Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Case for Impeachment Hearings

By Representatives and Members of the Judiciary Committee:
Robert Wexler (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

On November 7, the House of Representatives voted to send a resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee. As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, we strongly believe these important hearings should begin.

The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

Now that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has indicated that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent to report to the American people, it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice. Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to “unknowingly [pass] along false information.” In addition, recent revelations have shown that the Administration including Vice President Cheney may have again manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction—this time about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Some of us were in Congress during the impeachment hearings of President Clinton. We spent a year and a half listening to testimony about President Clinton’s personal relations. This must not be the model for impeachment inquires. A Democratic Congress can show that it takes its constitutional authority seriously and hold a sober investigation, which will stand in stark contrast to the kangaroo court convened by Republicans for President Clinton. In fact, the worst legacy of the Clinton impeachment—where the GOP pursued trumped up and insignificant allegations—would be that it discourages future Congresses from examining credible and significant allegations of a constitutional nature when they arise.

The charges against Vice President Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the actions of this Administration, and deserve consideration in a way the Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a majority support hearings according to a November 13 poll by the American Research Group. In fact, 70% of voters say that Vice President Cheney has abused his powers and 43% say that he should be removed from office right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to catch up.

Some people argue that the Judiciary Committee can not proceed with impeachment hearings because it would distract Congress from passing important legislative initiatives. We disagree. First, hearings need not tie up Congress for a year and shut down the nation. Second, hearings will not prevent Congress from completing its other business. These hearings involve the possible impeachment of the Vice President – not our commander in chief – and the resulting impact on the nation’s business and attention would be significantly less than the Clinton Presidential impeachment hearings. Also, despite the fact that President Bush has thwarted moderate Democratic policies that are supported by a vast majority of Americans—including children’s health care, stem cell research, and bringing our troops home from Iraq—the Democratic Congress has already managed to deliver a minimum wage hike, an energy bill to address the climate crisis and bring us closer to energy independence, assistance for college tuition, and other legislative successes. We can continue to deliver on more of our agenda in the coming year while simultaneously fulfilling our constitutional duty by investigating and publicly revealing whether or not Vice President Cheney has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Holding hearings would put the evidence on the table, and the evidence—not politics—should determine the outcome. Even if the hearings do not lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is important for the sake of history. For an Administration that has consistently skirted the constitution and asserted that it is above the law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Great men never change their minds and never admit mistakes

Dear Governor Huckabee:

In 1984, a young boy living in Indiana was diagnosed with AIDS. At the time, that boy, thirteen-year-old Ryan White, had no idea that his life would become a testament of courage and bravery responsible for opening the hearts and minds of millions of people throughout our country and around the world. Six years later, in 1990, Ryan’s life ended—a dear, precious life cut short.

But Ryan’s death wasn’t the only tragedy in this well-known story in our country’s history. Ryan and his family’s battle with HIV/AIDS was also a stark reminder of what happens in our country when fear and ignorance go unchecked. Governor Huckabee, the Ryan White family was ridiculed, shunned and ostracized by people who thought the answer was to “isolate” them far away from the rest of society. In 1984, this belief was purely based on ignorance. But these same beliefs, which you espoused in 1992 and have refused to recant today, as a candidate for President of the United States, are completely beyond comprehension.

When you answered the Associated Press questionnaire in 1992, we, in fact, knew a great deal about how HIV was transmitted. Four years earlier, in 1988, the Reagan Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a brochure assuring the American public that “you won’t get the AIDS virus through every day contact with the people around you in school, in the workplace, at parties, child care centers, or stores.” To call for such an oppressive and severe policy like “isolation,” when the scientific community and federal government were certain about how HIV is transmitted was then, and remains today, irresponsible. Such statements should be completely repudiated, not simply dismissed as needing to be slightly reworded.

This was not and is not an issue of “political correctness,” as you state. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice.

Have we not learned the difficult lesson of how devastating these statements based in ignorance and fear can be to American families? Has it been so long ago that we have forgotten how our neighbors had the backs of entire communities turned on them? Governor Huckabee, those dark moments in American history are the direct result of ignorant views that stifle discussion, hinder resources and delay action. We have a moral obligation as a nation to never allow ourselves to repeat the shameful mistakes of the past. And we cannot sit idly by when a candidate for President of the United States tries to lead us back down that path of ignorance and fear.

Governor Huckabee, if you need a reminder of how calls for “isolation” can shatter a Mother’s heart, you only need to turn to Jeanne White-Ginder. Today, we respectfully ask you to sit down with her and allow her to share with you Ryan’s story. Ms. White-Ginder continues to be active in AIDS advocacy as a member of the board of The AIDS Institute. We hope that, even in 2007, Ryan’s story can continue to open hearts and minds.

We would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Ms. White-Ginder and yourself, or a member of your staff. Please feel free to contact Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign, at (202) 216-1514 at your convenience.


Joe Solmonese
Human Rights Campaign

A. Gene Copello
Executive Director
The AIDS Institute

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rep. Schiff on national security and impeachment

Thank you for contacting me regarding your support for introducing articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome your input.

I share your concern about the policies and actions of Vice President Cheney and I am deeply troubled by the potentially precedent-setting expansion of executive power at the cost of our system of coequal branches and the civil liberties guaranteed to all Americans. The Executive Branch is an extraordinarily powerful one; in order for the checks and balances to function properly, both Congress and the Courts must resist an excessive assertion of executive power that is at odds with the interests of the American people or violates the Constitution. Despite the challenges that our nation faces, we must not cast aside the values and ideals that our people have defended for centuries.

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the intention that no one branch of government should become too powerful. With the oppression of monarchical rule only recently behind them, they sought to prevent the rise of a too-powerful executive by crafting a calibrated system of checks and balances that allows for interplay between the three branches of government. Congress has an important legislative function, but it has an equally vital role in providing oversight and we must continue to aggressively exercise this prerogative.

One of the most important areas in which oversight has been lacking involves the terrible mistakes that have been made in the prosecution of the war and the reconstruction of Iraq . After more than 4 years of bloody combat; after our Nation has lost more than 3,700 of our military's finest; after thousands more of our brave men and women have been wounded; after we have spent almost $600 billion; and after finding no weapons of mass destruction, the very basis of that war, it is clear that no one in the Administration has been held accountable. This is beginning to change, and the new Democratic Congress has held an unprecedented number of oversight hearings since it took power. It is my hope that these oversight hearings will provide the basis for a dramatic change in direction in our Iraq policy.

Another area which cries out for strong Congressional oversight and action involves the revelation that the executive secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans on American soil. On May 11, 2007, the House of Representatives responded to the President's assertion of inherent authority to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant or any judicial review. By a vote of 245-178, the House adopted an amendment that I offered with my colleague Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to reiterate that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) provides the exclusive authority to engage in domestic electronic surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information. T he President and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) recently returned to Congress with a legislative proposal ( S . 1927) that would make it easier for the NSA to collect intelligence on Americans and groups abroad. I strongly opposed this bill, which nonetheless passed the Congress and was signed into law on August 5, 2007. This measure is set to expire in six months, and I will be working hard to reinstate the type of court supervision that is essential to protect our privacy.

I continue to believe that we must be aggressive in combating terrorism and offer terrorists no quarter. However, the suggestion of the Administration that we can only do so by subverting the law and giving up our constitutional rights is seriously misguided. Instead, I support a different approach. We will use every tool to go after those who wish to harm us. But Americans who are law-abiding citizens of this country should have the confidence of knowing that a court is overseeing what the government does when it comes to our privacy rights.

On the specific remedy of impeachment, the Founding Fathers established a high standard requiring the determination of high crimes and misdemeanors. After witnessing the misguided, destructive and polarizing impeachment of President Clinton, I can well understand why they raised the bar so high. There is no question that the Vice President has done a great disservice to the country in many ways, and I am deeply troubled by his views of executive authority and performance in office. We must continue to do vigorous oversight and let the evidence lead us where it may; at the same time, we must not be deterred from the highest imperative of changing our Iraq policy, reversing the Administration's intrusive surveillance policy, meeting the challenge of global climate change, and other critical priorities.

Please be assured that I will do my part to ensure that Congress provides such a check and ensure that the Administration is held accountable for its actions.


Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Matthew Shepherd Act lands in Purgatory

Regarding the Matthew Shepard Act (S 1105) which is included in the conference report of the Department of Defense Authorization Act (HR 1585) to be sent to the President's desk for signature:

I'm mystified that legislation like this has to be fought for and strategically maneuvered to keep it from dying. Bizarre. Like hate crimes are okay as long as they're confined to certain federally approved minorities? And verbal or physical abuse of those minorities is a form of free speech and must be protected? I wish I understood the complex logic behind the resistance to hate-crimes legislation. I wish I understood why the absence of such legislation is essential for the safety and well-being of the nation. But I don't.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

DiFi, D'ohFi

Versen (of Hugo Zoom):

You are the Bad News Bear.

Why...oh why didn't I read the blue article? (A reference to that darn movie again.) First I read the Greenwald article you pointed me to, and then (can you believe this?) I clicked on "getting richer" and read the article. Now there's this very stern email/blog post percolating in my head calling for DiFi to switch parties and offering whatever assistance I can to the investigation into her conflicts of interest so that she will end up resigning from the Senate in disgrace. How long has this been going on? She's been in California politics forever, since before Harvey Milk was assassinated. If I were a political junkie I'd research her entire political history to see how long she's been a Republican in Democrats' clothing (dark-blue Chanel suits, as opposed to Nancy's blood-red Chanel suits). But I have other things to work on, like getting my second CD of Xmas music into the online retail channels preferably before Xmas. I probably won't even write the stern email/blog post expressing the hope that they run DiFi and all of her cases of L'Oreal Dark Ash Brown dye out of town.

"Bring me somethin' I can use, but don't nevah, nevah bring bad news!" (From The Wiz)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Madam Speaker, listen up!

I'm appalled to learn that Cheney is still pushing for an invasion of Iran. Why is he persisting in this? Do people occasionally hear him say things like "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

Impeachment hearings would bring to light for the entire country what laws were broken in the time leading up to the invasion of Iraq, by whom they were broken, when and how. Do you remember how much TV airtime was given to Ken Starr over Whitewater? Impeachment hearings now, in contrast, would be good for the nation because we would learn specifics about how government operates and about the ways a government can be derailed. An impeachment doesn't have to succeed. The impeachment hearings would provide a classroom in which the nation could be re-educated in the subject of ethics. It would also be a demonstration to other nations that the U.S. is able to admit its mistakes and take steps to correct them. As it is now, we are about as morally credible as the Pharisees in the time of Christ.

It is alleged that Cheney committed serious crimes regarding the justification for war, and it appears that there is some significant proof that crimes were committed. (I could point you to websites for the proof, but you yourself know of far more sources of credible proof than I do.) In a situation like this outside of government, of course there would be legal proceedings to determine guilt or innocence. A trial isn't avoided because prosecution doesn't think they can win. A trial is held, regardless of potential outcome, to determine if crimes were committed. A federal official should be held to at least the same degree of scrutiny, if not more.

If you are reluctant to push for impeachment hearings because it would deeply divide the nation, you need to rethink that. The nation is already fatally divided. Impeachment hearings would provide catharsis and healing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

H.Res. 333

Congressman Schiff:

Please support Kucinich's resolution to impeach Dick Cheney, H.Res. 333.

I don't understand the reasoning behind not going forward with impeachment proceedings because there aren't enough votes for it to succeed. You yourself know how important it is to be seen as taking a stand on an important issue. Not going forward with impeachment proceedings, regardless of the reason, communicates to the rest of the world that we as a country condone Cheney's criminal actions. It is the attempt itself to bring the lawbreaker to justice that is important. Impeachment must be attempted. If it doesn't succeed, at least the attempt to bring justice will have been made.

When Speaker Pelosi said that if anyone can show her that any crimes were committed by the Vice President she would consider the evidence seriously, I imagine her email inbox was flooded with long, exhaustive emails explaining in exacting detail what laws were broken, by whom, how, and when. It's incredible that she would say, much less believe, something like that. The message Congress is now communicating to the world is that impeachment proceedings will not be undertaken because the Vice President did nothing wrong.

Please support H.Res. 333. The effort itself is extremely important. Making no effort at all looks like collusion.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

DiFi, listen up!

Senator Feinstein:

Regarding Judge Mukasey, is it your age? Is it your ethnicity? I honestly don't know what you're thinking. It may actually be that you have been working too long past the traditional age of retirement. Born in 1933, you are currently 74? It may be that your impressive cognitive abilities actually have begun to slow down in the normal aging process. Nothing to be ashamed of, but something to be considered in an office as important as yours.

Is it your ethnicity? You believe that torture is wrong, unless it's Muslims who are being tortured?

Regarding waterboarding as torture, you yourself know that it has been prosecuted as torture in military courts in the U.S. since the Spanish-American War in 1898. What's to be unsure about?

I see from a quick glance at Wikipedia's profile of you that there has been some concern over an alleged conflict of interest regarding your voting billions of dollars in appropriations to your husband's firms. You know from observing the Bush Administration that denying any ethical conflict is not the same as there being no ethical conflict.

Not long ago I learned from one of the political commentators on CNN that, because you will be 80 in 2012, you will not be seeking reelection. Does that mean you will be spending the next five years being unrepresentative of the people you represent? I do believe that the possibility exists, since you now truly have no real need to be concerned about voter approval. Your voting with the Republicans in August to modify FISA to allow bypassing the special intelligence court established by FISA may be an indication of that. Your voting for Mukasey as Attorney General will also be an indication of that. As the New York Times put it, "He believes the President has the power to negate laws" and he hasn't committed himself "to enforcing Congressional subpoenas." Why would you even consider voting for him as Attorney General?

I feel betrayed by you in what I perceive as your migration to the right. I feel betrayed by you in what I perceive as your declining interest in voter approval. Along with all the other Californians who elected you, I request that you listen to us and vote No on Mukasey's nomination, and continue listening to us for the remaining years of your term. We. Hired. You. Get it?

Monday, October 08, 2007

$2 trillion??

America's Favorite Gameshow


Announcer: [cue peppy marching music] Here it is, the exciting TV game all America is playing . . . whether they like it or not . . . Worldwide Preemptive War, where members of our studio audience compete for fantastic prizes, like getting out of here alive without a serious injury. Our first contestant is Joe Grunt, from the Topeka, Kansas National Guard . . . COME ON DOWN!

Contestant 1: Hey, wait a minute, I just signed up for a weekend a month.

Announcer: [laughing] Read your contract, son, including the part about stop loss extensions. And our second contestant is George W. Bush from the Texas Air National Guard . . . COME ON DOWN!

Announcer: George W. Bush, COME ON DOWN! . . . [pause] Now they're telling me he never reported for duty after he was transferred out to Alabama. OK then, Dick Cheney, COME ON DOWN!!

Announcer: [pause] What do you mean he said he had other priorities? Hell, just grab three more people without an "R" after their name . . . And now . . . here's the star of our show . . . Booooooooob BURKA!

Bob Burka: Welcome to Worldwide Preemptive War, and the first item we have up for bid is an invasion and occupation of Iraq, estimated to take 6 days, or 6 weeks, I doubt 6 months. Who will guess the closest to the real cost plus, without going over?

Contestant 1: I don't even want to go. I bid 100 billion, Bob, it could never possibly be that much.

Contestant 2: 5 billion.

Contestant 3: 20 billion.

Contestant 4: One dollar, leave me out of it too.

Bob Burka: And the actual final cost of the Iraq war and occupation to the American taxpayer is . . . at least 2 TRILLION DOLLARS. Contestant 1, you WIN! You get to play our first game, "Kill An Insurgent." And if you do, what do we have to give you today?

Announcer: It's a NEW CAR!! . . . The latest model armored Humvee with stylish V-shaped underbody to try to deflect some of the many roadside IED explosions you're sure to encounter in your daily patrols. The fact is, you'll be getting one of the very few of these actually out there. A prize worth 150,000 dollars, for which the Pentagon paid five times that much.

Bob Burka: You know how the game is played, you have 15 seconds to open fire on anything that moves, and if you kill an insurgent, you WIN! Go.

Contestant 1: STOP! [rat-tatta-tat] HALT!! DON'T MOVE!! [ker-pow, boom]

Bob Burka: Well, let's see how you did . . . Oh, I'm so sorry, you killed 19 civilians, including a family of four who could not understand the commands you were shouting at them in English, but you didn't get any insurgents. But wait . . . our judges have ruled that because some of their RELATIVES will now join the insurgency . . . you WIN! Let's have another contestant.

Announcer: Rush Limbaugh, COME ON DOWN!

Announcer: [pause] What are you talking about he had an ingrown hair follicle on his butt, and can't have a job where he has to sit for extended periods of time? Look, just draft . . . uh, I mean take, some high school student with no other chance of sustaining employment in this globally outsourced economy.

Bob Burka: Let's tell our contestants the next item up for bid.

Announcer: Now that we're in Iraq, next we want you to guess how many more years we're going to have to stay there.

Contestant 1: One year, Bob.

Contestant 2: Three years.

Contestant 3: Two years.

Contestant 4: Bring the troops home now! [gets tackled by a dozen security guards and dragged off the stage]

Bob Burka: And the actual length of the occupation is . . . at least 10 years, since none of the leading presidential candidates will even promise we'll be out of there by 2013. You're a winner, Contestant 2! And what do we have for you in our next game.

Announcer: It's a fabulous vacation in sunny Ramadi! . . . Yes, you will be sent on an ENDLESS deployment to the city where the action never stops, conveniently located in the famous Sunni Triangle, with all your expenses paid EXCEPT for long term medical care and rehabilitation, courtesy of the Walter Reed Army Hospital bureaucracy. Estimated cost to the American taxpayer 36 thousand a year, unless you're a contract mercenary, in which case as much as ten times that.

Bob Burka: Now, to win this prize all you have to do is guess which of these quotes is a lie.

[Recording 1] We don't torture.

[Recording 2] We don't eavesdrop without a court order.

[Recording 3] We have not yet decided to bomb Iran.

Contestant 2: But, Bob, they're ALL lies.

Bob Burka: See how easy it is. You're going to Ramadi! And now we come to our final Showcase. Behind one of the doors is an exit strategy, but behind the other is yet more senseless and counterproductive death and destruction. Contestant 1, you have
selected door on the left. Let's see what you've won.

Announcer: It's a hopeless quagmire!! . . . The proportion of the Iraqi people who approve of attacks on Americans will increase ultimately from the current 60 percent to a full 100, while the homegrown insurgency continues to defeat billion dollar technology with weapons improvised from the massive explosives stockpile they looted just after the initial invasion.

Bob Burka: And behind the door on the right, what do we have for Contestant 2?

Announcer: It's a full on regional conflagration precipitated by an attack on Iran without evidence or justification, including the possible fall of Pakistan to jihadist militants, putting operational nuclear weapons in their hands immediately, plus collapse of the global economy from skyrocketing oil prices, and asymmetric terrorist attacks against American interests all around the world.

Bob Burka: Hey, let's give everybody BOTH showcases!

Contestant 2: But you promised there was an exit strategy.

Bob Burka: So I lied. We're not planning on leaving ever.

Bob Burka: [cue music out] Be sure to tune in tomorrow for another Worldwide Preemptive War show. Until then, rest in peace! I mean, bye bye!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Regress is the new progress in Iraq


This was one of the bloodiest summers for US troops in Iraq, Iraqi casualties are running at twice the pace of last year, and 15 of 18 of President Bush's own benchmarks remain unmet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Farenheit 1600

Poster: March on Washington Sept. 15

In email from

Recently in Salon, noted correspondent Sidney Blumenthal wrote that the film No End In Sight "has the White House spooked" by the prospect of former high level officials like Colin Powell being inspired by the insiders in the film to speak out against the shortsightedness of the disastrous Iraq policy, destroying the last vestiges of the administration's credibility.

Time Magazine has called the film "Without a doubt the most important film you are likely to see this year," and it is possibly the best reviewed film of the entire year, as you can see from the selection of critic quotes below.

The film is playing in theatres in most major cities nationwide. For a list of dates and locations, visit If you care about where we're headed as a country, you owe it to yourself to see what the NY Times calls "an absolutely vital" film.


"THIS POWERHOUSE OF A MOVIE SHOULD BE REQUIRED VIEWING FOR EVERY MEMBER OF CONGRESS. Lucid, without partisan rhetoric, and not to be missed." —David Ansen, Newsweek


"AN ABSOLUTELY VITAL FILM. Exacting, enraging and revelatory. A clear, temperate and devastating account of high level arrogance and incompetence." —A.O. Scott, NY Times

"THE MOVIE IS A CLASSIC. An extraordinary, elegant looking film." —David Denby, New Yorker

"A TRUE RARITY. A model of concision and clarity, it's probably the onlyone of the Iraq documentaries with the potential to reach across partisan lines." —Dennis Lim, LA Times

"****" —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"**** IT MAY BE THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR SO FAR. Devastating, factually air-tight and blessedly free of simplification." —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune


"PLEASE SEND EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO SEE IT. The film convicts the Bush Administration more clearly, specifically and forcefully than any previous documentary, and more wrenchingly than any book could do." —Stuart Klawans, The Nation

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A video supporting the Matthew Shepherd Act

From The Human Rights Campaign:

The radical right is out in force, spreading lies and flooding Congress with calls and letters against the Matthew Shepard Act. They're out-messaging us five to one.

Don't leave your senators with a distorted view of their constituents' beliefs. Make sure all your friends and family see the powerful video.
You can send a message to your senator from the HRC website.

Di Fi's statement of support for Feingold-Reid

Mr. President.

The time has come for those of us in the Senate who believe that the Iraq war is counterproductive to stand up and make our voice heard. That's why I voted in favor of the Feingold-Reid amendment that would bring this war to an end.

This is not a perfect amendment, nor a perfect resolution to this war. But the outlook for success in Iraq is bleak. And it grows bleaker by the day. This is no fault of the men and women of our armed forces. Our forces have done everything asked of them. They've fought bravely and admirably.

But - as our generals have said repeatedly - this war cannot be won by military means. A political solution is necessary, but there has been no meaningful progress on reconciliation. And the simple fact is failures of the Bush Administration have left our nation with no good options.

Either the bloody status quo can continue indefinitely - an endless string of bombings, IEDs, and sectarian violence. There is no end in sight. No strategy to change course. And no exit plan.

Or our nation can begin to reduce our troop levels in Iraq and remove our soldiers from this cauldron of violence.

The options in front of us might be different if this Administration had shown some willingness to change course, develop an exit strategy, and implement a timetable. And if this were the case, I would not vote for this amendment. But the Administration has signaled over and over and over again the lack of a clear-eyed appraisal of the situation in Iraq.

The American people made their voice heard last November that they wanted a change of course. Democrats in Congress have tried repeatedly to force the Administration to transition the mission. But the Bush Administration has refused. Over and over again. And most recently, President Bush vetoed responsible legislation to set benchmarks and a timetable for redeployment.

So I believe that the time has come for the Senate to assert its will and to carry out its responsibility under Article I of the Constitution "to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces." The time has come to recognize the reality of this civil war and the inability of an American fighting force to quell hundreds of years of hatred, combined with the view of the Iraqi people that our brave men and women are seen as an occupying force.

The time has come to take the strongest possible position.

The time has come to say this war must end.

Of the vehicles we have available for us to do this, this comes the closest. It may not be perfect in its timing, but it clearly says that the time has come for the Senate of the United States to exert its Constitutional obligation, which after all is the only finite option available to us to signal the seriousness of our view.

This is not a vote that I take lightly, and I wish that I did not have to take it. This situation - the Administration's lack of flexibility, its continuation of failed strategies, and current events in the evolution of the civil war - leave me with no alternative.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Thursday, May 24, 2007

10 mind-boggling reasons for impeachment


1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal "War of Aggression" against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.

2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.

4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

6. Violating the Constitution by using "signing statements" to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.

7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.

9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina and in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

Sign the petition for impeachment at They're getting close to reaching their goal of 100,000 signatures.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Turks rally for a secular government

One and a half million people protesting the encroachment of religious law into their secular state. Amazing. Who would've thought so many people capable of that?

The protest took place today in Izmir, Turkey, where the pro-Islamic ruling party tried to strong-arm a presidential candidate into office by passing a constitutional amendment allowing the people, rather than the parliament, to elect the president and then by calling for early elections. The current president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, is a secularist who keeps the government in check by vetoing bills and appointments. (Now isn't that a switch?)

You can learn more in the BBC article.

It's encouraging to learn that the judiciary of a Muslim country "fiercely guards" secular law and that there is such a strong will at the grassroots level to maintain secularism. Contrast this to Chief Justice Scalia and to the Dominionist movement in the U.S.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dear Mr. President

The image links to Pink's page on MySpace, where "Dear Mr. President" can be played. I wanted to link directly to the song, but zey haf vays to keep me from doing zat. Thanks to Jonathan Versen of Hugo Zoom for letting me know about the song.

Listen. Imagine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My email to Rudy Giuliani

Never ever again will this country ever be
on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack
us if I have anything to say about it. And
make no mistake, the Democrats want to
put us back on defense!

I'm not sure I understand what is wimpy about defending the nation. Keeping a ready military to defend the nation against outside attack sounds like something the Founding Fathers would have encouraged. I think you would agree with that.

But you're wanting the U.S. to be constantly on the offensive. Unfortunately, when you use offense as defense, you will never reach a point when you can stop the waging of war. You will have conflicts, which the U.S. itself provokes, in several theaters at once. The military will be stretched thin and will be unable to contain any of the conflicts effectively. I believe you would agree with this too.

Most likely, the provocative statments in your speech in New Hampshire were simply speechifying, revving up the crowd at a pep rally. Not even the most hawkish of Republican leaders would deny that being constantly on the offensive militarily would be an enormous drain on the economy. The entire nation would have to become employees of the corporations which benefit from the waging of war in order for it to make any economic sense.

The point you seem to miss, or to ignore for murky reasons, is that American aggressiveness fuels terrorism. If the U.S. were to "wimp out" and take a less aggressive stance in the world, the leaders of jihad would find that there is much less impetus for the ordinary guy to become a jihadist. The leaders of jihad could rant all they want about the evils of complacency, but the population would simply want to get back to the business of living, now that the evil giant no longer looms over them. Ask the terrorists themselves. Their primary motivation for waging war is the defense of the Islamic state. When that state is not under attack, they are not motivated to wage war. Ask the terrorists yourself. Go ahead. Ask them.


Addendum 5/12: Oh. Giuliani's pro-war rhetoric is intended to compensate for his pro-choice position. Actually, that combination makes more sense to me than pro-war plus pro-life. It's okay to terminate soldiers but it's not okay to terminate barely formed fetuses and stem cells? At least Giuliani's position treats fetuses and soldiers equally, rather than elevating the worth of the fetus and the stem cell far above the worth of the soldier.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A new way to grok Jesus

My Sweet Lord, by Cosimo CavallaroA sculpture of the crucified Christ made of chocolate and on display during the Easter season? Now there's an image loaded with ironic symbolism. I wonder, of all the people who loudly protested the display of the sculpture, how many of them have received or placed chocolate crosses in Easter baskets at one time or another? Probably a majority.

I remember chocolate crosses in my Easter baskets when I was a kid. My parents didn't like the secular aspects of Easter and chose crosses instead of bunnies to remind me of the real meaning of Easter.

So why all the protests? How does a chocolate Christ demean Easter more than a chocolate cross does? It's because the Christ sculpture is anatomically correct? So, if the sculpture had included the traditional loin cloth, there would've been no protests? Pope-on-a-ropeBut public sculptures have been anatomically correct for some time now. It's the medium? If Cavarallo's sculpture had been cast in bronze, there would be no protests? Is it the color? If it had been made of white chocolate, would that be more acceptable to the protestors? Is it the sheer size of the piece of chocolate? I'm sure chocolate Jesuses on the cross no more than several inches in length are currently available somewhere in the world, but we haven't heard any protests about them.

I don't know. I think the protestors are doing exactly what a very clever, shrewd sculptor intended. His name recognition has just skyrocketed around the world.

I'd like to see a companion sculpture of Christ in chocolate with almonds. Or companion sculptures could be available in plain and peanut.

A giant Pope-on-a-rope on public display would probably cause an equal amount of protesting by Catholics. Maybe that will be Cavallaro's next project. Or has it been done?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

An atheist and a blonde walk into a bar...

Dan Newman, a Democratic political strategist, recently said "Anti-atheism remains the last remaining prejudice that a majority of Americans don't mind fessing up to." For most Americans, the atheist/agnostic is in the same category as the dumb blonde. Nobody gets riled when they hear a demeaning joke about a dumb blonde like they would if the same demeaning joke were told about a Jew or an African-American or a handicapped person or a gay person. The same is true if an atheist is the butt of the joke. Who cares? Atheists are just grizzled, muttering, God-hating curmudgeons nobody listens to. We need to tell demeaning jokes about somebody, so telling them about dumb blondes and atheists is still politically correct.

Rep. Pete StarkIt's significant that Congressman Pete Stark's recent acknowledgement of his agnosticism made headlines. Should something like that have been news at all? Newman said that a confession of non-belief is "political suicide." It remains to be seen if Stark will survive the suicide attempt.

What's even more significant is that, while Stark is the highest-ranking elected official who has acknowledged his agnosticism, Karl Rove is actually the highest-ranking official, elected or appointed, who has acknowledged his agnosticism. And that acknowledgement has not made headlines.

On the Amazon detail page for The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power, Vanessa Bush, in her review for Booklist, writes "Himself an agnostic, Rove has masterminded a strategy that has helped to broaden the Republican base beyond its pro-business, anti-government heritage to appeal to devout evangelicals. In a calculated effort to weaken the Democratic base, Rove has engineered plans to use the anti-abortion stance to attract Catholics, the anti-gay stance to attract black churchgoers, and the pro-Israel stance to attract Jews."

Oww. Information like that hurts my brain. Why did I have to learn that Rove is an agnostic? I thought he was probably an Episcopalean or a Catholic. But even more mystifying is the fact that, according to Larisa Alexandrovna's review of the same book on TheRawStory, Rove's adoptive father, Louis Rove, became openly gay when Rove was a young adult, and Rove loves and admires him and speaks of Louis' unselfish love during Rove's childhood. Alexandrovna continues "One might think that such a sensitive family situation might have kept Rove from using it as a political ace-in-the-hole. Instead, Rove made sexual orientation—specifically, gay marriage—the centerpiece of a presidential campaign aimed at getting out conservative voters in states like Ohio." Oww oww owww! Stop! Stop!

There's a word for the paradoxical divisions in the brain that Rove exhibits: schizophrenia. In looking over the explanation of schizophrenia (Greek for "divided mind") in the medical encyclopedia on the website of the National Institutes of Health, I see that about the only listed symptom that applies (as far as I know) is "delusional thoughts of persecution or of a grandiose nature." That certainly applies to Rove. As Bush writes in her Booklist review: "The authors maintain that these tactics are all part of a scheme to maintain Republican dominance of all aspects of American government for the next 30 years."

Could we have Rove undergo psychological testing? Aren't you curious to know how mentally healthy an extremely influential Deputy Chief of Staff is? Inquiring minds want to know.

There's no question of his intelligence. The authors of The Architect say Rove is "a man of almost startling intelligence." Nobody in his right mind would think that Rove develops political strategies that are in extreme contradiction to his personally held beliefs because he's too dumb to know any better. Naw, he ain't dumb. But it's true that high intelligence is often accompanied by mental illness of some type. A mild, subdiagnostic case of schizophrenia might explain how Rove can focus so exclusively on winning in the political game, to the exclusion of considering how winning affects him personally. If Rove's objective—the ideal, ultimate neoconservative government successfully taking over all three branches of government and nullifying all liberal influence—were to be achieved, Rove himself—the agnostic—and his father—the openly gay man—would be at significant risk.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Can great generals apologize and still be great?

Gen. Peter Pace
My email to the Dept. of Defense:

Once again we need to remind people that no one chooses to be gay or lesbian. There is no advantage of any kind to being homosexual, and no gay man ever consciously chose to "forsake the natural use of the woman." Homosexuality occurs naturally and runs in families. So labeling as immoral the "acts" "committed" by homosexuals makes as much sense as labeling as immoral the "acts" "committed" by left-handers, those with brown eyes, or the French. A person consciously chooses to have brown eyes? Of course not. People must come to understand that being gay or lesbian arises from the same source as other physical and psychological traits.

I know that Gen. Pace means well in condemning homosexual acts. He simply wants to be a good person, a good follower of Christ and the Church. But the tens of thousands of gay men and women serving in the military also want to be good people, and Gen. Pace's comments demean them and negate their service to the country, service that is as courageous and honorable as that of non-homosexual members of the military.

Gen. Pace needs to apologize publicly for his comments regarding homosexuals. His comments were extremely inappropriate. An apology is required.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A bundle of sticks by any other name would burn as brightly

My email to CNN:
Did I miss this story on CNN? Or has there really been no mention of Ann Coulter suggesting that John Edwards is gay? Only she didn't use the word "gay." Surely this story has been included in a broadcast on CNN and I've just missed it. Surely. The story has been available at UPI since 11:17 pm on March 2, but when I did a search on a few minutes ago for "coulter," the most recent of the search results was a story from December. And since the search on is powered by Yahoo, and a search for "coulter faggot" on Yahoo produces numerous results, one can't claim that the search engine just hasn't found the story yet. Surely I'm missing something.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Faith founded on solid ephemeral rock

While reading the customer reviews on Amazon for the book God: The Failed Hypothesis by Victor J. Stenger, I came across this comment by DB Wilson of Alberta, Canada: "Where is the Inquisition when you need it? Their work is obviously far from done. There are many souls that are still in need of corporeal correction." Whoa, dude. DB wants to see me burned at the stake?? Burned at the stake because I'm questioning the validity of religion?? Okay, now I'm scared.

I'm baffled and demoralized every time I come across the comments of the faithful regarding those who question their faith. What is it? Why is it like this? The Keepers of the Faith have the most ephemeral of foundations for their beliefs, and they become uncompromisingly militant when someone points this out. Why is an ephemeral foundation—simply tradition and religious writings—sufficient for them? Why aren't they looking for a more solid foundation for the beliefs that affect almost every aspect of their lives? And take a good chunk of their incomes? When I think about the money people spend on religion, I'm mystified. Would they deposit their paychecks in a bank that has no more foundation than literature consisting of the history of the bank, some poetry, and letters to account holders and a centuries-old tradition of everyone unquestioningly depositing their paychecks there because everyone else does even though no one has ever been able to make a withdrawal? I don't know. Wouldn't a bank with no more foundation than that seem a little dubious?

I'm currently reading The Bible Unearthed by Finkelstein and Silberman. Amazing. It's possible that everything we know from the Bible up through the middle of the 7th century BC was fabricated by Josiah, the King of Judah (639-609 BC), in an attempt to unify Judah and Israel and relocate the center of power to Jerusalem. Archaeology has turned up no evidence of a grand Solomonic kingdom or temple in the 10th century BC, and archaeologists are now concluding that David and Solomon were simply tribal chieftains. The excavated layers that do reveal grand architecture were originally attributed to the time of Solomon, but those layers are more accurately attributed to the time of Ahab and Jezebel and the Omride Dynasty in the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BC, a time when Jerusalem was still not much more than a small town.

Finkelstein and Silberman explain that, in 720 BC, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V captured the capital of the more powerful northern kingdom and relocated the Israelites of the northern kingdom to Assyria. A century later, with the withdrawal of Assyrian control in the north, Josiah, the king of the less-powerful, agriculturally based southern kingdom of Judah, saw the power vacuum as an opportunity for the southern kingdom finally to emerge from the shadow of the northern kingdom. He vilified the Omride Dynasty of the northern kingdom—especially Ahab and Jezebel—as completely corrupt and elevated David and Solomon of the southern kingdom to mythical stature. Since the people didn't have archival news footage or public libraries to check the facts, they accepted the new history and we have the current perception of the founding of Israel.

The vehicle Josiah used to present his new history to the people was a "book of the law" that was "found" in the temple during renovations.

And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. (2 Kings 22:8)

One wonders how a book of such importance could have been lost in the temple in the first place, but I suppose that, in order to protect it from being destroyed by an invading army, the book could have been hidden in a wall or under a floor and its location subsequently forgotten. It's plausible. But it's just as plausible that the book, which has been identified as an early version of Deuteronomy, could have been created so that it could be "found." Finkelstein and Silberman note Deuteronomy's uniqueness from the other books of the Pentateuch:

Deuteronomy is the only book of the Pentateuch that asserts it contains the "words of the covenant" that all Israel must follow (29:9). It is the only book that prohibits sacrifice outside "the place which the Lord your God will choose" (12:5), while the other books of the Pentateuch repeatedly refer, without objection, to worship at altars set up throughout the land. Deuteronomy is the only book to describe the national Passover sacrifice in a national shrine (16:1-8). [p. 280]
Finkelstein and Silberan also state:

It is important to note that the book of Deuteronomy contains ethical laws and provisions for social welfare that have no parallel anywhere else in the Bible. Deuteronomy calls for the protection of the individual, for the defense of what we would call today human rights and human dignity. [p. 285]

The result of the appearance of the book was the methodical destruction of sites of polytheistic worship and the establishment of monotheism, the development of a unified statehood, and the segregation of Israelites from Canaanites. The real polytheistic, Canaanitic Israel was replaced with a fabricated monotheistic Israel whose origins were said to be in Ur on the Euphrates.

Amazing. If that isn't an ephemeral foundation for all the People of the Book—Jews, Christians and Muslims—then what is? As a result of how Finkelstein and Silberman read the archaeological data, there was no Abraham. No Isaac, no Jacob. At least as they are described in the Pentateuch. F & S theorize that the stories of the Patriarchs were woven together from the legends and folk histories of different communities throughout Israel and Judah in order to merge their separate identities into a single national identity. So "Abraham" (the person or persons out of whom the community legends grew) may never have even met "Isaac," much less been his father. "Isaac" and "Jacob" may have lived in widely separated eras and locations.

If you are a thinking person, this will shift the tectonic plates of your world. Every part of Scripture is built on what came before it. Islam and Christianity are both outgrowths of Judaism. Each era of Jewish history is a result of the preceding era, back to the founding of the Jewish nation with God's covenant to Abraham. But there is a conspicuous absence of evidence for a powerful, united kingdom of David and Solomon. There is also an absence of evidence that, on entering Canaan, Joshua led the people on a clean sweep of the cities of Canaan in order to take possession of the land. Archaeologists have been trying for a century to find evidence of the Israelites' desert encampment at Kadesh-Barnea in eastern Sinai, but they've found no evidence at all of any encampments dating to the time of Ramesses II (during which the Israelites would have labored on the construction of the city of Raamses [Exodus 1:11]), much less evidence of 600,000 people encamped there for thirty-eight years. So it's not unreasonable to wonder if there actually was a covenant between God and Abraham, promising the land to his innumerable descendants.

What this means is that there's a very tall office tower that is now missing its ground floor. We can expect the office tower to continue floating a floor above the sidewalk indefinitely?

Maybe. Faith can move mountains.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dialing for De-escalation

From Can you sign up for a time to call your senator this Thursday? Here's the sign-up link:

This nifty Virtual March link allows you to see what times others signed up for, so calls can be spread throughout the day. Also, you can opt to get a text message reminding you to call.

We're not just calling Congress. All through the week, the Virtual March has been pushing forward on many fronts—building energy towards the big day:

  • Blogs such as Daily Kos, MyDD, Firedoglake, and Digby have raised awareness and encouraged people to join the Virtual March.

  • People can download an anti-escalation Instant Messenger icon, join an anti-escalation Facebook group, or sign up to help stop escalation in other tech-savvy ways by clicking here:

  • Folks can use MoveOn's one-of-a-kind call technology to contact MoveOn members in target states—whose senators most need persuading—and invite them to call their senator tomorrow. People can make calls by clicking here:

  • MoveOn members are pledging to get our friends and family involved in the march.

  • We're organizing MoveOn members in Washington, D.C. to deliver close to 600,000 messages to the Senate opposing escalation in person on February 1.
Passing a bipartisan resolution opposing escalation will be the strongest stand Congress has taken on the war since it began—and it will give our leaders in Washington the support they need to take future actions to stop the war.

Thursday is going to be a huge day of action all over the country. MoveOn members, along with members of True Majority, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, USAction, CampusProgress and many others are working together to make sure Congress gets the message: Americans not only oppose escalation, but are counting on Congress to block it. And if enough of us get involved, we can really win this vote. [End quote]