Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush's Calvin College surprise

by Jim Wallis

As I've traveled the country this spring - 82 events, 48 cities, and hundreds of media interviews since January - I've witnessed a new movement of moderate and progressive religious voices challenging the monologue of the Religious Right.

An extremely narrow and aggressively partisan expression of right-wing Republican religion has controlled the debate on faith and politics in the public square for years. But that is no longer true.

At packed book events around the country these days, I often make an announcement that elicits a tumultuous response: "The monologue of the Religious Right is finally over, and a new dialogue has begun!" Smiles light up the faces of thousands of people as they break out in thunderous applause.

That new dialogue was visible recently at Calvin College. Karl Rove, seeking a friendly venue for a commencement speech in Michigan, approached Calvin and offered President Bush as the speaker. The college, which had already invited Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale to deliver the speech, hastily disinvited him and welcomed the president. But the White House apparently was not counting on the reaction of students and faculty. Rove expected the evangelical Christian college in the dependable "red" area of western Michigan to be a safe place. He was wrong.

[more at Sojo.net]

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Phone companies' TV plan is dead

Phone companies' TV plan is dead

'It's over,' says lawmaker who pushed proposal, and it's a rare defeat for powerful SBC lobby.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A controversial proposal that would have made it easier for big phone companies to get into the television business died in the Legislature Saturday night after all-night negotiations failed to break an impasse between the House and Senate.

more at [ Austin American Statesman

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Lies that Kill - Why Isn't Bush in the Dock?

The Lies that Kill

Why Isn't Bush in the Dock?

George W. Bush and his gang of neocon warmongers have destroyed America's reputation. It is likely to stay destroyed, because at this point the only way to restore America's reputation would be to impeach and convict President Bush for intentionally deceiving Congress and the American people in order to start a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the US. America can redeem itself only by holding Bush accountable.
As intent as Republicans were to impeach President Clinton for lying about a sexual affair, they have a blind eye for President Bush's far more serious lies. Bush's lies have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, injured and maimed tens of thousands more, devastated a country, destroyed America's reputation, caused one billion Muslims to hate America, ruined our alliances with Europe, created a police state at home, and squandered $300 billion dollars and counting.
America's reputation is so damaged that not even our puppets can stand the heat. Anti-American riots, which have left Afghan cities and towns in flames and hospitals overflowing with casualties, have forced Bush's Afghan puppet, "president" Hamid Karzai, to assert his independence from his US overlords. In a belated act of sovereignty, Karzai asserted authority over heavy-handed US troops whose brutal and stupid ways sparked the devastating riots. Karzai demanded control of US military activities in Afghanistan and called for the return of the Afghan detainees who are being held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. [more at Counterpunch]

Friday, May 27, 2005

Howard Zinn Against Discouragement / Spelman Commencement

This was sent to me on the mailing list of Houston Progressive Action Alliance which is a group of people who got together to campaign for Dennis Kucinich but stayed together afterwards to work for progressive causes.

Against Discouragement

By Howard Zinn

[In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. This year, he was invited back to give the
commencement address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.]

I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years. I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me, and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.

But this is your day -- the students graduating today. It's a happy day for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for
my grandchildren.

My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and
medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of
nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you must not be discouraged.

I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa. The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They
boycotted and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed, and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress finally did what they had previously failed to do -- enforce the 14 th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give up. That's when democracy came alive.

I want to remind you also that when the war in Vietnam was going on, and young Americans were dying and coming home paralyzed, and our government was bombing the villages of Vietnam -- bombing schools and hospitals and killing ordinary people in huge numbers -- it looked hopeless to try to stop the
war. But just as in the Southern movement, people began to protest and soon it caught on. It was a national movement. Soldiers were coming back and denouncing the war, and young people were refusing
to join the military, and the war had to end.

The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do -- to get jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life.

Remember Tolstoy's story, "The Death of Ivan Illych." A man on his deathbed reflects on his life, how he has done everything right, obeyed the rules, become a judge, married, had children, and is looked upon as a success. Yet, in his last hours, he wonders why he feels a failure. After becoming a famous novelist, Tolstoy himself had decided that this was not enough, that he must speak out against the treatment of the
Russian peasants, that he must write against war and militarism.

My hope is that whatever you do to make a good life for yourself – whether you become a teacher, or social worker, or business person, or lawyer, or poet, or scientist -- you will devote part of your life to making this a better world for your children, for all children. My hope is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out
the national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this earth.

Recently I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times which I cannot get out of my mind. It showed ordinary Americans sitting on chairs on the southern border of Arizona, facing Mexico. They
were holding guns and they were looking for Mexicans who might be trying to cross the border into the United States. This was horrifying to me – the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call
"civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into two hundred artificially created entities we call "nations" and are ready to kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary, so fierce it leads to murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking, cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on, have been useful to those in power, deadly for those out of power.

Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral; that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy. But if you know some history you know that's not true. If you know some history, you know we massacred Indians on this continent, invaded Mexico, sent armies into Cuba, and the Philippines. We killed huge numbers of people, and we did not bring them democracy or liberty. We did not go into Vietnam to bring democracy; we did not invade Panama to stop the drug trade; we did not invade Afghanistan and Iraq to stop terrorism. Our aims were the aims of all the other empires of world history -- more profit for corporations, more power for politicians.

The poets and artists among us seem to have a clearer understanding of the disease of nationalism. Perhaps the black poets especially are less enthralled with the virtues of American "liberty" and "democracy," their people having enjoyed so little of it. The great African-American poet Langston Hughes addressed his country as follows:

You really haven't been a virgin for so long.
It's ludicrous to keep up the pretext.

You've slept with all the big powers
In military uniforms,
And you've taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellows.

Being one of the world's big vampires,
Why don't you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power.

I am a veteran of the Second World War. That was considered a "good war," but I have come to the conclusion that war solves no fundamental problems and only leads to more wars. War poisons the minds
of soldiers, leads them to kill and torture, and poisons the soul of the nation.

My hope is that your generation will demand that your children be brought up in a world without war. If we want a world in which the people of all countries are brothers and sisters, if the children all over the world are considered as our children, then war -- in which children are always the greatest casualties -- cannot be accepted as a way of solving problems.

I was on the faculty of Spelman College for seven years, from 1956 to 1963. It was a heartwarming time, because the friends we made in those years have remained our friends all these years. My wife Roslyn
and I and our two children lived on campus. Sometimes when we went into town, white people would ask: How is it to be living in the black community? It was hard to explain. But we knew this -- that in downtown
Atlanta, we felt as if we were in alien territory, and when we came back to the Spelman campus, we felt
that we were at home.

Those years at Spelman were the most exciting of my life, the most educational certainly. I learned more from my students than they learned from me. Those were the years of the great movement in the South against racial segregation, and I became involved in that in Atlanta, in Albany, Georgia, in Selma, Alabama, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Greenwood and Itta Bena and Jackson. I learned something about democracy: that it does not come from the government, from on high, it comes from people getting
together and struggling for justice. I learned about race. I learned something that any intelligent person realizes at a certain point – that race is a manufactured thing, an artificial thing, and while race does
matter (as Cornel West has written), it only matters because certain people want it to matter, just as nationalism is something artificial. I learned that what really matters is that all of us – of whatever so-called race and so-called nationality -- are human beings and should cherish one another.

I was lucky to be at Spelman at a time when I could watch a marvelous transformation in my students, who were so polite, so quiet, and then suddenly they were leaving the campus and going into town, and sitting in, and being arrested, and then coming out of jail full of fire and rebellion. You can read all about that in Harry Lefever's book Undaunted by the Fight. One day Marian Wright (now Marian Wright Edelman), who was my student at Spelman, and was one of the first arrested in the Atlanta sit-ins, came to our house on campus to show us a petition she was about to put on the bulletin board of her dormitory. The heading on the petition epitomized the transformation taking place at Spelman College. Marian had written on top of the petition: "Young Ladies Who Can Picket, Please Sign Below." My hope is that you will not be content just to be successful in the way that our society measures success; that you will not
obey the rules, when the rules are unjust; that you will act out the courage that I know is in you. There are wonderful people, black and white, who are models. I don't mean African- Americans like Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell, or Clarence Thomas, who have become servants of the rich and
powerful. I mean W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Marian Wright Edelman, and
James Baldwin and Josephine Baker and good white folk, too, who defied the Establishment to work for peace and justice.

Another of my students at Spelman, Alice Walker, who, like Marian, has remained our friend all these years, came from a tenant farmer's family in Eatonton, Georgia, and became a famous writer. In one of her first published poems, she wrote:

It is true--
I've always loved
the daring ones
Like the black young
Who tried
to crash
All barriers
at once,
wanted to
At a white
beach (in Alabama)

I am not suggesting you go that far, but you can help to break down barriers, of race certainly, but also of nationalism; that you do what you can -- you don't have to do something heroic, just something, to join with millions of others who will just do something, because all of those somethings, at certain points in history, come together, and make the world better.

That marvelous African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, who wouldn't do what white people wanted her to do, who wouldn't do what black people wanted her to do, who insisted on being herself, said that
her mother advised her: Leap for the sun -- you may not reach it, but at least you will get off the ground.

By being here today, you are already standing on your toes, ready to leap. My hope for you is a good life.

Howard Zinn is the author with Anthony Arnove of the
just published Voices


Voices of a People's History of the United States (Seven Stories Press) and of the
international best-selling A

People's History of the United States.

Copyright 2005 Howard Zinn

Signs of drug-war shift

From: Drug Policy Forum of Texas [mailto:DPFT-L@listserv.tamu.edu] On Behalf Of Alan and Nancy Bean
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:49 PM
To: DPFT-L@listserv.tamu.edu
Subject: Signs of drug-war shift


H.M. Baggarly, once upon a time editor of the nationally acclaimed Tulia Herald, told his readers, “We would that the nation had no more racial problems than exist in Swisher County. We wish we had more (Mexican immigrants) to fill the many employment vacancies in agriculture.” This was in 1974, just as the agricultural economy went south and twenty-five years before “Tulia” would become a synonym for “bigoted”.

Tulia figures prominently in this Christian Science Monitor, but my town is rapidly becoming a sign of what has gone wrong throughout America. John Walters wants to “break the [drug] business,” instead of breaking “generation after generation [of poor, minority young men].” A nice sentiment—we’ll see if he’s serious.

I am pleased to see that Rep. Jackson Lee’s Tulia Bill has drawn more than passing notice from the media. For those of us who have been fighting the good fight for over five years this latest development is cheering news indeed. The article notes the tremendous success the ACLU and other justice advocates have achieved in the Texas Legislature this year but, oddly, fails to mention the recent settlement between the ACLU and the former defendants in Hearne, Texas.

Alan Bean

Friends of Justice

Tulia, Texas


Signs of drug-war shift

Efforts to end a grant program could indicate a change in the administration's approach.

Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

HOUSTON – Evidence is beginning to build that the approach to the war on drugs in the United States could be changing - by shifting attention away from small-time drug dealers and individual users toward major drug traffickers.

The nation's drug czar, for one, has alluded to changes in thinking. "Break the business," said John Walters at a congressional hearing earlier this year. "Don't break generation after generation [of poor, minority young men], is what we're going for."

Another sign of a shift involves the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which since 1988 has earmarked federal money for local communities to use in the war on drugs. Many have said the program's structure has been flawed since its inception, and now, President Bush is proposing the elimination of the program by next year - though this budget cut is still being fought in Congress.

Short of the program's elimination, at least two moves are afoot to address Byrne's problems. The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that places strict limits on the drug task forces created under the program. And Sheila Jackson-Lee (D) of Texas introduced a bill this week in the US House of Representatives that would prohibit states from spending Byrne grant money on drug task forces unless they adopt laws that prevent people from being convicted solely on the word of an informant or law-enforcement officer.

In all, these steps could portend larger changes in the war on drugs. "For so long, the federal government has focused on arresting a lot of low-level drug offenders instead of on stopping drugs from coming into the country or on terrorism," says Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington. "But I think they are getting smarter and realizing that they can't arrest their way out of it."

Indeed, many contend that the current allocation of resources has not been effective. Although prisons around the country are bulging under 1.5 million drug arrests per year, the price of drugs has never been lower, and the purity has never been higher.

In discussing his 2006 budget before a House subcommittee in February, Mr. Walters touched on those concerns. "The issue is how do we best reduce the supply of drugs in the United States at the national and at the local and regional levels," he said, concluding that unless there is a shift in the fundamental approach, "you are chasing primarily small people, putting them in jail, year after year, generation after generation."

What the Bush administration is realizing, especially after Sept. 11, is that federal efforts should be reprioritized and funding better spent, say analysts.

"There is a growing philosophical shift that the federal government shouldn't fund the daily operating expenses of local law enforcement," says David Muhlhausen, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "They had gotten into paying officers' salaries that local communities should be paying for, and now they realize they need to focus their efforts in more urgent areas like homeland security and defense."

In 2002, Dr. Muhlhausen did a study of the Byrne grant program and found "no evidence that these grants work to reduce crime."

In fact, they may even contribute to it, as scandal after scandal in Texas suggests. The most notorious occurred in the Panhandle town of Tulia, when more than 40 residents were sentenced to prison after a Byrne-funded undercover officer lied in court about selling them drugs during a sting operation in 1999.

Gov. Rick Perry pardoned most of the residents after nearly four years in prison and disbanded the regional drug task force. But scandals involving Byrne grants continue to occur - especially in Texas, which pumps 90 percent of the federal money into task forces, as opposed to other states, which channel 40 percent. (The rest is spent on things like drug treatment and probationary services.)

"The structure of these task forces is so flawed that they create more problems than they solve," says Scott Henson, director of the Police Accountability Project for the ACLU of Texas. "They are federally funded, state managed, and locally staffed. There is no accountability."

For their part, officers in charge of the drug task forces say they are being limited by the cuts to the Byrne grant program - and at a time when their communities are being ravaged by the methamphetamine epidemic.

In Texas, for instance, the allocation went from $31.6 million in 2004 to $22.7 million in 2005, and many expect that the amount will be reduced again this year. Officers say that those cuts mean several Texas drug task forces will disband at the end of the month. The remaining 20 or so will be supervised by the state Department of Public Safety under the state bill just passed.

Muhlhausen doesn't believe that the Byrne grants will disappear this year, but rather that the $800 million program will be cut again and eventually peter out under continued pressure from the Bush administration.

"I think the administration is realizing that what is a state and local responsibility isn't good fiscal policy" at the federal level, he says.

And because the Tulia incident occurred while Mr. Bush was still governor of Texas, he adds, the president is "uniquely positioned to understand how this [Byrne grant] money has been misspent."

Thursday, May 26, 2005



Here is my latest column. For those wanting more, I -- and dozens of
others -- are blogging 24/7 at

Check it out.

Next Dem Battlefront: Iraq (May 25, 2005)Now that the Democrats have won the battle over the nuclear option (or, atleast, come away with a tie), they need to turn their attention to what it's going to take to become more than a minority party that wins a battle every now and then. They have been surprisingly successful at battling Bush's domestic agenda, but if they're going to broaden their appeal they firsthave to broaden their battlefronts to include Iraq. [ read more ]

The US is: "...a nation of 200 million used-car salesmen with all the
money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in
the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."
-Hunter S. Thompson

"Friend, hope for the truth while you are alive. Jump into experience
while you are alive! What you call "salvation" belongs to the time
before death. If you don't break your ropes while you are alive, do
you think ghosts will do it after?"

Yahoo! Groups Links

Maher fires back at congressman with too much free time..

Wednesday, May 25 2005 @ 01:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Contributed by: Stranger

From over at Arianna's place:

First, I had never heard of Congressman Bachus before this. Now lots of people have heard of him. You're welcome, Congressman, glad I could help get your Q rating up.

By the way, are we sure he's really a Congressman? Maybe he's just a guy with a fax machine. You know how fact checking goes these days.

I could go on and on, but this is too ridiculous, so I'll just say this: I'm not a congressman, I'm a comedian. There's nothing I can really do to help or hurt our troops (although anyone who's watched my shows or read my books in the last twelve years knows I'm a pretty ardent supporter of the military).

But a congressman, there's someone who can actually DO SOMETHING to help our troops. In fact, a case could be made that it's a lot more treasonous for someone in his position to be wasting his time yelling at a comedian. Shouldn't he be training his outrage at such problems as troops not having enough armor? Wouldn't that ACTUALLY support our troops more? And citizens of this country who claim to support our troops should write this man and tell him GET BACK TO WORK! DO SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO SOLDIERS IN IRAQ!

And by the way, these "comments" were part of a longer, scripted comedy piece in the modest proposal tradition. I can see why administration supporters would want to deflect attention away from the gist of the piece, which was this: now that we can't meet our recruiting goals, maybe it's the people who were so gung ho for this war to begin with who should step up and go fight it. But of course it's always easier to distract people.

Finally, I would direct the Congressman to chapter 3 of my book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden." The accompanying poster shows a soldier, a cop, a fireman, and a teacher, and says, "We Say They're Our Heroes...But We Pay Them Like Chumps."

Maybe that's something else he could look into when he gets done with me.



...the last refuge of debate and wit.

Yahoo! Groups Links

Texas: Tighter car-search rules are endorsed

Passed the House only so far.

Tighter car-search rules are endorsed

House measure requires probable cause or documented consent

11:27 PM CDT on Wednesday, May 25, 2005

By KAREN BROOKS / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – The House voted to limit police officers' ability to stop motorists and search their cars Wednesday, rejecting arguments that the legislation would strip law enforcement of a valuable drug-war tool.

The bill by Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, originally banned consent searches altogether but was weakened in a House committee.

The newest version by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, allows police to search someone's car only if they have probable cause, get written consent, or videotape the motorist giving police their permission to search.

Supported by both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association, the bill was approved, 83-63. It now goes back to the Senate for consideration of the House's changes.

Proponents say the current law is too ambiguous to protect people's constitutional rights against search and seizure. They also say it helps police battle illegal search-and-seizure claims in court.

"Too often, I see people get pulled over in my district ... and too often, I see them get back in their car and drive down the street. There were no drugs in their car, and I find that very problematic," said Rep. Glenn Hegar Jr., R-Houston. "I think that we as Americans have fundamental rights against search and seizure."

Opponents argued that the change would weaken law officers' abilities to find drugs, murder victims, illegal immigrants and banned weapons in cars.

"You're taking tools away from police officers, don't you see that?" said Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena.

E-mail kmbrooks@dallasnews.com


"The political phrase 'tough on crime' should not be a substitute for thoughtful reflection or lead us into moral blindness."
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, June 23, 2004.

"Who would believe that a democratic government would pursue for eight decades a failed policy that produced tens of millions of victims and trillions of dollars of illicit profits for drug dealers, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, increased crime and destroyed inner cities, fostered widespread corruption and violations of human rights - and all with no success in achieving the stated and unattainable objective of a drug free America?"
Milton Friedman, winner of 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize for economic science

"You can get over an addiction but you can never get over a conviction."
Jack Cole, Retired undercover police officer

Bill named after Tulia to be filed today

Reverend Alan Bean and his wife Nancy were instrumental in getting justice for the Tulia defendants and their families.  I remember meeting him the first time when I went on the Journey for Justice in October, 1999 in Austin at the rally there. 

On 5/25/05, Alan and Nancy Bean  wrote:



I protested the Tulia drug sting long before I knew Tom Coleman had a checkered past.  I didn't know much about the war on drugs at the time, but I didn't like the idea of convicting a defendant on the uncorroborated word of anyone—let alone a guy like Coleman.  It was immediately obvious that well-connected white defendants would never be convicted by a cop merely pointing the finger.  In fact, it is hard to conceive of a Texas DA even taking that kind of case to trial against a "real" person.  But the Tulia defendants fit the drug dealer profile (poor and black) so real evidence was optional.


Five years later Rep. Jackson Lee's bill was announced today at a press conference in Washington D.C.  My hope is that the hearings promised three years ago (at the height of the Bob Herbert-generated furor) will finally be held. 


Alan Bean

Friends of Justice

Tulia, Texas



Bill named after Tulia to be filed today


Amarillo Globe-News


When Tom Coleman came to Tulia in 1998, nothing about the tiny Texas town could have indicated the prominence to which the city would one day climb.


Now, seven years later, the name Tulia is synonymous in drug-reform circles with all that is wrong with the War on Drugs, and the since-discredited operation Coleman conducted has the potential to change the way law enforcement agencies across the country fight narcotics.


U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, is scheduled to hold a news conference today to announce a new bill, named after Tulia, which aims to make sure that federal funds are never again used to conduct an operation like the one that happened in Tulia.


The bill, titled No More Tulias: Drug Law Enforcement Evidentiary Standards Improvement Act of 2005, aims to cut off federal funds to any multi-jurisdictional drug task force that operates in a state without evidentiary standards that could have prevented the Tulia fiasco.

Lee's office provided no comment on the bill Tuesday, but Bill Piper, who worked with Lee on the bill, had plenty to say.


Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance in New York said the bill is aimed squarely at the type of operations conducted in Tulia, where the defendants were convicted based solely on the word of an undercover agent tying them to a bag of drugs.


"What happened in Tulia made national news and cast the national spotlight on the criminal justice system," Piper said. "It's now become a symbol of what could go wrong in the War on Drugs."


Coleman, who is on probation after being convicted of lying on the stand during evidentiary hearings related to the bust, conducted the 18-month undercover investigation with no audio or video surveillance to back up his word. After allegations of theft and other improprieties surfaced in his background, nearly all the 46 defendants - most of them black - convicted on Coleman's word were pardoned and split up a $6 million settlement.


Lee's bill, which is co-sponsored by several other Democrats, would require states to have laws in place requiring more than just an agent's word for a conviction if they are to use federal law enforcement funds known as Byrne Grants to fund task forces. The bill names video or audio surveillance, fingerprints or marked money as possible corroborative evidence.


The states would also have to put procedures in place to conduct thorough background checks on undercover agents to use Byrne Grants for task forces.

"I'd say it's a long shot, but getting (the bill) introduced is a good start."

The Rev. Charles Kiker, outspoken opponent of the bust


The bill points to Tulia as a driving force, but also cites 17 other scandals in Texas, as well as controversies in other states.


"In recent years it has become clear that programs funded by the (Byrne Grants) have perpetuated racial disparities, corruption in law enforcement and the commission of civil rights abuses across the country," the bill reads. "This is especially the case when it comes to the program's funding of hundreds of regional anti-drug task forces."


Piper said prospects for the bill are fairly good, considering that the Byrne Grants have been under fire from both sides of the aisle in Congress. President George Bush has even moved to eliminate funding for the grants altogether. Piper said Lee is looking for more sponsors, including Republicans, and they are hopeful the bill can make it into law in the next year or two.


If the bill passes, it will come as a relief to many of those who fought against the Tulia bust from the beginning.


The Rev. Charles Kiker, a member of Friends of Justice and outspoken opponent of the bust, said it would be gratifying to see national change come out of the Tulia controversy.


"I think it would be a great thing if it could happen," he said. "I'd say it's a long shot, but getting (the bill) introduced is a good start."


The Drug War: Back with a Vengeance

The Drug War: Back with a Vengeance

A new bill in Congressional committee would drastically increase sentences
for many kinds of drug offenses.

For more of this story, click on or type the URL below:


Telling the truth about the Drug War

Telling the truth about the Drug War

I am writing to thank you for "connecting the dots" regarding the war on drugs in your recent editorial. I think it's really important to do something about the drug problem, but what we're doing in the drug war is making things worse.

The victims of the drug war are poorly served by being put in jail, and can usually get drugs while they are in prison. We would be better served by spending the money on treatment than incarceration.

For more of this story, click on or type the URL below:


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mothers in Chains, the real crime against society

I received this in email from Nora Callahan of the November Coalition.  She forwarded this story that was published in Salon.

Nora Callahan <nora@november.org> wrote:
Date: Mon, 23 May 2005 08:57:41 -0700
Subject: Nov-L: Mothers in Chains, the real crime against society
From: Nora Callahan <nora@november.org>
To: <november-l@november.org>

Newshawk: Suzanne Wills
Pubdate: 23 May 2005
Source:  Salon
Website: www.salon.com <http://www.salon.com>

Mothers in chains
Why keeping U.S. women prisoners in shackles during labor and delivery is the real crime against society.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Ayelet Waldman

May 23, 2005  |  
Anna (not her real name), a prisoner at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, Calif., spent the last two weeks of her pregnancy in preterm labor, shackled to a hospital bed. If she needed to use the bathroom, or even turn over, she had to beg permission of the officer on duty. Given these strict security arrangements, you might assume that Anna was a terrorist, a murderer, some kind of hardened criminal at risk for escape. No. Anna is a minimum-security prisoner currently serving an approximately 18-month sentence for drug possession and probation violation, and according to Karen Shain, administrative director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, <http://prisonerswithchildren.org/>  the treatment she received was routine. Whether they are violent offenders or not -- and approximately 66 percent of incarcerated women in the United States are not -- pregnant prisoners are subject to the same dehumanizing treatment.

On May 16, the California state Assembly passed A.B. 478 <
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/bill/asm/ab_0451-0500/ab_478_bill_20050503_amended_asm.html>  (49 to 26 with 5 abstentions), and sent it on to the state Senate. The bill provides that, unless necessary, prisoners "shall not be shackled by the wrists, ankles, or both during labor, including during transport to the hospital, during delivery, and while in recovery after giving birth." It's hard to believe that this doesn't go without saying. But according to Robin Levi, human rights director at Justice Now, a women prisoner's rights organization, California and at least 20 other states permit the chaining of laboring women to hospital beds, even when their attending physicians would prefer that they get up and walk around, or just shift from side to side. She also told me that women who return to prison from the hospital days after having Caesarean sections are routinely denied pain medication and even antibiotics.

Another part of A.B. 478 requires that pregnant women receive "necessary nutrition and vitamins, information and education, and regular dental cleanings." The necessity of supplying prenatal vitamins is obvious, although the fact that it needs to be legislated is troubling. According to a study by the University of Alabama, gum disease can cause both premature birth and low birth weight, preventable by a simple teeth cleaning during the second trimester. Still, providing teeth cleanings to prisoners might strike some as unnecessary. After all, only 35.2 percent of Americans have dental insurance; why should a prisoner receive what someone who hasn't committed a crime does not? Because by incarcerating these mothers, and making it impossible for them to seek medical care outside the prison system, we have assumed responsibility for their infants. We owe them this minimal standard of care.

But what we actually do is far short of that. Take Judith (also not her real name), another Valley State prisoner, incarcerated on a probation violation for saying "Fuck you" to a case worker in a drug treatment program. Desperate to get into California's Community Prisoner Mother Program, where children can stay with their mothers for up to six years in a residential facility, she was informed that she would first have to have an oral exam to prove that she had no dental problems, not even a cavity. (Karen Shain believes this requirement exists as a filtering mechanism more than anything else because there are so many women who qualify for the program.) In a cruel paradox, dental care is not provided to applicants to the program, other than extractions. No fillings, no cleanings. Nothing. Judith had myriad dental problems. According to Shain, in order to be with her baby she had to have 15 teeth removed. She had no other choice.

It is hard to figure out the philosophy, either articulated or presumed, behind treating women and their babies this way. As much as prison maternity policy can sometimes feel like an especially cruel and institutionalized form of child abuse, I doubt the individuals running the prisons of this country are consciously trying to harm the infants born to prisoners. Cristina Rathbone, an investigative journalist whose book "A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars" follows the lives of four prisoners at MCI-Framingham, a Massachusetts women's prison, attributes the treatment of women in prison to a kind of unconscious cruelty. Because women are a minority in prisons, they suffer the rules that have been invented for violent men. California Department of Correction policies simply state that all inmates must be shackled when being transported to and from the hospital and while in their hospital beds. No exceptions have ever been made, not even for terminally ill or comatose prisoners, so none are made for pregnant and laboring prisoners. Until Assembly member Sally Lieber, <
http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a22/>  the author and sponsor of the bill, took an interest, it simply never occurred to anyone in a position of authority that there was anything wrong with that.

Lieber's consciousness about the issue was raised when she visited Valley State, met pregnant women prisoners, and saw that their families had to bring them bags of food to supplement their inadequate diets. Lieber says that if other legislators talked to these women and saw the conditions they lived in, they would vote for the bill. Instead of viewing corrections as an opportunity to prove how tough they are, they might realize that, as Lieber says, "there is no excuse for the state of California to have starving, shackled pregnant women behind bars."

It does seem that the way we treat all prisoners, especially women, speaks of something more than mere indifference. There seems to be a kind of retributive force at work that compelled 26 Republicans to oppose this bill. The bill asks no more, after all, than that pregnant women be treated with a modicum of decency, and that the state take a nearly token interest in the well-being of their babies. Republican opposition was, ostensibly, on fiscal grounds. This despite the fact that the Assembly appropriations analysis reported that the costs associated with the bill are "minor" and "absorbable," less than $50,000 a year. Pending the passage of A.B. 478, a pregnant woman in a California prison is entitled to no more nutritional supplementation than one extra carton of milk per day. The new bill seeks to give her a daily prenatal vitamin, slightly more balanced meals, and a single teeth cleaning during her pregnancy. And yet even Republican Assembly member Bill Emmerson, an orthodontist, begrudged pregnant prisoners and their babies this low-cost protection, voting against it in committee. (Assembly member Emmerson refused to comment for this article.)

Why are the architects of the family-values agenda so eager to punish into the next generation? What is being served by seeking, quite literally, a tooth for a tooth?

Now the California Senate must vote on its version of Bill 478, and then it is up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to decide whether to sign the bill or to veto it. Until this happens, women prisoners in the state of California, like others throughout the country, will labor in shackles, will be fed substandard diets while pregnant, and will be denied pain medications and antibiotics after delivery, even if they have C-sections. And their babies will suffer as a result.

It's possible that the very fact of their mothers' criminal conduct might make some people lose interest in the suffering of these children. However, in her book, Cristina Rathbone gives everyone, even a Republican Assembly member, a reason to care. Denise, one of the incarcerated mothers at MCI-Framingham whose life Rathbone followed, was convicted of a nonviolent drug offense. Denise's son was 9 years old when she was arrested. By the time she was released, he had spent five years shuttling between foster homes and his abusive father, and was, finally, in prison himself. When we visit the sins of the parents upon the children, we reap what we sow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Doesn't ring a bell

From time to time I am going to send political cartoons, humor and weird news stories if I find them amusing. Here is one from


Tell Congress to Oppose HR 1528

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: G@®¥ <gay@blogbasis.com>
Date: May 13, 2005 3:57 PM
Subject: [Houston NORML] Tell Congress to Oppose HR 1528
To: houstonnorml@yahoogroups.com

Get ready to go to prison if you are a college student who knows someone who sells marijuana.
How many more prisons can America afford to build given the record level deficit? What is an acceptable cap on the percentage of Americans that can be imprisoned? 30%? 40%? more?
Tell Congress to Oppose HR 1528
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

We're in the fight of our lives in Washington, DC. High-ranking members of Congress want to take the war on drugs to a whole new level.

They want to increase penalties for every drug offense. They want a mandatory 2-year prison term for anyone who knows someone is selling marijuana on a college campus and fails to report it to the police within 24 hours. They want a mandatory 5-year prison term for someone at a party who passes a marijuana joint to someone who has been enrolled in drug treatment at some point in their life. They want to expand the federal "three strikes and you're out" law to include new offenses, including mandating life imprisonment (with no possibility of parole) for anyone convicted a third time under the RAVE Act.

Take Action Here

These and other horrible provisions are inside Congressman Sensenbrenner's H.R. 1528 entitled "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005" . You helped us derail this bill last year, but now it's back - and it's longer and more draconian.

I'm not going to lie, we're up against the most powerful forces in the federal government. We hope you will continue to stand with us in this massive showdown. Some of you have already taken action in key congressional districts and it's had an impact. Once on the fast track, the bill has stalled in committee. Drug war extremists are regrouping, however, and it's only a matter of time before they strike back. We need to keep the heat on members of Congress to kill this bill.

In short, we're up against Goliath. But, we have tens of thousands of "David's" like you on our side. If we all work together we can put up one hell of a fight and hopefully win.

This battle - one of our most important this year - is only the beginning. In four other areas the drug policy reform movement has launched offensives to target the drug war establishment at its weak points. We're serious about taking down Goliath.

There are three things you can do today:

1) Urge your U.S. Representative to oppose this bill.

2) Contribute money to our campaign.

3) Forward this alert to your friends and family.

Watch your inbox for updates in the coming weeks on medical marijuana, the Higher Education Act drug provision, bureaucratic treatment regulations, and our campaign to rein in the federal Byrne grant program, which is perpetuating the drug war across the country. We really appreciate your continued support.

Yahoo! Groups Links

The Tragedy of Today's Gays

I have a friend who has a teenaged son. One of his friends was kicked out of the house because he is gay. Well, the actual reason was that he knocked over a lamp and didn't pick it up and "it could have started a fire" but that was just the excuse. His stepfather gave his mother the ultimatum - "it's either him or me". He was 18 and without a job so he is now living in my friend's house.

Yesterday I was over there and he had asked a teacher of his send him the speech below after he had talked to her about another friend who was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. He told me about it and I read it and was very impressed.

I don't know why people are so hateful to gay people. I don't understand it. I am sure that you will enjoy the piece below. It is powerful, but fair warning - there is language that could be considered offending to some people.

"The Tragedy of Today's Gays". Author and activist Larry Kramer gave a 90-minute speech Sunday night, November 7, at Cooper Union, NYC. In the early days of the AIDS epidemic he was as outspoken as outspoken can be — founding Gay Men's Health Crisis, ACT UP, and writing a play that's been produced hundreds of times, The Normal Heart.
So for this, his first major public address since the early days of ACT UP, 900 showed up, 400 were turned away. Nobody walked out, according to reports. The speech, which follows, is characteristic — shrill, wildly political, disturbing, accusatory, often off-putting, at times engrossing. You may not get through it. But here it is, a call, a plea to action by a man who's made that his life's work. If anyone was there on Sunday, please comment.
"The Tragedy of Today's Gays" by Larry Kramer
I think this has been the most difficult speech I have ever had to write and to deliver. It is a long speech. I pray you will bear with me until its end.
It is an attempt to give you some idea of who and what we are up against. It is also an attempt to discuss our ability to deal with these.
I recently learned about two dear friends, both exceptionally smart and talented and each in his own way a leader of our community. One, in his middle age, has sero-converted. The other, in his middle-age, has become hooked on crystal meth. Both of them are here with us tonight.
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we’re better than other people. I really do. I think we’re smarter and more talented and more aware and I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we’re more tuned in to what’s happening, tuned into the moment, tuned into our emotions, and other people’s emotions, and we’re better friends. I really do think all these things.
To us it defies rational analysis that this incompetent dishonest man and his party should be re-elected. Or does it?
I hope we all realize that, as of November 2nd, gay rights are officially dead. And that from here on we are going to be led even closer to the guillotine. This past week almost 60 million of our so-called “fellow” Americans voted against us. Indeed 23% of self-identified gay people voted against us, too. That one I can’t figure.
The absoluteness of what has happened is terrifying. On the gay marriage initiatives alone: 2.6 million against us in Michigan. 3.2 million in Ohio. 1.1 million in Oklahoma, 2.2 million in Georgia. 1.2 million in Kentucky. George Bush won his Presidency of our country by selling our futures. Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day think we are immoral. “Moral values” was top of many lists of why people supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. “Moral values.” In case you need a translation that means us. It is hard to stand up to so much hate. Which of course is just the way they want it. Please know that a huge portion of the population of the United States hates us. I don’t mean dislike. I mean hate. You may not choose to call it hate, but I do. Not only because they refuse us certain marital rights but because they have also elected a congress that is overflowing with men and women who refuse us just about every other right to exist as well. “Moral values” is really a misnomer; it means just the reverse. It means they think we are immoral. And that we’re dangerous and contaminated. How do you like being called immoral by some 60 million people? This is not just anti-gay. This is what Doug Ireland calls “homo hate” on the grandest scale. How do we stand up to 60 million people who have found a voice and a President who declares he has a mandate?
The new Supreme Court, due any moment now, will erase us from the slate of everything possible in no time at all. Gay marriage? Forget it. Gay anything, forget it. Civil rights for gays? Equal protection for gays. Adoption rights? The only thing we are going to get from now on is years of increasing and escalating hate. Surely you must know this. Laws and regulations that now protect us will be repealed and rewritten. Please know all this. With the arrival of this second term of these hateful people we come even closer to our extinction. We should have seen it coming. We are all smart people. How could we not have been prepared?
They have not exactly been making a secret of their hate. This last campaign has seen examples of daily hate on tv and in the media that I do not believe the world has witnessed since Nazi Germany. I have been reading Ambassador Dodd’s Diary; he was Roosevelt’s ambassador to Germany in the 30’s, and people are always popping in and out of his office proclaiming the most awful things out loud about Jews. It has been like that.
All Mary Cheney is is a lesbian! Even her mother is hateful! That Cheney must be one fucked-up kid to stick around that family. I hope she doesn’t want to teach school. One of the reelected Congress persons vows to make it illegal for lesbians to teach school. [continued at link]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Flag Desecration Amendment Crisis

This idiocy rears it's ugly head again. Why is it that they think that free speech is limited to what comes out of your mouth. Burning someone else's flag is already illegal. Why should burning a flag that you bought and paid for be illegal?

My friend Peg

I talked to my friend Peg, who is also a drug policy reform activist today. She is my friend and she recently suggested I go to her doctor, Dr. Patricia Salvato, who specializes in Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrom (CFIDS) and HIV. I went to her and she had some labwork done and so far I have found out that I have high levels of Epstein-Barr virus (that's the one that causes Mononucleosis) and low ATP (Adenosine Tri-phosphate) levels and I am now getting once a week shots of ATP and Glutethione.

I have recently made big changes to my diet and and trying to lose weight. I have lost 14 pounds so far and hope to lose another a lot more. I am trying also to get more exercise - very gradually though, otherwise I get tired too easy. I am 46 years old and trying for once to get a grip on my health, get better from feeling tired all the time and prevent health problems such as diabetes from developing.

No Raich decision today

The Supreme Court still has not ruled for or against medical marijuana. We are all anxiously and hopefully awaiting what is going to happen.

The Constitution on Trial

David Van Os is a great progressive Texan. He ran for Texas Supreme Court and lost this year but I hear he may be running for Attorney General. Here is his latest statement posted to the Texas Progressive Populist Caucus Yahoogroup.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Van Os <david@vanoslaw.com>
Date: May 22, 2005 9:05 AM
Subject: [texasppc] The Constitution on Trial
To: texasppc@yahoogroups.com

The Constitution on Trial

By David Van Os, on special assignment

This week the Radical Republicans will place the United States Constitution on trial. Chief Prosecutor Frist and his assistant prosecutors have been reading the indictment over the past week. The Constitution stands charged with the crime of establishing a government with checks and balances. A sub-count of the indictment accuses the old document of setting up a bicameral legislative branch in which the upper chamber sits as a deliberative body. In a remarkable new definition of due process of law, constructed uniquely for this case, Frist and his team will serve in the triple capacities of prosecution, jury, and judge.

Lead Defense Counsel Reid appears to be basing the defense on the "advice and consent" language of the Constitution. Assistant Defense Counsel Byrd in particular laid out a detailed explanation of the consistent interpretations of that clause over the 217 years of the republic's history.

The prosecution's strategy appears to be to sidestep the arguments of the defense by arguing for a new interpretation of the "advice and consent" clause. The new interpretation would hold that the "advice and consent" language makes it mandatory for the Senate to "consent" to the chief executive's lifetime judicial nominees. In particular, the prosecution team argues that higher powers command the new interpretation. When pressed for details, the prosecutors claim a special ability to receive and understand the commands of the higher powers, which the Senate must accept on faith.

If the Constitution is convicted of the charges, it is expected that the document will be reduced in rank to the status of a historical artifact, and the concept of checks and balances will suffer the death penalty. However, it is not expected that the Senate will be abolished at this time. Our sources indicate that it will be placed on indefinite probation. Sources further indicate that the two conditions of the indefinite probation will be (1) that the Senate relinquish its ancient but outdated claim that the Congress and the judiciary constitute separate branches of government co-equal to the executive branch; and (2) that the Senate join the chief executive in a declaration that religious law as interpreted by Pat Robertson and Randall Terry shall constitute the supreme law of the land. It is anticipated that the prosecutors will appoint a panel consisting of Osama bin Laden, Bandar Bush, Iranian mullahs, and Taliban leaders to supervise the Senate's compliance with the terms of probation.

Reid's strategy is to convince enough Senators to vote for acquittal on the grounds that no contemporary body possesses authority to overrule the Constitution by simple majority vote. Since Reid's theory has been accepted for the last 217 years, many observers are astonished that the indictment was not summarily dismissed. Such observers, while well intentioned, appear to be naïve about the Radical Republicans' zeal to reject certain theories of government that they consider to be quaint and unsound, such as those of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Both sides have been appealing for public sympathy. While the prosecution is calling for abolition of the Constitutional framework of checks and balances, the defense team and its allies are relying upon massive support from the citizenry to save the Constitution.

Yahoo! Groups Links

First thoughts

I started out as a marijuana legalization activist but later evolved into a drug policy reform activist. In 2000, I also became a Democrat activist. Now it is 2004 and I decided to start this blog to track my thoughts on politics and life in general. As such this will include blogs on Democratic politics, drug policy reform, my life - health, life in Houston, life as a tech support person and anything else that comes to mind.

I hope that others will want to participate and will add to comments that I make and links that I provide. Topics may be diverse because I am using this blog to chronicle both my activism and my life. I hope others enjoy it and give suggestions and comments.