During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

Frist Draws Criticism From Some Church Leaders

WASHINGTON, April 21 - As the Senate battle over judicial confirmations became increasingly entwined with religious themes, officials of several major Protestant denominations on Thursday accused the Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, of violating the principles of his own Presbyterian church and urged him to drop out of a Sunday telecast that depicts Democrats as "against people of faith."

Dr. Frist's participation has rekindled a debate over the role of religion in public life that may be complicating his efforts to overcome the Democrats' use of the filibuster, a parliamentary tactic used by Congressional minorities, to block President Bush's judicial nominees.

Dr. Frist has threatened to change the Senate rules to eliminate judicial filibusters, and in response Democrats have threatened a virtual shutdown of the Senate. A confrontation had been expected as early as next week, but it now appears that the showdown may be delayed.

Religious groups, including the National Council of Churches and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, plan to conduct a conference call with journalists on Friday to criticize Senator Frist's participation in the telecast. The program is sponsored by Christian conservative organizations that want to build support for Dr. Frist's filibuster proposal.

Among those scheduled to speak in the conference call is the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, a top official of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., in which Dr. Frist is an active member.

"One of the hallmarks of our denomination is that we are an ecumenical church," Mr. Kirkpatrick said in an interview on Thursday. He also said, "Elected officials should not be portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

A spokesman for Dr. Frist said his remarks, which are not yet available, would be consistent with previous statements about fair treatment for judicial nominees. "I would hope that he would read Dr. Frist's remarks," the spokesman, Bob Stevenson, said of Mr. Kirkpatrick.

Mr. Stevenson added that the timing of the confrontation on filibusters was not related to the criticisms that have been raised about the telecast, saying Dr. Frist still planned to propose a compromise to the Democrats.

Still, the Senate moved closer to a showdown on Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee, voting along party lines, approved two nominees, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla R. Owen, who were blocked by a filibuster in the last Congress and are expected to be blocked again. Republican strategists consider the nominees - two women, one of whom is black - favorable choices for a filibuster fight.

There were signs, though, that Dr. Frist was planning to postpone the confrontation for at least another two weeks, when the Senate returns from a spring recess.

Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, said Dr. Frist had told him he would like to take up a transportation measure next week, an indication that he did not expect a filibuster fight before the Congressional recess. Polls, meanwhile, suggest a lack of public support for ending the filibuster. A recent survey conducted for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that 50 percent of those polled believed that the Senate should retain the filibusters for judicial nominations, while 40 percent were against and 10 percent undecided.

The theme of the telecast, which is called Justice Sunday and will be broadcast to churches and Christian radio and television networks, is "The Filibuster Against People of Faith." Its sponsors argue that by blocking judicial nominees who oppose abortion rights on religious and moral grounds, Democrats are effectively discriminating against those nominees.

Dr. Frist has agreed to provide a four-minute videotaped statement for the event. Democrats are calling his participation evidence of Republican extremism.

"We're going to allow the majority leader to invoke faith to rewrite Senate rules, to put substandard, extremist judges on the bench?" Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and former presidential nominee, said Thursday on the Senate floor. Mr. Kerry added, "It's not up to us to tell any one of our colleagues what to believe as a matter of faith."

Christian conservatives have also accused Senator John Salazar of Colorado, a Roman Catholic, of tolerating anti-Catholicism from his fellow Democrats who oppose nominees who follow the church's teachings on abortions.

On Thursday, Mr. Salazar responded by issuing a statement taking to task one of the telecast's speakers, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, for deprecating the Catholic faith. It quoted Mr. Mohler as saying "the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel" and "the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office."

Dr. Mohler called Mr. Salazar's statement "absolutely ridiculous," saying it was hardly news that evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics "differ on many key theological issues." He said he supported a Catholic nominee the Democrats had opposed.

In the past two weeks, religious leaders on both sides of the judicial battle have plunged into the debate. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is distributing millions of postcards around the country for parishioners to send their senators asking them not to insist that nominees uphold abortion rights. Evangelical Protestant groups like Focus on the Family have been portraying the confirmation debates as a fight over public expression of religion and respect for traditionalist values.

Now the liberal group People for the American Way is buying advertisements and distributing church program inserts that attack Senator Frist for invoking religious faith in what it says is a partisan context. The National Council of Churches is asking members to organize news conferences denouncing Dr. Frist.

The criticism of the telecast underscores the delicate task facing Dr. Frist, who is laying the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign in 2008, as he courts the evangelical Protestant groups and other religious traditionalists that formed the bedrock of President Bush's winning coalition. With his patrician bearing and background in the relatively liberal Presbyterian Church, Dr. Frist, a Harvard-trained transplant surgeon, does not fit in as naturally with Christian conservatives as President Bush.

Dr. Frist's overtures to Christian conservatives have drawn the ire of the more liberal hierarchies of other religious groups, including the officials of his own denomination. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and a former Democratic congressman, said he had sought to include Mr. Kirkpatrick, of the Presbyterian Church, in the conference call both because Dr. Frist is Presbyterian and because of the church's emphasis on ecumenicalism.

"To say that some group of Christians has a monopoly on the ear of God is especially an outrage to Presbyterians," Mr. Edgar said.

Mr. Kirkpatrick said Dr. Frist's participation in the telecast undermined "the historical commitment in our nation and our church to an understanding of the First Amendment that elected officials should not be portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, said those who were offended did not have to watch the telecast.

"There are millions of other Americans who see a connection between the filibuster and judicial activism," Mr. Perkins said. "And when we talk about judicial activism, we are talking about issues that people faith care about deeply."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company -- Source

NEWS FLASH: Mona Charen (Syndicated Columnist) just said,
"Tom Delay sent the Anthrax."

C-SPAN 8:44 +/- AM EDT, 22 April 2005

14.8 Billion

Is 14.8 Billion the number of articles on White House Investigations? No, there are close to 3 Million articles on White House Investigations. Is 14.8 Billion the number of articles on Civilians Murdered in Iraq? No, there are over 1 Million articles on Murdered Iraq Civilians. Is 14.8 Billion the number of articles on Bush Lies? No, there are almost 7 Million articles on Bush Lies. Is 14.8 Billion the number of articles on Bush Lost Both Elections? No, there are about 5 Million articles on Bush Lost Both Elections. Is 14.8 Billion the number of articles on Evil Corporate Media? No, there are 5 Million articles on Evil Corporate Media. Is 14.8 Billion the number of articles on 9/11 Was An Inside Job? No, there are close to 2 Million articles on 9/11 Was An Inside Job.

I'm tired of this. Are you going to tell what 14.8 Billion is?

Yes, 14.8 BILLION DOLLARS is the AMOUNT COLLECTED by CREDIT CARD COMPANIES for LATE FEES during 2004 and these credit card companies are the special interests a Republican Bush Administration created the Bankruptcy Bill for; making it harder for the average citizen to get out of debt [And to think, I thought the days of the indentured servant were over.].

Credit Card Penalties, Fees Bury Debtors
By Kathleen Day and Caroline E. Mayer, Washington Post Staff Writers
Source: http://news.orb6.com/stories/washpost/20050306/a10361_2005mar5.php

For more than two years, special-education teacher Fatemeh Hosseini worked a second job to keep up with the $2,000 in monthly payments she collectively sent to five banks to try to pay $25,000 in credit card debt.

Even though she had not used the cards to buy anything more, her debt had nearly doubled to $49,574 by the time the Sunnyvale, Calif., resident filed for bankruptcy last June. That is because Hosseini's payments sometimes were tardy, triggering late fees ranging from $25 to $50 and doubling interest rates to nearly 30 percent. When the additional costs pushed her balance over her credit limit, the credit card companies added more penalties.

"I was really trying hard to make minimum payments," said Hosseini, whose financial problems began in the late 1990s when her husband left her and their three children. "All of my salary was going to the credit card companies, but there was no change in the balances because of that interest and those penalties."

Punitive charges -- penalty fees and sharply higher interest rates after a payment is late -- compound the problems of many financially strapped consumers, sometimes making it impossible for them to dig their way out of debt and pushing them into bankruptcy.

The Senate is to vote as soon as this week on a bill that would make it harder for individuals to wipe out debt through bankruptcy. The Senate last week voted down several amendments intended to curb excessive fees and other practices that critics of the industry say are abusive. House leaders say they will act soon after that, and President Bush (news - web sites) has said he supports the bill.

Bankruptcy experts say that too often, by the time an individual has filed for bankruptcy or is hauled into court by creditors, he or she has repaid an amount equal to their original credit card debt plus double-digit interest, but still owes hundreds or thousands of dollars because of penalties.

"How is it that the person who wants to do right ends up so worse off?" Cleveland Municipal Judge Robert J. Triozzi said last fall when he ruled against Discover in the company's breach-of-contract suit against another struggling credit cardholder, Ruth M. Owens.

Owens tried for six years to pay off a $1,900 balance on her Discover card, sending the credit company a total of $3,492 in monthly payments from 1997 to 2003. Yet her balance grew to $5,564.28, even though, like Hosseini, she never used the card to buy anything more. Of that total, over-limit penalty fees alone were $1,158.

Triozzi denied Discover's claim, calling its attempt to collect more money from Owens "unconscionable."

The bankruptcy measure now being debated in Congress has been sought for nearly eight years by the credit card industry. Twice in that time, versions of it have passed both the House and Senate. Once, President Bill Clinton (news - web sites) refused to sign it, saying it was unfair, and once the House reversed its vote after Democrats attached an amendment that would prevent individuals such as anti-abortion protesters from using bankruptcy as a shield against court-imposed fines. [click to continue reading]

what's in your wallet graphic
What's In Your Wallet?
Illustration by Jonathan Carlson
Source: http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2004/05/wallet.html

During the 2000 presidential campaign, MBNA chairman Charles M. Cawley raised $370,000 for George W. Bush, including $240,000 from his own employees. He also personally contributed $5,000 to Bush's Florida recount team and $100,000 to the Bush/Cheney inauguration. All that cash made MBNA Bush's largest corporate donor. (Cawley, now retired, has pledged to raise at least $200,000 as a Bush "Ranger" this year.)

The president has expressed his gratitude by promising to sign a bill that would make it harder for maxed-out Americans to declare bankruptcy. Credit card users owe MBNA $82 billion; the proposed law—passed by the House, currently working its way through the Senate—would boost the bank's profits by $75 million a year.

MBNA is not alone in its political largesse. You might think you're just racking up frequent-flier miles every time you say "charge it." But are you also supporting a political party? Below, the total campaign contributions made by the 10 largest credit card companies in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 election cycles. -- Dave Gilson and Jennifer Hahn

Once Again Proving, When Republicans and Limp Democrats Run the Country, "The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Poorer."

This Just In:

From: [snip]
To: [snip]
Subject: credit card ripp-off
Date Thu, 21 Apr 2005 10:05:07 -0500

thanks for teh great page!!! i'm glad other people will learn about this and here's my story.

2 months ago i paid off my remaining $410 balance on my credit card and since i paid it thru a atm, i gave them $10 more than they asked for so they would owe me and i would be ahead.

a month later i got another bill from them for $25.94 as a late fee and they demanded payment in 20 days.

i've been a customer for 33 years and have always paid my bills on time or in advance and the atm receipt shows i paid my final bill on the morning of the day it was due, so i called them up and complained and was nice and didn't use bad language.

the person on the other end of the phone told me they had sent a note, about a year ago that was in a bill that explained the new late fees and why i was charged $25.94 as a late penalty.

when i said my receipt had the date stamped on the day it was due, i was told atm machines put the informatuion on the computer the next day and when i said, "that isn't right" there was an attitude change and there was nothing i could do about it, so i paid the lousy bastards and won't use my credit card anymore unless i am forced to which is to bad for net merchants because they won't see anymore of my money. xxxx'em for not standing up

[snip = ROTFLOL! - Ed.]

[snip] [Thank You For Taking The Time To Send This. - Ed.]

Marla Ruzicka

Human Rights Watch mourns the death of Marla Ruzicka, Lakeport, Lake County, California, a tireless human rights activist working to provide compensation for civilian victims of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

5 Years for Passing a Joint:
Stop this Bill Now

Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner has launched his next assault on freedom. The full House Judiciary Committee is set to vote as early as next week on H.R. 1528, which creates a new group of mandatory miniumum penalties for non-violent drug offenses, including a five year penalty for passing a joint to someone who's been in drug treatment.

That's right: Passing a joint to someone who used to be in drug treatment will land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years.

The "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005" (H.R. 1528) was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on April 6, and it has already passed out of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

We warned you about this bill last September. It's now coming home to roost. Please visit here to e-mail your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators today. Stop this bill in its tracks.

Marijuana Policy Project reports:

In addition to the shocking joint-passing provision described above,the bill would also create a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time conviction of distributing a small amount of marijuana to a person under 18 years of age ... and a 10-year sentence for a second offense of distributing marijuana to a person under 21. By comparison, the average time served by convicted rapists in this country is about seven years.

MPP does not condone the distribution of marijuana to minors, nor do we advocate the use of marijuana by people recovering from substance abuse problems. But we do believe that judges should have discretion to determine whether or not offenders in these circumstances deserve to be imprisoned for sentences as long as five or 10 years. If these mandatory minimum sentences are enacted, judges'hands will be tied.

This bill has traction because it also contains a section that serves as the House Republican leadership's response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made the Federal Sentencing Guidelines advisory, rather than mandatory.* The Republican leadership is highly motivated to pass this bill -- and with it, the harsh new penalties related to marijuana.

The bill will now be debated and voted on by the full House Judiciary Committee and -- if the committee passes the bill -- the full House will then vote on it.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) also has an action alert on this bill. Here are the gory details, courtesy of FAMM:

Makes the federal sentencing guidelines a system of mandatory minimum sentences through a "Booker-fix" provision. Creates new mandatory minimums that further erode judicial discretion. Eliminates the safety valve for low-level drug offenders. Makes virtually every drug crime committed in urban areas subject to "drug free zone" penalties that carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. Punishes defendants for the "relevant conduct" of co-conspirators that occurred BEFORE the defendant joined the conspiracy.

As written, H.R. 1528 would:

Effectively make the federal sentencing guidelines a system of mandatory minimum sentences through a "Booker-fix" provision. This provision forbids judges from departing below the guideline sentence in all but a few cases.

Make the sale of any quantity of any controlled substance (including anything greater than five grams of marijuana) by a person older than 21 to a person younger than 18 subject to a ten-year federal mandatory minimum sentence.

Create a new three-year mandatory minimum for parents who witness or learn about drug trafficking activities, targeting or even near their children, if they do not report it to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours and do not provide full assistance investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting the offender.

Create a new 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for any parent committing a drug trafficking crime in or near the presence of their minor child.

Mandate life in prison for persons 21 years or older convicted a second time of distributing drugs to a person under 18 or convicted a first time after a felony drug conviction has become final.

Increase to five years the federal mandatory minimum sentence for the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, college, public library, drug treatment facility (or any place where drug treatment, including classes, are held), or private or public daycare facilities - in short, almost anywhere in cities across the U.S.

Eliminate the federal "safety valve," granting it only when the government certifies that the defendant pled guilty to the most serious readily provable offense (the one that carries the longest sentence), and has "done everything possible to assist substantially in the investigation and prosecution of another person," and would prohibit the federal "safety-valve" in cases where drugs were distributed or possessed near a person under 18, where the defendant delayed his or her efforts to provide substantial assistance to the government, or provided false, misleading or incomplete information.

This is absolutely sickening. As we said last week,

Sensenbrenner is a one-man disaster for justice. He's been the driving force behind the Real ID Act and bills to strip judges of their discretion in sentencing and subpoena judges' records. In 2004, he wanted to add mandatory minimum penalties to non-violent drug offenses (one example: a five year mandatory minimum sentence for passing a joint to someone who had been in a treatment center.)

Don't let him get away with it.

Israel to Bush on Gaza:
Get Sexually Intercoursed!

"Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." - Ariel Sharon - 3 Oct 2001

Come On People...
Was 9/11 An Inside Job
[It's hard to blame the CIA when one reads what George had to say.]

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