Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And We Thought Bush Loved the Troops

Study: Rising number of veterans are uninsured, many ineligible for VA care

Associated Press
Oct. 30, 2007 01:24 PM
WASHINGTON - About one of every eight veterans under the age of 65 are uninsured, a finding that contradicts the assumption many have that all vets qualify for free health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, says a new study.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School projected that about 1.8 million veterans overall lack health coverage. That's an increase of 290,000 since 2000. The researchers said most uninsured veterans are in the middle class and are ineligible for VA care because of their incomes. Still others cannot afford their copayments, or lack VA facilities in their community.

"Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people - too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor and a physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance.

The study is based on an analysis of government surveys released between 1988 and 2005. Veterans do fare better than the overall population when it comes to obtaining health insurance. Still, the Harvard researchers said the rising number of uninsured vets points to the need for more funding for the VA. The best solution, they said, would be for universal health coverage in the United States.

"Only the government can put men and women into military service and only the government can guarantee that they are covered after they serve," said Dr. Jeffrey Scavron.

The study notes that the VA in January 2003 ordered a halt to the enrollment of most veterans who are not poor. The move was designed to reduce the backlog of patients waiting for care.

But Peter Gaytan, who monitors veterans' issues for the American Legion, said veterans now make as little as about $24,000 a year in some regions and still do not qualify for health coverage from the VA.

"That decision created a large number of veterans who have served in the U.S. military who are denied access," Gaytan said.

Gaytan said the number of uninsured vets could rise in coming years if soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have trouble getting back their old jobs.

"It will be an increasing issue that needs to be dealt with," Gaytan predicted.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Continued Disenfranchisement of the People Can Only Lead to Violence

Hmmmm.....as Pooh says: "Think. Think. Think..."

Progressive Daily Beacon
Opinion Piece
Continued Disenfranchisement of the People Can Only Lead to Violence
Silence Dogood, October 25th, 2007

The disconnection between the American people and their elected and designated representatives has never been greater. The peoples' growing sense of isolation from their government and their governing officials is unsustainable. If the government doesn't begin to deconstruct its bunker mentality and move quickly to alter its aggressive, "we know what's best for you" posture toward the public, both the Executive and Legislative branches run the very real risk of fomenting and nurturing what could easily evolve into a violent response. It isn't a matter of "if" this will happen. If nothing changes and soon, it is only a matter of "when" it will happen.

Today's Congressional Republicans and their President, such as he is, are actively attacking the will of the people. The people demand healthcare for their children - Bush and Republicans stubbornly refuse to consider the demand. The people demand an end to the endless war in Iraq and, based upon the misguided belief that they know better, Bush and Republicans arrogantly defy their wishes. The people are hurting and crying out for an economic paradigm that meets their needs, and Bush and Republicans refuse to alter their ideologically motivated failed course of tax-cuts for the wealthiest, nothing for the working person.

Unfortunately, Congressional Democrats aren't much better. They refuse to end the war in Iraq. Instead of simply ending all funding except for the money needed to begin withdrawal and to return the troops home, Democrats offer lies about how they are powerless to do anything. To whom are the people to turn? Who will bend to the will of the American people? The answer to both questions, sadly, is no one.

Not too long ago, frustrated by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats' excuse making and lying, a group of protesters camped outside the Speaker's home and demanded an end to the Iraq War. Too cowardly to look them in the eyes, as Miss Pelosi marched passed the group she declared, "You are not my constituents!" And to think, some assumed that as Speaker of the Peoples' House, every citizen was her constituent. Apparently not!

What was Nancy Pelosi's message? Was Pelosi saying that both she and the Democratic Congress, like the Bush White House, will represent ONLY those American citizens who agree with their policies and positions? If the protesters aren't Nancy Pelosi's constituents, then who in the government represents them and their legitimate interests? Finally, if a growing proportion of the population is being told that they have no voice in their supposed democracy and their government becomes hostile toward their legitimate demands what recourse, other than violence, is left to them?

The government's growing isolation and disconnect from the people, and the increasingly confrontational posture between citizens and their officials was on full display when Condoleezza Rice was challenged by a protester brandishing bloodied hands. Though the protester's approach certainly highlighted an aggression born out of desperation, the look upon Rice's face made it clear that she held nothing but contempt for this citizen's desperate attempt at having her government acknowledge her legitimate concerns. Indeed, Rice's cold glare made crystal-clear that the government no longer considered the people as being legitimate participants in policy decisions.

At every level of government the people are being marginalized, ignored and trivialized. If the Executive and Legislative Branches of the government continue this aggressive posture toward the people, it will only be a matter of time before some people respond with violence. Let's hope someone in Washington DC figures it out before it is too late.


Responses:

posted by Katherine HOlland
on October 25th, 2007 at 6:49AM
This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing gov, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or revolutionary right to dismember or over throw it. ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Sound advice & great wisdom. Where do we start? It seems only a few members have the guts to speak up for truth.

posted by Paul Coffman
on October 25th, 2007 at 11:58AM
At last, none to soon, the truth and it's reality. I, as a lone voice having not been heard, agree with and advocate this entire article. We, as American citizens, must realize our Constitutional rights, as we once knew them, are gone. If going to the streets is the only way to gain them back, quoting the moron in the White House, "Bring it on"!!

In WWIII...

...our 'allies' in Europe ought to strike not along side us at Iran, they ought to strike right at us! It'll be a quick, simple takeover. All our forces are already in Iraq and Afghanistan. There'd be none left defending the US, so don't worry about bombs, mass casualties, and destruction. The only ones left to defend us would be the members of congress, and most of them dodged their military service, so it would be a relatively simple takeover/take-back.

With an appointed leader from say, the Netherlands, in the White House, the country could be brought back around to some sense of sanity in the world. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights could be reinstated, a new congress elected, and WWIII would have ended very quickly...if the Europeans are smart enough to do it.

Read on as to why they should:


Rosa Brooks:
Straitjacket Bush
The president's warmongering remarks on the Iranian threat suggest he is psychotic. Really.
October 25, 2007

Forget impeachment.

Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Because they've clearly gone mad. Exhibit A: We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war.

That would be with Iran, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the war drums. Last week, Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." On Sunday, Cheney warned of "the Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power . . . [we] cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions." On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."

Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.

Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 20, Fareed Zakaria, a solid centrist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, put it best. Citing Bush's invocation of "the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon," Zakaria concluded that "the American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. . . . Iran has an economy the size of Finland's. . . . It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are . . . allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

Planet Cheney.

Zakaria may be misinterpreting the president's remark about World War III though. He saw it as a dangerously loopy Bush prediction about the future behavior of a nuclear Iran -- the idea being, presumably, that possessing "the knowledge" to make a nuclear weapon would so empower Iran's repressive leaders that they'll giddily rush out and start World War III.

But you could read Bush's remark as a madman's threat rather than a madman's prediction -- as a warning to recalcitrant states, from Germany to Russia, that don't seem to share his crazed obsession with Iran. The message: Fall into line with administration policy toward Iran or you can count on the U.S.A. to try to start World War III on its own. And when it comes to sparking global conflagration, a U.S. attack on Iran might be just the thing. Yee haw!

You'd better believe these guys would do it too. Why not? They have nothing to lose -- they're out of office in 15 months anyway. Après Bush-Cheney, le déluge! (Have fun, Hillary.)

But all this creates a conundrum. What's a constitutional democracy to do when the president and vice president lose their marbles?

The U.S. is full of ordinary people with serious forms of mental illness -- delusional people with violent fantasies who think they're the president, or who think they get instructions from the CIA through their dental fillings.

The problem with Bush is that he is the president -- and he gives instructions to the CIA and military, without having to go through his dental fillings.

Impeachment's not the solution to psychosis, no matter how flagrant. But despite their impressive foresight in other areas, the framers unaccountably neglected to include an involuntary civil commitment procedure in the Constitution.

Still, don't lose hope. By enlisting the aid of mental health professionals and the court system, Congress can act to remedy that constitutional oversight. The goal: Get Bush and Cheney committed to an appropriate inpatient facility, where they can get the treatment they so desperately need. In Washington, the appropriate statutory law is already in place: If a "court or jury finds that [a] person is mentally ill and . . . is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization."

I'll even serve on the jury. When it comes to averting World War III, it's really the least I can do.

rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If This Doesn't Make You Mad, Nothing Will!

And, tell me this doesn't sound like the storyline of a bad Hollywood B-movie?

(Somebody go find out what movies Dubya has been watching the past 8 years.)

Bush Won’t Pay for Kids’ Health Care But Flew Billions in Shrink-Wrapped Bundles of Taxpayer Cash into the Iraq War Zone - a Fortune That Can’t Be Accounted for Now

Posted by Jon Ponder | Oct. 21, 2007, 7:58 am

“Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?” — Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Pres. Bush said he vetoed the Democrats’ expansion of the SCHIP children’s health insurance program because it was too costly. This confirms what we know about the president’s priorities. But the cost to cover 10 million additional children would be $35 billion, Democrats have pointed out, which is roughly what it takes to run Bush’s war in Iraq for 41 days.

An even more apt example of the misplaced values of Bush and his party — of taxpayer money squandered in Iraq that could have been put to good use in the United States — is the story of the $12 billion or so that was flown into Iraq and then went missing and will never be recovered. It sounds like a financial scandal of historical proportions, and yet it is one of the most under-reported story of the war:

The United States flew nearly $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent.

The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a U.S. congressional committee.

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tons, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22, 2004, six days before the handover.

After this was revealed in an investigation into Bush’s handling of his invasion of Iraq, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee was prompted to ask:

“Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?”

Security in the war zone was so lax as to be non-existent:

“One [Bush Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)] official described an environment awash in $100 bills,” the memorandum [on the investigation for Waxman’s committee] says. “One contractor received a $2 million payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. Auditors discovered that the key to a vault was kept in an unsecured backpack.

And:

“They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one division’s vault. Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75 million in cash, and was ordered to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds.”

The Bush team — many of whom were inexperienced Republican Party operatives, cronies of the president and their twenty-something kids — lost or ripped off millions of dollars from the UN that was intended to feed Iraq’s poor people:

On April 12, 2004, the [CPA] in Erbil in northern Iraq handed over $1.5 billion in cash to a local courier. The money, fresh $100 bills shrink-wrapped on pallets, which filled three Blackhawk helicopters, came from oil sales under the UN’s Oil for Food Programme, and had been entrusted by the UN Security Council to the Americans to be spent on behalf of the Iraqi people.

The CPA didn’t properly check out the courier before handing over the cash, and, as a result, according to an audit report by the CPA’s inspector general, “there was an increased risk of the loss or theft of the cash.”

Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Baghdad … kept a slush fund of nearly $600 million cash for which there is no paperwork: $200 million of this was kept in a room in one of Saddam’s former palaces, and the US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds.

To get a sense of the Bushies’ attitude about the loss of the money, here is retired Admiral David Oliver, who was Bremer’s financial advisor, on the loss of billions of Oil for Food dollars:

“I have no idea. I can’t tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn’t - nor do I actually think it’s important.”

Q: “But the fact is billions of dollars have disappeared without trace.”

Oliver: “Of their money. Billions of dollars of their money, yeah I understand. I’m saying what difference does it make?”

The reason Adm. Oliver should have cared — aside from the fact that finance was his purview — is that some of this cash very likely fueled the insurgency that ensued a few months later. It is also likely the money ended up in the hands of terrorists who used it to buy weapons to kill our troops.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Bush's Payroll

Bush couldn't find people willing to back his federal ban on same-sex marriage, so he hired journalists and talk show personalities to promote it on the air and in testimonies to the Senate!

Paid!

Read on...

Stations Face Fines Over Use Of Bush Anti-Gay Shill
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: October 19, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET

(Washington) Two broadcast companies are facing FCC fines totaling $76,000 against two broadcast companies for failing to tell viewers that programs in 2004 featuring conservative columnist Armstrong Williams were sponsored by the Education Department.

Williams was hired by the Bush administration to promote its so-called marriage initiative that would have banned same-sex marriage in the Constitution and to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

Williams was paid nearly a quarter million dollars in 2003 by the White House to promote the President's agenda in his columns and nationally syndicated talk show.

Williams did not reveal the existence of the contract even as he expressed his support for the agenda on the air.

The Federal Communications Commission says the two companies, which own multiple stations, violated sponsorship identification rules by not revealing Williams' financial relationship.

Sonshine Family Television Inc., owner of WBPH-TV in Bethlehem, Pa., is liable for a fine of $40,000 for airing five episodes of "The Right Side with Armstrong Williams."

The shows aired on 10 occasions in the first half of 2004 and included Williams speaking about the education law.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. of Baltimore was hit with a proposed fine of $36,000 for airing an episode of "America's Black Forum" in September of 2004, which also included Williams talking about the legislation.

The Sinclair stations involved are WABM-TV in Birmingham, Ala.; KSMO-TV in Kansas City, Mo.; WVTV-TV in Milwaukee, Wis.; WUXP-TV in Nashville, Tenn.; KOCB-TV and WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Fla; WPMY-TV in Pittsburgh; KABB-TV in San Antonio; and WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Fla.

The FCC said it began investigating following a complaint from Free Press, a public interest media watchdog group, and "several thousand other complainants".

The attorney-general reportedly is also looking into the relationship between Williams and the White House.

In 2005 the Government Accountability Office launched its own probe and concluded that the Education Department engaged in illegal "covert propaganda" by hiring Williams without requiring him to disclose that he was being paid. The Education Department's inspector general also reviewed the Williams deal.

Williams is a former aide to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In a column following the 2004 election Williams linked gay rights advocates with organized crime.

"Despite the rhetoric that you hear from the homosexual Cosa Nostra, the lack of support for the gay marriage amendment has nothing to do with prejudice," he wrote.

"It's not about trying to dictate to adults what they should do in the privacy of their own homes. Let's be clear about that. Opposition to the gay marriage amendment isn't about disallowing homosexuals the same basic rights we extend to everyone else. It is about recognizing that marriage between man and woman is the bedrock of our society. It is about the citizens of this country saying, en masse, that they are unwilling to deconstruct certain basic and essential norms in our culture and society."

After Williams was exposed the White House pulled the plug on the operation, but sources close to the investigation say that Williams did not return any of the money, nor did the administration request it.

After Williams was exposed two other cases came to light where the administration hired journalists to promote its agenda in the guise of unbiased commentary and news.

Syndicated conservative columnists Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus were paid by the administration to promote the marriage initiative.

In 2003 Gallagher testified before a Senate subcommittee in support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage but failed to mention she was on the White House payroll. (story)

McManus, whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appeared in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I am Relevant

...and let's remember: it is more important for President Bush to be relevant than for children to have health care. And Mr. Bush's definition of relevancy, as he has implied is actually "dictatorial" in the dictionary; not that Mr. Bush could probably define either "dictatorial" nor "dictionary", since he probably thinks they are synonymous, not that he knows what a synonym is either.

Bush: 'I Am Relevant'

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; 1:10 PM

A defensive President Bush insisted that he was still relevant this morning in a news conference dominated by his bitter complaints about the Democratic Congress.

Asked how he found himself vetoing a children's health insurance bill that had passed Congress with bipartisan support, Bush insisted that using a veto is "one way to ensure I am relevant."

When a reporter followed up and asked Bush if he felt he was losing leverage and relevance, Bush replied: "I've never felt more engaged and more capable of getting the American people to realize there's a lot of unfinished business."

Which, let's be blunt, is hard to believe.

Everything you need to know about today's hastily scheduled press conference was telegraphed by John Whitesides of Reuters: "Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday. . . .

"Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent. A paltry 11 percent gave Congress a positive grade, tying last month's record low."

"There is a real question among Americans now about how relevant this government is to them," pollster John Zogby told Whitesides. "They tell us they want action on health care, education, the war and immigration, but they don't believe they are going to get it."

Bush has now tied President Nixon's all-time low approval rating as measured by the Gallup Poll. But Congress is doing even worse.

"Congress has little to show for all the time that has gone by" since Democrats gained control in January of both the House and the Senate, Bush said.

At the end of the press conference, Bush celebrated what he called his "bully pulpit," telling reporters "I was trying to get your attention focused on the fact that major pieces of legislation aren't moving, and those that are, are at a snail's pace. And I hope I did that. I hope I was able to accomplish that."

'Common Ground'

Bush said that "now it's time to put politics aside and seek common ground." But New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg asked: "This morning, you gave us a pretty scathing report card on Democrats. . . . I'm wondering, how would you assess yourself in dealing with Democrats this past year? How effective have you been in dealing with them on various issues? And do you think you've done a good job in finding common ground?"

In his response, Bush demonstrated that his idea of common ground involves Democrats caving in and giving him whatever he asks for.

Nobody Likes Their Flaws Pointed Out to Them

Washington Post reporter Peter Baker noted that there are signs Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to continue ruling Russia after his term expires next spring, possibly by becoming prime minister.

Baker asked if Bush should get tougher with Putin -- and "what it would mean for Russian democracy if, when you leave power -- assuming you do in January 2009 -- (laughter) -- that Vladimir Putin is still in power?"

Bush responded vaguely: "My leadership style has been to try to be in a position where I actually can influence people. And one way to do that is to have personal relationships that enable me to sit down and tell people what's on my mind, without fear of rupturing relations."

Bush added that Putin doesn't like it. "You know, nobody likes to be talked to in a way that may point up different flaws in their strategy."

Spoken like someone who has been busy dodging questions and criticisms for a long time! Let's see: we know Bush has dismissed defense and intelligence analysts who don't feed him information that will support his imagined plans. Anytime he is confronted with a challenge to his ideology or actions, he avoids answering the question.

One report has accumulated over 1,000 impeachable offenses against Bush and Cheney, yet Congress has not acted on any of these. Over 1,000!!! Why we continue to allow Bush and Cheney to sit in the nation's highest offices is indeed worth questioning and DEMANDING answers! Why are there NOT hundreds of thousands marching and demonstrating in DC against these KNOWN liars, KNOWN criminals?

You know why?

They're all working 2 and 3 jobs to support their families. And without health care, they can't very well sit or march in the autumn cold of DC! By forcing Americans to work ALL THE TIME, Bush & Co. have effectively made mass demonstrations impossible.

In the 1930s, Bush's grandfather helped organize a failed plot to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a military coup. If only that could happen now....

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

And what are we doing? Nothing.

Where we should be doing some good instead of being in Iraq.


A frame grab taken by a member of the Democratic Voice of Burma and released October 1, 2007, shows the body of a dead Buddhist monk floating in the Pazondaung River in Yangon. (Photo courtesy Reuters)

'People Will Never Forgive the Murders'

By Jürgen Kremb, Der Spiegel, Oct 8, 2007

Following the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests, the Burmese regime has placed thousands of people in internment camps. The junta has also announced that it intends to hunt down the remaining journalists in the country.

Meetings like this are extremely dangerous for both sides, but the underground opposition in Burma has insisted on this encounter. "This is the only way that we can prove that the government propaganda is a web of lies," says the middleman.

It takes two days to organize the logistics of a secret interview with one of the leaders of the demonstrations in Yangon. Finally, everything is arranged and a taxi is waiting at the agreed location.

This taxi symbolizes the catastrophic state of Burma's economy, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Virtually the whole of the interior trim is missing, the seats are ripped, and the passenger door is in constant danger of falling off. After an hour-long circuitous journey through the streets of Yangon, the vehicle rolls into the dark courtyard of a wooden single-family house in the eastern part of this city of 5 million people.

The wiry man who awaits the arrival of the taxi is dressed in civilian clothes and has a shaved head. He speaks passable English and introduces himself as the leader of the All-Burma Monks' Alliance, the organization that led the recent demonstrations against the military junta. "Call me U Min," he says hastily. It is 8:30 p.m. in Yangon and there's not much time to talk -- the curfew begins at 10 p.m. "It's not true that the demonstrations have ended," says Min. In Sittwe, in the western state of Arakan, the resistance has not yet been broken, he says. But he knows that it won't last long.

"We've sent the young monks back to their home villages," says Min. He says that monks are now being tortured all across the country. Local people found the body of a man in a red robe, dumped into a sewage canal near Min's house. There are also reports that a number of dead monks have been found in rivers in Shan State in northern Burma.

"They must have been hundreds of deaths," says Min. "We'll never find out the exact number." The military is said to have given orders not to leave any victims on the streets and to burn all corpses immediately. But what shocks the monks' leader most of all is an incident that occurred at the beginning of the week before last.

Min was among a group of monks who were singing and praying as they walked up the steps to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the symbol of the country. "There, the military opened fire on us from above," he says. "It's tantamount to shooting at the priests in St. Peter's." A number of monks immediately fell down dead; there are no traces of those who were wounded in the incident.

Most of Min's fellow monks are on the run, headed for Thailand. But he intends to stay because he firmly believes that the uprising will flare up again. "People are hungry and they will never forgive the murders," says Min at the end of the interview. "The people are trembling with rage -- we won't wait another 19 years."

But the people are also trembling with fear. In contrast to the summer of 1988, when soldiers opened fire on crowds in the streets of Yangon and mowed down at least 3,000 demonstrators, the regime's hunters now come at night. They silently take away opponents of the regime and people who are suspected of taking part in the demonstrations.

There are also reports of a brutal crackdown in South Okkalapa Township, a slum in eastern Yangon. Clashes continued here long after troops had quelled resistance in the center of the city. When the soldiers tried to storm a monastery in Biezar Yaniar Street which was home to particularly rebellious monks, they met with resistance from local residents.

People in South Okkalapa, a quarter of day laborers and the poor, have nothing left to lose. In this part of town, the head of a household rarely earns more than 1,300 kyat a day, the equivalent of 60 euro cents. By comparison, a kilo of rice costs 2,500 kyat.

When the troops advanced on the monastery, there were suddenly hundreds of people on the street, but they could do nothing. The soldiers surrounded the complex and butchered the crowd with bayonets. Inside the monastery they went on a murderous rampage. The monks, who are sworn to a life of non-violence, offered no resistance. "The monks had to stand in a row and then the soldiers smashed their heads against a brick wall," says a local resident.

There are no independent confirmations of such reports. On Wednesday evening last week, Burmese state radio announced that foreign saboteurs were in the country disguised as journalists. German correspondents were explicitly warned. "We will hunt you down," said the radio announcer.

This is a warning to outsiders, but it is mainly aimed at the domestic audience. Local people who talk with journalists are abducted. In South Okkalapa, military trucks are stationed around the clock in front of the rebellious monastery. US diplomats who visited Yangon's monasteries over the past few days found at least 15 which no longer had any monks. Military personnel have occupied the Sule Pagoda in the heart of the city. They march with their boots through the holy site and camp among the Buddha statues -- a sacrilege for all Buddhists.

At night, the feared Swan Arr Shin militia, made up of small-time criminals who do the regime's dirty work, patrol the outlying areas of town, armed with bamboo poles, clubs and knives. In Yangon alone, the government has set up three internment camps. One of them has been built on the grounds of an old horse racing track and another is reportedly located near Yangon International Airport in Mingaladon. Roughly 800 monks have been taken to the grounds of the Yangon Technological University, where for the past few days carpenters have had to build 300 wooden cells, each measuring just three meters by three meters. Since many of the monks are still refusing to receive alms from the military in protest, they have in effect embarked on an involuntarily hunger strike.

Officially, the curfew is from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, but in the outer districts of Yangon, soldiers block intersections every night at 6:00 pm. At nightfall, the population is placed under house arrest.

"Even such a brutal repression will not end this crisis," says one knowledgeable observer, who prefers not to give his name. The fact that he works for the government as an economic advisor lends him a certain degree of protection. He wears a checkered Burmese longyi -- a kind of traditional sarong -- and a carefully ironed white shirt. "What we've seen over the past few days was a revolt inspired by hunger," he says. In his opinion, the military leaders don't care where the country is headed.

Nonetheless, he finds it encouraging that UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari actually met twice with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to the country. The opposition leader has spent more than 11 of the past 18 years under house arrest or in prison.

Between his two meetings with Suu Kyi, Gambari also met with the 74-year-old junta leader Than Shwe. According to the economic advisor, subtle pressure from China and unusually harsh condemnation from ASEAN -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- may have had some effect on the regime. In any case, state media reported last Thursday that Than Shwe would be prepared, "under certain conditions," to meet with "the Lady," as Suu Kyi is affectionally known. However the junta said Monday that Suu Kyi will remain under house arrest under a new constitution is approved, which most analysts consider a very distant prospect.

There is not much hope left in Burma. During the uprising, speculation was rife about a possible split in the military, fuelled in part by a photo printed in the junta mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar after the UN special envoy's visit to Yangon. It shows Gambari with the four top military leaders who are on the "State Peace and Development Council," which is the official name of the military regime in Burma. Wasn't there a slight gap between junta boss Than Shwe and the other generals? And wasn't the senior general actually holding Gambari's hand?

But immediately following his return on Thursday, Gambari had some sobering news for his boss, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. According to the special envoy's report, the mission was unsuccessful.

A Responsibility to Honor the Truth

Of course, die-hard neo-cons will dispute all of this as lies, proving it is THEY who are un-American, not those they berate daily.

Read on:

Progressive Daily Beacon
Opinion Piece
A Responsibility to Honor the Truth
A. Alexander, October 8th, 2007

There are no shortage of ill-intended and manipulative people, most associated with today's extremist Republican Party, that like to remind us all that 'freedom ain't free'. An odd perspective considering the fact that 'inalienable rights' are about as free as free can be.... As usual today's radicalized Republican Party and the Conservative movement have reality exactly backwards. Freedom is as free as the air we breathe.... If something is 'inalienable' it is unchallengeable, absolute, immutable, not able to be forfeited, unassailable, incontrovertible, indisputable, and undeniable. It is free!

But that is the problem with today's fanatical Republican Party and militant Conservative movement: It is completely unmoored from reality and operates in a universe of lies and deceit of their own making, which they insist to be the truth.

The Republican Party's confusion couldn't be greater. They honestly don't understand that freedom is indeed, free. However, with freedom, as with great power, comes great responsibility. And that is what today's fringe Conservative movement and extremist Republican Party fail to understand.

One cannot walk into a crowded theater and, under the guise of free speech, scream fire when there is no fire. Such an act could lead to people being trampled and killed as they try to escape. The point is that along with 'inalienable' rights comes an inherent responsibility to practice it in a way that is not harmful to others or to the form of governance that enables and allows such human freedoms to flourish.

How wise is it to allow corporations, political parties, and individuals the legal means through which to broadcast dangerous ideological opinions that are dressed up as factual news? Do corporations, political parties, and individuals have the right to willfully and intentionally mislead and con supposedly free people into behaving, acting, agreeing, or voting in such a way that the doing undermines their freedom and destroys their democracy? Isn't that very much like yelling fire in a crowded theater? Isn't the person yelling fire exercising their right to free speech in a manner that is potentially harmful to others? Isn't manipulating mass media information in such a way that it harms the people and weakens democracy also, an abusive implementation of rights and freedoms?

When FOX News intentionally misleads the public through terrorism-related fear mongering; refuses to report actual news that reflects poorly upon their Republican Party masters; when the network lies and claims everything in Iraq is going just great when it has come completely undone; when their morning show lies and claims a Democrat attended a 'terrorist' training school; and when their captions intentionally misleads the people in one of a hundred different circumstances, isn't that using freedom of the press and free speech in a manner that harms the American people and undermines the democratic process?

Today's Republican Party and extremist Conservative movement's foundation is the notion that simply because they believe something, it is true and deserving of equal media representation. Never mind Republicans rarely, if ever, possess evidence or facts to support their version of what they consider the "truth." Republicans believe whatever it is that they believe and have bullied the media into accepting their "impassioned belief" as being of equal value to evidence and facts. This, of course, is insanity. And the danger that this illogical reasoning poses to the nation's wellbeing, has been made more than obvious by the Iraq War.

The Bush administration and quasi-think tank supporters insisted Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda. They couldn't prove either case and had no evidence to support their ridiculous claims. The international community and MOST of the legitimate (non-administration created and sponsored) U.S. intelligence community had facts-based evidence directly refuting the administration and its supporter's claims. However, the administration insisted that their claims -- absent fact or evidence -- merited greater weight because it was THEIR strongly held opinion and they were able to better package their perspective for mass media consumption. Insanely, most of America's media agreed and ignored the evidence-based facts that directly contradicted the administration's Iraq-related opinions.

The point is that everyone has a right to their own opinion, but they don't have a right to present their delusions as being either fact or reality. What's more, institutions and media outlets have a responsibility not to present dangerous and misleading ideology-based opinions as fact or reality. And, contrary to what some might believe, including people on the Left who've bought into the Republican con that public figures and so-called news agencies have every right to present their opinion as fact, refusing to allow or participate in the perpetuation of opinions-as-fact insanity is not infringing upon anybody's free speech.

Nobody is saying that James Dobson cannot say, though it is completely dissociated from reality, that the Founding Fathers formed the foundation of America's government on biblical teachings. Dobson and his followers have every right to say and believe whatever delusions they wish to, however; the media has an obligation to America's freedoms and democracy to both correct the falsehoods and too, not to allow peoples' delusions to be presented in a forum or manner that could be perceived as legitimizing the illegitimate.

If it hurts James Dobson's feelings that his delusions aren't being presented in a manner that would make them appear legitimate, that is too bad. The media's job isn't to placate either the Right or Left's feelings or agenda - it is to be an honest mediator and disseminator of factual information.

Even the President of the United States has the right to his opinions, but the media has an obligation to freedom and democracy to ensure that not even the President of the United States' opinions are presented as fact. And when there is a gray area and, perhaps, the truth appears somewhat murky - responsibility to freedom and democracy demands that conclusions be based upon the preponderance of available evidence...regardless of how strongly one might believe their own self delusions.

Finally, when someone's opinion is stated as fact and is done so without evidence supporting the claims, responsible people have a duty to freedom and democracy to make certain the opinion is not repeated without being properly challenged. Again, a lesson that Iraq should have made clear.

Today's extremist Republican Party and fringe Conservative movement members need to understand that they have a right to their opinions, but responsible media has a duty to freedom and democracy to challenge such misguided delusions and to ensure such opinions are not disseminated as fact. Indeed, in a public forum, along with free speech comes a great responsibility on the speaker's behalf to ensure that what is said is honest and truthful...otherwise nobody is obligated to provide them a platform from which to lie.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

Yes, they are, these modern 'compassionate conservative' Christians!

Who are the damn fool idiots who elected these people?

Read on: it's funny, scary, and may make you want to vomit. So be prepared.

By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times
Published: October 5, 2007

In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

And on the day of the veto, Mr. Bush dismissed the whole issue of uninsured children as a media myth. Referring to Medicaid spending — which fails to reach many children — he declared that “when they say, well, poor children aren’t being covered in America, if that’s what you’re hearing on your TV screens, I’m telling you there’s $35.5 billion worth of reasons not to believe that.”

It’s not just the poor who find their travails belittled and mocked. The sick receive the same treatment.

Before the last election, the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s and has become an advocate for stem cell research that might lead to a cure, made an ad in support of Claire McCaskill, the Democratic candidate for Senator in Missouri. It was an effective ad, in part because Mr. Fox’s affliction was obvious.

And Rush Limbaugh — displaying the same style he exhibited in his recent claim that members of the military who oppose the Iraq war are “phony soldiers” and his later comparison of a wounded vet who criticized him for that remark to a suicide bomber — immediately accused Mr. Fox of faking it. “In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it’s purely an act.” Heh-heh-heh.

Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.