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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Weekend Madman

Friday-Sunday, November 3-5, 2006


Lying Starts at the Top

What more proof do we Americans need that President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld think of our troops as nothing other than cannon fodder than the constant and willful lying to the families of slain soldiers both in Iraq and elsewhere?

The best-known case of the administration's disregard for our troops are the circumstances surrounding the death of Corporal Pat Tillman, and right after that was the capture of PFC. Jessica Lynch.

Tillman, who retired from the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, turned down a lucrative contract in the wake of 9/11 and enlisted in the army. As an Army Ranger he was originally reported as dying in battle facing enemy fire. Bush, Rumsfeld and the GOP used his death as propaganda refusing to even tell his mother and brother the truth. As it turned out, Tillman was killed by "friendly fire".

Lynch was captured when her support convoy veered of on the wrong course. Many of her fellow soldiers were killed while she was taken as a prisoner in the early days of the war. She was eventually rescued from an Iraqi hospital in a made-for-TV raid whose "highlights" were shown to all of us in the green tint of those night goggles worn by our troops for night-time invasions. Lynch was reported to perform as the female version of John Rambo. We were told of her taking out Iraqi soldiers before she was wounded and captured herself. However Lynch couldn't live a lie (the end-result of a good upbringing, I guess) and she came out and told the truth, again showing the administration in their proper light.

So today, I read in The New York Times of another of those Pentagon Stories that the Bushies like to embellish. In this case it was the accidental killing of a soldier in a gun cleaning accident. Lance Cpl. Russell White was killed by Lance Cpl. Federico Pimienta when the latter's gun went off. A single bullet to the head ended White's life.

White's parents, more concerned about the living, took a concerned approach towards the man who killed ther son. Pimiento was being held at Camp Lejeune, N.C. under a suicide watch while Adam White, Russell's brother, went with his parents, Tricia and Gregg, to North Carolina for a memorial prayer and a prayer of forgiveness to the young man who killed their son.

“I immediately put myself in his (Pimienta's) parents’ position, and I just couldn’t imagine. We didn’t want two people to die because of what we thought was an unfortunate accident.”
-Tricia White

As it turned out, it took the Whites months to find out that their son wasn't just killed in an easy-to-dispose-of gun-cleaning mishap, but was killed by a soldier who was, as the very least, consistently careless. You see, covering up the truth sometimes is easier than living up to the lie, a lesson never learned by this administration..

Pimienta had been chastised numerous times before about mishandling his weapon and had been AWOL from his court-martial hearing. He often aimed his gun at other soldiers and even practiced a western-style "quick-draw", just for fun. As it turned out, a dozen marines testified to Pimienta's gun stunts.

“I would inform him that the way that he is handling his pistol would be — was unsafe, and that eventually he’s going to end up hurting someone,”
-Corporal Alfred E. Riley, at Pimienta's court-martial

It took persistent questions to Corporal White's other platoon members to eventually find out the truth. The original scenario of a simple accident was disappearing and the truth emerging. The Whites had been lied to like the Tillman's and the rest of us were for expedience and/ or propaganda reasons alone.

"And it was before persistent questioning, guided by intimations of a darker explanation from their son’s platoon mates, enabled the Whites to piece together a picture of what had happened at Bagram Air Base on June 20, 2004, when Corporal White, 19, was killed by a single shot to the head."
-The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/us/05friendly.html?hp&ex=1162789200&en=2d3d4933abeb46c5&ei=5094&partner=homepage)

“I had lost faith in the entire system. I figured we were never going to receive any justice.”
-Adam White, at Pimienta's Court Martial

Now, it appears, there are many families who are seeking the truth about their children's deaths from the military. Their complaints include that the Defense Department has been slow to investigate and that they have been given contradictory explanations as to what happened to their loved ones.

“They started out real good, and then they stopped — they stopped giving me information. The door kept shutting, and I was like, No, you’re not going to slam the door on me.”
-Gregg White, Russell White's father

People like Don Rumsfeld will do anything to protect and their position. Where does that buck stop anyway?

“The Marines aren’t bad, it’s the bureaucracy. It’s the brass.”
-Gregg White

It's more than that, Mr. White. It's the attitude that permeates this whole administration. At the very beginning of his reigh at The Pentagon, Rumsfeld had stated that he wanted to make the military in his own image. he stated that it needed to be changed and those like President Bush and, more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney gave him the mandate to do it. The problem is that he succeeded and, unfortunately the military is beginning to look just like the Bush administration: No accountability with expedience and propaganda reigning over the truth.

-Noah Greenberg

Do As They SAY...

A male prostitute alleges that he had a three-year relationship with prominent right-wing evangelical leader Ted Haggard, who has said that homosexuality is a “sin” and “devastating for the children of our nation and for the future of Western civilization.” Haggard denies the allegation.

Haggard is president of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing more than 30 million conservative Christians. Time Magazine ranked him as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals and Harper’s contributing editor Jeff Sharlet noted, “No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted.”

Every Monday, Haggard participates in a conference call with members of the Bush administration. He has stated, “I’m a right-wing religious conservative. … I joke that the only disagreement I have with George Bush is on what type of truck to drive.”

Isn't driving a truck is a consistent sexual metaphor for a penis in a vagina--or other orifice?

Haggard’s accuser, Mike Jones, says “he has recorded voicemails and a letter from Haggard, and that he had also witnessed Haggard use methamphetamine.”

Haggard told Denver's 9News.com, "I’ve never had a gay relationship with anybody and, uh, I’m steady with my wife, I’m faithful to my wife. So, I don’t know if this is election year politics or if this has to do with the marriage amendment or what it is. But I’m not even the guy who will investigate it or question it, I don’t know what the dynamics are. This independent group will come in and do that."

A day later Haggard was back-pedaling, saying he'd bought the meth but hadn't used it and had a $300 massage from the male prostitute but didn't have sex with him.

At least Mark Foley never said he didn't do it.

Ted Haggard's defense changed rather dramatically over night. Accused of paying for gay sex and using illegal drugs, the evangelical leader initially denied wrongdoing. He admitted that "some" of the allegations were true.

"Some"? One of the nation's most influential conservative Christian leaders is accused of some rather surprising and scandalous behavior, but "some" of the "indiscretions" are true?

Haggard resigned from his church last night, saying he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations." He suggested he'd return, however, after he'd been cleared. It now seems like a safe bet that this isn't going to happen. Jimmy Swaggart managed a comeback, but he wasn't gay.

The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman suggested that the Haggard scandal may have political implications, beyond just the evangelical leaders' close ties to the Bush White House.

"This is one more factor that could increase the disillusionment of evangelicals with prominent leaders on the Christian right and with the political process as a whole, and some may conclude that perhaps their forebears were wise to be wary about politics," said William Martin, a professor of religion and public policy at Rice University and a biographer of the Rev. Billy Graham.

Perhaps. The rank-and-file evangelical base certainly has reason to be disillusioned by the leaders in which they've invested their trust. Republicans in Congress won't pass their agenda (banning gay marriage and abortion); Republicans in the White House think they're crazy (let's not forget David Kuo); several evangelical leaders on TV are crazy (Robertson, Falwell, et al); while others fall short of the standards they demand others meet (Haggard).

In Colorado, in particular, Haggard is a household name, at least as far as Christians go. How many of those evangelical families will feel so disillusioned on Tuesday that they'll just stay home? Time will tell, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if the numbers are rather high.

Haggard is the same guy who gave us Jesus Camp and the worshipping of George Bush. How exactly are the Republicans going to spin THIS in two days?

As the Republicans used to say about Clinton--it isn't about the sex it's about the lying. Oh, and the hypocrisy. I can't wait to see this crowd go down in flame on Tuesday.

-Victoria Brownworth, with thanks to James Wolcott (http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/blogs/wolcot) and a report from thinkprogress.org (edited by Noah Greenberg for Note from a Madman)

Kean JUNIOR: Even MORE Hypocrisy

Republican Senate hopeful Tom Kean Jr.'s campaign called developer Murray Kushner's money "dirty" in a September news release that noted Democrat Bob Menendez had taken $7,700 of it.

On Wednesday, Kean's campaign said it had made a mistake.

What changed?

Kushner gave Kean $8,000 on Friday.

-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane

A Smart Poster Boy

I'm white, straight, a landlord, and have actually made money on Wall St.

I should be a poster boy for the GOP.

But wait - I work for a living. I have kids who need education. And medical care. I breathe the air, and don't want to cough with every breath. I like to go to the beach and don't want to swim in an open sewer. I understand the process of evolution, the promise of stem cells, and that asking questions is more important that memorizing talking points.

And I don't really understand why my dad, 85 years old, and other people in their 70's and 80's have medical care paid for by the government, which is the taxpayers, a.k.a. the citizens, and all the people in Congress and the Judiciary and the Executive have medical care paid for by the government - the citizens, while I don't, and while 46 million Americans have no medical care at all. I know why this is in dirt poor countries ruled by dictators who call themselves 'The President' but here? In the United States of America?

Well, gotta go - going to plant some signs in the ground asking people to vote intelligently.

-From njfordemocracy.org; on behalf of Larry Furman

More from the Sleaze Front

On the sleaze front, disgraced Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) has finally resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to taking money from Jack Abramoff in return for favors.

In other sleaze news, Ted Haggard, the head of the National Association of Evangelicals until yesterday, when he resigned after word got out that he had been hiring a gay prostitute for 3 years now admits that he bought methamphetamine. However, he says he never used it. What a dodo. Why pay good money for drugs and not use them? That's as stupid as Bill Clinton paying good money for marijuana and not inhaling. Advice to politicians: it is better not to buy drugs at all, but if you must buy them, use them. It makes you look uncool to buy the drugs and then flush them down the toilet. You're never going to get the 18-24 year olds to vote for you that way.

From: http://www.electoral-vote.com, as forwarded by Eddie Konczal

In defense of Alan Hevesi - Our NY Comptroller!

Hevesi has a 30-year record of commitment to reproductive freedom and a woman's unrestricted right to choose. and helped fight attempts to repeal and weaken New York's abortion law that became the basis for the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. As New York City Comptroller, Alan Hevesi championed the city's tough clinic access law and emergency contraception.

-Kelly Taylor

In response to, "It, and they certainly have. Last evening I watched REAL conservatives blast away at the "Tax-only-the-middle-class and spend-only-OUR-money" Bush REPUBLICANS, and. let me tell you, they are not happy. When you have people like George Will and William F. Buckley, Jr., the father of modern-day conservatism and the founder of the National Review come out and call you phonies, you have lost your conservative gold stripes," Robert Scardapane writes:

Republicans are no longer Republican. They are not the common sense party of Ike nor are they even the party of Nixon who was a champion of Medicaid! They are not even the party of Reagan who kept social security strong by making a deal with the Democrats.

They are the party that hates the middle class, taxes it to death while shipping it's jobs overseas. They are the party that sends citizens into war without the resources needed to stay alive and allows their families to go into bankruptcy while they are called up again and again. They are the party that gives billions of hard earned taxpayer dollars to obscenely wealthy oil companies just for political favor. They are the party that lied it's way into war and does allow anyone to question them lest they be branded as un-patriotic. Enough of these NEO-CON-ARTISTS. Throw them out on Tuesday.

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-Noah Greenberg