Friday, August 31, 2007

Reading is the food, light, lamp, refuge, solace of the soul, the spice of all natural flavors. It feeds the hungry, gives light to the one sitting in darkness, offers bread to the one fleeing shipwreck or war, comforts the contrite heart.
- Peter of Celle

The Pilgrim post-surgery

The doctor say that my hand surgery went well. The recovery from hand surgery is slow, I am told. I was in a cast for a week, and am now in a splint that immobilizes the hand, and will be in that splint for 6 weeks or so.

The typing, I can say from experience is very slow as well. Thus very little blogging of late. I'm having enough trouble keeping up with my keyboarding at work, without adding work on the blog.

I expect all will be fine in its own time.

Until then I appreciate your patience.

Please take care of all with whom you come into contact. In doing so you help take care of the world.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

The most valuable learning is not about memorizing facts and figures. It is not about higher grade point averages and accumulating degrees. It is about life itself, and its impact is on the heart.
-Rodney Smith, "Lessons From the Dying"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bible Verse from my inbox

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."
- Matthew 19:23-26

This verse, for the longest time, made no sense to me. Who would ever give a thought to putting a camel through the eye of a needle?

Well, in the Bible used in the Eastern Orthodox tradition- the Peshitta- there is shown to be- or perhaps I should say alleged to be- a translation error that suggests perhaps the individuals who wrote the Greek Bible may have been working with at least some earlier text (perhaps portions of what scholars call Q) that was in Aramaic- the language of Jesus. Apparently the words 'camel' and 'rope' are almost indistinguishable, with a fine accent mark being the key difference.

Upon reading this, the saying made much more sense to me. Not only because of the elimination of a seemingly bizarre reference, but also in a more significant sense. If we thin down by reducing our attachment to material goods, to the material world, then we can bring ourselves closer to what God wants for us- entrance into his Kingdom, his Presence, through the eye of the needle. In reading other texts from the Eastern tradition (the Philokalia, for example), this point of moving away from our attachment to the material world- away from having material considerations drive our lives and towards a God-driven life- is given heavy emphasis as not just a theological concept, but as a way of living, as a practice. This thinning down can be difficult, but with our own perseverance and the help of God and our family in God we can do it.

A camel will never pass through the eye of a needle. But for us, as ropes of varying thickness, hope remains.

By the way: this is my first post after surgery. Typing with one hand takes FOREVER. So i don't expect to be very active here for a few weeks. Just odds and ends periodically. For some reason the issue above is close to my heart- although I may not be quite patient enough to make that clear as I hunt and peck at my keyboard- and I wanted to write a little something about it.
Until next time, whenever that may be,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pilgrim off-duty

Well, I'm going to be off for at least a few days. Hand surgery tomorrow to repair my previously mentioned injured digit.

Take care of the world for me while I'm away.


Wrong, Just Wrong

The video below is from

The caption says: "This video depicts the attitude that the body of Christ needs to embrace for these days that we are living." This is a very dangerous attitude and one that strikes me, quite frankly, as un-Christian.

The militaristic tone of this piece strikes me as no different from that which we, rightly, criticize when it comes from the Muslim world. Would we see a video such as this depicting Muslims with swords as simply depicting a metaphor for apostolic work? I do not think so. And I doubt many Muslims in the world seeing what is happening in Iraq would have a very favorable view of this video segment. To them it would smack of the imagery of the Crusades. It strikes me so as well.

No question, Jesus does say that he had come to bring a sword (Matt. 10:34). But the Peshitta Bible (Eastern Orthodox) has a footnote that puts this comment clearly in its proper context. "I have come to bring a sword" is an Aramaic (the language of Jesus) idiom meaning "divisions." Read chapter 10 of Matthew, this is clearly what Jesus means. His presence and his message will cause divisions among people (setting 'man against his father'). Jesus is not advocating violence or even aggressiveness at all.

Read Matthew 5: it is the humble, the meek, the peacemakers that Jesus said are blessed. Not the aggressive.

Read Matthew 26:52: When being arrested in the garden, Peter draws his sword and Jesus rebukes him, saying, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."

Jesus commands us to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to anyone who hates you, and pray for those who carry you away by force and persecute you." (Matt. 6:44)

Jesus bids us, "do not resist an evildoer" (Matt 5:39), he does not instruct us, as the caption for the video further says, "to be offensive."

The totality of Jesus message is the rejection of violence, thus my rejection of the attitude expressed in this video.

I believe it was Gandhi who once said that the only people who did not think Jesus was a pacifist were Christians. This video seems to provide evidence for that statement.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Colbert on Guliani

Funny "The Word" segment where Colbert takes on Guliani's Bush-like oversimplification of the struggle against terrorism in the world.

Colbert has apparently gotten a little to big for his britches, so a ordinary Pilgrim like me cannot put the video directly in my site. So, you'll need to go here to view it. It's definitely worth all the trouble it takes to click on your mouse.

Support our Troops- Except when it really counts

The slogan "support our troops" has become merely a piece of propaganda for the political right- used to try and slap down any criticism of the war. It is not, I repeat NOT, a meaningful statement of a political agenda. If it were a meaningful statement, we would not have had the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital- and the subsequent gag order to prevent further controversy. We also would not have the military violating its own policies in regards to how long to keep men in the field, and the subsequent denial of what many military experts now routinely say- that our military is stretched too thin. And we would not have turned our military personnel in to mechanisms of torture at GITMO and elsewhere in the world.

And we certainly would not have the blatant disregard of the mental health issues raised by the war in Iraq, especially given recent reports of high level of Iraq troop suicides [There were 99 confirmed Army suicides in 2006 (2 additional deaths are pending investigations),up from 88 in 2005 and the highest since 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. The rate of suicides grew in 5 years from a low of 9.1 per 100,000 soldiers in 2001 to the 2006 rate of 19.4 per 100,000. (The suicide rate for the general population is 11 per 100,000.)].

The CS Monitor details one example of the lack of support our troops, and their families, receive from the our government.

Those of us who believe it is time to pull our troops our of this ineffective, self-defeating, and, ultimately, immoral war, should never stand for having this slogan thrown in our faces again. It is time for the political right to recognize that from the moment they decided to sacrifice our troops to their neo-con mythology and political objectives, they lost any moral traction with this slogan. Supporting our troops now means extracting them from this untenable situation, and saving them from those politicians who would continue to use them- at a price far too high.

Treating the trauma of war – fairly
In relabeling cases of PTSD as 'personality disorder,' the US military avoids paying for treatment.

The high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers returning from Iraq is one of the many "inconvenient truths" of this war. Inconvenient largely because it is costly: The most effective and humane means of treating PTSD are time-intensive and long-term.

The military, however, has changed the terms and given many thousands of enlisted men and women a new diagnosis: "personality disorder." While the government would be obliged to care for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma, a personality disorder – defined as an ingrained, maladaptive way of orienting oneself to the world – predates a soldier's tour of duty (read: preexisting condition). This absolves Uncle Sam of any responsibility for the person's mental suffering.

The new diagnostic label sends the message: This suffering is your fault, not a result of the war. On one level, it's hard not to see this as another example of the government falling short on its care for Iraq war veterans. Yet there's another, more insidious, bit of sophistry at work. The implication is that a healthy person would be resistant to the psychological pressures of war. Someone who succumbs to the flashbacks, panic, and anger that haunt many former soldiers must have something inherently wrong with him. It's the psychological side of warrior macho: If you're tough, you can take it. Of course, we know this is not true. Wars forever change the lives of those who fight them and can leave deep scars.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another prediction

In 1996, Brent Scowcroft predicted that invading Iraq would be a likely "failure." When combined with the video clip below of Cheney making the same sort of prediction, it makes a pretty clear case for the current situation in Iraq being an entirely foreseeable circumstance.

What's good for the goose...

There's plenty of truth in this cartoon. How would Republicans act if a Democratic President had acted in blatant disregard of the Constitution as Bush has? Let's hope we don't find out with whomever is the next President using Bush's actions as precedent.

Friday, August 17, 2007

If only Vice President Cheney had listened to...

Defense Secretary Cheney. He gives a perfect rationale for not invading Iraq. Listen to what he had to say in 1994. A quagmire he said it would be. A quagmire it is.

Bill Kristol on Daily Show

The wisest thing he said is, "... don't trust me..."

He says things are getting better. Check this post from just a couple of days ago. Then you can see that you can't trust him.

Also, as Stewart points out, he's been repeatedly and spectacularly wrong on the war in Iraq. He doesn't deserve our trust- or his seat at Time Magazine, for that matter.

It's official

The Pilgrim's injured digit requires surgery. The procedure will be done next week.

Posting has been slow enough. Looks to get slower for a time.

Thanks to those of you who stay with me and visit the site from time to time.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yesterday's News Today

I see that both CNN and MSNBC (the actual TV version, Olbermann goes off here, couldn't find a CNN link) pick up on the story that I posted about yesterday in the LA Times that the White House, not the General, will give us the "report" in September about how things are going in Iraq.

Even that was in the second page of the LA Times article online.

See! I'm not crazy. It is important that the "Petraeus Report" won't be the "Petraeus Report," but instead another piece of White House spin and justification.

Well, at least I wasn't crazy this time.

Take another look at my post. Piece from Countdown below- in two segments.

Indictment of Torture

Padilla convicted on terrorism support charges reports MSNBC.

Terrorism support? Weren't we told that he planned to use a dirty bomb in the US, or perhaps blow up apartment buildings by causing natural gas leaks? Why wasn't he charged for those crimes?

Because of the Bush administration's torture policies, that's why. There is no way a court would have let them use the evidence they obtained- much of it from Padilla himself- while denying him, a US citizen, of his civil rights and holding him at a military detention center and treating him horribly.

At its root, US treatment of Padilla shows the inclination to do anything to break the silence of a suspected terrorist, even it means violating such basic citizen rights as protection against self-incrimination and harsh interrogation, as well as the right to a trial.

In short, the US military used terror – Padilla had little or no human contact for more than three years – to fight terror. Many mental health experts say his severe seclusion in a Navy brig impaired his thinking. A judge confirmed the disability but let the case continue, refusing to probe the government's hand in altering Padilla's ability to defend himself.

This last point is key, because it means that the current conviction may not even withstand judicial scrutiny on appeal. A panel of judges may throw out the conviction, and force a retrial in which Padilla gets to challenge the manner in which he was interrogated and detained (such as the use of sensory deprivation as shown below). As a US citizen, a reversal of the conviction is a real possibility.

And that one way that torture weakens- not enhances- our security. Our security is enhanced by bringing those who would harm us to justice. We cannot do this if we engage in torture, because that will render evidence obtained inadmissable in courts. It undermines the validity of any criminal- civilian or military- process, and it will result, inevitably, in some very bad people eventually being turned loose. Are we going to hold the people at GITMO forever?

Americans must get past their anger at terror suspects. They must seek justice. This can only be done by respecting the rule of law, and the Constitution, and by taking the high road, not resorting to torture, and, as the CS Monitor points out, the very thing we are working against- terror.
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
-Thich Nhat Hanh, "Miracle of Mindfulness"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Wait until September."

This is what the Administration and its supporters keep telling us. Why? Because in September Gen. Petraeus will give us a report on the situation on the ground in Iraq.

A clear-eyed report from a top general reflecting military progress, right?

Maybe not...

From the LA Times (with the Pilgrim's emphasis added):

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government. And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

Given the honesty of the Administration, so far... no, wait.

Since the Administration has a reputation for accurate descriptions of military intelligence... not right, either.

Because of the capacities for self-criticism displayed by the Bush team... wrong again.

Let's face it, we won't get the truth.

The ball's in your court, congressional Democrats. What will you do?

Continued Failure in Iraq

And the Iraqis pay the highest price.

Iraqi officials: Truck bombings killed at least 500

The bombings highlight the kind of sectarian tensions the troop surge was designed to stop.

And the surge has failed to stop these bombings. At what point to we admit failure and begin to try and find a way out of Iraq? Why stay to provide security when we are, in fact, not providing security?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wandering again

Another mini-vacation for the Pilgrim and family.

May blessings be with you.

Pray for the miners and their families.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hate Church Victimizes Minnesota

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., plans to stage protests at funerals of victims of the 35W bridge collapse to state that God made the bridge fall because he hates America, and especially Minnesota, because of its tolerance of homosexuality.

In a press release issued the day after the bridge collapse, the church called for protests at the funerals and outlined its feelings about the relationship between God's plan and the sins of Minneapolis and Minnesota, which it calls the "land of the Sodomite damned."

Reached at the church, Shirley Phelps Roper, who is both the daughter of the pastor and one of the attorneys for the church, said that America, and Minnesota especially, have alienated God by its tolerance for homosexuality, and that the bridge collapse was an act of God's vengeance. She said: "The bridge stood in place by the word of God and it fell by the word of God...Each of these little events is just a harbinger of the coming destruction of this American experiment. We are delivering the final call of the doomed nation."

The signs that the protesters will wave will read: "God cast down the bridge... Thank God for 9/11... America is doomed... God hates fags... God hates fag enablers... God hates Minnesota."


Funny satirical commentary on our President's willingness to use fearmongering to get what he wants.

Perhaps not so funny since the Democrats caved in and gave the President his constitutionally challenged wiretapping legislation.

Lest we forget...

I have not provided this sort of a post in quite some time, but it would be good for us to remember the situation on the ground in Iraq, the danger it poses, directly, to our troops there, and the danger it poses, indirectly, to us here in the US due to the instability the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq has wrought.

26 U.S. Troops Killed In 1 Week In Iraq
Military Announces 4 More Deaths Around Baghdad

The deaths raised to at least 3,678 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. August has begun with a wave of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq, on the heels of a relatively low death toll in July, which was cited by commanders as an indication that that the build-up of American troops in and around Baghdad was reducing violence. The military reported Monday that four U.S. soldiers had died from wounds suffered in a combat explosion in Diyala province north of Baghdad earlier that day. Twelve others had minor injuries and returned to duty.

4 more GIs killed Tuesday

Roadside bombs killed four U.S. soldiers in and around Baghdad, the military said Tuesday as the Iraqi authorities announced a curfew lasting from Wednesday to Saturday to coincide with a major Shiite pilgrimage to the capital.
Three of the Americans were killed in an attack involving several explosions on a road south of Baghdad on Saturday. Witnesses said the blasts wounded several other soldiers and destroyed at least one armored vehicle.

The military said a fourth U.S. soldier died and one was wounded when an armor-piercing bomb exploded near their vehicle in western Baghdad.

The deaths come one day after a huge bomb in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, killed four Americans and wounded 11...

Security developments in Iraq 07 Aug 2007
* BAGHDAD - Sixteen bodies were found in various districts of Baghdad in the past 24 hours, police said.
*SAMARRA - Three women and two children were killed when several mortar rounds hit a residential area in central Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Two other children were wounded.
* MAHMUDIYA - Two pedestrians were killed and six others wounded when gunmen opened fire in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
BASRA - A British soldier was killed as a result of small arms fire during an operation in Basra on Monday night, the British Defence Ministry said in a statement.
NEAR BAQUBA - Five insurgents were killed by a U.S. air strike and 10 detained in a three-day joint Iraqi-U.S. military operation beginning on Saturday in a village near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi army killed one insurgent and arrested 93 during the past 24 hours in various districts of Baghdad, the Defence Ministry said.
BAGHDAD - Four people were killed and six wounded by a mortar strike in the Kamaliya neighbourhood of eastern Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD - Three U.S. soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb hit their convoy south of Baghdad on Saturday, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.
BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded on Monday when an armour-piercing bomb detonated, hitting their vehicle during combat operations in a western section of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
MUSSAYAB - U.S. forces said they captured a suspected leader of the Mehdi army militia loyal to the Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Sunday in the town of Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad. They also detained five suspected members of his cell.
DIYALA - Four U.S. soldiers died on Monday in an explosion while on combat duty in Diyala province, the U.S. military said on Monday.
HILLA - Three policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in the city of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
BASRA - British forces killed one insurgent when they were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and light weapons as they were conducting a search raid in Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, British forces said.

Quote III

I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one's own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Quote II

Biblically speaking, to repent doesn't mean to feel sorry about, to regret. It means to turn, to turn around 180 degrees. It means to undergo a complete change of mind, heart, direction. Turn away from madness, cruelty, shallowness, blindness. Turn toward the tolerance, compassion, sanity, hope, justice that we all have in us at our best.
- Frederick Buechner

Consider this as we, hopefully, turn away from the injustice of toture of detainees at GITMO and other locations. We must remember that we cannot pursue justice with injustice, morality with immorality, humanity with inhumanity, or peace with violence unrestrained.


Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
- Romans 14:19

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

U.S. of Torture

Outstanding article exposing the US support of torture beginning almost immediately after 9/11. A must read article from the New Yorker. Read the whole thing, but some selections are below.

On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. Yet the C.I.A. had virtually no trained interrogators. A former C.I.A. officer involved in fighting terrorism said that, at first, the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. “It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly,” he recalled. “They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Qaeda or the Arab world.” The former officer said that the pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense: “They were pushing us: ‘Get information! Do not let us get hit again!’ ” In the scramble, he said, he searched the C.I.A.’s archives, to see what interrogation techniques had worked in the past. He was particularly impressed with the Phoenix Program, from the Vietnam War. Critics, including military historians, have described it as a program of state-sanctioned torture and murder. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. But, after September 11th, some C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model.

Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

A secret government document, dated December 10, 2002, detailing “SERE Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure,” outlines the advantages of stripping detainees. “In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.” The document advises interrogators to “tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” The memo also advocates the “Shoulder Slap,” “Stomach Slap,” “Hooding,” “Manhandling,” “Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions,” including one called “Worship the Gods.”

Waiting for the General's Report

Sunday, August 05, 2007

We are LESS safe

This article is just another example of why the Pilgrim has and will continue to argue that the invasion of Iraq has damaged American security. The would-be "martyrs" are in such great supply, some now fear that they will soon seek to find there way to places other than Iraq, including the US. In other words, the supply of terrorists has risen because of the invasion of Iraq.

Surge of Suicide Bombers
The Iraq war has turned into a veritable 'martyr' factory, unlike any seen in previous conflicts.
In the first three years of the war, there were fewer than 300 such [suicide bomber] attacks; in the year ending June 30 there were at least 540, according to a U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst in Iraq who specializes in the subject but is not authorized to speak on the record. Since January, the U.S. military says, more than 4,000 Iraqis have been killed or injured by suicide bombers. Last Wednesday, 50 more died in a truck bombing in Baghdad. "Iraq has superseded all the other suicide-bomb campaigns [in modern history] combined," says Mohammed Hafez, author of "Suicide Bombers in Iraq" and a U.S. government consultant. "It's really amazing."
...Saudis account for half the suicide bombings in Iraq. U.S. military estimates agree, and put Iraqis a distant second...
An even harder challenge is to dry up the pool of willing martyrs in Saudi Arabia, where zealotry and resentment of infidels in Muslim lands are deeply ingrained.
The flow of bombers seems inexhaustible. Iraqi and some U.S. officials say there have been cases of suicide bombers whose hands were chained to the steering wheels of their vehicles, and reports of those who were drugged or heavily brainwashed. But most experts who have studied the subject doubt such tactics are common. Hafez, who has identified 139 of Iraq's suicide bombers, from U.S. government and jihadist sources, says he hasn't come across a single credible case of coercion. "You see these martyrdom videos, and they say, 'This is the button to paradise,' and they really seem to believe that," he says.

Oh Dear!

Weapons given to Iraq are missing
30 percent of arms are unaccounted for, GAO estimates

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment. But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq.

One would think that in a nation where our military is constantly under fire, and the people there are killing each other as rapidly as possible, keeping tabs on weapons would be a top priority. Adding to the discouragement is the fact that the man apparently responsible for the mismanagement of the weapons is now in charge of all of military operations in Iraq.

The evidence of incompetence continues to build.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Democrats Fail- Again!

The Democratic-led U.S. Senate, amid warnings of further attacks on the United States, approved a bill on Friday that would allow President George W. Bush to maintain his controversial domestic spying program.

The Senate defeated, on a 45-43 vote, a Democratic alternative, which would have placed tighter controls on the spying and provided for independent assessments of the attorney general's implementation of the measure.

Rather than taking action to limit the actions of the President and Attorney General- to bring those actions within the limits of the US Constitution- the Senate has written yet another blank check to the Bush Administration.

Why? Not because of some real and imminent threat to the nation. The real reason: the President threatened to call the Congress back into session, eliminating or shortening the members' vacations.

For at least another six months the Attorney General gets to abuse the Constitution by conducting wiretaps without warrants, without oversight of those wiretaps for as much as 120 days, and where the oversight will not be on the specific wiretaps, but only on the general procedure used to justify the wiretaps. In other words, no restraint except for the competency of the Administration to determine true threats (don't get me started) and the ethics of the Attorney General ("Houston, we have a problem!").

Abuse of the Constitution and power by this Administration has been widely documented. But equal blame falls upon the Democrats for allowing this to happen. They have given in to the politics of the moment, pursued their own electoral self-interests, and failed utterly to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" by strictly limiting the Bush Administration.

From the Washington Post

Privacy advocates accused the Democrats of selling out and charged that this bill gives the government more authority than it had under a controversial warrantless wiretapping program begun in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Under that program, the government could conduct surveillance without judicial oversight only if it had a reason to believe that one party to the call was a member of or affiliated with al-Qaeda or a related terrorist organization. This bill drops that condition, they noted.

Democrats "have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word 'terrorism,' they roll over and play dead," said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union.


Even as a great rock is not shaken by the wind, the wise man is not shaken by praise or blame.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Children's Healthcare Bill

It has passed in the Senate. President Bush- the man who campaigned saying Jesus was his favorite philosopher- has threatened a veto. That wild-eyed liberal Orrin Hatch (R-UT) supports it. Maybe Bush misunderstands the biblical passage beginning "suffer the little children..." (Mark 10:14).

Senate Passes Children’s Health Bill, 68-31
The Senate defied President Bush on Thursday and passed a bipartisan bill that would provide health insurance for millions of children in low-income families.

The vote was 68 to 31. The majority was more than enough to overcome the veto repeatedly threatened by Mr. Bush. The White House said the bill “goes too far in federalizing health care.”

Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, said, “To suggest that this is somehow socialized medicine is one of the most far-fetched arguments I have seen on the Senate floor. This care is provided by private physicians, using private insurance companies.”

The Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill would cover 3.2 million uninsured children, including 2.7 million who are currently eligible but not enrolled. The House bill, it said, would cover 4.2 million children, including 3.8 million already eligible for benefits. In addition, both bills would provide money to prevent 800,000 children now on the program from losing coverage.

The current allocations of federal money, totaling $5 billion a year, are not enough for states to maintain their current programs.

Polling update

In an earier post, I noted that Obama was closing the gap between himself and Clinton in key states, but was still 15 points back in Iowa. A new poll finds Iowa a dead heat. Results below. Remeber that it is state by state victories, not overall national numbers, that will result in the nomination, and that the national numbers will likely change as a result of primary voting in the early states.

Washington Post?ABC News poll:

If the Democratic caucus were being held today, and the candidates were: (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel), who would you support?

Barack Obama 27
Hillary Clinton 26
John Edwards 26
Bill Richardson 11
Joe Biden 2
Dennis Kucinich 2
Chris Dodd 1

Most recent corruption scandal

Thursday, August 02, 2007

No need to read between the lines

The US government, with the support of it's President and Attorney General, engages in torture. Were that not so, it would be easy to clearly indicate that torture was not in the CIA's tool kit. Instead, Gonzalez has to parse his words. From his testimony (source) before Congress...

DURBIN: Mr. Attorney General, the opinion of the judge advocates general was unanimous. They all agreed that the following interrogation techniques violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions -- and there are five -- painful stress positions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, waterboarding and mock execution.Do you agree?

GONZALES: Senator, I'm not going to get in a public discussion here about possible techniques that may be used by the CIA to protect our country.What I can say is the executive order lays out a very careful framework to ensure that those agents working for the CIA trying to get information about the next attack do so in a way that is consistent with our legal obligations.And so, again, without commenting on specific techniques, we understand what the rules of the road are.

DURBIN: Mr. Attorney General, do you know what you are saying to the world about the United States when you refuse to acknowledge that these techniques are beyond the law, beyond the tradition of America?

DURBIN: These judge advocates general have a responsibility as well. They have been explicit and unanimous. The problem with your statement, Mr. Attorney General, is that you are leaving room for the possibility that you disagree with them.

GONZALES: And, of course, those in the military are subject to the Army Field Manual. It's a standard of conduct that is way above Common Article 3. And so they come at it from a different perspective, quite frankly, Senator.And, again, I wish I could talk in more detail about specific actions, but I cannot do that in an open setting.

DURBIN: But let me just ask you to consider this for a moment.Aside from the impact of what you've just said on America's reputation in the world, aside from the fact that we have ample record that you have disagreed with the use of Geneva Convention standards and have pushed the torture issue beyond where the courts and the congress would take it, would it be legal for a foreign government to subject a United States citizen to these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques which I just read?

GONZALES: Would it be legal for the United States government to subject...

DURBIN: No, for a foreign government...

GONZALES: For a foreign government.

DURBIN: ... to subject a United States citizen to the five -- any of the five interrogation techniques which I read to you?

GONZALES: Well, again, Senator, we would take the position if you're talking about an American soldier who fights pursuant to the rules of the Geneva Convention...

DURBIN: No, no, no. That's a different story. That's a uniformed person. I'm talking about a U.S. citizen.

GONZALES: Would it be legal under their laws? Would it be legal under international standards? What do you mean by, "Would it be legal?"We obviously would demand humane treatment and treatment for our U.S. citizens consistent with international legal obligations.

In other words, our government would demand that other governments not do to our citizens what we will not say we are not doing to their citizens.

Did I just type that?? With that kind of double-speak, I could be Attorney General.

Here's a video clip of Gonzalez on the same topic. Hang in there until the end of the clip and you'll see that our government does not prohibit the use of waterboarding or mock executions, to use two examples, and that the Attorney General says it is not 'clear' that such techniques are morally wrong.


How's this for a sign that we still have some ground to cover in the US in terms of race issues?

From Baptists for Brownback (selections; italics in the original):

The Curse of Ham: Why Barack Hussein Oboma Will Never Be President

It is written in Rev 20:8-Satan shall go out to deceive all the nations which are in the four quarters of the Earth... As descendant of Canaan, Liberal Democrat, Barack Obama Hussein is indeed a liar for that there is no disputing. He has and will continue to with his lies to God’s children that abortion, blatant homosexuality, fornication, and socialism is fun and good. This does not however make him the great liar that God tells us is to be the Anti-Christ. It is Barack Hussein Obama’s curse of coloredness that will prevent him from ever being elected leader of a true Christian nation, one that is founded upon Christian principle by the chosen, fair-skinned people of God.

Bigotry abounds. From the repeated use of Obama's middle name Hussein (a tactic used repeatedly by Ann Coulter) to the obvious racism, here is an example of Christianity gone bad. Those of us who seek to practice the faith as Jesus would have intended must exercise constant vigilence and contend vigourously with such 'religious' hate groups.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dr. King, 1967

"Do not allow the Bill of Rights to become a prisoner of war."

Could be spoken today to Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, and those who run GITMO.

If the price of victory is too high, is it even a victory?

Gonzalez Hearings

Firmly established on the boycott list

Glenn Beck continues to earn his place on the Pilgrim's boycott list, and is moving up in his bid for the Hall of Shame. CNN must be so proud.

In essence, according to Beck...

Al Gore = Hitler

(via Talking Points Memo)

You know, Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.

"You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming....

"Then you get the scientists -- eugenics. You get the scientists -- global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists that say, 'That's not right.' And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did.

Obama today

Obama delivered a major speech on foreign policy today. I've not been able to find the full text yet (Obama's website is terrible about posting the text of speeches- nothing recent on the site), but Andrew Sullivan quotes:

"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

Just because the President misrepresents our enemies does not mean we do not have them. The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real. They distort Islam. They kill man, woman and child; Christian and Hindu, Jew and Muslim. They seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for...

The President would have us believe that every bomb in Baghdad is part of al Qaeda's war against us, not an Iraqi civil war. He elevates al Qaeda in Iraq – which didn't exist before our invasion – and overlooks the people who hit us on 9/11, who are training new recruits in Pakistan. He lumps together groups with very different goals: al Qaeda and Iran, Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. He confuses our mission...

By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland."

This again shows the folly of Iraq. Having pursued al-Qaeda aggressively from the beginning would have been appropriate and perhaps effective. Now those who would hurt us have been able to find themselves a new hide-out, and the American military is not prepared (because of Iraq) and the American people are not willing (also because of Iraq) to do what should have been done 5-6 years ago which is to have focused our military and intelligence resources on the true threat.

Recent dust-up

A small fight has developed between Obama and Clinton over whether or not to meet w/ leaders of certain nations- Iran and Syria- for example. Clinton appears to be Bush-Lite on this one, and that is no good sign.

Sometimes it's not enough to talk to one's friends. We have to deal with our enemies.

The Concord Monitor published this Op-Ed, and, like Obama, got it right.

The disagreement between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over whether to engage in dialogue with rogue leaders from countries such as Iran and North Korea points finally to a substantive difference in how they view themselves as national leaders.

Sen. Clinton believes that formal contact with such leaders, at least early in her presidency, would provide them with a propaganda opportunity, which would not be in our country's interest. Sen. Obama sees such an opening in communication as a refreshing departure from the current administration's approach of not talking to people it doesn't like. Sen. Obama points to Sen. Clinton's position on the issue as similar to President Bush's practice. Sen. Clinton counters that her opponent was being "irresponsible and frankly naïve."

We see two styles of presidential leadership, one traditional and one, well, audacious. Given the urgency of our times, Sen. Clinton's stance means that progress in mitigating differences with our adversaries while showing our allies a diplomatically emboldened United States would move too slowly. In that way, her position is too much like the president's.

Initiating and hopefully continuing regular diplomatic, economic and cultural exchanges with nations, even those with whom we disagree, may usher in ties and agreements that would benefit the United States.

The first step is for our new president to demonstrate courage and confidence by going head-to-head with any national leader and to leverage the quality of his or her integrity and intellect in the context of a reemerging America proud of its instincts and mindful of its interests.

Sen. Obama got this one right.