Thursday, August 31, 2006

How Bush is viewed in Utah

In the capital of the conservative and normally Republican state of Utah:
A crowd of thousands cheered Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for calling President Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president" whose time in office would "rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.
Read entire story

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Immigrant Ancestors Did Not Learn English

All Americans have immigrant ancestors, many of whom came to America not knowing English. How many of the 17th, 18th and 19th Century non-English speaking immigrants who came to America as adults learned English? I don’t know. I know that my great-great grandparents who came to Davenport in the 1880s from Schleswig-Holstein spoke Platt-Deutsch (low German) at least to their children their whole lives. My father remembers visiting his great-grandmother and having his mother and aunts translate.

Of course, those who came as young children and the children of the immigrants who were born here learned English perfectly even though English was not spoken at home.

How about your ancestors? Did those who came as adults not knowing English learn English?

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Choosing a Long Peace Instead of a Long War" - Deepak Chopra

The only response President Bush is offering us to the threat of Islamic terrorism is a long war. Deepak Chopra suggests a different course:

In the wake of the thwarted plot to explode bombs on flight from Britain to the U.S., several commentators echoed President Bush's slogan that fighting terrorism is going to be a long war, the defining struggle of this generation. No one mentioned striving for a long peace with the Arab world, which will also take a generation. The roots of terrorism are not insane. Real conditions gave rise to a huge disaffected segment of Muslims, mostly young and male. From northern Africa across the entire Middle East to Pakistan, there has been a population boom without much hope that any child will receive adequate education, except in the Koran, or adequate work. The governments are either militaristic or dominated by reactionary royal families.
Read entire article

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Must we sacrifice everything for jobs and tax revenue?

The nearby town of Keithsburg, Illinois is facing a tough choice. Either accept a business that most residents find distasteful, a bar featuring scantily clad waitresses, or lose jobs and tax dollars. Does that sound familiar?

Many residents of rural East Moline and Silvis, Illinois find the prospect of a proposed hog processing plant near them distasteful but have been told that they must accept it because refusing the plant means losing jobs and tax revenue.

The main difference between the two situations in my opinion is that the threat Keithsburg is facing is more dire and immediate:

The owner of the Keithsburg bar has closed all his businesses in town and is saying that if religious opposition to his business continues he will tear the building down.
If he razes any of his buildings that make up most of the sparse downtown in this community, still struggling from the devastating Great Flood of ’93, the structures cannot feasibly be rebuilt in the federally designated floodplain, city officials said. Read entire article

The threat to East Moline is that if they do not offer tax incentives to a proposed distasteful pork processing plant then the plant would be built in some other community. This is a less dire threat than that facing Keithsburg, but is obviously, to me at least, a similar threat.

Do we have to accept businesses in our community that we find distasteful because those businesses offer jobs and tax revenue? Does living in a capitalistic system mean that money always trumps our moral sensibilities, our sense of propriety and our environmental concerns?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Welcome to the Quad Cities Senator Biden

The headline of the story on page 3 of today's Moline (Illinois) Dispatch about the visit of Senator Biden to Rock Island was “Democratic presidential candidate has plagiarism, bluntness to overcome.” The first sentence of the article, written by Karl Alemeier, is “Sen. Joe Biden knows he has 33 years of legislative bluntness to smooth over if he wants to be president, but he also knows he has years of experience in foreign relations that should make him someone to consider.”

Welcome to the Quad Cities. Missouri is the “Show Me” state. Does the Dispatch want the Quad Cities to be the “Apologize To Me” metropolitan area? I, for one, do not think that Senator Biden first needs to apologize or overcome his “legislative bluntness” before I will consider him for president. I like his style and wish more Democrats in Congress would adopt it.

Will the Dispatch treat other presidential candidates the same way? When Senator McCain comes to town will the Dispatch headline be “Republican candidate has unwavering support for the war to overcome?” With over 60% of the public now against the war that question would be germane.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Can anyone identify these birds?

I was riding my bicycle on the bike trail along the Mississippi just west of downtown Rock Island when I saw this flock of birds beside the river.

One of them took off and I got this picture as it flew over me.

I can identify egrets, herons, geese and ducks, all of which were nearby and I can say with some confidence that these birds were not any of those. Although you can not see it in the pictures I thought I saw a little red around their heads. That makes me think they may be wild turkeys, but they don't look like any of the pictures of turkeys I can find.

There is some excellent political writing to be found if you look outside the corporate media

I was checking out the other Illinois political blogs and came across
this fine piece of writing by Ellen Beth Gill in Ellen's Illinois Tenth Congression District Blog
Friday evening, the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project and the Moraine Township Democrats sponsored a discussion with Mark Crispin Miller author of Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). The discussion centered around the issues of vote supression and ballot integrity.

read the entire article

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ideas that were once commonly held that now seem strange

Forty-five years ago, when I was in grade school, our American History books started with the statement that in the year 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered America. Although there were millions of human beings in the so-called “New World” at that point in time, with centuries of their own history, the authors of our text books considered everything that happened to non-Europeans before they were noticed by Europeans to be of no importance.

School children are no longer taught that American history started with Columbus. Now that it has been pointed out it is clear to almost everyone that the European-centric view of history which was taught until recently was a very strange way of looking at the world and a very strange way of thinking about history.

Which ideas and viewpoints, commonly held and accepted today, do you think will seem very strange 45 years from now?

Friday, August 18, 2006

"yesterday was a landmark in the effort to protect our civil liberties"

Representative John Conyers, Jr. on Judge Diggs' ruling:
As you probably have heard, yesterday was a landmark in the effort to protect our civil liberties from the Administration's ever increasing power. A federal judge in Detroit ruled that the warrantless eavesdropping conducting by the NSA was unconstitutional, a conclusion shared by the vast majority of legal scholars outside of the Bush Administration.

However, I am concerned about how some of the press is reporting on the decision. Compare the New York Times with the Washington Post. The President has been struck down again for overreaching in the so-called war on terror without a legal basis, yet the Washington Post editorial board dismisses this monumental moment to complain about style over substance.

In fact, they acuse Judge Diggs of being "long on throat clearing sound bites." They go on to cite only two sentences. Yes, two sentences out of 44 pages. As a lawyer myself, and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I can assure the editorial board that most judges use rhetoric and it has nothing to do with the strength of their legal reasoning.

I am also surprised that after clearly denouncing the program as illegal as early as January of this year, and noting how tenuous the Administration's arguments were, that they are now surprised to hear a judge agree. Suddenly, the fight over illegal wiretaps is no longer "frivolous."

Of course the government "vigorously disputes" the ruling. That is the definition of litigation and does not confer merit to their argument.

And they could vigorously dispute that the sky is blue. It doesn't mean that the Washington Post has to report on it or give it so much merit just for trying to appear fair and balanced.

Representative John Conyers, Jr. was re-elected in November 2002 to his nineteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the second most senior member of the House and was re-elected by his Congressional Colleagues to remain the first African-American Democratic Leader of the pivotal House Committee on the Judiciary. Congressman Conyers is also a founding member and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus. Most recently, he led efforts to investigate irregularities in the Ohio presidential election.

Can ordinary household liquids be easily mixed together to make a bomb?

Craig Muray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has another article about the alleged plot to blow up airplanes with liquid explosives:
This brings us to one particuarly sinister aspect of the allegations - that the bombs were to be made on the plane.

The idea that high explosive can be made quickly in a plane toilet by mixing at room temperature some nail polish remover, bleach, and Red Bull and giving it a quick stir, is nonsense. Yes, liquid explosives exist and are highly dangerous and yes, airports are ill equipped to detect them at present. Yes, it is true they have been used on planes before by terrorists. But can they be quickly manufactured on the plane? No.

The sinister aspect is not that this is a real new threat. It is that the allegation may have been concocted in order to prepare us for arresting people without any actual bombs.

Let me fess up here. I have just checked, and our flat contains nail polish remover, sports drinks, and a variety of household cleaning products. Also MP3 players and mobile phones. So the authorities could announce - as they have whispered to the media in this case - that potential ingredients of a liquid bomb, and potential timing devices, have been discovered. It rather lowers the bar, doesn't it?
Read the entire article

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How close were they to blowing up planes?

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has an interesting analysis of the recently uncovered plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives:

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

Read the entire article

Thanks to alert reader Saul (who reads this blog from Beijing China where he doing research for his PhD in Anthropology/History) for the link to this interesting analysis.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Conservative Congressman Hayworth in trouble

Conservative Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, a 12 year incumbent, is in serious danger of losing in November. Both he and his opponent, Democrat Harry Mitchell, the former mayor of Tempe and a high school civics teacher, agree that immigration policy is the most important issue in the campaign.

Hayworth feels that illegal immigration is ruining the country. He has written a book "Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security and the War on Terror" and authored an immigration bill with a goal of not only stopping illegal immigration but trying to force illegal immigrants already here to leave. He opposes any plan that would provide a path for legal status or eventual citizenship for any illegal immigrants.

Harry Mitchell agrees that we need to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration and he opposes amnesty. But he goes on to say
Still, we must deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. Catching and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, as some have suggested, is neither realistic nor wise. I believe we should give families an opportunity to gain legal status if they pay a penalty for breaking the law, pay their taxes, learn English, and hold a job for a period of years.

In a solid Republican district which has elected Hayworth 6 straight times the polls are showing a very close race.

Corruption is also an issue:
J.D. is the top Congressional recipient of campaign contributions related to convicted felon and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And he's refused to return or donate more than $150,000 he reported taking from those sources. Even today, the New York Times profiled Hayworth as one of seven figures in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

It will be interesting to see how the immigration issue plays out in November.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Coffee with Phil Hare at the Thomas'

This morning, Saturday August 12, 2006, Democratic Precinct Committeeman Vince Thomas and his wife Margaret hosted a Coffee for Phil Hare, Democratic candidate for Congress at their home in Rock Island.

Phil Hare greeting and shaking hands. Vince Thomas is to the left of Phil and Phil's lovely wife Becky is at the far right of the picture.

Phil discussing issues with Stella Schneekloth and Connie Barrett of Moline

Phil and Stella and Stella's granddaughter Maggie

I have known Phil Hare for many years but had not heard him give a campaign speech before or talk very much about issues. I must say that I was surprised at how well he spoke and how much I agreed with him. So many politicians these days talk like they are trying to be on both sides of controversial issues and as a consequence sound like they don't believe in anything other than getting elected. Not Phil. After listening to him you know exactly where he stands and what he believes. He makes more sense when he talks about NAFTA, corporations getting tax breaks and still moving jobs out of the country, the power of corporations and illegal immigration than any politician I have heard. If you can make it to any of his campaign events you owe it to yourself to go and hear him.

Who do we bomb and invade now?

…3 of the 24 suspects arrested Thursday, in what the authorities have described as a plot to blow up airliners on trans-Atlantic routes, were converts to Islam.
“Born a Christian,” was the headline in The Sun, in its account of one of the suspects, Don Stewart-Whyte. He is the 19-year-old son of a late Tory politician who was said to have converted about six months ago.

Our nation’s leaders, both in Congress and the White House, still support the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq as the most important front in our battle against terrorism. It is certainly the most expensive in lives lost, money spent, our national reputation tarnished and our moral standing in the world diminished.

But if the way we fight terrorism is by bombing, invading and occupying countries that we believe harbor people who may attack us how do we respond to the threat revealed by the arrests on Thursday? Do we bomb London? Do we invade Pakistan?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Immigrants not assimilating

The British police have just arrested 20 people, cancelled large numbers of international flights and banned all hand luggage on flights out of Britain in response to an alleged plot to blow up at least 9 planes. Most or all the alleged terrorists were born in Britain to immigrant parents.

What particularly struck me about this story is that, as with the 9/11 hijacking leaders, these terrorists are 2nd generation immigrants from the Middle East and Pakistan – born in Europe. Europe seems to be having a very hard time assimilating their Muslim immigrants.

The United States, in contrast, is having no similar problem with its citizens born to immigrant parents. The only native-born American terrorists are of the Timothy McVeigh and abortion clinic-bomber type. Our schools are doing an excellent job and all of our 2nd generation immigrants speak English without an accent and desire and value the same things as other Americans their age – designer jeans, video games, etc.

And yet a large number of Americans believe that the United States has a problem with immigrants not assimilating. This is a belief totally at odds with reality. Unlike Europe, our immigrants are not rioting and turning into terrorists. When our immigrants held a mass demonstration recently it was remarkable peaceful. They were not angry at all. They just wanted to be accepted as Americans.

To claim that our immigrants are not assimilating, as many Americans do, is to claim that white is black and up is down.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The meaning of the Lieberman defeat

In the Connecticut Democratic primary Ned Lamont won a narrow victory over veteran Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman with a simple message: The war in Iraq is wrong and Senator Lieberman is wrong to continue supporting it.

Many commentators are saying that Lamont’s victory is due to the political bloggers who supported him. But why would that be? With the polls showing opposition to the War in Iraq running at over 70% and many people saying that the war is the most important issue determining how they will vote why would anyone credit Lamont’s victory to anything other than public opinion? Why would the presence of blogs be required for people to vote their consciences? One possible answer could be the almost universal support for incumbents, any incumbent, in the media, expert opinion and traditional sources of political power such as labor unions. Last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” Cokie Roberts said, with a straight face, that a Lieberman defeat would be a “disaster” for the Democratic Party. How could it be a disaster to replace a candidate who has been an unrepentant cheerleader for a deeply unpopular war with one who agrees with over 70% of the public on that issue?

Commentators who give credit to bloggers when the traditional advantage of incumbency is overcome must believe that a large part of that advantage is the support of the traditional media, unions and party. If bloggers can diminish that advantage then that shows that people were supporting incumbents not because of some inner desire for the known and familiar but because the support for the incumbent was the overwhelming message they were hearing. How else could simply reading a few blogs cause them to vote differently than they otherwise would have?

Perhaps before we go off spreading democracy at the point of a gun we should work on our democracy here at home. If a few blogs with a different message than the corporate media can have such a big impact what would our society look like with truly free flow of information and opinion, rather than our current system where opinions backed by money and power get the most airtime?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Pat Robertson now believes in Global Warming

Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said on Thursday the wave of scorching temperatures across the United States has converted him into a believer in global warming.

"We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels," Robertson said on his "700 Club" broadcast. "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."

Read the entire article

This must really be an "on the road to Damascus" style epiphany. As recently as last October Robertson said "the National Association of Evangelicals was teaming up with "far left environmentalists" for saying global warming was caused by humans and needed to be mitigated".

Of course, I have to wonder about someone who only comes to believe the evidence for global warming when they themselves are experiencing a very hot summer. What would it take for Robertson to come to the opinion that torturing people and holding them indefinitely without trial is morally wrong? Would being stuck for a long time in an elevator do it or would he have to actually be tortured?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Prosecuted for trying to save the lives of illegal immigrants dying in the desert

Prosecutors in Arizona have charged two volunteers who say they tried to save the lives of three sick migrants stranded in the desert with felony charges of transporting illegal immigrants. If convicted, Daniel Strauss, of Manhattan, and Shanti Sellz, of Iowa City, Iowa, both 24, could face up to 15 years in federal prison and a half-million-dollar fine.

…One of the parched immigrants they found last July 9 was lying in a ditch and couldn't stop throwing up when rescue workers tried to give him water. He had blood in his diarrhea and had been drinking contaminated water out of slimy cattle troughs.

....Strauss and Sellz got into a Subaru GL Wagon with the word "Samaritan" written in big letters on the side. They started driving the Mexican man and two others in similar condition north to a hospital in Tucson. Before they got there, Border Patrol agents pulled them over and arrested the migrants.

…"It seems like common sense that providing humanitarian aid to someone who is in an extreme medical condition can't be against the law," said Strauss, who grew up on the Upper West Side and attended the elite Fieldston School High School in the Bronx. "The act of saving someone's life shouldn't be something that's prosecuted. It's crazy."

Read the entire article

Federal prosecutors are charging people with a felony for trying to take people who needed medical care to the hospital? Does a government which would do that reflect your morality and values?