Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Friday, May 19, 2006

EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT'S GOING DOWN


I'm getting pretty sick of trying to talk to you people.

Oh, not you personally, I suppose. I'm sure you're a thoughtful, intelligent, generous, worthwhile member of human socirty; a credit to yourself and your family's name, and the world is better for you being in it. For all I know, you may even read books.

I guess it's the great mass of men that frustrates my periodic forays into dialogue. These would be the same great group of putative sapiens who drove poor Henry to his cabin in Walden woods, many a monk to a mountaintop, and Henry Louis Mencken to his typewriter to the ending delight and sustenance of lesser practitioners of his sarcastic art such as I.

So here's where I am today, and this is what I have to say and I'll deviate from my usual route by posting my complaint here boldly, not yet two hundred words into our proceedings, perhaps thus to snare one more of those who habitually quit my longer, more layered excursions in disgust when no point has risen before their attention spans have timed out.

The National Security Administrator (whatever, exactly, that is, and whomever, precisely, it answers to, and however many hundreds of millions of dollars it gets from those few of us earning under a hundred thousand dollars a year and thus paying any taxes at all) has a list of all the telephone calls you make and of all the calls you receive. This includes the messages from your mistress and from the married man you met in the sports bar in Portland one winter night to test out your feeling that you might be "bi-curious." They know about your son's calls from jail, your daughter's pregnancy and VD scares, the flurry of communications between you and the "Financial Management Expert" that led to your purchase of several embarrassing stocks, as well as the several calls just before April fifteeth in which you sought adivce for anyone who would listen as to how you might turn a year's foolish investments into a dubious tax advantage.

They know, or could know, if they cared to sift through the interminable boredom of your average existence, that you suffer from varicose veins, hemorrhoids, insufficiency of erection, obesity (some connection, there, perhaps, to the limpness issue?) a chronic cough, dribbling after urination coupled with a perverse tardiness in initiating flow.

A guy in a suit or a uniform (is the NSA military, civilian, beureaucratic, or all three?), or maybe a young woman in a lab coat, (or do they outsource the management to India?) might have a list of the times you've been badgered by collection agencies. Or loan sharks. Or your father-in-law, fed up with your inability to keep a decent roof over his daughter's head or maintain a steady job.

They know, I suppose, if you've lied to the unemployment office, the IRS, the clergyman. They know that you regularly refuse contribution to human or animal welfare or environmental or peace charities, or conversely, that you're a sucker for any pitch that comes down the pipe. They know you buy guns. They know you buy dope. They know, if they're listening, just how much of a dope you can sometimes be. We all can be. They know.

But they're only collecting data. They don't care about content, just connections. As long as you're not calling Al-Qaida, you're fine. You have nothing to hide. They're only keeping you safe. Keeping us all safe. Keeping America safe. Everything is different since 9/11. The world is a dangerous place, brimming with Haters-Of-Freedom. In the War Against Terror we have to sacrifice a few freedoms to stay free.

Early polls indicate the two out of three Americans don't object to the NSA keeping track of their phone calls, to whom, from whom, what time, how long. See the preceeding paragraph for a typical list of explanations and apologies.

To which I can only cry the following. Only a list of numbers? Maybe. So what? It's still too much authority too deep into our lives. They wouldn't violate your privacy? Bullshi_! The person's who've captured our country while we were skiing of golfing or watching television or standing in line at Disney World or bargain hunting at Wal Mart will violate your privacy every time they think they might thus accrue some advantage to the estates of wealth or power. If you fight it they'll put you on a midnight plane to Morocco for a conversation with some guys who know how to work a magneto, a machete, a bucket of ice water, or a Glock.

Nobody ever went wrong mistrusting concentrations of power. In this country today power has pooled in the moneyed interests (corporations, insurance companies, investment banks, oil companies, billionaires), fundamental, backward, anti-intellectual, medieval religion (every loud, idiotic, crackpot blow-hard you've ever seen on TV praising God and asking you to pass the wherewithal, not to mention your born-again president), and in the truly twisted connivers, industry-shills, money-men and soulless creeps who've turned our professional military to foul purposes. Among these are chiefly Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney. Two thirds of us are comfortable with this crowd running the country and spying on its citizens.

Nothing will be come of this little essay except a couple of E-mails reminding me that I wouldn't be free to write it if I lived in Iraq under the iron rule of Saddam Hussein. But at least I'll have said that I don't approve of the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the FCC, Homeland Security or anybody else knowing one bit more about my life than necessary to extract my taxes, restrict my driving to a safe speed, and keep me from pouring used motor oil into my tributary of the Sheepscot River.

***He should have mentioned that he also has the right to say whatever he wants and that he shouldn't have to be bothered with stupid e-mails from those who have different opinions than he has! That's what I would have said! They are usually operatives of the Republican Party anyway. A lot of them get paid to do this! Don't you?

Two out of three Americans, polls show, are out to lunch, asleep at the switch, ignorant of history, and likely to be very surprised and very unhappy when the knock in the night comes for them, rather than for the Jew in the ghetto, the Arab in the city, the wetback, the uppity black, the bums in the street, the agitators, the misfits, the problem child. It was long ago and it was far away, and for some of you it hit before your mother was born, but it was Four Dead in Ohio, and America was killing its own right here at home, and too little too late, but we once threw out a bad president and a corrupt administration. Those guys were bad. These guys are worse.

Two out of three Americans don't mind having their phone calls collected. How do they stand on having their mail read? What's next? How far will it go? How long will it last? Have we let it go too far to get it back?

Did I mention Mencken? Try him, if you haven't. He's better than TV. Better than the New York Times. He said, "I believe tht all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty." Good government goes bad. Bad men corrupt good government. Even in America. Even now. Even as we sleep.

True enough, but it sounds pretty bad to say it so. Men like Mencken and those others of us who use whatever small foum we are granted to shine some reason and decency into the ignored or concealed comers of our collective lives are often dismissed as being negative while enjoying life in "The Greatest Country In The World." But negativity, as Bob Dylan reminded us, won't always put you through. We spit and fight an fulminate and argue and cry, cry, cry because we are fundamentally hopeful and optimistic and we hurt so much to see great promise and decency corrupted, subverted, dragged low.

Mencken will close today's thoughts:

I bleieve that it is better to tell the truth than to lie.

I think that it is better to be free than to be a slave.

And I think that it is better to know than be ignorant.

Source: Common Dreams
By: Christopher Cooper
May 18, 2006


MENTALLY UNFIT, FORCED TO FIGHT---STILL SUFFERING, BUT REDEPLOYED.


They have post-traumatic stress and other combat-related disorders. So what are they doing back in battle?

Eight months ago, Staff Sgt. Bruce Syverson was damaged goods, so unsteady that doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center wouldn't let him wear socks or a belt.

Syverson, 27, had landed in the psychiatric unit at Walter Reed after a breakdown that docotrs traced to his 15-month tour in Iraq as a gunner in a Bradley tank. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and was put on a suicide watch and antidepressants, according to his family.

Today, Syverson is back in the combat zone, part of a quick-reaction force in Kuwait that could be summoned to Iraq at any time.

He got his deployment orders after being told he wasn't fit for duty.

He got his gun back after being told he was too unstable to carry a weapon.

But he hasn't quite managed to get his bearings.

"Nearly died on a PT test out here on a nice and really mild night because of the medication that I am taking," he wrote in a recent e-mail to his parents and brothers. "Head about to explode from the blood swelling inside, the [lightening] storm that happened in my head, the blurred vision, confusion, dizziness and a whole lot more. Not the best feeling in the entire world to have after being here for two days...

"And I ask myself what the F*** am I doing here?"

Syverson is among a growing number of troops who are being recycled into combat after being diagnosed with PTSD or other combat-related mental disorders---a new phenomenon that has their families worried and some mental health experts alarmed. The practice, which a top military mental health official concedes is driven partly by pressure to maintain toop levels, runs counter to accepted medical doctrine and research, which cautions that re-exposure to trauma increases the risk of serious psychiatric problems.

"I'm concerned that people who are symptomatic are being sent back, which is potentially very bad for them. That has not happened before in our country," said Dr. Arthur S. Blamk, Jr., a Yale-trained psychiatrist who helped to get PTSD recognized as a diagnosis after the Vietnam War.

"If people have received treatment for a year or two or three and the condition is completely stabilized, I could see it," said Blank, who was formerly director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' counseling centers. "[But] there's no study that says it's beneficial to send people back. Being re-exposed to the trauma can just intensify the symptoms."

Although Department of Defense medical standards for enlistment into the armed forces disqualify those who have suffered from PTSD or acute reactions to stress, including combat fatigue, military officials acknowledge that they are not exempting members who meet those criteria from going to war. Many of those who are being sent back with such symptoms, such as Syverson, are being redeployed on psychiatric medications known as SSRIs.

Col. Eslpeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general, acknowledged that the decision to send back soldiers with symptoms or a diagnosis of PTSD was "something that we wrestle with," and partly driven by the military's need to retain troops because of recruiting shortfalls.

"Historically, we have not wanted to send soldiers or anybody with PTSD back into what traumatized them," sahe said. "The challenge for us...is that the Army has a mission to fight."

Ritchie said the military looks closely at the "impairment" level of the individual service members and their response to medication before deciding whom to redeploy, and would not put any soldier at risk.

"If they're simply---and I don't men to minimize it---but if they're simply having nightmares, for example, but they can do their job, then most likely they're going to deploy back with their unit," she said. "If they're not able to do their job and don't respond to treatment, then we're going to probably keep them here in the States for at least a while longer."

But whether the military can even gauge the impairment level of its veterans is in question. A newly released report bu the Government Accountability Office found tht nearly four in five troops returning from Iraq and Afghanastan who were found to be at risk for PTSD, based on responses to a screening questionnaire, were never referred for further evaluation or treatment. Still, top military officials continue to insist that they are doing a good job of identifying and treating PTSD cases.

Dr. Matthew Friedman, director of the National Center for PTSD, an arm of the Veterans Administration, said that while he shares the concern that multiple deployments may exacerbate PTSD symptoms, he does not believe the military should take a "one size fits all" approach to the disorder and bar all troops from deploying. Drug treatments for PTSD prove successful in some cases, he said, and some service members are more resilient than others.

"My belief is, let's look at the data" that are being gathered by pre- and post-deployment mental health screenings, he said. "Once we have the data, we can go back and look at how people with PTSD perform."

But some service members' families and experts say the military should not be experimenting with young men and women who have been traumatized by going to war.

"We were shocked. When somebody's put on medication and told they have PTSD, it doesn't occur to you they'd want to send them back," said Corrine Nieto, a Bakersfield, Calif., mother whose 24-year-old son, Chris, a Marine reservist, was deployed to Iraq last summer after being diagnosed with PTSD. "I don't know what they're doing to these kids. I wonder if they do."

Jason Sedotal, a 21-year-old military policeman from Pierre Part, La., was diagnosed with PTSD in early 2005 after he returned from Iraq, where he was traumatized by an incident in which a Humvee he was driving rolled over a land mine, he said. His sergeant, sitting beside him, lost both legs and an arm.

Last September, Sedotal was transferrred from Fort Polk to Fort Bragg, where he said doctors switched his medication from Prozac to Zoloft, and commanders deemed him ready to deploy. He has been back in Iraq since October.

"I don't feel like myself. I can't sleep. I can't be around crowds, I'm just drinking a lot," he said during a mid-tour visit home last week. He said he had seen a doctor at Fort Polk, to ask if he could stay home and get treatment, but instead was given a higher dose of Zoloft, and told he was shipping out agian next week.

When he asked the doctor if he symptoms would ever go away, he said he was told , "Sure---when you get out of there."

Neither the military or the VA has figures on the number of troops with PTSD or other combat-related disorders who have been redeployed after a diagnosis. Overall, more than 368,000 active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops have served more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanastan, including about 151,000 Army soldiers and 51,000 Marines, according to the Department of Defense's latest deployment statistics.

Recent studies indicate that at least 18% of returning Iraq vererans are at risk for PTSD, while 35% have sought mental health care in their first year home.

The Courant's research shows that at least seven troops who are believed to have committed suicide in 2005 and 2006 were serving second or third deployments. In some of those cases, according to their families, they had exhibited signs of psychological problems between deployments that went undetected by military officials, who rely largely on the self-reported questionnaires.

Jeffrey Henthorn, 25, of Choktaw, Okla., was just six weeks into his second deployment when the military said he killed himself in Iraq last year. His family said he had shown signs of psychological problems between deployments, but had not received counseling or treatment.

Similarily, Army Spec. Rusty W. Bell, 21, pf Pochahontas, Ark., showed signs of combat stress after his first delployment to the Middle East in 2003 as a member of the Army National Guard, said his mother, Darlene Gee. When he came home in April 2004, he enlisted in the Army and was sent back to Iraq in early 2005.

"He saw tons of combat that first time, and I think it affected him," Gee said. "I never asked him about it straight-out, but he said a few things that stuck with me. He said, 'Mom, I wish they'd just nuke the entire place. I know I would die, but at least I would die for a reason.' I said, 'Bub, don't talk like that.'"

"I thought they shouldn't have sent him back so soon," she said. "Let him have a normal life for a while, after what he'd been through."

An autopsy report on Bell's death concludes that he shot himself last August, with witnesses saying he was "distraught over family problems." Gee said she was not aware that her son, who was married, was having any significant personal problems.

The wife of a soldier that killed himself earlier this year in Iraq said she had little doubt that repeat tours had played a role.

"I know that did affect it. Absolutely I know it. A combination of fatigue and just being worn out," said the woman, who did not want her name used to protect her children.

Army Surgeon General Kevin C. Riley said many troops want to go back with their units for repeat tours, and the military is willing to facilitate that, as long as they are functioning well.

"Part of sending troops back in with medications that are stable and doing very well is...to de-stigmatize this, to show soldiers they can do the job, they can defend the nation, they can be part of this Army, and they won't be cast aside," Kiley said.

In some cases, the military had pushed the point a step further.

Army Spec. Jason Gunn, of Lansdowne, Pa., was sent back to Iraq in early 2004, after being injured in an explosion and diagnosed with PTSD, because Army officials believed it would be in his best interest to "overcome his fear by facing it," according to the explanation provided to his mother, Pat Gunn, through a congressman.

Since he returned home and left the Army last year, Jason has drifted between odd jobs and "goes through phases where he's in a very bad place," Pat Gunn said. She said she worries that the military is "taking the very last breath out of these kids."

Mental health experts said that while some troops who suffer from PTSD symptoms may be able to return to the front lines, there is no evidence to suggest that re-exposure to trauma is in any way therapeutic.

"Anybody who says it is a form of therapy to send people back into war," said Dr. Jonathan Shay, a Boston-based psychiatrist who counsels Vietnam veterans, "I don't know what they're smoking."


FEAR OF AVALANCHE

Some soldier advocates worry that the repeat deployments of troops will lead to an avalanche of PTSD cases and fuel incidents of suicide and violence.

In Vietnam, most soldiers did a requisite one-year tour of duty and never went back. About 30% of them suffer from PTSD symptoms, and another 20% have experienced clinically serious stress-reaction symptoms, according to the National Vietam Veterans Readjustment Survey.

Of the 1.3 million active-duty, guard and reserve troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanastan, more than 28% already have deployed more than once.

"This is an unexplored area," said Cathleen Wiblemo, deputy director for health care for theAmerican Legion. "How are troops going to deal with second and third deployments? Is their reaction going to be more severe?

"I think the VA can look to seeing a lot more mental health cases," she said. "They haven't gotten the full brunt of these multiple deployments yet."

So far, more than 20,600 service members who have seperated from the military have received an initial diagnosis of PTSD, according to the VA. That doesn't include service members still enlisted in the military, or veterans who seek help from private doctors or other sources.

Like other parents, Larry Syverson, an environmental engineer from Richmond, Va., worries that the military is gambling with his son's mental health for the sake of maintaining troop levels.

Bryce went back to Kuwait in late-March, after the Army had deemed him non-deployable and left him at his base in Germany while the rest of his unit deployed. In February, he told his father that his doctors had taken him off his Zoloft and were trying another medication. He still wasn't allowed to carry a gun.

Larry Syverson isn't sure why the military abruptly deemed Bryce deployable and handed him back his weapon. In correspondence, his son has said he agreed to go back to Kuwait because commanders told him it would help his chances of re-enlisting in the Army---something Bryce, who has not known civilian life since he graduated from high school, wants to do.

"The doctors said that I will be okay to deploy and carry around my rifle...and shoot people."

Bryce wrote in an April 18 e-mail to his father. "So in a week from me and the doctors both agreeing that I will be okay to deploy, I was gone again."

"The Battalion Commander was holding a bar to re-enlist over my head if I didn't deploy. But since I have deployed, my request for re-enlistment has been denied twice."

The tone of Bryce's e-mails, as much as the content, worries Larry Syverson, who said his youngest son, once the most "even-keeled" of four brothers, now has a festering bitterness.

"It just floors us that they'd send him back," said Larry, a peace activist whose sons all have served in the military, but who opposes the Iraq war. "To be in a psychiatric hospital last summer and now back to war zone---it's not like they didn't know Bryce's condition, because it's their hospital and their diagnosis."

Bryce's PTSD came on the same way many cases do; suddenly, starkly, several months after he had returned home in the summer of 2004. He was watching New Year's Eve fireworks in Germany, his father said, when he "got spooked" by the crowd and the sounds, which reminded him of mortar attacks. From there, he spiraled into depression, anger and an inability to concentrate.

PTSD has three main clusters of symptoms: re-experiencing the trauma, in the form of flashbacks or memories; retreating from life or feeling detached; and hyper-vigilance, including impaired concentration. Some troops suffer from partial sympoms. War-zone stress also can lead to depression and anxiety disorders.

Experts say short-term treatment with Zoloft or Paxil, the two drugs approved by the government for treating PTSD, are successful in putting the disorder into remission about 30% of the time. But the other 70% of the cases are not so easy to control and can continue for years. Some patients never fully recover.

The practice of redeploying soldiers who continue to suffer from PTSD symptoms runs counter to statements by the military's top health official, Assistant Defense Secretary William Winkenwerder, who assured a congressional committee last summer that troops with "unremitting mental health disorders are not deployed."

Dr. Frank Ochberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State and a founding board member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, said he would not want anyone who has "chronic" PTSD---symptoms lasting longer than three months---to return to a combat situation. Deploying someone with depression, which often accompanies PTSD, also is dangerous, he said.

"My gut feeling is, it's probably OK if they've been stabilized and they haven't had a recurrence of depression in a year,' he said. "But the problem with depression in combat is, you are of more risk to yourself and others."

Troops fill out post-deployment questionnaires just as they return from Iraq, and then receive a follow-up screening, recently added by the military, three to six months later.

Because the screenings rely largely on self-reporting by service members, who often are reluctant to disclose problems, their usefulness is limited, mental health experts agree. That leaves families and friends of some service members convinced that post-traumatic symptoms are going undetectd.

Martin Armijo, a family friend and neighbor of 22-year-old Army medic Chris Rolan of Albequerque, N.M., said he worried about Rolan when the young man returned home last year between deployments to Iraq.

"He said he'd seen a lot of combat. It was freaking him out seeing all these soldiers getting shot up," said Armijo, a Vietnam veteran. "I could tell in his eyes, he had that look like he was lost. He wasn't the Chris I knew."

After he returned to Iraq, Rolan was charged with killing a member of his unit during an argument last year. His older brother, Robert Garcia, is at a loss to explain what happened to the young man he says was the "bright star" of the family.

"This is so out of the blue," said Garcia, who declined to discuss the pending murder case. "It just doesn't fit."


WRESTLING WITH SYMPTOMS

Some troops with PTSD symptoms receive counseling in Iraq, while others don't, interviews with troops and families indicate.

Jim Holmes' son, Micah, an Army mechanic, was deployed to Iraq last August. He had returned home in May 2004 from a 10-month tour in Afghanastan with symptoms of PTSD and depression, for which Army doctors prescribed Zoloft and Wellbutrin, Holmes said.

Earlier this year, while in Iraq, he told his father that he had stopped taking the drugs because they were "too hard to get," and that he was not receiving couseling.

"He's not getting treated there, and who knows if there'll be any treatment available when he comes home," said Jim Holmes, a social worker from Gaithersburg, Md. "At this point, I just want him back."

Whether Zoloft and other drugs can help to buffer combat stress or prevent full-blown PTSD is not known, mental health experts said. That uncertainty led Ochberg to call the practice of medicating stressed-out troops "one hell of a research project."

"There are people who want to do the job, and if they do the job on medication, they may be better off," Ochberg said. "But I have never given anyone a prescription because they're going into a combat situation."

"There's a chance that this unwitting experiment of prevention of full-blown emotional distress will be instructive," he added, "but it's also frought with moral and ethical considerations."

Among the moral considerations is that many troops with combat-stress symptoms want to go back to the war, becoming addicted to the adrenaline and sense of mission, and unable to adjust to life at home, military counselors say. Their eagerness matches the military's willingness to recycle them into combat.

"Iraq is an impossible act to follow. Everything else pales," said Noka Zador, a coordinator of counseling for Iraq and Afghanastan veterans at the West Haven Veterans Administration. "Part of it is, they have one foot here, one foot there. It's a sense of, 'I'm still back there anyway.'"

David Beals, 26, a soldier stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, sometimes tells his wife, Dawn Marie, "In my head, I'm still in Iraq." After he returned from his second deployment to Iraq in January, he paced around the house, bored and restless, she said.



Beals had a rough first tour in Baghdad in 2003, and sunk into a depression as his second deployment approached. In January 2005, he locked himslf in the bathroom of the couple's home and swallowed a bottle of Percocet. He landed in a hospital psychiatric ward and was diagnosed with PTSD and an adjustment disorder, Dawn Marie said.

He was sent back to Iraq within a few months, for the tour that ended this January. He expects to go back for a third time at the end of this year.

"He loves what he does. He loves being in the Army," Dawn Marie said. "For me, you just learn to adapt...He definitely is not the same person. It's the same person, but not the same personality."

Military counselors say the frequency of multile deployments has been a disincentive for troops to seek help adjusting to life at home, and has made counseling difficult.

Some of them don't see the relevance of coming for counseling because their bags are still packed," said Donna Hryb, team leader at the Hartford Vet Center in Wethersfield.

Some PTSD experts also suggest that the growing public sentiment against the war can have a negative effect on the mental health of some troops shuffling back and forth to Iraq.

"If there's controversy and doubt about the validity of the war, it has a major psychological impact, for both the therapist and soldier," said Blank, the psychiatrist and expert on PTSD.

James Gavin, A Vietnam veteran who is a team leader of the New Haven Vet Center, said military medicine has a different emphasis than civilian medicine. The military is "looking at unit cohension and cohesiveness," he said. "They're no so concerned with a heightened state of alertness, or sleeplessness, or other things. They might want people on the edge."

That's what concerns Larry Syverson.

In a recent e-mail from Kuwait, his son Bryce, who is safe from combat for now, complained that some leaders of his unit "want to actually go to Ramadi," and had tried to "volunteer" the battalion for the front lines of Iraq.

Larry said he wasn't worried that Bryce, whom he calls a "good soldier," would resist.

He's worried that he wouldn't.


Source: The Hartford Courant
Story By: Lisa Chedekel
Matthew Kauffman contributed to this story
May 17 2006







U.S. REP. BALDWIN: STATEMENT ON HOUSE BUDGET AND TAX BILLS


"The Republican-authored tax and budget bills that passed rcently in the U.S. House of Representatives are two glaring examples of that party's misguided leadership. I voted against bith measures, as they do not refledt good fiscal stewardship, the vommon good, or the priorities of Wisonsonites.

"After pushing through a tax bill that offers huge benefits to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of middle and low income families, the House Republicans' budget makes things worse. Part of the problem is what the GOP Resolution does, and the rest of the problem is what it fails to do. It's a lose/lose proposition. What the White House Republican budget does is make cuts to critical services for working families---including education, veterans' services, health and environmental protection.

"What it doesn't do is decrease our deficit spending, offer any plan to bring the nation's budget back to balance, or diminish the ballooning national debt. The bottom line on the Republican spending plan for fiscal year 2007, is that they will spend, $348,000,000,000 ($348 billion) more than they will receive in revenues. And under their blueprint, our national debts will total $11,300,000,000,000 ($11.3 tillion) by 2011. The national debt will have doubled since the day President Bush took office because of his policies and those of the GOP-led Congress.

"I voted in favor of a Democratic budget substitute that rejected the Republican's budget's harmful cuts to priority areas such as health care, education, veteran's services and environmental protection, while still reaching a balance by 2012. The budget substitute I supported had smaller deficits than the Republicnas' budget, accumulated less debt, and repealed the House rule providing for automatic debt limit increases. It also backed reinstatement of the effective pay-as-you-go (PAYCO) rules that helped turn record deficits to record surpluses in the 1990s. The Democrats offered a sensible, sound budget that serves the common good, not special interests."


Source: Wisconsin Politics
Press Releases
May 18, 2006



BUSH RECEIVED FUNDING FROM COMPANIES IN NSA SPYING PROGRAM


THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

President Bush is top recipient of political funds from phone companies that turned over calling records of millions of Americans. AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth gave Bush $511,955

If there were any justice in the world, federal agents would appear at the White House and arrest President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their lackeys tommorrow morning for multiple violations and laws protecting the privacy of Americans and their rights against illegal search and seizure. But given that Bush's attorney general Alberto Gonzales is using Nazi Lawyer Carl Schmidtt as his role model, that is not likely to happen. As for me, I'd settle for even a modicum of Congressional oversight of a presidential administration that appears to be careening dangerously out of control.

On the heels of revelations of illegl wiretapping of international calls and recent reports of NSA efforts to gather the phone records of millions of Americans, journalists Brian Ross and Richard Esposito are reporting on the ABC news blog that the FBI has been monitoring their calls to confidential sources. Esposito and Ross say a senior federal law enforcement official advised them to "get new cell phones, quick." The source, they added, also told them that cell phones of journalists at the New York Times and Washington Post among others may also be monitored.

Purportedly, the monitoring is part of an investigation into leaks to the press that resulted in stories about the secret prison programs and Bush administration monitoring of international phone calls. The reality may be that it is a chilling attempt to intimidate reporters and stifle dissent from those concerned about what may be illegal activity on the part of the President and others in his administration.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor, citing a story in the National Journal's CongressDaily, say that Russell Tice, a former NSA employee is going to tell Senate Armed Services Committee staffers this week that "not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg." According to the story in the Monitor, Tice says he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Everyday, it becomes a little clearer that the Bush administration is running roughshod over the civil rights and liberties of the American people. Cynically manipulating the events of 9/11 to crush any opposition, the Bush administration is engged in an unprecedented effort to consolidate presidential power that threatens the very Democratic principals and institutions that have fostered a free America. WHAT'S NEXT, ARRESTING JOURNALISTS? WHEN WILL THEY ROUND UP THE BLOGGERS IN THEIR PAJAMAS?



More importantly, WHERE IS THE CONGRESS? The Bush Administration and Republican Congressional Leadership has fostered an atmosphere of political and corporate corruption that stifles honest discussion, crushes dissent and impedes the Constitutionally mandated role of Congressional oversight of the Presidency. According to Federal Elections Commission data by The Center for Responsive Politics, Telephone Utilities have given $6,762,966 to Republican Members of Congress since 2004 and more than $15 million since the 2000 election. HOW TOUGH DO YOU THINK THE QUESTIONS ARE GOING TO BE FROM A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS INVESTIGATING THE ROLE OF AT&T, BELLSOUTH AND VERIZON IN TURNING OVER THE PHONE RECORDS OF TENS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS TO NSA?

Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have given $511,955 to President Bush since his election in 2000, MAKING HIM THE TOP RECIPIENT OF THEIR POLITICAL LARGESS.

Maybe the Baby Bells, flush with patriotic fervor in the wake of 9/11, did turn over the phone records of Americans out of concerns over National Security. But a cynic might ask whether they turned them over because they didn't want to risk their investment in the political patrons who are greasing the skids for pending telecom legislation that may open lucrative long distance markets and highly profitable broadband services for them.

Congressional oversight is an essential check to the power of the President and key to protecting the rights and freedoms of the American people. But a corrupt Republican Congress, so eager to impose a radically conservative agenda on the American people, has placed their partisan interests ahead of their constitutional responsibilities. And in so doing they have placed the freedoms of Americans at risk and empowered a president who may destroy our liberty. They would do well to remember the words of John Adams who said:

"A CONSTITUTION OF GOVERNMENT ONCE CHANGED FROM FREEDOM, CAN NEVER BE RESTORED. LIBERTY, ONCE LOST, IS LOST FOREVER."

Source: OpEdNEWS
By: John McDonald
May 18, 2006

AFGHANASTAN: TALIBAN STILL A FORCE................................................................


Many view it as a protector of Islamic values in a country little changed

KABUL, Afghanastan---Four years after its defeat, the Taliban struck hard across Afghanastan in attacks including a car bombing that killed an American contractor---one of 105 people who died in Thursday's clashes.

The Taliban's comeback is not only on the battlefield, but, increasingly, in the hearts and minds of Afghans. Why?

Analysts say the democratic values embodied by Afghan President Hamid Karzai haven't caught on.

"In a lot of parts of the country, nothing really has changed from a few years ago," says Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch.

Poverty here is still inescapable. So is religious tolerance. It shocked the West in March when Afghans called for the death of Abdul Rahman, a Muslim who dared convert to Christianity. In the end, Italy granted him asylum. That angered fiery clerics who said Rahman should be beheaded. Many Afghans agree.

"Freedom of religious may apply to other religions, but not to Islam," says one Afghan man.

It's why the 2,000 to 3,000 Afghan Christians, like Sahar---not his real name---worship in cellars, always fearing the knock on the door may be the police.

"Democracy is just talk here," he says. "There is no freedom. The Islamic extremists control the government."

Despite some $12B in aid and the loss of more than 220 U.S. soldiers, many Afghan men in the streets want the Taliban back.

Increasingly, the Taliban is seen here as a protector of Islamic values against the invasion of Western ways.

Kabul is now dotted with luxury hotels and malls, and Afghans say they like their higher salaries, but not the crime and prostitution that are also on the rise.

"We need the Taliban," one Afghan man says. "Otherwise Westerners and foreigners will corrupt our religion."

Some Afghans are enjoying a new prosperity, but amid signs of a resurgent Taliban, that wasn't supposed to happen.


Source: MSNBC
By: Jim Maceda
Correspondent
NBC NEWS
May 18, 2006