If such things interest you...
C-SPAN online has streaming video of the Georgetown University Law Center Panel on Supreme Court Rulings titled "Exploring the Supreme Court's Terrorism and Detainee Cases: A Preliminary Assessment of the Rulings."
If such things interest you...
“If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we’d be in, I would have opposed the war.”
— William F. Buckley, Jr.
To which I can only reply:
If you all would have considered the reservations voiced by so many before the war rather than vilifying opponents as "un-American," then perhaps we could have had a constructive conversation about the situation before we got to this point.
One does not have to concede to consider, and we will all be much better informed if we can have an intellectually honest debate.
Encouraging news from the Senate as Sen. Richard Durbin's (D - IL) amendment making clear that the US will not use torture was passed by unanimous voice vote. I called my Senators yesterday to urge them to support the amendment, so I feel personally responsible for carrying Texas.
"He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney said of Saddam during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think tank based in Florida. "He had long-established ties with al-Qaida."
- Vice-President Dick Cheney, July 2004
A senior Iraqi intelligence official reportedly met with bin Laden in 1994 in Sudan, the panel found, and bin Laden "is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded."
"There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," the report said. "Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq."
- Sept. 11 Commission Report, July 2004
I am beginning to wonder about the mental health of Senator John Cornyn (R - TX). Last Friday, no doubt in response to an Austin-American Statesman editorial questioning Cornyn's backing of no fewer than five Constitutional Amendments, John Cornyn shot off an op-ed to the same paper explaining the importance of the Constitutional Amendment process. If only Cornyn himself understood the importance of the Constitution.
While I thank the Senator for the civics lesson, I think his problem comes not in a misunderstanding of how the process works, but why it exists. Cornyn is right that "no man-made document could ever be perfect." However, though imperfections may exist, we should not treat the Constitution as a tool for political expediency.
In the past, the Constitution has been amended to enhance the protections of American citizens - freeing us from the tyranny of slavery, illegal searches, and abuse of government power. In 1917, the US Constitution was hijacked by those who sought to use it as a tool of oppression, rather than liberty. In 1933 the people of the United States realized their error and repealed the 18th Amendment outlawing "intoxicating liquors."
Senator Cornyn is adept at basic civics; perhaps now he needs a history refresher. The US Constitution is not a chalkboard to be erased and re-written by radicals; it is the outline of our rights as citizens - a guard against tyranny and oppression. If Senator Cornyn truly understood and respected our democracy, he would know that.
Sen. John Cornyn (R- TX) is really showing his stripes lately. Along with his neurotic drive to re-write the US Constitution, Cornyn has apparently decided to endorse the radical transformation of United States from democracy to theocracy.
In his opening statement during a Senate Committee on the Judiciary meeting recently, Cornyn made clear that he has taken up the misguided cause of protecting "religious expression in the public square."
The idea that government is outlawing all religious expression is one popular with extremist religious fundamentalists and fans of Jack Chick's paranoid tracts. In reality, however, there is no such threat to religion.
Most of the fear seems to come from those, like Senator Cornyn, who do not understand, or, perhaps, do not believe in, the democratic ideal of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.
In his statement, Cornyn cites a Texas case in which courts ruled that students on public school athletic teams could not be forced to pray before a game. To Cornyn, and theocrats of his ilk, this is a prime example of government oppressing religion. He is not concerned with the rights of students who do not attend his church.
Cornyn also engages in dishonest fear-mongering in order to drum up support for his theocratic aims. By suggesting that "children across America are being barred from sharing candy canes with classmates," Cornyn misleads-by-omission: the situation to which he refers involves Christian fundamentalists attaching silly (and false) evangelical notes to candy canes in the hopes of surreptitiously manipulating impressionable children behind the backs of their parents.
The establishment clause, to be sure, can provide complicated questions for courts. At times there will be over-zealous bureaucrats who go overboard in an attempt to protect themselves from First Amendment lawsuits. At other times, there will be radical fundamentalists aspiring to subvert our democracy for their theocratic goals.
The establishment clause is a vital part of our Constitution; a vital protection against religious persecution. John Cornyn tell us that "Americans should never have to hide their faith," but he fails to note that Americans should never have someone else's faith forced upon them.
The Houston Press takes a look at Tom Delay's charities, including the progress of Oaks at Rio Bend, a residential center for foster kids funded by Tom Delay's charities.
The weedy grasses have grown waist-high. The barbed wire that lines the property is rusty and mashed down in places. Someone has fired six BB-sized holes into the back of the sign; an empty Busch tall boy patrols the perimeter.
The first bulldozer -- a pint-sized rental -- has just arrived. By the time DeLay published his op-ed, it had cleared a muddy path that stopped abruptly after 12 feet. The rest of the site remained untouched.
They go on to note that
In 1995, when Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House, the House Ethics Committee backed reforms designed to lessen the power of lobbyists. One of the new rules barred House members from accepting free trips from lobbyists, even if those trips ultimately benefited a charity.
Last January, DeLay suddenly pushed through a reversal of that same rule. As his spokesman later admitted to Roll Call, it was partly to help the DeLay Foundation, which was throwing a golf outing in the Florida Keys.
Read on and discover just what a repulsive creep Tom Delay is.
What kind of education does it take to run a corporation in America? Four years of study at an undergraduate institution? Harvard MBA? Hardly.
The NY Post discovered that "15 different chairmen and CEOs, 29 corporate board members and 40 other top officials of public companies who have burnished their resumes with diplomas and degrees from [diploma mills]" - unaccredited institutions of higher education that sell degrees without ensuring that the recipients are qualified.
Hey, why spend all that time learning when you can just shell out a fee and buy yourself some credentials? That way you can get to work swindling share holders, tax payers, and workers while undermining the American economy.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D - CT) is sponsoring a bill that would deny Department of Homeland Security contracts to corporations who hide income from the Federal government.
As much as conservatives like to call themselves patriots, their patriotism is largely symbolic - American flag hats, "these colors don't run" bumper stickers, and tough-talk lyrics in country music.
But patriotism is much more than mere symbols. Real patriots give to their country and their society from their time and their resources. People and companies who try every trick in the book to keep from helping to pay for the government and society that ensures their rights, protection, and freedoms are patently un-patriotic; they do not deserve to reap the benefits of a government and society that they refuse to support.
Government contracts should go to those companies who give back to our country - not those who seek to fleece it.
I don't have to tell you that this year is as important an election year as there has been in decades. The current Bush administration managed their way into power with a minority of the popular vote, and possibly a minority of the electoral vote; we'll never really know since Bush's friends on the Supreme Court ordered an end to vote counting, effectively appointing him to the Presidency.
John Kerry has been showing well in the polls - and he should; Kerry has a clear and positive message to the American people:
Let's work together and with our allies to build a strong global economy; create jobs, wealth, and real security for hardworking Americans; take away the ideological and material support for terrorism, and truly show the world the greatness of freedom and democracy.
Unfortunately, campaign finance laws are going to work against John Kerry this year. In a crass exploitation of a national tragedy, the Republican Party has elected to hold their National Convention in New York City this September. This is over a month after John Kerry will accept the nomination for President at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Due to current campaign finance laws, John Kerry will not be able to accept contributions from individual donors after the Democratic National Convention. George Bush will be able to fund raise for more than a month longer than John Kerry.
It is absolutely vital that John Kerry have the financial support necessary to counter the lies being perpetrated by the Bush re-election campaign and the Republican Party.
I ask you today to consider making a contribution to the Kerry for President campaign. You do not need to be a titan of industry or a multimillionaire to help the campaign. Please consider donating whatever amount is comfortable for you - any amount at all will help.
Because my finances, like yours, are very tight, I have been making small periodic donations of $10, $20, and $50. If you can, please consider making a donation to help John Kerry take back America this November.
If you feel you can help out, please feel free to do so here:
Help us meet our goal of raising $1000 to put John Kerry in the White House and take back our country.
As the Bush administration attempts to hide their complicity in cases of torture and abuse against prisoners held in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the US Army has revealed that a US military police officer was beaten within inches of his life while he played the role of a prisoner during a training exercise.
Baker, 37, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four U.S. soldiers in another company that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures.
Baker, of Georgetown in central Kentucky, said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.
From today's Baltimore Sun:
When the most recent "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report was issued April 29, senior Bush administration officials immediately hailed it as objective proof that they were winning the war on terrorism.
But several U.S. officials and terrorism experts familiar with the revision effort said the new report could well show that the number of significant terrorist incidents actually increased last year, perhaps to its highest level in 20 years.
The Bush Administration is losing the war on terrorism.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Tuesday that the slew of special sessions called by Texas Republicans has cost Texas taxpayers $53,000 a day and has reached a cumulative total of about $4.6 million.
In other news, Texas lawmakers continue to try to figure out how to fund Texas schools.
The Legislature unsuccessfully finished a special session on school financing last month and Gov. Rick Perry has said he will call them back as many times as necessary to find a solution.
"We've got to find a large resource of money in order to find a solution," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
I wonder where all of Texas's tax revenue is going?
Gov. Rick Perry says a lawsuit challenging the public school funding system doesn't have a chance. How does he know? According to sources, Perry bragged about fixing the courts:
"I will have appointed five and helped get elected one of the judges, and I know where they stand on this, so you guys don't stand a chance in winning the litigation."
Gov. Rick Perry has declared Friday an official day of mourning in remembrance of former President Reagan and has directed state agencies to shut down that day, except for skeleton crews.
So, this Friday I will be given a day without work or pay so that I may mourn President Reagan. It's interesting how things work out sometimes.
My sincere condolences go out to his friends and family; may God have mercy on his soul.
Call your State Representative and State Senator and tell them that you want the Texas Legislature to record its votes.
The McAllen Monitor has more on the story here.
It's your government. You elect people to represent you and fight for your needs. Your elected officials should be accountable to you, the voter, and you have the right to know how they're voting.
The Houston Chronicle has an excellent editorial today regarding this story in the San-Antonio Express News:
Lawmakers last year made high-profile changes to reduce Children's Health Insurance Program enrollment, but less-publicized cuts in promoting the program have raised questions about its future.
Texas legislators not only slashed the funding for children's health insurance in the state with the most uninsured children, they are also trying to make sure parents are unaware of the program so that no one applies for it.
Even if you do not care the least bit about struggling families, the working poor, indigent children, or strengthening our community - think of your own wallet:
Walter Diggles of the Jasper area council, calling outreach essential, said, "The costs that we're saving now by not enrolling children will be borne in emergency rooms and the taxpayers will end up paying more. It's a big disappointment."
Unlike the chickenhawks in the GOP, one Texas Democrat is preparing to serve his country with all he's got.
State Rep. Rick Noriega (D - Houston), a major in the National Guard, has been called to serve in Afghanistan and will leave in August.
This country needs more brave, patriotic leaders like Rick Noriega, and fewer self-serving cowards of the Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz ilk.
If you had any doubt that the Republican Party of today is less interested in democracy than theocracy, just take a look at the sort of bills they are trying to pass through Congress right now.
Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has added to a tax bill a provision that would allow churches to actively campaign in the political process, while maintaining tax-exempt status.
Colorado has been freed, at least in part, from the yoke of Republican tyranny. In a shameless move of partisanship, Colorado Republicans forced through a mid-decade gerrymander...er...redistricting plan meant solely to favor Republican candidates at the expense of democracy. Sound familiar? It should. This is the same tactic forced down the throats of Texans by Tom Delay.
Let's pray that the Supreme Court sees fit to free us, too, from this partisan tyranny.
In a shameless display of cynical self-promotion, the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign has replaced the front page of their campaign website with a tribute to Ronald Reagan.
Lacking social polish; tactless.
My heart goes out to the Reagan family who must now, during their time of grief, endure the tacky actions of a failing Bush administration.
Mr. Bush, you are no Ronald Reagan...
Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the Bush administration's so-called "war on terror" :
"It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this."
Once again, Tom Delay (R - TX) shows his un-patriotic stripes.
With the Federal Government in dire financial straits, the US Military in two major combat theatres, and Congress considering not adopting a budget this year, Tom Delay proposes to rob the Treasury of $21.6 billion over 10 years. For what? Well, if you live in Texas and you save all your sales receipts and itemize them on your tax return you maybe could deduct something from your Federal Tax return.
Tom Delay needs to stop pandering for votes with pie-in-the-sky promises of a tiny tax deduction at the expense of funding our troops, social security, health care, and the countless other important programs that depend on federal revenue.
Don't fall for Tom Delay's scam.
Houston Independent School District settled a whistle-blower lawsuit brought about by a former employee who revealed that Shapstown High School was cooking the books on their dropout rate in order to make the school appear to be doing better than it actually was - almost 3,000 students were re-classified as dropouts following a Texas Education Agency investigation.
Texas schools are in serious trouble, but rather than take steps necessary to ensure that Texas residents receive a quality education, many people are simply trying to cover up problems by manipulating data.
HISD administrators need not worry, though; regardless of failing schools, they will earn a total of more than $1 million this year, many receiving substantial pay raises.
"The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. The expense of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expense of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate."
- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations. Book V, Part II
I'm not quite sure what to make of this:
U.S. Freed Terror Suspect Despite Attack Evidence
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nabil al-Marabh, once imprisoned as the No. 27 man on the FBI's list of must-capture terror suspects, is free again.
The Bush administration in January deported al-Marabh to Syria -- his home and a country the U.S. government long has regarded as a sponsor of terrorism.
Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra said Wednesday the government has concerns about many people with suspected terror ties, including al-Marabh, but cannot effectively try them in court without giving away intelligence sources and methods.
"If the government cannot prosecute terrorism charges, another option is to remove the individual from the United States via deportation. After careful review, this was determined to be the best option available under the law to protect our national security," he said.
Republicans quit being conservative some time ago. What is called "conservative" these days is actually quite radical. In fact, I think it could be argued that "Republicans" are hardly even republicans. For evidence I point not only to the aforementioned Cornyn-backed Constitutional amendments, but the actual Party Platform, or official list of beliefs written at the state convention in the mother of Republican states and home to our current administration - my home state of Texas.
Sarah points to a particularly radical platform plank that has been proposed at this year's Texas Republican Party Convention; one which favors making it a felony for a government official to license or wed gay couples.
Byron at Burnt Orange Report posted a frightening list of radical planks in the Texas Republican Party Platform.
A disturbing number of beliefs expressed in the Texas Republican Party Platform are patently un-American. It's high-time we stopped treating this sort of radicalism as reasonable - it is anything but.
CIA Director George Tenet resigned this morning.
Bush says Tenet resigns for "personal reasons." Hrm. I wonder what those "personal reasons" could be?
Juan Cole has some interesting thoughts on the matter.
There's an upcoming election, in case you were unaware. Is Tenet the first scapegoat to go from an administration in which the buck stops anywhere but the oval office?
Senator John Cornyn (R - TX) is not a conservative - he's a radical. Chuck Lindell reports in today's Austin American Statesman that the Texas Senator currents backs no fewer than five amendments to the US Constitution.
 Flag Protection Amendment - a petty limit on political speech and personal property rights
 Federal Marriage Amendment - involving religion in government
 The Victims Rights Amendment - taking power away from state and local governments
 Balanced Budget Amendment - they better not tell Bush about this one
 The Continuity of Congress Amendment - simply doing away with the democratic process
John Cornyn is pushing a radical agenda to re-write the Constitution of the United States of America. Call John Cornyn and tell him that we're not interested in destroying the foundation of our democracy.
Washington, D.C. office
Perhaps there is still hope that Tom Delay's gerrymandering of Texas congressional districts will be dismissed as the partisan hackery that it is. The Longview News-Journal reports that:
"The U.S. Supreme Court has told Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to respond by June 28 to Democratic claims that the Republican-dominated Legislature had no compelling governmental reason to redraw congressional lines last year."
I'm not holding my breath on this one, but I'm definitely interested to hear Greg Abbott's "compelling governmental reason." Espescially considering that:
"In a Pennsylvania case decided by the high court earlier this year, most judges agreed that purely partisan justification for redrawing lines doesn't meet the constitutional requirement that there be a legitimate governmental purpose for mid-decade redistricting."
Loren Steffy has a must read article in today's Houston Chronicle. It turns out (surprise, surprise) that cuts in health care funding are hurting not only the uninsured, but everyone across society.
Hospitals are reporting that up to 30% of their billings are unpaid; cuts in Medicaid, soaring insurance premiums, and unemployment are cutting into people's ability to pay.
"Snow and other health care experts say the rise in bad debts corresponds with unemployment, which was 5.6 percent in April, up from 3.8 percent four years earlier.
But Snow sees something in the numbers that worries him more than just people who are out of work and can't pay their bills. About 30 percent of HCA's bad debts in the area are people who have insurance and still can't afford to pay because their deductibles or co-payments are too high."
Steffy goes on to report that even those with full time jobs are losing their insurance at a startling rate.
"As insurance premiums have gone up, more employers have shifted a bigger piece of their benefits costs to workers, who may not be able to afford it. About a third of all companies in the United States now require employees to meet deductibles of $1,000 to $5,000, according to the Kaiser foundation. And the number of employers who pay for any insurance at all is falling, to 66 percent last year from 69 percent in 2000."
Uninsured or poor individuals are not the only ones suffering, though. When an individual does not have access to preventative health care, that person will often wait until their situation is critical and then go to a local emergency room; not only are the individuals unable to pay, the cost of emergency health care is higher.
"People are using the emergency room as their primary care physician," says Mark Lindsay, a vice president with United Healthcare Group, which insures 2.1 million people in Texas, including about 700,000 in the Houston area. "It's the most expensive way to receive treatment."
It's time that we started looking at health care with reason and not ideology. Even if you do not agree that health care should be a basic right, look at the situation from one of self-interest: without some sort of health care program in this country you put you and your family at a greater risk of preventable illness and communicable disease, the health care industry is overburdened and thus less effective, and your health care costs skyrocket.
It's time we did what is best for our country and ourselves and instituted a working health care program in this country.
Texas A&M will no longer admit students under a legacy program.
Furthermore, the Texas A&M Board of Regents has declared that
The race or ethnicity of applicants to Texas A&M University System Health Science Center will be among the factors considered for admission beginning with class of 2006.
"The system's board of regents approved the change from a race-neutral policy on Friday. Race and ethnicity will be considered for admissions to the system's College of Medicine, Baylor College of Dentistry, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and School of Rural Public Health.
A race-neutral policy will remain for undergraduates at A&M's flagship campus."
Robyn Blumner in today's Fort-Worth Star Telegram:
"Since joining the administration in 2001, [White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales], 49, has been a guiding force in a swath of administration decisions that have hobbled America's commitment to the rule of law and have cost our nation good will and respect around the world. But rather than giving Gonzales a shove toward the door, the president is said to have him on a short list of potential nominees for the first vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court."
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matt 25:40 (NIV)
The Austin-American Statesman reports today that "mental health advocates say [cutting Medicaid-funded mental health services]...is hurting people."
The more things change...
Zeynep has an important post today on the new Iraqi government to whom the US will hand-over power at the end of the month.
Turns out the people we hand-picked for the Iraqi Governing Council will be the same people running Iraq under the Iraqi Interim Government. The notable exception, of course, is Ahmed Chalabi.
You should also take the time to read Jane Mayer's article about Mr. Chalabi in The New Yorker. Of particular interest, I thought, was this passage :
When Chalabi was asked by CNN about his reinvention of himself as a religious leader, he said, “Why is this a concern?” But a former admirer of Chalabi’s was alarmed by his turn toward Shiite nationalism, and said that his actions risked unleashing sectarian political strife that could pitch the country into civil war. He said, “There’s an irresponsibility in how he’s approaching this. It’s reckless. Iraq needs a stable government. But Ahmad’s pushing his private agenda at the cost of the country’s needs.” In Jordan, a former financial official who dealt with Chalabi on Petra Bank said, “He’ll become an imam if he has to!”
Chalabi’s embrace of the Shiite faction of Iraq has fed the speculation that he gave intelligence secrets to Iran, a Shiite theocracy. Aras Habib, the I.N.C. intelligence chief, has long been suspected of spying for Iran. Chalabi and his aides dismissed these rumors, claiming that in 2002 Habib had passed a C.I.A. polygraph test about his relationship with Iran, and that neither he nor Chalabi had access to U.S. classified materials. For many years, Chalabi has been openly collegial with reformist leaders in Iran, such as President Mohammad Khatami, with whom he met last November, in Tehran. He has also admitted to meeting with the head of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Immediately before the invasion of Iraq, Chalabi was living in a gated villa in Tehran that he had persuaded the U.S. to purchase as a satellite branch of the I.N.C.