Saturday, October 28, 2006

Detail of Seated Woman With Wrist Watch; Pablo Picasso, 1932

Friday, October 27, 2006


Nicaragua OKs draconian abortion bill before election

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Nicaraguan lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday that bans abortions for rape victims and women who risk dying in childbirth in a tactical vote little more than a week before a tense presidential election.

The measure was approved with the support of reluctant left-wing legislators who backed it to help their party's leader, Daniel Ortega, a former Cold War foe of the United States, sweep back to power in the November 5 election.

Nicaragua's powerful Roman Catholic Church and the ruling Liberal Party promoted the bill and Ortega's Sandinista Party fell into line to avoid alienating church leaders and religious voters in the last days of a tight campaign. The new measure would put Nicaragua alongside nations like Chile and El Salvador in imposing a blanket ban.

The reform proposals included prison terms of up to 20 or 30 years for women -- and their doctors -- who terminate a pregnancy. But legislators put off a vote on that issue, meaning the current maximum sentence of six years for illegal abortions will stand.

Barring a veto from President Enrique Bolanos, who had been pushing for a longer prison term, the law will take effect in 30 days.

Under existing, century-old law, abortions are allowed for women who are victims of rape and incest or whose lives are in danger.

Medical associations and women's groups campaigned against the proposed reforms and, with the Central American country locked in a fierce debate, senior U.N. officials had called on lawmakers to think carefully before voting.

"The new penal code doesn't just go against basic human rights, it goes against fundamental principles of humanity," New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

"Human Rights Watch knows from experience what it generally means to be pregnant as the result of rape, or to have an unsafe abortion: misery, desperation, and even the death of the pregnant woman."

Ortega, who led a 1979 revolution and fought a civil war against U.S.-backed Contra rebels throughout the 1980s, has a strong lead before the election but would face a tough runoff if he failed to win in the first round of voting.

U.S. officials worry Ortega would join an anti-U.S. bloc in Latin America led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and are backing Ortega's conservative rival, Eduardo Montealegre.

When Ortega was in power, his government reaffirmed the right to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or if three doctors stated a woman's life was at risk.

This year, Ortega has instead pushed a vague anti-abortion message on the campaign trail.


Twenty-five Sandinistas in the National Assembly supported the proposal on Thursday, although some sent their aides to cast the vote rather than do it themselves. The party's 13 other lawmakers stayed away from the session, where the bill was passed in a 52-0 vote.

Hundreds of people protested outside the National Assembly in the capital, Managua, on Wednesday night, saying the law would be a death sentence for the some 400 women who suffer ectopic pregnancies in Nicaragua each year. In an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus.

"They are forcing women and girls to die. They are not pro-life, they are pro-death," said protester Xiomara Luna.

Conservative lawmaker Delia Arellano said, "Murder is murder, and even more so when it is against an innocent who can't say, "Don't kill me", who can't say anything from inside the mother's womb."

Go to original article

COMMENT: What utter arch-reactionary horsesh!t ! (I wonder if the Nazi Pope will issue some more Papal bull…?)

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Bush’s Invasion 'pure failure', Blix says

Associated Press

Copenhagen — Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on Wednesday described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a “pure failure” that had left the country worse off than under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.

In unusually harsh comments to Danish newspaper Politiken, the diplomatic Swede said the U.S. government had ended up in a situation in which neither staying nor leaving Iraq were good options.

“Iraq is a pure failure,” Mr. Blix was quoted as saying. “If the Americans pull out, there is a risk that they will leave a country in civil war. At the same time it doesn't seem that the United States can help to stabilize the situation by staying there.”

War-related violence in Iraq has grown worse with dozens of civilians, government officials and police and security forces being killed every day. At least 83 American soldiers have been killed in October — the highest monthly toll this year.

Mr. Blix said the situation would have been better if the war had not taken place.

“Saddam would still have been sitting in office. OK, that is negative and it would not have been joyful for the Iraqi people. But what we have gotten is undoubtedly worse,” he was quoted as saying.

Mr. Blix led the UN inspectors that searched for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He came under heavy fire from Washington when he urged U.S. President George W. Bush to allow the weapons inspectors and the IAEA to continue their work as a way to stave off a war.

Ultimately a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and no weapons of mass destruction were found.

Go to original article


Officer struck by Bush's cousin dies

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A police officer died Saturday, four days after being struck by a sport-utility vehicle driven by a federal judge, the mayor said.

Officer Dan Picagli, a 17-year veteran of the force, was hit while directing traffic in the rain Tuesday night. He had been wearing a black raincoat and a reflective vest.

The SUV was driven by John M. Walker Jr., a senior judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, who maintains court chambers in New Haven. He was leaving work when the accident happened, police said.

No charges have been filed.

Police Chief Francisco Ortiz said the accident remained under investigation, but officers did not feel it was necessary to test Walker for drugs or alcohol.

Walker, 65, voluntarily stepped down this month as chief judge of the court. He was appointed to the court in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush, who is a cousin of the judge.

"Officer Picagli was more than a cop," Mayor John DeStefano said in a statement Saturday. "He was someone who brought people together, who created a sense of community. He was a life enhancer to all with whom he came in contact. More than any memorial, his basic decency will keep his memory vibrant in our city."

Go to original article

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


By Ari Berman

Republicans are running not one, not two, but three racist to borderline racist television and radio ads about Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee, the Democrat who's trying to become the first black Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction.

One ad run by the Republican National Committee, (RNC) shows a scantily clad white woman who says "I met Harold at the Playboy party," before whispering, "Harold, call me," and winking.

Hillary Shelton, Washington director of the NAACP, accused the ad of playing "to pre-existing prejudices about African American men and white women." William Cohen, Defense Secretary under Bill Clinton and former Republican Senator from Maine, called it "a very serious appeal to a racist sentiment."

Another ad, by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, asks "what kind of man parties with Playboy playmates in lingerie and then films political ads from a church pew?" A valid question, only the ad is done in the style of a blaxploitation film and set to funk music. Would Republicans run the same ad against a white candidate? I think not.

A third radio ad, commissioned by a group called Tennesseans for Truth (sound familiar?), explicitly plays the race card by citing Ford's membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, "an all-black group of congressmen who represent the interests of black people above all others."

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman may have apologized to the NAACP last year for the Republican Party's legacy of "trying to benefit politically from racial polarization." But that's exactly what the GOP is doing in Tennessee.

Go to original article

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Independent voters favor Democrats 2-1: poll

Independent voters plan to support Democrats over Republicans by an almost two-to-one margin in Congressional elections in two weeks time, according to a poll.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll does not predict the outcome of races being fought state by state and district by district around the country.

But its findings are grim for ruling Republicans fighting to retain control of Congress on November 7, because independents, who eschew party affiliation, are key swing voters.

The survey, taken October 19-21 among 1,200 adults, asked people which party they favored in their district, without matching candidates against one another.

Independent voters said they planned to support Democrats over Republican candidates by a roughly two to one margin of 59 to 31 percent, the poll found.

Forty-five percent of independents said it would be good if Democrats took control of the lower House of Representatives, 10 percent said the opposite, and the rest said it would not matter, the poll found.

"The growing independent support for Democratic House candidates represents a significant shift in attitudes since the 2004 election, when Democrats held only a slim advantage" the Post said. That year, independents voted 50 percent Democratic and 46 percent Republican in House races, the daily said.

Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the lower House of Representatives and six seats in the Senate to take control of those chambers.

Go to original


Monday, October 23, 2006

William Utermohlen’s self-portraits, which he began painting when he learned in 1995 that he had Alzheimer’s disease, chronicle his growing dementia.

Don’t Make Nice

The New York Times
Monday 23 October 2006

Now that the Democrats are strongly favored to capture at least one house of Congress, they’re getting a lot of unsolicited advice, with many people urging them to walk and talk softly if they win.

I hope the Democrats don’t follow this advice — because it’s bad for their party and, more important, bad for the country. In the long run, it’s even bad for the cause of bipartisanship.

There are those who say that a confrontational stance will backfire politically on the Democrats. These are by and large the same people who told Democrats that attacking the Bush administration over Iraq would backfire in the midterm elections. Enough said.

Political considerations aside, American voters deserve to have their views represented in Congress. And according to opinion polls, most Americans are actually to the left of Congressional Democrats on issues such as health care.

In particular, the public wants politicians to stand up to corporate interests. This is clear from the latest Newsweek poll, which shows overwhelming public support for the agenda Nancy Pelosi has laid out for her first 100 hours if she becomes House speaker. The strongest support is for her plan to have Medicare negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, which is supported by 74 percent of Americans — and by 70 percent of Republicans!

What the make-nice crowd wants most of all is for the Democrats to forswear any investigations into the origins of the Iraq war and the cronyism and corruption that undermined it. But it’s very much in the national interest to find out what led to the greatest strategic blunder in American history, so that it won’t happen again.What’s more, the public wants to know. A large majority of Americans believe both that invading Iraq was a mistake, and that the Bush administration deliberately misled us into war. And according to the Newsweek poll, 58 percent of Americans believe that investigating contracting in Iraq isn’t just a good idea, but a high priority; 52 percent believe the same about investigating the origins of the war.

Why, then, should the Democrats hold back? Because, we’re told, the country needs less divisiveness. And I, too, would like to see a return to kinder, gentler politics. But that’s not something Democrats can achieve with a group hug and a chorus of “Kumbaya.”

The reason we have so much bitter partisanship these days is that that’s the way the radicals who have taken over the Republican Party want it.

People like Grover Norquist, who once declared that “bipartisanship is another name for date rape,” push for a hard-right economic agenda; people like Karl Rove make that agenda politically feasible, even though it’s against the interests of most voters, by fostering polarization, using religion and national security as wedge issues.As long as polarization is integral to the G.O.P.’s strategy, Democrats can’t do much, if anything, to narrow the partisan divide.

Even if they try to act in a bipartisan fashion, their opponents will find a way to divide the nation — which is what happened to the great surge of national unity after 9/11.

One thing we might learn from investigations is the extent to which the Iraq war itself was motivated by the desire to have another wedge issue.

There are those who believe that the partisan gap can be bridged if the Democrats nominate an attractive presidential candidate who speaks in uplifting generalities. But they must have been living under a rock these past 15 or so years. Whoever the Democrats nominate will feel the full force of the Republican slime machine. And it doesn’t matter if conservatives have nice things to say about a Democrat now. Once the campaign gets serious, they’ll suddenly question his or her patriotism and discover previously unmentioned but grievous character flaws.

The truth is that we won’t get a return to bipartisanship until or unless the G.O.P. decides that polarization doesn’t work as a political strategy.

The last great era of bipartisanship began after the 1948 election, when Republicans, shocked by Harry Truman’s victory, decided to stop trying to undo the New Deal. And that example suggests that the best thing the Democrats can do, not just for their party and their country, but for the cause of bipartisanship, is what Truman did: stand up strongly for their principles.
Obama Is Not a Miracle Elixir
By Frank Rich
The New York Times
Sunday 22 October 2006

The Democrats are so brilliant at yanking defeat from the jaws of victory that it still seems unimaginable that they might win on Nov. 7. But even the most congenital skeptic has to face that possibility now. Things have gotten so bad for the Republicans that were President Bush to unveil Osama bin Laden's corpse in the Rose Garden, some reporter would instantly check to see if his last meal had been on Jack Abramoff's tab.

With an approval rating of 16 percent - 16! - in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Congress has matched the Democrats of 1994 or, for that matter, Michael Jackson during his own version of Foleygate. As for Mr. Bush, he is once more hiding behind children in an elementary school, as he did last week when the monthly death toll for Americans in Iraq approached a nearly two-year high. And where else could he go? Some top Republican Congressional candidates in the red state he was visiting, North Carolina, would not appear with him. When the president did find a grateful campaign mate at his next stop, Pennsylvania, it was the married congressman who paid $5.5 million to settle a lawsuit by a mistress who accused him of throttling her.

Maybe the Democrats can blow 2006 as they did 2004, but not without herculean effort. As George Will memorably wrote, if they can't at least win back the House under these conditions, "they should go into another line of work."

The tough question is not whether the Democrats can win, but what will happen if they do win. The party's message in this campaign has offered no vision beyond bashing Mr. Bush and pledging to revisit the scandals and the disastrous legislation that went down on his watch. Last spring Nancy Pelosi did promote a "New Direction for America" full of golden oldies - raising the minimum wage, enacting lobbying reform, cutting Medicare drug costs, etc. She promised that Democrats would "own August" by staging 250 campaign events to publicize it. But this rollout caused so few ripples that its participants might as well have been in the witness protection program. Meanwhile, it was up to John Murtha, a congressman with no presidential ambitions, to goad his peers to start focusing on a specific Iraq exit strategy.

Enter Barack Obama. To understand the hysteria about a Democratic senator who has not yet served two years and is mainly known for a single speech at the 2004 convention, you have to appreciate just how desperate the Democrats are for a panacea for all their ills. In the many glossy cover articles about Obamamania, the only real suspense is whether a Jack or Bobby Kennedy analogy will be made in the second paragraph or the fifth. Men's Vogue (cover by Annie Leibovitz) went so far as to say that the Illinois senator "alone has the potential to one day be mentioned in the same breath" as Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Why not throw in Mark Twain and Sammy Davis Jr.?

This is a lot to put on the shoulders of anyone, even someone as impressive as Mr. Obama. Though he remains a modest and self-effacing guy from all appearances, he is encouraging the speculation about seeking higher office - and not as a coy Colin Powell-style maneuver to sell his new book, "The Audacity of Hope." Mr. Obama hasn't been turning up in Iowa for the corn dogs. He consistently concedes he's entertaining the prospect of a presidential run.

There's no reason to rush that decision now, but it's a no-brainer. Of course he should run, assuming his family is on the same page. He's 45, not 30, and his slender résumé in public office (which also includes seven years as a state senator) should be no more of an impediment to him than it was to the White House's current occupant. As his Illinois colleague Dick Durbin told The Chicago Tribune last week, "I said to him, 'Do you really think sticking around the Senate for four more years and casting a thousand more votes will make you more qualified for president?' " Instead, such added experience is more likely to transform an unusually eloquent writer, speaker and public servant into another windbag like Joe Biden.

The more important issue is not whether Mr. Obama will seek the presidency, but what kind of candidate he would be. If the Democratic Party is to be more than a throw-out-Bush party, it can't settle for yet again repackaging its well-worn ideas, however worthy, with a new slogan containing the word "New." It needs a major infusion of steadfast leadership. That's the one lesson it should learn from George Bush. Call him arrogant or misguided or foolish, this president has been a leader. He had a controversial agenda - enacting big tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, waging "pre-emptive" war, packing the courts with judges who support his elisions of constitutional rights - and he didn't fudge it. He didn't care if half the country despised him along the way.

The interminable Iraq fiasco has branded the Democrats as the party of fecklessness. The failure of its leaders to challenge the administration's blatant propaganda to gin up the war is a failure of historic proportions (as it was for much of the press and liberal punditry). When Tom Daschle, then the Senate leader, presided over the rushed passing of the war resolution before the 2002 midterms, he explained that the "bottom line" was for Democrats "to move on"; they couldn't wait to campaign on the economy. The party's subsequent loss of the Senate did not prevent it two years later from nominating a candidate who voted for the war's funding before he voted against it.

What makes the liberal establishment's crush on Mr. Obama disconcerting is that it too often sees him as a love child of a pollster's focus group: a one-man Benetton ad who can be all things to all people. He's black and he's white. He's both of immigrant stock (Kenya) and the American heartland (Kansas, yet). He speaks openly about his faith without disowning evolution. He has both gravitas and unpretentious humor. He was the editor of The Harvard Law Review and also won a Grammy (for the audiobook of his touching memoir, "Dreams From My Father"). He exudes perfection but has owned up to youthful indiscretions with drugs. He is post-boomer and post-civil-rights-movement. He is Bill Clinton without the baggage, a fail-safe 21st-century bridge from "A Place Called Hope" to "The Audacity of Hope."

Mr. Obama has offended no one (a silly tiff with John McCain excepted). Search right-wing blogs and you'll find none of the invective showered on other liberal Democrats in general and black liberal leaders in particular. What little criticism Mr. Obama has received is from those in his own camp who find him cautious to a fault, especially on issues that might cause controversy. The sum of all his terrific parts, this theory goes, may be less than the whole: another Democrat who won't tell you what day it is before calling a consultant, another human weather vane who waits to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand.

That has been the Democrats' fatal malady, but it's way too early and there's too little evidence to say Mr. Obama has been infected by it. If he is conciliatory by nature and eager to entertain adversaries' views in good faith, that's not necessarily a fault, particularly in these poisonous times. The question is whether Mr. Obama will stick up for core principles when tested and get others to follow him.

That's why it's important to remember that on one true test for his party, Iraq, he was consistent from the start. On the long trail to a hotly competitive senatorial primary in Illinois, he repeatedly questioned the rationale for the war before it began, finally to protest it at a large rally in Chicago on the eve of the invasion. He judged Saddam to pose no immediate threat to America and argued for containment over a war he would soon label "dumb" and "political-driven." He hasn't changed. In his new book, he gives a specific date (the end of this year) for beginning "a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops" and doesn't seem to care who calls it "cut and run."

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, who last week said that failed American policy in Iraq should be revisited if there's no improvement in "maybe 60 to 90 days." This might qualify as leadership, even at this late date, if only John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hadn't proposed exactly the same time frame for a re-evaluation of the war almost a week before she did.
The Democrats may well win on Election Day this year. But one of their best hopes for long-term viability in the post-Bush era is that Barack Obama steps up and changes the party before the party of terminal timidity and equivocation changes him.

Web Site Hit Counters
High Speed Internet Services