Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Click on this link to see and hear Aretha and Billy. And then please remember that this is Eid ul-Adha and it is all about forgiveness folks.

Perhaps forgiving is the hardest thing we can do as we move into the New Year of 2007.

President Ford, Thank You for Justice Stevens

Jeffrey Toobin reminds us that we have President Gerald R. Ford to thank for Justice John Paul Stevens. He also reminds us that President Ford was a strong proponent of Affirmative Action.

Mr. Toobin’s article was in yesterdays NYT's:

December 30, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor

Gerald Ford’s Affirmative Action


GERALD R. FORD kept his distance from political controversy after leaving office, but he retained a special interest in the workings of his alma mater. In 1999, the 86-year-old former varsity football star decided to make a public stand in support of affirmative action at the University of Michigan.

He wrote an Op-Ed article on this page titled “Inclusive America, Under Attack.” A pair of pending lawsuits, Mr. Ford wrote, would prohibit Michigan and other universities “from even considering race as one of many factors weighed by admission counselors.” Such a move would condemn “future college students to suffer the cultural and social impoverishment that afflicted my generation.”

As it happened, on Sept. 15, 1999, a month after the article ran, Mr. Ford had dinner with James M. Cannon, one of his former White House aides, in Grand Rapids, Mich. The men were in town to hear a speech at Mr. Ford’s presidential museum by his only nominee to the Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens.

By that point, Justice Stevens had long since proved a great disappointment to conservatives. But his nomination remained one of Mr. Ford’s proudest achievements as president, for Justice Stevens’ moderate-to-liberal record reflected Mr. Ford’s own later views, as his stand on affirmative action illustrated. At the dinner, Mr. Ford encouraged Mr. Cannon to do what he could to help the university in the lawsuit, which was heading for the Supreme Court.

Mr. Cannon had served on the Board of Visitors of the Naval Academy, and both he and Mr. Ford knew how important affirmative action was to the military, especially its officer corps. Mr. Cannon had been told many times by the Navy’s top brass that they did not want ships full of enlisted men, who tended to be heavily minority, to be commanded exclusively by white officers. Affirmative action wasn’t social engineering, it was military necessity; and Mr. Cannon and Mr. Ford wanted to make sure the justices heard that message.

Active-duty officers could not take a stand on such a controversial issue, but Mr. Cannon, prompted by Mr. Ford, sought out the next best thing: retired military officers. In time, the University of Michigan defense team recruited Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, Gen. Hugh Shelton, Adm. William J. Crowe Jr. and two dozen others eminences to sign a friend-of-the-court brief in support of affirmative action written by a Washington lawyer, Carter G. Phillips.

The first case was argued at the court on April 1, 2003, less than two weeks after American and allied forces launched their invasion of Iraq. In this initial period, the war looked like a tremendous success; as a result, the military was held in especially high regard in the nation and at the court, and that attitude was reflected in the justices’ many questions about the brief by the military retirees.

To the lawyer representing the plaintiff, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “May I call your attention in that regard to the brief that was filed on behalf of some retired military officers who said that to have an officer corps that includes minority members in any number, there is no way to do it other than to give not an overriding preference but a plus for race.”

Justices Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor followed up with similar queries. When Theodore B. Olson, the solicitor general, who was expressing the Bush administration’s opposition to the Michigan program, rose to speak, Justice Stevens quickly interrupted: “Just let me get a question out, and you answer it at your convenience. I’d like you to comment on Carter Phillips’s brief. What is your view of the strength of that argument?”

In the end, the court voted to uphold the affirmative action program at Michigan’s law school. Justice O’Connor’s opinion quoted Mr. Phillips’s brief at length and then, in an extraordinarily rare tribute, adopted its words as part of the court’s opinion: “To fulfill its mission, the military ‘must be selective in admissions for training and education for the officer corps, and it must train and educate a highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps in a racially diverse setting.’ ”

The court, Justice O’Connor said, agreed with Mr. Phillips that “ ‘it requires only a small step from this analysis to conclude that our country’s other most selective institutions must remain both diverse and selective.’ ”

In all, considering the statements at the oral argument and Justice O’Connor’s opinion, the submission from the retired officers, as set in motion by Mr. Ford, may have been the most influential amicus brief in the history of the Supreme Court.

By Mr. Ford’s later years, as the Michigan affirmative action controversy illustrated, the former president had fallen out of step with the strong conservative drift of the Republican Party. But more important, the Michigan case, and Mr. Ford’s role in it, suggest that his views remained where they had long been — in the center of the country, politically and geographically — and by staying true to his beliefs, he left a quiet and powerful legacy for the university and the country that he loved.

How sad, Mr. President, that your party, the GOP, abandoned you.

But, thank you Mr. President. Your nomination of Justice Stevens to the SCOTUS, and his subsequent confirmation, continues to be one of your most important contributions to democracy and the United States of America.

Saddam Hussein

1937 – 2006

Ah, dead men tell no tales!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Here is to the New Year!

Visualize it being better than the last Six!

Actually, anything would be an improvement.

So, celebrate!

This Can’t be Good!

From the Independent in the UK:

Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island

For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas. Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean reports

Published: 24 December 2006

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.

It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.

Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university's School of Oceanographic Studies, says "it is only a matter of some years" before it is swallowed up too. Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen "vanishing islands" in India's part of the delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in danger.

Until now the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the first populated ones to disappear, in about eight years' time, but Lohachara has beaten them to the dubious distinction.

Human cost of global warming: Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people homeless

Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.

Now this seems to me to be an ominous sign. If you were to put this together with the news of the Canadian Ice Shelf breaking free in the Arctic and the U.S. Government, which doesn’t believe in Global Warming, stating that the Polar Bears are “Threatened” due to Global Warming, I think you might say Uh, Oh!

Houston we have a problem!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tell Me, What the Mission is Again?

So, what exactly are we doing in Iraq? Just what is the "Mission" and how are we carrying it out? What is the strategy and what are the tactics?

According to NYT’s reporting it is increasingly becoming unclear and deadly:

The car parked outside was almost certainly a tool of the Sunni insurgency. It was pocked with bullet holes and bore fake license plates. The trunk had cases of unused sniper bullets and a notice to a Shiite family telling them to abandon their home.

“Otherwise, your rotten heads will be cut off,” the note read.

The soldiers who came upon the car in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad were part of a joint American and Iraqi patrol, and the Americans were ready to take action. The Iraqi commander, however, taking orders by cellphone from the office of a top Sunni politician, said to back off: the car’s owner was known and protected at a high level.

For Maj. William Voorhies, the American commander of the military training unit at the scene, the moment encapsulated his increasingly frustrating task — trying to build up Iraqi security forces who themselves are being used as proxies in a spreading sectarian war. This time, it was a Sunni politician — Vice Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — but the more powerful Shiites interfered even more often.

“I have come to the conclusion that this is no longer America’s war in Iraq, but the Iraqi civil war where America is fighting,” Major Voorhies said.

Read the whole article and tell me why we are still in this quagmire that we have created. I understand guilt. I understand that the U.S. Government has created this situation, but there is no way that we can fix the problem. Now it may be the “White Man’s Burden” to correct the problem we have created, but I am thinking that escalating our involvement is probably not going to be a solution.

Now as to the “White Man’s Burden” I think that it is very paternalistic to think that we have the answer. I believe that we need to give the Iraqi’s the opportunity to work out their religious, ethnic and tribal differences among themselves even though this Administration is responsible for exacerbating them (a mild description I admit).

It is clear that we have no idea what we are doing and what we could do to make a positive contribution to this debacle.

The U.S. has done enough damage to Iraq.

It is time to go and admit that we have FUBAR’d an entire country.

And yes, it is time to hang our heads in shame.

Billmon, Say It Ain’t So!

The World Needs You!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford


1913 – 2006

Dear Betty, our condolences to you and your family.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ah, Gift Giving!

I love this piece by Steve Benen, from the Carpetbagger Report, guest blogging over at Washington Monthly. So, I just had to share it.

December 25, 2006

Guest: Steve Benen

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS.... Christmas is a day about giving, so I thought it'd be fun to consider some gift ideas for those on our list.

Karl Rove gets a calculator this year, because his own personal math turned out to be a little unreliable.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel deserves a comfy massage chair, so foreign heads of state don't feel compelled to accost her at G8 meetings.

More so than anyone else in the country, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) needs a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth."

Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) gets a copy of the U.S. Constitution, with Article VI highlighted so he can't miss it.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) would clearly get a lot of use out of a CD set of "How to Speak Conversational Spanish."

Stephen Colbert gets a ticket to next year's White House Correspondents' Dinner, just in case next year's headliner is tempted to go easy on those guys.

Scooter Libby could probably use a bulletproof vest, just in case he goes hunting with Dick Cheney before the VP is scheduled to testify.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) might enjoy a copy of Dan Savage's "Skipping Toward Gomorrah," so at least he'd finally know what all the snickering is about.

Tony Snow obviously deserves an Honorary Presidency of the Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf Appreciation Society.

And for President Bush, I'd like to give him a World Atlas, because at this point, he seems entirely unable to find his way out of Iraq on his own.

I hope all of you enjoyed whatever was under your tree this morning. Any other gift ideas for others I might have missed?

Steve obviously is terrific at figuring out what someone needs for a gift. I am willing to bet that the gifts he gives are never re-gifted.

Bob Herbert’s Christmas Message!

To America from behind the wall:

December 25, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

The Ninth Ward Revisited


Spike Lee, who has made a stunning six-hour documentary about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, was telling me the other day about his first visit to the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, which was annihilated by the flood that followed the storm.

After more than a year his voice was still filled with a sense of horrified wonder. “To see it with your own eyes,” he said, “and you’re doing a 360-degree turn, and you see nothing but devastation .... I wasn’t born until 1957 but I automatically thought about Hiroshima or Nagasaki or Berlin after the war.

“It looked like someone had dropped a nuclear bomb. It was all brown, and there was the smell, the stench. It was horrible.”

His words echoed the comments of a woman I had met on a recent trip to New Orleans. She remembered standing in the Ninth Ward after the waters had receded. “Everything was covered in brown crud,” she said. “There was nothing living. No birds. No dogs. There was no sound. And none of the fragrance that’s usually associated with New Orleans, like jasmine and gardenias and sweet olives. It was just a ruin, all death and destruction.”

Said Mr. Lee: “You couldn’t believe that this was the United States of America.”

The film, which was produced by HBO and has been released in a boxed set of DVDs, is called “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” It’s Mr. Lee’s best work, an informative, infuriating and heartbreaking record of a cataclysmic historical event — the loss of a great American city.

What boggles the mind now is the way the nation seems to be taking this loss in stride. Much of New Orleans is still a ruin. More than half of its population is gone and an enormous percentage of the people who are still in town are suffering.

As Mr. Lee noted, the public face of the city is to some extent a deceptive feel-good story. The Superdome, a chamber of horrors during the flood, has been made new again. And the city’s football team, the Saints, has turned its fortunes around and is sprinting into the National Football League playoffs. (They beat the Giants in New York yesterday, 30-7.)

“They spent the money on the Superdome, and you can get drunk in the French Quarter again, and some of the conventions are coming back,” Mr. Lee said, “so people are trying to say that everything’s O.K. But that’s a lie.

“They need to stop this focus on downtown and the Superdome because it does a disservice to all those people who are still in very deep trouble. They need to get the cameras out of the French Quarter and go to New Orleans East, or the Lower Ninth Ward. Or go to St. Bernard Parish. You’ll see that everything is not O.K. Far from it.”

Vast acreages of ruined homes and staggering amounts of garbage and filth still burden the city. Scores of thousands of people remain jobless and homeless. The public schools that are open, for the most part, are a scandal. And the mental health situation, for the people in New Orleans and the evacuees scattered across the rest of the U.S., is yet another burgeoning tragedy.

There’s actually a fifth act, only recently completed, to “When the Levees Broke,” in which a number of people reflect on what has been happening since the storm. Wynton Marsalis, ordinarily the mildest of individuals, looks into the camera with an expression of anger and deep disgust. “What is the government doing?” he asks. “They’re trying to figure out how to hand out contracts. How to lower the minimum wage so the subcontractors can make all the money. Steal money from me and you, man. We’re paying taxes, you understand what I’m saying?”

For most of America, Katrina is an old story. In Mr. Lee’s words, people are suffering from “Katrina fatigue.” They’re not much interested in how the levees have only been patched up to pre-Katrina levels of safety, or how the insurance companies have ripped off thousands upon thousands of hard-working homeowners who are now destitute, or how, as USA Today reported, “One $7.5 billion Louisiana program to help people rebuild or relocate has put money in the hands of just 87 of the 89,403 homeowners who applied.”

There are other matters vying for attention. The war in Iraq is going badly. Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell are feuding. And, after all, it’s Christmas.

“You know how Americans are,” Mr. Lee said. “We’re on to the next thing.”

For all those out there who are so “outraged” about the “War on Christmas” perhaps a little outrage for this Administration’s actual “War on Americans” is called for.

After all, it is the Christmas Holiday Season!

James Brown


1933 – 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dear Mr. President:

While you, the Decider, ponder and deliberate on the next move in this disaster that is Iraq, Pink’s questions are evermore relevant.

Dear Mr. President, the World awaits your answers!

What to Make of This?

Intrigue in the Royal Court of the Saudi’s makes me nervous. That said, I don’t know what to make of this situation with Prince Turki’s abruptly stepping down as Saudi Ambassador and the consequences for this Administration’s policy on Iran.

According to the WAPO:

For more than a year, Saudi Arabia's ambassador journeyed to college campuses, chambers of commerce, town halls and world affairs councils across the United States in an ambitious campaign to improve his country's image.

But Prince Turki al-Faisal's goodwill tour, instead, produced millions of dollars in unpaid bills -- and a tale of murky intrigue in the enigmatic desert kingdom.

The debts by one of the world's wealthiest countries -- owed to the very lobbyists, advisers and event organizers hired to promote the kingdom -- have left a trail that weaves together bitter princely rivalries, diplomatic subterfuge and a policy clash over one of the thorniest issues of the day: what to do about Iran.

The Saudi Embassy would not comment on the kingdom's payments, personnel or internal policymaking.

But the woes within the royal family reflect a tug of war over how to handle foreign policy. Eighteen months ago, Prince Bandar bin Sultan ended a legendary 22-year career as the face of Saudi Arabia in the United States. Word at the time was that he was bored, preferring his palatial Aspen, Colo., lodge to Washington. As it turns out, however, Bandar has secretly visited Washington almost monthly over the past year -- and is at least as pivotal today in influencing U.S. policy as he was in his years as ambassador.

Last week, his successor, Turki, abruptly resigned from the post -- partly, sources close to the royal family said, because of Bandar's back-channel trips to meet with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Yes, folks this makes me nervous. I don’t understand the implications, but I know that there are implications and I am not feeling very positive. In fact, I have a foreboding feeling of negative ramifications. The Decider is very tied to Bandar and his cohorts. And, our Navy’s actions in the region don’t help me feel positive about where this Administration's policy is leading us.

Read the whole article. I’m thinking this is not good!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Like I Said!

As I have said before, when the VIPS speak you should listen.

Now this is a longish piece but you need to hear what Pat Lang and Ray McGovern of the VIPS have to say on the Decider’s decision to “Surge” in Iraq and it is aptly titled:

Surging To Defeat In Iraq

W. Patrick Lang and Ray McGovern

December 18, 2006

W. Patrick Lang is a retired Army colonel who served with Special Forces in Vietnam, as an instructor at West Point, and as Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East. Ray McGovern was also an Army infantry/intelligence officer before his 27-year career as a CIA analyst. Both are with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

As Robert Gates takes the helm at the Pentagon today, he is probably already aware that Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush are resolute in their decision to stay the course in Iraq (without using those words) for the next two years. What he probably does not realize is that the U.S. military is about to commit hara-kiri.

The media are abuzz with trial balloons with official leaks that President George W. Bush is about to approve a “surge” in U.S. troop strength in Iraq by tens of thousands. At the same time, surge advocate Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., just back from a brief visit to the Green Zone with fellow surgers John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., has warned that “the amount of troops will make no difference” if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki avoids taking “bold” moves. The three pretend to be unaware that the most important move for which they pressed—breaking with radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr—would amount to political suicide for Maliki.

Meanwhile, back at the Sunday talk shows, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who owes his position to the popular revolt in November against the war, said he can “go along” with a surge, but only for two to three months and only as part of a broader strategy to bring combat forces home by early 2008. Meanwhile, says Reid, Democrats will “give the military anything they want.”

Can Reid be oblivious to the reality that this has to do with the next two years—not the next two months? Former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, one of the anointed retired generals who have Bush’s ear, is urging him to send 30,000 to 40,000 more troops and has already dismissed the possibility of a time-frame shorter than one and a half years. What seems clear is that the president is determined that the war not be lost while he is in office. But events are moving too fast for that. It was not quite the way he meant it, but Bush has gotten one thing right; there will indeed be no “graceful exit.” That goes in spades, if he sends still more troops.


A generation from now, our grandchildren will have difficulty writing history papers on this oxymoronic debate on how to surge/withdraw our troops into/from the quagmire in Iraq. Historians will have just as much trouble, especially those given to Tolstoy’s theory that history is ruled by an inexorable determinism in which the free choice of major historical figures plays a minimal role. Tolstoy died before events put into perspective the legacy of Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat [Decider] Of All The Russias, and his Vice President/éminence grise, Rasputin.

Judging from President Bush’s behavior in recent weeks, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that he may be no more stable than Nicholas II. And if retired Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s top aide at the State Department, is right in saying that Bush still has the “vice president whispering in his ear every moment,” we have an unhappy but apt historical analogy.

But, you protest, the generals most intimately involved in Iraq, John Abizaid and George Casey, and Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker have made no secret of their strong reservations about sending large numbers of additional troops. That is correct, but also irrelevant. Because, as was the case in the Vietnam War, our top generals have long since morphed into careerists and politicians. They have become accustomed to looking up for the next reward—and not down at the troops who bear the brunt of their acquiescence in political/military decisions that make no sense.

But what about Senators Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy—and Colin Powell, and even Donald Rumsfeld, all of whom spoke out yesterday against a sizable surge in troop strength in Iraq? No problem. Cheney/Bush is the sole “decider.”

This does not mean that Defense Secretary Robert Gates should renege on his promise to visit the troops in Iraq and hear the generals out. It does mean that by the time he gets there, the generals can be expected to be already “on board with the program,” as they say. And taking issue with “deciders” has never been Gates’ strong suit.

What Gates may not realize, but the generals should, is that once an “all or nothing” offensive like the “surge” contemplated has begun, there is no turning back. It will be “victory” over the insurgents and the Shia militias or palpable defeat, recognizable by all in Iraq and across the world.

Stalingrad on the Tigris

A “surge” of the size possible under current constraints on U.S. forces will not turn the tide in the guerrilla war. Reinforcement of Baghdad several thousand U.S. troops last summer simply brought on more violence. Those who believe still more troops will bring “victory” are living in a dangerous dream world and need to wake up.

Moreover, major reinforcement would commit the US Army and Marine Corps to decisive combat in which there are no more strategic reserves to be sent to the front. It will be a matter of win or die in the attempt. In that situation, everyone in uniform on the ground will commit every ounce of their being to a hope of “victory,” and few measures will be shrunk from.

Analogies come to mind: the Bulge, Stalingrad, the Battle of Algiers. It will be total war with all the likelihood of excesses and mass casualties that come with total war.

To take up such a strategy and force our armed forces into it would be an immoral course of action, both for our troops and for the thousands more Iraqis bound to die.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., spoke for many of us last Thursday on the Senate floor:

“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore.”

Yesterday, when George Stephanopoulos asked Smith what he meant by “criminal,” he replied:

“I said it. You can use any adjective you want, George. But I have long believed in a military context, when you do the same thing over and over again, without a clear strategy for victory, at the expense of your young people in arms, that is dereliction. That is deeply immoral.”

If adopted, the “surge” strategy will be even worse than that. It will be something we will spend a generation living down.

One has to wonder if Paul Craig Roberts is right when he questions whether or not Bush 43 is sane. That question begs the larger question which is what to do about this? And what does this say about the Main Stream Media that they don’t even raise this question?

Now, in the run-up to this Mess-O-Potamia (and that is putting it lightly) the MSM dismissed the voice of the VIPS and helped to put this nation and the world at peril. The MSM were the willing stenographers of this Administration.

The question now is when will the MSM come out of their somnambulistic reporting and wake-up? It seems to me that it is time for everyone to pay attention to those who got it right prior to this debacle and stop giving credence, and voice, to those who got it wrong!

Those in charge, and their stenographers, got it totally wrong then and they are totally wrong now. What, exactly, has intervened in the meantime to prove them right or suggest that they have any credibility on the subject of National Security and the debacle that is Iraq? Nothing, folks!

And those who were right, what has proven them wrong, nothing? And what suggests that they have any credence or credibility on National Security and the debacle that is Iraq? Everything folks!

Why does this seem to be such a heretical thought?

Does the Main Stream Media’s consolidation in the corporate world (those pesky GOP Contributors and enablers) have anything to do with this? Calling Oliver Stone!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ah, an Actual Clear Headed Journalist!

Not so long ago, Hunter S. Thompson, too soon gone, a person who was considered drug and alcohol impaired was clear headed enough to know what was up with this proposed Mess-O-Potamia.

Here is Tim Russert, not so clear headed, interviewing Thompson about Bush and the impending invasion of the sovereign country of Iraq. Russert comes off as an idiot in this interview, sort of like he had imbibed too much Kool-Aid. Though Dr. Thompson, Journalist, stumbles around looking for words, he makes a hell of a lot more sense than his intrepid interviewer.

Thompson, delicately, calls what was going on in the country as a “National Nervous Breakdown.” I have called it Social Psychosis. The national debate on Iraq, if you could call it that, reminds me of the nation’s reaction to the Civil Rights Movement and how those for Civil Rights were called Traitors, Communists, and worse. Yes, calling it a “Nervous Breakdown” is a delicate way of putting it. But then Thompson was a true Patriot and loved this country so he would be delicate.

Sure makes you wonder about how this man who admitted to his own inebriation compares as to those supposedly un-inebriated, say dry drunk, men running the country.

Clear headedness is all in the eye of the beholder it seems.

Thanks to Susie at Suburban Guerilla for finding this. The fact that she posted it a week ago shows you just how much there is to keep up with on the net, and just how far behind I am.

Update: Ralph put this up also!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

More Links to Come!

Please be patient.

Really, I am trying!

Ray McGovern, What He Said!

Now in the run-up, and sale, of this our Mess-O-Potamia, one of the voices that I paid particular attention to was Ray McGovern’s. His group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), provided sound intelligence that was totally missing from the pitiful debate surrounding the impending debacle provided by our Administration’s stenographers: the Mainstream Media. The MSM knew the War Hounds were loose and chose to let them run wild.

Meanwhile, back in the Reality-based Community, the VIPS were telling it like it is. In the beginning Pat Lang was almost a regular on the NewsHour, until it became clear that he was right and then he was summarily relegated to “Never to be Seen Again Land” by PBS (that liberal bastion of media bias.)

I remember seeing the Colonel around W. 43rd Street, by the Grey Lady, in Manhattan one evening on my way home from work. I wanted to go up to him and ask him if he thought America and Iraq were FUBAR. But, I thought better of it as I felt it would be unfair for a complete stranger to put him on the spot like that (even though I already had a pretty good idea of what I thought he would say.) I didn’t, at the time, know what a generous gentleman he was and that he more than likely would have given me, a stranger at the time, his time and a straight answer.

So, the long and the short of it is folks that when anyone from the VIPS talks, we better listen up. They know what they are talking about and are eloquent when they say it.

Here is just the beginning of Ray McGovern’s piece from TruthOut and Antiwar:

At Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Robert Gates to be secretary of defense, I felt as though I were paying last respects to the Constitution of the United States. But there was none of the praise customarily given to the deceased. Rather, the bouquets were fulsomely shared round about among the nominee and the senators – all of the "distinguished," but none more distinguished than the Very Reverend John Warner, the gentleman from Virginia, chairman of the committee and presider at the wake.

"Distinguished, indeed," I could not help thinking; this is the committee that allowed itself to be co-opted by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputies Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith into abnegating its constitutional duty to prevent the United States from launching a war of aggression on false pretenses against a defenseless Iraq. The Nuremberg Tribunal ruled war of aggression "the supreme international crime inasmuch as it contains the accumulated evils of the whole" – kidnapping and torture, for example. This is the committee which, when such abuses came to light, let the Pentagon investigate itself. And I thought of how our Virginian forefathers, really distinguished Virginians like James Madison and James Mason, who crafted the checks and balances into our Constitution, and how they must be rolling over in their graves at the flaccid timidity of their 21st century successors. Perhaps the plain-speaking senator-elect from Virginia, James Webb, will be able to remind other senators of their duty and curtail their mutual fawning when he takes office in January.

It was a sorry spectacle Tuesday, as pretentious, patrician manners trumped courage and vitiated the advise-and-consent prerogative carefully honed by the framers of our Constitution for the Senate.

In other news, "A series of particularly brutal attacks across Baghdad Tuesday resulted in at least 54 Iraqis killed and scores wounded," according to the New York Times. The U.S. military announced that three more American soldiers were killed Monday, adding to the 13 killed over the weekend. Ten more U.S. soldiers were killed on Wednesday. And five Marines are expected to be charged today with the killing of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, in the village of Haditha in November 2005.

No such bothersome details about this misbegotten war were allowed into evidence yesterday by the stuffed shirts sitting in stuffed seats in a hearing room stuffed with 80 stenographers from our domesticated press. Rather, the hearing room seemed to serve as a kind of funeral parlor for the Constitution. There were plenty of bouquets, but none smelled very genuine.

That Gates would be given a free pass without serious probing was already clear in ranking member Carl Levin's (D-Mich.) deference to lame-duck chairman John Warner's (R-Va.) plan for a one-day, carefully scripted hearing, at which senators could disregard new, documentary evidence of Gates' deception of Congress and the Iran-Contra independent counsel. Expediting the hearing served to squander the leverage provided by the confirmation process to committee members, had any of them wished to put that leverage in play. Rather, Gates was often able to say, in effect, "Gosh, I just got here; didn't know about that; haven't read that, but I'll put that on the top of my reading pile."

Fully expecting that Levin's Democratic colleagues would join him in acquiescing in this charade, antiwar activists told me before the hearing began that they had come prepared with a chant:

"You won the elections. Now ask real questions!"

Mr. McGovern, needless to say, doesn’t have very high hopes for this “change” at the Pentagon, not to mention this Congress.

If his, and the VIPS, past performance was prescient, I am sure he is right again! Read the whole article or ignore it at your peril.

The Mainstream media ignored these voices in the past. If the MSM ignores their voices this time around they are doing it at their peril and, once again, endangering all of us.

The VIPS are serious folks and they are serious in their concern for our country!


Lately whenever I see G.W. Bush this song by the Eagles and performed by a very young Linda Ronstadt comes to mind.

Sing along, won’t you!

Desperado Lyrics

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses
You've been out ridin' fences,
for so long - now.
Ohh you're a hard one.
I know that you've got your reasons.
These things that are pleasin' you
Will hurt you somehow.

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds boy
She'll beat you if she's able.
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet.
Well it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table.
But you only want the ones
That you can't get.

Ohhhh you ain’t getting no younger.
Your pain and your hunger,
They're driving you home.
And freedom, ohh freedom.
Well that's just some people talking.
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine.
It's hard to tell the night time from the day.
And you're losing all your highs and lows
ain’t it funny how the feeling goes

Why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate.
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you.
You better let somebody love you.
(let somebody love you).
You better let somebody love you...ohhh..hooo
before it's too..oooo.. late.

These are desperate times for the Decider. Now his father is desperately trying to show him some love with the ISG and George is having none of it. I hope for this country it isn’t too late.


Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 Grammys!

I am so conflicted in the “Record of the Year” category.

We have the “Becoming Yourself” entry:

Then there is the “I’m Not Taking Anymore Shit” entry:

And for me, finally, the “Telling It Like It Is” and “Brilliant Video” entry:

My question is: has there ever been a three way tie for the Grammy’s “Best Record of the Year?”

There should be this Year!

The winner will be a Rorschach Test on our culture and consciousness.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle


1935 – 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Next Year, WTF?

Now I am all for the deliberative process. In fact I think that it should have been employed prior to our disastrous adventure which has created this Mess-O-Potamia.

Okay, so many of us saw this coming and tried to get attention to the impending catastrophe that the invasion of Iraq would unleash.

So, that said, it has now been confirmed that Iraq is “a deteriorating and grave situation” by the Wise Old Men and Woman and what is this administration going to do about it?

Well, Bush is going to seek advice from everyone that he should have been seeking advice from in the first place.

And though our folks are being killed and maimed over there and Iraqis are being killed and maimed and that the whole situation is more than likely FUBAR, according to the Whitehouse there is no sense that there is any panic. According to Tony Snow, “"There's urgency, but not panic," the spokesman said.

So, what does the “Decider” decide to do? Why he has decided to put off the decision until after the Holiday Shopping Season, as was reported by the WAPO today:

Bush to Announce New Iraq Strategy Next Year

By William Branigin and Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; 4:00 PM

President Bush plans to wait until early next year to announce a new strategy for Iraq, dropping his previous goal of addressing the nation before Christmas to stake out a fresh course based on several studies, the White House said today.


The extra time was needed to allow advisers to more fully prepare their analysis on the impact of the changes under consideration, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said later. "He [Bush] decided, frankly, that it's not ready yet," Snow told reporters. He said he could not specify a date when the new strategy would be announced.


The delay was disclosed as Bush continued a series of consultations to explore options and hear from civilian and military experts while awaiting the results of Iraq strategy reviews being conducted by the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council. Last week he received a stinging report from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel chartered by Congress and headed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.)


Reid, whose party won control of both houses of Congress in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, complained in a statement, "It has been six weeks since the American people demanded change in Iraq. In that time Iraq has descended further toward all-out civil war, and all the president has done is fire Donald Rumsfeld and conduct a listening tour."

Bush "needs to understand how important and urgent change is for Iraq and for our troops," Reid said. "Talking to the same people he should have talked to four years ago does not relieve the president of the need to demonstrate leadership and change his policy now. The ball remains in his court, and time is running out."


"He's assigned some tasks to people to work on, and he's got some very clear, practical, tactical and other questions," Snow said. "And so, certainly the process and consultations will continue. And people are going to be working very hard between now and the time that the president has formulated the policy and is prepared to share his thoughts with the public and the world."

"There's urgency, but not panic," the spokesman said.

That is right folks there is “urgency, but not panic!”

Now the cynic in me could say that an announcement that we are going to send in more troops could possibly effect the Holiday Season's economic situation, but I will leave that to the other cynics out there!

Then Snow adds, in order to clarify the situation:

Asked if the delay means that Bush "doesn't know what to do," Snow said, "Well, that would be the wrong inference to draw."

He added, "You would expect and desire the commander in chief, in looking at a situation, to examine military concerns, security concerns, diplomatic concerns, internal political concerns within Iraq, regional ramifications, how you get people to work in concert with one another. It is enormously complex. . . . And so, what the president's doing now is pushing people to try to provide more input and more information and more insight of factual questions, strategic and tactical questions."

Snow said, "This is not not knowing what he wants to do. This is out of an absolute determination to do this right, making sure that he is absolutely convinced that the pieces have been put together, he's gotten the best advice, he's gotten the best facts, and that he now has the policy that he thinks will be the best to move."

Well call me one of those who would expect the “Decider” and “Commander-in-Chief” to be “…looking at a situation, to examine military concerns, security concerns, diplomatic concerns, internal political concerns within Iraq, regional ramifications, how you get people to work in concert with one another.

And as one who knew before this administration lead us to this tragedy that the situation would be “enormously complex. . . . And so, what the president's [should be doing] is pushing people to try to provide more input and more information and more insight of factual questions, strategic and tactical questions."

I am appalled!

It is now over three years since March 20, 2003 and this President is only now doing what should have been done since January 2001 when he came up with this scheme? He is only now doing what he should have been doing everyday since he started “Shock and Awe” in March of 2003?

Is this a PR campaign or is this real?

If this is just another of the Photo-Ops and PR campaigns that this administration does, you know campaigning, not governing, then I understand it. If this is actually real, then this President needs to be removed from office for gross incompetence, delusion and/or negligence (okay all of the above).

How else could this be explained?

And no George, if this is just PR, the folks out here are not going to forget this after Christmas and the Holiday Shopping save the economy season. And if you call for more troops after the First of the New Year, I think there will be calls for “Off With His Head.”

Be forewarned!

Update: The NYT’s apparently is part of those of us who see a conspiracy here:

December 13, 2006


Without Deliberate Speed

The claims of calm deliberation emerging from the White House this week are maddening. The search for a new plan for Iraq seems to be taking place with as much urgency as the deliberations over a new color for the dollar bill.

In Baghdad yesterday, a suicide bomber killed at least 70 people, most of them Shiite laborers whose only sin was looking for work. In Washington, meanwhile, President Bush held a series of carefully stage-managed meetings with officials and outside experts whose common credential appeared to be their opposition to the recommendations of James Baker’s Iraq Study Group.

To top it off, White House aides told reporters that — despite earlier promises of a pre-Christmas speech by Mr. Bush — the country now should not expect any announcement of a new strategy until early next year. The president’s spokesman, Tony Snow, said that “it’s a complex business, and there are a lot of things to take into account,” adding that Mr. Bush “wants to make sure it’s done right.”

We are more than eager for this White House to finally get something right on Iraq. But we find it chilling to imagine that Mr. Bush and his advisers have only now begun a full policy review, months after Iraq plunged into civil war and years after experts began warning that the administration’s strategy was not working.

We would like to believe that the reason for delay is that some of Mr. Bush’s advisers have come up with a sensible change in course and they are now trying to persuade the president to take it. Or that behind the scenes Mr. Bush is already strong-arming Iraq’s leaders to rein in the sectarian militias and begin long-delayed national reconciliation talks.

We fear that a more likely explanation is that the president’s ever-divided policy advisers are still wrangling over the most basic decisions, while his political handlers are waiting for public enthusiasm for the Baker report to flag before Mr. Bush tries to explain why he won’t follow through on some of the report’s most important and reasonable suggestions — like imposing a timetable on Iraqi leaders to make political compromises or face a withdrawal of American support. Or trying to persuade Iran and Syria to cease their meddling.

The Baker study, of course, is not the received wisdom of the ages. It should have been released far earlier, rather than being delayed to get past the midterm elections. But it was a good-faith effort by people wise enough and experienced enough to know how bad the situation really is in Iraq, and how little time left there is for the president to act.

Mr. Bush has no more time to waste on “listening tours” and photo ops. The nation is in a crisis, and Americans need to hear how he plans to unwind the chaos he has unleashed in Iraq. If the president is delaying because he is searching for a good option, he can stop. There are none. But Americans need to see that he is prepared to choose among the undesirable alternatives, and clear the way for a withdrawal of American troops that does not leave even more killing and mayhem behind.

Monday, December 11, 2006


More to come and please be patient!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just Because!

I love both Stevie and Victor so I wanted to post two of my favorite videos that I have found showing exactly why I love them.

Nothing political here just my love.

So, here is Stevie with Sir Duke and I Wish:

And here is Victor, the melodious bassist, first with Norwegian Wood:

And could just anyone do Amazing Grace like this, I don’t think so!

They are so good and wasn’t that worth your time?

I think so!

You have to love genius!

Tis the Season!

War is Over?

A very Merry Christmas?

So can we make that happen and do we want it to happen?

John we miss you!

Reformation or Tax Payer Rip-Off?

Now I am all for reformation, in the civil sense not the religious sense, so I have to take exception to the recent idea that reformation of prison inmate character is based on the necessity of a religious conversion. I also have to add that the use of direct federal funding to religious institutions to implement this conversion is a direct assault on the first amendment which states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Okay, it isn’t like I don’t understand that the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution isn’t all that popular these days under the current administration and its base of Christofascist (I don’t use the term lightly) followers, however that said, it is still the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and should be adhered to.

And I will admit that most Americans could give a shit about inmates.

That said, the idea that inmates would be given exceptional privileges because of their participation in religious-faith-based programs (and denied civil treatment because of their lack of participation) is as far as I am concerned an equal protection violation of the U.S. Constitution.

This situation is deplorable and should be rectified immediately.

Here is what the Times reports today:

Religion for a Captive Audience, Paid For by Taxes


Life was different in Unit E at the state prison outside Newton, Iowa.

The toilets and sinks — white porcelain ones, like at home — were in a separate bathroom with partitions for privacy. In many Iowa prisons, metal toilet-and-sink combinations squat beside the bunks, to be used without privacy, a few feet from cellmates.

The cells in Unit E had real wooden doors and doorknobs, with locks. More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway. Best of all, there were opportunities to see loved ones in an environment quieter and more intimate than the typical visiting rooms.

But the only way an inmate could qualify for this kinder mutation of prison life was to enter an intensely religious rehabilitation program and satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress. The program — which grew from a project started in 1997 at a Texas prison with the support of George W. Bush, who was governor at the time — says on its Web site that it seeks “to ‘cure’ prisoners by identifying sin as the root of their problems” and showing inmates “how God can heal them permanently, if they turn from their sinful past.”

One Roman Catholic inmate, Michael A. Bauer, left the program after a year, mostly because he felt the program staff and volunteers were hostile toward his faith.

“My No. 1 reason for leaving the program was that I personally felt spiritually crushed,” he testified at a court hearing last year. “I just didn’t feel good about where I was and what was going on.”

For Robert W. Pratt, chief judge of the federal courts in the Southern District of Iowa, this all added up to an unconstitutional use of taxpayer money for religious indoctrination, as he ruled in June in a lawsuit challenging the arrangement.

The Iowa prison program is not unique. Since 2000, courts have cited more than a dozen programs for having unconstitutionally used taxpayer money to pay for religious activities or evangelism aimed at prisoners, recovering addicts, job seekers, teenagers and children.

Nevertheless, the programs are proliferating. For example, the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison management company, with 65 facilities and 71,000 inmates under its control, is substantially expanding its religion-based curriculum and now has 22 institutions offering residential programs similar to the one in Iowa. And the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs at least five multifaith programs at its facilities, is preparing to seek bids for a single-faith prison program as well.

Government agencies have been repeatedly cited by judges and government auditors for not doing enough to guard against taxpayer-financed evangelism. But some constitutional lawyers say new federal rules may bar the government from imposing any special requirements for how faith-based programs are audited.

And, typically, the only penalty imposed when constitutional violations are detected is the cancellation of future financing — with no requirement that money improperly used for religious purposes be repaid.

But in a move that some constitutional lawyers found surprising, Judge Pratt ordered the prison ministry in the Iowa case to repay more than $1.5 million in government money, saying the constitutional violations were serious and clearly foreseeable.

His decision has been appealed by the prison ministry to a federal appeals court and fiercely protested by the attorneys general of nine states and lawyers for a number of groups advocating greater government accommodation of religious groups. The ministry’s allies in court include the Bush administration, which argued that the repayment order could derail its efforts to draw more religious groups into taxpayer-financed programs.

Officials of the Iowa program said that any anti-Catholic comments made to inmates did not reflect the program’s philosophy, and are not condoned by its leadership.

Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said the Iowa decision was unfair to the ministry and reflects an “overreaching” at odds with legal developments that increasingly “show favor to religion in the public square.”

And while he acknowledged the need for vigilance, he said he did not think the constitutional risks outweighed the benefits of inviting “faith-infused” ministries, like the one in Iowa, to provide government-financed services to “people of faith who seek to be served in this ‘full-person’ concept.”

Crossing a Bright Line

Over the last two decades, legislatures, government agencies and the courts have provided religious organizations with a widening range of regulatory and tax exemptions. And in the last decade religious institutions have also been granted access to public money once denied on constitutional grounds, including historic preservation grants and emergency reconstruction funds.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that public money could be used for religious instruction or indoctrination, but only when the intended beneficiaries made the choice themselves between religious and secular programs — as when parents decide whether to use tuition vouchers at religious schools or secular ones. The court emphasized the difference between such “indirect” financing, in which the money flows through beneficiaries who choose that program, and “direct” funding, where the government chooses the programs that receive money.

But even in today’s more accommodating environment, constitutional scholars agree that one line between church and state has remained fairly bright: The government cannot directly finance or support religious evangelism or indoctrination. That restriction typically has not loomed large when public money goes to religious charities providing essentially secular services, like job training, after-school tutoring, child care or food banks. In such cases, the beneficiaries need not accept the charity’s religious beliefs to get the secular benefits the government is financing.

The courts have taken a different view, however, when public money goes directly to groups, like the Iowa ministry, whose method of helping others is to introduce them to a specific set of religious beliefs — and whose success depends on the beneficiary accepting those core beliefs. In those cases, most of the challenged grants have been struck down as unconstitutional.

Those who see faith-based groups as exceptionally effective allies in the battle against criminal recidivism, teen pregnancy, addiction and other social ills say these cases are rare, compared with the number of programs receiving funds, and should not tarnish the concept of bringing more religious groups into publicly financed programs, so long as any direct financing is used only for secular expenses.

That concept has been embodied most prominently since 2001 in the Bush administration’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative, a high-profile effort to encourage religious and community groups to participate in government programs. More than 100 cities and 33 states have established similar initiatives, according to Mr. Hein.

The basic architecture of these initiatives has so far withstood constitutional challenge, although the Supreme Court agreed on Dec. 1 to consider a case on whether taxpayers have legal standing to bring such challenges against the Bush administration’s program.

Defenders of these initiatives say they are necessary to eliminate longstanding government policies that discriminated against religious groups — to provide a level playing field, as one White House study put it.

But critics say the “level playing field” argument ignores the fact that giving public money directly to ministries that aim at religious conversion poses constitutional problems that simply do not arise when the money goes elsewhere.

Converting Young People

Those constitutional problems sharpen when young people are the intended beneficiaries of these transformational ministries. In recent years, several judges have concluded that children and teenagers, like prisoners, have too few options and too little power to make the voluntary choices the Supreme Court requires when public money flows to programs involving religious instruction or indoctrination.

That was the conclusion last year of a federal judge in Michigan, in a case filed by Teen Ranch, a nonprofit Christian facility that provides residential care for troubled or abused children ages 11 to 17.

In 2003, state officials imposed a moratorium on placements of children there, primarily because of its intensively religious programming. Lawyers for the ranch went to court to challenge that moratorium.

“Teen Ranch acknowledges that it is overtly and unapologetically a Christian facility with a Christian worldview that hopes to touch and improve the lives of the youth served by encouraging their conversion to faith in Christ, or assisting them in deepening their pre-existing Christian faith,” observed a United States District judge, Robert Holmes Bell, in a decision released in September 2005.

Although youngsters in state custody could not choose where to be placed, they could refuse to go to the ranch if they objected to its religious character. As a result, the ranch’s lawyers argued, the state money was constitutionally permissible.

The state contended that the children in its care were “too young, vulnerable and traumatized” to make genuine choices. The ranch disputed that and added that the children had case workers and other adults to guide them. Judge Bell rejected Teen Ranch’s arguments. “Regardless of whether state wards are particularly vulnerable, they are children,” he wrote.

The ranch in Michigan has discontinued operations pending the outcome of its appeal, said Mitchell E. Koster, who was its chief operating officer. “We are confident that our argument will win,” Mr. Koster said. “It’s just a question of at what level.”

In another case early last year, a federal judge struck down a federal grant in 2003 to MentorKids USA, a ministry based in Phoenix, to provide mentors for the children of prisoners. In a case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., the judge noted that the exclusively Christian mentors had to regularly assess whether the young people in their care seemed “to be progressing in relationship with God.” In a program newsletter offered as evidence, its director said, “Our goal is to see every young adult choose Christ.”

The federal government had been clearly informed in advance of the nature of the MentorKids ministry, said John Gibson, chairman of the group’s board. “The court’s decision meant that there were 50 kids we could have served that we were not able to serve.”

In another case, more than $1 million in federal funds went to the Alaska Christian College in Soldotna, Alaska, which says it provides “a theologically based post-secondary education” to teenage Native Americans from isolated villages. But an investigator from the Education Department who visited the school last year found a first-year curriculum “that is almost entirely religious in nature.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to block the financing. The school promised to use government money only for secular expenses, and federal financing resumed last May, according to Derek Gaubatz, of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the college.

A number of government grants to finance sexual abstinence education have been successfully challenged. For example, the Louisiana Governor’s Program on Abstinence gave federal money to several religious groups that used it for clearly unconstitutional purposes, a federal judge ruled in 2002, in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

One grant went to a theater company that toured high schools performing a skit called “Just Say Whoa.” The script contained many religious references including one in which a character called Bible Guy tells teenagers in the cast: “As Christians, our bodies belong to the Lord, not to us.”

The federal judge said the grants were so poorly monitored that the state missed other clear signs of unconstitutional activity — as when one Catholic diocese sent monthly reports showing that it had used federal money “to support prayer at abortion clinics, pro-life marches and pro-life rallies.” Gail Dignam, director of the abstinence program, said that state contracts now emphasize more clearly that no grant money may be used for religious activities.

The Programs in Prisons

Programs like the one at the Iowa prison are a rare ray of hope for American prisoners, and governments should encourage them, their supporters say.

“We have 2.3 million Americans in prison today; 700,000 of them will get out of prison this coming year,” said Mark L. Earley, a former attorney general of Virginia. Many inmates come out of prison “much more antisocial than when they came in,” he added. He said he saw faith-based groups as essential partners in any effective rehabilitation efforts.

Mr. Earley is the president and chief executive of Prison Fellowship Ministries, based in Lansdowne, Va. With almost $56 million a year in revenue, the ministry oversees the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, which operates the Iowa program.

Since its birth in 1976, Prison Fellowship has been most closely associated with one of its founders, Charles W. Colson, who said in a 2002 newsletter that the InnerChange program demonstrates “that Christ changes lives, and that changing prisoners from the inside out is the only crime-prevention program that really works.”

In early 2003, Americans United for Separation of Church and State joined with a group of Iowa taxpayers and inmates to challenge the InnerChange program in federal court.

In ruling on that case, Judge Pratt noted that the born-again Christian staff was the sole judge of an inmate’s spiritual transformation. If an inmate did not join in the religious activities that were part of his “treatment,” the staff could write up disciplinary reports, generating demerits the inmate’s parole board might see. Or they could expel the inmate.

And while the program was supposedly open to all, in practice its content was “a substantial disincentive” for inmates of other faiths to join, the judge noted. Although the ministry itself does not condone hostility toward Catholics, Roman Catholic inmates heard their faith criticized by staff members and volunteers from local evangelical churches, the judge found. And Jews and Muslims in the program would have been required to participate in Christian worship services even if that deeply offended their own religious beliefs.

Mr. Earley said Judge Pratt’s decision was sharply inconsistent with current law and his standard for separating secular from religious expenses was so extreme that it would disqualify almost any faith-based program. He acknowledged that inmates, whatever their own faith, are required to participate in all program activities, including worship, but he insisted that a religious conversion is not required for success. InnerChange uses biblical references only to illustrate a set of universal values, such as integrity and responsibility, and not to exclude those of other faiths, he said, adding that it was “unfortunate” if any inmates felt the program denigrated Catholicism or any other Christian faith. Corrections officials in Iowa declined to comment on the case.

Not all programs in prisons are so narrowly focused. Florida now has three prisons that offer inmates, who must ask to be housed there, more than two dozen offerings ranging from various Christian denominations to Orthodox Judaism to Scientology. But at Newton, Judge Pratt found, there were few options — and no equivalent programs — without religious indoctrination.

“The state has literally established an Evangelical Christian congregation within the walls of one of its penal institutions, giving the leaders of that congregation, i.e., InnerChange employees, authority to control the spiritual, emotional and physical lives of hundreds of Iowa inmates,” Judge Pratt wrote. “There are no adequate safeguards present, nor could there be, to ensure that state funds are not being directly spent to indoctrinate Iowa inmates.”

InnerChange, which has been widely praised by corrections officials and politicians, operates similar programs at prisons in Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Arkansas and, by next spring, Missouri. Officials in those states are monitoring the Iowa case, but several said they believed their programs were sufficiently different to survive a similar challenge.

A government-financed religious education program at a county jail in Fort Worth was struck down by the Texas Supreme Court more than five years ago, and more lawsuits are pending. Corrections Corporation was among those sued last year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is challenging a Christian residential program at a women’s prison in Grant, N.M. The foundation has also sued the federal Bureau of Prisons over its faith-based rehabilitation programs. And Americans United, the Iowa plaintiff, and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued a job-training program run by a religious group at the Bradford County Jail near Troy, Pa.

Prison Fellowship Ministries is one of about a half-dozen Christian groups that operate programs at jails and prisons run by the Corrections Corporation. The company’s lawyers are studying the Iowa decision, said a spokeswoman, Louise Grant. “But we are not, at this time, changing or altering any of our programming based on that, or any other ruling.”

Inadequate Monitoring

Government agencies have been criticized repeatedly for inadequately watching these programs. Besides the criticism in various court decisions, the Government Accountability Office has twice raised questions about cloudy guidelines and inadequate safeguards against government-financed evangelism.

In its most recent audit released in June, the G.A.O., which examined faith-based organizations in four states, found that some were violating federal rules against proselytizing and that government agencies did not have adequate safeguards against such violations.

The problem is not that none of these programs are audited. Every group that gets a federal grant worth more than $500,000 has to pay a private auditor to examine its books and report to the government. Many federal programs, like those that provide Medicaid services or help the government allocate arts grants, require additional audits.

But no supplemental audits are required under the faith-based initiative — indeed, it would probably violate the Bush administration’s new regulations to do so, said Robert W. Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at George Washington University and co-director of legal research, along with Ira C. Lupu, for the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, a project of the Rockefeller Institute.

“The rules can be read to prohibit special audit requirements because that would be considered a stigma, which would be discriminatory,” Professor Tuttle said. “But that flies in the face of constitutional logic, because religion is special, and that special quality has to be reflected in program guidelines and audit rules.”

The G.A.O. also says the government cannot easily or accurately track either how much money is flowing to groups or whether they are using the funds in unconstitutional ways.

The Bush administration is already studying whether these constitutional problems can be resolved by reshaping many government grants into voucher programs under which the beneficiary decides where the money goes. But vouchers are a limited solution because most social service agencies need to know that a certain amount of money is assured before they can begin operations.

Mr. Hein, the White House official, agreed that vouchers could clarify the legal landscape. But even where they are not practical, he said, the Bush administration remains committed to keeping the doors to government financing open for as many religious groups as possible.

Now if there were programs that promoted ethical, character building, and skills that were just as available this might not be a problem. But, there aren’t a plethora of character and skill building programs available to inmates that receive federal funding.

There are many criminal things wrong with our Criminal Justice System and one of them is that according to the federal government there is one superior kind of Reformation available to our inmate population and it is of the religious variety, apparently not the ethical and character type of reformation, and we the tax-payers are expected to pay for it.

This is criminal not to mention unconstitutional.

And to all those folks out there who think they won’t be affected by this: could you afford an even adequate defense if you were inadvertently drawn into the criminal justice quagmire by mistake or otherwise? Could you afford to mount an offence against the State or Federal government’s prosecution? And how would you feel about being forced, in order to receive decent treatment, into a situation for programmatic reasons of religious reformation that was opposed to your religious, ethical or cultural beliefs?

Is this what we should be paying for with tax-payer dollars? I think not!

Our country’s inmates are the canaries in our mines.