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Peace Action: In for the Long Haul

If you've been around a long time, as The Nation has (142 years of troublemaking and peacemaking), you know who your friends are. That's why, this week, we celebrate our longtime ally, Peace Action.

For fifty years, since Peace Action's founding, the two of us have shared a commitment to peace and democratic values and provided a home for the expression of dissent in perilous times. Nation editors and staffers marched along (proudly carrying the magazine's banner) with Peace Action and other antinuclear activists in the huge nuclear Freeze campaign demonstration in Central Park 25 years ago. Peace and disarmament correspondent Jonathan Schell's special 1998 issue – like Peace Action's work – gave voice to the continuing need and struggle for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

And this coming week, I am proud to be one of five "Women Peace Makers" – along with Yoko Ono, Cindy Sheehan, Colonel Ann Wright and Vinie Burrows – who will be honored by Peace Action at its 50th anniversary celebration in Harlem. Longtime Nation friend Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, will also receive the William Sloane Coffin Jr. Peacemaker Award – named for a man who was not only a central figure in the history of Peace Action, but a tireless advocate for peace, love and justice.

Peace Action was originally founded as SANE, fifty years ago, with a full-page ad in the New York Times signed by 48 prominent Americans including Norman Cousins, Cleveland Amory, John Hersey, Lewis Mumford, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Paul Tillich. The copy was mostly written by Cousins, editor of the Saturday Morning Review, under a headline reading, "We Are Facing a Danger Unlike Any Danger That Has Ever Existed." It called for the immediate suspension of nuclear testing by all nations and noted that there were already enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the entire human race. The signatories urged a commitment to "the human community" that went well beyond the limits of traditional nation-state interests.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Glen Harold Stassen and Lawrence S. Wittner have edited Peace Action: Past, Present, and Future – a collection of essays written by many of the courageous men and women who led the group and whom Schell described in a recent exchange in The Nation as "remain[ing] faithful and active in a cause in the lean years as well as the fat." Homer Jack, one of the founders of SANE, recalls in Peace Action, "Almost overnight, the ad created SANE groups in 15 major cities and informal ones in 41 others." Within about six months there were 130 chapters and 25,000 members holding church meetings, house meetings, rallies, letter-writing and lobbying Congress. But perhaps no one made SANE more visible in the early years than Dr. Benjamin Spock, the world-renowned baby doctor.

After resisting a public stand on the nuclear issue, Spock was persuaded by a letter from Jack, who was a practicing minister. Jack suggested that Spock was in a position similar to that of Albert Einstein, who eventually decided to speak out on issues of human suffering because he knew "he could command public attention" and "he was not afraid, if necessary, to stake his reputation…." Spock joined as a national sponsor of SANE and on April 16, 1962, the most famous ad in Peace Action history ran in the New York Times. The headline read "Dr. Spock is Worried," with a photo of Spock in a business suit looking down concerned over a child at play. Spock drafted the copy of the ad as a response to President Kennedy's resumption of nuclear testing, and his words still ring true today: "Some citizens would leave all the thinking to the government. They forget the catastrophic blunders that governments have made throughout history…. They scorn those who believe in a just cause…. In a moral issue, I believe that every citizen has not only the right but the responsibility to make his own feelings known and felt."

Jack writes, "By June, the public was so wrought up over nuclear testing… that columnist Drew Pearson wrote that President Kennedy's resumption of testing was the most unpopular thing he had ever done.... Dr. Spock's public appeal… must be regarded as a turning point in awakening the conscience of the world to the effects of nuclear testing and the imperative of ending the arms race."

Kennedy then solicited the help of SANE's own Cousins to assure Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that the president was sincere in his desire for a test ban treaty. In June 1963, Kennedy delivered his famous speech at American University – partially written by Cousins – that announced new test ban negotiations. That same summer the US, British, and Soviet governments signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, banning tests in the atmosphere, space, and underwater. Wittner writes that Kennedy administration officials would later recognize the "key roles" played by SANE and Cousins in reaching this first nuclear arms control treaty.

It was a great and early victory for a grassroots movement that called out the insanity of the arms race. Over the years the organization would broaden, not only through its merger with the Freeze campaign to create SANE/Freeze – which strengthened the antinuclear movement and as Schell wrote "powerfully undercut public support for Reagan's nuclear buildup" – but as Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Representative Barbara Lee, notes in a spirited introduction to Peace Action, "…the organization… was able to harness people's spirit and idealism and the incredible disgust with certain US policies – whether with the war in Vietnam, nuclear proliferation, arms sales, Pentagon pork, or the war in Iraq – and channel it, not simply into acts of protest, but into effective action geared toward changing the way our government works by involving people in the process."

The interest in the peace movement over these 50 years has had a distinct ebb and flow. With President Reagan's militarist agenda and talk of nuclear war, SANE membership exceeded 100,000 and its weekly radio show, Consider the Alternatives, ran on 140 stations. The one million-person demonstration in Central Park – "Freeze the Arms Race--Fund Human Needs" – was the biggest political demonstration in American history. And with William Sloane Coffin Jr. at the helm, the SANE/Freeze merger in 1987 resulted in a membership of more than 200,000 members with chapters across the nation. In contrast, membership declined after the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the Vietnam War, and at the end of the Cold War. As Schell pointed out, "The end of the cold war, seemingly the greatest opportunity to lift nuclear danger since 1946, was wasted. Instead, the whole issue fell into a shocking state of neglect, as if people believed that a mortal illness could be dealt with by forgetting about it."

But if George W. Bush has achieved little else, he has unwittingly demonstrated to the public why we need a vibrant and vigilant peace movement to chart sane alternatives. With his administration's shredding of long negotiated bipartisan arms control agreements, including withdrawal from the ABM treaty; the deploying of a national missile defense system (Bush's Star Wars); blocking treaties on biological and chemical weapons; refusing to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the treaty to ban land mines; unilaterally invading and occupying Iraq under false or manufactured pretenses; halting nuclear disarmament talks and supporting the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. All in all, the Bush administration's unilateral militarism and new arms race has been a disaster for world peace. As Schell summarized, "The nuclear danger is ripe and overripe for public rediscovery, which has in fact already begun."

Signs of that rediscovery are clear as Peace Action celebrates its 50th anniversary with a membership that has once again reached 100,000; a Student Peace Action Network that brings antiwar activism to campuses across the nation; a Campaign for a New Foreign Policy based on supporting human rights and democracy, reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and cooperating with the world community. Perhaps The Reverend Dr. Andrea Ayvazian – who helped forge the merger of SANE and Freeze – put it best in writing in Peace Action, "Although movements are full of eager activists who want to see significant, permanent change happen quickly, we must remember that real social change takes decades. If we… remember the years that movements from the 19th and 20th centuries struggled until they achieved their goals, we can settle in for the long haul…."

There is no doubt Peace Action is in this fight for the long haul, and we are a better Nation and nation for it.

Stop the FCC's Gift to Big Media Conglomerates

"This is a big deal because we have way too much concentration of media ownership in the United States," Senator Byron Dorgan (ND, Dem.) said at a hearing on Wednesday. "If the [FCC] chairman intends to do something by the end of the year," Dorgan boomed, " then there will be a firestorm of protest and I'm going to be carrying the wood."

In 2003, millions of people--across partisan lines--from the NRA to CodePink stood tall to reclaim the airwaves for democracy--telling Congress and the FCC that they did not want to live in informational company towns where one media conglomerate might own all the media. The backlash hit the FCC like a tidal wave--and it seemed, for once, that the forces of democracy and diversity were winning. It is that force that needs to recreate itself--and grow in this perilous period--in order to stop the FCC's anti-democratic and destructive step.

Good citizens are not alone. They have, in FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a stalwart ally who has stated his adamant opposition to this move. In a letter published in the Washington Post last month, Copps wrote eloquently of the importance of fighting media consolidation in the context of media minority ownership and, specifically, how it related to the Jena 6 case. Referring to Eugene Robinson's invaluable column, "Drive Time for the Jena 6," which rightly concluded that black radio hosts played a vital role in bringing attention to what happened in Jena, La., Copps write that "these radio hosts are to be commended. But I worry, " he added, " that as the media grow ever more consolidated, they are doing less and less to serve people of color.

He went on: "Last week in Chicago, I heard passionate testimony during an eight-hour Federal Communications Commission hearing on minority media ownership. Many people of color are tired of big media ignoring their concerns, distorting their contributions to society and caricaturing them as individuals. One reason is the lack of minority media onwership. A Free Press study says that while racial and ethnic minorities are more than 30 percent of the US population, they own just 3.26 percent of all commerical broadcast television stations and 7.7 percent of full -power radio stations, This is a national disgrace." Copps is right. Instead of the FCC allowing huge media conglomerates to grow even bigger--which this deregulatory step would lead to--it should act on proposals to increase minority ownership.

Privatizing a Cut of the Public Sector

The privatization of the federal government during the Bush administration has snowballed to the point that the work of private contractors is evaluated by other private contractors. A report released today by the Government Accountability Office shows that the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], for example, is contracting out what GAO official John Hutton calls "inherently government functions" such as deciding the Department's policies and regulations and monitoring its effectiveness.

But according to Senate testimony by Hutton and Steven Schooner, the Co-Director of the Government Procurement Law Program at George Washington University, the Department of Homeland Security is not the only case of a privatized public sector. "The government currently has no short-term choice but to rely upon contractors for every conceivable task that it is understaffed to fulfill," Schooner told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

These tasks, Schooner said, vary from Hairston Construction building the houses for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina to Blackwater patrolling Iraq. Schooner argued that either there has to be a "massive expansion of the federal workforce or we constrain the very ambitions of government." Committee chair Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Schooner's testimony was on the money. He then gave his own examples of contracting waste and fraud in the U.S. Air Forces like having the contractor Commonwealth Research Institute arrange a no-show job for a senior officer.

Maine Republican Susan Collins added that government needs to stop "awarding, huge non-competitive contracts every time a disaster strikes."

Government's independent watchdog group, a private contracting expert and two centrist Senators say contracting has spiraled out of control and harmed government competence. But do the agencies themselves defend what they're doing?

Not really. Elaine Duke, the Chief Procurement Officer at DHS, said she generally agreed with the GAO's damning report. Duke admitted to Collins that handing out no-bid contracts to deal with post-Katrina housing and then immediately extending those contracts was a mistake. And she promised to reduce the percent of no-bid contracts the agency gives to zero. It is currently 35 percent.

But the hearing made clear that the government lacks the money or political will to reverse the privatizing trend accelerated by the Bush administration. At some point, Schooner argued, Congress needs to do more than grill the DHS. "Congress has been quick to get more GAO and Inspector General reports," he said. "They need to devote more resources to hire civil servants."

Schooner predicted this will only happen when Congress and the public give contractors the same bad rap they give "big government." Such a development could be well on its way.

An Epitaph for the Bush Era

"I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right."

Yes, that was George W. Bush. No, he wasn't talking about Iraq. The date was September 1993 and Bush, then managing general partner of the Texas Rangers, had voted against "realignment and a new wild-card system" at a Major League Baseball owners meeting. "Bush," writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, "was the lone dissenter in a 27-1 vote."

Skip a few years to February 2003, when Bush found himself involved in another owners' meeting involving "realignment" -- in this case, of the Middle East -- and what was certainly an attempt to install a new "wild-card system." Again, he cast his lone vote. At stake was the fate of the planet and, unlike in 1993, it didn't matter, in the end, how the other owners, then gathering at the United Nations, voted.

The catastrophic results of this realignment effort, we now know well; that Bush again believes history will prove him "right," we also know. Whatever documentation may exist for that 1993 baseball meeting, recently we received a striking document from February 22, 2003 -- a transcript, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, of a conversation at the President's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, between Bush and Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. This was less than a month before the President launched his invasion of Iraq. As recorded, his was a remarkable performance, a window into the Presidential mind -- and, as with the famed Downing Street Memo when no one else in the mainstream was willing to publish it, the New York Review of Books is publishing this transcript, newly translated, in its upcoming issue. (It can now be read at the Review's website.)

Mark Danner, who has covered the Iraq War and the Bush administration for the Review, has written an illuminating piece on what we can now see of a President, at the edge of an invasion, and eerily "at peace with himself." More than four-and-a-half years and the same President later, it remains a chilling vision of the man the Supreme Court put in charge of what his followers once loved to hail as the planet's "lone superpower," its New Rome.

Danner concludes with this passage, which might be a painful epitaph for an era:

"Prime Minister Aznar is gone now, having been fatally weakened by his support for the Iraq war and the failure to obtain United Nations support for it; almost exactly a year after the war began, jihadists targeted the Madrid train station, killing nearly two hundred Spaniards and sending the prime minister to electoral defeat. Tony Blair, the star of the Downing Street Memo, is gone as well, his popularity having never recovered from his staunch support of the war. George W. Bush, on the other hand, nearly five years after he launched the war, remains confident of victory, just as he was confident he would win that second UN resolution. There is no sign that his confidence is any more firmly rooted in reality now than it was then. Instead of reality we have faith -- in himself, in the deity, in 'the unstoppable power of human freedom.' He stands as lead actor in his own narrative of history, a story that grows steadily paler and more contested, animated solely by the authority of official power. George W. Bush remains, we are told, 'at peace with himself.'"

 

40 Years On, a New Call to Resist?

Forty years ago, a handful of smart Americans had an idea how to end a war. They published a call for moral, political and financial support for those refusing to serve. Initially signed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Grace Paley, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Marcus Raskin, and the Reverend William Sloane Coffin among others, eventually, 20,000 signed on and the indispensable RESIST foundation was formed.

Listening as it was read aloud at a 40th anniversary party this weekend, "Resist: A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority" seems as relevant as ever. How about a second Call?

The Call:

1. An ever growing number of young American men are finding that the American war in Vietnam so outrages their deepest moral and religious sense that they cannot contribute to it in any way. We share their moral outrage.

2. We further believe that the war is unconstitutional and illegal. Congress has not declared a war as required by the Constitution. Moreover, under the Constitution, treaties signed by the President andratified by the Senate have the same force as the Constitution itself. The Charter of the United Nations is such a treaty. The Charter specifically obligates the United States to refrain from force or the threat of force in international relations. It requires member states to exhaust every peaceful means of settling disputes and to submit disputes which cannot be settled peacefully to the Security Council. The United States has systematically violated all of these Charter provisions for thirteen years.

3. Moreover, this war violates international agreements, treaties and principles of law which the United States Government has solemnly endorsed. The combat role of the United States troops in Vietnamviolates the Geneva Accords of 1954 which our government pledged to support but has since subverted. The destruction of rice, crops and livestock; the burning and bulldozing of entire villages consisting exclusively of civilian structures; the interning of civilian non-combatants in concentration camps; the summary executions of civilians in captured villages who could not produce satisfactoryevidence of their loyalties or did not wish to be removed to concentration camps; the slaughter of peasants who dared to stand up in their fields and shake their fists at American helicopters; - these are all actions of the kind which the United States and the other victorious powers of World War II declared to be crimes against humanity for which individuals were to be held personally responsibleeven when acting under the orders of their governments and for which Germans were sentenced at Nuremberg to long prison terms and death The prohibition of such acts as war crimes was incorporated in treaty law by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, ratified by the United States. These are commitments to other countries and to Mankind, and they would claim our allegiance even if Congress should declare war.

4. We also believe it is an unconstitutional denial of religious liberty and equal protection of the laws to withhold draft exemption from men whose religious or profound philosophical beliefs are opposed to what in the Western religious tradition have be en long known as unjust wars.

5. Therefore, we believe on all these grounds that every free man has a legal right and a moral duty to exert every effort to end this war, to avoid collusion with it, and to encourage others to do the same.Young men in the armed forces or threatened wit h the draft face the most excruciating choices. For them various forms of resistance risk separation from their families and their country, destruction of theircareers, loss of their freedom and loss of their lives. Each must choose the course of resistance dictated by his conscience and circumstances. Among those already in the armed forces some arerefusing to obey specific illegal and immoral orders, some are attempting to educate their fellow servicemen on the murderous and barbarous nature of the wa r some are absenting themselves withoutofficial leave. Among those not in the armed forces some are applying for status as conscientious objectors to American aggression in Vietnam, some are refusing to be inducted. Among both groupssome are resisting o penly and paying a heavy penalty, some are organizing more resistance within the United States and some have sought sanctuary in other countries.

6. We believe that each of these forms of resistance against illegitimate authority is courageous and justified. Many of us believe that open resistance to the war and the draft is the course of action most likely to strengthen the moral resolve with whic h all of us can oppose the war and most likely to bring an end to the war.

7. We will continue to lend our support to those who undertake resistance to this war. We will raise funds to organize draft resistance unions, to supply legal defense and bail, to support families and otherwise aid resistance to the war in whatever ways may seem appropriate.

8. We firmly believe that our statement is the sort of speech that under the First Amendment must be free, and that the actions we will undertake are as legal as is the war resistance of the young menthemselves. But we recognize that the courts may find otherwise, and that if so we might all be liable to prosecution and severe punishment. In any case, we feel that we cannot shrink from fulfilling our responsibilities to the youth whom many of us teach, to the country whose freedom we cherish, and to the ancient traditions of religion and philosophy which we strive to preserve in this generation.

9. We call upon all men of good will to join us in this confrontation with immoral authority. Especially we call upon the universities to fulfill their mission of enlightenment and religious organizations to honor their heritage of brotherhood. Now is the time to resist.

LAURA FLANDERS is the host of RadioNation and the author of Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians.

 

89 House Members Tell Bush: No More Money for Occupation

The occupation in Iraq will begin to end on the day that Democrats -- and responsible Republicans -- in Congress decide to stop meeting the demands of the Bush-Cheney administration for more money to fund their imperial endeavor along with the massive war-profiteering by administration-linked firms such as Halliburton and Blackwater.

This is a simple reality. But it remains one that most members of Congress, including many Democrats who should know better, fail to recognize.

The essential document in the current Iraq debate is a letter of commitment, now endorsed by 89 members of the House, that says the signers "will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during FY08 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq before the end of President Bush's term in office."

In an important new letter to President Bush, the 89 representatives -- 88 Democrats and Texas Republican Ron Paul -- say, "More than 3,800 of our brave soldiers have died in Iraq. More than 28,000 have been seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured in the hostilities and more than 4 million have been displaced from their homes. Furthermore, this conflict has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $500 billion, despite assurances that you and your key advisors gave our nation at the time you ordered the invasion in March, 2003 that this military intervention would cost far less and be paid from Iraqi oil revenues.

"We agree with a clear and growing majority of the American people who are opposed to continued, open-ended U.S. military operations in Iraq, and believe it is unwise and unacceptable for you to continue to unilaterally impose these staggering costs and the soaring debt on Americans currently and for generations to come."

At a time when the president is requesting an additional $50 billion to maintain his escalation of U.S. military operations in Iraq through next April, on top of the $145 billion he requested to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the 2008 fiscal year, the letter says what all of Congress should be saying: No.

What is now the most important anti-war initiative in the Congress began in July when the following House members signed on: Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA); Rep. Barbara Lee (CA); Rep. Maxine Waters (CA); Rep. Ellen Tauscher (CA); Rep. Rush Holt (NJ); Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY); Rep. Diane Watson (CA); Rep. Ed Pastor (AZ); Rep. Barney Frank (MA); Rep. Danny Davis (IL); Rep. John Conyers (MI); Rep. John Hall (NY); Rep. Bob Filner (CA); Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY); Rep. Bobby Rush (IL); Rep. Charles Rangel (NY); Rep. Ed Towns (NY); Rep. Paul Hodes (NH); Rep. William Lacy Clay (MO); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR); Rep. Albert Wynn (MD); Rep. Bill Delahunt (MA); Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC); Rep. Hilda Solis (CA); Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY); Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY); Rep. Michael Honda (CA); Rep. Steve Cohen (TN); Rep. Phil Hare (IL); Rep. Grace Flores Napolitano (CA); Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL); Rep. James McGovern (MA); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL); Rep. Julia Carson (IN); Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA); Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ); Rep. John Olver (MA); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Rep. Jim McDermott (WA); Rep. Ed Markey (MA); Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA); Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ); Rep. Rubin Hinojosa (TX); Rep. Pete Stark (CA); Rep. Bobby Scott (VA); Rep. Jim Moran (VA); Rep. Betty McCollum (MN); Rep. Jim Oberstar (MN); Rep. Diana DeGette (CO); Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA); Rep. Artur Davis (AL); Rep. Hank Johnson (GA); Rep. Donald Payne (NJ); Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO); Rep. John Lewis (GA); Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY); Rep. Neil Abercrombie (HI); Rep. Gwen Moore (WI); Rep. Keith Ellison (MN); Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI); Rep. Donna Christensen (USVI); Rep. David Scott (GA); Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL); Lois Capps (CA); Steve Rothman (NJ); Elijah Cummings (MD); and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Since Congress returned from its summer break, the following members have joined this burgeoning effort to end the occupation: Rep. Chris Murphy (CT); Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL); Rep. Corrine Brown (FL); Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS); Rep. Mel Watt (NC); Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY); Rep. David Loebsack (IA); Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY); Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH); Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR); Rep. Sam Farr (CA); Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA); Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA); Rep. John Tierney (D-CA); Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX); Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH); Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA); and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and other key Democratic leaders have so far refused to commit to the only meaningful challenge to the Bush administration's war-without-end demands.

What Pelosi, who admitted over the weekend that the Congress has not done enough to challenge the administration's Iraq policies, needs to understand is that the time has come to stop the senseless killing and maiming of young Americans in a distant civil war. The time has come to end what is by any honest measure a colonial occupation and to allow Iraqis to decide their own destiny. The time has come to restore a measure of balance and decency to American foreign policy.

Perhaps most importantly, the time has come to ask whether those who fail to recognize the necessity of standing up to this administration -- unequivocally, consistently and without political calculation -- understand that their duty is to serve their constituents, their country and its Constitution -- as opposed to the mad whims of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Transportation Security Still Stuck In Mid-Flight

The Department of Homeland Security is moving at a glacial pace to safeguard trains, planes and automobiles from a terrorist attack and may not even have a coherent plan to work with. These accusations were made Tuesday by both Democratic and Republican senators who argued that the Transportation Security Administration, a DHS agency, spends far too much time on aviation security, but isn't even addressing the biggest terrorist threats concerning airlines.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill assailed TSA Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley for having no plan to audit foreign repair stations. McCaskill pointed out that five of these stations are in countries designated as terrorist safe havens.

"There is no rule requiring even background checks," McCaskill said, regarding individuals who enter and work at the station. "We might as well have terrorists working under the hood of these airplanes."

Other Senators blasted Hawley and TSA for scrutinizing passengers carry-on luggage while largely ignoring their checked luggage. Hawley admitted under questioning that there was no procedure in place to prevent explosives from being hidden in checked luggage.

"I am constantly amazed by the asymmetry of all the people getting stopped while going through with their carry-ons," complained West Virginia Democrat John Rockefeller, who leads the Senate's Intelligence Committee. "Why aren't we looking at checked luggage?"

Hawley promised there was a plan in place to check 50 percent of such cargo within 18 months and all checked bags within three years. To which Rockefeller deadpanned, "Good luck."

The Senators spent much of the hearing giving Hawley grief about the inconvenience of checking-in at airports and the ban on liquid items over four ounces. "I hope you can be as righteously indignant about the foreign repair stations as you are about mascara," McCaskill said.

The TSA has much more on its plate than airline safety. Unfortunately, its efforts to secure ports, bridges, tunnels and railroads remain mired in the developing stages as well. "This is a consistent inability of a major government administration to meet deadlines," said New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. Lautenberg was specifically criticizing the delay in securing New York and New Jersey ports and providing the proper identification and training to transit workers.

This attack on TSA came on the day that the Government Accountability Office reported that the administration was making "moderate progress" in securing the nation's transportation system.

"You got a whole list of things to do and I don't believe you can get them done," Rockefeller told Hawley. Hawley replied that the administration has 120 different tasks and is trying to "take them all seriously."

Who Watches the CIA Watchers?

In the cloak and dagger, smoke and hall of mirrors that is the CIA, we have more evidence that it's dangerous to be a whistleblower, even if that happens to be your job. The CIA's own inspector general, John Helgerson, is being investigated by CIA Director Michael Hayden regarding his investigations into CIA torture allegations.

According to the New York Times, "The review is particularly focused on complaints that Mr. Helgerson's office has not acted as a fair and impartial judge of agency operations but instead has begun a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs."

Thus, the investigator into torture is being tortured by an investigation--the bureaucratic equivalent of water boarding--into his crusade against the crusaders. And 'round and 'round we go.

But if Hayden is watching Helgerson who is watching Hayden and the CIA, is anyone watching over this mess? Who would benefit from a cowed CIA? Who needs evidence that Iran is up to no good to justify another war? Dick Cheney, perhaps? Who knows? No one watches over him. Not even Google Maps.

Nobel Prize Winner "Abandons" Family

Why is it that when a man leaves his wife and she retains custody of the kids we say, simply, "he is divorced?"

Yet when a woman, say Doris Lessing, leaves her husband and he retains custody of the kids we say "she abandoned her family?"

…just something to mull over as we read the New York Times tribute to Doris Lessing, the fabulous feminist writer and 87-year-old winner of the Nobel prize for Literature....Just something to consider, lest us feminists get too cocky and drift toward any you've-come-a-long-way-baby reflection on The Golden Notebook.