Monday, November 27, 2006

Taking a spititual breather

For the time being, I am taking a spiritual breather from the world of political commentary.

This blog will return with fresh content soon enough. But right now, I'm at a point where I just want to focus more of my energies on reading philosophy, particularly of the Buddhist bent.

The Muckraker shall return on January 31, 2007.

In the mean time, I leave you with a bit of wisdom that I should heed more often; a passage written by Gautama Siddhartha, the first Buddha, titled "Do Not Grasp At Views" ...

Do not grasp views in the world through either knowledge, virtuous conduct, or religious observances; likewise, avoid thinking of oneself as being either superior, inferior, or equal to others.

The wise let go of the 'self' and being free of attachments they depend not on knowledge. Nor do they dispute opinions or fix upon any view.

For those who have no wishes for either extreme of becoming or non-becoming, here or in another existence, there is no conflict with the views held by others.

They do not form the least notion on regard to views seen, heard, or thought out. How could one influence those wise ones who do not grasp at any views?
(For those of you who are interested, I am maintaining a more personal, non-political blog on an alternate MySpace page. You can find it here.)


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chicago artist immoliates self in protest of war

I will never forget the name Malachi Ritscher. That's him, holding the sign.

On Friday, November 3, in downtown Chicago, he sat down at the base of The Flame of the Millennium, a seven-ton abstract statue of a fire burning in the wind. He placed a sign above him that read, "THOU SHALT NOT KILL!", then proceeded to drench his body in gasoline. He set himself ablaze in protest of the Iraq war.

Immediately, the everlasting image of Thich Quang Du'c, the Buddhist monk who committed his death to making a similar statement about the Vietnam war, springs to mind.

Malachi was an avant-guard musician, well known in the Chicago music scene. He ran a website,, where he kept others keyed in to upcoming concerts around the city. In his words, life and death, he was a man deeply troubled by a war started on a currency of lies. He left behind a video cassette which the police have yet to release.

His death has not been reported by any mainstream media outlet, but has filtered across the Internet, slowly but surely.

You can read more about Malachi here, here and here. You can befriend him on MySpace here and here.

Most importantly, do not forget his name. Tell your friends about what he has done. This man put himself through unbearable pain and suffering to light a fire in the souls of the righteous. The impetus of his sacrifice will not be forgotten by myself and others.

I did not know the man, but I share his pain and passion. Let his death be a light to a better future. I believe he would have wanted it that way.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bush considers immigrants to be terrorists

This man is dangerous. This law must be repealed, and Bush must be impeached. I cannot believe what I am reading ...

From MyWay News:
US: Immigrants may be held indefinitely
By Matt Apuzzo

WASHINGTON (AP) - Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday, opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.

In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant," a designation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

My God ...

Bush considers a group of over 12 million people living here, in America, to be "enemy combatants"? This is madness. Sheer madness.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Virtues of Compromise

The Webster Retort, Nov. 17, 2006
By Stephen Webster

The Virtues of Compromise

Okay Democrats. You won. Big time. I will admit to being somewhat pleased about this, even though I have about as much use for party politics as I do string cheese. I was in the “Anyone but the Fascists” camp, right along with the large majority of America. So clap yourselves on the back. Throw a victory party. Pop the top on an expensive beer. You deserve it.

But for the Love of Future Elections, do not make the same mistakes as your counterparts.

Let’s make no bones about it: this mid-term election was a referendum on the Republican Party. As corrupt, arrogant and dangerous their form of governance had become, it was not a brand of evil too unfamiliar to the American public. For a moment, let us remember 1993.

Just before the GOP’s “Contract with America” (which they quickly discarded), Democratic leadership was just as bad. A long period of time in control of the Federal government lends its self to this downward spiral we witnessed within the Right. And in 1993, it was just as ugly.

Thought the perversions of Mark Foley, the GOP’s top pedophile, were pretty absurd? Don’t forget about Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts. He paid a male prostitute for “favors” and got so sucked into the relationship that he began using his Washington D.C. apartment for sexual misdeeds. He eventually went so far as to hire this “gentleman” as his personal assistant in Congress. Now, there is nothing wrong with that except that prostitution is against the law. Should a member of the citizenry be caught up in such a thing, the law would step in. But Congressman Frank? Efforts to expel him from Congress failed. The Democratic majority couldn’t even muster up a slap on the hand by way of a censure.

Thought the corruption of Republicans Bob Ney or Duke Cunningham was bad? You’re right. And they are just as guilty as Democrats Robert Torricelli or Daniel Rostenkowski. Torricelli resigned less than a month before the election because of controversy over gifts he accepted. Rostenkowski, a Democrat from Illinois, was indicted on 17 felony charges. He served 17 months in federal prison for misuse of public funds.

How about Albert Bustamante? The Good ‘ole Boy Democrat from Texas was convicted in 1993 for racketeering and bribery. Mobster charges. Sounding familiar? There’s a thousand others on both sides of The Great Divide.

The point is, no matter which major party you chose to stick with, any time we give absolute control to one “allied” group of individuals, it will be abused. This is why we have a system of checks and balances. True, Bush and his cronies and all their merry men made a hard push to completely topple those checks, using a state of war to justify their attempts at tyranny at home. And given, the American political system only has two major parties, thereby giving many voters only two viable choices. So, the outcome of the elections should not have been unexpected.

Let’s be real for a moment.

If you think the Democratic majority will do anything to help Middle America, you might be right, for a little while anyway. They will throw out a token minimum wage increase, offer a little Federal help for college tuition, and maybe even succeed in shifting the tax burden back upon those who can afford it. That would be nice. That would be a good start. But there is so much more.

Here’s my ten cents on what else needs to happen.

Everyone: Let’s make future Federal elections public property. Yes, you read right. Let’s smash the power of money. With a public elections system, a guy with some good ideas who makes $30 thousand a year can compete on even footing with a guy with equally good ideas who makes $500 million a year. There is a large-and-growing group of politically minded individuals who are running a campaign called “Just Six Dollars”. They estimate that $6 would be the cost per-person if America were to do this. You can check them out online at I think it would be the first truly significant step we can take as a nation to take power from the rich and return the power to the people.

Oh, and another thing: let’s put term limits on the House and Senate. Curmudgeons are curmudgeons. If we get stuck with a few, at least we only have to tolerate them for a short while.

Dissidents: Let’s work on boosting up our third parties. Face it: we’ve been stuck with the Republicans and Democrats for a while. They’re not going anywhere for a while longer. But if you are like many Americans, you feel as though partisan politics has become a major impediment to actually getting anything positive accomplished. It destroys attempts at cooperation. It hinders open debate. It is a disease, and the Greens, the Libertarians, the Independents and the Centrists are the cure.

If you’re on the fringes of either party, recognize: they do not support you. Go further out. Be a free thinker. Stop following a party line. See the big, undreamed-of things that author Kurt Vonnegut saw from the fringe. You will be on the leading edge of progress, and others will join you. Instead of being an unrepresented angry sect, you could claim your own and work toward shared ideals.

If you are a moderate like most of us, check out the American Centrist Party. It was started just recently by a very smart guy named John P. Reisman. You can read more about them at Imagine it: as both major parties bicker over their positions, the Centrists come together and put forward a compromise. Six dollars (nudge-nudge) says most people will appreciate the middle ground.

Liberals: STOP BEING SO REACTIONARY! I know, there’s just so much to react to, and yes, America would be a better place if men like George Bush and Tom DeLay were regularly frog-marched into the streets of Capitol Hill and publicly humiliated. Perhaps even pelted with various foods and/or hair products. But until the people reclaim their government, that will not happen. Work on positive communication, otherwise you will succeed in turning more people off to what is a genuinely good-natured political philosophy with more room than even the Biggest of Tents.

Conservatives: Keep it close to the pocketbook. This is your strong suite. I am a fiscal conservative. Most people are. We spend what we have and avoid debt where possible. Unfortunately, this has not been the ideals of recently elected leaders. Be on guard for RINO’s, and make a stink about borrow and spend types. They are no better than those who would frivolously raise taxes. And keep an eye out for the American Pharacies who pray on the street corner for all to see. Their words are as empty as their souls, and their politics are those of maintaining power, not reflecting your morals. The outgoing Congress used you and disregarded their promises. It was a farce and an insult. Don’t feel bad, though. Your friends on the other side of the line have been duped before as well. It is the nature of power, and we have all been deceived.

The new guard may be a little bit of a fresh start, but if we as a public are to keep this beast we know as Congress in check, our work begins today. There is a way to break the partisan fever, and we must work together if that is to be accomplished. We’ll call it the New American Revolution, where ultimately Republicans and Democrats are no more, and people come together for civil debate over issues, not ideology.

After all, if Mark Twain ever dispensed wisdom, and most would agree that he did, one of his most poignant and ever-true phrases is inexorably tied to those we choose to represent us.

“There is no native criminal class except Congress,” he said.

If you’re laughing, then you’re with me. Let’s roll up our sleeves, suck up our pride, and get to the compromising. Your kids will thank you for it.

And, I should add, all of the above having been read and understood by my friends and readers, I still think we should Impeach George W. Bush for his assault on our Constitution. But that is another day and another column.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Rumsfeld, Alberto "Torture" Gonzales to be prosecuted

And all the people said "JUSTICE!" From Time Magazine ...
Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.

The rest is here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

House of Blues

This one is for my Democratic friends. I am not one among your numbers, but the Liberal Bounce brings a tear of joy to my eye nonetheless.

Mission Accomplished.

For real, this time. :)

Rumsfeld resigns

I'm glad to be alive, just to witness this.


Damn it feels good to be a Gangsta'

Oh NO! The Terrorists won!
"Help me, Dick! Shoot them! Shoot them!"

That's right. The Defeatocrats weren't defeated last night. In fact, they now control the Congress, pending the conclusion of two Senate races that Democratic candidates lead by comfortable margins.

Texas wasn't so lucky, however. Republicans swept up handedly. Nevertheless, I do want to pass on a message for still-Representative Michael Burgess, one of the few for whom the bell has yet to toll ...
You came to Congress Lame, and now the people bought you a Duck.
Keep your head down and watch for flying indictments. Oversight is what Congress does. You've
abdicated your duty and let the dirty laundry pile up. This ride is about to get a little more bumpy.

Just remember, Congressman: cling to your partisanship. Logic and reason (and your majority) have deserted you. Partisanship is all you've got. Keep on tugging that line.

In the mean time, get used to my new friend over here to the right.

He's an okay guy. Really. I mean, he might still be a Donkey, but we've made our peace for a little while. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't do acid anymore. I mean, that stuff went out in the mid-90's. This is 2006.

Wake up and smell your irrelevance.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One final bit of encouragement ...

Remember, today is Election Day. Do what you must.

Here's a list of polling locations in Denton County.

And here is a little bit of encouragement for you to carry along to the polls ...

Let's make this country a Democracy again. Fire the Republicans.

Photos from last night's protest in Dallas

These images were taken on Monday, November 6, outside Reunion Arena in Dallas. President Bush made his final campaign stop in the city of Exxon to stump for Republican Governor Rick Perry, but the peace-loving opposition did not let the evening pass quietly. About 300 protesters showed up, and no arrests were reported.

Here is a video report.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cheney tells Congress to buzz off

But really. Are you surprised?

Yesterday morning on ABC, journalist George Stephanopoulos asked Vice President Dick Cheney if he will appear before Congress if they subpoena him. His response? In short, "No."

From ThinkProgress ...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve talked a lot about the consequences of the Democrats taking over congress in the last week. Nancy Pelosi said this: “we win, speaking of the democrat, we get subpoena power.” If you’re subpoenaed by the Democrats, would you go?

CHENEY: I have no idea that i’m going to be subpoenaed. Obviously, we’d sit down and look at it at the time. But probably not in the sense at that Vice President and President and constitutional officers don’t appear before the Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s your view of executive power? You’re not going to go up and testify?

CHENEY: I think that’s been the tradition. I can’t remember the last time a President did appear before the Congress. Or a Vice President.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Gerald Ford, I think.

So, the question is, will Cheney start a power war with Congress? How much damage will this cause to our system of checks and balances? Has there ever been a case of a Vice President conducting himself in direct contravention to the orders of the Congress? I suppose we'll find out in the coming months, mostly because the new Democratic Majority is all but assured.

Fear, itself

The Webster Retort,
November 3, 2006
By Stephen Webster
For The Lone Star Iconoclast

Fear, itself

I know why you did it. I understand that you were afraid, at least initially. After all, you were just doing what you were told, just marching in line with the rest of the team. Remember Reagan’s 11th. You do these things for our protection.

But when they said how a patriot must act, you accepted it as law.

And when they claimed an inherent power to commit a crime, you went along.

When they changed their reasons for war, and changed them again, and again and again, you let it slide. And when they said “Mission Accomplished”, you posed for the cameras.

When they said seniors will benefit from a system that enables drug makers to raise prices and lock out competition, you agreed, and even personally profited. All the while thousands of our elders suffered and died, unable to obtain the drugs which sustain them.

When they said it was okay to carry out acts that many Japanese soldiers were once condemned as war criminals for, you abdicated your duty to justice.

When they said they could jail an American without charge, simply by declaring something to be so without having to present any evidence, you gave your approval.

When they said stay out of it, sit down, and shut up; Congress has no right to be involved in the conduct of a war, you tucked your tail and obeyed.

When they said it was time to hand the keys to the people’s treasury over to the richest one percent of the nation, you went as far as buying them a gold-fringed lanyard.

When they said it was alright to invade the homes of citizens without a warrant and detain our brothers and sisters without the sacred Writ upon which our very democracy is based, you nodded in agreement.

When they said judges have not the right to uphold the Constitution against the will of a man unelected and his band of ethically-challenged mates, you allowed it.

When they contaminated our weapons with depleted uranium, and thousands of soldiers and Iraqis began to fall ill or die, you said Fine, and fought against programs to screen our young men and women for this poison as they return from the sand pit.

When they said that the people really shouldn’t be trusted with such liberal freedoms as those afforded by the Bill of Rights, you aided their treason.

When they said Help is On the Way, you were silent, watching as certainly as we all were as the façade of equality was brutally beaten and drowned in the murky, blackened waters of New Orleans.

And then, when they said it was time to repeal Posse Comitatus, the last protection the people retain that keeps our military from conducting operations on our soil without civilian control, you thought it might be a good idea.

When they said that the working families of this nation should no longer be allowed debt relief through bankruptcy, you pulled the line, further driving a stake into the heart of the American dream.

Then, one day, someone said, No. And then another, and another, until those who said No outnumbered those who would lie down and watch as a thousand tiny men with a thousand tiny daggers bleed Lady Justice dry, drop by drop by drop.

Then, one day, the thunderous applause stopped, until it was only you and a few others, blindly eulogizing the glory of the absence of liberty and the preservation of a New Type of Freedom; Orwell’s prophecy fulfilled.

Then, one day, the righteous looked around them and realized they are being enslaved on the land their fathers died to defend. But soon the righteous will have an opportunity to Take Back their Destiny.

And I really, really hope they do.

It was another such time, during a period of exaggerated threat and tyrannical rule, when towers of men who were then considered terrorists, burned words immortal into the blood-drenched earth. Those words ring loudly still today, as our forefathers scream from the heavens that Freedom is something that Dies if it is not Used.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury.

For obstructing the Administration of Justice by refusing Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

For rendering the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Such were the words of John Hancock, who provided for us a foundation by which we can wrest our destiny back into the hands of those who build it, and away from those who would merely destroy.

It must be done.

For when they come for the Reporters, it will be in the name of preserving secrets of the state. In doing so, they will blind and gag the people.

And when they come for the Muslims, they will abate, because they are not them. In doing so, they will repeat a great sin we once fought against with every ounce of our being.

And when they come for the Mexicans, they will say nothing, because they do not vote. And in doing so, they will beat their drums as justification for upholding the Rule of Law.

And when they come for the Gays, they will remain quiet, for their ways, though harmless to others, were not pleasing. And in doing so, they will laude their own morality and a perversion of Christianity as the highest law.

And when they come for the Veterans who speak out against the chaos that fuels their cause, they will stay in their seats, for the Veterans’ plight affects but a few. And in doing so, they will be defending the state from “enemy propagandists.”

And when they come for their political opponents, they will applaud, for there will be nothing standing in the way. And in doing so, our democracy will have perished.

And when they come for the Christians who still adhere to the teachings of their Savior, they will further twist the words of a loving God into a resounding damnation. And in doing so, they will firmly establish an American Theocracy to dictate which behaviors may be acceptable.

But they forget that all Despots fear Representative Governance. Unfortunately, they never did think that one day, it might be the Representatives next on the list. And when they come for them, they will lose their choice to be silent. The decision will be made for them, and their irrelevance will cease to be.

In times such as these, I am comforted by the words of a leader long past: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For truly, in this day, we have nothing to fear but fear, itself.

Remember, remember, the Seventh of November, a day when redemption shall be sought. I see no reason, why the Seventh of November, should ever be forgot.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter, photographer, general assignments reporter, feature writer, opinion columnist and freelancer from Lewisville, Texas. He commonly contributes to The News Connection, The Lone Star Iconoclast, The Dallas Peace Times, The Bleeding Quill, and Peace Journalism Magazine. You can reach him at swebster_bc(at)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Congress fires Iraq reconstruction auditor

After all, we can't have patriotic Americans rooting out corrupt private contractors. From The New York Times ...
Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.
So, any hope of conducting oversight on the war effort and our investments in private contractors is out the door under this Congress.

You know what must be done. Here is where you can make it happen.

Bush admin posted nuke-building guide on the web?!?

Or, that's what the New York Times is reporting ...
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”
Wow. WowWowWow. What the hell is wrong with these people? Is this making us "safer"?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Observer, D Magazine know what's up

The Dallas Observer and D Magazine have both picked up on Bush's election-eve visit. They even talk about the protest. Really.

Dallas Observer | D Magazine

I would be lying if I said I had nothing to do with this. And it helps to know rich people as well. ;o)

GOPedophile Mark Foley is a supurb actor

Kevin Spacey, eat your heart out.

November 6. Dallas. W. Be There.

Click the pic for a larger version.

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