Thursday, October 26, 2006



Dubya's been caught lying again. "So?" you ask, "what's new? We all know he's a pathological liar - we figured that one out years ago."

I know, I know - this is about the six gazillionth lie he's told the American people (and the rest of the world) - but this one is so bold-faced, so egregious, and so conveniently timed - we are only 12 days out from an election, after all - that I think it deserves special mention.

And in a small voice I ask, "...but doesn't it disgust you that he's a liar? He's supposed to be your President! He's not supposed to lie!" Well, it certainly disgusts the Democratic Party. They've made an ad all about it.

Because when Bush said "we will stay the course in Iraq" he didn't actually mean "we will stay the course in Iraq" - in fact, according to the man himself, "...we've never been 'stay the course'."

Yeah, right George. And Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. What a f*cking liar. Take a look....

Let's rewind for a second here. You wanna see more of the bit in his interview last Sunday on ABC with George Stephanopoulos where Bush denies he's ever been "stay the course"? Here it is again - complete with transcript at Think Progress:

Bush interview screenshot. Watch the video

So a couple of days later, after two-thirds of America had picked itself off the floor and stopped the hysterical and disbelieving laughter, Bush's press secretary Tony "Snowjob" Snow (you know, the one who used to work for Faux News) gets on Teevy and starts trying to spin Bush's comments about NOT staying the course in relation to Bush's previous comments ABOUT staying the course... Here he is, again at Think Progress, again with transcript. According to Snow, Bush has only ever said "stay the course" eight times...

Screenshot of Tony Snow. Watch the video

"Hang on," I hear you say, "I'm sure Bush has said "Stay the course" in speeches, press conferences and interviews more than eight times... hasn't he?"

Well, dear reader, of course you're right. In fact according to Think Progress he's said it at least 30 times - that's 30 times that are documented on The White House website. I'm sure there are many more examples out there on the internets.

In fact, a quick search on The White House website actually brings up 157 results for the phrase "stay the course" - all from either Bush or his cohorts repeating the party line. A search on 'The Google' gives you 2,100,000 results for 'bush "stay the course"'.

Here are the most recent ten from the WH website - Think Progress has a whole bunch more:

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century. [8/30/06]

BUSH: Stay the course also means don't leave before the job is done. And that's - we're going to get the job done in Iraq. [8/11/06]

BUSH: As a matter of fact, we will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course. [7/11/06]

BUSH: And I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed. [6/19/06]

BUSH: If we don't lose our nerve, if we stay the course, someday down the road, an American President will be working with democratically-elected leaders in the broader Middle East at the table to keep the peace. [3/24/06]

BUSH: Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, "stay the course." If by "stay the course," they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they are right. If by "stay the course," they mean we will not permit al Qaeda to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America - they are right, as well. If by "stay the course" they mean that we're not learning from our experiences, or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong. [11/30/05]

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]

BUSH: And so the United States of America will stay the course and we will complete the task. We'll help Iraq develop a democracy and the world will be better off for it. [11/21/04]

BUSH: My message is that - is that we will stay the course and stand with these people so that they become free. [9/23/04]

BUSH: We will stay the course so that they can develop an army and police force of their own so they can defend themselves. [9/13/04]

My man Keith Olbermann has a most excellent (and very funny) summary of this whole bag of lies, obfuscations and spinspinspin - with a special on-screen counter for those who have difficulty with c-o-u-n-t-i-n-g. (That would be Bush and Snow, apparently).

Bush's continual attempts to rewrite history remind me so much of George Orwell's 1984, in which Winston Smith's job is to "rectify errors" by rewriting the text of speeches, news reports, books - every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance:

Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.

Well, maybe it's not quite that bad yet. Hooray for 'The Google', I say! Hmmmm. Maybe some of Bush's other history rewrites might make a juicy subject for a future blog.

But remember, kids - in George Bush's America, just as in George Orwell's 1984:

War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength

Interesting links

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Keith Olbermann: "the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party"

Well, the title just about says it all really. This is Keith's Special Comment on how the GOP is selling fear in America, in just the same way that al Qaeda sells fear.

Some of my favourite bits:

The dictionary definition of the word 'terrorize' is simple and not open to misinterpretation: "To fill or overpower with terror; terrify; coerce by intimidation or fear." Note please that the words 'violence' and 'death' are missing from that definition. For the key to terrorism is not the act-but the fear of the act. That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotape statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them? Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; the Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

'To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear'.

By this definition, the people who put these videos together: first, the terrorists and then, the administration, whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking, they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaeda, but the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

Eleven presidents ago, the chief executive reassured us that 'we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.' His distant successor has wasted his administration, insisting there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

So that leaves two options, Mr. President: the first option, you and your Department of Homeland Security don't have the slightest idea what you're doing here. Thus, contrary to your flip-flopping between saying, "we're safe" and saying, "but we're not safe enough", and contrary to the Vice President's swaggering pronouncements about the lack of another attack since 9/11, the last five years HAS been just an accident.

Or there's the second option: your political operatives leaked this nonsense for the same reason your political operatives put out that commercial. To scare the gullible.

Obviously, the correct answer, Mr. Bush, is: all of the above.

Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat itself on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America, just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government in time of crisis in this country's history.

These are the stakes indeed, Mr. President. You do not know what you are doing. And the commercial, the one about which Zawahiri might say, "hey, pretty good, we love your choice of font style," all that further needs to be said about that is to add three words to Shakespeare. Mr. President, you and that advertisement of terror are full of sound and fury, signifying - and competent at - nothing.

YEAH! *pumps fist in air*

Full transcript in the following lovely places:

Send Keith some love here.
Send Crooks and Liars some love here.

*sigh* I do love Keith Olbermann....

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Speaking Truth to Power - can get you into trouble

I spend a lot of time over at the left-wing blog Daily Kos. It's far and away America's most-visited political blog, with around 800,000 visits and over a million page views a day now. You can see the Daily Kos visitor stats here.

Daily Kos is full of passion, and anger at what's happening in America and around the world, and it's bursting with inspiration, ideas, clear thinking and support for fellow Kossaks.

It's this aspect of support that I want to talk about today - and the fact that it's even needed in the first place. This is a story about Speaking Truth to Power - and how it can get you into trouble.

There's a diary on the Recommended List today by kestrel9000. kestrel9000 is a DJ in Virginia, on a oldies (Classic Top 40) radio station called Magic 95.5 WBOP FM. It streams online so you can listen live. It's brilliant. I've been listening for past few hours, and I've loved every song they've played so far (and have sung along with quite a few!). You can listen to his show on weekdays between 10am and 2pm Eastern Time. His real name is Eddie Garcia.

Anyway, kestrel9000's story doesn't have anything to do with the music he plays - it's all about what he said on-air yesterday - and how he's feeling right now about the consequences of what he said. You can read his diary on DailyKos - Ay, cabròn, now I've done it.

Today, during his radio show, he read out Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution of the United States:

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Then he pointed out that, in his opinion, neither of these conditions are met - America is in no sense in a Case of Rebellion or Invasion. And yet the signing into law of the Torture Bill - the Military Commissions Act 2006 has suspended the right of habeas corpus to anyone labelled an "unlawful enemy combatant" by George W Bush.

kestrel9000 also talked on-air about José Padilla, who's an American citizen accused of being a terrorist by the United States government. He's been in detention in a military prison since May 8, 2002. For the first three years of his detention he was held without charge, and without access to a lawyer; he is now charged with "conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim people overseas."

You can find out more about José Padilla at the end of this blog post. My God. It's a horrifying story, and it's not over yet. The US administration has in the past described José Padilla as an illegal enemy combatant, arguing that he was thereby not entitled to the normal protection of US law, nor protection under the Geneva Convention. The Military Commissions Act 2006 now legalises the ongoing mis-treatment and torture of US citizen José Padilla by the US government.

In his diary, kestrel9000 describes what happened on his radio show after he made his comments:

And an hour later, three wingnut calls came in. Bam-bam-bam.
One person was a college professor demanding my on-air apology or termination of employment. Another was a woman who wanted to know where I got my law degree. The third, I think, was her husband. Three fascists, gathered around the coffeepot trying to figure out how to ruin the life of a patriot.

Now I need to point out that, thus far, kestrel9000's boss has not fired him. He still has his job right now. But he's scared. Really scared. He feels alone and is afraid that his career (and his ability to support his family) could be in jeopardy because he was brave/foolhardy enough to say what he thought on-air. That's why he wrote his diary on Daily Kos, and why he asked for support and reassurance from the Kos community.

And I guess this is what I find completely and absolutely astonishing. How did America get to a point where someone reading out a section of the Constitution can be accused of - I'm not actually sure what - but something which requires an on-air apology or the termination of his employment? And since when did you need a law degree to read the Constitution and to understand that habeas corpus has been suspended by the Military Commissions Act under circumstances that are fundamentally un-Constitutional? And how is it that a broadcaster such as Eddie Garcia (kestrel9000's real name) can feel such fear for his job, just by speaking the truth?

Why isn't the American public protesting in the streets against this latest reduction in their freedoms? Why aren't more people publicly questioning what the Bush regime is doing? Where is the outrage at the direction in which this once-great country has been moving for the past 6 years? Why aren't the ordinary folk of America appalled at the gradual reduction of their inalienable rights as Americans? Why do they not understand what they are losing, bit by bit, degree by degree? And how did America reach the point where laws are able to be passed legalising torture, where habeas corpus is suspended, and where the President has the right to have anyone imprisoned indefinitely without trial or representation?

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? And why isn't there a bloody REVOLUTION against it?

This, to me, is chilling. The fact that kestrel9000, just an ordinary American who happens to have access to a microphone and a bunch of listeners, is now afraid for his job, his family and his own safety, is something I find quite horrific. The guy can't read out a section of the Constitution without being afraid of the consequences??? Holy shit! What happened to you, America?

I guess you might be wondering, as I'm a Kiwi, and I live in New Zealand rather than the US of A, why I'm so interested in American politics, and why I write so many blog posts about the state America finds itself in. You might be feeling a little resentful that I have the temerity to point out what I see as wrong in a country that isn't mine. You might not appreciate the fact that I'm suggesting you vote in next month's mid-terms. What right do I have to pass judgement on your country, you may ask?

I think firstly it's because what happens in America affects what happens in the rest of the world. Like it or not, America is the only superpower on the planet right now, and the fact that it's being ruled by a man I believe to be a sociopath, in a manner more befitting a King than a President, scares the shit out of me.

My family lives in the UK, and as a direct result of Bush and Blair's policies on Iraq, they are now more at risk from terrorist attacks than at any time since the height of the IRA's terror campaign.

I see estimates of the dead in Iraq since the war began, and I am horrified that over 2,750 American lives and up to 600,000 Iraqi lives have already been sacrificed by Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest of the criminals in the White House. Sacrified for a lie, for oil, for imaginary WMD, in order to force democracy at the point of a gun, for whatever-the-hell this week's "reason" for the invasion might be - and still Bush insists on "staying the course" in Iraq, even as that beleaguered nation decends into civil war and anarchy.

I look around at places in the rest of the world where the Bush regime is meddling. His international "policies" have made the situation in North Korea worse, not better, and I am certainly not happy about the fact that a nation in my part of the world is now happily testing nuclear weapons and rumbling about the consequences of the US declaring war on them! I worry for the people of Syria and Iran, and wonder whether Rove has an "October Surprise" lined up (aimed at increasing Republicans' popularity in the polls) which might include invading one, or nuking the other.

I see ordinary Americans slowly but surely losing the very freedoms that Bush has sworn an oath to protect, and I see him and his cohorts destroying, piece by piece, the Constitution that his country was founded upon. I see them paying scant regard to the opinions of anyone else in the rest of the world, and I see their arrogance as they stomp all over the rights of ordinary citizens in their own country - and I wonder when (or even if) America is going to wake up and realise what's happening in "the land of the free and the home of the brave". From over here, it doesn't look as free to me as it was even six years ago, and the brave appear to be very few and far between right now.

The only power I have, not being able to vote or make financial contributions to the Democratic campaign in the US, is to get as informed as I can, to speak out, and to write what I know and how I feel in my blog. That's it.

I believe in fairness, justice and truth. I do not believe that the decisions made by the leader of any country should be above the law, and I do not believe that the decisions made about America by George Bush are in the best interests of anyone except those in power, and the ultra-rich "base" they represent.

Bush is hovering on only 30% approval right now, and over two thirds of Americans believe that the War on Iraq is wrong and getting wronger by the day. That gives me hope, but only if your average American cares enough, or realises he/she is in sufficient danger to actually get off their collective ass and vote on November 7. If the landslide in favour of the Democratic Party is large anough, I'm praying that Rove and Co won't be able to Diebold the results and steal yet another election - because whatever decisions are made in America eventually affect the rest of the world. And right now, I'd much rather those decisions were made by a consensus of the true representatives of The People of the USA, rather than by George W Bush - "The Decider".

For my many friends who live in the US, I would like a return to a nation where the right to free speech is upheld, and where people like kestrel9000 feel they can publicly question their representatives without running the risk of losing their job - or worse. I would like to see a country where the people are free to demonstrate, or campaign, or speak out, or even agitate against decisions made by their government. Where Speaking Truth to Power does not get you into trouble. A country where you don't have to fear that one day you will be named "unpatriotic", "un-American" or "enemy combatant", tortured and imprisoned indefinitely without trial.

My American friends fear that their country is moving inexorably in the direction of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao and Pinochet. Your vote on November 7 can and will make a difference. Please use it, for all of us.

Background info on José Padilla

- from lawyer Glen Greenwald's blog Unclaimed Territory - The Bush administration's torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla:

The Bush administration's May, 2002 lawless detention of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla -- on U.S. soil -- was, as I recounted in my book, the first incident which really prompted me to begin concluding that things were going terribly awry in our country. The administration declared Padilla an "enemy combatant," put him in a military prison, and refused to charge him with any crime or even allow him access to a lawyer or anyone else. He stayed in a black hole, kept by his own government, for the next three-a-half-years with no charges of any kind ever asserted against him and with the administration insisting on the right to detain him (and any other American citizen) indefinitely -- all based solely on the secret, unchallengeable say-so of the President that he was an "enemy combatant."

To this day, I have trouble believing that we have a Government that claims this power against American citizens and has exercised that power and aggressively defended it -- and even more trouble believing that there are so many blindly loyal followers of that government who defend that conduct. The outrage that it provokes when thinking about it has not diminished even a small amount and does not diminish no matter how many times one reads, writes or speaks about it. It is as profound a betrayal of the most core American political principles as one can fathom.

The Bush administration finally charged Padilla with a crime (after 3 1/2 years of detention) only because the U.S. Supreme Court was set to rule on the legality of their treatment of Padilla, and indicting Padilla enabled the administration to argue that his case was now "moot." The Government's indictment made no mention of the flamboyant allegation they originally trumpeted to justify his lawless incarceration -- that he was a "Dirty Bomber" attempting to detonate a radiological bomb in an American city (because the "evidence" for that accusation was itself procured by torture and was therefore unreliable and unusable). Instead, the indictment contained only the vaguest and most generic terrorism allegations. Since then, the federal judge presiding over Padilla's case (in the Southern District of Florida) has repeatedly expressed skepticism over the Government's case against him and has, on several occasions, admonished them to provide more specific information setting forth exactly what Padilla is alleged to have done.

Please go read Glenn's account of the treatment of José Padilla in its entirety. It's an absolutely shocking story. José is an American citizen, born in the US. During the first three years and eight months of his incarceration he was kept in complete isolation, with no access to the outside world, no watch or clock, no view of anything outside his cell at all and he was tortured. Endlessly. Extreme sleep deprivation (his steel bed didn't even have a mattress for most of that time!), shacked in stress positions for hours on end, threatened with knives, threatened with imminent execution, hooded, threatened with removal from the US and imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, given "truth" drugs against his will... the list goes on and on. It's awful - and the Torture Bill makes it legal.

Even if José is a terrorist - and the evidence for that is sketchy to say the least - can this treatment be justified? Doesn't torture of a captive make you as bad as the terrorists themselves? It's morally wrong! If you can't get at the truth without resorting to cruel and inhuman treatment (which won't give you the truth anyway!) then either you're not doing your job properly, or the truth is not what you believe it to be. Either way, you lose if you stoop to that level. It disgusts me, and it demeans you.

I didn't mean to write this much today, and I didn't mean for this to turn into such a rant, either. I guess I'm just shocked and appalled that this is happening in America, and that many Americans are content to just stand aside and let it happen. Many of them haven't even bothered to find out what is happening, and that saddens me greatly. So in case you are interested in finding out information served to you from a left-wing viewpoint...

Here's a bit more background info on Daily Kos:

Daily Kos was set up by Markos Alberto Moulitsas Zúniga who has this to say about the purpose of his blog:

This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we're all still in this fight together. We happily embrace centrists like NDN's Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama. Liberal? Yeah, we're around here and we're proud. But it's not a liberal blog. It's a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory. And since we haven't gotten any of that from the current crew, we're one more thing: a reform blog. The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It's one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I've said a million times, the status quo is untenable.

Daily Kos FAQs are here. There are currently over 100,000 registered members of DKos, each of whom is allocated a UID number and is allowed to write one diary per day, which is posted on the site. A Kos diary is pretty much the same as a post on a blog. Members can also comment on other diarists' daily diaries. Your UID number indicates how long you've been a member of DKos, with lower numbers indicating an earlier sign-up date. My number is 29543.

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First they came for the Jews... variations on a theme

So. It's begun. This is the first move on the part of the Bush regime, now legally able to - well, pretty much do what they want to anyone they want. This is one of the many elements of the new Torture Bill, the Military Commissions Act 2006.

From today's Washington Post:

Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

80s peace poster of Pastor NiemollerIt makes me think of Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous poem, First they came..., his cry of protest against those Germans who did nothing to stop the Nazi rise to power, and who stood by as the Nazis purged group after group of "undesirables" in their country.

Here's the original version in German, followed by the English translation:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.


When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
after all I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
after all I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
after all I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


There have been many variations on the theme since the poem was first written. Trolling around the internet I found quite a few. Here are some of them.

First they came for the Socialists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left
to speak up for me.

Common American and English poster version


When they came for the Jews and the blacks, I turned away
When they came for the writers and the thinkers and the radicals and the protestors, I turned away
When they came for the gays, and the minorities, and the utopians, and the dancers, I turned away
And when they came for me, I turned around and around, and there was nobody left...

Hue and Cry, 1991


First they put away the dealers,
keep our kids safe and off the street.
Then they put away the prostitutes,
keep married men cloistered at home.

Then they shooed away the bums,
then they beat and bashed the queers,
turned away asylum-seekers,
fed us suspicions and fears.
We didn't raise our voice,
we didn't make a fuss.
It's funny there was no one left to notice
when they came for us.

NOFX - "Re-gaining Unconsciousness"


One day they came and they took the Communists
And I said nothing because I was not a Communist
Then one day they came and they took the people of the Jewish faith
And I said nothing because I had no faith left
One day they came and they took the unionists
And I said nothing because I was not a unionist
One day they burned the Catholic churches
And I said nothing because I was born a Protestant
Then one day they came and they took me
And I could say nothing because I was as guilty as they were
For not speaking out and saying that all men have a right to freedom
On any land
I was as guilty of genocide
As you
All of you
For you know when a man is free
And when to set him free from his slavery
So I charge you all with genocide
The same as I
One of the 18 million dead Jews
18 million dead people

Charles Mingus - "Don't Let It Happen Here"


First they came for the addicts.
But I was not an addict.
Bad people. Dangerous people.
Better off our streets.

Then they came for the drunkards.
But I was not a drunkard.
Bad people. Dangerous people.
Better off our streets.

Then they came for the smokers.
But I was not a smoker.
Bad people. Dangerous people.
Better off our streets.

Then they came for the poets.

And I
could not


First they came for the blacks (and the Latinos and the American Indians and the Asians).
I was silent. I was not black (or Latino or American Indian or Asian).

Then they came for the gays and lesbians.
I was silent. I was not gay or lesbian.

Then they came for the kids with cleft palates, missing limbs, speech defects and other physical or mental defects.
I was silent. I had no such defects.

Then they came for the nerds, dweebs and geeks.
I was silent. I was not a nerd, dweeb or geek.

Then they came for the fat, wimpy and ugly kids.
I was silent. I was not fat, wimpy or ugly.

Then they came for the kids with attention deficit disorder.
I was silent. I did not have attention deficit disorder.

And then they came for me.
There was no one left to speak for me.



First they came for the uninsured (by passing an unenforceable health insurance portability bill that prohibits private health insurers from imposing preexisting condition exclusions beyond twelve months, but not guaranteeing access to the same benefits or limiting the premiums that can be charged).

But my family and I have health insurance, so I wasn't concerned.

Then they came for Medicaid recipients (by allowing states greater flexibility to get around federal standards designed to ensure that low income persons had access to a comprehensive benefit package). Now states can force Medicaid recipients into low cost Medicaid-only managed care plans with minimal federal oversight. One Medicaid program has resorted to an exclusive list of durable medical equipment without exceptions to restrict this benefit regardless of the type of equipment that can improve function and is medically necessary according to the doctor. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals initial ruling in the Desario case is to judge the adequacy of Medicaid benefits by whether they meet the needs of the "average patient" not the needs of persons with rare, unusual or costly treatment needs, even if it imposes a "death sentence" on some Medicaid recipients).

But I have private insurance, so I wasn't concerned.

Then they came for Medicare beneficiaries (by capping total reimbursement to Medicare providers based on previous utilization levels that create incentives for Medicare providers, like home health agencies, to withhold care from persons with the greatest needs who are less profitable to serve; healthy Medicare beneficiaries will be encouraged to set up Medical Savings Accounts to ensure control over the health care services they think they need, and to seek services from physicians who are not satisfied with the Medicare payment fee schedules by using a private fee for service contract, even though this undermines public leverage over provider reimbursement in the Medicare program).

But they told me I would have more "choices" so I wasn't concerned.

Then they came for persons with private insurance (when my employer told me that I could only choose between two policies in a low cost health plan selected by my employer).

But I thought I was generally healthy so I wasn't concerned.

Then I developed a chronic illness which led to a disability that required some durable medical equipment.

But my health plan decided that it was not part of the benefit package even though my doctor thinks it is medically necessary.

Unfortunately, there is no one left to speak up for me.

Bob Griss, Director of the Center on Disability & Health in Washington, DC and a board member of UHCAN


First they came for the fourth amendment,
and I did not speak out, because I didn't deal drugs.

They came for the fifth amendment,
and I was silent because I owned no property involved in crimes

They came for the sixth amendment,
and I did not protest because I was innocent.

They came for the second amendment,
and I said nothing because I didn't own a gun.

And then they came for the first amendment,
and I could say nothing at all.

Illinois State University College of Fine Arts


First Bush and Gonzales came for the terrorists,
but I was not a terrorist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the enemy combatants,
but I was not a combatant, so I did not object.

Then they came for the protestors resisting "free speech zones" near Bush campaign rallies,
but I was not a protestor and so I only voiced my unease.

Common Dreams - First They Came For The Terrorists...


You have a chance to speak up on November 7. Please use it! GOTV.

Interesting links

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The death of habeas corpus - and the best way to boil a frog

Do you know the best way to boil a frog? If you set a pot of water to boil, and drop the frog in once the water's good and hot, the frog will jump right out again and escape.

No, the right way to boil a frog is to pop him in the water while it's still cold. The frog's feeling happy, swimming around in his new cool pool, not a worry in the world. Then gradually... bit by bit, start to turn up the heat. Not too fast, mind - increase the temperature just a fraction at a time, and make sure that Froggy is completely used to the slightly higher temperature before you raise it again. Patiently continue to increase the heat, degree by degree...

By the time your frog realises the water he's swimming in is now too hot to handle... he'll be dead.

Washington Post: An Iraqi detainee appears to be restrained after having suffered injuries to both legs at Abu Ghraib. Yesterday George W Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act (MCA), better known as The Torture Bill. It's the culmination of six years-worth of turning up the heat on the citizens of the US by George Bush and his cohorts, and another nail in the coffin of that "quaint" old document, The Consitution of the United States of America.

Today, if he so desires, Bush can have you picked up off the street and rendered to Guantanamo Bay, or one of his Black Prisons located in various unscrupulous countries around the world. He can have you tortured in order to force a confession out of you. He can imprison you indefinitely, and you will have no right to a hearing where he would have to prove that you have been imprisoned lawfully, because the ancient right to habeas corpus has been partially suspended in the US by the passing into law of the MCA.

If you're lucky enough to ever have your case brought to court (remember, this law allows him to imprison you without charge indefinitely), he can bring evidence against you which neither you or your lawyers (if you're fortunate enough to get a lawyer) will ever be allowed to see because it's classified; he can have you brought to trial on hearsay evidence alone; and he can have you sentenced to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses.

What does Bush have to prove in order to be allowed under law to carry out these appalling acts of injustice? Nothing. All Bush, "The Decider" needs to do is to declare you "an unlawful enemy combatant". You could be an American citizen or a visitor to the US - it makes no difference. The law is so vaguely worded that anyone in the US can now potentially be picked up, declared an ememy combatant, and "disappeared". For ever.

The New Yorker: An Iraqi prisoner and American military dog handlers. Other photographs show the Iraqi on the ground, bleeding. And don't think you could call upon the Geneva Conventions which guarantee you humane treatment and prevent your captors from torturing you. Under the MCA no defendant may invoke the Geneva Conventions in legal proceedings on their behalf. Oh, and GWB gets to determine “the meaning and application” of the Geneva Conventions banning the torture of prisoners. Told you he was The Decider.

You want more? Here's more from Wikipedia:

If the government chooses to bring a prosecution against the detainee, a military commission is convened for this purpose. The following rules are some of those established for trying unlawful enemy combatants who are not citizens of the United States. [Sec.948b (a)] The Act does exclude these rules from being applied when trying unlawful enemy combatants who are American citizens, per sections 948b(a) and 948c.

  • Certain sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are deemed inapplicable - including some relating to a speedy trial [Sec.948b (d)(1)(A)], compulsory self-incrimination [Sec.948b (d)(1)(B)], and pre-trial investigation [Sec.948b (d)(1)(C)].
  • A civilian defense attorney may not be used unless they have clearance to view materials classified Secret. [Sec.949c(b)(3)(D)]
  • Based on his findings, the judge may introduce hearsay evidence [Sec.949a(b)(2)(E)(i)], evidence obtained without a search warrant [Sec.949a(b)(2)(B)], evidence obtained when the degree of coercion is disputed [Sec.948r (d)], or classified evidence not made available to the defense [Sec.949d(f)(2)(B)].
  • A finding of Guilty requires only a 2/3 majority [Sec.949m(a)]
  • The accused may be tried for the same offense a second time “with his consent” [Sec.949h(a)].
  • If the military commission returns a finding of Not Guilty, its convening authority is not required to take action on the findings. [Sec.950b(c)(3)]
"Ah get over it!" you cry. "Stop being so melodramatic! This law is part of The War on Terra, right? They're after The Terrists, not innocent people like me! If I've done nothing wrong, I have nothing to fear!"

Oh really? You think so?

There are thousands of examples from the US and the world over of men and women convicted wrongly for crimes they did not commit. In the UK, where I'm from, we had the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven.

Seventeen men and women, the youngest of whom was only 14 years old at the time, convicted and imprisoned by over-zealous police forces for IRA bombings which they had nothing to do with. 17 years and three appeals after they were first convicted the Birmingham Six were finally released by the Court of Appeal. The Guildford Four were released on appeal after more than 15 years in jail. The convictions of the Maguire Seven were overturned some time after their sentences were completed. Too late for Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerard Conlon (a member of the Guildford Four), who died while still in prison. All seventeen claimed they had been beaten and tortured by police in order to gain confessions. Not a single police officer was ever charged.

Google "wrongly convicted" and see what comes up. Here's a piece about wrongful convictions in America from USA Today - Report: Thousands wrongly convicted each year - there are many, many more.

Torture at Abu Ghraib: CBS 60 Minutes II broadcast. Remember Abu Ghraib? The horrifying pictures in this blog are from Abu Ghraib. American soldiers torturing prisoners. It's happened already. What's to say this couldn't happen to "unlawful enemy combatants" detained under the Military Commissions Act? What's to say this couldn't happen to you?

You think it can't happen in America? Think again, little frog. The water's almost at boiling point now. Can you feel it?

Thanks to the PATRIOT Act your President already has the right to listen in to your phone calls (without a warrant), read your emails and find out which websites you visit (and which library books you borrow) without telling you. His people can enter your home without warning or warrant (they can apply for that after the fact) - and they don't have to tell you they were ever there, either. Don't believe me? Follow the links at the end of this post - it's all there, and it's all true.

And now they can detain you indefinitely without ever telling you why, and without ever having to bring you to trial. And they can torture you with impunity while you're imprisoned.

You have one last chance to turn off the heat. It's on November 7. Think about it. And vote!

And as you consider this latest reduction in your freedoms, and this latest attack on all that Americans hold true and sacred, and what that might mean to you, or your neighbours, or your family and friends, I'll give the last word to Keith Olbermann, because he always says it so much better than I ever could. Keith, you rock!

Here's a bit of it:
We have handed a blank check drawn against our own freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our own freedom to a man who has insisted again that "the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values" and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our own freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens "unlawful enemy combatants" and ship them somewhere—anywhere - but may now, if he so decides, declare you an "unlawful enemy combatant" and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

And if you think this hyperbole or hysteria, ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was president or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was president or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was president.

And if you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" - exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you?

A full transcript of this Special Comment can be found at Crooks and Liars, which is where I downloaded the video from. Thanks, as always, guys. Now go give Keith some love.

Useful Links

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dim view from India

I get the Guardian Weekly delivered every week - it's one of my "windows on the world". It's a great little paper - incorporating a whole range of articles from the week's UK Guardian newspaper. I like it because it's a good old lefty publication (I used to read it when I lived in the UK) and it gives me a wider view of world events and politics than I can get from our Kiwi papers. Plus it's great to read on the bus...

There was an absolutely BRILLIANT letter published in last week's edition, which I'm going to include here in its entirety, because I think it's absolutely spot-on, and beautifully written. I hope you agree.

So you see a picture of a naked black child clinging to her mother under a headline "High Birthrate threatens to trap Africa in cycle of poverty" (September 1). What do you think? If only they would stop having children, perhaps. Maybe you analyse the many skirmishes in the South in terms of resource competition.

Then come the statistics - eight children per woman in Niger - and you worry about the environmental degradation wrought by so many desperate people. You pity our huddled masses and maybe you care enough to make a donation to a family planning NGO or else to one focused on conservation.

Now let me tell you what we see. Listen for once. We see a world trampled under your huge ecological footprints. We feel your development dragging us into the global market, then watch you buying our wood, oil and running shoes made for $1 a day on that global market. We feel you manoeuvering us towards your democracy and imposing sanctions should we not choose the right government, you who know right from wrong.

We see you coming to sell us cars and hear you tell us not to cut our forests or drive our cars - you need the clean air. We see our hungry children, then we see you using billions of dollars of your latest high-tech weapons and we see fat men in shiny suits selling us expensive but obsolete older models of the same. We fear your sanctions should we ever use them.

We hear your talk of human rights and the rule of law and see your waggling fingers as you lecture us on good governance. You never listen to what we think of your wars and your torture and your governance over us. Oh yes, we feel trapped in a cycle of poverty and we see you turning the wheels.

So when you see naked brown and black children and wish we would stop producing them, remember that we see fat white men overconsuming resources, resources that belong as much to naked black children as they do to you.
Jeph Mathias
Jibhi, Himachal Pradesh, India

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Caring at a distance

Gosh, I can't believe it's been a week since my last blog post. Forgive me!

It's been a very distracted week for me, I'm afraid. My mum is quite unwell, and it's been weighing heavily on my mind. It's tough when people you care about are on the other side of the world. However far apart we are (in all meanings of that phrase), she's still my mum, and I love her.

It looks like she's had a bad reaction to some of the meds she's on, so her doctors have taken her off them and we'll just have to see how it goes. My sister's doing a great job taking care of practical stuff, and we're in constant contact, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to do anything I can to help her and mum.

So in honour of - whatever you like - here's a cute and funny little animation to fill up this post. It has nothing to do with anything else, I just like it and I wanted to put it on my blog somewhere - so today's the day!

I have some great big thoughts in my head about a whole lot of stuff that's happened over the past week - both political and otherwise - so I hope I'll get to it before the week is through. Watch out for my upcoming post on boiling the frog. Should be a good one - the words have been forming themselves into sentences in my head for a few days now!

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