Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Was a 15-year-old girl raped at Abu Ghraib?

Iraq Slogger reports that the U.S. Army is investigating new torture allegations at Abu Ghraib. The investigation began as a result of a video that appeared on YouTube with a young man who claimed to be a guard at the prison and told the story. The video is available at Iraq Slogger.

If this is a fake, these guys are doing a heck of an acting job.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quote of the day

"War is terrorism with a bigger budget."
--from a sign at Saturday's anti-war march in Washington

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Clinton dead wrong on the "proper debate"

Senator Hillary Clinton told this to the AP on Sunday, regarding her vote to authorize the war in Iraq:
"I take responsibility for having voted to give him that authority," she said. "My focus is on what we do now. That is the proper debate."

Wrong....sort of. Yes, we need to discuss what we do now. But we are considering our next president. In order to make an informed decision about who our next president should be, we need to consider each candidate's past actions. And Senator Clinton has some explaining to do about that vote, along with Senators Dodd and Biden.

At least John Edwards had the strength to admit, "I was wrong."
America's leaders -- all of us -- need to accept the responsibility we each carry for how we got to this place.

Obama gets off lucky since he was not in the Senate at the time, but he was a public opponent of the war.

I haven't done a full inventory of every presidential candidate on the authorization vote, but my hunch is that only Rep. Dennis Kucinich comes out totally clean on this since he was there for the vote and voted against the authorization.

Senator Clinton, you helped get us into this mess, and I suspect you did it for political gain. Please tell us why we should trust you in the White House.

As an aside, the person who deserves posthumous respect on this issue is Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota). In the heat of a difficult re-election campaign and worrying that opposition to the war in Iraq could cost him his Senate seat, Wellstone took to the floor and gave the speech of his life in opposition to the war. After the speech, his poll numbers went up. For a thorough look at the life of this remarkable public servant, check out the documentary Wellstone! You can get a 5-10 minute preview online.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Coffee with Tim

A few thoughts from today's Meet the Press.

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, announces his bid for the presidency.

Huckabee touched on his belief that we need to promote a "culture of life" and pointed out a deserving criticism of others who oppose abortion. Huckabee said, "If we're really pro-life, we have to be concerned about more than just gestation," and went on to talk about education, healthcare, and the environment.

Moderator Tim Russert missed an opportunity by failing to ask Huckabee about the death penalty. It is farcical for the so-called "culture of life" crowd to continue to support a policy in which the government straps a person down until he or she cannot move and injects him/her with poison for the purpose of killing him. And Russert missed it.

Schumer on "special interest groups."

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went after our voices in D.C. near the end of the program.
I bring up, in my book, talk when I got to Congress in 1980, for instance, and that was-that was about crime was ripping apart my district. I come to Washington, and I find out that the ACLU is writing crime legislation, has a veto over any piece of crime legislation. Now, they should be at the table. Their views should be considered. But our job, whether we're Democrat or Republican, is not to just take what the interest groups want and just make it into legislation, it's to balance their needs against others'. I believe in the environment, but there's the issue of jobs. I believe in civil liberties, but there's the issue of security. And what both parties have done, Tim, is forgotten the average middle class voter—yes, I call them the Baileys, but they could be anybody—and instead paid too much attention to interest groups.

I am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others, and there is a good reason. I care about the environment. I care about civil liberties, the Constitution, and equal rights for all. And there is no way that I can have access to my senators. Period. Can you imagine the response I would get if I tried to get a personal meeting with Senator Specter or Senator Casey? I'd be lucky to get anyone above an intern.

But the ACLU and the NRDC do have that kind of access. People like me who care about these issues rely on them to make sure our voices are heard.

There's a big difference between non-profits like the ACLU and NRDC and the lobbyists for for-profit companies like Halliburton, Verizon, and Comcast. Yes, the Democrats (and all politicians) should not be giving those lobbyists more of an ear than the people. But Chuckie was simply looking to score some cheap political points by lumping all of the above together.

After the Demo-rats rolled over on the renewal of the PATRIOT Act, I switched my voter registration from D to "no affiliation." Schumer is doing nothing to win me back.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Obama for president

During the early speculation about the presidential race, I was a Russ Feingold guy. The senator from Wisconsin made some appearances around the country that gave the appearance that he was laying the groundwork for a presidential run.

The country needs a candidate like Feingold in the race. The senator is not afraid to tell it like it is, and he is a champ on defending the Constitution and standing up for justice.

But at this point, it does not appear that Feingold is running. We are still almost a year away from the Iowa caucuses, so there is time.

But assuming Feingold is out, Barack Obama is my guy, even though a) PA's primary is so late that it is irrelevant in the nominating process (at least for now) and b) I'm registered "no affiliation" anyway.

Although I will not have a vote, I am fully behind Senator Barack Obama. (And let's face it, all of the candidates are chasing the highly-coveted Nasty Little Man endorsement.) There are two main reasons I'm an Obama supporter.

First, Senator Obama appeals to my better person, to my Buddha nature. The public dialogue is too often corrosive, and I'll admit that I've engaged in that kind of behavior myself. Obama is attempting to go beyond that to a place where you can stand for something and still engage in respectful dialogue with others. This doesn't mean that you stand for nothing. You simply have enough respect for the other person and recognize his/her inherent worth to give his/her ideas a full public airing. (And then crush them with your own brilliant ideas.)

Second, there are few politicians that have the street cred that Obama has. That might sound silly since he gets knocked around for growing up in Hawaii, going to Harvard, etc. But how many politicians have been a community organizer in an urban area like the South Side of Chicago? I appreciate the fact that he has been out there in the neighborhoods and the streets working directly with people.

Some of my friends and acquaintances have been talking up Hillary, but my problem with Hillary is the same problem I had with Bill. She appears to be a political opportunist, and I'm not certain that she stands for anything. I see politics as a means to an end, i.e. achieving some level of justice in our country. Hillary seems to see politics as the end, not a means to an end.

Plus, what state is Hillary going to win that Kerry didn't win?

Barack Obama for President.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quote of the day

"The pilots said their bombs lit Baghdad like a Christmas tree. It was the Christian thing to do, you see."
--The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, "The Winter of the Long Hot Summer" (1992)

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Coffee with Tim

A few months ago, I intended to start a new series of posts called "Coffee with Tim," which would be a reaction to Meet the Press each week, or as many weeks as I could. I never got around to it but am hoping to start now. MTP is the one Sunday morning show that I watch.

And this week is a great week to start. MTP featured Senator John McCain, a key supporter of the Bush-McCain-Lieberman escalation, and Senator Edward Kennedy, who voted against the Iraq war at the start and now opposes the escalation.

Senator McCain's arguments in favor of the escalation are based on a few assumptions that I just don't buy. First, he believes that more troops means more security. I don't buy it. We've been at 150,000 troops before, and we all saw how well that worked. More troops might actually make things worse.

Bush's friend McCain also believes that a U.S. withdrawal will lead to chaos. That is a distinct possibility. But it's not guaranteed. It's important to remember that a U.S. withdrawal does not mean that one day there are 130,000 troops in Iraq and the next day there are zero. President Bush has long said that as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. In fact, we can turn that around. We stand down, and the Iraqis will then recognize that it is time to stand up.

It seemed that Senator McCain has picked up the Rove-Limbaugh-Hannity tactic of spreading a flat-out lie. McCain stated several times that the American people did not support the Gulf War at the start. That is just flat wrong.
Most Americans agreed with the President's decision to go to war. For example, the Washington Post/ABC News Poll on January 16, 1991, found that 76 percent of Americans approved of the U.S. going to war with Iraq and 22 percent disapproved.

I'm considering going to Washington on Saturday for the march against the war. I hope those of you who come across this post will consider doing the same.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Colbert, O'Reilly; O'Reilly, Colbert

There's no comfortable place to eat lunch in my workplace, so I usually eat at my desk. We're supposed to take a lunch, so sometimes I spend lunch hour searching YouTube for fun videos, mostly the Daily Show, Colbert Report, and Chappelle's Show. Today I came across an appearance by Bill O'Reilly on the Colbert Report and Stephen Colbert on the O'Reilly Factor. Based on the posting on Colbert Nation, this must have just happened last night.

I'm not sure which is funnier, but they're both pretty good.

Colbert on the Factor

O'Reilly on the Report

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

What you don't know can kill you

Watching the Eagles game last weekend, I thought of Andre Waters when I saw Brian Dawkins wearing number 20. Dawkins is the longest-serving Eagle at this point, but for whatever reason, I thought back to Waters, who was a hard-hitting safety for the Eagles during the Buddy Ryan era and who wore number 20.

I didn't realize that Waters had killed himself in November.

Now research has been done on Waters' brain at the University of Pittsburgh, and it revealed that Waters had severe brain damage, at the level of an 85-year-old in early stage Alzheimers. It appears that Waters' football career directly affected his condition.
Asked in 1994 by The Philadelphia Inquirer to count his career concussions, Mr. Waters replied, "I think I lost count at 15." He later added: "I just wouldn't say anything. I'd sniff some smelling salts, then go back in there."

Mr. Nowinski also found a note in the Inquirer in 1991 about how Mr. Waters had been hospitalized after sustaining a concussion in a game against Tampa Bay and experiencing a seizure-like episode on the team plane that was later diagnosed as body cramps; Mr. Waters played the next week.

This is an important warning to those who have family members who play football or any contact sport. My parents did not let me play football as a child because they said it was too dangerous for a growing body. I was annoyed at the time- I thought I could have been a heck of a quarterback- but now I appreciate that they directed me away from football.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve

And there's no one more deserving right now than the 51% of voting Americans who chose George W. Bush in 2004.

The escalation of the war in Iraq will begin shortly. The President believes that American soldiers going door-to-door, neighborhood-to-neighborhood, is going to quell the violence in the shattered country.

As I heard a public official say this week (can't remember who, but I think it was Senator Chuck Hagel), there's an assumption in the president's plan that more troops equals more security. I don't buy that premise. More troops could mean less security. When you add heat to a simmering pot of water, it gets hotter and boils.

There's no indication from the Iraqi government that they want to crack down on al-Sadr and other Shiites who are wreaking havoc. As long as armed Shiites have the backing of the government, the violence will not stop, and no level of U.S. escalation will stop it.

That doesn't mean the alternative- a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops- is a picnic. Iraq might not get much better as we leave, but at least one element that inspires the mayhem- the occupiers of the United States- will be subtracted from the equation.

This whole thing led me to think about something I read by Thich Nhat Hanh recently about the elimination of nuclear arms. Thay said that the United States could lead the way in abolishing nukes by unilaterally destroying x-number of arms. If more countries follow suit in the months that follow, the U.S. could destroy more, and so on.

Maybe if the U.S. partially backs away, they will lead the way to peace. Why not try it? Nothing else Bush has tried has worked.

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Ed the Second

Governor Rendell started his second term today. Frivolity abounds in Harrisburg. But, once again, The Central Pennsylvania Abolitionist isn't at the party.
In January, 2004, Nicholas Yarris of Philadelphia was released from prison after 22 years on death row for a crime someone else committed in Delaware County. Nick was so broken after his decades on death row that he was ready to accept execution until a DNA test saved his life.

And Ed Rendell did nothing.

Read the full post.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Quote of the day

Yesterday, actually.

"The President's approval rating on Iraq is at 26%. Who are you people?"
--Stephanie Miller, syndicated talkradio host


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Race matters: Why this white guy supports affirmative action

I'm a 33-year-old white male. I grew up in the suburbs of Harrisburg with one younger sibling, and my parents' marriage is intact. If you profiled people who oppose affirmative action, I would fit the profile.

But I support it, and here's why. In light of all of the privilege I get as a white male, it doesn't bother me that in college admissions or employment, when all other factors are equal, minorities get an edge.

What would my life be like if I were a black male?

If I were a black male, I would be pulled over more. I've only been pulled over three times in my life, all deserved.

If I were a black male, clerks and security would watch me more closely in stores.

If I were a black male, women would clutch their purses when I get on to an elevator.

If I were a black male, people would look at me funny when I get on the bus.

If I were a black male, the chances would be greater that I got a sub-standard education at a "separate and unequal" public school.

We were with some friends recently who said they will give their daughter a black-sounding name to help her get into college. Too bad blacks can't name their daughters Sara Jane and then get an education at a school like Derry Township or Cumberland Valley.

When whites claim that minorities get extra privilege through affirmative action, they really need to look inward at all of the privilege they've had.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Another view on D-O'Brien

While the Dems stroke new PA House Speaker Dennis O'Brien (R-Phila), The Central Pennsylvania Abolitionist has an alternative view. Check it out.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Harrisburg Zero: Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone

On November 7, the winds of change swept across Pennsylvania. The people rose up. We are tired of business- as in, big business- as usual. We are tired of the working people being under the boot of legislative leaders who are hopelessly out of touch.

So we did something about it. We swept the Democrats into the majority in the PA House, eliminating an 18 seat advantage for the Re-thug-nicans, and we played a major role in sweeping the Ds into power in the U.S. Senate and House.

But now the change the people called for is going to be erased by one push of the button from a Demo-rat, Rep. Thomas Caltagirone. Rep. Caltagirone is going to show the people of Pennsylvania what he thinks of them today when he votes for Rep. John Perzel (R-Phila) for Speaker of the House. The Rep will thumb his nose at the people's call for change.
Michael Morrill, a member of the Berks County Democratic Committee, said constituents were "very, very angry" with Mr. Caltagirone and were hoping the rally would spur him to reconsider.

T.J. Rooney, chairman of the state Democratic Party, released a statement calling the situation a "desperate" move by Republicans.

"By selling out to House Speaker John Perzel, Caltagirone will go down in history with the likes of other traitors who have given Republicans an opportunity to stifle progressive legislation that helps working families in Pennsylvania while advancing the cause of big business and the elite at everyone else's expense," Mr. Rooney said.

The new mandate for Mr. Morrill and the Berks Dem Committee is now clear: Send Rep. Caltagirone into retirement in 2008. In so many ways, the Rep is now On Notice.