Friday, March 31, 2006

Immigration Issue an opportunity for Democrats

According to Paul Krugman of the New York Times
“For now, at least, the immigration issue is mainly hurting the Republican Party, which is divided between those who want to expel immigrants and those who want to exploit them. The only thing the two factions seem to have in common is mean-spiritedness.”
Read the entire article (which requires a subscription) here.

This is an opportunity for the Democratic Party but there are dangers also. If Democrats can unite behind a policy which is seen as compassionate and caring to the Hispanic community but also protects low-skilled American citizens then Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona could become blue states for a generation.

Paul Krugman cites studies which show that the influx of unskilled workers eager to work hard for low (by American standards) wages depress the earning of low skilled Americans. Democrats must resist the pressure from business interests to maintain the status quo and continue the influx of large numbers of unskilled workers.
On the other hand the proposals which call for the expulsion of illegal immigrants already here or that allow them to stay but with no path toward eventual citizenship are mean-spirited and are seen by the Hispanic community as racist.

If the Democrats can resist the pressures from the business interests and the xenophobes to which the Republicans have fallen victim and can unite behind an immigration policy which is seen as fair to all working men and women and supports the democratic idea of universal enfranchisement they could rebuild FDR’s coalition.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Precinct committeemen -- don’t give away your vote

According to the Dispatch it turns out that it is not the Democratic country chairmen from the 23 counties in the Illinois 17th Congressional District that will be voting on who will replace Lane Evans on the November ballot but the precinct committeemen from the 721 precincts that comprise the Congressional District. Don Johnston, Democratic state central committee chairman for the 17th Congressional District who will have to oversee the process, and John Gianulis, Rock Island County Democratic party chairman, were quoted as discussing the possibility of asking the precinct committeemen to give proxies to the county chairmen to vote on their behalf. I am sure that it would make Don Johnston’s job of organizing the vote much easier if he only had to deal with 23 voters rather than hundreds. But a nominee who is selected by the county chairmen is more likely to be perceived by the voters to have been the choice of unrepresentative party bosses in a process involving secret deals and promises than if the precinct committeemen had individual votes.

Precinct committeemen – do not give away your vote to your county chairman. Insist on making your own selection.

If you are not precinct committeemen and you did not see the name of a committeeperson on your primary ballot then your precinct does not have a committeeperson. In that case contact your county chairman and ask to be appointed as a precinct committeeman. Don’t let your county chairman say that no one in your precinct was interested in the job. That would give the county chairman free rein to appoint someone who did not live in the precinct to the position. Let's try to make the selection of our congressional candidate as representative as possible!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Situation in Iraq Worsens

US authorities in Iraq had been trying to pressure the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, to crack down on Shiite militias who have been held responsible for a wave of kidnapping, torture and murder of Sunni Arabs. The United States ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad had been urging the Iraqi government to rid the Interior Ministry of militia influence and to be more politically accommodating to Sunni Arabs.

In the aftermath of the bombing of a major Shiite shrine last month, Shiite leaders began to lash out at the ambassador for his insistence on working with the Sunnis and defended their use of militias for self-defense.

After a joint American-Iraqi raid on a Shiite compound on Sunday killed at least 16 people the tensions escalated as Shiite leaders angrily denounced the raid and suspended negotiations over a new government. The governor of Baghdad announced a halt in cooperation with the American authorities, and Shiite militiamen brandished their weapons in the streets of eastern Baghdad and declared their readiness to retaliate against American troops.

According to the New York Times: "Some Shiite leaders warned that the raid had been widely interpreted among their constituents as a strong-arm tactic to cow them into making political concessions, including forcing the largest Shiite bloc to drop Mr. Jaafari as its nominee for prime minister in the new government."

"President Jalal Talabani said he would lead a joint Iraqi-American committee to investigate the Sunday evening raid, as American and Iraqi authorities continued to offer wildly conflicting accounts of it. Shiites said the victims were civilians gathered in a mosque, while the Americans said they were insurgents holed up in a guerrilla headquarters."


Republicans in Congress want a US withdrawal from Iraq to be well underway by the November elections. President Bush wants to be seen as a resolute warrior who would never willingly give up the fight. If the situation in Iraq continues to spiral out of control toward full scale civil war and the Shiites controlling the government refuse to continue working with the US this would allow Bush to be seen to be forced, against his wishes, to withdraw the US troops.

This would allow the Republicans to snatch a public relations victory from defeat by claiming they never willingly gave up the fight and continuing to portray the Democrats as weak on defense and soft on terrorism. If Democrats do not forcefully and continually remind voters that President Bush and the Republicans in Congress are responsible for the needless and pointless deaths of over 2000 American soldiers and uncounted thousands of Iraqis then I predict that the Republicans will manage to persuade the voters that the people who opposed our invasion were the ones responsible for our lack of success.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Would Jesus feed the hungry?

On ABC’s "thisweek with George Stephanopoulos" this morning Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo derided Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of the Bible and Christianity. George Stephanopoulos asked Tancredo's reaction to this quote from Hillary Clinton talking about the bill written by Tancredo and passed by the US House of Representatives: "It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself." Rep. Tancredo, laughing while he spoke said "It does not surprise me that Hillary Clinton not only knows absolutely nothing about the Bible, but she also knows nothing about the bill that I want to introduce or what the Senate is saying about this bill." It appears from this statement that Tom Tancredo does not believe that the Bible depicts Jesus feeding and healing social and legal outcasts.

The bill would make it a crime to knowingly offer aid or assistance to illegal immigrants. Many people in this country who clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless and care for the sick are concerned that this bill would make them criminals because they are often aware that people they are assisting are illegal immigrants.

Los Angeles Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony believing that if the bill becomes law it would make illegal many of the things priests, nuns and lay workers in his diocese do as part of their Christian duty, has said that if the bill becomes law he would instruct his people to deliberately disobey the law.

Rep. Tom Tancredo does not think that his bill would make a criminal out of Christ and he accuses Hillary Clinton of knowing nothing about the Bible when she says that it would. So who do you think knows less about the Bible, Tom Tancredo or Hillary Clinton?

Friday, March 24, 2006


I just attended the Charlie King and Rebel Voices (Susan Lewis and Janet Stecher) concert at the Unitarian Church in Davenport. It was a fund-raiser for the Worker House in Rock Island that provides hospitality for women and children who find themselves temporarily homeless.

One of the songs, "If Baboons Can Work It Out" really struck me. It was written by Charlie and has a message and a point of view we don't often hear. After getting home from the concert I looked up the words on Charlie's web site.

© 2004 Charlie King Pied Asp Music (BMI)

CHO: Are you ready for a better way to be?
There's an answer swinging in our family tree
Everybody lives more fully when there isn't any bully
If Baboons can work it out then so can we

Act one, a culinary bungle in the wilds of Kenya
A tourist camp there in the jungle serves a toxic menu
They throw their garbage in a heap, the Alpha Baboon males compete
The prize they win is poison meat, they die like Alpha men do (CHO)

Act two, the female ratio doubles in the ape assembly
Surviving males who want no trouble take their places humbly
Instead of dominance and subjection, mutual grooming! Group affection!
It's the natural selection for this Baboon family (CHO)

Act three, now twenty years have passed, they're still cooperating
New males arrive, they're learning fast: "No fighting, we're all dating!"
Stress is lower. Hearts are stronger. Loving more and living longer.
Hop in line and join the conga, time for celebrating

Now a human bully's harder to defeat
I mean, you can't just send the White House poison meat!
But you can vote, sign a petition, organize a coalition
Hey hey! Ho ho! We say Rumsfeld's got to go!

'Cuz everybody lives more fully when there isn't any bully
If Baboons can work it out then so can…
Bush and Cheney? What a quandary, better put your trust in Gandhi
If Baboons can work it out then so can…
Popeye's eating all that spinach, shoulda voted for Kucinich
If Baboons can work it out then so can…
Him & her and you & me, as smart as any chimpanzee
If Baboons can work it out then so can we.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

" slowly the Mexicans assimilate, if at all"

The David Brooks column in today’s New York Times contains the following paragraph:

"In the field of immigration, Republican sentiment seems to be shifting away from the idea that the United States is a universal nation, where immigrants come from across the world to work, rise and join in the pursuit of happiness. Now Republican rhetoric emphasizes how alien immigrant culture is; how slowly the Mexicans assimilate, if at all; how much disorder and strain their presence creates."

Reading the entire article (which requires a subscription) makes it clear that these are not David Brooks’ views and he thinks it is a mistake for the Republican Party to be moving in this direction.

Locally when Mexican leaders raised the alarm that they were hearing similar sentiments about the undesirability of immigrants and Mexican immigrants in particular during the debate over the Triumph Food pork processing plant at least one blogger denied that such sentiments were being expressed. I hope no one now claims that David Brooks is slandering the Republican Party or that although people in other parts of the country may be saying such things the Quad Cities is an enlightened enclave free from such sentiment.

I hope that we can all agree that the idea that Mexicans are assimilating more slowly than previous waves of immigrants is an emotional reaction to large numbers of recent immigrants and not based on any objective reality. Third and fourth generation Mexican immigrant families are as completely American as anyone else. Our schools today are just as efficiently turning immigrant children into English speaking Americans as they ever did. Just like my great-grandparents who came to American from Schleswig-Holstein most immigrants who come to America as adults do not become fluent English speakers but those who come as small children and those who are born here learn English and prefer to speak it to everyone except their parents.

Racist statements ascribing negative traits to all people of a particular race or ethnicity are usually challenged and considered unacceptable by most Americans today. But there seems to be a blind spot about blanket negative statements about Mexican immigrants where the statements elicit no reaction and apparently are not even remembered.

If the Republican Party, as David Brooks fears, is going to be adopting an anti-immigrant posture this could be the chance for Democrats to win Florida and the Southwest if they can speak with unified voice about their support for all working people, including recent immigrants.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The votes have been counted and the results are in.

42% of the people voting in this blog’s mini poll said that President Bush is right and the troops should stay in Iraq until Bush says their job is done. We now know that Bush thinks that it will be some future president who will bring the troops home, so it seems unlikely that Bush will say that that the job in Iraq is done and the troops can come home any time within the next 3 years.

The results:
What would you be willing to do to get our troops home from Iraq?

I would be willing to take to the streets in non-violent protest: 33%
I would be willing to change my lifestyle by joining boycotts to
bring pressure on the ruling elite: 13%
I won't join a protest or boycott but I will write letters and emails: 8%
I agree with President Bush. Our troops need to stay there until
Bush says their job is done: 42%
I don't know: 4%

I have started a new poll. It has been suggested that a lot of people in this country still have very traditional beliefs concerning how they will be judged in the after-life and that the feelings of fear, insecurity and impending doom many Americans feel result from their knowledge that the self-centered, consumer-oriented life they are leading is not going to look very good to God at the Pearly Gates. So I am taking a poll. On what basis do you believe you will be judged.

Monday, March 20, 2006

If Mike Jacobs Wins

Illinois State Senator Mike Jacobs is running for the first time for the Democratic nomination in the Illinois 36th Senate District (he was never previously elected –- he was appointed to fill the vacancy when his father retired.) When telephone pollsters working for his campaign list reasons for voting against him they include the perception that since he was appointed he is beholden to party big-shots rather than to the voters.

If Mike is elected will that change? Would he then no longer be beholden to the party insiders and power brokers who originally appointed him? In spite of the fact that he has more than 100 times more money than his opponent and much greater name recognition it appears that it will be a close race. Likely Democratic primary voters are receiving phone calls from outside of the district telling them (incorrectly) that Mike Jacobs is the only pro-choice candidate in the race. If Mike wins it will be obvious to all that this assistance from Chicago and Springfield was probably responsible for the small margin of victory. Mike Jacobs would still be beholden to power brokers and party insiders rather than to the voters of the 36th Senate District.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Peace rally this afternoon in Davenport, IA

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"
"Bush still lying/People still dying"
"Peace Now"
"Honor the dead/Demand the truth"

"Don't drink the (Fox News, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC) Kool-Aid"
Dorothy Monahan of Moline, although she finds walking somewhat difficult, still gets out and about.

Chris Dunn of Rock Island (not pictured) came with his guitar and sang to keep spirits up.

Among the passing motorist that expressed an opinion the vast majority appeared to support the sentiments expressed on our signs. This was in stark contrast to the rally I attended 3 years ago when war fever was at its peak.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Howard Dean was right

As pointed out by Donald Kaul in his column today, Howard Dean had this to say 3 years ago, just before the US invaded Iraq.

“I believe it is my patriotic duty to urge a different path to protecting America’s security: To focus on al Qaeda, which is an imminent threat, and to use our resources to improve and strengthen the security and safety of our home front and our people while working with the nations of the world to contain Saddam Hussein….
“Had I been a member of the Senate, I would have voted against the resolution that authorized the President to use unilateral force against Iraq….
“That the President was given open-ended authority to go to war in Iraq resulted from a failure of too many in my party in Washington who were worried about political positioning for the presidential election.
“The stakes are so high, this is not a time for holding back or sheepishly going along with the herd.”
“If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration’s assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. I certainly hope our armed forced will be welcomed like heroes and liberators in the streets of Baghdad.
“It is possible, however, that events could go differently…
“Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.
“Anti-American feeling will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.”

Although the above statements seem obvious now they were definitely not seen as such at the time and not many other Democratic elected officials agreed with them. Dennis Kucinich and Russ Feingold were just about the only exceptions. Hilary Clinton is touted by the news media as the leader for the 2008 presidential nomination, apparently because she, unlike Dean, Kucinich and Feingold, says things the media expects and is comfortable with.

It appears that a good way to see the truth and accurately predict the future is to espouse ideas being ridiculed or ignored by the news media.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Last American Soldier to Die for a Mistake

Things are going very badly in Iraq. As Jeffrey Gettleman reported in the New York Times on Tuesday:
"In Sadr City, the Shiite section in Baghdad where the terrorist suspects were executed, government forces have vanished. The streets are ruled by aggressive teenagers with shiny soccer jerseys and machine guns.

"They set up roadblocks and poke their heads into cars and detain whomever they want. Mosques blare warnings on loudspeakers for American troops to stay out. Increasingly, the Americans have been doing just that."

President Bush continues to assert that our goal in Iraq is "victory." Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told Tim Russert that things were going "very, very well" in Iraq.

I am old enough to remember how during the Vietnam War the generals kept claiming we were winning, almost up to the moment we left in defeat. For some reason the news media at the time did not try to determine who was the last American to be killed in Vietnam War. There was talk about not wanting to be "the last man to die for a mistake" but it was kept an abstract notion rather than being attached to a particular dead soldier. I guess that would have been too painful. How many more American soldiers are going to die between now and when we eventually pull out of Iraq? Whether or not he/she receives any publicity for the distinction there will be another last American to die for a mistake. Will it be someone from around here, perhaps someone you know?

There will be gatherings for peace around the country this weekend on the third anniversary of the start of the war. In the Quad-Cities it will be on Saturday from 2-4 pm in front of Boarders on 53rd street across from the cinemas. Those who come will at least be able to say they did something.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Insulting Canada

As reported by Media Matters
On November 30, as President Bush visited Canada to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and CNN Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson ridiculed the United States' northern neighbor. On FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, Coulter said that Canadians "better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent." On CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Carlson stated: "Without the U.S., Canada is essentially Honduras, but colder and much less interesting"; he went on to say that instead of following politics, "the average Canadian is busy dogsledding." And on Crossfire, Carlson referred to the "limpid, flaccid nature of Canadian society."
Read the complete story.

What does it say about someone’s political philosophy, view of the world and maturity that they would say such things about inoffensive Canada? What kind of people approve and enjoy listening to such opinions?

Monday, March 13, 2006

British soldier in Iraq quits over illegal tactics by US troops

I was alerted to the story by my nephew in China, he is a University of Chicago student researching his PhD thesis in Bejing, and found it online in the Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper:

"An elite British soldier revealed in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that he quit the army after refusing to stay and fight in Iraq on moral grounds because of the “illegal” tactics used by US troops on the ground.
The 28-year-old Special Air Service (SAS) soldier, Ben Griffin, terminated his army career after just three months in Baghdad and was discharged last June. He is believed to be the first SAS soldier to refuse to go into combat and to quit the army on moral grounds.
“I saw a lot of things in Baghdad that were illegal or just wrong,” Griffin told the weekly newspaper..

Read the complete story here

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Norman Mailer's Theory

I saw Norman Mailer on Book TV Saturday evening. He is now 83 years old and kept complaining that he could not hear the questions being put to him. But he had a theory about why America was behaving the way it was that I had not heard before and seems to explain more than the theories I had been entertaining.

Most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and a lot of what is happening in America is motivated by fear. Mailer’s theory is that the fear stems from the Christian belief in divine judgment. As everyone knows, when God judges a Christian he does not judge them by worldly standards. Unlike our fellow man, God is not be impressed by our beautiful house, car and clothes. Nor is he impressed by our career accomplishments or anything else that our society admires. God asks if we clothed the naked, tended the sick or gave money to the poor. And these things must have been done not in a way designed to gain our fellow man’s admiration and respect, but humbly and modestly.

But not many Americans today are seeking after humbleness or purposely avoiding the limelight. Instead they are ruthlessly trying to gain as much material advantage for themselves as possible. Being greedy and looking out for number one have become behaviors that are not only accepted as normal and natural but have been lauded as the essence of what makes America the greatest nation in the world.

I had pondered the curiosity of Americans considering themselves Christian while living lives that do not reflect Christian values but I had not connected it to the pervasive fear that underlies so much of what America is doing. There is a fear of terrorism that is totally out of proportion to the actual threat. This fear makes Americans willing to go to war, destroy the international reputation American had earned, create a debt that our children and grandchildren will struggle to repay, and surrender our freedoms to not have our phone calls listened to and our mail read by our own government.

Norman Mailer believes that the real cause of that fear is the Christian belief that we are subject to divine judgment. Although today’s American Christians have been persuaded to lead lives of selfish materialism they have not been convinced that the rules by which they will ultimately be judged have changed. The result is a sense of impending doom that leaves American Christians feeling insecure and threatened.

I don’t know if this theory is correct or not. If it is God’s judgment that we really fear of what use is our military, NSA or Department of Homeland Security? What do you think?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Immigration responsible for lower crime rate

In an opinion piece in today's New York Times a professor of sociology at Harvard, Robert J. Sampson, claims that increased immigration is a major factor in the decrease in the crime rate the US has experienced over the last 15 years.

"Consider what sociologists call the 'Latino paradox': Hispanic Americans do better on a range of various social indicators — including propensity to violence — than one would expect given their socioeconomic disadvantages. My colleagues and I have completed a study in which we examined violent acts by almost 3,000 males and females, ranging in age from 8 to 25, from 1995 to 2003. The study selected whites, blacks and Hispanics (primarily Mexican-Americans) from 180 Chicago neighborhoods ranging from highly segregated to very integrated. We also analyzed data from police records, the Census and a separate survey of more than 8,000 Chicago residents who were asked about the characteristics of their neighborhoods."

See the complete article at

Friday, March 10, 2006

My views on Personal Pac's actions

In the race for the Democratic nomination for the 36th District Illinois State Senate seat we have just found out that a pro-choice group based in Chicago, Personal Pac, were the ones who had been calling voters and telling them Mike Jacobs was the only pro-choice candidate in the race. Their justification for their actions was that they had sent surveys to both candidates, warning them that a failure to return the surveys would result in the candidate being assumed to be anti-choice. Mike Jacobs had returned the survey but the challenger, Paul Rumler, had not.

In comments posted in response to my last blog entry it was suggested that Personal Pac was not, as I had charged, placing a higher emphasis on their egos and doing favors for the powerful than the cause of choice but were in fact ferreting out secret anti-choicers. It was suggested that I might change my mind after considering their arguments.

I believe that the only justification for Personal Pac's actions would be if there was a history of politicians telling voters when asked that they were pro-choice but then later voting anti-choice. But I have never heard of such a thing. Politicians who end up voting against choice always wear their pro-life credentials on their sleeve. Their pro-life beliefs are religious badges of honor that they are eager to testify to whenever asked.

If Personal Pac were in fact searching for secret pro-lifers in the ranks of the Democratic candidates that would be misguided. They should spend their resources on combating the numerous and easy-to-find true enemies of choice. But I don't think they are on any such campaign. I think they are just, in good Michael Madigan tradition, doing favors for incumbents just because they are Democratic incumbents, without even considering the merits of the candidates, in order to maintain the precious Democratic majority.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

We now know who was making those phone calls

According to the Inside Dope blog, a Chicago based pro-choice political action committee, Personal Pac, were the organization responsible for phoning voters in the 36th district and mis-representing candidate Paul Rumler's views. The Inside Dope also reports that Personal PAC reports in-kind donations amounting to $27,043.93 to Jacobs' campaign, money spent on a phone campaign telling residents that Jacobs was the only pro-choice candidate in the race. So this phone campaign was a service to the Jacobs campaign and was duly reported as such.

As the Inside Dope points out, we have to assume that Personal Pac made the decision to call voters in the 36th district independently of the Jacobs' campaign because if they did in coordination with it someone would be guilty of a crime. But it seems a strange way for Personal Pac to advance their pro-choice cause. Apparently they see doing favors for pro-choice incumbents as something that will benefit their cause in the long run.

Am I going to apologize for doubting Mike Jacobs' explanation of who made those phone calls. Yes. I apologize for not being cynical enough about Illinois politics to imagine a supposedly pro-choice organization behaving in such a way.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who Do You Think Is Behind the Phone Calls?

A controversy has arisen in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois State Senate seat currently held by Mike Jacobs. Jacobs' opponent, Paul Rumler charges that someone has been calling voters stating incorrectly that he is anti-choice.

That the phone calls were made is not in dispute. At least 3 people, including an editor for the Dispatch/Argus, have publicly stated that they received the calls. But what group is behind the calls? Whoever did it expended some time and money to do in a way that the caller id would be defeated. The Rumler campaign suspects that the Mike Jacobs campaign is behind the calls. Mike Jacobs has suggested that perhaps Paul Rumler neglected to return a survey from a pro-choice group and the group, jumping to the conclusion that he was anti-choice, started making the calls.

Which theory is more believable to you? If a pro-choice group did it why would they hide their identity? Do you think pro-choice groups are likely to behave in this secretive and under-handed way?

Perhaps it would have been better for Mike Jacobs to acknowledge that people who support him might have made the calls. It would have reflected better on the honesty and integrity of his campaign if he had disavowed such tactics and called on
his supporter to stop doing such things rather than blaming pro-choice groups.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The 14 Defining Characterists of Fascism

From the Jeff Rense Program Website:
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed
to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Senator Harkin calls for US withdrawal from Iraq

The Des Moines Register on Friday reported that Iowa Senator Harkin has called for the US to immediately begin withdrawing forces from Iraq.

Sen. Tom Harkin said in Iowa Friday that Iraq has deteriorated into "civil war," declaring it no longer manageable by U.S. forces.

Harkin's comments make the Iowa Democrat among the first members of Congress to declare publicly that Iraq had slipped into war between Muslim factions. They come as polls show President Bush's approval at managing the situation at an all-time low.

"I'm firmly convinced now, after all this time, that it really is a civil war," Harkin said.

The senator, an opponent of the war, said the only solution to the surge of sectarian violence is to begin withdrawing U.S. forces.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Forum on Impeaching George Bush

Liz Holtman, John Dean, Lewis Lapham, Michael Ratner and others discuss impeaching George Bush. Alert reader Margaret Thomas pointed me to the following blog entry by Bob Fertik:

"Harper's Magazine held a truly outstanding forum on impeaching George Bush. The panel could not have been more distinguished. It included former Rep. Liz Holtzman, who became famous through her diligent service on the House Judiciary Committee when it adopted Articles of Impeachment that forced Richard Nixon to resign; John Dean, Nixon's White House Counsel whose conscientious refusal to cover up Nixon's crimes played a crucial role in Nixon's downfall; Harper's editor Lewis Lapham, who has analyzed American politics with profound insight for decades; Michael Ratner, the passionate human rights lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is leading the legal battles to stop Bush's torture."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Parties and Media far to the right of the public. Media refuses to report it.

In a recent interview Noam Chomsky, a professor at MIT and social critic, responded to the statement that the United States has moved to the political right:

"Though the press systematically refuses to report it, public opinion studies show ... that both political parties and the media are far to the right of the public on issue after issue.

"In February 2005 just after last year's budget came out the most prestigious institute that studies public opinion in the world, based in the University of Maryland, carried out a study of what people thought the budget ought to be. And it was very striking. It was the exact inverse of the budget. Where federal spending was going up, the public wanted to go down: military spending, supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan; where spending was going down, the public wanted to go up: social spending, health, education, veteran's benefits, renewable energy, support of the United Nations peacekeeping missions, on and on.

"The reason the results of this study is not better known is that it was not published in a single newspaper in the United States, at least a single newspaper that's accessed by the standard database.

"So it just isn't true, I mean there is case after case like this, it's just not true that the population has swung to the right. The government has, the parties have, the media have, the public hasn't."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Illinois Minutemen meeting in Rock Island

I attended the Illinois Minutemen meeting in Rock Island last evening and all I can say is that those people sure have a lot of irrational fears. They like to portray themselves as people who are taking action but they seemed more like frightened children to me.

They worry that Al Qaeda terrorists are coming into this country across a poorly defended Mexican border. All the Al Qaeda terrorists that have been discovered to have been in this country either crossed the Canadian border or flew into the country on commercial airliners with legal visas.

They worry that immigrants are not assimilating and becoming Americans. That one baffles me. All the immigrants I have ever met really want to become Americans. That is why they came.

They worry that immigration (legal and illegal) is being encouraged and promoted by political forces which will use the immigrant vote to take control of something. That’s a laugh to anyone who has tried to get Hispanics to register and vote. Of the ones that do register and vote about half vote Republican and half for the Democrats.

They worry that illegal immigrants have more rights and benefits than citizens. Loans available only to illegal immigrants at lower interest rates than those available to citizens were mentioned. My wife, who both professionally and as a volunteer tries to help connect poor people, many of who are recent immigrants, with available services, was shaking her head about that one. She wanted to ask the speaker what she was talking about just in case there were some benefits available for immigrants of which she was unaware but the speaker did not seem to be allowing questions from the audience and we could not stay to the end of the 3 hour meeting.

They worry that illegal immigration is undermining everything that our brave soldiers fought and died for. (At this point in her talk she should have had patriotic music in the background and a backdrop of marching soldiers carrying American flags, but it seemed to be a low budget affair and there were no multi-media special effects.) All I could say was "Huh?" Many of our soldiers, both past and present, are recent immigrants. Many enter the military before becoming citizens.

There are real problems caused by massive illegal immigration but these people seem to spend most of their time fretting about imaginary ones. Our immigration policy needs to change but to do it correctly we first must have a clear understanding of the problem. These people do not seem to me to be part of the solution.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cardinal Anticipates Need to Defy the Law

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, on Ash Wednesday told his parishioners that if a bill that would make it illegal to offer support to illegal immigrants becomes law he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.

The bill, H.R. 4437, has passed the House and will be considered by the Senate this week. It would expand the definition of "alien smuggling" in a way that could include offering food in a soup kitchen or food pantry, driving a friend to the bus stop or caring for a neighbor’s baby.

Congress, apparently having despaired of solving the illegal immigration problem either at the border or through employer sanctions, is now considering criminalizing social service agencies and soup kitchens who help the needy without considering their legal status. Rather than holding hearings on the failures of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to control our borders or seeking greater penalties against companies who hire illegal immigrants Congress seems to think it can slow down the flow of illegal immigrants by making soup kitchens ask for Social Security numbers.

In response to this muddled thinking the Cardinal offered a clear statement of what a Christian’s duty is. "As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church," he said.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

March 19 will be the 3rd Anniversary of the War in Iraq

Local peace groups have been holding weekly vigils in opposition to the war for the last 3 years. Joining with others around the world they are calling for a massive public turn-out for peace on the 3rd anniversary of the beginning of the War in Iraq. In the Quad Cities the gathering will be Saturday, March 18 in Davenport in front of Border's, across the street from the Showcase Cinemas 53, 4000 E 54d St. from 2:00 - 4:00 PM.

I remember attending a peace vigil about 3 years ago in downtown Davenport. The war had not yet started but it was clear that the Bush Administration was determined to invade and most of the public, including most of the Democrats in Congress, were swept up in the war fever. About 150 people showed up to stand in front of the Federal Building in a futile attempt to prevent the inevitable.

Three years later the public sentiment is very different. It is becoming clear even to die-hard Republicans that President Bush does not have security and protecting the public as his highest priority. The War in Iraq has not turned out the way the people who started it expected and it is increasingly obvious that it is decreasing our security rather than enhancing it. We now know that a majority of our troops in Iraq believe it would be best if the troops were brought home within a year and a full 25% think they should be brought home immediately.

It is not too late to take a public stand in opposition to this war. Support peace. Support our troops by bringing them home. Come join us in front of Border's.

The message I received informing me of the March 18 vigil ended with the following:

"We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored..."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Have the media misled us about how our troops in Iraq feel about their mission?

How many media stories have you seen quoting a gung-ho American soldier in Iraq who believed that what he/she was doing was correct, necessary and working and expressing frustration that not everyone back home believed the same thing? Didn’t those stories always seem to suggest that almost all our soldiers in Iraq felt the same way? Have we been misled?

In a new Zogby International poll released yesterday (that I have not yet seen referred to in any of our local media) "an overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

"Surveys were conducted face-to-face using random sampling techniques. The margin of error for the survey, conducted Jan. 18 through Feb. 14, 2006, is +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Is this the new silent majority, the majority of troops in Iraq whose views are never presented in the media?