biomedical research. We need strong "sunshine laws" for the Federal Government - no more secrets from the American people. We need to improve international relations. We need a single-payer national healthcare system. And finally, we need to make sure that Social Security is fully funded, and yes those funds need to be locked away so they can't be squandered on government projects that they were not intended for. It's going to take a long time, and it's going to be a very hard fight against the corporatists. Now that we've taken the Congress back we need to start taking the media back and redirecting our national priorities to benefit all of the American people, not just those at the top.

JRM


 

From the People's House to the Jail House
Election Day: November 7th, 2006


If the votes are counted properly today, the Democrats should easily win back the House of Representatives. The Senate is up for grabs. But there is a good reason why Republicans are so desperate to hold onto both the House and the Senate - Republicans would much prefer to serve in the People's House than to serve time in the jailhouse. The scandals that have so far racked the Republican Party are just the tip of the iceberg. The Jack Abramoff scandal will end up tainting dozens of additional Republicans in the House and Senate, and there are certainly more heads to roll in the Mark Foley scandal, and in the appropriations scandals swirling around billions of dollars of missing money in Iraq.

As soon as Democrats have subpoena power in the House of Representatives things will certainly turn vociferous. Expect many close races and probably a spate of lawsuits in various counties throughout the country. Expect extreme acrimony on your TV as Republicans charge Democrats with every conceivable election day offense, despite their own efforts to suppress the Democratic turnout and flip votes using electronic voting machines.

Also, expect the Republican talking heads on TV to blather on about how the Democrat’s victories were smaller than expected and therefore that they do not constitute a mandate. In other words, don't expect the Republicans to do anything other than what they've done for the last 12 years - attempt to absurdly spin everything to their own advantage.

Vote Democratic today, and help send the House Republicans to the jailhouse.

JRM


 

Party of Fear
November 5th, 2006


The Republicans favorite tactic in the last several elections has been to try to induce as much fear in as many Americans as possible. They say they are protecting us from terrorists, but it is no longer the terrorists who are trying to instill fear in the US populace. The terrorists only had to do that once back in 2001 shortly after a small man with a small mind had been handed the White House by five Republican Supreme Court justices. The rest is now history.

The terrorists did not force us to go to war in Iraq, Bush did.

The terrorists did not force soldiers to torture our prisoners, Bush did.

The terrorists did not demand that we eliminate the right of the accused to a trial, Bush did.

The terrorists did not send our troops into harm's way based on lies, Bush did.

The terrorists did not cut corporate taxes and ring up a $9 trillion national debt, Bush did.

The terrorists did not set up the secret illegal program to spy on American citizens, Bush did.

The terrorists did not send our troops to war without proper equipment, Bush did.

The terrorists did not set up secret detention centers throughout the world, Bush did.

The terrorists did not say that we would have to fight them over there so we did not have to fight them here, Bush did.

We are indeed being terrorized on a continual basis, but it is not by the terrorists who attacked us on September 11, but rather by our own government who is using fear tactics, like the color-coded terror alert system to divide the electorate and attempt to retain power.

As the election approaches you’ll hear lots of scare tactics from the Republicans including their age old favorite that the evil Democrats are going to raise your taxes. Every fiscally responsible person in the country knows that we need to do something about the $9 trillion national debt. It can't be ignored, and it won't go away all by itself. Fiscal responsibility is one of the primary jobs of the president and Congress, and it is one that the Republicans have botched just as badly as they have botched the Iraq war.

If you think the Republicans are going to keep you safer than Democrats, then you have fallen for their big lie. Republicans have no intention of keeping you safe, but instead are intent on keeping you fearful.

It's time to say that there is nothing to fear but Republican fear mongering itself, not to mention two more years of unchecked Republican power. If you want the fear mongering to end, vote the Republicans out of office and bring back divided government with its checks and balances. And don't worry about the Democrats raising taxes, they are only going to raise taxes on corporations and rich people. They will probably reduce taxes on poor and working people.

So what's it going to be on Tuesday? A vote for the party of fear, or vote to bring back checks and balances and fiscal responsibility, as well as congressional oversight of the administration? You get to decide.

JRM


 

Republican Plan for Victory
November 3rd, 2006


How do the Republicans plan on winning this election? They will lie, cheat and steal of course. We've heard all about the illegal purging of voter rolls to eliminate eligible Democratic voters, and all the shenanigans with electronic voting machines made by Republican-controlled corporations, but now we hear about the nitty-gritty local attempts to suppress the Democratic turnout.

Democrats got a hold of the Republican "poll watcher" pamphlets in Maryland recently and much to their surprise (not), it turns out that the pamphlet instructs poll workers to challenge Democratic voters to prove that they are eligible to vote. The pamphlet goes on to tell Republican poll workers not to worry about offending anybody, and even offers the advice of threatening election judges with jail time if they try to interfere.

And what precisely does the Democratic poll worker pamphlet tell Democratic poll workers to do? To try to make sure that no one is turned away and everyone gets a chance to vote.

So there you have it - the starkest most unmistakable distinction between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The Republicans are polling in the low 30% range or less, and their only hope of pulling out any kind of victory is to beat down the Democratic vote any way possible.

So if you're a Democrat, don't forget to bring multiple forms of identification on Tuesday, and you might even want to bring your camcorder so that you can film Republicans trying to block Democrats from voting. It will make wonderful viewing on the evening news on election night. Let's catch the bastards at their dastardly acts and bring democracy back to America.

JRM


 


 
 
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