Saturday, September 23, 2006

What are you going to say 20 years from now

What are you going to say 20 years from now when a young person asks you what you did when it became legal for the US government to grab people off the street, torture them and hold them indefinitely without charges? Are you going to have to say that all you did was mutter under your breath to a few like-minded friends? Or perhaps you will have to say that you agreed with it at the time because you thought it would make the country safer if suspicious people could be 'disappeared' and assumed that our government would never do such a thing to people who looked like you.

The people of Canada are very upset about their government’s role in the case of Maher Arar, an innocent man who was ‘disappeared’ and tortured for 10 months. There was a governmental inquiry and much soul-searching about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’ s role in the sorry episode (a much smaller role than the US government’s). There are plans to give Maher Arar a Canadian government job in compensation.

In the US there is no inquiry and very little outcry. The only official response so far is to block Maher Arar from suing in US courts to receive compensation. To the rest of the world it appears that no one in the US cares very much about this issue.
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

At some point in the future are you going to say something similar that starts with 'First they came for the Middle-Eastern looking men and I did not speak out because I did not look Middle-Eastern'?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Which side are you on?

According to the New York Times
A [Canadian] government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured…
The Syrian-born Mr. Arar was seized on Sept. 26, 2002, after he landed at Kennedy Airport in New York on his way home [to Canada] from a holiday in Tunisia. On Oct. 8, he was flown to Jordan in an American government plane and taken overland to Syria, where he says he was held for 10 months in a tiny cell and beaten repeatedly with a metal cable. He was freed in October 2003, after Syrian officials concluded that he had no connection to terrorism and returned him to Canada…[while he was being held in New York before being shipped to Syria] American officials denied Mr. Arar’s requests to speak with the Canadian Consulate in New York, a violation of international agreements. [And the US Government has blocked Mr. Arar from suing the United States government to receive compensation for his suffering.]

Read the entire story

Of course, none of this was legal even by the degraded standards of the Bush Administration. Mr. Arar was not an illegal combatant taken prisoner on a battlefield. He was a Canadian citizen on his way home to Canada from vacation.
He was seized at the airport in New York, held without being charged, not allowed to contact the Canadian embassy and then shipped off to Syria to be tortured. He could not have been arraigned or charged because it turns out there was not only no evidence of wrong-doing that would stand up in court -- there was no evidence at all because he had done nothing wrong and was not a threat or a danger to anyone. And now the US Government is preventing him from seeking redress and compensation for the wrongs done to him by the US in the US courts.

We overthrew Saddam Hussein in order to bring American style freedom and justice to Iraq. If this is American freedom and justice you have to wonder why we bothered. It seems pretty much the same as Iraqi freedom and justice under Saddam Hussein.

Judging by the actions (or inactions) of the Republican majority in Congress up to now it seems safe to assume that none of people in the United States responsible for this outrage will ever be held accountable for these illegal and barbaric acts as long as Republicans remain in control of Congress. Voters in the Illinois 17th and Iowa 1st Congressional Districts, as in many districts around the country, have a clear choice between a Republican candidate who backs the Bush Administration’s policies and actions and wants to see them continue and a Democratic candidate who does not.

Which side are you on?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Political Cartoon Homework Assignment

My daughter is in the 11th grade attending Moline High School. She was given a homework assignment to draw a political cartoon. She told me the sentiment she wanted to express and asked me for advice how to turn it into a cartoon. I told her to draw a rather portly man, label him "Republican Congressman" and have him saying "Immigrants are ruining this country." Then draw a man putting a ballot in a ballot box, label him "Voters" and have him saying to the Congressman, "No. You’re ruining this country. You’re Fired!". My daughter liked that idea, drew it up and turned it in.

The teacher gave it an A.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Andrea Zinga backpedals on extra airport screening for 'Middle Eastern men'

I just saw this story on Rich Miller's Capital Fax Blog. According to the The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Andrea Zinga, Republican candidate in the Illinois 17th Congression District, said Monday that all Middle Eastern men should get secondary security screenings as they board airplanes.

However, Republican Andrea Zinga's campaign manager, Charlie Johnston, said later "that's not what she wanted to say." He said she really meant to say that there should be no threat of anti-discrimination legal action against airlines if the pre-screening system to identify problem passengers identifies more than three people from the same ethnic group.

read the entire story

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Torture being done in our names

I have always thought that torture was something only bad and evil people and governments did. Yet, torture has been done for and by the people of the United States, for the last 5 years. How could 230 years of history be overturned without people protesting and saying that this was wrong? How could our entire military, the CIA and the FBI go along with such a change in who we are and what we stand for without some of them raising objections to what they were seeing being done and being asked to do? According to an article in today’s New York Times many of those involved did object:

Abu Zubaydah, the first Osama bin Laden henchman captured by the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was bloodied and feverish when a C.I.A. security team delivered him to a secret safe house in Thailand for interrogation in the early spring of 2002. …. Within days, Mr. Zubaydah was being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques — he was stripped, held in an icy room and jarred by earsplittingly loud music …
President Bush pointedly cited the capture and interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah in his speech last Wednesday announcing the transfer of Mr. Zubaydah and 13 others to the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. And he used it to call for ratification of the tough techniques employed in the questioning.
But rather than the smooth process depicted by Mr. Bush, interviews with nearly a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed on the process show, the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah was fraught with sharp disputes, debates about the legality and utility of harsh interrogation methods, and a rupture between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the C.I.A. that has yet to heal.
Read the article

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pictures from my bike ride

I took this picture this morning on my bicycle ride on the bike trail along the Mississippi River just west of downtown Moline. In the background is Arsenal Island. The boat and rowers are from the Quad City Rowing Association and are a common sight here in the summer, as is the egret (the white bird on the far shore). (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

On the bike trail just west of the Moline/Rock Island border they have just torn down some unsightly industrial buildings and are building a park and resting spot for bicyclists. The walkway connecting the steps to bike path was just poured in the last few days. From what I have seen and heard about their plans they are going to turn one of the least attractive spots on the bike trail into one of the nicest. I am keeping close tabs on their progress.

Another common sight on the bike path just east of downtown Moline is this flock of domestic geese that seems to be loosely associated with the Moline Water Department for some reason.

Chris Dunn warms up the crowd for Jim Hightower

Chris Dunn of Rock Island, Illinois warming up the crowd for Jim Hightower last night (Sept 8, 2006) at Veteran's Memorial Park Bandshell in Bettendorf, Iowa. Chris did a excellent job, as usual, and had most of the crowd singing along with him and his songs of political protest and environmental concern.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jim Hightower in Bettendorf

I just heard Jim Hightower, the progressive author, national radio commentator and political agitator from Austin, Texas, speak at the Veteran’s Memorial Park Bandshell in Bettendorf, Iowa. It was his sixth Iowa stop in the last two days on his “Sensible Priorities” tour arranged by Iowans for Sensible Priorities.

As always he had a lot of funny lines. “This administration sees themselves as the top dogs and us as a bunch of fire hydrants.” Of Dick Cheney – “a million sperm and you were the fastest?!?” When Rumsfeld called critics of the Iraq War the “blame America first crowd,” Hightower responds, “No, we are not blaming America. We are blaming you.” And a bunch more that I can not remember now. (I should have taken notes.)

But the thing he said that really struck me was during the question and answer period. Someone asked about the private contractors doing military operations in Iraq without any of the oversight, accountability or military justice that our soldiers operate under. Jim Hightower pointed out that a corporation operates in many respects exactly the opposite to how a democratically elected government should behave. A government should be open and democratic. A corporation is secretive and hierarchical. A democratic government’s highest priority should be the public good and the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. The corporation operates only for the benefit of a small number of wealthy stockholders. And yet the current Administration’s stated goal is to run the government more like a business. And they have, much to our detriment.

All of our recent presidents have run the government for the benefit of the corporations. Ronald Reagan, Bush the elder, Bill Clinton, even Jimmy Carter. But with this Administration the corporations have actually moved into the White House. They are all corporate executives - George Bush (although a failed one), Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Phil Hare and Bruce Braley at Salute to Labor picnic

Phil Hare, Democratic candidate in the Illinois 17th Congressional District, addressing the crowd at the Salute to Labor picnic at Illiniwek Park in Hampton, Illinois.
Behind Phil are Mike Jacobs, Illinois State Senator and Alex Giannoulias, Democratic candidate for Illinois State Treasurer

Bruce Braley, Democratic candidate in the Iowa 1st Congressional District.

Salute To Labor Picnic, Labor Day 2006

This is a picture I took at the Salute to Labor picnic at Illiniwek park today.From right to left we have:
Richard "Dick" Leibovitz - Rock Island County Clerk
Vicki Wright - candidate for Appelate Court Judge
LuAnn Kerr - Rock Island County Treasurer
John Edwards - former US Senator and Vice Presidential candidate
John Gianulis - Rock Island County Democratic Party Chairman
Mike Jacobs - Illinois State Senator 36th District
Pat Verschoore - Illinois State Representative 72nd District
Mike Boland - State Representative 71st District

I was very impressed with John Edwards and what he had to say. I did not take notes or record the speech so what I say will be from my memory and impressions of what he said. He told us that people around the world were suspicious and dubious about the motives and objectives of the United States and what we are doing overseas but that was because they did not know the American people, who we are and what we stand for. The reason they do not know us is because Abu Graib and Guantanomo Bay do not reflect the American people. We are better than that! And if Democrats are returned to power in Washington the government's actions and polices will once again reflect the values and morals of the American people. [huge applause] He said more than that but that is the essence of what I took away from his speech.

The media is reporting that hundreds of people were there. That seems right to me.

Illegal Immigration being used as wedge issue

In the Illinois 6th Congressional District race the Republican National Campaign Committee is attacking the Democratic candidate, Tammy Duckworth, an Iraqi War verteran, on illegal immigration. Rather than highlighting the real differences between the candidates on this issue, how we deal with the more than 10 million illegal immigrants already here, the above ads lie about Tammy Duckworth's stand on border security and "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
According to the "bridget in the sixth" blog, the Duckworth campaign will be sending out mailers this week to deny the charges that she supports an "amnesty" and does not intend to secure our borders.

click on the images to expand them

There are real differences between Tammy Duckworth and her Republican opponent on immigration policy but the Republicans are not talking about those. Instead they lie about things almost all Americans (and almost all Congressional candidates, Democratic and Republican) agree on -- the need to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration. Why aren't the Republicans sending out mailers talking about the immigration issues that really divide us -- how do we deal with the more than 10 million illegal immigrants alreay here, many of whom have been here many years, have children who are citizens and have strong ties to the community? Unlike the Democrats the Republicans, insofar as they have a common approach, seem to favor threatening deportation to keep the millions of undocumented workers as permanent second-class citizens without the rights and protections other Americans enjoy. Why aren't the Republicans sending out mailers saying that? Could it be that their polls and focus groups tell them that approach does not appeal to a majority of voters?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who is going to give away your Social Security benefits?

The National Republican Congressional Committee is sending out mailers to voters in the Illinois 6th Congressional District race (and probably other targeted races) trying to scare voters by claiming that the Democratic candidate favors an immigration policy that would "let illegal immigrants get your Social Security."

My Social Security?!? Adding 10 million workers to the Social Security system would not threaten MY benefits. It would make the system stronger and more secure. Adding more workers to the system would make it more likely that I would be able to collect my benefits. What would threaten my benefits would be removing workers from the system the way the Republican plan for partial privatization would do.

So who is the greater threat to your Social Security benefits - the Democrats who want to add workers to the system or Republicans who want to remove them?