Thursday, August 31, 2006

Political and Social Commentary Through Images

Afghanistan ignored
By Barney Frank August 30, 2006
Read more at the Boston Globe

A WAR is missing. Sadly, it is not missing from the physical location in which it is taking place, and people continue to die as it is waged. But it has largely disappeared from our national debate, and that debate has been sorely distorted as a consequence.

The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.
U.S./Israeli War On Terror Is Ill Conceived
Read more at Open Democracy

At the start of the Lebanon conflict I noticed that an Israeli general had said on television that Israel would turn back the clock twenty years in Lebanon. I thought: "this guy is threatening collective punishment on an entire nation for a guerrilla incident!" It is the kind of outrageous thing retired generals say. I was confident he would be officially repudiated and told to zip his mouth. But no, it turns out he was Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, the chief-of-staff directly in charge of the campaign that aerially bombed power-stations, water-plants and factories. One definition of terrorism is precisely that it attempts to deliver collective punishment.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Political and Scoial Commentary Through Cartoons

Poor Economy for Some
From Think Progress - read more.

A Poor Record on Poverty

This morning, the Census Bureau released new poverty, income, and health insurance figures for 2005. Through 2004, the poverty rate had increased each year of George W. Bush's presidency -- from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.7 percent in 2004. New 2005 data released this morning shows the problem didn't get any better. The numbers "mark the worst performance in recent decades for poverty and median income during an economic recovery." The Bush administration "dropped the ball entirely" on poverty since the issue "forced its way to the top of President Bush's agenda in the confusing days after Hurricane Katrina." ("Does [President Bush] often talk about poverty? No," Tony Snow admitted recently.) But in a "sign that the income inequality may rise higher on the US policy agenda," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson admitted this month that "many Americans simply aren't feeling the benefits" of economic expansion. Now it's time for Bush to take action.


The inflation-adjusted median hourly wage for American workers has declined two percent since 2003, the New York Times reported yesterday, and "wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947." Unlike late 20th-century trends, wages have not kept pace with increasing productivity. "Worker productivity rose 16.6 percent from 2000 to 2005, while total compensation for the median worker rose 7.2 percent," with benefits -- not wages -- accounting for most of the increase. Meanwhile, the top one percent of earners "received 11.2 percent of all wage income" in 2004, "up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago." America's growing income inequality led economist and columnist Paul Krugman to label the past 25 years the "The New Gilded Age." From 1980 to 2004, "real wages in manufacturing fell 1 percent, while the real income of the richest 1 percent -- people with incomes of more than $277,000 in 2004 -- rose 135 percent." Administration policies are only widening the gap. Aug. 20 marked the 10-year anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase to $5.15 an hour. The minimum wage is now at its lowest level in 51 years, but conservatives played politics with the proposed increase by tying it to estate tax cuts for multimillionaires.


Our broken health care system has made surviving in today's economy more difficult. The new Census data for 2005 shows 46.6 million Americans do not have health insurance, up from 45.3 million in 2004. Since 2000, the Bush administration has created three times as many uninsured Americans as new jobs: six million uninsured versus 1.9 million new jobs between 2000 and 2005. The cost of employer-based insurance increased 9.2 percent in 2005 as hourly earnings climbed by only 3.2 percent. The average costs of providing medical care for a family of four rose 9.6 percent. The Commonwealth Fund found 50 percent of families earning less than $35,000 a year reported having trouble paying medical bills. (The percentages are similar for families earning $35,000 to $49,000, making it more likely medical costs could drive them into poverty.) Ninety-five percent of companies polled by benefits consultants Watson Wyatt expect to restrict health benefits for retirees in the next five years. And recently, the administration angered governors by announcing plans to "cut Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes that care for millions of low-income people." The administration's focus has been on health savings accounts (HSAs) and Association Health Plans (AHPs), proposals that "will not begin to solve the problems of the 46 million Americans without health insurance" and "will cause new dilemmas for those fortunate enough to have health care coverage." "We've had absolutely no federal effort or interest in insuring the uninsured since 2000," Emory University's Ken Thorpe said. "This has not been a priority of the Bush administration." To fill the void, states are working to provide comprehensive health care coverage.


Housing costs are also eating into the budgets of low-income Americans as "the scarcity of affordable housing" becomes a "deepening national crisis." Roughly 15.8 million households spend more than half their incomes on housing, a 14 percent increase between 2001 and 2004. Low-income Americans have been hit the hardest. "Neighborhood decline is fueling the loss of affordable housing and exposing residents to poor neighborhood conditions," Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies found. "From 1993-2003 the supply of rentals affordable on a $16,000 income fell by 1.2 million, while in 2001 12 percent of such rentals were operated at a loss." The report concluded: "Unless governments step up to these challenges, spending on housing will increasingly crowd out spending on pensions and savings among those with low and moderate incomes." The federal government is taking a step back. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a $600 million public housing funding shortfall, which means "public-housing agencies now must deal with an unexpected 14.5 percent cutback in federal funding."


Ten years after welfare reform passed, many single mothers and their children have been unable to escape poverty; "social workers and researchers are raising concerns about families that have not made the transition and often lead extraordinarily precarious lives." "With some one million single mothers -- with some 2 million children -- in an average month being both jobless and without income assistance from TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), other cash aid programs, or other household members, it is clear that much work remains to be done." The Economic Policy Institute found the poverty rate for low-income single mothers increased three percentage points from 2000 to 2004, but annual hours of work fell from 1,170 to 1,068. Over the same period, child poverty rose from 15.9 percent to 17.5 percent and the "number of children with cash incomes below one-half of the poverty line increased by 758,000." Despite the increasing poverty, the number of children receiving TANF assistance or related state benefits declined. New welfare rules from Congress and the Bush administration create a strong incentive for states to cut their caseloads, whether or not families find jobs. For states whose caseloads don't fall, the new rules will "require states to focus intensely on making more poor people work, while discouraging other activities that might help untangle their lives." "[U]nder new federal rules, studying for a bachelor's degree no longer counts by itself as an acceptable way for people on welfare to spend their time." "I feel nauseous," one welfare recipient and incoming college senior said about the change. "This is my ticket...out of poverty."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Power Play
By Mickey Edwards

When political scientists in the future compile their lists of America's weak and strong presidents George W. Bush, whatever his other achievements or failings, will inevitably he judged among those who, for better or worse, thoroughly dominated the politics of the day. But despite what one may think of the president's various proposals, it is not Bush’s policies hut how he came to he so powerful that should most worry us.

The president has taken the nation into two significant wars, reshaped American tax policy, changed the fundamental premises of our security policies (and of our relationship to other nations, individually and collectively), vastly expanded the government's role in subsidizing health-care costs and dramatically changed the way many public school classes are taught.

It is also true that much of what this president has urged upon us has not come to pass, but in the end it is not merely the success or failure of individual initiatives that marks presidential strength hut whether the White House is central to, or peripheral to, the national debate. One of Bush's predecessors, Jimmy Carter, blamed the nation's then current problems on a sort of national malaise (a "crisis of confidence," he called it), as though the president of the United States were a mere observer rather than a partial shaper of events. President Bush's immediate predecessor, Bill Clinton, felt forced to insist the presidency was still relevant. The question with Bush is not whether the presidency is relevant hut whether any other part of the government is.

Presidential power ebbs and flows, of course, but it tends to flow in a fairly circumscribed way - for a short period after an election victory or in response to a special circumstance that affords a president greater than usual deference. But in time the honeymoon ends and traditional constraints on presidential power are renewed. That has not been the case with the current occupant of the White House.

Instead, the 21st century has seen the rise of a presidency that blatantly and deliberately ignores the law and openly defies and insults Congress. Actions by Congress are simply dismissed out of hand. When Congress set a requirement for court-ordered warrants before the government could eavesdrop on the private telephone conversations of American citizens, the White House simply ignored the requirement. When Congress attempted to prohibit the torture of U.S.-held prisoners, the administration answered, in effect, that it would take Congress's opinions into consideration and then decide for itself what to do. High-ranking administration officials have threatened reprisals against subordinates if they give Congress accurate information. Other administration officials, asked to answer a Senate committee's questions, have simply walked out of the room rather than comply.

Our current president likes to think of himself as "the decider;" as he made clear in responding recently to suggestions that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resign or be fired. In the case of deciding whether to retain a particular cabinet member's service, he's right, of course. But in regard to obeying a congressional mandate - for example, to get a warrant before eavesdropping on American citizens - he's not. Bush was elected president, a constitutionally prescribed and circumscribed office, not the nation's decider in chief.

But sometimes it seems this president does indeed function as decider in chief, setting his own course and following it without much concern about possible objections from other government quarters. How has this happened?

Much of the current unease over presidential declarations of almost unlimited authority is focused on the clear overreaching of the president himself But presidents overreach; George W. Bush is not the first to do so. The list of previous presidential overreachers includes, among others, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt. What makes this particular expansion of the imperial presidency more dangerous - and a far greater threat to our very system of government - is congressional acquiescence.

Our system of separated powers has devolved into an Americanized version of a European parliamentary system, in which the two major political parties have superseded the three branches of government and the constitutional separation of powers. Many members of Congress apparently no longer see themselves as constitutionally obligated to function as part of a completely separate and completely equal branch of government, charged with serving as the voice of the people, determining the laws, setting the priorities of the government and maintaining a check on the presidency. This is not a question of Congress's rights or its authority. It is a responsibility imposed by the Constitution. When a senator or representative takes an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution, he or she is also swearing to perform the duties assigned by the Constitution.

Those duties do not include serving as de facto members of the White House staff, but that is precisely how many members of Congress behaved until the president's poll numbers fell so precipitously. Despite occasional huffing and puffing, members of Congress have refused to use any of their many powers (subpoena, oversight, control over public spending) to enforce their decisions. This is a Congress in which the Senate majority leader was actually handpicked by the president. (Can one imagine Senator Bill Frist investigating the Bush Department of Defense the way Harry Truman investigated the Roosevelt War Department or the way J. William Fulbright investigated Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policies?) Leaders in both the House and Senate have largely seen it as their function to enact the president's agenda rather than bring independent judgment to the issues of the day.

It was ironic to see members of Congress - including members of the president's own party express reservations about Bush's nomination of General Michael Hayden, the man who oversaw the National Security Agency's domestic spying operations, to head the CIA. The irony doubled days later when even more members of Congress - and more members of the president's party - became upset upon learning the NSA's spying operations had included gaining access to the phone records of millions of Americans. This was the Congress that had allowed the White House to forbid sharing information about this intelligence gathering with the full membership of the House and Senate intelligence committees and their staffs. This was the Congress that, upon learning of the NSAs eavesdropping, had not stepped in to enforce-with budget cuts and subpoenas-its insistence that the administration get court-issued warrants before doing domestic surveillance. Congress had, by its inaction, allowed to continue the very abuses about which it now complained.

This is an extremely dangerous period of presidential expansion precisely because of Congress's acquiescence and the fact that authority once ceded is almost impossible to retrieve. The more power the current Congress surrenders to the White House, the weaker future Congresses will be - and the stronger future presidents will be. The basis of American constitutional government - separation of powers, a system of checks and balances-will be lost, perhaps forever.

If the president of the United States is guilty of malfeasance – wrongdoing - by virtue of having ignored the Constitution, then Congress is equally guilty of nonfeasance - also a crime - for failure to perform its constitutional duties. The United States has survived presidential malfeasance before; congressional nonfeasance is a much more dangerous thing.
Wasted Spending
Read more at Adweek

WASHINGTON: A Government Accountability Office probe of the White House's anti-drug media campaign has found that the $1 billion-plus spent on the effort so far has not been effective in reducing teen drug use. The report recommends that Congress limit funding until the Office of National Drug Control Policy "provides credible evidence of a media campaign approach that effectively prevents and curtails youth drug use."

Right-Wingers Continue to Self-destruct
Read more at KTVO 3
MIAMI (AP) - Florida Congresswoman Katherine Harris is being criticized for telling a Baptist journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and that God and America's founding fathers did not intend the country to be "a nation of secular laws."

The Republican candidate for U-S Senate told the Florida Baptist Witness that separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."

Harris also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage.
A Long and Costly War

American military losses in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected in coming weeks to surpass the toll of 2,972 victims killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The two conflicts, which have lasted longer than most previous U.S. wars, have claimed the lives of at least 2,941 GIs.

Next month, the duration of combat operations in Iraq will exceed the length of time that U.S. forces fought in Europe during World War II.
Proud to be an American

I wake up every morning and thank my lucky stars that I’m an American. Every time I watch the news I’m reminded that the United States is the best place on earth. Think about it. I could be living in one of those horrible Middle Eastern countries where

  • The news is controlled and filtered to provide only the government’s viewpoint,
  • The people are superstitious and poorly educated,
  • Foreigners are not trusted,Intellectuals are marginalized,
  • The government uses fear to retain power,
  • Education is a political tool,
  • Politicians reduce complex problems to emotionally volatile slogans,
  • Religion is used to divide people,
  • The government encourages corporations to rape the environment,
  • Political dissenters are attacked as unpatriotic,
  • Religious leaders preach hate and intolerance,
  • The government spends an inordinate amount of money on its military,
  • Elections are rigged,
  • Science is subservient to religion.

On second thought, I’m going back to bed.
Political and Social Commentary Through Images

And I'll Bet They Vote Republican, Too

First up from the God machine this week is a Baptist church that is filled with the Christian spirit — just as long as church officials approve of your racial background.

Fellowship Baptist Church in Saltillo, Mississippi, voted out a 12-year-old boy who "asked Jesus to live in his heart" at the church two weeks ago. Why the ban? Joe is biracial, and church members didn't want the black side of his family attending with him.

They were "afraid Joe might come with his people and have blacks in the church," church pastor John Stevens told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

To his credit, Pastor Stevens resigned from the church the same day 12-year-old Joe was voted out of the church. Cliff Hardy, a local police officer, also resigned from the church. "My best friend is a black man," he said. "I wouldn't be comfortable going to a place where I couldn't ask my best friend to go to church with me."

The local paper contacted church members, but they refused comment. Go figure.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Political and Social Commentary Through Images

Name That War

P.W. Singer claims that no one knows what to call the war in Iraq, even though everyone calls it "the war in Iraq." He then says: "My own take is that history will probably call the war by its spark — 9/11." Let's get this straight: Iraq did not — repeat, not — participate in 9/11.

This is the most often repeated lie told since 9/11. According to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. They crashed those planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York. And, by the way, we did not invade Saudi Arabia.

If you're looking for an accurate name for this war, it should be called "the phony mushroom-cloud war." Why? Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush/Cheney traveled around the country saying we could not afford to wait for a mushroom cloud. Having scared everyone to death, they then invaded Iraq and, as most of us now know, did not find any nuclear weapons. Afterward, Bush/Cheney claimed that they invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. The problem with that lie is that the American people would never have allowed them to invade Iraq if the real reason for invading was to depose Hussein. The reason to invade was to prevent the mushroom cloud, except that the nuclear weapons did not exist. But we are still mired in the "phony mushroom-cloud war."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Social and Political Commentary Through Images

Industry starts to back rules on greenhouse gas

Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau

When the head of the American Public Power Association spoke last week to electric utility operators in Minnesota, he had a straightforward message: Federal regulation of greenhouse gases is coming. Get ready for it.

"The issue is no longer whether there is a human contribution to global warming but the extent of that contribution," said Alan Richardson, president and CEO of the group, whose members supply 15 percent of the nation's power. There is, he added, "an emerging public consensus and a building political directive that inaction is not a viable strategy."

For years, most industry groups have fought any effort to limit carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming, warning of dire consequences for the U.S. economy. But with growing public anxiety about climate change, major corporations are increasingly preparing for -- and, in some cases, lobbying for -- Congress to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Failed U.S. Foreign Policy

U.S. intelligence -- duh -- lacks the ability to assess Iran's nuclear program and intentions, a House Intelligence Committee report says.

President Bush has retreated on Iraq, arguing that things could get worse; the "strategy" for victory seems to have become just surviving until the 2008 election.

The sage conclusion being pushed in Israel -- and being repeated in Washington -- is that Iran was the big winner in Lebanon, and that if we are not careful, Iran will also score in Iraq, and then with nuclear weapons, well you know the story.


Watch this video at Google videos
Now tell me, what with evidence of such great stupidity in this nation, that you can't understand why President Bush still has a 33% approval rating. Seems clear to me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Political and Social Commentary Through Images

Republicans Support Corporations Over Humans
Read more: Washington Post

President George W. Bush on Tuesday renewed his call for Congress to curb medical malpractice lawsuits and signed an executive order aimed at providing Americans more information about the cost and quality of health care services.

Senate Democrats in May blocked legislation that would cap damages for pain and suffering in medical liability lawsuits, arguing that a drive for corporate profits rather than lawsuits was behind the rise in health care premiums.

Most Democrats and a few Republicans oppose the caps, at least at the federal level, and many states already have imposed lawsuit limits as well as insurance market reforms. Opponents of caps say they will protect insurers profits, not necessarily doctors or patients who have been harmed.
7 Facts You Might Not Know About the Iraq War
By Michael Schwartz
Read more at Truthout

1. The Iraqi Government Is Little More Than a Group of "Talking Heads"
2. There Is No Iraqi Army
3. The Recent Decline in American Casualties Is Not a Result of Less Fighting
4. Most Iraqi Cities Have Active and Often Viable Local Governments
5. Outside Baghdad, Violence Arrives With the Occupation Army
6. There Is a Growing Resistance Movement in the Shia Areas of Iraq
7. There Are Three Distinct Types of Terrorism in Iraq, All Directly or Indirectly Connected to the Occupation

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Political and Social Commentary Through Images
Click any image to view larger.

I Dare Any American to Name a Single Bush or Republican National Security Success...Just One
A. Alexander, August 18th, 2006

Republicans are masters at creating a political perception that is entirely divorced from reality. On no other issue is this highlighted more clearly than regarding national security. What is more incredible still, is that the American people buy into these Republican myths regardless of what their own senses tell them.
Somewhere in the national security formula must be a variable called competence. How is it possible for a president or party to keep the nation secure, if their strategy has resulted in a string of one failure followed by another?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Was the recent UK terror plot blown all out of proportion?
In the UK, at least, the more serious wing of the mainstream media is beginning to catch up with the idea that all is not well here.

Still, after eight days of detention, nobody has been charged with any crime. For there to be no clear evidence yet on something that was "imminent" and "Mass murder on an unbelievable scale" is, to say the least, rather peculiar. The 24th person, who was arrested amid much fanfare yesterday, has been quietly released without charge today. Breaking news, another "suspect" has just been released too.

The drip, drip of information to the media from the security services has rather dried-up. The last item of any significance was that they had found a handgun and a rifle--neither of which could have been in any use in the alleged plot. If you were smuggling undetectable liquid explosive onto a plane, you would be unlikely to give the game away by tucking a rifle into your hand baggage...

As the Police immediately told the press about the guns, it is a reasonable deduction that it remains true that they still have found no bombs or detonators, or they would have told us, particularly as they haven't charged anyone yet. They must be getting pretty desperate to announce some actual evidence by now.


It took a while, but more people are beginning to recognize that we have a moron in the U.S. President's Office.
From the Daily Mail
The alliance between George Bush and Tony Blair is in danger after it was revealed that the Prime Minister believes the President has 'let him down badly' over the Middle East crisis.

A senior Downing Street source said that, privately, Mr Blair broadly agrees with John Prescott, who said Mr Bush's record on the issue was 'crap'.

The source said: "We all feel badly let down by Bush. We thought we had persuaded him to take the Israel-Palestine situation seriously, but we were wrong. How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?"
Political and Social Commentary Through Images

A very funny video of "Black Bush" from the Dave Chappelle show (Comedy Central) is available at Don'
Click here to watch the video (some adult content)


A collection of Bush-isms from Scarborough Country titled "Is Bush an Idiot?"
Click here to watch the video.

We've Gone Terrorism Crazy
The Following Found at Boing Boing

Two brown men were forced off a plane by a bunch of non-brown British passengers who became convinced that they were behaving suspiciously and were therefore terrorists. Shocking -- who'd have thought that putting signs everywhere telling you that you were in danger of terrorists and that terrorists were everywhere and that you should look out for suspicious terrorism behavior would turn normal people into witch-hunting racist mobs?

The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic. Passengers told cabin crew they feared for their safety and demanded police action. Some stormed off the Monarch Airlines Airbus A320
minutes before it was due to leave the Costa del Sol at 3am. Others waiting for Flight ZB 613 in the departure lounge refused to board it...

Passengers noticed that, despite the heat, the pair were wearing
leather jackets and thick jumpers and were regularly checking their watches... Half an hour later, police returned and escorted the two Asian passengers off the jet...

Websites used by pilots and cabin crew were yesterday reporting further incidents. In one, two British women with young children on another flight from Spain complained about flying with a bearded Muslim even though he had been security-checked twice before boarding.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Political and Social Commentary Through Images

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More Images

Political Commentary Through Images

All Bluster, No Substance

On April 27, President Bush went to New Orleans for a photo-op and visited 74-year old Ethel Williams, whose house was badly damaged when Hurricane Katrina struck. Putting his arms around Williams, Bush promised that her house would be rebuilt:Mrs. Williams has invited myself and the Mayor and the Governor and Congressman into her home which had been wiped out by the storm. And she went to Texas for a while and she made it clear to me she was glad to be out of Texas and back home. But the amazing thing that’s happened in her home is that there are people from across the country here who are helping to rebuild it.But four months later, as NPR reports, “not much has happened.” Williams said, “[W]e all disappointed because nothing’s been done.”