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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Impeach the Liar-in-Chief

Do I sound like I have a one-track mind? Maybe so. But if we don't get rid of our liar-in-chief soon, we'll lose our country to the hate-mongering theocratic big-business Bush cult. FactCheck.org has analyzed the lies—of commission and omission—that Bush told at his speech this week at Fort Bragg. (And what an ironic name that base has in view of Bush's insistence that the U.S. is "winning"!) Here's the analysis, which I just received in an e-mail:


The Bloodshed

Bush acknowledged the high level of violence in Iraq as he sought to reassure the public.

Bush: The work in Iraq is difficult and dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it?

What Bush did not mention is that by most measures the violence is getting worse. Both April and May were record months in Iraq for car bombings, for example, with more than 135 of them being set off each month. And the bombings are getting more deadly. May was a record month for deaths from bombings, with 381 persons killed in "multiple casualty" bombings that took two or more lives, according to figures collected by the Brookings Institution in its "Iraq Index." The Brookings index is compiled from a variety of sources including official government statistics, where those are available, and other public sources such as news accounts and statements of Iraqi government officials.

The number of Iraqi police and military who have been killed is also rising, reaching 296 so far in June, nearly triple the 109 recorded in January and 103 in Febrary, according to a tally of public information by the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a private group that documents each fatality from public statements and news reports. Estimates of the total number of Iraqi civilians killed each month as a result of "acts of war" have been rising as well, according to the Brookings index.

The trend is also evident in year-to-year figures. In the past twelve months, there have been 25% more U.S. troop fatalities and nearly double the average number of insurgent attacks per day as there were in the preceeding 12 months.


Reconstruction Progress

In talking about Iraqi reconstruction, Bush highlighted the positive and omitted the negative:

Bush: We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. . . . Our progress has been uneven but progress is being made. We are improving roads and schools and health clinics and working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. And together with our allies, we will help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens.

Indeed, the State Department's most recent "Iraq Weekly Status Report" shows progress is uneven. Education is a positive; official figures show 3,056 schools have been rehabilitated and millions of "student kits" have been distributed to primary and secondary schools. School enrollments are increasing. And there are also 145 new primary healthcare centers currently under construction. The official figures show 78 water treatment projects underway, nearly half of them completed, and water utility operators are regularly trained in two-week courses.


On the negative side, however, State Department figures show overall electricity production is barely above pre-war levels. Iraqis still have power only 12 hours daily on average.

Iraqis are almost universally unhappy about that. Fully 96 percent of urban Iraqis said they were dissatisfied when asked about "the availability of electricity in your neighborhood." That poll was conducted in February for the U.S. military, and results are reported in Brookings' "Iraq Index." The same poll also showed that 20 percent of Iraqi city-dwellers still report being without water to their homes.


Conclusions or Facts?

The President repeatedly stated his upbeat conclusions as though they were facts. For example, he said of "the terrorists:"

Bush: They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war.

In fact, there have been withdrawals by allies. Spain pulled out its 1,300 soldiers in April, and Honduras brought home its 370 troops at the same time. The Philippines withdrew its 51 troops last summer to save the life of a Filipino hostage held captive for eight months in Iraq. Ukraine has already begun a phased pullout of its 1,650-person contingent, which the Defense Ministry intends to complete by the end of the year. Both the Netherlands and Italy have announced plans to withdraw their troops, and the Bulgarian parliament recently granted approval to bring home its 450 soldiers. Poland,
supplying the third-largest contingent in the coalition after Italy's departure, has backed off a plan for full withdrawal of troops due to the success of Iraqi elections and talks with Condoleezza Rice, but the Polish Press Agency announced in June that the next troop rotation will have 200 fewer soldiers.

Bush is of course entitled to argue that these withdrawals don't constitute a "mass" withdrawal, but an argument isn't equivalent to a fact.

The same goes for Bush's statement there's no "civil war" going on. In fact, some believe that what's commonly called the "insurgency" already is a "civil war" or something very close to it. For example, in an April 30 piece, the Times of London quotes Colonel Salem Zajay, a police commander in Southern Baghdad, as saying, "The war is not between the Iraqis and the Americans. It is between the Shia and the Sunni." Again, Bush is entitled to state his opinion to the contrary, but stating a thing doesn't make it so.


Terrorism

Similarly, Bush equated Iraqi insurgents with terrorists who would attack the US if they could.

Bush: There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. . . . Our mission in Iraq is clear. We are hunting down the terrorists.

Despite a few public claims to the contrary, however, no solid evidence has surfaced linking Iraq to attacks on the United States, and Bush offered none in his speech. The 9/11 Commission issued a staff report more than a year ago saying "so far we have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." It said Osama bin Laden made a request in 1994 to establish training camps in Iraq, but "but Iraq apparently never responded." That was before bin Laden was ejected from Sudan and moved his operation to Afghanistan.

Bush laid stress on the "foreign" or non-Iraqi elements in the insurgency as evidence that fighting in Iraq might prevent future attacks on the US:

Bush: I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why. Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other nations.

But Bush didn't mention that the large majority of insurgents are Iraqis, not foreigners. The overall strength of the insurgency has been estimated at about 16,000 persons. The number of foreign fighters in Iraq is only about 1,000, according to estimates reported by the Brookings Institution. The exact number is of course impossible to know. However, over the course of one week during the major battle for Fallujah in November of 2004, a Marine official said that only about 2% of those detained were foreigners. To be sure, Brookings notes that "U.S. military believe foreign fighters are responsible for the majority of suicide bombings in Iraq," with perhaps as many as 70 percent of bombers coming from Saudi Arabia alone. It is anyone's guess how many of those Saudi suicide bombers might have attempted attacks on US soil, but a look at the map shows that a Saudi jihadist can drive across the border to Baghdad much more easily than getting nearly halfway around the world to to the US.


Osama bin Laden

Bush quoted a recent tape-recorded message by bin Laden as evidence that the Iraq conflict is "a central front in the war on terror:"

Bush: Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq..."The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

However, Bush passed over the fact that the relationship between bin Laden and the Iraqi insurgents—to the extent one existed at all before—grew much closer after the US invaded Iraq. Insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not announce his formal allegiance with bin Laden until October, 2004. It was only then that Zarqawi changed the name of his group from "Unification and Holy War Group" to "al Qaeda in Iraq."


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Impeach Bush: Vietnam Déjà Vu

Our incompetent president lies with every breath he takes. Reminds me of LBJ and Vietnam. Reminds Eric Alterman of Vietnam too:

Anyway, the speech, reminding me of Vietnam, also reminded me of a list we reprinted here back in March 2003, which originally appeared on something called “Mediawhoresonline Watch Watch.” I never bothered to find out what or who was behind it (or why), but it sure does look prescient today. Here it is:

VIETNAM 2 PREFLIGHT CHECK

1. Cabal of oldsters who won’t listen to outside advice? Check.
2. No understanding of ethnicities of the many locals? Check.
3. Imposing country boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
4. Unshakeable faith in our superior technology? Check.
5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
8. SecDef pushing a conflict the JCS never wanted? Check.
9. Fear we’ll look bad if we back down now? Check.
10. Corrupt Texan in the WH? Check.
11. Land war in Asia? Check.
12. Right unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
13. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
14. Soldiers about to be dosed with *our own* chemicals? Check.
15. Friendly fire problem ignored instead of solved? Check.
16. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
17. B-52 bombers? Check.
18. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
19. In-fighting among the branches of the military? Check.
20. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
21. Local experts ignored? Check.
22. Local politicians ignored? Check.
23. Locals used to conflicts lasting longer than the USA has been a country? Check.

24. Against advice, Prez won’t raise taxes to pay for war? Check.
25. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.

26. Use of nukes hinted at if things don’t go our way? Check.
27. Unpopular war? Check.

Vietnam 2, you are cleared to taxi.

Impeach Bush. Now. Before he kills more Iraqi civilians and American soldiers.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Impeach Bush

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Breast Milk Each Day Keeps the Eyeglasses Away

Got your attention, didn't I?

Here's yet another reason to breast-feed your children:
Children who are breastfed are about fifty percent less likely to be short sighted, Singapore researchers said on Tuesday.

Docosahexaenoi acid or DHA, a substance found in breast milk, could be the main element which improves early visual development in babies, resulting in more ordered eyeball growth which then reduces the development or severity of myopia.

Unless you or your child has a physical problem that prevents breast-feeding, give back that free sample of formula that you just got on the maternity ward and whip out those breasts! You have no excuse.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Pentagon's Got Your Child's Number

The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying. . . .

Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.

Read more here
(free registration required) or here.

Can you say back-door draft, moms and dads?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Presidential Scholar

Today was my son Neil's moving-up ceremony at school; he's finished fifth grade and will begin middle school next year. My husband Ed and I knew that Neil's grades had been excellent this year (almost straight A's), but we were floored to find out that he received a President's Award for Educational Excellence. (This is the only time you'll ever see me happily writing about our current president.) Of all the children in his entire school, Neil was the only one to receive the award, a certificate signed by You-Know-Who, the U.S. secretary of education, and the school principal.

To understand just how astounding Neil's achievement is, you'll want to read this and this.


I can't begin to say thanks enough to all of our friends and family members and the members of Neil's education team for being there in various ways for us and for Neil. They're incredibly caring, kind, and talented people who make the world a better place.

Three thousand cheers for Neil!


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Nostalgia

I'm an expat Texan. I spent the first 23 years of my life there. There's not much from there that I miss—especially Texas politicians like the impeachment-worthy George W. Bush—but I do miss my brother Wally and some of the southeast Texas plant life.

Here on Long Island (New York State), I miss weeping willows, mimosa trees (and see this), and gardenias (and see this). All of those grow here, but not very well at all, so most people here don't bother with them.

O fragrant gardenia! Gardenias are the basis for a cologne my sweet maternal grandmother Lillian (from lovely, historic San Antonio) used to wear: White Shoulders. Because its scent reminded me of her soft hugs, I loved that stuff when I was a teenager and used to wear it all the time, even though no other teens I knew had ever heard of it. Hmmm ... it's been forever since I was a teenager, but it just may be time to get another bottle.

And I miss the fat, wide-bladed grass that grew on many of the lawns in La Porte, the suburb of my childhood. The stuff that grows on lots of Long Island lawns is pitifully thin in comparison.

But you won't see me moving back to Texas.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Best-Laid Plans . . .

Honesty is a huge thing with me. If someone's not completely honest with me, I don't want to have much to do with that person.

So in keeping with my ethics, I must report that for all our good intentions to live our beliefs, my husband Ed and I and our sons never made it to the Long Island Pride event this last weekend. It would have been our first time at the event, so we'd never been to the park where it was to be held. We were thrown off by the event map that showed a park with the same name as a locally well known New York state park in another part of the island. Who knew that there's a Heckscher State Park and a Heckscher Park?

Sigh.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Impeach the Crook-in-Chief

Heard about the Downing Street memo? It's a document, says DowningStreetMemo.com,

containing meeting minutes transcribed during the British Prime Minister's meeting on July 23, 2002—a full eight months PRIOR to the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. The Times of London printed the text of this document on Sunday, May 1, 2005, but to date US media coverage has been limited. This site is intended to act as a resource for anyone who wants to understand the facts revealed in this document.

The contents of the memo are shocking. The minutes detail how our government did not believe Iraq was a greater threat than other nations; how intelligence was "fixed around" to sell the case for war to the American public; and how the Bush administration’s public assurances of "war as a last resort" were at odds with their privately stated intentions.

When asked, British officials "did not dispute the document's authenticity." and a senior American official has described it as "absolutely accurate." Yet the Bush administration continues to simultaneously sidestep the issue while attempting to cast doubt on the memo’s authenticity. Nobody wants to go to war. We trust our leaders to shed blood in our name only when absolutely necessary. But the facts revealed by the Downing Street Memo force us to ask ourselves: Was I misled? Did President Bush tell me the truth when he said he would not take us to war unless absolutely necessary?

It's time to stop the crook-in-chief. He's stealing our country from us. Sign the People's Petition to Impeach the Bush Administration. And sign Rep. John Conyers' letter to Bush.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Straight Gay Pride

My husband and I will be taking our sons with us this weekend when we help staff a booth at the Long Island Pride Parade. We'll be at the New Century Singers booth, wearing our NCS and "Another Presbyterian for GLBT Rights" T-shirts. We're huge NCS fans, and one day when our sons are bigger and need less of our time, I'll audition to join the NCS.

But we're going so that we can do more than support the NCS. We want our sons to see that we live our beliefs. We want the world to know that straight people of all ages are in favor of gay rights—in favor of human rights for everyone.

Our oldest, Neil, who's 10, understands this. In fact, he got into a fight with some boys in our neighborhood because they were putting down his gay uncle, my brother Wally. Now, we teach our children that physical violence is wrong. But Neil couldn't stand what was going on. The neighborhood boys,* Tom, and his brother, Bill, have seen our gay rights bumper stickers and have seen Neil wearing his "Another Presbyterian for GLBT rights" T-shirt.

One afternoon, Tom, Bill, Neil, and another boy were all riding their bikes together and playing. Tom and Bill started arguing with Neil, telling them basically that they hate gay people and gay people are bad. Neil argued but didn't make a move until Bill started saying bad things about Wally. (Neil had told them, when the issue came up on another day, that his uncle Wally is gay.) That was the last straw for Neil, so he rammed his bike into Bill's. Bill got off his bike and punched Neil in the stomach, and Neil punched him back. Now, Neil never hits anybody, no matter how angry he gets—because we're always talking peacemaking in this house—but he was extremely angry that Tom and Bill were putting Wally down.

Just then, my husband Ed came home and saw what was going on. Tom had already left, and Bill disappeared quickly when he saw Ed. Ed talked to the rest of the boys about discrimination. Then he said that each person is entitled to his or her own opinion and that no one should tease another person about his or her beliefs or physically fight over them.

Then Neil and Ed came into the house and talked the situation over with me. I said that I thought Neil should go to Tom and Bill's house, with Ed, and apologize for starting the physical fight, but that I didn't mean he should apologize at all for his stance on gay rights. We told Neil that we understood his anger very well, but that hitting people isn't the way to convince people of his viewpoint.

Neil did this, and Ed told the parents what led up to the fight, saying that both Neil and Bill did things they shouldn't have. It turned out that neither Tom nor Bill had told their parents about the fight. The parents had Bill apologize for baiting Neil. Ed said that the parents looked very puzzled and said, "Do they even know what 'gay rights' means?" But yes, the boys do know about sex between gay men, which they've heard about from other children at school; they were telling Neil just how "awful" it is.

Ed and I imagined that the dinnertime conversation in that household was extremely interesting.


But we envision a time when being gay is no big deal, when all parents teach their children that gay is just another version of normal, when gay people legally marry and no one raises an eyebrow. And one way to make that time arrive sooner is for straight people to join in the fight for gay rights. We're all humans, gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or straight or somewhere else on the spectrum. And that makes us each worthy of respect and honor.
_______________________
*The neighborhood boys' names have been changed here to protect their privacy.

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