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Friday, May 22, 2009

Senators Udall and Bingaman Vote for Supplemental War Funding

On Monday, all three of New Mexico's Congressmen of the $97 BILLION supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war spending and foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 30. Yesterday, Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman did the same with a Senate version of the bill totaling $91.3 BILLION. The measure passed by a margin of 86-3, with 10 abstentions. The only Dem to vote no was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.

As I'm sure you know by now, the Senate version of the bill stripped $80 million in funding for closing Guantanamo prison -- ostensibly because Dems wanted more info on Obama's plans. Apparently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also was concerned that the prisoners would be set loose to hang out in our neighborhoods: "“You can’t put them in prison unless you release them ... we will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States." The only problem with his statement? A prison transfer isn't a release and nobody has ever proposed releasing any Guantanamo prisoners in the US.

The Senate bill also contains less for weapons procurement and foreign aid than the House version. It also fulfills Obama's request to extend up to $108 billion in credit lines to the International Monetary Fund for helping countries suffering from the global financial crisis, and backs up the IMF's plan to sell 400 tons (12.97 million ounces) of gold. After the Memorial Day break, the House and Senate will confer on a compromise measure to present to Obama in June.

Don't you wish the Congress was instead voting to spend $97 billion on things like commuter trains and light rail? In our dreams, as the seemingly never-ending military missions continue in their 8th year. The war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, with the US invading Iraq on March 20, 2003. I'm well aware that there are cogent arguments for continuing on this path in order to try to rectify -- in some way -- the grave errors and tragedies perpetrated by Bush et al. But is that even possible?

Will $97 billion more dollars thru September really make a difference in the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan? What the heck is the exit plan for Afghanistan? What does "winning" there entail? Does anybody really know what's going on in Iraq right now and what will change if we stay there for who knows how long? While dealing with the supplemental, members of Congress asked few questions, demanded no detailed plans and challenged no assumptions in the conduct of the wars, as far as I can tell. Instead, they seemed to be content to take Obama's word that more billions are needed, 22,00 more troops must go to Afghanistan and the military and diplomatic strategies being pursued are the right ones.

As I noted before, the supplemental bill is in addition to Obama's regular budget request now before the Congress for $205 BILLION for Iraq and Afghanistan over the next 18 months. More than $75 BILLION of that is earmarked for the rest of the year.

According to the Cost of War counters provided by the National Priorities Project, as of today we have spent a total of $859,684,211,796 on our wars-occupations since 2001 -- $671,225,383,000 for Iraq and $188,458,925,442 for Afghanistan. The numbers don't exactly add up because the counters keep moving at a rapid pace as the dollar amounts continue to increase by the second. And the conflicts drag on and on and on and on.

May 22, 2009 at 09:48 AM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Sen. Tom Udall, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Compare Language of Obama and Cheney Speeches on National Security

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These are word clouds created by the language used in the speeches about national security given today by President Barack Obama and Dead-Ender Dick Cheney. The bigger the word, the more it was used in the speech. Click on the images to see larger versions. Notice any big differences? Like use of the words TERRORISM and 9/11 by Cheney vs. the words WILL, AMERICAN, PEOPLE and GUANTANAMO emphasized by Obama? Click for the complete texts of the speech by Obama -- and the one by Cheney. There he goes again. Hey, Dick, go back to your bat cave!

May 21, 2009 at 03:34 PM in Afghanistan, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama Administration, Terrorism, Torture | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, May 18, 2009

US House Votes $97 Billion More in Supplemental War Spending; Heinrich, Teague, Lujan Vote Yes

When you start hearing more about how we don't have enough money to achieve genuine health care reform that includes universal care in America, or that we have to "rein in" what have erroneously come to be called "entitlements" -- like Medicare and Social Security -- think about .

On Thursday, the U.S. House passed a $96.7 BILLION request from President Obama for war spending and foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 30 by a roll call vote of 368-60. All three of New Mexico's Congressmen -- Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) -- followed the House leadership's urging and voted in favor of the funding. Only 51 Democrats and 9 Republicans voted no.

Democrats against the supplemental explained they fear Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan without a clear exit strategy or goals. For example,

"When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). "The same applies with Afghanistan. I'm tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends."

However, Dem leaders balked at making any demands:

House Democratic leaders refused to back an effort by McGovern and other antiwar legislators that would require Obama to provide Congress a detailed exit strategy for Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Note that this is a SUPPLEMENTAL spending bill that is in addition to Obama's regular budget request now before the Congress for $205 BILLION for Iraq and Afghanistan over the next 18 months. More than $75 BILLION of that is earmarked for the rest of the year.

According to the Cost of War counters provided by the National Priorities Project, we have spent a total of $858,230,959,582 on our wars-occupations since 2001 -- $670,041,506,063 for Iraq and $188,189,686,116 for Afghanistan. The numbers don't exactly add up because the counters keep moving at a rapid pace as the dollar amounts continue to increase by the second.

I know the party line is to give Obama's plan a chance to work; in effect, to give him the benefit of the doubt. I understand that position, but I don't understand why that should negate any effort to ask the hard questions and demand a clear delineation of our goals and the exit strategy we will employ to finally bring the troops home.

There does seem to be a sense among many Dems that they should go along with Obama's plan, at least for now, even though they have serious misgivings:

"This is a bill that I have very little confidence in," Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), an outspoken liberal, said of the $97-billion measure to finance military operations in the region. "But we have a responsibility to give a new president who did not get us into this mess the opportunity to get us out of it."

... Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) said he had to hold his nose to vote for the bill. "A year from now," he said, "I'll be asking some serious questions."

Unfortunately the Dem leadership in the House seems reticent to make any demands on the new President:

Democratic critics in the House and Senate have objected to giving more aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan without setting preconditions or benchmarks for progress by their governments. The administration and its supporters have argued against tying Obama's hands.

That is a reversal for Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who had demanded that Bush set such benchmarks in Iraq.

Others don't see it that way:

"It's time for Americans to come to our senses," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from recession-ravaged Ohio. "Isn't it time to pay more attention to the fraying economy in our homeland?"

May 18, 2009 at 09:48 AM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, Iraq War, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | |

Friday, March 20, 2009

This Weekend: ABQ Protests of Wars of Occupation, Rally to Bring Troops Home

From the Y6C: The New Mexico Year 6 Coalition (Y6C) will hold an “Occupation is a Crime” rally on Saturday, March 21, 2009 from 11 AM to 1 PM at the corner of Second and Copper NW, Albuquerque, at the Galleria Plaza, next to the Convention Center, downtown. The New Mexico Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining the demonstration.

This local rally is in solidarity with the massive national March on the Pentagon being organized by ANSWER in Washington, DC on the 6th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. The rally is calling for an end to the expansion by the administration and Congress of the wars of occupation taking place in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, and the impending invasion or Iran.

The Y6 rally is addressing in specific the vote of the new 1st Congressional District representative, Martin Heinrich, who voted on his first day in office for HR 34. This resolution was the political green light for Israel to continue the massacre in Gaza in January which was only made possible due to their large supply of U.S. weapons. About 1,500 people died, many of them women and children. Many new experimental weapons such as the DIME were tested on the civilian population, which is also a war crime.

Politically many people are calling for a democratic one-state solution, not a two-state apartheid arrangement.

The Y6 Coalition is calling on Rep. Heinrich to work with the national S30 movement to stop the next $30 billion installment of U.S. weapons to Israel. A representative for the Congressman’s office will also address the rally.

Participants are being encouraged to bring signs, bring banners, shout loud. There will be political speakers and music.

PLUS: Early Friday morning, in support of the Saturday rally, the local chapter of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will set up a Tower Watch at the rally site. They will stay all day and night through Saturday. The Tower Watch is a national campaign by Iraq war veterans to demand an end to the colonial occupation of Iraq. They are asking supporters to come join them Friday and Saturday.

The Y6C is composed of the following organizations:

  • Albuquerque Another Jewish Voice
  • Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
  • Albuquerque Chapter Veterans for Peace
  • Albuquerque Raging Grannies
  • Columbia Solidarity Committee of New Mexico
  • Grassroots Press,
  • Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque
  • Green Party of Bernalillo County
  • Iraq Veterans Against War - Albuquerque
  • Los Alamos Study Group
  • Middle East Peace and Justice Alliance
  • Nob Hill Tutoring
  • Nukes Out of Duke City
  • The Mission Committee of the Albuquerque Mennonite Church
  • Pax Christi Holy Rosary
  • School of the Americas Watch Albuquerque
  • Social Justice Council of the First Unitarian Church
  • Stop the War Machine
  • Stop $30 Billion Coalition
  • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Social Concerns Committee

March 20, 2009 at 10:58 AM in Events, International Relations, Iran, Iraq War, Middle East, Military Affairs, Peace, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Will Dems Use Their Power to Reverse Bush-Era Abuses?

Must read as Dems prepare to take control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress: Glenn Greenwald astutely dissects the disastrous attacks on American civil liberties and constitutional protections over the last decade -- many of them conducted with Democratic approval or acquiescence -- and challenges Dems to have the backbone to reverse course. Excerpt:

For the last seven years, Democrats have repeatedly cited GOP political dominance to excuse their wholesale failures to limit, let alone reverse, the devastating war waged by the Bush administration on America's core liberties and form of government. With a new Democratic president and large majorities in both Congressional houses, those excuses will no longer be so expedient. As dark and depressing as these last seven years have been for civil libertarians, culminating in an almost entirely grim 2008, there is no question that the Obama administration and the Democrats generally now possess the power to reverse these abuses and restore our national political values. But as the events of the last 12 months conclusively demonstrate, there are substantial questions as to whether they have the will to do so.

January 2, 2009 at 01:01 PM in Civil Liberties, Corporatism, Crime, Government, Iraq War, Justice, Obama Transition, Public Policy, Terrorism | |

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jury Absolves ABQ Cops in Dr. Fogarty's Iraq Protest Civil Rights Suit

Personally, I don't see how anyone in their right mind could side with the cops on , but too many Americans seem to be supportive of police state tactics in this era. As long as they believe they won't ever be abused, of course. As reported in the Albuquerque Journal:

In less than two hours Friday, a federal jury dispatched a civil rights lawsuit over a 2003 anti-war demonstration that had been fought for more than five years in the courts. The cops won.

Dr. John Fogarty, a family practice physician working for the Indian Health Service in Santa Fe, alleged excessive force and wrongful arrest at the protest in a federal lawsuit. He had joined protesters speaking out against the newly launched war in Iraq, and was performing on an African drum near the University of New Mexico bookstore, when officers who were never identified yanked his drum and took him to a police holding van.

For the past week, the eight-person jury heard testimony and watched videos about police handling of the event. Defense attorneys representing the city, Capt. John Gonzales and five officers heard divergent views on police actions during the protest.

... "I think the jury understood how professional the Albuquerque Police Department, the officers and commander were during these very trying times," Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy said.

Well, that's not exactly how roughhouse tactics by some APD officers are viewed by those who have intimately come into contact with them. Unfortunately, it's apparent that too many citizens who have never witnessed such behavior have a tendency to believe whatever the cops say. I wonder how the jurors in the case would feel if they were treated in the same manner while sitting and drumming in an out of the way area close to a peaceful demonstration.

December 15, 2008 at 02:05 PM in Civil Liberties, Iraq War, Justice | |

Sunday, December 14, 2008

(Updated) Shoe Fly Pie: Duck, George

No comment.

Update: The New York Times is reporting that the reporter who threw his shoes at Bush is becoming a folk hero and celebrity in the Arab world and beyond. Also, a petition has been posted demanding the immediate release of the journalist, Montather Al-Zaidi.
Here's a version that includes Bush's responses to the shoe event. I guess he believes shoe "tho-ing" is an acceptable way to express one's self in a democracy.

And last, but not least, here's a new net game generated by the incident. If the shoe hits ....

December 14, 2008 at 02:58 PM in Iraq War, Visuals | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Show Up Monday to Support Free Speech: Hearing on Police Misconduct at Iraq War Protest

If you support free speech and believe we need to confront threats to the right to assemble and civil liberties whenever and wherever they arise, your presence is needed this coming Monday at the U.S. District courthouse in Albuquerque.

When the Iraq War started in 2003, Albuquerque police used excessive force against peaceful protestors at a March 20th demonstration near the University of New Mexico Bookstore. I'm sure many of you recall the outrageous actions of law enforcement officers at that demonstration -- and some of you may well have been on the receiving end of the rough treatment and tear gas. There were 17 arrests and multiple injuries that followed the firing of tear gas and bean bag bullets, pepper spray and mace at demonstrators by police in riot gear, some mounted on draft horses.

An important civil rights lawsuit related to the demonstration goes to court at 1:00 PM on Monday, December 8, at the U.S. District Courthouse at 333 Lomas NW in Albuquerque before Judge William P. Johnson, and is expected to last a week. It's important that we fill the courtroom with supporters of free speech -- in peaceful solidarity with the plaintiff and the cause.

Dr. John Fogarty Asks for Our Support
Progressive activist and family practice physician John Fogarty was one of the protestors injured at the demonstration. He's the plaintiff in the civil rights suit, which names then APD Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos, three Albuquerque police officers and the City of Albuquerque as defendants. Dr. Fogarty's suit seeks damages for unlawful arrest, excessive use of force and other civil rights violations. See a recent article by Tracy Dingmann at the New Mexico Independent for more on what happened to Dr. Fogarty at the protest.

Although he's the sole plaintiff, Dr. Fogarty says the action is not just about what he experienced, but is aimed at protecting every citizen's right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to lawfully criticize our government and its actions.

Dr. Fogarty would welcome those who support the cause of free speech and the right to assemble to attend the trial and peacefully observe the legal process in action. A large and respectful crowd in the courthouse would demonstrate that Dr. Fogarty's cause has widespread support within the community. If you can, please be present at the trial on Monday or sometime during the rest of the week.

What You'll Witness
During the trial, Dr. Fogarty's legal team will show two amateur video tapes shot during the protest that show his unprovoked arrest and other police misconduct. A number of witnesses to the debacle that day, who suffered mistreatment similar to that experienced by Dr. Fogarty, will testify -- including members of the UNM medical school faculty, a Catholic nun and woman who was pregnant and subjected to smoke and tear gas.

In addition, the attorneys will call to the stand every police officer who was assigned to the demonstration that day. Many of the officers at the protest obscured their identifies -- including wearing masks or other gear to cover their faces -- and every one of them has claimed in sworn depositions that they had nothing to do with Fogarty's arrest. Fogarty's attorney, Mary Han, said the case has already resulted in changes in the law that prohibit law enforcement officers from obscuring their identities when they're on duty. Dr. Fogarty hopes the suit will help to stop future civil rights abuses by law enforcement officials against citizens exercising their constitutional rights.

FogartyMore on Dr. Fogarty
Dr. Fogarty is a physician trained in family medicine and public health, and has worked on energy and climate change issues for many years. He is Co-Director for the nonprofit New Energy Economy. He has worked with the Indian Health Service in Pueblo and Navajo communities since 1997 and has taught courses on human rights and health at the University of New Mexico. He also serves on the national Board of Directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility. It's important that we back him in his effort to ensure that authorities uphold the constitution.

Note: The ACLU previously filed a lawsuit related to the police misconduct at the March 2003 demonstration. They also filed suit regarding the policies employed by the Albuquerque Police Department and Bernalillo County Sheriff's office during a protest of President Bush's visit here in August of 2007. See my previous post on that case.

December 6, 2008 at 12:30 PM in Civil Liberties, Iraq War, Justice | |

Monday, November 10, 2008

Urge Obama to Close Gitmo, Ban Torture, End Military Commissions

Sign the ACLU-Brave New Films petition at

From Anthony D. Romero, ACLU: As freedom-loving people, we can convince Barack Obama to act on the first day of his presidency -- with the stroke of his pen -- to restore America's moral leadership in the world and make clear right from the start that our new administration will be faithful to the Constitution.

With a January 20th executive order, President Obama can close Guantánamo Bay, shut down unconstitutional military commissions, and ban torture -- as long as he listens to himself and to our pleas.

It's not just up to him. It's up to us. So today, acting on multiple fronts, the ACLU is launching an all-out grassroots drive to help Barack Obama make his first day as president a day of decisive action for freedom and justice:

  • In today's New York Times, we're running a compelling full-page ad urging President-Elect Obama to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and shut down the military commissions on his first day in the White House.

  • We're launching the first in a powerful new series of videos produced by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, the award-winning director and producer of documentaries including "Outfoxed" and "Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties." Check out the first video above.

  • We're hosting an open Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, November 13, when concerned citizens from all across the nation will gather via teleconference to develop an all-out campaign to encourage Barack Obama to take decisive steps towards freedom on day one. Sign up to participate in this important conversation.

November 10, 2008 at 11:13 AM in Civil Liberties, Crime, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, Obama Transition | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NM-02: Talking About Guns, Tinsley Says He Has a "Rude Awakening" for Obama

Ed Tinsley, the GOP's Congressional candidate in NM-02 who's running against Democrat Harry Teague, has been caught in the act again. Tinsley's latest inflammatory remarks -- and what can be perceived as a threat to Barack Obama -- came at a recent candidate forum in Roswell. Tinsley was asked about his views on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. Instead of talking about his or his opponent's positions on the issue, Tinsley launched into a disturbing attack on presidential candidate Barack Obama, as you can see in the video clip above. Ed Tinsley said:

Well, I'll say this, somebody that certainly doesn't get it is Barack Obama when he says that our district clings to our guns and our religion out of frustration. I have a rude awakening for him and we'd love to have him as a guest at our ranch.

Check out Tinsley's demeanor when he says the words "rude awakening." What do you think he has in mind when he says it? What do you think his words are meant to convey?

Making such statements is getting to be a disturbing habit with Ed Tinsley. This isn't the first time he's demonstrated a penchant for brutal and violence-tinged rhetoric. For instance, in 2002 when running in the GOP Congressional primary in NM-02, Tinsley was asked about his views on the death penalty. He answered,

"I would certainly like to take the people out and drag them behind my horse until their head popped off."

The Albuquerque Journal printed the quote and Steve Pearce, Tinsley's primary rival back then, used it against him. Pearce -- no shrinking violet in the inflammatory rhetoric department himself -- ended up winning the primary and the Congressional seat. (Pearce is now running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico.) The voters of New Mexico's Second District evidently didn't cotton to cruel talk like that back then, and I doubt they'll do so now.

Last month, Tinsley earned Worst Person in the World status on Keith Olbermann's Countdown and gained notoriety across the web for his nasty and personal statement at a candidate forum in Las Cruces -- where he said of his Dem competitor, Harry Teague,

"How am I supposed to call my two nephews over there [in Iraq] right now ... and tell them I'm running against a guy who will cut your throat!"

You can read about that incident in my previous posts here and here.

In an election cycle when genuine threats to Obama are not uncommon, it's downright scary to have a candidate for the U.S Congress make a statement that, at the very least, takes a threatening tone towards the Democratic presidential nominee. What is in Ed Tinsley's head -- and in his heart -- if he can make the kind of statements I've cited without blinking an eye? Tinsley likes to talk about All-American values, but his remarks seem to reveal a much darker view of the world -- a place where vigilante might makes right and fear tactics are employed without shame. Maybe that's why Dick Cheney will be down in Harry Teague's hometown of Hobbs later this month to raise money for Tinsley. Two Darth Vader peas in a pod.

Don't want a Congressman from New Mexico who talks like a reckless bully? Help get Harry Teague elected to represent NM-02. Click here to donate or volunteer.

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September 9, 2008 at 12:48 AM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Iraq War, Local Politics, Media, NM-02 Congressional Race 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6)