Sarah van Gelder: Stand With Van Jones, A Real Patriot

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Van Jones is the target of the day for the right-wing attack machine. Will they succeed in driving him from his post as a green jobs adviser to the White House?

Van was a contributing editor for YES! Magazine from 2006 until he went to work at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, so I’ve had a chance to see how he works. He is among the most patriotic people I’ve met. I’ve seen him inspire young inner-city youth and elderly retirees with his focus on solutions that are in the best interest of all of us, and when he speaks, he shows his passion for the people, natural environment, and values that make our country great.

Van is a bridge builder. He implores disaffected urban youth to not only fight for their own jobs and futures, but to work for a green and clean future that can sustain us all. Then he reminds environmentalists that there must be a place for everyone in their green future, including those who need jobs today. He’s led efforts toward what may be our best hope–building the momentum we need to avert climate catastrophe while rebuilding our economy.

“The smartest things we can do in the short term pay for themselves,” he told me in a November 2008 interview.

“If we were to weatherize and retrofit millions of buildings in the United States, the energy cost savings would let you pay for that work in two to four years. So we literally are wasting money, time, and our planet when there are cost-effective, revenue-positive answers here that would put people to work.”

This interview with Van Jones took place shortly after the election of Barack Obama and the overwhelming victory of Democrats in Congress, a time when progressives could easily have been gloating over their lopsided victory. Instead, Van Jones invited everyone, especially fellow progressives, to put aside differences and self-righteousness and work with all Americans.

“I think that we’ve gotten ourselves into a bit of a logjam of accusation and blame on all sides of American politics,” he said. “It’s time for some of us to give up the addiction to being righteous, being victims, and having the right to be mad at somebody. … There’s still more good in each and every person than there is bad–there is still more reason for us to work together than for us to fight.”

A “vast left-wing conspiracy”
Glenn Beck of Fox News is going the other way.

As part of his attack on Jones, Beck claims to have uncovered “a vast, left-wing conspiracy” among those who care about the environment, about working families, and about people of all races.

“All right. You know, what we’re uncovering here on this program is complex, and it is — it takes a lot of our day just to figure out how to explain it to you,” Beck said in his July 28, 2009 broadcast.

“And it’s complex by design — you know, it’s the vast left-wing conspiracy. The Apollo Alliance combines environmental policy — the green movement — with labor and social justice.”

A shocking notion, indeed, that we might all work together! Of course this effort is hardly a conspiracy; it’s been happening right out in the open; YES! Magazine, for one, has been covering this movement for years. And there’s nothing conspiratorial about smart energy policies that makes us less dependent on foreign oil while providing Americans with jobs that can’t be sent overseas.

But Beck is correct that it is “vast.” It’s so big because so many people get on board when they realize that they can be part of a movement that offers all of us a hopeful future.

Standing up
So here’s the choice point. If President Obama caves in to the right-wing attack machine with its conspiracy theories and over-the-top accusation, he would not only lose a leader with deep integrity and enormous respect among those who worked so hard for the 2008 election victory. He would also lose a brilliant policy adviser on some of the most important issues of our time. And he will be throwing red meat to the sharks who will inevitably attempt to pick off his top people–the attack machine is already at work on White House climate science adviser John Holdren.

Caving in to these unfounded charges means, in other words, giving up hope of making real change on the issues that matter: health care, climate change, economic restructuring– the very things that the majority of Americans elected Barack Obama to do. We’ll soon see if President Obama and his top staff have the strength to stand up to the right-wing attack machine and if they will carry out the agenda Americans elected them to accomplish.

Get to know Van Jones better:
Van Jones: Beyond the Politics of Confrontation
Meet the man who’s convincing the country, and the new President, that the next economy needs to be green and just. Interview by Sarah van Gelder.

Green-Collar Jobs for Urban America
Oakland discovers that green-collar jobs can revitalize its economy and sets out on the path to becoming a ‘global green city.’

Two Crises, One Solution
We face devastation of the natural world and violence in human communities. There’s a way to solve both these crises.

David Korten: Who is Van Jones?

A former employer who knows Van well corrects the record

Thomas Friedman’s New York Times article about Van Jones

Van on the Colbert Report

Mona Gable: Obama Going to Talk to Kids: Yikes!

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I’m so glad my children aren’t in elementary school anymore. Otherwise I’d be spending the whole Labor Day weekend fretting over next Tuesday instead of cleaning the ashes out of my ears. 

Tuesday, as you all know, unless you’ve been preoccupied with your house burning down or ominous mushroom clouds like we have here in LA, is when President Obama is set to give his “socialist” talk to the nation’s schoolchildren.

Mind you, no one has actually seen a copy of the president’s speech. But that hasn’t stopped right-wing crazies and Republicans from insisting that Obama is going to brainwash our kids with his radical ideas about health care, banking, and taxes. All in the span of a few propaganda-packed minutes.

Some parents have demanded that their children be excused from hearing the president speak. I’m taking a wild guess, but I’m pretty sure that African-American parents won’t be joining them.

You’d think Obama was showing kids on live TV how to slip a condom on a banana.

Clearly, none of these people has ever never taught a group of squirming six-year-olds like I have, much less a class of smart-mouthy fifth graders or opinionated 16-year-olds in AP U.S. History or they wouldn’t be so alarmed. I know this comes as a shock, but students don’t hang on every adult word. They’re also curiously able to think for themselves.

But tell that to Jim Greer. Greer, the chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, has been the most vocal, if not the most literate, opponent of Obama’s speech. (An aside here: Notice how it is always Florida and Texas that cause such a political ruckus?)

If you didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the Senate hopeful on the news, here’s what Greer said in a press release:

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology. President Obama has turned to the American’s [sic] children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American’s [sic] youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves.”

Asked repeatedly where he got the notion that Obama was going to talk about health care and other policy matters when he hadn’t actually read the text, Greer strangely couldn’t answer.

But strangely Education Secretary Arne Duncan could. And here’s what he said about the content of Obama’s speech in an interview with AP:

“What’s so fun about working for the president is this is so personal for him. He did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father wasn’t around much….And here he is, the president of our country, the leader of the free world, because he received a great education and worked so hard. He’s challenging all of us, but he is absolutely going to challenge students and parents to take their education seriously, to really have personal responsibility.”

Now critics are saying that it’s not the phantom speech that has gotten them riled up. But the lesson plans the Department of Education sent to teachers suggesting, among other ideas, that younger students write Obama letters offering how they can “help” the president. Or that high schoolers answer such cult-of-personality questions as, “What is President Obama inspiring you to do?”

That’s it. I am never sending the teenagers to school again.

Since the Education Department’s lesson plans caused such a fuss, I’d like to propose my own essay questions that teachers can use in conjunction with the president’s speech. (Caution: They are not organized according to grade level.)

1) Who is Jim Greer? And why doesn’t he know basic rules of grammar?

2) What is a socialist? (Parents must answer this question, too.) Name a current leader of a socialist country or one from the 20th century. (Hint: It is not an American president.)

3) Why do you think Obama gave this speech to the nation’s students? What was he trying to say?

4) What did you think about it? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

5) Write your own speech as if you were addressing the nation’s students. (Hint: Avoid all socialist rhetoric or points will be deducted.)

6) Why do you think some students’ parents (not yours, of course) wouldn’t let their children watch the president speak? Do you believe they had that right? Why or why not?

7) What is the high-school dropout rate in Texas and Florida?

And finally, for extra credit: As a young person, what can you do to make America better?

Gail McGowan Mellor: The New Town Hall Reality: Why Did Congressman Baron Hill (D-IN) Blow Up?

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Tall, tanned, white-haired, U.S. Congressional Representative Baron Hill (D-IN) at his August 31, 2009 town hall meeting at Indiana University Southeast (IUS), New Albany, said to the crowd, “I would rather go to the dentist than be here.”

“At least he’s telling the truth on that score,” muttered a man in the back.

Thanks to the clear cool evening, when the crowd overflowed the hall in New Albany, it could spread outside onto the back patio where people watched Hill through a green glass wall, near a loudspeaker and extra microphone. No AK-47s and strapped-down handguns, as had been seen outside some town meetings farther west, were in the Indiana meeting. People were polite and even relaxed enough to chuckle whenever someone spoke with dry Indiana wit. Yet Hill silenced would-be hecklers by saying “Let me answer that before you interrupt, please!” “Respect her! She has a right to express her opinion!” and “I would prefer that we not turn this into the Jerry Springer Show!” as citizens stepped up to the mikes or as the crowd responded to the questioners and then to Hill’s answers by murmuring, laughing, quietly hissing or applauding.

Their anger and anguish simmered and spit. So apparently did his.

Four days later, at a meeting in Indiana University Bloomington (IUB), farther north in Indiana, Hill grabbed headlines by erupting at a young student journalist — there to talk about the recent death of her mother and her own commitment to health care reform. Congress was soon buzzing with it. Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY) from across the river in Louisville, Kentucky recounted, “Baron Hill may have lost his job that night. He had a town hall in Bloomington and apparently banned recorders. When a 17-year-old girl asked why, he kind of went ballistic on her and said ‘I set the rules and no one tells me how to run my office!'”

It also hit cable and YouTube.

There are clues in the first, New Albany, town hall meeting about what went wrong later in Bloomington. It is a snapshot of a deeply aroused nation, watching its representatives like hawks now, of a vibrant democracy returning and of representatives who are perhaps not used to constituents demanding transparency, records and accountability.

Democrat Hill is a conservative from a conservative area. (By no means all Democrats are progressives.) Elected to Congress before, an old hand, the returning Hill had swiftly hooked up with the Blue Dog Coalition, 52 Democrats who are a factor delaying for example passage of the American Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), thus becoming a crucial swing vote on epochal legislation. Hill — whose website accurately shows the national debt spinning as fast as an electric meter whirls, though the site’s numbers are arguably misleading — has called for cutbacks or more government savings or income to balance the spending. His constituents do not agree about what stance he should take next.

Indeed many said they were not sure where he stood. Constituents at the New Albany town hall whispered that on Hill’s government website under Issues, he stated that health care was a right, but said little about how to provide it, let alone cost-effectively. When searched for “health care bill,” the site accessed Thomas, a U.S. government database that coughed up only old health care bills. When “single payer” or “public option” was entered in the search box, it brought up no reference more recent than 2004. Even when the accurate number of the main 2009 reform bill, H.R. 3200, was entered, Hill’s site–or Thomas— wrongly identified it as a proposal “to expand the travel and transportation allowances available to members of the Armed Forces granted leave….”

They wanted firm statements on contentious issues. Indiana, a long rectangular state stretching from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes, is surrounded by Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio. The people of Indiana, called “Hoosiers,” voted for Obama by a razor-thin margin. Reflecting that partisan split and a practical Midwestern attitude, the demonstrators who lined the front walk of the New Albany town meeting waved competing signs that read, “No ‘Socialized Medicine’ AKA Obamacare” ” Yes to the Public Option,” “True Health Reform Starts with Tort Reform,” “Yes to Single Payer” and “How About a Czar of Common Sense?

Hill could not represent an Indiana consensus view, because there was none; whatever he chose to do, it would cost him votes. Some wanted no change, some wanted better-regulated private health insurance with rule-making left to the States, or federal tax rebates for employers providing health care, or federally-regulated private insurance with a public option or full public “single payer.” Citizens called out to Hill, “Will you vote the way that we would on health care reform?” threatening not to re-elect Hill if he did not do so. The usual unfounded rumors were floating but it was clear moreover that many people were doing their homework. Quite a few referenced H.R. 3200, the 1000-page bill main health care bill, by section and clause, and they wanted firm explanations from him.

Cost was one of the people’s two main concerns. The U.S. government had four main ways of funding massive reform: raising taxes, bringing greater efficiency in programs and shifting money from unneeded ones, borrowing from (by selling U.S. Treasury bonds to) nations like China, or “watching the Federal Reserve — which is not a government agency — print money.” Other nations had not demanded repayment of the staggering U.S. debt yet but creditors could pull the rug out from under the U.S., which as recently as the 1970s had owed no one. Marvin Comstock, a retired Jeffersonville police officer, growled, “The U.S. is broke. If I write a check out of my checkbook that I can’t cover, they’re gonna’ arrest me for fraud. How does the government keep spending money?”

Standing on the demonstration line with his wife and small children, a man identifying himself only as “Travis” said, “Here are my three boys, who as future citizens already have unfunded liabilities of $1.3 million! I’m 39 years old, heading a family business. We pay for our employees’ insurance. It’s a huge expenditure but we feel it’s the moral thing to do. I do not oppose public health care but how are they going to pay for it when they’ve already run up a $1.5 trillion deficit? If I did business that way, I could not keep my doors open! The only way to pay for that has got to be to tax me more or to borrow more in my children’s names.”

Nancy Tierney who had recently moved to New Albany, looked at costs and came to a different conclusion. “The providers [doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals] should get all our health care money, not those pencil pushers at the top of the private insurance companies who are profiting from our being sick. We need to transfer our health care dollars to them with as little overhead as possible.”

The greater concern for many was staying alive.

Folks spoke of medical bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars, of bankruptcy, decades of suffering with chronic illness, or family deaths because private insurers had canceled policies or rejected legitimate claims. Most people without insurance had jobs — had they been completely busted, they would have been eligible for Medicaid. Those old enough to remember vastly lower costs though were often appalled that anyone needed help in paying health care bills at all. His face red and contorted, a weather-beaten man who refused to give his name roared, “Decades back, on just $4.25 an hour I managed to pay a hospital and doctors for medical care for a collapsed lung, took me years but I did it, so why can’t everybody else? I hate socialism! Why do I have to pay other people’s bills for them? I say, ‘Get a damned job!'”

Dusty O’Brien, with advanced cancer, retorted, “They say, ‘Get out and work for it.’ I’ve been working since I was fourteen years old! I plan on living to retirement regardless of what the doctor tell me but when I reach it, I won’t be 65 yet; and even with this cancer, won’t have Medicare.”

“Where were all of you people who are worried about cost: when we got into this war that we didn’t need to be in?” a voice interjected. Another called out, “We’re spending three thousand dollars a second for a mistake in Iraq!” Another: “What about the trillions being given to bad banks? Shouldn’t money go instead to the people? We’re workers, taxpayers in the richest country on earth! Why should we die from lack of medical care?”

Many wondered if Representative Hill understood the other costs of NOT reforming the U.S. health care system fast. “I am holding in my hand a school system check written to my mother, a check for seventeen cents — that was her net income after the insurance costs were subtracted! Private insurance companies are breaking the school system…and U.S. business…and families,” said Mark Megenity of English, IN, a tanned man in a bright green shirt, as he explained that he had spent 30 years as a teacher, was past president of the county teacher’s association, a past negotiator for the school system with private insurance companies, and in retirement was a small business owner.

“The health insurance subtraction from teacher and pension paychecks grows greater each year, so their net pay is dwindling.” Megenity elaborated privately: “New small businesses, which are the main U.S. job creator, can’t compete for workers with established companies offering health insurance, and often go under before they can create new jobs. U.S. business in general cannot compete fairly against other developed nations, which furnish national health care so business can get on its feet.”

As it stood, private insurance ate over 20% in administrative fees, as compared to 3% for government programs like Medicare. Increasing numbers of U.S. voters therefore wanted to corral “the greedy middle men,” to let each citizen choose to enter either a private insurance plan like Aetna or a pubic insurance program similar to that which Congress was already giving itself. That was the “public option” in the main reform bill, H.R. 3200. Some people screamed “socialism,” but public roads are socialism, something everyone can access and taxpayers fund….

Butch Ragland, a Jeffersonville retiree, said “Emotions trump reason, are terrible advisers for behavior. Some fear the word ‘socialism’ without considering what it means. An emergency 911 [telephone] line is socialism and it saved my life. Don’t get lost in labels. Think this through.”

A “Single Payer bill” (H.R. 676) had gathered some momentum in Congress before the August recess. A federal health-care purchasing pool, Single Payer was socialized health insurance, not socialized medicine, replacing private insurers while leaving individuals the freedom of choosing their doctors and hospital providers. According to Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), “there are literally tens of thousands of different” private organizations–HMOs, billing agencies, various insurance corporations. “By having so many different payers of health care fees, there is an enormous amount of administrative waste generated in the system.” In a single-payer system, the government collects insurance fees and then health care providers like doctors and hospitals bill it for their services. Single payer “reduces administrative waste greatly, and saves money, which can be used to provide care and insurance to those who currently don’t have it.”

First giving a brief speech, Hill had then answered a barrage of questions that did not stop when the meeting ended. Crowding around him, the people wanted him on record, in detail.

Answering them in bits and pieces both in the meeting and after it, Hill described health coverage as each citizen’s right and stated that federal reform must be immediate because both inefficient health care and the soaring insurance costs were a major factor breaking the already teetering U.S. economy. “We’ve been debating this for 60 years, leaving it to the individual states and the private sector and they did not get it done. The federal government must act….The current system is broken. Heath care cost is just swallowing everything up.” While Representative Hill did not take a position on the “single payer” bill, H.R. 676, he did say that he would “like to support the public option” on H.R. 3200, to give each citizen a choice between private and public heath insurance, with both plans dependent on private providers, leaving people free to choose. Unlike Democratic progressives who were holding firm for a public option, conservative Hill however would “not insist on it.”

Effective health care reform he said should bring the insurance and out-of-pocket cost to individual families tumbling, making health care available, affordable and predictable, but there was a trade-off. Doing it partly by raising taxes Hill said was “probably unavoidable.”

“At least,” the muttering man in the crowd said, “he’s telling the truth on that score.”

Perhaps Hill’s blow-up has wrecked his chances, perhaps not, but it raises interesting questions. How will representatives accustomed to a less alive electorate weather the storm? If Blue Dog Democrat Hill has little time left as congressman, will that corner him or free him to act? Do term limits work?

>>>>This article is part of Huffington Post’s Eyes and Ears reporting on town hall meetings across the country.<<<<

NJ-Gov: Christie Caught In Another Scandal

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So, it has been well established over the last two weeks that New Jersey GOP gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie has been a one-man traffic wrecking crew in his adult life. Apparently, it gets much, much worse:

[In 2002] Christie hit a motorcyclist after making a wrong-turn that had him briefly going the wrong way down a one-way street in Elizabeth. The motorcyclist ended up in hospital, but Christie didn’t get so much as a ticket. And a police official told the Star Ledger that Christie “did identify himself as U.S. attorney.”

That would seem to contravene Justice Department guidelines on standards of conduct.

So, just like the 2005 case where he was stopped for speeding and driving an unregistered and uninsured car, Chris Christie pulled out the “do you know who I am” card, and got off lighter than the average citizen could ever hope for.

So, define Christie as a really lousy driver, and a guy who tries to use his status to avoid proper punishment. You can also, apparently, add liar to the mix:

We asked Christie about the accident in Atlantic City Friday and he was very curt with his answers. NJN South Jersey Bureau Chief Kent St. John asked if there was a lawsuit. Christie said “no” then “nope.”

But actually there was. According to the Superior Court Record Center in Trenton, Mendonca filed suit in 2004. The complaint filed in Essex County was later dismissed, indicating ( according to the Clerk ) an out of court settlement.

So, we have a Bush-era U.S. Attorney, who abuses his power, and has trouble telling the truth.

No wonder he was not one of the ones unceremoniously dumped during Bush’s second term.

David Sirota: A Party Is Not a Movement

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The difference between parties and movements is simple: Parties are loyal to their own power regardless of policy agenda; movements are loyal to their own policy agenda regardless of which party champions it. This is one of the few enduring political axioms, and it explains why the organizations purporting to lead an American progressive “movement” have yet to build a real movement, much less a successful one.

Though the 2006 and 2008 elections were billed as progressive movement successes, the story behind them highlights a longer-term failure.

During those contests, most of Washington’s major labor, environmental, antiwar and anti-poverty groups spent millions of dollars on a party objective — specifically, on electing a Democratic president and Congress. In the process, many groups subverted their own movement agendas in pursuit of electoral unity.

The effort involved a sleight of hand. These groups begged their grassroots members — janitors, soccer moms, veterans and other “regular folks” — to cough up small-dollar contributions in return for the promise of progressive movement pressure on both parties’ politicians. Simultaneously, these groups went to dot-com and Wall Street millionaires, asking them to chip in big checks in exchange for advocacy that did not undermine those fat cats’ Democratic Party friends (or those millionaires’ economic privilege).

This wasn’t totally dishonest. Many groups sincerely believed that Democratic Party promotion was key to achieving progressive movement causes. Additionally, during the Bush era, pushing progressive causes and helping Democrats was often one and the same, because those causes primarily indicted Republican obstructionists.

But after the 2008 election, the strategy’s bankruptcy is undeniable.

As we now see, union dues underwrote Democratic lawmakers who today block serious labor law reform and ignore past promises to fix NAFTA. Green groups’ resources elected a government that pretends sham “cap and trade” bills represent environmental progress. Health care groups, promising to push a single-payer system, got a president not only dropping his own single-payer promises, but also backing off a “public option” to compete with private insurance. And anti-war funding delivered a Congress that refuses to stop financing the Iraq mess and an administration preparing to escalate the Afghanistan conflict.

Of course, frustrated progressives might be able to forgive the groups who promised different results, had these post-election failures prompted course corrections.

For example, had the left’s preeminent institutions responded to Democrats’ health care capitulation by immediately announcing campaigns against these Democrats, progressives could feel confident that these groups were back to prioritizing a movement agenda. Likewise, had the big anti-war organizations reacted to Obama’s Afghanistan escalation plans with promises of electoral retribution, we would know those organizations were steadfastly loyal to their anti-war brand.

But that hasn’t happened. Despite Democrats’ health care retreat, many major progressive groups spent the summer cheering them on, afraid to lose access and, thus, Beltway status. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that has “yet to take a clear position on Afghanistan” while VoteVets’ leader all but genuflected to President Barack Obama, saying, “People (read: professional political operatives) do not want to take on the administration.”

In this vacuum, movement building has been left to underfunded (but stunningly successful) projects like, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and local organizations. And that’s the lesson: True grassroots movements that deliver concrete legislative results are not steered by marble-columned monoliths, wealthy benefactors or celebrity politicians — and they are rarely ever headquartered in Washington. They are almost always far-flung efforts by those focused on real-world results, not partisan vanity — those who don’t care about congressional cocktail parties or White House soirees they were never invited to in the first place.

Only when enough progressives realize this truism, will any movement — and any significant change — finally commence.

Saturday reading: Afghanization

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Laura Rozen arrives at Politico with a memo about Afghanization.

Mike and Carrie preview Obama’s address.

Baucus’s plan is coming.

Grijalva says Obama gets it.

Palin’s resignation was pricey.

And Kit Bond wants a Jones hearing.

The Lessons Obama Learned From Clinton’s Health Plan Defeat

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Before Congress’s August break, the chief aides to Senate Democrats met in a nondescript Senate conference room with three former advisers to President Bill Clinton. The topic: lessons learned the last time a Democratic president tried, but failed disastrously, to overhaul the health care system.

Scott Maxwell is out of the office, and ‘thank God for talk radio’

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The out-of-office reply for the Orlando Sentinel columnist who dared mock critics of Obama’s speech to students:

I will be out of the office through the Labor Day weekend and may not get your message until next week.

But I did want to say thank you for writing.

If you said something kind, it means a lot that you would take the time to do so. I know you have a lot of other things you could be doing. So it is truly appreciated. And please know that I read all of my email.

And if you’re writing to say something mean (and I magine that many of you are, given the topics I wrote about this weekend), then how about I save both of us some time and admit to the following:

Yes, I’m a hack.
No, of course my mother didn’t have me intentionally.
And yes, my only goal in life is to disparage your deeply held beliefs, regardless of the facts … which is probably why I’m part of a dying medium that you will never read again. And thank God for talk radio.

There, now I hope we both feel better.

Thanks for reading. Scott

Jon O’Brien: We Believe in Health Care Reform

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The health care system in the United States is broken. Forty-seven million people are uninsured and 30 million more are under-insured. With the current state of the economy, men and women around the country are struggling to make ends meet. They are making the tough decisions between putting food on the table and going to the doctor. Now, more than ever, we need a system that works for everyone. We need health care reform.

As Catholics, we believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. Keeping in mind Catholic social teaching which calls for a preferential option for the poor and knowing that those living in poverty are the most adversely affected by our health care system, we believe in a universal health care system that provides comprehensive health care to every person living in the United States.

As President Barack Obama, his Administration and Congress work to repair and rebuild our health care system, the Catholic bishops and their conservative allies are undermining this work by seeking to obliterate any sexual and reproductive health care services from the plan, mainly through spreading myths about the nature of the health care reform proposals.

While it is important to debunk these myths, we also cannot risk missing the forest for the trees. Not only must we debunk any myths about health care reform, we must also speak out in favor of including sexual and reproductive health care in any health care reform plan.

We believe that contraception should not just be affordable, it should be free.

Oftentimes, women and men living in poverty choose less-costly contraceptive options, if they choose to use contraceptives at all. When contraception is not free and when insurance only covers certain contraceptives, the freedom to choose which contraceptive best fits one’s lifestyle is taken away. We believe that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, should have that choice.

Providing contraceptives free of charge will save taxpayer money. For every one dollar spent by the federal government to provide contraception to people living in poverty through Title X and Medicaid, it saves over four dollars. It’s not just good for the soul; it is good for the pocketbooks of the American people.

Currently, health care reform plans include provisions that would allow states to use federal funds to provide birth control assistance to women who do not qualify for Medicaid. Otherwise, the coverage of contraception remains the same — good but not great.

As access to free contraception provides men and women with the resources they need to lead happy and healthy lives and saves money, including provisions for free contraception ought to be obvious to the architects of health care reform.

We believe that abortion should be federally funded and covered by all insurance companies.

Abortion has emerged, not surprisingly given the myopic mindset of social conservatives, as a key issue in the health care reform debate. Fear mongering has become all too common, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and others demanding that any mention of abortion be stripped from the health care reform plan.

The bishops’ protest to the inclusion of abortion in health care reform is particularly disturbing given their peculiar view on sexual and reproductive health — a view that is not generally shared by Catholics or the American public. The bishops would do well to remind themselves of the declarations of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom for all. It goes against these principles for the bishops to require health care reform proposals that will affect all Americans — Catholic and non-Catholic — to conform to the minority outlook of the church hierarchy on sexual and reproductive health.

Some anti-choice groups have suggested that the president’s health care reform plan will overturn the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding of abortion, and force all insurance companies to cover the procedure. Although this is blatantly untrue, we believe that the health care reform plan should indeed include federal funding for abortion and require insurance companies to cover this vital procedure.

Other groups have suggested that abortion should be left out of the debate because it is too divisive. Here, they are wrong. A poll by the bishops themselves found that 89 percent of American adults believe that abortion should be provided in some or all cases.

All of these groups, however, neglect to mention that abortion is a legal medical procedure in the United States and should be covered in health care reform. Women’s lives depend on it.

We believe that all men and women should be able to access affordable assisted reproductive technology services.

Just as men and women need access to family planning services in order to choose when and if they have children, those who are unable to conceive but wish to have children must also be supported.

Currently, assisted reproductive technology (ART) services are generally reserved for only those of means due to high costs and limited insurance coverage for these procedures. In states that mandate insurance coverage for ART procedures, however, the rate of utilization is nearly three times that in states that do not mandate coverage.

In addition to helping men and women expand their families, covering ART is also economically advantageous for the country. For instance, the cost of in vitro fertilization comes back seven-fold once the child enters the workforce and pays taxes.

Income level should never be a determinate of who does and does not receive treatment for infertility.

We believe that women who choose to continue their pregnancy should have access to quality pre- and postnatal care.

Every year, nearly one million pregnant women from the United States do not receive adequate medical attention before or after giving birth. Maternity and childbirth costs far outweigh costs for any other medical procedure. Due to the high costs of these procedures, pregnant women across the country have found that the services are profit-driven rather than compelled by evidence about quality maternity care.

All pregnant women should have access to quality maternity care and we are pleased that currently health care reform proposals will cover all pre- and postnatal care. However, the quality of care currently administered under private insurers and Medicaid plans also needs to be vastly improved.

Just as women who choose to end a pregnancy should be supported, so too must women who choose to continue a pregnancy. Merely covering the costs of pre- and postnatal care is not enough. Health care reform proposals should also improve the quality of pre- and postnatal care.

We believe that access to HIV prevention, care and treatment should be covered.

Nearly half of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States lack access to the health care services they need. Many living with HIV are considered “too healthy” to obtain Medicaid benefits but cannot afford or are denied private insurance coverage. Because private insurers often refuse to cover people with HIV, only one in five people living with HIV have private insurance coverage.

Health care reform efforts must include ways to provide coverage for all people living with HIV and also include strong provisions on prevention. With nearly 60,000 people newly infected with HIV each year in the United States, the rate of new HIV infections remains disturbingly high.

Luckily, the health care reform plan does include provisions on HIV/AIDS. The plan will allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income people living with HIV who are currently “too healthy” to obtain coverage and also increase the number of people who benefit from the AIDS Drug Assistance program. Finally, the plan contains several prevention and wellness provisions that will increase access to voluntary HIV testing and other prevention methods. More can always be done, but this is a good start.

We believe in health care reform.

Surely, the church hierarchy and their conservative allies will continue to wave their flags against any inclusion of sexual and reproductive health in healthcare reform. However, bowing to the cries of this minority will be gravely harmful to men and women throughout the country.

An overwhelming 71 percent of Americans support provisions for sexual and reproductive health in healthcare reform, according to a recent poll by the National Women’s Law Center. Back in November, a majority of Catholics voted for the proc-hoice presidential candidate knowing that he maintains common sense values on sexual and reproductive health. Catholics for Choice stands with President Obama and this majority who understand the fundamental need for sexual and reproductive health care services in the United States.

Sexual and reproductive health care is a vital part of the well-being of our society. When men and women have access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health care, our country is healthier and stronger. And without a doubt, we can all agree that a stronger country is better for everyone.

Brian Ross: Kids, Stay Away from the President… He has.. SOCIALISM!!

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Just when you thought that Fox News could not try harder divorce themselves from any shred of credibility as a news organization, comes the latest amplification of hate speech against President Obama. Apparently the President of the United States of America is not fit to speak to our kids at in a public school webcast on education because he has contagious SOCIALISM.

Here is my contribution to the hysteria:

Of course, that is not nearly as extreme as Fox News’ drum-beat to burn into the brains of right-wingers the notion that President Obama is a dangerous socialist.

The propaganda ranges from this “news story” where D.C. Managing Editor and VP of News for Fox Bill Sammon briefs us on the potential dangers of Obama using a speech to kids to “further his agenda”:

To the completely over-the-top histrionics on the O’Reilly Factor:

Usually you take the Republican version of Comedy Central with a grain of salt, but when elected officials join into the fray, you know that there is a concerted effort afoot by the back-rooms of conservative power to stampede the easily-swayed into motion against the White House.

The Right Wing has been looking for something that gains traction with their base, which, as we saw during the campaign, was already terrified of the skin color of the President.

The notion that Obama is a dangerous Socialist is laughable. If you do not believe me, ask a few dangerous Socialists.

No self-respecting Socialist whom I could find making comment likes Barack Obama much.

Socialist organizer, Billy Wharton, who is pretty typical, pointed out in a March 15, 2009 opinion piece for the Washington Post that Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and John McCain have more to do with the revival in interest in the Socialist movement than does Barack Obama:

Whom did we have to thank for this moment in the spotlight? Oddly enough, Republican politicians such as Mike Huckabee and John McCain had become our most effective promoters. During his campaign, the ever-desperate McCain, his hard-charging running mate Sarah Palin and even a plumber named Joe lined up to call Barack Obama a “socialist.” Last month, Huckabee even exclaimed that, “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born.”

Wharton goes on to point out:

“The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat — one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.”

Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is trying to out-do Sarah Palin for the whack-job Right’s vote. According to CBS News’ Blog, Political HotSheet, the Minnesota governor angling at a 2012 presidential bid said:

“At a minimum it’s disruptive, number two, it’s uninvited and number three, if people would like to hear his message they can, on a voluntary basis, go to YouTube or some other source and get it,” he told reporters at the Minnesota state fair, according to CNN. “I don’t think he needs to force it upon the nation’s school children.”

Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer was even more scathing:

“The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power,”

While guys like this look pretty stupid, even in the hands of cream-puff journalists like Anderson Cooper:

The hysteria gains traction, even though, as education secretary Arne Duncan pointed out to the Associated Press, Obama’s message to students was much more about the basics. Obama will urge them to stay in school, and participate both in improving their education, and in improving the world around them.

It is a simple message which will never get heard in large swath of the country where fear and ignorance is once again being whippped into a frenzy to cater to the same racism that plagued the campaign. Just as movie “aliens” of the fifties were code for Communist fears, the Republicans are leveraging fears of “Socialism” against a sitting president.

In a form of disrespect never heretofore seen for a sitting President of the United States, schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, Virginia and most amazingly, Obama’s home state of Illinois, are opting out of the webcast.

Not all Red State strongholds are going through Black, er Red scares… In Arkansas, many educators are not knuckling to Right-Wing political pressure, as this local news report demonstrates.

Obama has had a little help batting back the smear campaign from, of all people, Bill O’Reilly. Yes, that Bill O’Reilly, possibly in response to one of Roger Ailes internal Smear-O-Grams, actually broke ranks with the Fox News machine, and even the spin of his own “O’Reilly Factor” and wrote a piece in the August 9, 2009 edition of Parade that says that Barack Obama has a lot that he can teach children about the value of education and success.

In Utah, State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland told the Deseret News on Thursday::

“There is just a group in this country that is unable to get over the election we had last November.”

Precious few of the Dems in Congress, or party chairs in the states boycotting the speech are coming to the President’s aid.

That is very troubling, since this whole school brouhaha is an obvious smoke-screen to keep President Obama and the White House off message on the health care speech, which will also air on Tuesday.

It is also disturbing because it shows, how, and where our politicized schools are endorsing ignorance and fear rather than knowledge and enlightenment. It is bad enough that George Bush dumbed down the public schools into the No Test Left Behind system.

Nearly a quarter of the school year, more in the case of poorer states that score badly, is reserved for learning how to take a state No Child Left Behind test, and pass it. The content, knowledge base, is usually secondary, to retaining factoids that show, like some trained seal, that the student can retain information, not what they do to think about it. It has turned the system, instead of focusing on the trees, students and their needs, into a behemoth which only measures whether the forest has been presented with information that it is green. If it can say it is green, it gets an A rating.

So when schools, which already are highly politicized by this process, start knuckling in to Fox-fed hysteria as part of a campaign to derail public endorsement of the health care legislation, you have to ask what is next?

If the oil lobby’s tax breaks are threatened, will Fox advocate burning books, what few are left in school libraries, to deflect attention from that agenda?

Will the mindless zombies in the education system who either agree with this hysteria or endorse it as part of their personal political leanings continue to use their school systems as a political weapon?

It is not Barack Obama that is politicizing schools. He is doing what the head of this great country of ours should be doing: Leading by example, and encouraging excellence from our children. For anyone to extrapolate a questionnaire that includes “How can I help the president?” to be a politicization of the schools has seriously lost touch with reality.

It is the Republican Party, their mouthpiece Fox News, and the officials of these school districts knuckling to such third-rate street thuggery that should be held accountable.

If you want to do something to put an end to the politicization of our schools, contact the Superintendent of Schools in each of these states and let them know that they should be embarrassed for playing along:

Minnesota – Alice Seagren – Commissioner –
Wisconsin – Tony Evers, Ph.D, Superintendent – Also Deputy Superintendent
Texas – Robert Scott – Commissioner of Education –
Missouri – Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro –
Virginia – Patricia I. Wright – 804-225-2023 (Direct) State Instruction:
Illinois – Christopher A. Koch, Ed.D. – Click here to contact.

My shiny two.

Obama, Blue Dogs, and Progressives

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Responding to the Progressive Caucus’s letter and demand for a meeting on the public option, President Obama had a conference call with the leaders of the Caucus yesterday, and will meet face-to-face with them prior to Wednesday’s speech.

As for the conference call:

A variety of reports suggest that, during a conference call this afternoon, President Obama probed House progressives to see just how flexible their demands are.

A source familiar with the call tells TPM that Obama asked the group to define their red line when they talk about a “robust public option.”

NBC reports that Obama reminded the group that they enjoy the security of representing safely Democratic districts.

Digby adds:

According to Mike Viqueira on MSNBC, Obama told the progressives in congress on a conference call this morning that on health care, they need to worry about their fellow members in districts that voted with McCain in ’08. I guess he figures that those conservative districts are going to be appeased by some sort of “trigger” or a plan without the public option and that those guys in tough districts will be rewarded for making that happen.

I think that’s about as delusional as the teabaggers, frankly. If those McCain voters are upset about health care reform, the only thing that will appease them is total defeat. . . .

I think Obama has an exactly backward reading of the situation and Digby has it exactly right. This subject has swirled around the blogosphere this week, mostly following from a post from Ezra, in which he posits that the Progressives can’t “beat the Blue Dogs at their own game.”

Chris had the best and most succinct answer to why this reading is wrong:

Klein’s central premise is that Progressives have no leverage to make Blue Dogs want to vote for good legislation, since opposing Democrats is popular in their districts.  However, Blue Dogs have leverage over Progressives, since Progressives don’t want Democrats to lose seats.

The reason I disagree with Klein is fairly simple: if no health care legislation passes, and Democrats lose seats as a result, Blue Dogs are the people who will lose the seats, not Progressives. Even if Klein is correct and Democrats lose a bunch of seats because Progressives blocked it, Blue Dogs are actually the ones who will bear the brunt of those losses. As such, Blue Dogs have more to lose if health care fails to pass than Progressives.

He’s absolutely right, and you only need to look at the polling on the public option to see that. As Markos said in that post

Opposing the public option is electoral poison in every region of the country except the South, while both Democrats and Independents are willing to punish opponents of the public option at the ballot box.

Democrats have a national electoral mandate, they have public opinion on their side, they have dominant majorities in both chambers of Congress, and they have the White House.

The Blue Dogs’ seats are on the line if they don’t support this hugely popular reform, whether it’s Kentucky, or Nevada or Jim Cooper’s district in Tennessee.

Why Andrew Krepinevich Is Wrong About US Military Strategy

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The problem with retired Army light colonel Andrew Krepinevich, the self-described “expert on US military strategy,” isn’t so much that he says silly things; it’s that people in positions of power and influence take the silly things he says seriously. Krepinevich is the epitome of contemporary American think-tankery: a pseudo-intellectual war hawk with Washington connections who can talk all day and get people to listen, but who couldn’t find the body part he sits on with both hands and a GPS receiver.

Michael B. Laskoff: Afghanistan: Let’s Go Home

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We should get the hell out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. The expense of continuing this foreign adventure and the danger to US citizens of staying has simply become unacceptably high. The concept of victory is no longer meaningful or practical. The sooner we face this, the better off we will be. I don’t feel good about this, but sentimentality won’t change the facts on the ground.

Let me be clear, I supported the American led effort to topple the Taliban after 9/11. Unlike the totally misguided invasion of Iraq, we were displacing a government that gave aid, comfort and shelter to our enemies. And while we arguably did nothing to damage Al-Qaeda, we did remind the world that we’re awfully good at regime change. From time to time that’s an unfortunate necessity.

Unfortunately, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld combo forgot something that most parents endeavor to teach their children: you break it; you own it. In other words, when we invaded, we assumed responsibility for a snake pit that had already humbled the Soviets and the British in the past 150 years. Knowing that, we should have been ready not only to topple the government but also to have a plan for what to do with the place after.

Our ‘plan,’ as you may recall, consisted of dropping Hamid Karzai into power, invading another country and hoping that the neo-con fantasy of a liberated people immediately adopting a democratic government and a free-market economy would magically happen. Sure, we kept some troops there to hunt – usually ineffectively – Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but really we threw everything into Iraq.

Jumping forward to 2009, it’s clear that we made a mistake. While we were occupied in the Middle East, the Taliban was reorganizing. Even if we had wanted to engage in real nation building, we simply did not have enough troops on the ground to protect the population. Meanwhile, our political client was sliding down the path of clinging to power at any cost. Most recently, this consisted of building coalitions with bad people (warlords, drug cartels and tribal leaders) in order to remain the titular head of the country. And when that didn’t work, he resorted to out-and-out fraud to win the election.

So here we are, supporting an illegitimate regime in a country in which we have proven unable to deliver basic security. Not surprisingly, we’re not winning many hearts and minds in the process. In addition, we are fighting an enemy that still moves largely at will across the Pakistani border, a place where our ground troops cannot go. True, the Pakistani government has been more cooperative of recent, but it seems unlikely that will continue once the ‘existential threat’ to that nation has been removed.

Now, we’re trying to make up for lost time. We are moving more into a counter-insurgency mode that requires ever more troops, while reducing their capacity to use lethal force. Unfortunately, such strategies can take a decade to yield results. We don’t have that kind of staying power

Add it all up, and it seems clear that we are spending a fortune and in treasure and lives to defend a bad regime without gaining the gratitude of the people that we are supposed to be helping. Maybe this could have been avoided, but it’s time to own up to the fact that we bungled this and come to grips with the reality that our presence in Afghanistan is not making America safer. Knowing that, we should leave, the sooner the better.

Fred Silberberg: My Divorce is None of Your Business

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If I get divorced in New York, the documents pertaining to my divorce remain confidential. If my spouse and I cannot agree on issues and we end up in court, the court proceedings that take place are not open to the public. If I get divorced in California, the documents pertaining to my divorce become a matter of public record. If my spouse and I cannot agree on issues and we end up in court, the court proceedings take place in an open courtroom wherein the public can be present.

And so, depending upon the state in which you get divorced, your family business can either remain private, or you may find yourself unwittingly in the public eye. Why should anyone’s family business become available to the public?

When one enters into a marriage or a domestic partnership, they do it privately. While the parties get a marriage license, no one is privy to whatever agreements the parties may reach regarding refinances, domestic arrangements, childcare arrangements and the like. In fact, the law is even written in a manner to protect the confidentiality of the marital relationship. For example, a spouse can refuse to testify against his or her spouse in a legal proceeding, and the communications between the spouses are generally held to be confidential and not subject to disclosure. Even Federal law addresses this to some extent in keeping tax return information confidential. Yet, if parties end up in divorce court in some states, suddenly there is no confidentiality whatsoever. And divorces, being the nasty animals that they often are, dredge up all kinds of allegations and personal information. Suddenly, the dirty little secrets that one spouse confided in the other become the public disclosures that the entire world has a right to know.

The proponents of public family law courts argue that somehow, keeping these matters open to the public, makes them subject to oversight and that public scrutiny insures the impartiality of the court. The biggest proponent of public family law proceedings in California is the media, fearful that if the New York system is implemented they will be cut off from information that leads to ratings and material for tabloid and other news programs. Think Britney Spears here. And apparently, in California the media lobby is much stronger than it is in New York.

It seems somewhat absurd that one can make their own private arrangements regarding their marriage, but when it comes to a divorce, everything has to become public. More than the absurdity of it, is the potentiality for harm that exists by forcing divorcing parties to air their dirty laundry in public. The allegations then trickle down to all sorts of unintended recipients, including other family members and children. Financial information becomes available not only to those who are curious, but those who want to use the information to commit the crime of identity theft. While this information would remain confidential in New York, in California, the legislature has implemented a procedure requiring parties to jump through all sorts of hoops to try to get documents sealed, and the policy of the state, and hence the courts, is to deny those requests as much as possible.

A few years ago, I sponsored a bill in the California legislature to try to allow divorce records to be sealed. The bill didn’t make it very far in the legislature. It was immediately attacked in the press as intending to protect the very rich, when in fact, it would have protected every divorce litigant, rich or poor. The media insisted it had “a right to know”, and there weren’t too many members of the California Assembly wanting to challenge that. This approach was completely different than the one I experienced just a short time earlier when I appeared in New York Domestic Relations Court with a client who is a public figure. There, the court proceedings, and all of the documents filed therein remained confidential, much to the frustration of the media which was waiting outside of the courthouse, hoping to get information from myself or my client when we walked out at the conclusion of the proceedings.

If a relationship does not work out, it should be a matter that the parties are able to resolve privately. The public does not have any real interest in hearing people’s private problems. The only “public interest” is really a media interest in exposing private information. Unsubstantiated allegations are made all the time in divorce court. The public disclosure of these allegations can have long-term implications for the parties, including damage to the parties’ reputation and the psychological well-being of children. The disclosure of financial information, especially in this age of technology, puts people at risk for becoming easy victims of criminal activity. The argument that public family law courts are subject to oversight is a fallacy. In New York and those states where the proceedings are not open to the public, there are procedures in place for oversight, including the courts of appeal.

People should be able to get divorced in a private setting with dignity. Family business is just that.

Brad Friedman: FBI Whistleblower: Hastert, Burton, Blunt, Other Members of Congress ‘Bribed, Blackmailed’

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Breaking Down the Under-Oath Disclosures of the Formerly-Gagged Sibel Edmonds…

It has now been over a week since the video tape and transcript from the remarkable 8/8/09 deposition of former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was publicly released. Previously, the Bush Administration invoked the so-called “state secrets privilege” in order to gag Edmonds, in attempting to keep such information from becoming public.

The under-oath, detailed allegations include bribery, blackmail, espionage and infiltration of the U.S. government of, and by current and former members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State and Defense Department officials and agents of the government of Turkey. The broad criminal conspiracy is said to have resulted in, among other things, the sale of nuclear weapons technology to black market interests including Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Libya and others.

Even as many of these allegations had been previously corroborated to varying extents, by a number of official government reports, documents and independent media outlets (largely overseas), not a single major mainstream media outlet in the U.S. has picked up on Edmonds’ startling claims since her deposition has been made fully available.

Granted, last week was a busy news week, with the death of Ted Kennedy, the release of the CIA Inspector General’s report on torture, and the announcement that Michael Jackson’s death was ruled a homicide. And, it’s true, a 4-hour deposition and/or 241-page transcript [PDF] is a lot of material to review, particularly given the wide scope of the charges being made here. Still, given the serious national security issues at stake, said to have the been among the most important matters of the past 8 years, one would think someone in the corporate MSM might have taken the time to go through the material, and report on it. Particularly as Edmonds’ claims have previously been found “credible” “serious” and “warrant[ing] a thorough and careful review,” by the DoJ Inspector General, and confirmed as such, on several occasions, by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and many many others.

So for the benefit of the U.S. media, and other readers, who may find it helpful for this large body of newly-available information to be culled down into more digestible pieces, I will attempt to break down the deposition, a bit, into some of its subject matter-based component parts. I will try to go through the major disclosures from the deposition, one-by-one, in a series of pieces which might help others to further report and/or investigate these breathtaking disclosures from a former FBI official who, following 9/11, listened to and translated wiretap recordings made from 1996 through 2002, in the FBI’s counterintelligence and counterterrorism departments, under top-secret clearance.

In this first break-down article, we’ll look at the answers given by Edmonds during her deposition in regard to bribery and blackmail of current and former members of the U.S. Congress, including Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Bob Livingston (R-LA), Dan Burton (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Tom Lantos (D-CA, deceased) and an unnamed, currently-serving, married Democratic Congresswoman said to have been video-taped in a Lesbian affair by Turkish agents for blackmail purposes.

In further breakdown articles, we’ll look at her disclosures concerning top State and Defense Department officials including Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and, perhaps most notably, the former Deputy Undersecretary of State, Marc Grossman, the third-highest ranking official in the State Department. Also, details on the theft of nuclear weapons technology; disclosures on Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA front company Brewster-Jennings; items related to U.S. knowledge of 9/11 and al-Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001; infiltration of the FBI translation department and more.

Though Edmonds was careful to not “discuss the intelligence gathering method by the FBI,” she notes in her deposition that her claims are “Based on documented and provable, tracked files and based on…100 percent, documented facts.”

Among the specific charges she levels against current and former U.S. Congress Members in the deposition:

Dennis Hastert: “[S]everal categories. The acceptance of large sums of bribery in forms of cash or laundered cash … to make it look legal for his campaigns, and also for his personal use, in order to do certain favors … make certain things happen for foreign entities and foreign governments’ interests, Turkish government’s interest and Turkish business entities’ interests. … other activities, too, including being blackmailed for various reasons. … he used the townhouse that was not his residence for certain not very morally accepted activities. … foreign entities knew about this, in fact, they sometimes participated in some of those not maybe morally well activities in that particular townhouse that was supposed to be an office, not a house, residence at certain hours, certain days, evenings of the week.”

Stephen Solarz: “[A]s lobbyist … acted as conduit to deliver or launder contribution and other briberies to certain members of Congress, but also in pressuring outside Congress, and including blackmail, in certain members of Congress.”

Bob Livingston: “Until 1999 … not very legal activities on behalf of foreign interests and entities, and after 1999 acting as a conduit to, again, further foreign interests, both overtly and covertly as a lobbyist, but also as an operative.”

Tom Lantos: “[N]ot only … bribe[ry], but also … disclosing highest level protected U.S. intelligence and weapons technology information both to Israel and to Turkey. … other very serious criminal conduct.”

Unnamed Congresswoman: (Though not identified as such during the deposition, Edmonds has since confirmed her to be a Democrat) “[T]his Congresswoman’s married with children, grown children, but she is bisexual. … So they have sent Turkish female agents, and that Turkish female agents work for Turkish government, and have sexual relationship with this Congresswoman in her townhouse … and the entire episodes of their sexual conduct was being filmed because the entire house, this Congressional woman’s house was bugged. … to be used for certain things that they wanted to request … I don’t know if she did anything illegal afterward. … the Turkish entities, wanted both congressional related favoritism from her, but also her husband was in a high position in the area in the state she was elected from, and these Turkish entities ran certain illegal operations, and they wanted her husband’s help. But I don’t know if she provided them with those.”

Roy Blunt: “[T]he recipient of both legally and illegally raised donations, campaign donations from …Turkish entities.”

Dan Burton: (And others) “[E]xtremely illegal activities against the United States citizens who were involved in [covert] operations that were … against … foreign government[s] and foreign entities against the United States’ interests.”

Hastert, Livingston and Solarz, as Edmonds notes in her deposition, would all go on to become highly-paid lobbyist for Turkey and/or Turkish public interest groups after they left the U.S. Congress.

* * *

The startling key exchanges relating specifically to criminal corruption by members of the U.S. Congress, from the 8/8/09 Sibel Edmonds deposition in the Schmidt v. Krikorian case, currently pending before the Ohio Election Commission, are now excerpted here.

The full deposition transcript is here [PDF], and more details, including the complete video-tape of the entire deposition, can be seen in our original coverage of the deposition’s release.

Caroline Myss: Crimes Against the Soul of America

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There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core. America’s soul is in a fragile state. It has suffered severe violations over the course of this past decade and to lesser degrees, in previous decades. Through the years, the essential integrity of America has been eroded for various reasons but never was it so violated as during the Bush administration. The endless lies, the deceitful years of propaganda that flowed from the West Wing that fed the media, the bogus reasons for setting the Middle East on fire, and converting this country into a corporate state for personal gain are crimes that shattered the soul of this nation more deeply than we have even begun to realize — if we ever will. The consequences of puncturing the soul of a nation are witnessed in countless ways. For example, there is a decline in the integrity of leadership and a growing apathy on the part of the public to care about keeping watch over its leaders. The nation ceases to produce statesmen or stateswomen. The best the public can do is to send semi-qualified individuals to Washington whose capacity to hold to their promises collapse within minutes of unpacking in their new offices. As for the old guard, they are worn out good old boys mixed in with a few new and not-so-new women on the block, who continue to fall into their same old patterns of deal making and breaking. But nothing of great significance ever happens unless motivated by a catastrophe. Any truly positive ideas for change baffle the Congress. What could this be, they wonder? But of all the crimes covertly and overtly committed by the Bush administration against the soul of America, none is as vile as the deliberate efforts they poured into turning American against American. We see that in the near hatred between the Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, between free-thinkers and evangelicals that continues to fester. This crime was a strategic one, a well thought out plan to fragment the people of this nation in a type of contemporary replay of the Civil War. And sadly, the Republicans succeeded. Thank you, Karl Rove. The result is that the soul of America is exhausted, wounded, mistrusting, suspicious, fearful — and compromised. This is not a soul that can rebuild a country, not if you know anything about the laws of nature and the fundamentals of healing.

So let’s apply this to the Republicans present attack on Obama and his plan to address the children in the classrooms of our schools. First, a comment on how education is respected in general by our Congress — it isn’t. And this crime against the soul of America is a travesty for which both Republicans and Democrats should hang their heads in shame. Consider, for example, how the education system through the years has corroded into little more than a mindless competition for grades. And the “No Child Left Behind” program (which should be left far, far behind) is nothing more than an insult to a true educational system that holds in high regard the passing on of knowledge and wisdom and not just technical skills and information. But such a program is in keeping with the insidious goal of the “dumbing down” of America plan that was consciously set in motion under the Reagan Administration (check out The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt). Aside from all the many travesties that have resulted and continue to result from the covert dismantling of America’s educational system, let us consider the equally significant if not more tragic consequence of the clever removal of courses that provide students with the essential language required in order to learn how to navigate through the deep and profound matters of the soul. And note that my use of the word “soul” refers to that part of a human being that is more than matter, more than blood and bones. I am not using the word “soul” within the context associated with the politics of right-winged religious fanatics. Rather, I am referring to the essence of what makes a human being truly human, the inherent part of us that is more than meets the eye.

Students on a path toward becoming high functioning human beings must be guided in matters of their soul, namely, how to recognize and respond to a moral crisis; how to formulate a personal ethical code and to withstand challenges to that code within a society that thrives on predator instincts; and how to form and maintain an honor code within a society in which any sense of honor is now held together by legal contracts rather than the integrity of a person’s word. Giving our students a common ground for discussions of their fears and insecurities concerning emerging into adult life and how to cope with those difficulties is as much a part of their education as is math and the liberal arts (remember those?). If this is not the role of the classroom, then what is? Should they take their forums into the streets so as not to upset the righteous Right? Should they continue to leave their souls at the doorway of their school buildings, sending in only their bodies and minds to attend their classes? Where should they warehouse their consciences? Where should they store their moral crises that strike with such force during the teen-age years? Perhaps this is the comfort they find in drugs.

It is through discussions such as these that skills of introspection are awakened and a foundation is put in place for the wisdom arts: personal reflection and accountability, discernment, personal virtue, and stamina of spirit. Is it any wonder that as a result of the horrendous decision of the American Congress to “dumb down” our educational system, we now have a public that cannot discern lies from truth? Are we really surprised that we are now living in a society in which the news media saturates us with entertainment instead of actual news and that most of America was too asleep at the wheel to even notice? Should we really have to wonder for more than three seconds as to why so many media reporters have turned into nothing more than gossip mongers and paparazzi, lacking all courage to do actual hard core news, substituting their own hysterical opinions for informed reporting? I’m not surprised at all.

A conscious effort to “dumb down” the education of this nation qualifies as a crime against the soul of America. And dare I say this? If there was something as grievous as a mortal sin committed by a group against its own people, then the Republicans — with Reagan at the helm — and all the Democrats who stood by, or worse, backed this catastrophe — committed that sin when they choreographed how they would dismantle the intellectual power and potential of our own children. (You should check your age — you could be a product of this crime.)

So is it really any wonder why the Republicans would stage this outlandish outcry over President Obama addressing the schoolchildren of America? You would think that everyone would support the President’s desire to inspire our children to want an education. Who would not want to see their children enthusiastic about an education? Hum … Well, could it be that education intimidates them? I mean, given their history with education and their experience with their recent president as well as their recent candidate for vice-president, you can appreciate that the education of President Obama would engender a bit of jealousy. Consider that when Bush showed up in a classroom, they gave him My Pet Goat to read to the students. Why was that, ya think? Perhaps his team feared a more sophisticated book would be a bit too much for him. Or maybe he was providing students with an example of how “dumbing down” works. Or maybe, just maybe, given Bush’s overall success and reputation for brain-power, Republicans fear Obama would inspire students instead of generating the jokes and comedic responses Bush did every time he opened his mouth.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I listened to Bush joke about his own lack of intelligence before an audience. The audience members that included some now former as well as present members of the Congress and Senate, actually laughed as he made these comments. Whether they were laughing with him or at him, I couldn’t tell. I know I was laughing at him, but I was also embarrassed and ashamed that this man was leading our country. How could he possibly joke about his lack of intelligence before a State Dinner? How could he laugh about his inability to comprehend matters of great importance? Why would he think that the public would find that funny? And if the public did find that funny, shame on them.

The vice-presidential candidate that the Republicans ran in the past election against Obama was of equal educational quality. We all know who I mean, Miss Lipstick-on-a-Pig. Even her humor is low-class, in keeping with her intelligence. One has to ask, “So this was the candidate Republicans believed could handle the cosmic-sized dilemmas we now have facing this nation?” Sarah Palin? Are they nuts? Listening to those Republicans lie about their support of her in the face of the crises facing this nation was a crime against the soul of America. Why? Because they did not believe a word of what they were saying and that was obvious. Most of them could barely cough up their contrived words of support. How they could possibly live with themselves is beyond me. But that is the blessing, I suppose, of having no conscience whatsoever. You’re free to say whatever is required in the moment. But if you want to talk about an educational violation, Palin is the poster child. She is a perfect example of the success of the “dumbing down of America” program. No wonder she is a Republican. Birds of a feather, as the saying goes. But you have to give credit where credit is due, yes? So no wonder they fear Obama coming near the classroom. Republicans have little experience with a refined intellect. (They probably are wondering how Obama escaped the, “dumbing down” system. They certainly didn’t. Check out Eric Cantor. There’s a “dumbing down” success story if I’ve ever met one.)

I don’t blame them for being upset, really. They actually owe America an apology for their actions and for their choices of candidates and for their overall quality control when it comes to who they believe qualifies for leadership positions. Truth is, the Republicans are embarrassed by their own actions and they are poor losers, not to mention unethical and immoral opponents. We just have to get them to own that, right? We have to hold all Democrats to the same standard as well. If a Democrat is unethical or immoral — burn them at the stake. (That will probably clear out most of the Congress, but in the end, we’ll all be better off.)

There comes a time when we have to just stand up to these carnies (slang for carnival barkers) and tell them to stop polluting the soul of America with their constant and endless transmission of psychic free radicals in the form of lies, negative press, ridiculous criticism, overall lack of intelligent ideas and comments, and complete absence of creative thought. We should just blast them with emails and tell them to stop polluting the soul of our nation. Just stop it. We’ve had enough. I know I have. And I deeply believe the soul of our nation can’t take much more of their strategy of deliberate division against the people of their own nation. That is a true crime — and perhaps their greatest crime — against the soul of this great nation.

Tom H. Hastings: Recovering to Death

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Jumbo shrimp. Buy and save. Jobless recovery. Americans are on Full
Oxymoron Alert these days, as we read and hear about this “jobless
recovery.” Recovery for whom?

The unemployment rate is high and growing higher, nearing an official
10 percent–which is always lower than the reality of impoverished
underemployed and “discouraged workers” who have stopped bothering to
officially register. Since this recession began, seven million
Americans have lost their jobs.

Why aren’t seven million of us big enough to fail?

If stimulus packages for corporate sinkholes are good enough for the
American taxpayer, why can’t we find $5.4 billion to create minimum
wage jobs, with full health care benefits, for the 216,000 Americans
who lost their jobs in August? Coincidentally, $5.4 billion is the
amount the Pentagon will spend next year on unmanned vehicles, such as
the Predator, which is killing so many civilians in Pakistan and
turning our friends into our sworn enemies.

If the Pentagon “burn rate” for the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
is in excess of $40 billion per month, why can’t we manage to staunch
the outflow of jobs in public education? War spending doesn’t include
the wages or benefits for the 190,000 troops involved, since that
expense is covered in the $900 billion DoD budget, a figure that
includes items DoD leaves out, such as nuclear weapons and satellite
costs, which are part of Department of Energy and NASA budgets,

On September 4, Raytheon Missile Systems was awarded a $93,851,886
contract for a few missiles. Which Americans lost their jobs so some
Raytheon executives and stockholders could make a killing? We also saw
90 killed by a U.S.-made, U.S.-launched missile in Afghanistan, many
of them civilians. That $93,000,000 could have created almost 2,000
modest-paying, full health care jobs. Instead, it will create a
handful of jobs (military spending creates fewer jobs than any sector
of our economy), obscene war profits for a few wealthy people, more
deaths overseas and thus more enemies who hate us. Many other Pentagon
contracts amounting to many scores of $millions were awarded that same
day, as they are every business day.

The day before, September 3, McDonnell Douglas Corp. was awarded a
$102,333,333 contract for contractors. Since it has been reported that
contractors are often paid more than $200,000 per year, plus full
benefits, we could generously say that contract creates perhaps 400
jobs for Pentagon contractors doing God-knows-what in Central Asia or
the Middle East, making more people angry at the U.S. Instead, that
same amount of money could have created another 2,000 moderate salary
jobs in America performing sustainable, life-enhancing human services.
This one contract on one day helps to lose more than 1,500 American
jobs and generate hate against the U.S.

No, I am not an economist. I am just a professor in the field of
Conflict Resolution, trained to approach problems with an open mind
and a brainstorming stance. We need some brainstorms in our country.
People are hurting and our direction isn’t changing. When I grew up in
hockey country in Minnesota, my father was our Peewee coach. He told
us, “Whenever we are losing, we are going to change how we play.” Our
team, the Tigers, won the Peewee championship that year.

Surely we have some certified smart people who can think outside the
Wall Street-Pentagon box and start spending taxpayer funds–few of
which come from corporations, most of which come from hard-working
middle-class Americans–so that we see some recovery where it counts.
Always change a losing game. We are losing. Change is overdue.

Greer’s petard

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Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer — typically seen as more of a pol than an ideologue — helped get the protests against Obama’s school speech going last week, and the Orlando Sentinal’s Scott Maxwell hoists him a bit.

There once was a political operative who loved to tell crowds he had a simple way of explaining to children the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

"Republicans get up and go to work," he would tell his son. "Democrats get up and go down to the mailbox to get their checks."

This man not only talked to his son about Republican values, he went into public-school classrooms and talked about them as well.

That man is Jim Greer — the same Jim Greer who, as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, just threw a nationwide hissy fit, claiming that the classroom is no place for politics and Barack Obama’s "indoctrination."

One Seminole County mother, Barbara Wells, remembers the day Greer spoke to her son’s sixth-grade class. "My son said he made some sort of Hillary Clinton joke," she recalled.

Peter Clothier: The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

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When Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined this richly associative phrase nearly two centuries ago he was talking, of course, about literature. Specifically, he wanted to justify his love of fantasy, arguing that “human interest and a semblance of truth” would serve to seduce the reader into an imaginative compact with the author. The thought came to mind this morning as I searched for a way to respond to yet another skeptical correspondent who demanded to know why he should continue to believe in the good faith of President Obama and his ability to enact significant health care reform.

Friends write to me to let me know of their distress. I get sometimes bitterly angry comments to my online posts. I read and hear what the left-wing prophets of doom assert: that Obama — if he was really anything other than one more crass politician who deceived us into voting for him — has already capitulated to the corporate oligarchy and the strident voices of the right. He should never have been so naïve as to put his faith in the mirage of bi-partisanship. He lacks strength and sense of purpose. He should have spoken out earlier and more forcefully. He should be out there, leading…

I know. I hear these things, and I share the deep and troubling concern that gives rise to them. There is a whole big part of me that is ready to give up on all of it; to abandon hope in the weak-kneed Democrats who lack the vision and the conviction to come up with a plan they can agree on; and, yes, to blame a President who at times seems aloof from the fray and disconnected from the people who placed their trust in him as the last great hope for change.

And yet… there are times when the willing suspension of disbelief seems appropriate and necessary, in order to remain true to my own commitment to do what I can do for my fellow-beings with whom I share this planet. I share the skepticism. Call it, perhaps, realism: the facts of this country’s recent history and its current affairs speak loudly. Deadlock and acrimony confront us everywhere we look — here in my own state, California, and in the nation’s capital. We are addicted to the material comforts of our lives, to such well-being as each of us has attained; and despite the demand for change on the left side of our national discourse, it seems that great power still lies in the hands of those who are adamantly, fiercely resistant to it. We are like some old, weary Gulliver, unable to break free from the multiple bonds of the Lilliputians who hold us captive.

In this circumstance, one useful strategy that stands between me and despair is the willing suspension of disbelief. I realize that it’s a choice: it’s “willing.” But for the sake of my own sanity in a political culture that my more rational self deems utterly deranged and utterly beyond redemption, I make the active choice, for now, to suspend my disbelief. The act falls short of actually believing. I hold on to a small mental space where I acknowledge it to be a matter of intellectual and emotional choice rather than rational conviction. But the choice is still an empowering one, requiring that I not sink back into inertia.

It’s also a “suspension.” The mind-space I’m attempting to describe is temporal and provisional. I find that by suspending my disbelief I can more easily watch and wait, and find the patience needed to allow change to happen and, insofar as I am able, to help it along the way. It provides me with a place from which I can continue to act, in the hope that we can still return to our senses as a country, and that we can collectively reconnect with traditional values like compassion and responsibility toward others as well as for ourselves, with a sense of common social purpose, and with that truly American vision of “a more perfect union” that Obama has publicly embraced.

Call me naïve. Okay. An idealist. I’d rather be an idealist than an ideologue. But I’m constitutionally and temperamentally averse to succumbing to the kind of inaction and despair I might find myself accepting if I chose to surrender my willing suspension of disbelief. I’ll settle for “human interest and a semblance of truth.” And for believing, passionately, that acting as if something were possible can be the catalyst to make it happen. This, at least, is the path I choose.

What Obama Will Say In His Health Care Address

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President Barack Obama plans to reach out to Republicans and reassure — rather than confront — his liberal supporters when he addresses an extraordinary joint session of Congress at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.