October 13, 2005
The BuzzFlash Mailbag
The opinions expressed in the Mailbag are not necessarily those of BuzzFlash. Read the BuzzFlash FAQ for info on submitting to the Mailbag.
Subject: Make no mistake; the flu is coming.
At its current rate of mutation, the Bird Flu will soon be transmittable between humans. When this happens, millions across the world will be powerless to stop the spread. Untold millions will die.
This is the big one.
As we watch the gradual spread across Asia, into Europe, and throughout Africa, one sobering thought must remain in the back of our minds; George W. Bush is in charge of protecting us against this virus.
Already, calls are coming for a "Flu Czar" to oversee the prevention/treatment efforts. While there have been mixed results with "czars" in the past (Drug Czar, anyone?), this seems like a good idea. The question is; will George W. Bush appoint a Czar who is an expert in the field, or one of his worthless cronies? History tells us what the answer will be. In the future, will history tell us another Michael Brown was appointed to fight this killer virus?
The stakes are too high to trust the Bush Administration. Congress must take control of the situation by selecting candidates for Flu Czar, debating their merits, and giving the President a list of viable candidates from which to choose. While not a perfect process, it is preferable to Bush's Standard Operating Procedure, which consists of opening his political black book and choosing the most obsequious name. We aren't talking about the next election cycle, Karl Rove committing treason, or George W. Bush hitting the bottle again. We are talking about our very survival. Republicans must take an objective look at Bush's past appointments and decide if they trust his judgment with such an important decision. Before they spout the Party line, they should consider this; unlike wars and taxes, they cannot insulate their families from this threat. This virus will extend beyond racial, economic, and political boundaries. Do they really want George W. Bush in charge of protecting their family? We get only one shot to fight this epidemic. Congress can't allow Bush to mess it up.
by Abigail A. Fuller and Neil Wollman
Give us three minutes and we can find an op-ed piece in a U.S. newspaper calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, or arguing that they should stay. The arguments are varied and numerous: If the U.S. leaves, anarchy will ensue. Occupation forces are a target for foreign terrorists. Bush should set a timetable for withdrawal. Setting a timetable would embolden those using violence in Iraq. And so on. What is missing from this picture? Any discussion of what the Iraqi people themselves want. The opinions of those most affected by this war count the most. And so a nationwide referendum should be conducted in Iraq on the question of whether U.S. troops should stay or go, in which every Iraqi can vote directly on this question.
What the U.S. public wants is much discussed in the media-nearly every week poll results are announced indicating how many people believe the United States should withdraw all or some troops from Iraq (63 percent, according to the latest USA Today/CNN Gallup Poll) and how many believe the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq (59 percent, from the same poll). As U.S. citizens we certainly have an interest in whether the troops stay. Our tax money funds the U.S. military presence, and our young men and women are being killed and injured there. So our opinions matter.
But what about the Iraqis? There are inherent difficulties in polling in an unstable, war-torn environment. Furthermore, most polls of Iraqi public opinion ask such ambiguous questions as, "Do you think the country is headed in the right direction?"-to which a "yes" answer could mean any number of things, from a belief that the insurgents are defeating the occupation forces and that's a good thing, to a belief that a democratic government will be established soon in part due to the U.S. presence. Neither is it sufficient to simply allow the Iraqi government to determine whether or not U.S. troops stay: 37 percent of Iraqis, a significant minority, feel that the Iraqi National Assembly does not serve the interests of all Iraqis (International Republican Institute poll, July 2005).
Some polls have asked Iraqis specifically about the presence of U.S. troops, and guess what: they want us to leave. A February poll by the U.S. military, cited by the Brookings Institution, found that 71 percent of Iraqis "oppose the presence of Coalition Forces in Iraq." This poll was taken only in urban areas, but others have found much the same sentiment. According to a January 2005 poll by Abu Dhabi TV/Zogby International, 82 percent of Sunni Arabs and 69 percent of Shiite Arabs favor the withdrawal of U.S. troops either immediately or after an elected government is in place.
But an opinion poll does not carry the weight of a referendum, in which all Iraqis could clearly and definitively vote on whether or not U.S. troops should remain in their country. This can be done: Kurdish activists organized a referendum on independence during the January national elections in Iraq, which found that over 90 percent of Kurd voters want independence for the region. On October 15 Iraqis vote, in another referendum, on whether to accept a new constitution.
It appears that we as a nation are so self-absorbed that both the hawks and the doves among us have forgotten to ask what those most affected by the war-the Iraqi people themselves--want. Let us remedy this situation by supporting a referendum and then abiding by the results. Let the Iraqi people decide.
Abigail A. Fuller is associate professor of sociology and social work at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana. Neil Wollman is professor of psychology and senior fellow of the Peace Studies Institute at Manchester College, North Manchester, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Subject: A letter to the AP
Dear Associated Press,
Subject: Bush's HHS nominee is a trainwreck
A recent writer to our local paper (The Columbian, Vancouver, Wa) wrote to tell us about a possible problem in the U.S. dept. of Health and Human Services. A Bush appointee, Stewart Simonson, is the Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. His background? He was a lawyer for AMTRAK. His educational experience? He received a BA from U. Wisconsin, 1986, and a Juris Doctor degree, 1994. In his position he is "responsible for matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies (Bird Flu?). Emphasis added.
The above information came from his official HHS bio, that I copied from www.hhs.gov/about/bios/asphep.html. Does this sound like another "Brownie?"
My family and I own a small retail business. We operate it ourselves because the overhead (i.e., rent, health insurance(!), inventory, etc.) takes virtually every penny. We're able to draw enough in salary to pay our own personal bills, for which we are thankful, but that's about it.
On the 15th of every month we have to make a payroll tax deposit to our bank. They, in turn, send this money on to Washington. This is for any income tax we have withheld from our paychecks along with the required Social Security and Medicare tax. Our business is required to match any Social Security and Medicare tax we have withheld and include that in this deposit as well. This is another expense for us. In order to have this deposit on hand each month, we have to draw $50-$75 a day from the cash register and put it to the side. If we didn't do that, our other expenses would have left our checkbook balance very low and we wouldn't have this deposit amount available.
$50-$75 a day may not sound like very much with all the millions/billions figures floating around the news; but when your business only pulls in $300-$600 a day, it makes a dent. Business owners just like us are the ones sending our money in every month. We barely get by. So when we hear that we're shipping billions overseas for thing such as building schools in Iraq (which the Iraqis don't have to pay for), and our own kids are having to peddle candy bars and gift wrap to raise their own funds for their school funding shortfalls, it makes you a little unhappy with the folks in Washington. But what are us "little people" supposed to do?
A BuzzFlash Reader
I mixed this video simply to compare and contrast NEWS then-and-now. We shouldn't forget the glory days and its power to do good. But we also shouldn't confuse them with what we have today.
I'm weary of the DNC's entire platform being centered on the current administrations shortcomings. We all know that the conservative republicans are taking this country on a perilous course but what are the progressives of both parties doing to assure we don't crash and burn. Merely pointing out how inept and corrupt the Bush administration is will not bring about change. We need a constructive and winnable approach to win the next election or kiss the DNC goodbye. Maybe a 3rd party of progressives from both sides.
Heaven help us. Ted Kennedy says he'll back Kerry in a presidential bid in 2008.
With such golden opportunity for the party to take over once again, the last thing we need to do is run last time's loser. I never was a big fan of Kerry, but of course I strongly supported him because I had to. He's just not the right guy -- wasn't then, and most certainly isn't now. But who is? The Dems had better get moving, in more ways than one. Start taking advantage of the chaos in the bush administration. Start planning. Get some leadership, for Pete's sake. Find the right candidate. But don't take a giant step backward and put Kerry in the race!
Sue in S. Florida
Low-income people feel alienated from their government and anxious in their own personal situations. Doesn't matter how many polls, studies, or reassuring speeches there are about how well the economy is doing, we know better.
Politicians keep pointing out how well everything is going and a majority of the population tries very hard to believe them. This is America; of course we are doing well. Even when we're not.
Middle class Americans, those of you who are still around, have no idea what it is like down here on the bottom rung. For generations we have been told that if you work hard, save your money, get an education you will do fine. Then we could join the ranks of the middle class and have nice homes, a good car and a decent education for our kids. The American dream.
Many, if not most, of those who live below the poverty line are working Americans. Not deadbeats, not "Welfare Queens", not drunks, druggies, crooks or incompetent nincompoops. Were that only so, we could all be working for the government making the big bucks and getting all those lovely taxpayer paid for benefits.
Some poor schmuck who works two jobs just to pay the rent and utilities has little time left to peruse the Internet or look for alternative places to find out what is really happening in this country. They watch the evening news and get little news, a lot of fluff and remain ill informed. Network news spends more time on Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise than on important issues. Any time wasted on those two is completely indefensible.
It should tell us, if nothing else does what kind of a country we have become when low-income kids join the military in search of a better life. These young people have to play Russian roulette with their lives in order to get an education. Doesn't that just make you all proud? Meanwhile those elite little Republican snobs on their campuses support the war with every word at their command. Their bodies and futures are waaaaay to precious to subject to injury so they fight the war from here so that poor folks can fight it over there. The bottom rung just sucks, ya know?
Marjorie L. Swanson
Senator Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, owes the American people (republicans included) an explanation concerning taxpayers money. He added six hundred and forty six million dollars ($646,000,000.00) in added pork (money paid by American taxpayers) to the 2005 budget, with one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) of this money allocated to equip the police cars in Wasilla, Alaska with mobile computers. Wasilla has a population of a little over 6,000 and has 18 police cars. To equip all the police cars in Wasilla would obviously not cost anywhere near $1,000,000.00, so Stevens's problem now is to explain to the taxpayers (and hopefully a judge) where this, and the rest of the $646,000,000.00 is!
But he picked her because of her religion.
With Bush apparently coming unglued, Delay and Frist and a bunch of others being investigated, Republicans are starting to look for ways to survive the storm. It is time for the opposition to shift tactics.
McCain, et al, would love it if they could pin all the incompetence, corruption, treason and lies on Bush and his neo-con cronies. But they have been marching lockstep to the Bush beat. Don't let them slip out of the net.
Drop the word "Bush" from your vocabulary. Substitute "Republican," "GOP," or "conservative." "Faith-based" fits in many situations. It is not Bush's occupation of Iraq; it is the conservatives' faith-based sand trap. It is a Republican deficit, a Republican attack on Social Security, Republicans are out-of-touch, etc.
Otherwise, they'll decide to impeach the loser, and wash their hands of the whole matter.
It looks like the Democratic Party is finally trying to put together a platform. The planks include; defined Iraq benchmarks, energy independence, universal college, affordable health care, increases in the minimum wage and fiscal responsibliity.
Lets take a few hundred words and flesh a couple of these out.
Long term, it is not only feasible to become energy independent but possible to once again become a net exporter of energy. How? First, establish a $10-$20 billion/year fund to invest directly in new next generation nuclear power plants (which are ready to go); development companies would receive $1 billion from the fund for each planned power plant for which the government would receive a percentage ownership share equivalent to the investment to cost ratio. The private companies could buy back that share ONCE the plant is operational. Current estimates show that bringing 750-1000 next-gen. nuclear plants online would allow the US to decommission and take out of service every current fossil fuel plant as well as all existing 1st and 2nd gen. nuclear plants while leaving a production surplus sufficient to power the US through 2100. Second, establish a second $10 billion/year fund to build 10-20 Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-diesel/aviation fuel/gasoline refineries.
This process converts coal to fuel at an approximate cost of $32/barrel, half that of the current cost of crude oil/barrel (and remember that crude still has to be refined). This investment would make the US completely independent of foreign energy concerns while reserving our own petroleum production for non-fuel related economic development. Third, place into legislation the requirement that 25% of all domestic electrical production come from renewable sources (wind, biofuels, solar, etc) by 2015. Fourth (and maybe most importantly), it is time to fully fund a "Manhattan Project" on commercial fusion power generation. Yes we need to continue funding the international experimental fusion reactor to be placed in France, but 2 reactors is better than one. Three would be even better; go halves on the cost of a 3rd reactor with the Japanese (who had been competing with France for the current reactor contract).
Description: I posted this to my Livejournal after reading the Daily KOS memo on the upcoming Democratic Platform. The DNC needs to understand that rhetoric must have substantial policy behind it to truly motivate a shift in voter patterns.
A BuzzFlash reader
Subject: Miers and the Litmus Test
David Stout of The New York Times reports today:
President Bush sought again today to reassure conservatives about his Supreme Court nominee, Harriet E. Miers, and he said that Ms. Miers' religion was pertinent to the overall discussion about her.
"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," Mr. Bush said. "They want to know Harriet Miers' background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions.
"Part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion," Mr. Bush went on, in remarks that may be revived during Ms. Miers' confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee several weeks from now.
THIS IS A TOTAL OUTRAGE! Hasn't anyone in this country ever read Article VI of the United States Constitution?
Article VI: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
In plain English:
Nothing about Ms Miers' religious beliefs qualifies her for a role on the US Supreme Court.
Nothing about Ms Miers' religious beliefs disqualifies her for a role on the US Supreme Court.
ANY ATTEMPT TO USE HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AS A QUALIFICATION, AS RAISED BY MR. BUSH, IS PLAINLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND IS ILLEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES.
This illegal move is a clear attempt to pander to Mr. Bush's "evangelical base"; it is an attempt to divert the real discussions, which are (a) the the issues of Ms. Mier's competence in constitutional jurisprudence, and (b) the fact that Ms. Miers was the best qualified candidate Mr. Bush could find while only searching within 10 meters of his desk.
If Mr. Bush's move indeed does re-assure "conservatives" about Ms. Mier' appointment, then those "conservatives" clearly don't seem to care very much about honoring the laws of the United States.
Donald L Feinberg
Subject: Impeach-time way overdue!
Dear Buzzers --
Well -- DUHHH -- what took them so long to get around to what we said long BEFORE the war? Although I approve of their inquiry, I can't help thinking of them as rats jumping off the sinking ship -- i.e., the Chimp in Chief and his cronies.
I've been really pessimistic about the prospects for impeachment, but if there's blood in the water (sorry about the mixed metaphors in this message!) the sharks -- and that includes Republican sharks -- will swim in for the kill. After all, they have their OWN careers to consider, right? The next two weeks or so -- when Rove and Libby may be (I hope and pray) actually INDICTED!! -- may present the turning point (and I hope it's sharp and painful!!) on which this greedy, self-centered, uncaring about the rest of us administration falls. I just hope they land on the most pain-sensitive parts of their bodies.
I won't rest easy until we actually drive this ruthless gang out of office. But the gathering evidence and signs of prosecutional activity gives me hope. Let's all keep our fingers crossed -- and keep speaking out. (Thanks, Buzz, for giving us a forum.)
Barb in Athens, GA
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