Friday, June 27, 2008

Just Say No to Domestic Spying

Big brother is watching you and his name is AT&T. Sometimes he goes by the name of BellSouth and at other times he is known as AOL-Time-Warner. Big brother goes by a lot of names. He is listening to you while you talk and watching you while you type and everything you say could be recorded so he can look at it somewhere down the line. Now everyone knows that it is not polite to intrude on people in their private moments. The problem is that big brother doesn't seem to know that peeking into people's private communication is wrong and it should be illegal. Unfortunately President Bush wants to continue to grant immunity to telecommunications companies in the name of the so called 'war on terror' which in actuality is a war on the American people and the telecommunications infrastructure is the front line in the gradual diminishment of civil rights that Congress has permitted in recent years.

We need representatives in Washington DC who support protecting Americans instead of distrusting us. As a candidate for federal office I support legislation to abolish the Department of Homeland security, that Orwellian agency constructed in the days after 9-11, which has crafted the war on the American people and their rights since. I support the elimination of FISA loopholes and the closing of Guantanamo Bay and the return of all detainees to their countries of origin. I believe that the American people deserve full and open disclosure on all activities related to government spying conducted against her citizens. Finally, I support the elimination of discreet, undocumented funding of the Central Intelligence agency.

Our rights are not negotiable. Telecommunication companies have violated those rights and have broken the law in order to appease a corrupt and power hungry administration that is willing to throw out habeus corpus, the right to privacy and international law in a reckless drive down the road to never-never land. Corporations must be held accountable and the President and his cronies must be called to account for violating our basic constitutional rights. Unfortunately, Senator Obama has been a disappointment on this issue and has refused to honor his commitment to filibuster this legislation. As a result, we are once again adrift without a rudder, a captain, a ship or an engine, being dragged along by the tides of fear.

It is time to reject the efforts of George Bush and anyone else who wants to grant retroactive immunity to corporations that spy on Americans. Congress has proven itself to be too weak-kneed to stand up to the fear mongers, but there is a new line of candidates running for office who are not so willing to roll over and play dumb. Treason is not patriotic. We all know that the government spying on us is wrong, and that any agency or corporation that assists in breaking into our most intimate communications is not behaving in a democratic fashion. The new reality is that our privacy is being compromised until we roll back FISA protections and strip immunity for corporations that spy on Americans.

For more information on this issue please visit:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Now is the Time to Extend Unemployment Benefits

America is in the midst of a recession largely attributable to the economic policies of the Bush administration and the Republican party. As a result of this recession, millions of hard working Americans have been put out of work. Almost every family in this country has been touched by the current recession. On top of this consumers are being forced to pay record high gas prices and hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes due to foreclosure. Now is not the time to cut tax paying American citizens off of their unemployment benefits.

Since the beginning of this year nearly 325,000 people have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate is rising. As of May the unemployment rate stands at 5.5%, up nine percent just since April. With the cost of gas, food and medicine many families are suffering. As a candidate for federal office I support House Resolution 5749, the Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act, which will provide an additional thirteen weeks of extended unemployment benefits in most states. This means that 3.8 million citizens will continue to receive benefits through March of 2009.

I fully support the intentions of this legislation and would support companion legislation in the US Senate if elected to public office. It is only the first step towards a clear path out of the current economic recession, but it is a sign to the American people that our representatives and those candidates who are running for office believe that the government is there to serve the people. We know that families are suffering right now under the high cost of food, medicine, fuel, housing and other basic goods.

The reason that we are in this economic crisis is clear. The Bush tax cuts which provided tax breaks for billionaires and wall street bailouts have broken the back of the American treasury. Hundreds of billions of dollars thrown down a hole in Iraq has not helped the situation any further and the mushrooming federal deficit, which currently stands at nine trillion dollars, have all played their role in the current situation. It is clear that what is needed are policies and legislation which supports working families and puts Americans to work.

Now is not the time to take away unemployment benefits for people who have worked hard and contributed. The cost of extended these benefits is just a sliver of the billions we are wasting on death and destruction in Iraq. Let's reinvest in America and let' start by investing in the American people. By doing so we will ensure a more secure and prosperous future for everyone.

For more information on HR 5749 please visit:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Raw Story: " Expert: FISA bill is 'frightening' "

Expert: FISA bill is 'frightening'
ACLU and Ron Paul team up to protest FISA in effort called 'Strange Bedfellows.'

32 Replies - Links

At the rate things are going, a viable alternative to the "major" parties is desperately needed, and effective communications with the public even more so.

The Longhouse Coalition, the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party are all available to a public that never hears much about any of them.

Thanks largely to a corporate-owned media in the US, controlled by just five persons and completely motivated by corporate profit, the people simply have no overarching understanding of how the current government is this country is operating.

The picture painted of these parties by the corporate media is of extreme or radical viewpoints and intentions. The true intentions of these parties is to put government and informational sources back in the hands of the citizenry of the United States.

It is in the interests of the current government and media corporations to play up and perpetuate "threats" to the American public and regular people across the globe. Their survival and maintenance of power is hinged literally on the fears of the common people the world over.

This is not a policy of the American People. The average American Citizen is concerned with trying to keep their family fed, their job secure, their home, and having a little time left over in which to pursue modest entertainment and hobbies that allow people to have something in their lives that gives it meaning and worth and dignity. This is no different than what any sane human being looks for the world over.

It doesn't matter what color you are or what country you live in, having a secure source of food, shelter, clothing, and a little bit of worth in your life and for your children and their children is NOT too much or wrong to ask. Having a planet that can sustain life is NOT too much to ask. Having the freedom to choose how you live without telling others how to live is NOT too much to ask.

Power for the sake of self, with no concept of stewardship or responsibility IS too much to ask.

The Republicans have proven themselves incapable of respecting the basic needs of common people across the globe, including here at home. They have proven themselves incapable of providing a free and secure future to anyone. Now the Democrats are proving themselves to be in collusion with that failure, indeed, an inseparable part of that path to decline of life of any quality upon this Earth.

No one is happy with the state of things as they are; neither "conservatives," nor "liberals." Indeed, such labels are of a narrow scope devised and played-upon by the current government-corporate conglomerate to pit the common people against one another. They will play up every artifice of division and disharmony they can find or dream up, from race to nationality to ideology and use it against everyone not a part of their "team."

They now propose to give legal immunity to anyone who will become a part of their very own secret police force, to the detriment of everyone else living.

I have long viewed the Democrat & Republican game as a "dog and pony show" put on by those who perceive themselves as an "elite" class, now they are proving it.

These people expose their true ideals by their actions; "all for us and none for anyone else."

Given a longer duration in the halls of power, these people will create gilt cages and hellish prisons for their collaborators and the people who would stand up for their rights to even a simple life.

Solve our problems? They play them like out-of-tune musical instruments, to a cacophony of abuse and fear.

Their has to be a better way, a way that respects us all, a way that promotes life and brings life outside the cradle of Earth.

It's been said before: "vote them all out - you can't get anything worse."

There is only one race, one people in this world: the people of the Earth. Unfortunately, some of its members are completely insane, and are in exactly the wrong place to live out that condition.

Look to alternatives, people of the world.

Dan Stafford

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My New song - saxophone - Pacha Mama Prayer

It's kind of New Age Blues with a Native American beat, I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. (Of course, there's no way it could be performed live - it's all recorded in three separate tracks on the computer)

I play a 1966 Selmer Bundy. The below song was recorded using the sax and my laptop. Percussion is my hands on the table, and I'm doing vocals. The software used is Audacity & LAME MP3 encoder, both of which are free. I recorded this in three separate parts, first the saxophone, then the vocals, then the percussion. Time from melody concept to full recording was one hour. (Pacha Mama = South American equivalent to Gaia, the Earth Mother Goddess.)

I call my sax "Bello".

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Abstinence Only is Government Censorship

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in four teenage girls nationwide have a sexually transmitted disease. Clearly abstinence only school programs do not deter young people from sexual activity, but in fact this direction actually deters young adults from access to information that they need to make responsible and safe choices. We must act immediately to withdraw funding for this program and allow teachers to present sensible sexual education curriculum.

As a candidate for federal office I believe that young people must be presented with all the facts available to them. Instead of relying on religious rhetoric and the value system of a fundamentalist minority, I believe that we must look clearly at human behavior as biological fact. The school system is not an avenue for proselytizing about various belief systems. Sexual activity is a fact of life, much like any other human activity and young people need to know the facts before it is too late.

Abstinence only until marriage curricula is censorship, pure and simple. Any school program that withholds scientifically valid information does not present young people with the full range of options they will actually face in life. This is a betrayal to the trust of our students who will carry the scars of misinformation with them their entire lives, both physically and psychologically. We must present them with all the information that they need to know at an appropriate age when they need to know it.

Seven years after abstinence only education was introduced into the school curriculum, many people are still not aware of the damaging affects that it is having on our young adults. The legislation uses the federal government to teach that abstinence is the only definite way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Additionally the curriculum teaches that monogamous relationships within the context of marriage are the standard value system and anything else could be damaging, both psychologically and physically. School systems that have agreed to teach abstinence receive significant grants from the federal government via their state.

The problem with abstinence only education is that it isn't real. It isn't grounded in science or in fact. What we know is that the average teenager will become sexually active before they leave high school regardless of what the government tells them they should do. Educators who teach abstinence only know that it doesn't work but they teach it anyway. So what they are really teaching is morality, which is the whole point of the legislation.

Withholding information from young people can be harmful. What our high school and junior high students need is comprehensive sexual education classes that are presented the way that they were intended to be taught. Our young people are worth the investment and telling them the truth about sex is the best bet to minimize the impact of the choices they are going to make. By fully educating our students about the risks of STD's including HIV and the risk of pregnancy, and by presenting them with the range of contraception choices available to them along with the basic facts about human sexuality we are giving them the best tools to go into the world prepared.

By investing in comprehensive sexual education we can redirect the federal budget toward sensible priorities. The cost to taxpayers of abstinence only has been estimated to be as high as $500 million dollars when considering matching state funds. By eliminating abstinence only curricula we will also save public health dollars by providing reliable information which can help prevent costly misinformed decisions among sexually active teenagers. If elected to office I will work to see that Congressional appropriations regarding abstinence only education is brought before the public for hearings and debate and that the appropriations process does not automatically qualify for funding each year without review. It is the best decision for students and their future.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

If you would like to help Kucinich, please contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and demand a hearing on the articles of impeachment:

If you would like to help Kucinich, please contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and demand a hearing on the articles of impeachment:
Committee Email:
Committee Phone: 202-225-3951
John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) Chair 202-225-5126
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) 202-225-5635
Melvin L. Watt (D-NC) 202-225-1510
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) 202-225-3072
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) 202-225-7931
Howard Coble (R-NC) 202-225-3065
Trent Franks (R-AZ) 202-225-4576

Kucinich: Judiciary Committee must begin review of impeachment articles

By Mike Sheehan | Congress, White House, impeachment | Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), two days after presenting 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush, urged in a statement that a key House committee commence examination of the articles.

“It is now imperative that the Judiciary Committee begin a review of the 35 articles,” said Kucinich. “I will be providing supporting documentation to the committee so that it can proceed in an orderly manner.

“The weight of evidence contained in the Articles makes it clear that President Bush violated the Constitution and the US Code as well as international law,” said the Ohio lawmaker, whose efforts to impeach Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

The House of Representatives approved Kucinich’s motion today to refer the articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Kucinich said on Wednesday that he would meet with Conyers this week.

Conyers has yet to release a public statement on the motion, but has in the past not been supportive of impeachment efforts. The resolution to impeach Cheney, which Kucinich presented in April 2007, remains stalled in the committee he chairs.

“It is the House’s responsibility as a co-equal branch of government to provide an effective check and balance to executive abuse of power,” Kucinich continued in the statement. “President Bush was principally responsible for directing the United States Armed Forces to attack Iraq.

“I believe that there is sufficient evidence in the Articles to support the charge that President Bush allowed, authorized and sanctioned the manipulation of intelligence by those acting under his direction and control, misleading Congress to approve a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

“As a result over 4,000 United States soldiers have died in combat in Iraq, with tens of thousands injured, many of them permanently impaired,” explained Kucinich. “Over a million innocent Iraqis have perished in a war which was based on lies, a war which will cost the American taxpayers as much as three trillion dollars.

The Ohio lawmaker said that it is now “incumbent” for the Judiciary Committee to review evidence he presented. He promised that if the committee failed to hold any hearings on the resolution within thirty days, he would repeat his efforts. He told one reporter Wednesday, “Leadership wants to bury it, but this is one resolution that will be coming back from the dead. … I will be bringing the resolution up again, and I won’t be the only one reading it.”

Kucinich closed in his statement, “We must not only create an historical record of the misconduct of the Bush administration, but we must make sure that any future administration is forewarned about the constitutionally proscribed limits of executive authority and exercise of power contravening the Constitution.”

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Close the School of the Americas

The School of the Americas is a military training facility in Columbus, Georgia that trains military forces from Latin America in techniques of torture and counterinsurgency. This facility is taxpayer funded and has hosted more than sixty thousand soldiers since it was opened in 1946. The SOA, which was renamed a few years ago to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security and Cooperation, is known around the world for the role that it has played as an institution for training soldiers in techniques of torture.

Soldiers who have attended the School of the Americas have been indicted and identified with brutal military repressions, targeted violence across Central America and South America. As a candidate for federal office, I support legislation to close the School of the Americas because graduates of the SOA have been involved in the violation of human rights.

There have been several efforts to raise awareness regarding the SOA over the past years, including the recently passed House Resolution 5658. The House Resolution, which was part of the National Defense Re-Authorization Act for 2009, requires that the names, rank, country of origin and dates of attendance be made public for graduates and instructors of the school.

Graduates of the SOA have been involved in crimes and atrocities across Latin America. Many of these individuals have been identified and we are about to learn the identities of hundreds of graduates who went on to rape, torture and even kill the thousands of people who were disappeared in Central America in the 1980's and beyond. The Pentagon is afraid when the leaders of these death squads and human rights abusers are made public, then the public may turn against the SOA/WHINSEC.

The fact of the matter is that the general public has been against the School of the Americas for years, ever since it was revealed that six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter were brutally murdered by graduates of the SOA. Then we learned that several nuns who were working in Central America were brutally raped and murdered by graduates of the SOA. Then the public learned that an entire village of 900 civilians was massacred by death squads trained in Columbus, Georgia. The public was outraged, and every year now, more than 20,000 people come to the gates of Fort Benning in November to call for Congress to close the School of the Assassins.

At a time when the United States is having serious problems with credibility in the eyes of the international community, closing the SOA/WHINSEC would go a long way toward restoring trust, security and cooperation around the world. The army, elected officials and the general public know that graduates of the SOA have included some of the worst human rights abusers in the global South. Closing this institution would send a clear message to Latin America and to our critics around the world that we are serious about restoring our international reputation.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cuba Libre

There is a country just ninety miles from the shores of the United States that I have never been to. The Republic of Cuba is the home of my grandmother and countless uncles, aunts and cousins scattered throughout Florida and points north. I am not allowed to travel to Cuba because there is an economic embargo on that country which has been in place for almost fifty years. If I do travel to Cuba I risk being fined $7,500 by my government for stepping feet on the native soil of my relations.

Cuba is about the size of my own state of Tennessee and at eleven million people it is close in terms of population. Originally a Spanish colony, Cuba declared its independence in 1868. In 1959 there was a popular revolution that put Fidel Castro into power and Cuba has been a socialist country since that date. The people of Cuba come from a melting pot of cultures and traditions. My own family was typical of many European immigrants who came to this area in the nineteenth century. Looking for opportunities and better living conditions abroad, they immigrated to the new world with hopes and dreams.

In the United States, there is a policy that governs the behavior of our country toward all matters hemispheric. It is called the Monroe Doctrine and what it means is that the US is the supreme power, the law of the land, and anyone in this hemisphere who thinks otherwise will learn to behave. This is the essence of the current embargo on Cuba, which began last century during the Kennedy administration. Cuba has always been subject to the Monroe Doctrine and has always suffered the impact of neo-colonial expressions of power by the US and corporate interests, along with most of the Caribbean and Latin America,.

Although the US assisted Cuba in gaining its freedom from Spain in 1902, the reality was that Cuba was trading Spain for America which invested heavily in Cuban production, especially in the raw products of sugar and tobacco. US companies owned most of the Cuban sugar industry and held majority control in most Cuban industries. By 1959, Cuba was known as a playground for the rich, where the mob could operate without interference and women were for sale to the highest bidders. Drugs flowed freely through Cuba and most of the population lived in poverty and ignorance.

The Cuban revolution was a small miracle in Western history. A band of twenty or so revolutionaries taking on an entire army, building resistance and popular support through a guerilla movement in the jungle mountains and eventually taking the entire country and pushing out the corporate and military interests of the most powerful nation on earth. They instituted a series of land reforms, housing reforms, education reforms and health reforms. Today the Cuban people are definitely better educated than they were before the revolution. They have universal health care in Cuba today and the tools of industry are in the hands of the government and not in the hands of foreign investment firms.

Although the revolution did eventually raise the standard of living of the entire population, Cuba is a mixed success and the people have paid a heavy price. I have met many people who have fled from Cuba. My own extended family left Cuba in the 1960's when conditions were clearly on the way downhill. Cubans have been imprisoned for crimes against the revolution such as practicing religious beliefs, criticizing the government or attempting to leave the country. The bitter truth of a communist revolution is that it is a boring dictatorship. The claims of revolutionary politics are fantastical and the denial of individual liberty is too great a price to pay. Clipping the wings of freedom in the name of the people is just an abuse of state power and the record of history shows the results.

It is time to lift the economic embargo on Cuba. The United States has no business imposing its collective will on an entire country. The embargo has created victims of two generations of Cubans and has only served to reinforce the power of the dictatorship and consolidation of a failing government. What is needed is fair and open trade between the United States and Cuba and retention of the positive aspects of the revolution such as universal health care, education and land reform. We can learn a lot from the people of Cuba such as how to live with less and how to give our people more, and the Cuban people can benefit from trade relations with the United States.

The US embargo of Cuba is a relic of the cold war era, but it is in place because of the deeper history of US relations to Latin America and the Caribbean. The Cuban people have been defiant in the face of a fifty year embargo and have struggled to survive but they have persisted. The embargo has been condemned by leaders as diverse as George P. Shultz, Pope John Paul II and the United Nations, which has declared that the embargo is a violation of international law. As a candidate for federal office, I believe that it is time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba without the threat civil penalties and fines and I believe that it is time to end the economic and trade embargo on Cuba. It's the right thing to do, for us and for them.