Hartsongs <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, December 26, 2003

Standing in line at the supermarket, I read the headline that Noah's Ark was found in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein had been hiding it for 40 years...

The Corporate 'farmer' has lost all common sense, spawning diseased animals that are slaughtered and sold in supermarkets without compunction. In the latest case of Mad Cow Disease in Washington, the animal in question was a 'downer', but even though she was so sick she could no longer walk, she was sent out as fodder for the average American table. Except for the fact that it was discovered that she had been suffering from Mad Cow, the diseased meat would have been served without question.

Prime rib, anyone?

Cows are vegetarians. They're not cannibals. What is the reasoning behind feeding them ground beef? (And God only knows what else!)

The news reports are rife with 'officials' stating that there is "no threat to the food supply because the cow's brain and spine -- nerve tissue where scientists say the disease is found -- were removed before it was sent on for processing." However, one of the reports also informed us that those same items were ground up and sent to poultry farms as feed. Do we need to be concerned about contracting this disease from all poultry products as well?

""The risk to human health from this situation is extremely low and people should continue to feel very confident in our meat supply," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman." "All of the meat has been voluntarily recalled, but not for safety reasons, Veneman said." (No?)

"Dr. Stanley Prusiner, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco who discovered the proteins that cause mad cow disease, said he warned Veneman recently that it was "just a matter of time" before the disease was found in the United States."

All the more reason to go organic.

Seattle is synonymous with Espresso. Entering the city, one is overcome with the odor of coffee. Given this unfortunate turn of events and the fact that it was a depleted Dairy cow diagnosed with the disease, one has to wonder what effect it will have upon the many small businesses serving up lattes, as well.

Got milk?

Sunday, December 21, 2003

"An Israel bristling with nuclear hardware it cannot talk about and chemical horrors it could negotiate away does not make itself, or the world, any safer. On the contrary, it makes a hypocritical farce of too much Washington bargaining, buries too many initiatives deep down Hypocrisy Gulch and gives rogue groupings in ex-rogue states every reason to carry on developing, stealing or buying the devices that keep Mr Blair awake at night."

"Donald H. Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship..."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

On November 30th, in Samarra, US military officials reported a raging firefight between US forces and resistance fighters. Reports suggested a large, highly organized ambush on US troops within the city by mujahideen and Fedayin fighters. Occupation forces responded fiercely, killing 54 Iraqis, according to General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Pace stated;

"They attacked and they were killed, so I think it will be instructive to them."

Love that dirty water kitchen...

It's not bad enough that our troops have to put their lives on the line fighting a trumped up war; they also have to worry about food poisoning, as well. Halliburton is raking in billions of dollars for their 'services', grossly overcharging for shoddy workmanship, and getting away with it...One guess on who gets to pay for it!

Afraid for the public to know?

Cluster Bombs, Air Strikes Killed Hundreds in Iraq by Jim Lobe: "London-based Medact, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, concluded in a study released last month that a total of between 5,700 and 7,356 civilians were killed between Mar. 20 and May 1 as a result of hostilities. AP also reported Wednesday that an effort by the Iraqi health ministry to count the total number of casualties was suspended this week, allegedly on orders from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). "

"Greetings from George W. Bush? Poking and prodding him like a cow, as one Vatican official said? Come on, you can arrest and even execute a man, but there?s nothing to be gained by heaping humiliation on him. Of course, if emboldening embittered Iraqi fighters is the goal, this wasn?t a bad approach.":
American Bravado Not a Pleasant Sight by Steven Greenhut

Toronto Sun Columnist: Eric Margolis: "France repeatedly warned the Bush administration against invading Iraq. DGSE, the French intelligence service, had highly placed agents within Saddam Hussein's regime and informed the U.S. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, posed no threat and would, if invaded, turn into a second Lebanon or West Bank."

"Wolfowitz created an unnecessary trans-Atlantic fracas that again shows the alarming diplomatic ineptitude and political crassness of the Bush administration."

"Other little-known firms with close links to the Bush administration have over 10,000 "civilian" (read ex-military) contractors in Iraq. They receive billions of dollars to train Iraq's new U.S.-run police and army, create security forces, field mercenary units and "protect" the U.S.-installed figurehead in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. In fact, a third of this year's $87 billion allocated for Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia will be spent on U.S. private military contractors."

Convicted for Conviction

Hagai Matar, Shimri Zameret, Adam Maor, Noam Bahat and Matan Kaminer face a prison sentence of up to three years in prison for following their conscience and refusing to serve in the IDF. They have been convicted of draft-dodging.

"Furthermore, the court said, the five high school seniors did not refuse to serve as individuals, but rather as a group, with the explicit goal of bringing about a change in Israeli policy in the territories." (how dare they!)

These brave young men signed a letter while in high school refusing to serve in the IDF "as long as it acts as an army of occupation."

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

From the Desk Of Martin Sheen

The Threat From Computerized Voting Machines

I am writing to you as a fellow member of TrueMajority to ask for your help in preventing a scandal that could shake our nation to the roots of our democratic principles. Please take a moment to send a free fax to your Representative in Congress, and then to pass this letter on to your friends and family in the hope that they will help too.

We start with a principle so obvious it seems strange even to write it: For a democracy to work, the people must believe that balloting is conducted fairly and votes are counted accurately. Americans feel justifiable pride that our nation has created a system to ensure this, including provisions for recounts.

In the wake of the punch card voting mess in Florida, the federal government dedicated billions of dollars to help states purchase new voting machines. Some pioneering states have begun purchasing a new type of touch screen computerized voting machine. These machines register votes on a memory chip and then digitally transmit the results via telephone modem to election headquarters.

We can only hope that neither glitches nor tampering will change or erase any of our votes. We all know that computers sometimes crash and lose data. Power cords get pulled out of the wall. And what better trophy for a hacker--or over zealous campaign worker--than to skew the outcome of the actual election?

There is a simple solution to these problems. The California Secretary of State has ordered that these new computerized voting machines print out a paper copy of your vote for your approval before the vote is registered. These printouts would then be saved in case the machines malfunction or there is any question as to whether or not they have been tampered with. Without them we would just have to trust the companies that make the machines--companies like Diebold whose CEO, Walden W. O'Dell, recently wrote in a fundraising letter for the Republicans, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

Without a paper trail, there is no way to reliably validate an election or conduct a reliable recount. It's that simple.

To send a fax (text below) to your Representative urging him or her to support voting machines across the country that we can trust, just click here.


Letters to the editor are another powerful way to influence your Congressmembers. This feature uses state-of-the-art technology to make it really easy for you to send a letter to the editor. Click here to give it a try.

TrueMajority is working on this important issue with some of our partners, including Working Assets, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and MoveOn.org. The California Voter Foundation has lots of great links to these groups and news articles about this problem. You can find them here.

The New York Times also did a great editorial on this issue. You can find it here.

So please take a moment to protect your right--our right--to make sure every vote is counted and every election is fair.

Thanks for your help,

Martin Sheen

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam Hussein Captured

Is Kim Jong Il next on the agenda?

Friday, December 12, 2003

"Ottawa has budgeted $300 million directly to help rebuild Iraq, at Washington's request.

Yet that's not enough for Bush, it seems. He demanded our moral acquiescence to his unnecessary war and now seeks our participation in an increasingly violent occupation."

The army's first 700-man battalion lost 300 troops

"They used to be paid two dollars a month and now the recruits are being paid $60 a month, but they feel they ought to be paid more than that, that's fine, if that's what they want, then they can go find another job. There are plenty of people queuing up to join the new Iraqi army."

The prosecutors say that Mr Bursey was not in a special “free-speech zone” that was set up for protesters half a mile from the hangar. The pro-Bush people did not need to be there because they were not protesting. Mr Bursey told the cops, defiantly, that he was under the impression that the whole of America was a free-speech zone.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

H.R. 2417, the fiscal year 2004 Intelligence Authorization Act

On November 20, 2003, the House passed the FY04 Intelligence Authorization Act by a vote of 264 to 163. The legislation passed the Senate on November 21, 2003. H.R. 2417 has been presented to the President who may sign it into law.

The Intelligence Authorization Act is a bill which authorizes classified amounts in fiscal year 2004 appropriations for the fourteen U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the foreign intelligence activities of the Defense Department, FBI, State Department, Homeland Security Department.

This legislation contains a provision that would allow the FBI to subpoena financial and other records from post offices, real estate agents, car dealers, travel agents, pawnbrokers and casinos without an order from a court or grand jury. This authority may be invoked in cases where U.S. national security is threatened by an act of terrorism or a potential act of terrorism. Under current law, the FBI may bypass the judicial system only to obtain the records of banks, credit unions and other traditional financial institutions.

Any legislation that permits a government agency to exempt itself or its actions from the oversight of the federal judiciary, even under special circumstances, deserves to be closely scrutinized and carefully considered by both Congress and the American people. For this reason, I do not believe these provisions should be part of the Intelligence Authorization Act.

The annual Intelligence Authorization Act is written, debated and Codified almost entirely in secret. This year, the Intelligence Authorization Act was made available to members of Congress only eight hours before it came before the House for a vote, and I was one of the only Members of Congress to go to Intelligence Committee Office to read the legislation prior to voting on it. By including these changes in a classified intelligence bill which is never made public - and which is not even read by most Members of Congress - the Republican leadership has effectively precluded any informed public debate from occurring on them. This is irresponsible and extremely short-sighted, and the American people deserve better.

Correspondence from Brian Baird
(emphasis added)

Two Ghandis in America – October 2003

She was a beautiful lady in her 50s, with flowing blond hair that glittered whenever she coquettishly moved her head over the soft scarf she was wearing gracefully over her shoulders. This strong, opinionated-looking woman was sitting and listening attentively in that lecture hall that was packed with people. Every once in a while the expression on her face changed: from keen interest to impatient anger and then again to agreement and back again – a whole range of emotions and feelings reflected there and then. It was fascinating to watch her.

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; Thursday, October 9; noon.

Two people were standing on the podium, a Palestinian and an Israeli, telling their painful personal stories.

There were more than 300 people in that hall – teachers, students, guests, Jews on the defensive, angry Muslims and Christians seeking to reconcile between them. Twenty minutes into the talk, the room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. The circumstances of the catastrophe and its consequences were described, the significance of the choice between hate and revenge on the one hand and reconciliation and compromise on the other was elucidated, and moving description of a unique meeting between former enemies from either side of a malignant bloody dispute was rendered. The audience was captivated. They were listening; concentrating and tense, perhaps even with a sense of solidarity and partnership.

The beautiful woman shared in this attentiveness, her head tilted slightly to one side in an effort not to miss even a single word of the conversation, which – although conveyed in elementary English – was gripping as can be.

A film about the summer camp organized for the children of bereaved families was screened next. An Israeli boy whose sister was murdered and a sweet Palestinian girl, whose uncle was slain, talked openly about hatred and reconciliation and about the need to start communicating with each other “before we all lose it.” The film also showed a man who has chosen the different course, the course of hatred and revenge, but you could see how even this hardened terrorist lets his human side out as he carries his newly-born child in his arms. Then the film showed a suicide bombing which, horrifically, was carried out by a relative of one of the children at the summer camp. The child’s father is a Palestinian physician whose daily routine is to care for the victims of these two crazed nations that have lost control of themselves and their destinies.

In short, an island of sanity in a sea of insanity and hatred – summer camp.

The end. lights on. Silence.

The beautiful woman awakens from her thoughts, sits up, looks at the people on stage, introduces herself as a proud Jew, points a finger at Razi and starts a long, scholarly lecture: She tells him about the history of the Jewish people, the plight, persecution and annihilation, and tells him how after all, despite the unfathomable suffering, the Jews have managed to produce giants like Einstein and Freud. Then, with an almost invisible smile of triumph and an almost undetectable undertone of condescension (or maybe it was just me?), she turns to Razi and asks defiantly:

“Please tell me, Ghazi” she pauses, looks at the audience and goes on “where is the Palestinian Ghandi?”

The room fell silent.

Everyone was waiting for the answer. In my mind I was running through the stock of standard answers that I have exactly for questions of this kind – a collection of clichés about the asymmetry between occupier and occupied; it’s not the same society, it’s not the same culture and you cannot expect…

But the man on the podium was not thrown off. This Palestinian, who has suffered immeasurably, raised his hand – in cast – up in the air, smiled playfully, pointed his other hand at his chest and said:

“My dear lady, I am the Palestinian Ghandi! And this man here at my side, my brother Rami, is the Israeli Ghandi!”

His words were muffled in the roaring applause, the audience stood up and cheered, and I blushed and smiled, slightly embarrassed. The beautiful woman smiled too and sat down, and then started the usual ping-pong of regular questions and regular answers, and in the end everyone - Christians, Muslims and Jews, waited in line to shake our hands warmly, to give us a hug.

This episode was the climax of a 24-day trip to the West Coast of the American Empire. A trip organized, funded and impeccably produced by Scott Kennedy and his colleagues from Fellowship of Reconciliation and by Nader Elbanna and Miko Peled from the Jewish-Palestinian dialog group in San Diego, who gave us a royal welcome, sparing no effort to make our stay pleasant and the tour successful and seamless. They did everything they possibly could to spread our special message, the message of reconciliation and compromise, throughout this vast country. Indeed, the meetings we had indicated that increasingly more people are opening up to this message – more and more people realize today that violence begets violence and that apparently the roots of the problem, which create the anger, frustration and hate and which have always been the spawning ground for terror, must be handled too.

It was a two-man show: Razi Bridgit, Palestinian, and Rami Elhanan, Israeli – delegates of the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families’ Forum for Peace. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has caused these two individuals to pay the highest price – the lives of their loved ones, and they have made a brave, determined resolution: “Enough! Death need not be our destiny in this land for all eternity; this is not an unchangeable fate; the endless cycle of blood can and must be stopped; Cracks in the wall of horror and hatred can be made, and the wall can even be knocked down.” Indeed, seeing a Palestinian and an Israeli standing side by side on the same podium, calling one another “brother” and talking about peace out of mutual recognition and respect, was truly an amazing sight for Americans to see, after they had grown used to seeing these two peoples fighting each other in the battlefields of the occupation, as well as on campuses, TV talk shows and newspaper articles.

This campaign featured an Israeli and a Palestinian who were in complete harmony with one another, working together and expressing sensitivity for each other’s feelings. Like two seasoned actors, time after time, three, four and even five times a day, they went on stage together. More than 60 appearances before more than 5,000 people of all backgrounds and persuasion: There were Quakers, Baptists and Catholics; Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews; Muslims of varying degrees of devoutness; sensitive people-loving left wingers and radicals of all kinds, communists and liberals, lawyers and politicians, a mayor and a congressman, students and professors.

The campaign started up north, in the cold weather of Minneapolis, Olympia and Seattle. From there we traveled down to the campuses of Berkeley and Stanford, through schools in San Francisco, Monterey and Santa Cruz, to our final stop at Del Coronado Hotel and the Muslim center in San Diego, where the humid weather made us feel very much like in Tel Aviv. Everywhere we went, we were received with warmth, love and respect. People have already heard of the Forum, and it was genuinely gratifying to realize time and time again how much people admire and respect what we do and that they are willing to listen and ready to help.

It was also a voyage to the depths of pain and bereavement, which kept swinging us violently between depression and euphoria. It was a trip of personal rediscovery in which we reexamined our values and opinions and once again found powers we thought we had lost. This trip was tremendously challenging, both physically and emotionally; tears repeatedly welled up in our eyes, and we tried – sometimes unsuccessfully (especially Razi…) to keep them in. How can you, for example, stop the tears when after a talk at the Muslim center in San Diego, Afaf Elbanna, the wife of our host, comes to you and tells you with tears in her own eyes:

“Rami, I was born in Syria, and was brought up to hate Israelis. But you have opened my heart, and now I am weeping for your little girl just as I would for my own. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for turning me from a person who hates to one who loves. May God be with you!” Miko Peled, my brother-in-law who was standing there with me, was crying into my shoulder, and I just couldn’t help myself.

In this trip I also found a partner and a friend, who shares the same pain that I do and is sensitive to the suffering of others. This proud Palestinian was brave and sensitive enough the day after the suicide bombing at Maxim’s Restaurant in Haifa, to ask all the people at the church where we were giving a talk to stand in silence for one minute in memory of the slain Jews and Arabs. He is a warm, colorful and wise man with a juicy way of expressing himself, who captivated the hearts of all his listeners – with a playful smile and a perpetual good mood, despite the horrible and unbearable pain in his broken arm (…have I mentioned yet that it wasn’t my fault?…)

Rami Elhanan

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Halliburton is celebrating early this year...and they're laughing all the way to the bank with their $1.7 billion. (+)

The Village Voice informs us of a report by Amnesty International that details how the U.S. has been contributing to the torture of individuals around the world.

"The total value of U.S. exports of electroshock weapons was $14.7 million in 2002, and exports of restraints totaled $4.4 million in the same period," Amnesty's report says. "The Commerce and State departments approved these sales, permitting 45 countries to purchase electroshock technology, including 19 that had been cited for the use of such weapons to inflict torture since 1990." Around the world, there are some 856 companies in 47 countries engaged in the manufacture and marketing of electroshock technology, restraints, and chemical irritants that are used in torture, the report adds."

"Just in 2002, U.S. companies sold nine tons of Smith & Wesson leg irons to Saudi Arabia"

One of the slogans used by John McDermit, president of Nova Products, Inc: "It's possible to use anything for torture", but it's a little easier to use our devices."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

"This fence is here for your protection," reads the sign posted in front of the barbed-wire fence. "Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot."

Another town encircled with barbed wire. Israel? No Iraq.

"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."

The 7,000 citizens of this town are being held hostage in their own country.

"American officials say they are not purposefully mimicking Israeli tactics, but they acknowledge that they have studied closely the Israeli experience in urban fighting. Ahead of the war, Israeli defense experts briefed American commanders on their experience in guerrilla and urban warfare. The Americans say there are no Israeli military advisers helping the Americans in Iraq."

Christopher Allbritton is going Back to Iraq. This will be one of the few uncensored news sources.

"In Mosul, to the north, a U.S. soldier was killed yesterday while standing guard at another crowded and volatile filling station."

Love that dirty water...

You got 15 tons, and what do you get? Another year older, and deeper in debt...

"Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. are staffed by political appointees and largely controlled by the governor.

More important, critics charge, they are not subject to the oversight of a politically independent regulatory body.

These powerful institutions, which are also found in other states, were spearheaded in New York by Robert Moses, a planner, and by former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Unlike the Legislature, which is required by the state constitution to obtain voter approval before it incurs public debt, these mega-authorities can borrow far in excess of normal governmental limitations. As a result, experts note, New York's collective public debt, including its authorities, totals $105 billion — far more than in any other state."

Monday, December 08, 2003

The Cost of Building New Schools in Iraq

"Contracts for school rehabilitation are commonly worth forty to fifty thousand dollars and they do almost nothing. The schools are still not fit for use. Bechtel has been one of the main beneficiaries. They immediately sub-contract the work for about $28,000 to a company which then contracts the work to another company for about $10,000. He has this information from a friend who works as an engineer in the Ministry of Education."

Israeli Geography 101 102 103...ad nauseum...

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I'm moving to Laviano, Italy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

History Repeats Itself

Century Magazine April, 1896

"The man who devotes his lilfe to preserving the honor of his country and perpetuation free government is as mush a hero as the one who falls upon the field of battle? What our country is in need of today is an army of patriots who will enlist for the extermination of an army of political pirates and freebooters who are slowly but surely filching from us all that made it the best to live in and the easiest to die for. We need recruits in every town and village and great city, men who will not give up till the victory is won.

"This is a patriotism which tries men's souls, for it calls for quiet, self-sacrificing, unremitting labor, but it is the only patriotism which will save American institutions from destruction, and make the American name, as the symbol of human progress, honored throughout the world.

"It is folly to brag of our greatness and then have to confess that popular government in our cities is a disgraceful failure, that our State legislatures are growing steadily less competent, and that our congresses are becoming year by year more of a menace to the well-being of the country. We must awake to the fact that our enemies are not without, but within our borders."

When a President is a candidate,--and thus under a powerful temptation to coerce his subordinates, to pander to party leaders, to cause vast sums of money to be extorted from the public servants for election expenses,--these vicious elements will be far more powerful than when all candidates stand on a common level, no one having an army of office-holders at his bidding.
To make a President a candidate for reelection is to set him upon the conflicting purposes of serving, at the same time, his country, his party, and above all, himself."

"Though I have been trained as a soldier, and have participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not have been found of preventing the drawing of the sword." General Grant

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