Friday, January 30, 2009

Give This Guy A Piece of Your Mind. He Needs It.

To Arlen Specter (U.S. Sen R-Pa)
RE: Stimulus Package

"I am extremely disappointed in all the Republican senators, and you in particular, during this time of national emergency. I would strongly urge you to think about the plight of this country and forget petty partisan politics that get neither you nor us anywhere. I can assure you that, as a registered Republican in the state of Pennsylvania, you will not get my vote in the next election unless you seriously reconsider your intransigent position on voting against a package that will help restore this country's economy after years of damage done by the Bush Administration.

Either do what is right for the United States now or get out of office. The Republican insistence on tax cuts that will not help our nation right now is shameful. Support the President and do what is right for our country."

Write to him here. Don't let these guys get away with this nonsense.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Orwellian Euphemism

So I am innocently reading a book by Paul Theroux called Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. He begins in London and takes the train to Paris, then to Vienna, on to Budapest, Bucharest and finally to Istanbul for the first leg of his long journey. Theroux has a very distinctive voice and you know this is not a typical travelogue by the end of the first page even if you're not familiar with his writing. He doesn't travel in luxury and makes great effort to meet and talk to regular people along the way. Anyway, it's a very interesting unique way to write about travel. It's not a political book either. So imagine my shock when I come to this passage. He's talking to a young man from Bucharest who is also traveling to Istanbul. He mentions that he hasn't seen any foreigners on the train, which he finds unusual. The young man says, "Some Americans come here. We have bases."

Then Paul continues, " I might have known. Romania was in the news as America's friend in the war on terrorism. Its right-wing government, desperate for money, eager to join the European Union, had approved the imprisoning and interrogation of suspects. The process, called extraordinary rendition, meant that a man like the one described in the New York Times in July 2006 from Algeria, who was picked up by American agents in Tanzania, would be blindfolded and sent to a third country to be questioned--and questioning always involved some sort of torture, ranging from sleep deprivation, to the suffocation and simulated drowning called waterboarding, to being hanged by the wrists against the wall of a cell, all these methods going under the Orwellian euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques."

"America's prisoners from across the world were shipped off to, among other places, jails in Romania, where humane conventions did not have to be observed and torture was allowed. But the incarceration and interrogation had been instigated by the United States and paid for by American taxpayers. The program was so secret that it was only when, after two or more years, a prisoner was released and interviewed by a newspaper (as several had) that the despicable program was revealed. Poland was also mentioned as a country of interrogation under torture."

I guess my point here is that the question of what we are going to do about the torture that took place during the last few years is not going away. As much as I believe in President Obama's emphasis on looking forward, not backward, we may be in too deep for that. And our tax dollars paid for this. That just feels ugly and shameful to me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We Forgot Something

We forgot our country was meant to be a place where people could live a happy life, free from fear, from want, from religious persecution, from unjust punishment, and from a totalitarian form of government. We got reminded of those things yesterday and it was like the lightbulb moment. Smack forehead! "Oh, that's what we forgot!" Barack Obama reminds us of our great strengths as a nation and as individuals. He needs our help now to make America a good place again. I think we should help him.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Goodnight Bush

President Bush has made his last official appearance before the American public and is now ready to hightail it out of town. I have watched several speeches and interviews he has given over the past week or so and marveled at the distorted reality he leaves as the legacy of his administration. For instance, in his final press conference on the 12th, he speculated about what he could have done to improve the Katrina situation. He toyed with the idea of landing Air Force One but decided against it because it would have necessitated using personnel who would be drawn away from the rescue effort to "take care of me." That just struck me as such a strange response. Who would possibly think that landing Air Force One near New Orleans would have helped anyone or anything? Did it even occur to him that it needn't have happened in the first place?

The world knew that New Orleans couldn't survive a category 3 storm, much less a category 5, because the levees wouldn't hold. I remember reading an article in "The New Yorker" in the early 90's about this very subject. It described how New Orleans is a bowl and when it fills with water, the water has nowhere to go. This was not a secret. It would flood and create unimaginable destruction. But the U.S. Congress and the Bush Administration in Washington, D.C., had substantially cut funding for the repair of the levee system only a few months before Katrina hit.

And how odd was it that he was "disappointed" not to find WMD in Iraq to justify his war on that country. Disappointed? What kind of word was that to use? If Saddam Hussein had possessed WMD, the threat to the world would have been terrifying. But, according to Bush, preferable to no WMD.

As to the claim that he has kept the country safe since 9/11, why did 9/11 happen in the first place? "The 9/11 Commission Report" says this: ...domestic agencies did not know what to do and no one gave them direction...the terrorists exploited deep institutional failings within our government.

Deep institutional failings seems to be the watch phrase of the Bush Administration. So. . .say "Goodnight" Bush.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dust If You Must

Dust if you must,
But wouldn’t it be better to paint a picture,
or write a letter,
Make a card or plant a seed
Ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
with rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead,
Dust if you must but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain
This day will not come around again
Dust if you must, but bear in mind
Old age will come and it’s not always kind
And when you go and go you must
You yourself will make more dust.

Remember, a house becomes a home when you can write
"I love you" on the furniture.

Rose Milligan, Lancaster, Lancashire, England.