Friday, September 30, 2005

More Compassionate Conservatism At Its Finest

Now that the compassionate conservatives have gutted bankruptcy protection for individuals, while strengthening the protection for corporations, America's neediest will have no reliable remedy when victimized by governmental failure, degraded infrastructure, and acts of God.

Those who have lost everything in Katrina have about 6 business days to file bankruptcy before new draconian (but compassionate) bankruptcy laws go into effect.

The compassionate conservatives insist that denying individuals access to bankruptcy protection will help America, and so their compassion will face a litmus test in the coming months and years when we see which Katrina victims are allowed leniency and which are not.

Something tells me businesses will receive leniency and the poor will be expected to pay all their debt. That's the idea behind compassionate conservatism: let those with the least carry the burden for those with the most.

It is working flawlessly!

Storm Victims May Face Curbs On Bankruptcy
September 27, 2005

When Congress agreed this spring to tighten the bankruptcy laws and crack down on consumers who took on debt irresponsibly, no one had the victims of Hurricane Katrina in mind.

But four weeks after New Orleans flooded and tens of thousands of other residents of the Gulf Coast also lost their homes and livelihoods, a stricter new personal bankruptcy law scheduled to take effect on Oct. 17 is likely to deliver another blow to those dislocated by the storm.

The law was intended to keep individuals from taking on debts they had no intention of paying off. But many once-solvent Katrina victims are likely to be caught up in the net intended to catch deadbeats.

Right after Hurricane Katrina struck, several lawmakers - mostly Democrats but including some Senate Republicans - suggested that storm victims along the Gulf Coast should get relief from the new law's stricter provisions, which are intended to screen filers by income and make those with higher incomes repay their debts over several years. Under the old law, which remains in effect until mid-October, many more filers can have their debts canceled quickly in federal bankruptcy courts.

But House Republicans, who fought off a proposed amendment that would have made bankruptcy filings easier for victims of natural disasters, said there was no reason to carve out a broad exemption just because of the storm.

Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, rejected the notion of reopening the legislation, saying it already included provisions that would ensure that people left "down and out" by the storm would still be able to shed most of their debts. Lawmakers who lost the long fight over the law, he said, "ought to get over it," according to The Associated Press.

A White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, said the administration "doesn't see a lot of merit" in calls to delay the law's effective date but was considering making allowances for hurricane victims.

In the meantime, many victims of Hurricane Katrina - and the much smaller group ruined by Hurricane Rita - will face a kind of Catch-22. Those who try to beat the Oct. 17 deadline in hopes of filing under the less-onerous current law may find it impossible to do so, because residence rules generally require that individuals seek protection against creditors in their hometowns. (Assuming people in New Orleans can find their lawyers and records, they can file for bankruptcy protection in their bankruptcy court, which has reopened and is sharing space with another court in Baton Rouge.)

Moreover, most people displaced by the storm will probably not know for months if they even need to file for bankruptcy. By that time, the tougher new law will be in force.

"Six to nine months from now, FEMA will be gone, the church groups will be gone and creditors will once more be demanding their money," said Bradford W. Botes, a bankruptcy lawyer whose firm represented victims of Hurricane Ivan, which struck Florida a year ago.

Keith and Bridget Cloud are among those already worrying about how to pay their bills while picking up the pieces of their lives. Mr. Cloud, 39, has owned a lawn care business in New Orleans for 12 years, employing four people. Ms. Cloud, 38, was a group-home manager for a nonprofit agency that sheltered homeless people. Two years ago, they bought a house, moved in with their five children and began paying down their mortgage.

"We weren't millionaires or anything, but we were just making it," Ms. Cloud said in a telephone interview from Houston last week, as the couple and their three oldest children were fleeing again, this time from the threat of Hurricane Rita, decamping temporarily in Laredo, Tex., and then in Corpus Christi. (Their two younger children are with relatives in Alabama.)

"If we have to file," Ms. Cloud said, "don't make it harder for us than it already is."

Personal and business bankruptcy filings usually reach a peak two to three years after a hurricane, according to a study about bankruptcy and hurricanes, soon to be published in The Nevada Law Journal, by Robert M. Lawless, a law professor at the University of Nevada.

Mr. Lawless said he was surprised by the pattern. Previous research on bankruptcy filings and natural disasters had not shown a connection, he said, apparently because analysts were looking only at the months immediately after floods or storms.

He said his finding was in keeping with research on the overall level of economic activity after hurricanes, which shows there is often a short-term growth spurt as federal aid and construction money are pumped into disaster areas. The bankruptcy filings come later, as people who have lost their houses or jobs are overwhelmed by the debts they incur while trying to rebuild.

"Areas hit by major hurricanes will suffer great financial distress and that distress will linger for long after the media glare has disappeared," Mr. Lawless writes.

Defenders of the new law note that judges will still have the discretion to waive its strict restrictions on filing under Chapter 7, a faster and simpler type of bankruptcy that, among other things, allows consumers to walk away from some obligations.

"There's nothing in the bill to suggest that you can get blood from a stone," Todd J. Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University, said in an interview last week between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "The new legislation is perfectly suited to deal with circumstances such as this."

Mr. Zywicki said that as drafted, the new law still gave judges the discretion to identify victims of "special circumstances," like hurricanes, and to let them use Chapter 7 provisions.

But consumer bankruptcy lawyers worry that there is little incentive in the law for judges to give hurricane victims a break. They also complain about a long list of new demands it makes on individuals.

Among the hurdles in the new law that could most affect hurricane victims is a means test. It requires debtors to provide an estimate of their income by taking an average of their most recent six months' earnings before they can file under Chapter 7. Debtors with higher incomes are to be kept in bankruptcy status for several years, to pay off their debts.

But "someone who had a great job just before Katrina may have a very different income today," Mr. Botes, the bankruptcy lawyer, noted.

The new law also requires every individual to undergo credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy protection. "It's not right to make people who lost everything go through a course about how to manage their finances," Mr. Botes said.

The law has stiffer requirements as well for what records must be produced by the debtor. But hurricane victims will have a hard time doing that. "Thousands and thousands of people no longer have checkbooks, insurance papers, car titles (or cars), birth certificates, Social Security cards or wallets," a group of Louisiana lawyers said in a letter two weeks ago to the state's Congressional delegation.

The harsher requirements already had thousands of consumers rushing to file bankruptcy petitions ahead of the deadline. Despite a strong economy, quarterly filings for the period from April through June jumped 11 percent from the quarter a year earlier, to a record 467,333, the American Bankruptcy Institute reported.

Now, many previously solvent families and small businesses find themselves facing such pressure, but with little hope of getting into court ahead of the deadline.

"Think of the position of these debtors, many of whom would have not had to file bankruptcy otherwise," said Lynn M. LoPucki, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "They have until Oct. 17 to file under the old law that was less restrictive than this new law. But the odds that they can do that are pretty slim because the lawyers who would serve them are out in refugee camps somewhere."

The Cloud family is a good example. After Hurricane Katrina hit, they left for Houston, where they lived for a couple of weeks in the Astrodome. The day after they were given a temporary apartment, Houston was evacuated for Hurricane Rita and they drove in a borrowed car to Laredo. Bouncing from place to place, they have found it hard to determine the extent of their losses in New Orleans.

Mr. Cloud has returned to New Orleans just once so far. He found that the family house had been spared, but that his company's three trucks, only two fully paid for, had been destroyed. So the company will have to pay off a loan for one vehicle that no longer exists.

His insurer will cover only part of the loss, and it has warned that it will not cover the vehicles' contents. Mr. Cloud stored his riding lawn mowers and other costly equipment aboard the trucks, so he will bear those losses himself.

Ms. Cloud estimated that 80 percent of her husband's customers, mostly apartment complexes, were in the New Orleans flood zone. They have no idea when, if ever, the property owners will need his services again. While they wait, they are scraping together funds to buy new lawn care equipment and a truck.

Ms. Cloud has already received her last paycheck, so they will have to dip into their savings, she said. She has requested a small-business loan application from FEMA, but the papers have not yet arrived. Meanwhile, bills are coming due.

Ms. Cloud said she wondered if the family would end up in bankruptcy court. They had a near-miss once before, when her husband and his brother, then a co-owner of the lawn care business, had a dispute. They were able to resolve the problem without filing for bankruptcy, Ms. Cloud said, and she has been trying to call the New Orleans lawyer who helped them. So far, she has not been able to get a call through.

Professor LoPucki said: "These people could, I guess, go to bankruptcy lawyers in the places where they are. But they are supposed to file in New Orleans."

Individuals are supposed to file wherever they have spent most of the previous 180 days. That will pose a problem for long-term evacuees.

Michael D. Allday, a New Orleans lawyer, said he had one client, a single mother with medical bills exceeding $75,000, who had been planning to file for bankruptcy just before Katrina struck.

"Now she's lost her job on a riverboat casino," he said. The woman resettled in Little Rock, Ark., and Mr. Allday said he thought she should file there. But before she can do so, other bankruptcy lawyers noted, she will have to wait several months to fulfill the residence requirement. By that time, of course, the new law will be in force.

Professor LoPucki said he thought the majority of lawmakers were averse to enacting blanket bankruptcy relief for hurricane victims because that might raise questions about why victims of other uncontrollable events - like accidents, major illnesses or mass layoffs - should not get a break, too.

"If you admit that the bill is bad for Katrina victims," he said, "then there's really no reason it isn't bad for the others, too. They're all in some kind of problem. For most of them, it's largely their fault. But for a lot of them, it isn't their fault."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
(reprinted without permission)

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blaming The Staff

This really gets me hot under the collar!

The war in Iraq, which has been managed and mismanaged by private contractors, has exposed the leaders of America, including the Commander-in-Chief, as spineless, self-serving wankers.

Lynndie England, an America soldier in Iraq, who along with her comrades was trained by military contractors to torture prisoners at the Abu Gharaib prison, has been convicted of carrying out orders.

I know the issues are myriad and the facts are confused; but I don't see her commanders or the contractors being held responsible for anything that took place at the prison.

Why is the staff being held responsible while management walks away unscathed?

Yes, the crimes perpertrated by England and her comrades are heinous. No human being anywhere should ever suffer the indignity of physical, mental and/or sexual abuse. Nobody. But, why is a private being held responsible for it? Certainly our analytical skills and powers of investigation can turn-up at least one high-ranking military or corporate official who knew of this. Why is the Administration turning a blind eye?

There is something very wrong here, and I wish my President wasn't so smug about all of it.

England Convicted in Abu Ghraib Abuse Case
By T.A. BADGER, Associated Press Writer

Army Pfc. Lynndie England, the 22-year-old reservist who appeared in photos smirking amid naked prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, stood at attention as she was convicted of taking part in abusing detainees.

Wearing her dark green dress uniform, England showed no obvious emotion Monday after the jury foreman read the verdict. Asked for comment afterward, defense lawyer Capt. Jonathan Crisp said, "The only reaction I can say is, 'I understand.'"

Her case now moves to the sentencing phase, which will be heard by the same jury of five male Army officers beginning Tuesday. It was unclear whether England would testify on her own behalf. She faces up to nine years in prison.

England became the most recognizable of the nine Abu Ghraib soldiers charged in the prison scandal after photos showing her with a naked detainee on a leash and pointing to detainees in other demeaning poses became public.

Her trial was the last in the scandal; two other soldiers were convicted in trials and six made plea deals. Several of those soldiers testified at England's trial.

Prosecutors used graphic photos of England to support their contention that she was a key figure in the abuse conspiracy, a scandal that badly damaged the United States' image in the Muslim world despite quick condemnation of the abuse by President Bush.

England was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count pertaining to the leash incident.

England tried to plead guilty in May to the same counts she faced this month in exchange for an undisclosed sentencing cap, but a judge threw out the deal after reputed abuse ringleader Charles Graner Jr.'s account cast doubt on whether she knew what she was doing when she participated in the abuse.

Beyond the sordid photos, prosecutors pointed to England's statement to Army investigators in January 2004 that the mistreatment was done to amuse the U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib.

"The accused knew what she was doing," said Capt. Chris Graveline, the lead prosecutor. "She was laughing and joking. ... She is enjoying, she is participating, all for her own sick humor."

Crisp countered that England was only trying to please Graner. "She was a follower, she was an individual who was smitten with Graner," Crisp said. "She just did whatever he wanted her to do."

England, from Fort Ashby, W.Va., has said that Graner, now serving a 10-year sentence, fathered her young son. The defense argued that England suffered from depression and that she has an overly compliant personality, making her a heedless participant in the abuse.

Graner, a defense witness at the sentencing, said pictures he took of England holding a prisoner on a leash were meant to be used as a training aid. In her earlier guilty plea, England had said the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of Abu Ghraib guards.

Late Monday, presiding judge Col. James Pohl rejected a request by Crisp to allow testimony during the sentencing phase by an Army captain who has reported similar prisoner abuse by other U.S. soldiers at a camp near Fallujah around the same time as the Abu Ghraib incidents.

Crisp said testimony by Capt. Ian Fishback would provide evidence of a command breakdown in Iraq that might have led England and other soldiers to think detainee mistreatment was condoned by military leaders.

But the judge ruled that he saw no proof that the two abuse situations were related, or that abuse elsewhere would in any way lessen the blame England might deserve for Abu Ghraib.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Reprinted without permission.

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Halliburton's Stock Value Doubles As American Troop Deaths Double

I know it's cynical to think that any American corporation would actually profit directly from the death of Americans (well, except in the funeral industry); but, maybe it's not so cynical.

(from HalliburtonWatch)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 ( -- Since the beginning of the Iraq war, Halliburton, the Texas energy giant once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has seen its stock price more than triple in value. When the U.S invaded Iraq in March of 2003, Halliburton's stock was selling for $20 per share. The stock price at the close of market activity on Monday was $66.

In the last 12 months, the total number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq almost doubled as Halliburton's stock doubled. Halliburton's stock rose from $33 per share in September 2004 to $66 yesterday while U.S. deaths in Iraq increased from 1,061 to almost 1900.

Three graphs at this link starkly depict the dramatically similar rise of Halliburton's stock price, revenue and U.S. soldiers killed during the past thirty months of war in Iraq.

Halliburton's CEO also enjoyed an incredible personal gain from Iraq and the commensurate rise in gasoline prices. A HalliburtonWatch analysis reveals that CEO David Lesar's stock holdings in Halliburton increased by a stunning $78 million since the Iraq invasion.

As U.S. citizens march on Washington this weekend to protest the 30-month anniversary of the war, a recent poll shows 52 percent of Americans want an "immediate" withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.

The big money Halliburton has made from the war, along with the widespread belief that the Bush administration lied about Saddam Hussein's purported weapons of mass destruction, has helped fuel public sentiment supporting the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Polls show a majority of Americans do not think the war is worth the cost in lives and taxpayers' money.

Halliburton has been the focus of heated criticism from members of Congress and even the Bush administration over its handling of war contracts. Pentagon auditors have issued at least nine reports slamming the company's inept and possibly fraudulent accounting system for work in Iraq.

In September 2004, the U.S. military called for the immediate termination of Halliburton's most lucrative contract with the Army because of poor performance. Additionally, in January, the U.S. embassy in Iraq threatened to terminate Halliburton's contracts because of poor performance. However, both recommendations were ignored by President George W. Bush.

Can someone remind me again about who benefits from this war, because I keep getting confused. Are American citizens reaping the benefits of a billion-dollar-a-day price tag? Are Iraqi citizens benefiting from our invasion of their country? Is Halliburton benefiting from the lion's share of the $200,000,000 spent so far? Who is benefiting?

More articles at HalliburtonWatch:

Halliburton bills taxpayers $45 per case of soda

The Basics of Halliburton's Military Contracts

Pentagon's preferential treatment for Halliburton

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

So-Called Christians

Why do American fundamentalists quote only the Hebrew bible and never quote from the teachings of Jesus?

Jesus taught the importance of selflessness and humility, manners, empathy and sympathy, mercy, open-heartedness, peace, the questioning of justice, comfort for the persecuted and afflicted, and everything that is anathema to the current fundamentalist movement.

American fundamentalists use small passages from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, conveniently ignoring verses of those same books which they find inconvenient, and condemn those who oppose their corporate dismantling of our once-great nation by saying we are unpatriotic and unchristian.

At his sermon on the mount, Jesus is believed to have offered his most important message, which is presented this way:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I never hear any American fundamentalist (clergyman, politician, citizen or activist) discuss those beatitudes or present them as a philosophy by which Americans should live.

I do, however, hear stories like this one: The story of a little girl attending the private Ontario Christian School, in California, who has been expelled because her mother is a lesbian. Seems so-called Christians now punish the children of homosexuals, too. Why are so-called Christians preaching antiquated tracts of hate and eschewing the message of love and tolerance put forth by their savior?

The Wikipedia Entry about Beatitudes.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

I Wanted This Money, But It Seems A Nice Couple Won!

When the lottery jackpots get big, I buy tickets and ponder the possibilities.

I say I will continue working and will keep my same apartment, until things are all sorted-out, trusts established, accountants and lawyers in place.

I say I will give ten percent to charity and establish a trust to provide income for extended family.

I think of starting a business for myself and one for my wife.

I think about college funds and travel.

I dream of a Manhattan townhouse and an apartment in London.

Season tickets at Ashburton Grove, the Met, the Symphony, and the Ballet.

I think of the iconography and pop art I could acquire.

Then I rise from bed, shit, shave, shower, and shine. I have breakfast with my family and go to work.

Then somebody else wins the big jackpot and I never think of it again.

This time, Anne sent me a link to the following article and it made me happy that this couple won!
N.J. Couple Wins Mega Millions Jackpot
By Assocated Press, found at

POSTED: 7:51 am EDT September 23, 2005
UPDATED: 6:10 pm EDT September 23, 2005

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- Last week, he was a guy who drove a Toyota Camry to work trying to convince people they needed to buy pots and pans, a guy whose shtick was mildly amusing -- at best -- to friends, a guy whose own wife said he talked too much.

But on Friday, Harold Lerner got to do his shtick in front of hundreds of people and more than a dozen television cameras, knowing he probably had more money than all of them combined. He and his wife Helen were introduced at a press conference as the sole winners of a $258 million Mega Millions jackpot, the largest single-ticket win in New Jersey history.

And suddenly, everyone was hanging on every joke and wisecrack the 60-year-old Rutherford man made, from how he hid the winning ticket in his wife's lingerie drawer ("It was either that or my underwear drawer; it was an easy choice") to pretending he was an Internal Revenue Service agent who would audit every reporter who asked him a question.

He said the only things he and his wife had ever won before were a pair of Yankees tickets and a frozen turkey.

When asked how old he was, he replied that he was 27 and his wife 21. He joked about being suspicious of the lottery commission security official who took his ticket, and nearly giggled when he talked about how he and his wife walked around town for 48 hours, telling no one the big news until the lottery commission offices opened Monday morning.

"Saturday morning we received a phone call from our friend telling us somebody in Rutherford bought the winning ticket," he said. "I'm thinking, 'It can't be me.' Little did I know it was my wife who purchased the ticket. We ran downstairs, on the top of the newspaper were the five numbers, and I read off the numbers.

"She says, 'Honey, I think we're millionaires,' " he said. "We hugged, kissed and embraced. I'm thinking, `This can't be right, maybe we made a mistake.' We checked it 500 times."

But the winning numbers from the Sept. 16 drawing -- 5, 16, 41, 46, 50 and the Gold Mega Ball number 1 -- were all there. They got paranoid, Helen said, and stashed the ticket in her underwear drawer. Then they went for a walk around town, where residents were still buzzing about the as-yet unknown lottery winner.

"We're trying to be very cool about this," Harold said. They went to a friend's party that weekend, still telling no one their secret.

On Monday, a longtime family friend who is an attorney accompanied them to lottery headquarters to start the claims process. Since Helen, who bought the ticket, chose the cash option, they will get a total of $156.1 million, before federal taxes take about one-fourth of that, lottery officials said.

Helen, who used to live in Ocean City and formerly worked for a drug wholesaler, said she only plays the lottery when the jackpot exceeds $100 million.

They said some of their winnings would go toward Hurricane Katrina victims, as well as to Seton Hall University, where Helen graduated in 1976.

"I know that God is good," said Monsignor Robert Sheeran, Seton Hall's president. "But sometimes God is very, very good. Today is one of those days."

Harold Lerner said he would buy a yellow Checker taxi, a reminder of his childhood in Brooklyn, and give anyone who wanted one a free ride.

"We're really in dreamland at this point," he said. "I still don't believe it."

He said the couple would wait awhile before determining how to spend their unfathomable riches, and his wife said she had one purchase in mind, but would not say what it was. They say they plan to stay in Rutherford, where they've lived for the past 12 years, and try to live as normal a life as possible.

Both, however, are retired, effective immediately. And that's no joke.

© 2005 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Reprinted without permission.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Poverty Increases and Incomes Decline

As you know, things are going very well under the Bush administration:

We have won the war in Iraq, Americans have more money in their pockets, faith-based initiatives are rescuing the neediest, Americans are enjoying more freedom than ever before, the world is safer for our actions, and never before has so much progress been made in such a short period of time.

Why then are conservatives dismayed, liberals wallowing in the glory of rightousness, and someone like Gene Gerard writing the following?

Poverty Increases as Incomes Decline Under pResident Bush
Gene C. Gerard

The day after Hurricane Katrina hit, exposing much of the public to the tragic conditions of poverty in America, the Census Bureau quietly released its annual report entitled, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States." In some respects, it provided a demonstrable backdrop to the pockets of poverty common to New Orleans and other cities. It also explained why, despite President Bush's assertion last month that, "Americans have more money in their pockets," many people aren't faring as well as they once did.

The report indicates that in 2004 there was no increase in average annual household incomes for black, white, or Hispanic families. In fact, this marks the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records that household incomes failed to increase for five consecutive years. Since President Bush took office, the average annual household family income has declined by $2,572, approximately 4.8 percent.

Black families had the lowest average income last year, at $30,134. By comparison, the average income for white families was $48,977. The average pretax family income for all racial groups combined was $44,389, which is the lowest it has been since 1997. The South had the lowest average family income in 2004.

Interestingly enough, as the Economic Policy Institute notes in their analysis of the Census Bureau's report, not all families did poorly last year. Although the portion of the total national income going to the bottom 60 percent of families did not increase last year, the portion going to the wealthiest five percent of families rose by 0.4 percent. And while the average inflation-adjusted family income of middle-class Americans declined by 0.7 percent in 2004, the wealthiest five percent of families enjoyed a 1.7 percent increase.

Earnings also declined last year. This is despite the fact that Americans are working harder. Since 2000, worker output per hour has increased by 15 percent. Yet for men working full-time, their annual incomes declined 2.3 percent in 2004, down to an average of $40,798. This decrease was the largest one-year decline in 14 years for men. Women saw their earnings decrease by 1 percent, with an average income of $31,223, the largest one-year decline for women in nine years.

Women earned only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men last year. Clearly, the gender gap remains real and pervasive. In all major industry sectors, women earned less than men. In the management of companies, women earned 54 cents for every dollar earned by men; 57 cents in finance and industry; and 60 cents in scientific and technical services.

Not surprisingly, the report revealed that poverty increased last year. There were 37 million (12.7 percent) people living in poverty, an increase of 1.1 million people since 2003. This was the fourth consecutive year in which poverty has increased. In fact, since President Bush took office, 5.4 million more people, including 1.4 million children, have found themselves living in poverty. There were 7.9 million families living below the poverty level in 2004, an increase of 300,000 families since 2003.

The average income last year for a poverty-stricken family of four was $19,307; for a family of three it was $15,067, and for a couple it was $12,334. The poverty rate increased for people 18 to 64 last year by 0.5 percent. The South experienced the highest poverty rate of all regions.

The Census Bureau report also demonstrated that health insurance coverage remains elusive for many Americans. Those covered by employer-sponsored health insurance declined from 60.4 percent in 2003 to 59.8 percent in 2004. Approximately 800,000 more workers found themselves without health insurance last year. The percentage of people covered by governmental health programs in 2004 rose to 27.2 percent, in part because as poverty increased, more Americans were forced to seek coverage through Medicaid. The percentage of the public with Medicaid coverage rose by 0.5 percent in 2004.

Last year was the fourth consecutive year in which employer-sponsored health insurance coverage declined. A total of 45.8 million Americans are now without health insurance. The uninsured rate in 2004 was 11.3 percent for whites, 19.7 percent for blacks, and 32.7 percent for Hispanics. Not surprisingly, the South had the highest portion of the uninsured population, at 18.3 percent.

Although we haven't heard President Bush say it much lately, he came into office as a self-professed "compassionate conservative." But as the report by the Census Bureau suggests, which was sadly symbolized by the plight of many poor residents of New Orleans, the country hasn't seen much of that compassion in the last five years. Many Americans are working harder, earning less, and without the benefit of health insurance. It's easy to understand why the report was released a day after the largest natural disaster in a century, when much of the country was distracted.

Gene C. Gerard taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years at several colleges in the Southwest, and is a contributing author to the forthcoming book "Americans at War," by Greenwood Press. His articles have appeared in Intervention Magazine, The Free Press, The Modern Tribune, Political Affairs Magazine, Alternative Press Review, and The Palestine Chronicle.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Do You Listen to Your Allies?

George Galloway is an anti-imperialist member of the British Parliament who opposes the war in Iraq and the draconian, self-serving policies of the current American administration.

When he talks simply, frankly, and sanely, he is smeared by the American wrong-wingers. Of course, Europeans don't fall over and play dead when they are criticized, as Americans do, nor do they lash out with some flag-waving accusation of their opponents being unPatriotic. Galloway answers his critics with facts, wit and strongly-worded positions that we used to hear before the day of Reagan-esque sound bites.

Face it, those petty smear tactics are reserved for the American media and Sky Television (which is less and less Fox-like each day, even though it is owned by the same Australian wrong-winger). Europeans, excepting the rare pro-fascist Brit, Italian, or Dutchman, are a rather free-thinking, open-minded lot. They are not as easily swayed by hysterical (and false) media reports as we Americans.

Since Britain is the last democratic nation to be our ally, I think it is important that we listen to the British. I mean, fascist states like China don't really give a shit about us in the end. As soon as we stop using our tax dollars to lubricate the criminal free markets of that economy, they will turn on us like so many jihadists in a teapot.

You think that Muslim rage is scary? Wait until you see the Chinese response when we fail to pay-off the loans they are providing to fund Bush's tax cuts and war. We owe those communists a bloody fortune! They will not be forgiving when the American treasury has completely run out of funds because the billionaires decide they are done paying all taxes. When there is nothing in our coffers to pay-off the Chinese, Koreans, and Arabs who are funding our post-Reagan economy, we will face a foreclosure dilemma and bankruptcy that will make Donald Trump blush.

Although the American media will present British opinion as backing United States policies, a majority of British are bemused by our policies and actions around the world and in our own nation. The ground-swell of support we originally heard from those Isles has diminished more quickly than our oil supply. The Brits are a bit too savvy to fall for the call-to-arms that has failed us so miserably, and most of them are done funding this foolishness.

So, when a member of the British Parliament comes to America to speak at universities and public events, I think it's important to listen to him.

This article below originally appeared in The Capital Times and is reprinted from

Galloway's Frankness Invigorates, Shocks Americans
Saturday, September 17, 2005
John Nichols

Americans who are familiar only with the almost always empty words -- and often empty heads -- of this country's political leaders can be a little shocked by George Galloway's pronouncements.

The British parliamentarian, who came of age in the brawling political landscape of his native Scotland, where a quick wit and a savage debating style are prerequisites for electoral success, does not mince words in the manner that most American pols do.

Consider Galloway's statement in response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath:

"The scenes from the stricken city almost defy belief. Many, many thousands of people left to die in what is the richest, most powerful country on Earth. This obscenity is as far from a natural disaster as George Bush and the U.S. elite are from the suffering masses of New Orleans. The images of Bush luxuriating at his ranch and of his secretary of state shopping for $7,000 shoes while disaster swamped the U.S. Gulf Coast will haunt this administration.

"In the most terrible way imaginable they show to the whole world that it is not only the lives of people in Baghdad, Fallujah and Palestine that Bush holds cheap. It is also his own citizens -- the black and poor people left behind with no food, water or shelter. This is not simply manslaughter through incompetence, though the White House's incompetence abounds. It is murder -- for Bush was warned four years ago of the threat to New Orleans, as surely as he was warned of the disaster that would come of his war on Iraq. ...

"His is the America of Halliburton, the M-16 rifle, the cluster bomb, the gated communities of the rich and of the billionaires he grew up with in Texas. There is another America. It is the land of the poor of Louisiana, it is the land of the young men and women economically conscripted into the military. It is the land of the glorious multiethnic mix that was New Orleans, it is the land of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and of great struggles for justice."

That's not exactly a politically correct response to the crisis, at least not in George Bush's America of muted debate and sappy bipartisanship. But it is one that will ring true with a significant proportion of the American population, as have Galloway's pronouncements with regard to the war in Iraq.

Galloway, who will appear at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW-Madison campus, became an instant hero to many opponents of the U.S. occupation of Iraq when the previously little-known member of the British Parliament flew to Washington to appear before the Senate's Permanent Committee on Investigations.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., a headline-grabbing conservative who is trying to position himself for a presidential run, had accused Galloway and other European figures of opposing the Iraq war because they had received "oil for food" program kickbacks from Saddam Hussein. In fact, Galloway had successfully challenged the same accusations in Britain and gone on to win a stunning victory in that country's May 5 election. So Galloway jumped at the chance to go before Coleman's committee, which he did in a remarkable May 17 appearance.

After rebutting Coleman's charges -- "Mr. Chairman, I am not now, nor have I ever been an oil trader, and neither has anyone been on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf." -- Galloway turned the tables on his accuser, tearing into the senator with a fiery attack on the war and its proponents:

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed 1 million Iraqis, most of them children. Most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to be born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies," Galloway informed the fool on Capitol Hill.

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaida. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."

Coleman couldn't get out of the hearing room quick enough. The senator had met more than his match, and he quickly changed topics.

For his part, Galloway was stunned by Coleman's lack of preparation for the confrontation.

"The senator's performance was pitiful, embarrassing. He did not know the first thing about the matters he was raising," says Galloway, who has clashed with some of the ablest legislators on the planet. "When I was told that Mr. Norm Coleman has presidential ambitions, I thought: I fear for America. I fear for the world. This man is not prepared to be a senator, let alone the leader of the most powerful country in the world."

If Galloway was dismayed by the quality of American politicians, he was heartened by the response of the American people. He received more than 20,000 e-mails from Americans in just the first few days after his appearance before the committee. So high was the interest that he has now penned a book on the incident, "Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington" (The New Press), and his tour this month of the U.S. is drawing unprecedented crowds. (More than 1,000 people attended his debate this week in New York with war backer Christopher Hitchens.)

Galloway is enjoying the chance to expound on his views before American audiences, even if he is sometimes frustrated by the determination of his critics to paint him as the Beast of Britain.

He laughs at the claim that he is a "friend" of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, noting that he met Hussein only twice -- "exactly the same number of times that (Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld met him," Galloway notes. "The difference," he adds, "is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns."

Galloway's impression of Saddam is far more nuanced than that of American politicians or commentators. But his is hardly a favorable view.

"I found him to be a man who is capable of rational and irrational actions, which I think is the nature of dictatorship," he explained.

To accusations that his militant opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq means that he supports terrorism, Galloway responds that he is opposed to the killing of innocents by any group or any means -- "be it a suicide bomber or a bomb dropped from an airplane flying overhead." He rejects the notion that the United States or Great Britain ought to decide whether the insurgents in Iraq are "legitimate" representatives of popular sentiment in that country, arguing instead, "It is the height of imperialism to suggest that the Iraqi insurgency is legitimate or illegitimate."

What he will suggest, however, is that the only way to sort out the mess in Iraq is for occupying forces to exit the country. To those who tell him that withdrawal of foreign troops would lead to chaos, Galloway replies, "From what I see, there is quite a lot of chaos there now."

That's Galloway. Quick of wit and unapologetic, he is the antidote to the American politician.

After being expelled from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, he formed a new party, Respect, and then beat one of Blair's closest allies in parliament. He decries the stilted debate and the "corrupt duopoly" of American politics, which sees many Democrats echoing the lines of a Republican president.

But Galloway takes his anti-imperialism seriously. When asked whether he thinks American war foes should work within the two major parties or go the independent or third-party route, he says, "It's not for me to say whether you need a new party in the United States. We determined in Britain that an alternative was needed. What I can say is that the whole world has suffered because the debate in the United States has been inadequate. One of the reasons I am here is to stir it up."

That George Galloway will surely do.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times.

An unofficial Galloway website.

Galloway will appear on Bill Maher's HBO show this Friday night. Tune in!

Thanks to Charley for sending this along!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Eye Contact

When you see a person in a wheelchair or walking with a cane, do you look them in the eye?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trent Lott's Porch

When Bush arrived in Biloxi, Miss. on September 2nd, he made a deeply felt speech in response to the devastation he witnessed and the stories he heard:

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch," he said, referring to the former Senate majority leader who lost his 154-year-old family home in Pascagoula, Miss.

I'm sure that the million people left homeless and the families of the 10,000 (just guesses at this point) dead were comforted. Eventually this horror will seem like a dream because Trent Lott will have a fabulous house again.

I, too, look forward to sitting on Trent Lott's rebuilt porch, sipping a cool drink and enjoying the breeze from the Mississippi, someday soon. If life's been tough for you lately and you'd like to join us on the porch, you can tell the world by putting this bumper sticker on your expensively tanked up car.

Buying this bumper sticker has a more serious purpose, too, because all proceeds from sales will go to several different Katrina charities. These charities are all highly rated by In order to demonstrate good faith an update of amounts raised will be posted here often.

American Red Cross
Feed the Children
Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank
Mercy Corps

The creator of this project has started an email group at for all like-minded people who'd like to sit on Trent Lott's porch and discuss things:

Support the Hurricane Relief Efforts here:
(sticker design donated by )

And, the propergoose from the White House:

President Arrives in Alabama, Briefed on Hurricane Katrina

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first I want to say a few things. I am incredibly proud of our Coast Guard. We have got courageous people risking their lives to save life. And I want to thank the commanders and I want to thank the troops over there for representing the best of America.

I want to congratulate the governors for being leaders. You didn't ask for this, when you swore in, but you're doing a heck of a job. And the federal government's job is big, and it's massive, and we're going to do it. Where it's not working right, we're going to make it right. Where it is working right, we're going to duplicate it elsewhere. We have a responsibility, at the federal level, to help save life, and that's the primary focus right now. Every life is precious, and so we're going to spend a lot of time saving lives, whether it be in New Orleans or on the coast of Mississippi.

We have a responsibility to help clean up this mess, and I want to thank the Congress for acting as quickly as you did. Step one is to appropriate $10.5 billion. But I've got to warn everybody, that's just the beginning. That's a small down payment for the cost of this effort. But to help the good folks here, we need to do it.

We are going to restore order in the city of New Orleans, and we're going to help supplement the efforts of the Mississippi Guard and others to restore order in parts of Mississippi. And I want to thank you for your strong statement of zero tolerance. The people of this country expect there to be law and order, and we're going to work hard to get it. In order to make sure there's less violence, we've got to get food to people. And that's a primary mission, is to get food to people. And there's a lot of food moving. And now the -- it's one thing to get it moving to a station, it's the next thing to get it in the hands of the people, and that's where we're going to spend a lot of time focusing.

We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)

GOVERNOR RILEY: He'll be glad to have you.

THE PRESIDENT: Out of New Orleans is going to come that great city again. That's what's going to happen. But now we're in the darkest days, and so we got a lot of work to do. And I'm down here to thank people. I'm down here to comfort people. I'm down here to let people know that we're going to work with the states and the local folks with a strategy to get this thing solved.

Now, I also want to say something about the compassion of the people of Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and surrounding states. I want to thank you for your compassion. Now is the time to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourselves.

Governor Riley announced the fact that they're going to open up homes in military bases for stranded folks. And that's going to be very important and helpful.

My dad and Bill Clinton are going to raise money for governors' funds. The governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama will have monies available to them to help deal with the long-term consequences of this storm.

The faith-based groups and the community-based groups throughout this part of the world, and the country for that matter, are responding. If you want to help, give cash money to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. That's where the first help will come. There's going to be plenty of opportunities to help later on, but right now the immediate concern is to save lives and get food and medicine to people so we can stabilize the situation.

Again, I want to thank you all for -- and, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24 -- (applause) -- they're working 24 hours a day.

Again, my attitude is, if it's not going exactly right, we're going to make it go exactly right. If there's problems, we're going to address the problems. And that's what I've come down to assure people of. And again, I want to thank everybody.

And I'm not looking forward to this trip. I got a feel for it when I flew over before. It -- for those who have not -- trying to conceive what we're talking about, it's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by a -- the worst kind of weapon you can imagine. And now we're going to go try to comfort people in that part of the world.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 10:39 A.M. CDT

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Friday, September 16, 2005

New York Times reports: "Vatican to Check U.S. Seminaries on Gay Presence"

I thought that priests were supposed to be celibate, which I assume is their sexual orientation: celibacy. Maybe I am wrong, but I've always thought this way. You cannot be a gay celibate or a straight celibate, you are just celibate.

The Vatican has decided to invoke one of it's favorite tactics, the witch hunt, and is sending hundreds of fascists to America to interview everyone in every Catholic seminary to find out if there are any homosexuals.

Why aren't they looking for heterosexuals, too? Heterosexuality is just as much a violation of the vow of celibacy as is homosexuality. You are either celibate or you are not.

Their rationale, of course, is that 80% of those victimized by clergy in the most recent spate of church sex scandals were boys and they conclude that the pederasts who committed these crimes were homosexuals. However, they were not homosexuals, they were pederasts!

Sexual abuse of children is neither heterosexual or homosexual. In fact, most criminals of this ilk will rape any child they can lay their hands on, without regard to the child's sex or gender.

If I am celibate, I am not sexually oriented. I have eschewed sexual intercourse to pursue a more spiritual life.

I have done this. I chose celibacy for a year during the nineteen-nineties while I was exploring spiritual ideals. It was a fantastic experience. While I was celibate, I did not think of myself as straight or gay, because I was not sexual at all.

The policy of Rome to split celibates into different camps is absurd. If you are celibate, you are celibate, and you have not violated your vow of celibacy. To pretend that there is some magic way to prove that a celibate is sexually oriented towards one sex or the other is absurd. If the person does not have sex, then they cannot be deemed homo- or heterosexual.

So, why is the church seeking to dismiss just homosexuals? Shouldn't they be seeking-out all who have violated their vow of celibacy.

Who does The Vatican thinks become priests, virile, heterosexual young men?

How a church that deems itself universal can be so parochial continues to baffle me!

Here's the article from the Times. (Thanks to Richard for sending it along.):

September 15, 2005
Vatican to Check U.S. Seminaries on Gay Presence
Investigators appointed by the Vatican have been instructed to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for "evidence of homosexuality" and for faculty members who dissent from church teaching, according to a document prepared to guide the process.

The Vatican document, given to The New York Times yesterday by a priest, surfaces as Catholics await a Vatican ruling on whether homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood.

In a possible indication of the ruling's contents, the American archbishop who is supervising the seminary review said last week that "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations," should not be admitted to a seminary.

Edwin O'Brien, archbishop for the United States military, told The National Catholic Register that the restriction should apply even to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.

American seminaries are under Vatican review as a result of the sexual abuse scandal that swept the priesthood in 2002. Church officials in the United States and Rome agreed that they wanted to take a closer look at how seminary candidates were screened for admission, and whether they were being prepared for lives of chastity and celibacy.

The issue of gay seminarians and priests has been in the spotlight because a study commissioned by the church found last year that about 80 percent of the young people victimized by priests were boys.

Experts in human sexuality have cautioned that homosexuality and attraction to children are different, and that a disproportionate percentage of boys may have been abused because priests were more likely to have access to male targets - like altar boys or junior seminarians - than to girls.

But some church officials in the United States and in Rome, including some bishops and many conservatives, attributed the abuse to gay priests and called for an overhaul of the seminaries. Expectation for such a move rose this year with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who has spoken of the need to "purify" the church.

It is unknown how many Catholic priests are gay. Estimates range widely, from 10 percent to 60 percent.

The catechism of the Catholic Church says people with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies must live in chastity because "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."

The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, a former seminary rector who set off a controversy five years ago when he published a book asserting that "the priesthood is or is becoming a gay profession," said in an interview yesterday that many in the church had come to accept his observation.

But he said he was concerned that the seminary review would lead the church to ask celibate faculty members and seminarians to withdraw.

"That would be a major mistake from my perspective," said Father Cozzens, who teaches in the religious studies department at John Carroll University in Cleveland. "First, I think it's unfair if not unjust for committed gay seminarians and faculty who are leading chaste lives. And secondly, I don't know how you can really enforce that."

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a sociologist who resigned in May as editor of the Jesuit magazine America under pressure from the Vatican, said that with the shortage of priests, the church can hardly afford to dismiss gay seminarians.

"You could have somebody who's been in the seminary for five or six years and is planning to be ordained and the rector knows they're a homosexual," said Father Reese, now a visiting scholar at Santa Clara University in California. "What are they going to do, throw them out?

"It's much healthier if a seminarian can talk about their sexuality with a spiritual director, but this kind of policy is going to force it all underground."

Archbishop O'Brien, who is supervising the seminary review, did not respond to requests for interviews made to his office in Washington. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said the Vatican document was being reviewed by the pope and could be released this year.

The seminary review, called an apostolic visitation, will send teams appointed by the Vatican to the 229 seminaries, which have more than 4,500 students. The last such review began about 25 years ago and took six years to complete.

At each seminary, the visitors are to conduct confidential interviews with every faculty member and seminarian, as well as everyone who graduated in the last three years.

A 12-page document with instructions for the review is now being distributed to seminarians and faculty members. It asks whether the doctrine on the priesthood presented by the seminary is "solidly based on the church's Magisterium," or teaching, and whether teachers and seminarians "accept this teaching." Among the other questions are these:

¶"Is there a clear process for removing from the seminary faculty members who dissent from the authoritative teaching of the church or whose conduct does not provide good example to future priests?"

¶"Is the seminary free from the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality?"

¶"Do the seminarians or faculty members have concerns about the moral life of those living in the institution? (This question must be answered)."

¶"Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary? (This question must be answered)."

The questionnaire also asks whether faculty members "watch out for signs of particular friendships."

The Rev. Thomas Baima, provost of the largest seminary in the United States, St. Mary of the Lake, in Chicago, where the Vatican is sending nine interviewers, said such questions were no surprise.

"The reason we're having an apostolic visitation now is precisely in the aftermath of the clerical sexual-abuse scandal," Father Baima said. "Issues about screening our candidates, about formation for celibacy, about how we teach moral theology are going to get more attention than how we teach church history."

But one gay priest, who said he would not give his name because he has been told by his order not to speak out, said the seminary review would demoralize gay priests.

"It says to gay priests, many of whom are hard-working, faithful men who live their promises of celibacy with integrity, that you should never have been ordained," he said.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

One Scorecard

(Thanks to Bill Maher)

On President Bush's watch, we've lost 4 airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon, all our allies, an army, and now an entire city.

Can it really be just bad luck?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another Essay by E.L Doctorow

Edgar Lawrence Doctorow occupies a central position in the history of American literature. He is generally considered to be among the most talented, ambitious, and admired novelists of the second half of the twentieth century. Doctorow has received the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howell Medal of the *American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the residentially conferred National Humanities Medal*.

Doctorow was born in New York City on January 6, 1931. After graduating with honors from Kenyon College in 1952, he did graduate work at Columbia University and served in the U.S. Army. Doctorow was senior editor for New American Library from 1959 to 1964 and then served as editor in chief at Dial Press until 1969. Since then, he has devoted his time to writing and teaching. He holds the Glucksman Chair in American Letters at New York University and over the years has taught at several institutions, including Yale University Drama School, Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of California, Irvine.

I fault this president (George W. Bush) for not knowing what death is.

He does not suffer the death of our twenty-one year olds who wanted to be what they could be.

On the eve of D-day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it.

You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the WMDs he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man. He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life.... They come to his desk as a political liability which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that rather than controlling terrorism his war in Iraq has licensed it.

So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice. He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options, but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.

This president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing --- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends. A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children.

He is the President who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead; he does not feel for the thirty five million of us who live in poverty; he does not feel for the forty percent who cannot afford health insurance; he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills --- it is amazing for how many people in this country this President does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest one percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the safety regulations for coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a- half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.

And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneously aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen?

After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over the world most of the time. But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail: How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchial economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

Thanks to Richard for sending this along!

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Annual Neologism Contest

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (N.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (V.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (V.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (Adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (Adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (V.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (N.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (N.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (N.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (N.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (N.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (N), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (N.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (N.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (N.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any
word from the ictionary,alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (N.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (V): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (N.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (N): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (N): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (V): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (N): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (N): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (N): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (N.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (V): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (N): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (N.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (N.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (N.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (N): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Thanks to Gerry for sending this along!

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"The Larger Shame" - American Poverty

The difference between a great nation and a powerful nation is the way it treats its citizenry.

Prior to the Reagan Reaction, America was the greatest nation in the history of mankind. We were lucky to compare ourselves to the Soviet Union, one of the most powerful nations in the history of civilization, but an utter failure in taking care of its own. The USA was a great nation, the USSR a powerful nation.

Draconian social policies implemented to subsidize business at the expense of our nation's needy, beginning with Reagan and running straight through to the current American president, have destroyed America and have turned our nation from a great nation to a powerful nation, from a world leader to a regional leader.

The following article by Nicholas Kristof, appeared in the New York Times earlier this week. It is reprinted here without permission

"September 6, 2005
The Larger Shame
The wretchedness coming across our television screens from Louisiana has illuminated the way children sometimes pay with their lives, even in America, for being born to poor families.

It has also underscored the Bush administration's ongoing reluctance or ineptitude in helping the poorest Americans. The scenes in New Orleans reminded me of the suffering I saw after a similar storm killed 130,000 people in Bangladesh in 1991 - except that Bangladesh's government showed more urgency in trying to save its most vulnerable citizens.

But Hurricane Katrina also underscores a much larger problem: the growing number of Americans trapped in a never-ending cyclone of poverty. And while it may be too early to apportion blame definitively for the mishandling of the hurricane, even President Bush's own administration acknowledges that America's poverty is worsening on his watch.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a few days ago that the poverty rate rose again last year, with 1.1 million more Americans living in poverty in 2004 than a year earlier. After declining sharply under Bill Clinton, the number of poor people has now risen 17 percent under Mr. Bush.

If it's shameful that we have bloated corpses on New Orleans streets, it's even more disgraceful that the infant mortality rate in America's capital is twice as high as in China's capital. That's right - the number of babies who died before their first birthdays amounted to 11.5 per thousand live births in 2002 in Washington, compared with 4.6 in Beijing.

Indeed, according to the United Nations Development Program, an African-American baby in Washington has less chance of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban parts of the state of Kerala in India.

Under Mr. Bush, the national infant mortality rate has risen for the first time since 1958. The U.S. ranks 43rd in the world in infant mortality, according to the C.I.A.'s World Factbook; if we could reach the level of Singapore, ranked No. 1, we would save 18,900 children's lives each year.

So in some ways the poor children evacuated from New Orleans are the lucky ones because they may now get checkups and vaccinations. Nationally, 29 percent of children had no health insurance at some point in the last 12 months, and many get neither checkups nor vaccinations. On immunizations, the U.S. ranks 84th for measles and 89th for polio.

One of the most dispiriting elements of the catastrophe in New Orleans was the looting. I covered the 1995 earthquake that leveled much of Kobe, Japan, killing 5,500, and for days I searched there for any sign of criminal behavior. Finally I found a resident who had seen three men steal food. I asked him whether he was embarrassed that Japanese would engage in such thuggery.

"No, you misunderstand," he said firmly. "These looters weren't Japanese. They were foreigners."

The reasons for this are complex and partly cultural, but one reason is that Japan has tried hard to stitch all Japanese together into the nation's social fabric. In contrast, the U.S. - particularly under the Bush administration - has systematically cut people out of the social fabric by redistributing wealth from the most vulnerable Americans to the most affluent.

It's not just that funds may have gone to Iraq rather than to the levees in New Orleans; it's also that money went to tax cuts for the wealthiest rather than vaccinations for children.

None of this is to suggest that there are easy solutions for American poverty. As Ronald Reagan once said, "We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won." But we don't need to be that pessimistic - in the late 1990's, we made real headway. A ray of hope is beautifully presented in one of the best books ever written on American poverty, "American Dream," by my Times colleague Jason DeParle.

So the best monument to the catastrophe in New Orleans would be a serious national effort to address the poverty that afflicts the entire country. And in our shock and guilt, that may be politically feasible. Rich Lowry of The National Review, in defending Mr. Bush, offered an excellent suggestion: "a grand right-left bargain that includes greater attention to out-of-wedlock births from the Left in exchange for the Right's support for more urban spending." That would be the best legacy possible for Katrina.

Otherwise, long after the horrors have left TV screens, about 50 of the 77 babies who die each day, on average, will die needlessly, because of poverty. That's the larger hurricane of poverty that shames our land. "

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bob Denver, 70

Dobie Gillis reruns and Gilligan's Island new shows were a huge part of my childhood television viewing. How about you?

This in from Deatwatch Central

Actor Bob Denver Passes Away

"With a simple message on his website, the family of actor Bob Denver let the world know that he had passed away September 2, 2005, at age 70.

At the time of his death, Denver had been undergoing cancer treatments at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. His wife of 28 years, Dreama, and their four children, Patrick, Megan, Emily and Colin, were at his side when he went.

Born in 1935, Denver first rose to fame as Maynard G. Krebs, the zany sidekick on the 1950s tv show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. But it was as the title character on the 1960s television show Gilligan's Island, a show that still lives on in syndicated repeats forty years later, that he is best known.

Following the cancellation of Gilligan's Island, he appeared on the 1975 children's show Far Out Space Nuts, as well as a few movies, but never achieved the same level of stardom, even with a devoted fan base.

In a statement issued by the family, Dreama states, "Bob was and always will be my everything. To be loved so completely was his greatest gift to me . . . . Ours lives will never be the same without him."

The family also requests that in lieu of flowers or gifts, a donation be made to: The Denver Foundation, Inc.; Po Box 931; Princeton, WV 24740.

No memorial information has been released yet."

The Bob Denver Website


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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Alex Chilton Found

Alex Chilton, Lead singer of The BoxTops, co-founder of Big Star, the musicians' musician extrodinaire had been missing in the New Orleans disaster and not heard from since last Monday.

Rumors flew and sightings were reported, but no friends or family had heard from him.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard rescued Chilton from his home, flew him out of New Orleans, and he is safely ensconced in a hotel far from the flood waters.

The story is that after he dcided to stay, the water reached only the top of his porch and he sustained on canned goods until rescue. I've heard he lost some weight but is in good health.

Thanks to all those who stayed on top of the story, including the folks at the Alex Chilton Yahoo! Message Board, and band members who refused to give up until he was found.

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Alex Chilton

Friday, September 02, 2005

Joke - A Moral Dilemma

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally.

The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

Please scroll down slowly and give due consideration to each line.

You are in Florida, Miami to be specific. There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are a photo journalist working for a major newspaper, and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless. You're trying to shoot career-making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive fury.

Suddenly you see a man floundering in the water. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris. You move closer . . . somehow the man looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it is.

It's George W. Bush!

At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take him under . . . forever. You have two options--you can save the life of G.W. Bush or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world's most powerful men.

So here's the question, and please give an honest answer:

Would you select high contrast color film, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gasoline Prices

Four bucks a gallon in New York! But, that's not so bad. Look at this gas station in Georgia:

A gas station in Stockbridge, Ga., posts prices for gasoline from $5.87 to $6.07 per gallon Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005. (AP Photo/Gene Blythe)

It's a good thing we're spending a billion dollars a day to conquer an oil-producing nation! Look how well it's working out!

See the original story at Yahoo!

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