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30 September 2006

Republican Family Values

by: Dark Wraith

Republican Family Values

The transparent black and full-color black background versions of this graphic are available at The Dark Wraith Forums. Convenient sidebar versions are available in transparent white and transparent black for download. The Dark Wraith invites use of this promotional graphic.

Ask Roy Blunt about the Mark Foley scandal

by: Waveflux

The scandal of GOP Rep. Mark Foley and his inappropriate email exchanges with a 16 year old page threatens to expand with an AP news report stating that the Republican House leadership had known of the Foley situation for close to a year - and had apparently done nothing. From Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo highlights the salient passage of the AP piece:

The page worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander told the Ruston Daily Leader, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem," a reference to the House's Republican leaders.

Marshall comments:

So Rep. Alexander knew about this 10 or 11 months ago. And he says he notified the House leadership. That means Hastert and (at the time) either Tom DeLay or Rep. Blunt (R-MO). We don't know it was either of those three men yet. But that's what Alexander means when he says he "notified the House leadership." They're the House leadership.

If I'm understanding this correctly, that means that the leaders of the House Republican caucus have known for almost a year that a member of their caucus was having cybersex with an underage congressional page. And apparently they did nothing about it.

Well, this should be easy enough to determine, assuming that the Republican leaders of the House are forthright enough to answer questions. The constituency of Missouri's Roy Blunt - and the print and electronic press that covers Missouri politics - should ask their representative just what he knew of Mark Foley's predatory activities, and just what he did about it...if anything.

(Contact form for Roy Blunt, including phone and fax)

(More on the Foley scandal from Pam Spaulding. This entry cross-posted at Waveflux.)
29 September 2006

Denny Hastert must resign for doing nothing about Foley

by: Pam

Click to enlarge
"Recent news stories remind us that there are predators using the Internet to target children," Hastert said. “And just as we warn our children about 'stranger danger' when they are at the park or answering the door or telephone, we need to be aware of potential dangers in Cyberspace.”
-- from a press release on House Speaker Denny Hastert's web site today, touting his "Effort To 'Keep Kids Safe In Cyberspace'"
Jesus. Too bad the Tyrannosaurus of Turpitude didn't give a damn that House pages were being preyed upon in IMs and emails by Rep. Mark Foley. Hastert knew about Foley's "problem" over a year ago, yet he didn't do anything about the Florida congressman, who was the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.
The page worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander told the Ruston Daily Leader, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem," a reference to the House's Republican leaders.
But Hastert now claims he had no idea:
"I was surprised," Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said after being informed of Foley's decision. "I didn’t know what the situation was."
So who's lying?

The bottom line is that Hastert didn't follow his own cyberspace advice -- and do something about the predator in his midst. He should resign.


More nasty Mark "totally stiff wood" Foley IM chats with a teen page have emerged (boy, no wonder he resigned so fast; he knew what was coming out), courtesy of ABC (PDF). Here is a snapshot of some of the exchange.
Click to enlarge


Ludwig von Mises

by: Dark Wraith

Jersey Cynic, writing below here at Big Brass Blog, requested my links to any previous writings I have done on Ludwig von Mises, this 29th day of September, 2006, being the 125th anniversary of his birth in a small city in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To the end of celebrating this anniversary of the birth of a famous economist—now more so than in his own time—I herewith set forth my first formal article on Ludwig von Mises and my thoughts about him.

I have made mention of von Mises in comments at The Dark Wraith Forums, but I have without attribute used his work and understanding of economics far more often than I could recount, for it is he and men of similar thinking who so greatly influenced me and generations of other students of economics in the United States and a few other parts of the Western world. He was an intellectual colossus of the discipline. The body of his work at once formalized and structured how we think about the world and how we rigorously analyze economic life. He did more than that, though: he conveyed to economists the sense that our understanding is far greater in scope than what most would imagine when thinking of the word "economics."

Ours is the study of praxæology, the study of human action: human action in consumption at the level of the individual and the household; human action in productive work, be it as labor or entrepreneur; human action in aggregates of pools of labor and bodies of industry; human action at the level of the great accumulations of individual consumers, firms, and other organizations that comprise the very economies of nation-states. Without a mind to sentiment, we can see why economic entities do what they do, and we can predict what they would do under circumstances brought to bear upon them. We need no crystal ball to conceive human reaction arising from circumstances, especially so long as we dismiss the notion that, because we are dealing with problems involving people's behaviors, our economic principles cannot unfold and reveal all.

Ludwig von Mises brought to the 20th Century the "Classical" school of economics that had been broadly and deeply outlined by the founders and early thinkers in the discipline, men like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. He reinforced the principles of economics with mathematical girders and rock-solid foundations. He gave us the clear, unapologetic view that economics spans the sciences, and in such scope it is none of them. Economics delves into the realm of social science, yet we have no concern for soft, unshaped theories twisted this way and that by the vicissitudes of that which is the fashion of the day. Economics is a mathematical science, yet our work is persistently dedicated to deriving that which is worthwhile to the world and not that which is merely the fleeting and arcane curiosity.

Ludwig von Mises made no bones about how we disdain the primitive notion that human action exists outside the scope of the scientific inquiry. From the Introduction to his 1949 tour de force, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, I quote the almost disturbingly timely rejoinder to the critics of rigorous economics inquiry:
"The characteristic feature of this age of destructive wars and social disintegration is the revolt against economics. Thomas Carlyle branded economics a 'dismal science,' and Karl Marx stigmatized the economists as 'the sycophants of the bourgeoisie'. Quacks--praising their patent medicines and short cuts to an earthly paradise--take pleasure in scorning economics as 'orthodox' and 'reactionary'. Demagogues pride themselves on what they call their victories over economics. The 'practical' man boasts of his contempt for economics and his ignorance of the teachings of 'armchair' economists. The economic policies of the last decades have been the outcome of a mentality that scoffs at any variety of sound economic theory and glorifies the spurious doctrines of its detractors. What is called 'orthodox' economics is in most countries barred from the universities and is virtually unknown to the leading statesmen, politicians, and writers. The blame for the unsatisfactory state of economic affairs can certainly not be placed upon a science which both rulers and masses despise and ignore."
But make no mistake: Ludwig Von Mises, like many other economists both before and after him, was the victim of his own strait-jacket. He believed that, because he commanded the tools and methods of science, that which came from the invention of his own prejudices must, ipso facto, be positive economics, free then as it were of any assumptions that would render its results at best inapplicable to the real world and at worst destructive of human dignity and long-term benefit to economic success. The list of economists of this ilk is as long as the list of economists, themselves: from John Kenneth Galbraith to Milton Friedman, the ranks of practitioners of economic theory, analysis, and application are laden with men who allowed their own biases to infect their thinking; and to the extent that those biases drew them away from objectivism, they hurt their world when their advice was actually heeded. John Kenneth Galbraith believed that unions were a threat to the military-industrial complex that was pivotal to his model of rapid economic growth. Milton Friedman purports that "positive economics" must dismiss government intervention in things as basic as food and drug safety laws. Neither of these men, nor others like them, can be considered anything but shills of their own constituencies when their policy prescriptions are held up to the light of a more comprehensive consideration of the human condition.

That does not, however, serve in any way to repudiate the ideal to which von Mises aspired in himself, his life, or in most of his writings.

Human action is based upon rationality and marginalism. Ludwig Von Mises ensured that I shall make no apology for the iron-clad results that follow in unbearable legion from that. I wrote about rationality in Rationality, Incentives, and the Agency Dilemma: the economic "person" (be it an individual or a group acting to a common end) makes decisions rationally, and this means that greed will be the greatest and most animating force affecting behavior. I shall leave it to others to imagine that there is something else that solves the equation of how our species has managed to both survive magnificently yet be so unrepentantly awful in its ways despite having what now is called a sense of "morality."

"Marginalism" means that the human action is based upon the last or the expectation of the very next event, not upon the average or the past or the first or even the best. Whether we choose to consume another drink is based upon the pleasure we anticipate that we shall receive from the next glass based upon what we experienced with the very last glass; and the firm will produce another unit of output based upon how the cost of the next unit will be configured against the revenue obtained from that unit: if the cost of producing the next unit exceeds the revenue gained from it, that unit will not be produced because it would erode the total profit of the enterprise; but if, on the other hand, the revenue to be gained from making another unit is greater than the cost that will come from it, that unit will surely be produced, for its production will add to total profit.

Ludwig von Mises ensured that these pivotal, deep understandings were with us as the 20th Century brought forth great change and, therefore, great challenges to economics as a useful tool of modernity. For example, he applied the principles to design a complete, comprehensive theory of money and interest rates, a theory that was certainly not overturned by his contemporary, John Maynard Keynes, whose The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was most decidedly no repudiation of Von Mises' monumental theory that touched in some parts upon the same and similar subject matter. Ludwig von Mises's general theory of money, itself, later came to be a focused school of thought called "monetarism," and one of its chief proponents would achieve fame and a Nobel Prize perhaps in part on the misguided notion that he, and not Ludwig von Mises, comprehensively set forth the theory. (It should be noted, in fact, that even as far back as Ricardo, writing in the early years of the 19th Century, fully grasped the relationship between oversupply of money and inflation, however).

Even though supporters of von Mises in his own time saw his model and the Keynesian framework as diametrically opposed with respect to prescriptive policy action, later analysis would come to see that the models were little more than short-term versus long-term descriptions of the same process. Keynes was bluntly and unapologetically interested in the short-term amelioration of a debilitating recession dragging down the economy of the United States, while von Mises, being a Classical economist, was interested only in maintaining and encouraging long-term economic growth.

Keynesian model of aggregate demand stimulus. Click to enlarge.In the Keynesian framework, short-term aggregate supply (the supply of all goods and services produced by an economy) is somewhat reactive to the aggregate price level, and this is due in large part to the fact that the wage rate for labor does not respond instantly to general price increases, which means that additional real productivity can be extracted from labor in the presence of increases in the amount of money, even when that extra money being printed is not backed by real growth of the economy. In this short-term economic world of "sticky wages," aggregate demand stimulus through over-printing money can actually produce real growth of the economy.

Classical model of aggregate demand stimulus. Click to enlarge.The Classical school, considering only the long-run, had since the time of David Ricardo (and most definitely by the 1850s with a British school of economic thought) seen the aggregate supply curve as perfectly insensitive to aggregate price increases; in other words, the production side of an economy simply will not deliver more goods and services to a market merely because of inflation pressures. The reason rising aggregage prices alone cannot spur real increases in the level of goods and service delivered to the market is that factor prices (labor, land, physical capital, and entrepreneurial risk-taking) will invariably and more or less instantly absorb any oversupply of money by rising in response to the "phony" extra money being printed to just to get people to buy more goods. If extra money being printed does not reflect genuine, real value added to an economy, it simply cannot cause anything buy inflation. Hence, to Classical economists, trying to stimulate an economy through aggregate demand management inevitably fails because the consumers of an economy want more goods and services merely because they have more money, but that new money is not backed by new, real value, so the stimulus of the over-printed money causes no aggregate output increase, but does cause aggregate prices to jump by just about exactly the amount of the monetary overhang.

The reader must understand that economics is not the study of intentions; rather, it is the study of capabilities and incentives under constraints. The "desirable" means nothing to human action when compared to the "desired." As an economist, I do not care what people want to do; I do not care what people say they will do; I do not care what people stand for. All I care about is what people actually do; and what people do is rational, bounded as it must be by the constraints of available information, time, money, and access to resources. This applies equally to individuals, to households, to businesses, to entities bound in contract or other agreement to common goal, to private institutions, and to nation-states in their aggregate expressions of governments.

This way of seeing the world quite often seems brutish. A Classical economist would, for example, flatly declare that all unemployment is voluntary. Any person can find work. It might be menial, degrading, miserable, and altogether awful, but it is there if a person wants it. If someone wants better than is available, then the person should find it; but in such a search, the person cannot presume that his valuation of the marginal product of his labor is the only determinant of the wage he will be paid. In fact, the tides of labor markets are every bit as cruel as those faced by the entrepreneurs who ultimately bring together the factors of production, including labor. Markets determine prices. More difficult for labor is that, not only do forces far greater than the individual guide the prevailing wage rates, but it is demand for the final products that governs the "derived demand" for the factors of production. Unemployment is the luxury of trading off what would otherwise be earned at labor, and no rational person long suffering unemployment at an anticipated or hoped-for level of compensation can avoid the perhaps deeply troubling, eventual realization that he or she will never again make what was once earned, but that he or she will at the same time never again eat without accepting the new, prevailing labor market conditions.

As mean-spirited as that sounds, the Classical economist untempered by patience might very well lash out at a critic with something like this: "Should you not like the cruelty of the market, then join Karl Marx and his economics 'revolution'. Cry! Cry for the right of the worker not to be exploited! Maybe you can find a woman, as Herr Marx did, so devoted, so utterly in your thrall, that she will for decades work herself like a rude animal with no sense of her own pain for the bread on your table that you may sit in the warmth of a library day in and day out to contemplate the innumerable outrages of capitalism and the best distortions of history to validate your world-view."

I am by my training a Classical economist. It is only by great and sustained effort that I may see the economic world more evenly and bring convergence to the schools of thought to form a comprehensive scope of suitable view. I train my students first as Classical economists, too, and then bring to bear the apparent disputes that, in the end, they can share with me such a broadly reasonable and soundly based understanding. That does not mean I am interested in finding some mythical "center" or fantasy of "moderate" course, not for myself, and most certainly not for my students. Economics has carried me no place near "truth"; but by the discipline of the Classical school and the demand upon myself to bring to it that which is offered in Keynesian economics, I do know the way; and so, too, will my students, admittedly at the risk that some—maybe many—will stop when they have heard what they want to hear and will no more be a part of the difficult, demanding, and complicated journey from ignorant conviction to thoughtful uncertainty.

The term "positive economics" means the study of "what is," while the term "normative economics" refers to the study of "what should be." Ludwig von Mises, for all of the power he put into our hands to study what is, in the end made himself our role model for misrepresenting to both ourselves and to those who seek our counsel the extent to which we allow the normative to be carried on the steel wings of our powerful tools. I fight within myself the urge to pose as objective economic analysis that which is far from it; and to the extent that I eschew the words and results that always come out the way my compatriots want, I am subject to criticism: on the Left, there is a suspicion that I'm really a Right-winger in cloak; and there is no doubt that on the Right, I am viewed in my objective analyses as some traitorous and biased "Liberal."

I am close to von Mises in a compelling way, I must admit. Academia is a mean-spirited little world all its own, and von Mises suffered its peculiar excesses of ostracism. I know well the viciousness. To believe that academia has even a modicum of purity in nurturing and promoting freedom of thought is naïve. In a world turning to a new century polarized by Fascists and Communists, von Mises could find no academic institution in Europe or, later, in the United States that would suffer the radicalism of his scientific approach to economics, this despite the obvious success of his theory in modeling the macroeconomic dynamics of Austria in his early years. His lot was so grim that New York University, where he would finally secure a teaching position and stay until the age of 88, would never grant him more than Visiting Professor status and would insist that he be paid by funds from Right-wing organizations. Academia has changed only for the worse since then: he was afforded a decent living; now, academia's institutionalized rules ensure that the scholar and teacher unacceptable to professorial and administrative sensibilities teaches at length in the most difficult of situations and quite literally lives in poverty his entire, pathetic life.

It is the culmination of Classical economics: the value of marginal productivity, be it that of the great Ludwig von Mises or the lowly trash like me, gets what it deserves.

But stand we must on principle. While I want neither camp to think that I am somehow either the "sycophant" of Marx's condemnation or the sycophant Marx, himself, wanted for his groveling believers, my greatest hope is that I do not end my life as Ludwig von Mises did, having written my towering and greatest work, only to have it rendered utterly worthless as he did in one stunning sentence. Remember that quote above?—the roar against the craven critics of our science? This is the very next sentence:
It must be emphasized that the destiny of modern civilization as developed by the white peoples in the last two hundred years is inseparably linked with the fate of economic science. This civilization was able to spring into existence because the peoples were dominated by ideas which were the application of the teachings of economics to the problems of economic policy. It will and must perish if the nations continue to pursue the course which they entered upon under the spell of doctrines rejecting economic thinking.
This man who preened himself on the objectivism so critical to the claim of economics as science, this man who would pose in righteous indignation to condemn both collectivism and statism as destructive, subjective monstrosities was, himself, infused of the idea that it is the 'white peoples' and 'their' civilization that hold undeniable claim to all that is good and right about modernity and some 'destiny' we have, presumably to bring the savage world and its savages their senses by our obviously superior, enlightened understanding and ways.

So, in conclusion, I ask that I be forgiven for my direct address to the good professor on this, the 125th anniversary of his birth.

Herr von Mises, go to Hell.

Oh, that's right: you were an economist. You already did.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

This article is cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums.

The Dream Was Here

by: Foiled Goil

In Case I Disappear

By William Rivers Pitt


I have been told a thousand times at least, in the years I have spent reporting on the astonishing and repugnant abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, to watch my back. "Be careful," people always tell me. "These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren't being followed." A running joke between my mother and me is that she has a "safe room" set up for me in her cabin in the woods, in the event I have to flee because of something I wrote or said.

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn't yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now. [snip]

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.

Read the full article here.

You Call It Faith

by: Debra

I call it blind obedience with an inability to adapt to changing situations, sort of like the way we are conducting the debacle in Iraq.
On one of my last days at West Point, I watched from the stands as the class of 9/11 took the art of parading to its farcical zenith. A high wind had blown a tall plumed hat off of one of the lead cadets, forcing the hundreds that followed in box formation to try to step over it without glancing down or altering their parade stride. As you can imagine, this did not work out so well. Cadet after cadet ended up stumbling over a hat that could have easily been picked up and tossed out of the way.

Even the West Point parents in attendance couldn't help but snicker at these proud ranks being decimated by a hat. But watching this, I finally was able to articulate something that I had only vaguely sensed before: This thing that West Pointers do — parading in unyielding formation, shining already gleaming boots, enlisting to sacrifice their lives on some unknown and unloved territory far from home — is not done out of ignorance, but out of faith. They have faith that the American values and resourcefulness do not lend themselves to meaningless death. They have faith that not only is freedom worth fighting for, but that we do not fight for any lesser end.
Four years of indoctrination will do that for you. Or as they say in the Babylon 5 universe "The Corps is mother, the Corps is father".

A promising life was snuffed out in an instant, all of the time, money and effort for her training went for naught. Her death is no less tragic than the many thousands of people who have died, and will continue to die, to satisfy some unholy need of power hungry people who aren't troubled by the trivial concepts of honor, justice or equality

As the Irqa war struggles on, with victory nowhere on the horizon, more and more valuable people will die. As the decimation of qualified people continues, our ability to defend ourselves becomes less. It isn't just the time and money spent training the troops, it is also the loss of experience, and to young troops that is more valuable than a photo op with a President and his plastic turkey.

We are conducting the Iraq war as if it is on our terms when it obviously isn't. How many more valuable servicemen and women will die for this administration's mistakes?

Happy Birthday to Ludwig Von Mises, Defender of Capitalism

by: Jersey Cynic

Dear Dark Wraith,

Have you ever discussed Mises over at The Dark Wraith Forums?

I came across this article at FMNN. I have read about him and his teachings on occassion over at The Daily Reckoning, where I hang out for the latest financial news and views.

I can almost wrap my head around Mises' economic and social philosophies. His beliefs, for the most part, make sense to me, but that doesn't mean that they always work.

Since the Dark Wraith, as far as I am concerned, is THE MASTER,
I would be most interested in your thoughts.

If you do have any links to prior discussions, or any commentary, maybe you could add it on to this post when you have some time.

Thanks DW -- have a good one! (TGIF)
28 September 2006

The Truth Commission of the United States of America

by: Dark Wraith

In a March 26, 2006, editorial, I set forth the outline of my intention to call for each of the 2008 Presidential candidates to pledge that, if elected, he or she would within 90 days of inauguration form a non-partisan truth commission broadly charged with exposing the abuses of the Constitution committed by the Bush Administration in the prosecution of its "Global War on Terror."

It is my judgment now that no candidate for President will receive my vote or support unless he or she makes such a pledge, which I shall begin to formalize in October in a first draft, subject to review and consideration, of the "Pledge to Form a Truth Commission of the United States of America," which in final form I shall send to each potential Presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat. The names of all potential candidates who are sent the pledge and asked to sign it will be published across the Web network of The Dark Wraith Forums, including here; at my flagship blog, The Dark Wraith Forums; and at Truth2008. Signatories will be duly noted; those expressly or by silence declining the invitation will be separately noted.

The Dark Wraith has had enough of political cowardice.

This Is A Rebel Song

by: Minstrel Boy

Get used to them. People are going to be oppressed by these laws our spineless Congress is passing. People will be tortured. Even John McCain will tell you (I've heard him say this in person) between torture sessions people will try to keep their spirits up by singing.

The rebellion sung about in this song from Ireland failed. It was to be a general rising. It wasn't about Catholic or Protestant. Wolfe Tone, the leader of this one was a Protestant. Even the dour Presbyterians of Ulster were horrified by the British policies. Which included, detention without charges, representation, torture, dispossession, secret courts, "drumhead" courts martial. Any of that sound familiar kids?

This rebellion failed. Only a fraction of the promised French troops arrived, and they arrived late. You may ask why there is such a triumphant tone and attitude in the lyrics of this song. If you didn't know the history you might think the Irish had succeeded in their rebellion. Eventually they did succeed. It just took a little more than a hundred years more. For a hundred and twenty years Irish patriots (that's a terrorist who wins eventually, you know, like Sam Adams or Francis Marion) would sing this song and remember The British Can Be Beaten.

The tune is Old Rosin The Bow

When you honor in song and in story
The names of the patriot men
Whose valor has covered with glory
Full many a mountain and glen
Forget not the boys of the heather
Who rallied their bravest and best
When Ireland was broken in Wexford
And looked for revenge to the West

I give you the gallant old West, boys
Where rallied our bravest and best
When Ireland lay broken and bleeding;
Hurrah for the men of the West!

The hilltops with glory were glowing
'Twas the eve of a bright harvest day
When the ship we'd been wearily waiting
Sailed into Killala's broad bay
And over the hills went the slogan
To awaken in every breast
The fire that has never been quenched, boys
Among the true hearts of the West


Killala was ours ere the midnight
And high over Ballina town
Our banners in triumph were waving
Before the next sun had gone down
We gathered to speed the good work, boys
The true men from near and afar
And history can tell how we routed
The redcoats through old Castlebar


And pledge me the stout sons of France, boys
Bold Humbert and all his brave men
Whose tramp, like the trumpet of battle
Brought hope to the drooping again
Since Ireland has caught to her bosom
On many a mountain and hill
The gallants who fell, so they're here, boys
To cheer us to victory still


Though all the bright dreamings we cherished
Went down in disaster and woe
The spirit of old is still with us
That never would bend to the foe
And Connacht is ready whenever
The loud rolling tuck of the drum
Rings out to awaken the echoes
And tell us the morning has come


I imagine that somewhere in some secret dungeon, one prisoner is singing to another between rounds of torture. They are remembering fondly a day when, by the side of the road, a bomb blew up and a few more of the hated invaders of their country lay dying. They are singing and thinking to themselves "These Americans Can Be Beaten."
Get used to rebel music, we are going to be hearing a lot of it over the next several years.

crossposted at Harp and Sword

Jim Talent thinks the Constitution is inconvenient

by: Waveflux

Missouri voters should know that Republican Senator Jim Talent believes that a core element of the Constitution - the ability of the judicial branch to determine whether a prisoner has been wrongfully imprisoned, "a fundamental protection woven into the fabric of our Nation" - isn't as necessary or important as carrying water for George Bush. Talent voted against the habeas amendment proposed by Arlen Specter, Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have ensured that the federal court could review the imprisonment of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism. So much for Talent's supposed political independence - and so much for the balance of powers, a concept Talent clearly doesn't believe in. Instead of guarding the Constitution, he voted to undermine it in favor of an administration that already insists on aggregating ever more power to itself.

How much longer will Missourians tolerate a senator who serves merely as a rubber stamp for George Bush, and who treats the Constitution as an inconvenience? Missouri can do better.

(Cross-posted at Waveflux.)

How The Torture Bill Will Work

by: Minstrel Boy

They grab somebody, whisk them off to a secret location. Deny them access to any kind of legal defense. Then they torture them into confessing to crimes that they use to excuse and justify their use of torture.

This is what the Democrats are seeking to compromise with.

Spineless. Simpering. Cowards.

All of them.

crossposted clumsily while cursing blogger at Harp and Sword

Soft on Terror

by: Shakespeares Sister

Rushing off a cliff:

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

…We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.
The New York Times may not blame Democrats for being frightened, but I do. In fact, their willingness to betray American principles out of the fear that doing the right thing will come back to haunt them in elections makes that oft-repeated claim of conservatives right: The Democrats really are soft on terror.

Not the terror that exists outwith our borders, but the terror that rules within. The Bush administration has spent every day since September 11, 2001 making sure that we are a phobic nation, paralyzed with fear and thusly complacent and compliant. They terrorized us into supporting an unnecessary war with mendacious imagery of mushroom clouds and dirty bombs, terrorized us into reelecting them with politically-timed terror warnings, terrorized us into going along with whatever subversion of our Constitution the Bush administration suggests is necessary to protect us.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the administration’s most reliable fearmongers during his tenure, gravely warned opponents of their terror strategy in December 2001, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.” It was the first step in marglinzalizing dissenters as traitors and terrorist sympathizers—a page right out of Third Reich second-in-command Hermann Göring’s playbook: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

And so it has worked here.

The Bush administration has wrought a reign of terror used to coerce the American people into giving up their rights and freedoms, and confer upon the executive branch an unprecedented centralization of power. And fear of losing elections, of being seen as “soft on terror,” has made most Democrats go along with this effective coup nearly every step of the way. In the end, they have shown themselves to be what they most fear being seen as—unwilling and unable to stare terror in the face and stop it in its tracks. I’ve no doubt that a Democratic leadership would be better for fighting the brand of terrorism incessantly invoked by the Bush administration to cow us, the kind that induces in a cringing and teeth-chattering electorate images of swarthy men in turbans with bombs strapped to their chests. But the Dems have proven themselves patently incapable of fighting the brand of terrorism that haunts us at home, that emanates from the top levels of our government and wrenches from our hands the liberty and principles that Bush’s “war on terror” is meant to defend.

Too much time worrying about perceptions of their support for the War on Terror has left the Democrats hopelessly inept in fighting the War of Terror that’s being waged in America. And, quite frankly, being capable of fighting terror from foreign enemies is of no use if they’re incapable of saving us from the domestic terrorists who will destroy everything that was ever worth protecting.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)
27 September 2006

Handshake Line

by: Minstrel Boy

Even though I have spent a great deal of my life on stage in full view of people. In a social setting I can be a complete doofus. I'm just not much of a pal around hand slap kind of person. Some of it comes from being around my Apache relatives growing up (Apaches are notoriously silent folks), some of it comes from spending as much time as I have to spend alone practicing. Anyway, if you want to depend on somebody to carry the ball socially, I'll help you look.

I went to a fund raiser for Jim Pederson who is running against the vile John Kyl (I can't resist a line that both rhymes and insults) here in Arizona. The main reason I attended was to see and hear Wes Clark. It was a standard pretend "town meeting" set up. The questions were softballed and scripted. Which is fine with me, this is an event that is set up to extract some more money from the faithful, it must be done in today's world.

Had I been asking questions I would have asked something like "Why aren't you talking about how John Kyl is supporting the administration on Iraq and allowing them to establish torture as an American policy?"

Pederson is in favor of rethinking policy, to return the focus to Afghanistan and catching bin Laden. Fair enough. I think that's a very good idea too. I just think that after seeing how well people like Ned Lamont are doing when they take it straight to the party in power for their failures. Bill Clinton did that, even while admitting his own failures, his admitting them was a reminder that the asshole in the White House doesn't even think he's made a mistake yet. For me, it's the most important issue. I already knew Mr. Pederson's stand on it, I just was wondering why it hasn't been more prominent. The fact that the Republican Congress and the Bush White House have fucked things up so badly is the main thing that has gotten me out of the house and out into the street. A candidate that says "I will not allow a course this wrong to be "stayed" has me. Say it Jim. Just say it.

Also, for the last two weeks the bulk of the Pederson advertising has been negative stuff on Kyl. I wish he would change the tone now that we are only a few weeks away from the election. It's time to do more coming out and establishing your positions clearly. Pederson is about 11 points down in the polls and that's about the number of undecided voters. That's a crowd that is easier to talk into voting for someone than against someone. Although it is fun to watch Kyl whine about dirty attack ads when all Pederson is doing is listing Kyl's voting record.

Wes Clark was doing his level best to keep this event about Pederson and I respect that. The idea that a major political player is able to go to an event like this and make sure that the lights and focus stay on someone else speaks highly to me of his character.

I hope Clark decides to run for President. I am so there.

Now, to the handshake line. I'm going through the line thing and I say "Hello" and shake hands with Jim Pederson, then it's time for Clark. I'm wearing a lapel pin from one of the decorations I received in the service. It's small and unobstrusive. If you don't know what it is, well, you don't know what it is. General Clark sees it and asks "Where did you get that?" I said "Dong Ap Bai." He shakes his head a little and says "Pretty woolly there?" I said "Charlie had teeth."

Then the line moves on and so do I.
While making my coffee this morning I saw two ads for Pederson. One was an upbeat "This is who I am and what I believe in" ad. The very next ad was Iraq. Iraq as a mess and Kyl standing right next to Bush saying "stay the course." Damn, it was a nice thing to see over coffee. Good on ya' Jim.
Cross Posted at Harp and Sword

Anatomy of a Cyber-Attack

by: Dark Wraith

One of the contributing writers here at Big Brass Blog informed me a few hours ago that, when she stopped by this afternoon, her Symantec antivirus shield informed her that she was under attack. This was the information provided by the antivirus program:

Norton Internet Worm Protection has detected and blocked an intrusion attempt:

Security rule- Default Block NetBus Trojan horse
Date- 9/27/06
Time- 2:28 PM
Path- N/A
File name- N/A
Direction- Inbound
Local address- XX.XX.XX.XXX [IP redacted for privacy]
Local port- NetBus (12345)
Remote address-
Remote port- 3520
Protocol- TCP

It's small-time stuff: somewhat amateurish. The NetBus Trojan is too famous for its own good. Sort of like Rush Limbaugh trying to be anonymous at a Vegas brothel. He might be able to get away with it in the Dominican Republic, but not in the good ol' Hew Hess Hay (not that Mr. Limbaugh would do such nasty things anywhere in the world, of course).

I'm rather fragile about cyber-attacks in general, and since the brutal episode last week—wherein the firewall on my server got hacked and one of my own IPs was installed as a bogey—I've gotten downright bitchy. I'm going to take you on a brief educational lesson in cyber-sleuthing. I'm going to over-simplify things at every turn, and I shall do so to the end of keeping at least some of you marginally interested in what could otherwise be about the most boring post this side of "Making Cracker Crumbs." To those who would flog me for making things so simple that they're downright outrageous, I say this: bite me.

NetBus Trojan-type stuff is easily smacked down by any decent antivirus program. Anyone stupid enough to be on the internets these days without layers of shields deserves what happens. NetBus Trojan takes control of certain functions on your computer and makes them respond to a remote client's commands. In other words, your computer becomes what we call a "zombie."

Anyone who's seen Night of the Living Dead knows that being a zombie sucks big time, and the situation isn't any better for a computer: you end up doing all manner of things you really wouldn't want to do were you still to have a soul within your meat bag. A zombie computer can pump out thousands of spam e-mails every day, it can launch spambots that post links to casinos and porn sites on hapless blogs, or it can participate in distributed denial of service attacks wherein a whole bunch of computers simultaneously flood a server with little packets of data, thereby overwhelming and thus shutting down the victimized machine. Like I said, being a zombie sucks big time.

NetBus Trojan is lame, and so is the little dweeb who uses it for an attack.

So, now, let's get down to the fun part. Who was behind this little gambit? The key is in that "Remote address" line above. That string of numbers is a "dotted quad," or in more modern terms, an "IP address," a unique identifier of a machine. The problem is that most of you readers will have direct IPs, which means I can track you down very easily if I must; but if you're running through a "proxy server," I'm going to end up tracking you down to some weird place in the middle of nowhere. And if you're doing things to really cover your tracks, you're going to be using some program or service that will run you through all kinds of hand-offs that will make my job of finding you a total nightmare. I'll be chasing you down through "onion servers," academic racks, miserably weak Chinese computers, and pathetically out-of-date Eastern European clunkers, all to the final end of coming up bupkis.

I might try to contact the techs at some of these intermediate IP switching places, and they'll tell me that there's not a thing on Earth they can do to help me out: being on or even near the backbone means getting a zillion pounds of traffic hopping through on its way from one place to another, and no one can do anything about one lousy burst of packets popping in for an IP freshener.

Welcome to the Age of Anonymity... provided, of course, you know how to play the game (and like Hell I'm going to explain here how easy it is to play the game).

So that "Remote (IP) address" above is useless, right? Ah, not so fast. Remember that above I used the term "somewhat amateurish" to describe this attack? Well, here's why.

Let's run a WHOIS on that IP. First, let's try ARIN WHOIS. This is what we get:

Search results for:

OrgName: RIPE Network Coordination Centre
Address: P.O. Box 10096
City: Amsterdam
PostalCode: 1001EB
Country: NL

ReferralServer: whois://

NetRange: -
NetName: 84-RIPE
NetHandle: NET-84-0-0-0-1
NetType: Allocated to RIPE NCC
NameServer: SEC1.APNIC.NET
NameServer: SEC3.APNIC.NET
NameServer: NS3.NIC.FR
Comment: These addresses have been further assigned to users in
Comment: the RIPE NCC region. Contact information can be found in
Comment: the RIPE database at
RegDate: 2003-11-17
Updated: 2004-03-16

If that data above looks like hogwash, you're smarter than you think you are about this kind of stuff. Yes, that search did nothing but take us to a bunch of nameservers we'd probably end up chasing down to get even more information that didn't tell us much of anything. We got bupkis. (We really didn't, but life is short, and there should be a quicker way to get some gold.)

Let's try again. Let's go to one of my favorite sites, This place is like a candy store for the cyber-sleuth. It's not the best, but it's really user friendly compared to some other tracking sites.

Let's run that IP through the "WHOIS Lookup" utility. Here's the output, with some of the boilerplate stuff removed:

Location: Israel (high) [City: Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv]

% Information related to ' -'

inetnum: -
descr: Please Send Abuse/SPAM complaints To *****
country: IL
admin-c: DR5299-RIPE
tech-c: DR5299-RIPE
notify: ***
changed: *** 20060605
mnt-by: AS9116-MNT
mnt-lower: AS9116-MNT
source: RIPE

role: DNS REG
remarks: Goldenlines DNS Registration and LIR
address: Hasivim 25 Petach-Tikva,Israel
e-mail: ******
admin-c: KI373-RIPE
tech-c: KI373-RIPE
tech-c: AG914-RIPE
tech-c: MH21010-RIPE
nic-hdl: DR5299-RIPE
notify: ***
changed: *** 20060921
mnt-by: AS9116-MNT
source: RIPE
abuse-mailbox: *****

% Information related to ''

descr: Golden Lines
origin: AS9116
mnt-by: AS9116-MNT
changed: *** 20050607
source: RIPE

Oooo! Paydirt! The jerk came out of Tel Aviv! And it looks like some cable TV company that has a cable modem service, or at least something like that.

Oh, but maybe not. Recall that I told you above that the bogeys bounce around the world on "hops," picking up the IP addresses of hapless, innocent servers. This IP address in Tel Aviv, Israel, might belong to nothing more than a server that was on a hop the bogey did.

Darn it! That was almost exciting. Again, though, we got nothing.

Or did we? Let's go back to that screen and have a closer look.

Check out the line that reads,

"descr: Please Send Abuse/SPAM complaints To *****"

and think about it for a second. Every server has to provide a contact for abuse complaints. That's a rule. But look at that e-mail address for complaints: ***** There's nothing in front of the '@' except for a string of "wildcard" stars, which means the e-mail address is useless. Of course, you can always simply put whatever you want in front of the '@' and send them a message: one place on the Internet shows a complaint address of Abuse[a@t]012[d.o.t]net associated with Goldenlines Ltd., which apparently owns the server from which the exploit came to us.

Nevertheless, they've made me curious.

Let's go back to the main page and run that IP through the "Abuse Lookup" utility, which should tell us exactly who the abuse contact is for the domain.

Oh, my. Here's what we get:

Location: Israel (high) [City: Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv]

Looking up at


Above are the results from, and are the E-mail address(es) that abuse complaints should be sent to.

See that blank little grey box? It's supposed to be filled with information, but it's not. Well, my goodness, gracious. Whoever runs this server is just making me curiouser and curiouser.

Let's go back to the main page of one more time and use the Spam database lookup utility. (See what I mean about that site? It's a candy store.) We put in the IP address and we get the results from requests made to 271 services concerning that IP. They pour out, row by row, telling whether or not the IP submitted is in their respective databases.

HEL-lo! Nine bright red rows. In other words, nine databases have that IP being listed for blocking or other action.


The server is a swarm node. Either it's a source, or it's so weak that half the pimple-faced loser computer geek crackers hanging out at the corner of Cheetos Street & Sleep Deprivation Avenue are popping it.

And there's no e-mail address for the complaints desk. Understand that this '012 Golden Lines" claiming the IP seems to be pretty pleased with its operations. The homepage is all in Hebrew, but they do have a company profile blurb written in English. It's the usual, self-pat on the back.

That company profile page for 012 Golden Lines is not without its irony, though. After bragging about its voice over broadband (VoB), wireless public Internet access hot spots, video on demand, and other services, we get treated to a nice brag about their " services that include the use of a personal mailbox from any computer (webmail), anti virus, anti spam ,content filtering, surfing from anywhere in the world..."


So what do we do? Well, there's the InterNIC Registrar Problem Reports Webpage, but you'll notice pretty quickly that, even though they have a complaint form you can fill out, they let you know in no uncertain terms that, no matter what your problem is, it's not their problem. In fact, those cats have this little beauty of a disclaimer:
"If you have a problem with one of the registrars, you should first try to resolve it with that registrar. Contact information for the registrars is posted at

"If you cannot resolve your complaint with the registrar, you should address it to private-sector agencies involved in addressing customer complaints or governmental consumer-protection agencies. (The appropriate agency will vary depending on the jurisdiction of the registrar and the customer.)"
Of course, if you can't track down the registrar, that makes their first suggestion sort of moot. And all those 'private-sector agencies involved in addressing customer complaints or governmental consumer-protection agencies'?—Uh, yeah. Sure. Find someone who cares; and when you do, let me know.

Okay, I shouldn't be that way. The Feds have several avenues available, but I won't give you links here. I have this thing about not being a turkey making loud turkey calls to people who might think I'm a turkey.

Don't ask me what that last paragraph meant; just leave me out of it if you're going to have law enforcement of the 21st Century be your helpmate.

In conclusion, let's run down where our little adventure got us. Ah, yes: nowhere. We know the name of the exploit that was trying to get in, and we know in a general way what it does if it makes it into a computer. We know—maybe sort of, maybe kind of—where the attack originated, but maybe we don't. In fact, to be honest, we really have no clue yet about the particulars of the festering little nodule of a human being who was responsible for launching the attack. We know that the company running the server from which the attack came our way is going to whine that there's not a damn thing man or God can do about servers being used as pass-through points for malicious Internet bogeys.

And finally, we also know that no one in the universe really cares about our tiny little problem because the Internet is an unregulatable jungle. (Note there, by the way, that I described it as 'unregulatable', not 'unregulated'.) If you were a very important person or a very reputable corporation, people would care. Law enforcement authorities tasked to cyberspace criminal exploits would work with you. But you're not that important, and neither am I.

Some of you might recall what I've said before:

It's Bill Gates's universe;
I'm just a computer program waiting for deletion to be confirmed.

Protect yourself. It's really dangerous out here in the night of this new world.

The Dark Wraith now rests.

Pole Praying

by: Konagod

First, I'm back from my trip. I had coffee and a pastry at Starbucks in Little Rock this morning and left there at 6:00 for my trip back to Austin. Once on the freeway I started scanning radio stations and hit one that was playing what sounded like alternative rock, although a sappy song. Upon closer examination of the lyrics it became obvious this was one of those Christian rock bands that are becoming more popular.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI listened until the song ended just to see what the station was up to. The two disc-jockeys, a man and a woman team, sounded like your run-of-the-mill professional morning drive time jocks until they said this: "Isn't it great to see young people kneeling and praying at a court house, or the post office, worshipping our Lord and Savior."

Interesting. I wonder if this evangelical Christian format is going to be the hot new trend in radio. Then they began encouraging listeners to participate in this "Prayer at the Pole ." At first I thought they were talking about polling places until I realized they were referring to FLAG POLES.

What would Jesus think?

I can tell you what I felt. Disgust. I listened to this for as long as I could stand it -- about 5 minutes -- and switched over until I found something more secular.

I'm not knocking this for people who are into that kind of thing. If there's a market for Christian rock music on FM radio, and DJs urging young people to pray at flag poles, more power to them. But praying at a pole? I'm fighting all kinds of humorous temptation but I shall resist.

I'll see those people at the POLL. Pray for your country. I'll vote.

crossposted at konagod

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

by: Paul the Spud

So, the big retailers got their way, and today, the first Chicago Wal-Mart opened on the west side. (Bolds mine)
CHICAGO -- Self-professed "shopaholic" Julie Edwards arrived at Chicago's first Wal-Mart store two hours before its grand opening Wednesday -- and she wasn't alone.

Lines snaked around the mega-retailer's West Side building long before it opened, filled with residents excited to welcome the store, its bargains and its jobs to the area.

"I love this store," Edwards said. "It's about time we get nice stores in this neighborhood."

Bringing Wal-Mart to Chicago was a four-year journey that pitted unions and small business owners against politicians and activists eager to bring jobs to the city's economically depressed West Side.

More than 15,000 people applied for the 400 jobs at the new store, where an estimated 98 percent of workers live in the neighborhood, said store manager Ed Smith.

So, 98 percent of the workers come from an economically depressed area. And really, I'm trying not to be a complete cynic. That does mean that there are 400 jobs in the area that weren't there before. But, I'm afraid I do have to do a little balloon bursting.


Bush & Cheney Quite Contrary

by: Gary

Bush & Cheney quite Contrary
How do your lies go?
With forked tongues
And faked intelligence,
And tall tails for all to know.

With neither Weapons of Mass Destruction,
Nor Missions Accomplished a glow.
Just terrorists a plenty
Springing from Iraq like weeds after snow.

He he.

I was having a moment there.

How does it seem possible that this team of infidels branded as Christians, heretofore known as the Bush Administration, continue to offer such blindingly arrogant lies and expect everyone to continue to believe them?

Like the damning declassification of the recent intelligence report. One can assume that if the BADministration is willing to release this info in an effort to save face, that what it is choosing to withhold is even worse!

What could be worse news to "The Decider?" Just this one line is damning to his entire rhetorical plea to trust him and the war on terror:

"The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement," the report says.

Again, if they willingly declassified this, what remains in that report that they didn't declassify? This is damning on it's own. What is left must border on the criminal.

It is time to get out the Roundup and spray the shrub and the weeds flourishing at his roots.

The march to November continues!

The Declaration of Regime Change gets louder!
26 September 2006

Put a Cork in It, Arianna

by: Dark Wraith

Arianna Huffington with a CorkAs usual, this morning Arianna Huffington sent me the links to the latest articles at The Huffington Post.

Okay, it was not she, herself, who sent me the e-mail message; it was most likely a "cron job" the server does on a 24-hour cycle, but I still feel close to the big dogs when I get those early-morning reminders that she and her crew have once again written the definitive word for progressives on the events of the day.

Most of the time, I enjoy reading the latest articles at The Huffington Post. This morning, however, Arianna irritated me. In fact, she did so to the extent that I actually posted a comment to the article. Unlike John Dean, who a few months ago chose not to publish a comment I made to one of his articles at FindLaw, Ms. Huffington's people got mine up on the board after a few hours. That Ms. Huffington will never read what I had to say to her is pretty obvious; but that she is in dire need of having her journalistic pedestal brought down just a few notches is equally obvious, at least to me.

You see, her article was about Bill Clinton: she used the occasion of the former President's ass-mauling of Fox's Chris Wallace to let everyone know that she most decidedly is not suffering—O God forbid!—the awful disease of being all Soft On Bubba. The particular beef in her stew is that, although Mr. Clinton has now endorsed Ned Lamont for the Senate race in Connecticut, he still might have... uh, you know... certain... how should I put this... ummm... tendencies.

Yeah, that's the ticket: "tendencies." Even after the primary, even after the Democrats of Connecticut had spoken, the Big Dog might still have... gawd, but this is embarrassing... Feelings For Joe.

Now, let's get something straight, here. No one who is a regular reader of mine should have any doubt that I am delighted that Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut. The man had become the poster boy for appeasement of bad, bad men and women who have for nearly six miserable years held a death grip of incompetence and mendacity on the reins of power in Washington.

At the same time, though, I'll take this opportunity for a quick side trip—a little detour for a scenic visit with that nice young Ned Lamont fellow who can get Arianna to show off her best sneer to boring old Bubba:
Sir, you'd damn well better be as good as your supporters think you are because, once a political base gets a taste for the blood of its own kind, it just might want another taste of the good stuff pretty quickly; so you'd better hope the next hunting trip we go on aims to bag a few more cowards in our midst—guys like Inouye, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Baucus, to name a few—and not you because you turned out to be a rich-boy campaigner and not a hard-working, brass-knuckles, long-haul representative of the people. In other words, Mr. Lamont, don't look all surprised when the revolution comes back to your door if you don't deliver in spades.

Having said that, godspeed to you, Ned.
Back to Arianna and me. She and some of her commenters annoyed me to no end. Proving how worthy she is of the Authentic Progressive brand label has worn thin on me; but Lord knows, I maintain decorum, even during the adversity of a Washington pundit who pumps her "blog" content promos out like the Weiner Mobile pumps out hot dogs at the ball park.

Herewith reprinted is my comment posted on the thread for that article at The Huffington Post.
It seems that the latest fashion in objectivism among some Democrats is to claim they never really liked Bill Clinton or that they somehow are enlightened enough to understand how deeply flawed he now is or was as President.

Such hubris. Such utter hubris.

Perhaps someday, someone will find a candle he or she can hold up to Bill Clinton; but that won't be today or even tomorrow. Neither the small and hateful legion of incompetence on the Right nor the faddish, "I'm so intelligent that I'm objective" on the Left could muster a jury of Mr. Clinton's peers.

I would humbly suggest we set as our single, invariant goal the destruction of the Republicans as the ruling party.

When that glad task is completed, we might want then to purge the ranks of elected Democrats, specifically addressing those who groveled cravenly to the venal agenda of this extremist Administration for the past nearly six years.

Once that noble, if brutish, work is completed, we might want to turn our attention to shouting down the secular and religious extremists who have promoted with their mouths and their money the policies of this awful Administration.

Should we be successful in those worthy endeavors, perhaps from our ranks will then have emerged someone of such stature that he or she might sit in harsh and final judgment of Mr. Clinton.

But, again, that won't happen today, nor will it happen tomorrow.

And it certainly won't happen here.

By: DarkWraith on September 26, 2006 at 09:46am

In conclusion, then, Ms. Huffington, this is the bottom line: the next time you feel the urge to start braying about the failings of former President Clinton—those during his time in office or those of his current rank as elder statesman—try your best to think long and hard about how the period from 1993 to the end of 2000 compares to the past six years. Try your best to imagine that midget we now have for a President being anything other than a lying, venal failure for the rest of his life.

And if the stunning juxtaposition of Bill Clinton against George W. Bush can't get you to shut your cake hole, then please, Ms. Huffington, just do the right thing and put a cork in it.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

This article is cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums.

2008 hopefuls Mitt and Huck pontificate on marriage

by: Pam

Choice quotes from two presidential hopefuls at the Family Research Council's "Washington Briefing" Values Voters cavalcade over the weekend...

"I don't like it when people say, 'But you're against abortion.' I say, 'No, I value life.'...I tell people I'm actually just for keeping marriage in the only manner for which it's ever been known in any culture, in any civilization throughout all of history...Dear friends, until Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain saying we've changed the rules, let's keep it like it is."
-- ordained Baptist minister, advocate of covenant marriage, governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee
Har-dee-har-har. And now, to Governor Blow Dry from Massachusetts...

"The court focused on adult rights -- they said if heterosexual couples can marry, then to have equal rights homosexuals have to also be able to marry. That court's mistake was they should have focused on the rights of children -- because marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children."

"Marriage is not an activity like gambling -- [about] which you can say, if you don't want it, it just goes on in one state or another state. Marriage is a status. If people come to a 'Las Vegas of same-sex marriage' [like Massachusetts], and then they go home, they still believe they're married. And then they represent themselves [to their community] as being married. Therefore, we have to have a federal standard that says marriage in this country is a relationship between one man and one woman."
-- Mitt Romney
By the way, The Washington Times reports that other possible presidential contenders invited, but who declined to show up and rub elbows with Dobson and Co: sHillary, John "I'll kick Swift Boat ass two years later" Kerry, Holy Joe, Bill "Cat Killer" Frist, John "The Tool" McCain.


As we've mentioned before, Mitt Romney's running into a bit of trouble with the bible beating evangelicals over his Mormon faith. Look at what recently happened to him in South Carolina. (The State):
Cyndi Mosteller, chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party, one of the largest GOP organizations in the state, came armed with a bunch of material — and questions — about the Mormon church.

The incident only underlines what could become an uncomfortable debate over Romney’s faith if he runs for the White House. The issue will be on the table in South Carolina’s early primary contest, where roughly 35 percent of GOP voters are evangelical Christians, many of whom view Mormonism with skepticism.

Mosteller, an evangelical, said she especially was concerned about the church’s attitude toward African-Americans and its stand on polygamy...She fears they could become campaign issues and hurt Republican chances. She had planned to ask the questions in an open committee session, but Romney nixed that idea by ending his short address with a final “thank you.” The governor then proceeded to meet with the media for about 15 minutes.

Enter Mosteller. Sensing trouble, Romney aides hurriedly ushered reporters out the door. Afterward, Mosteller said the governor did not answer any of her questions. She described the meeting as “very tense.”

Three men sentenced for San Diego Pride assaults

by: Pam

Justice has been served. (SignOnSanDiego):
Three men who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a series of brutal beatings after a gay pride festival were sentenced Monday to prison terms.

James Carroll, 24; Lyonn Tatum, 18; and Kenneth Lincoln, 24, pleaded guilty on Friday in San Diego Superior Court on the second day of their preliminary hearing during which they heard testimony from three victims.

Prosecutors said Carroll, Tatum and a boy assaulted six men with a baseball bat and a knife as the men were leaving the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Festival in Balboa Park on July 29.

Judge Frederick Maguire sentenced Carroll to 11 years in prison, Tatum to eight years and Lincoln to 32 months. They were immediately taken from courtroom after the sentencing.
Oscar Foster, one of the victims in the attack, was hit in the head and torso 12 times with a baseball bat. The attack was so savage, according to a doctor's testimony in the trial, almost every bone in Foster's face was broken and the victim almost died. He required reconstructive facial surgery and spent two weeks in an intensive care unit.

In an earlier post, A heartwarming letter to the editor, I put up an unhinged letter to the editor from Allyson Smith, who tried to equate the assaults to the perceived obscenities she saw at the parade. A snippet of the filth:
For days, we have been hearing from the Union-Tribune and other local news outlets about a purported "hate crime" committed by punks who assaulted homosexual men during the recent Gay Pride Festival. But there was another hate crime committed that weekend that was not reported: The hateful moral assault committed by the homosexual community against San Diegans of all ages through its degrading and indecent "pride" celebration.

...It showed its hatred of Christians by giving an award to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, drag queens who dress up like nuns and mock the Catholic Church. It exhibited its hatred toward all San Diegans by turning Balboa Park into a filthy blot on "America's Finest City." The politicians, law enforcement officials, churches, schools and businesses who participated are equally guilty of morally attacking San Diego's citizens.

While the physical assaults are deplorable and rightly to be condemned, it should not serve as a distraction from these hateful moral assaults.

The lightbulb comes on

by: Pam

This is rich (pun intended):
A noted Christian author and teacher says the "prosperity" gospel is producing self-centered church members. A recent cover article in TIME Magazine focused on the growing popularity of the gospel message that claims God wants all Christians to be healthy and wealthy.

But Ron Carlson, founder of Christian Ministries International, believes the "prosperity" message is not the true gospel. Carlson contends that a gospel that cannot be preached to every individual on the planet is a "counterfeit" gospel. "I turn on television and I see some of these preachers ... [who say] that God wants you healthy, wealthy, and prosperous," he says. "I often wonder why is it they never go to the Cambodian border or the Gulag or China and tell those Christians, 'Don't you know you're the King's kid? Don't you know God wants you healthy, wealthy, and prosperous?'"

Carlson is concerned that such teaching reduces God to a servant's role. "The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel is really a product of a Western, materialistic mentality," he says. "It's a humanistic philosophy that reduces God to be the servant of man, that man can manipulate for his own selfish gain." Carlson made his comments during a recent interview with Worldview Weekend creator Brannon Howse.
That might explain some of these good men in the pulpit:

* Kentucky pastor going to clink for bank fraud and tax evasion. Pastor Larry bought himself a Porsche and played the ponies with church funds.

* United Methodist pastor sentenced on a laundry list of charges. A jury found Hutcherson guilty in May of committing five counts of fraud, lying to federal officials and obstruction of justice. He's out as mayor and was booted as pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.

* Preacher guilty of stealing from hundreds of black churches. Abraham Kennard was found guilty in U.S. District Court on 132 counts, ranging from mail fraud to tax evasion. He ran a pyramid scheme on 1,600 churches, claimeing his company was developing Christian resorts around the country -- and bilking ministers of thousands of dollars.

Peach Pie

by: Minstrel Boy

I'm a real traditionalist when it comes to something like a peach pie. I love peaches. I love pie. I don't want a whole lot of stuff getting in the way. So I go for simple, straightforward goodness. That is when I can restrain myself from grabbing a big huge juicy peach, ripping off my shirt and gobbling it over the sink with the juice running down my chin and. . .OK, I'm going to take a breath here.

There, that's better. The first thing I do is make up enough of my favorite pie crust dough. This is the crust my Nana used on her fresh fruit pies.

For a single two crust pie. Feel free to increase the proportions at your discretion. You can't make too much of this stuff and it freezes well.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons super rich butter powder, optional* (You can usually find this at a Cake decorating store and, while optional it makes a huge taste difference)
1 cup shortening (or if you're like me and don't give a fuck use Lard)
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice water

Mix the flours and the butter powder together in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the lard (or shortening) and work until it is in pea sized nuggets.

In another bowl mix the egg, vinegar, salt and ice water until well blended. Then add this to the other stuff. Mix until the dough comes together. Separate into halves (or as many separate crusts as you intend to make) and wrap well with plastic. Refrigerate overnight.

Pie Filling:

8 peaches peeled and sliced (for the peeling do the same thing as you did when canning it should yield about 4 cups of slices)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup baker's sugar (if using canned peaches omit, but drain the peaches a little)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter (my Care package from Ireland came with butter yippee!)

Set the butter aside and mix all the filling ingredients together well. Each slice should be well coated with cinnamon, sugar and flour.

Take your crusts out of the refrigerator and on a lightly floured surface roll them out to fit your pie pans. I favor deep ceramic ones, but pyrex, glass, metal, they are all good. Put your bottom crusts in the pans and make sure there is at least an 1 1/2" overhang. Fill brimming with peaches. Dot the filling with little chunks of butter. Roll out the top crusts. I like to do about three rollout when I do this. I roll it out very thin, almost translucent, then fold it in on itself, and roll it out again. I do this to get that flakey crust all pie makers dream about. Gently lay the top crusts over the pie. Trim until it matches the overhang of the bottom crust. Pinch the top and the bottom crust together and twist your way all around the pie. When that's done take a salad fork (we may be country but we ain't barbarians) and score around the edge of the pie. Cut in vents in a star shape.

As an extra little stroke of love and genius you can mix together 2 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 egg white to brush on the top of the pie. This will give a wonderful carmelized little crunchy layer and help to give your pie a deep, sexy golden brown color.

Bake at 375° for 50 minutes to an hour. If your crust edge looks like it's getting too dark shield it with some aluminum foil. Find yourself a conspiracy theorist and steal his hat. He'll thank you for it when the pies come out.

Cool the pies completely before slicing. If you want to heat up individual slices they do fine in the microwave.

Serve a piping hot slice of this pie with vanilla ice cream and your kids will write songs about you.

Crossposted at Harp and Sword

College Republicans Act Like Assholes

by: Shakespeares Sister

Arlen at The Daily Background:

Yesterday while reading the conservative blog RedState, I stumbled across a video of College Republicans harassing a Democrat by making fun of him at a campaign event for Republican Michigan Senatorial candidate Michael Bouchard, where the Democrat was quietly videotaping Bouchard’ appearance…

The College Republicans had videotaped their immaturity and even proudly called it “harassment” and posted a video of them slapping Bouchard and DeVos campaign stickers (DeVos is the Republican candidate for Governor in Michigan) on the body and clothing of the young Democrat, who was not causing a disturbance whatsoever. Commenters over at RedState found the unprovoked harassment “hilarious” and “funny as all heck.”

…I had the foresight to recognize that this video might just be taken down by the College Republicans, after realizing how immature they had acted, and that they had admitted to harassing somebody for their political beliefs. So I used a nifty little trick to capture the video from YouTube, which does not publicly allow downloading of videos, and saved it to my hard drive.
And here it is, with Arlen’s notes:

There’s more at the link, including Arlen’s attempts to get a comment from the Bouchard campaign.

I certainly hope those College Republicans were carrying their Liberal Hunting Permits.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Bush to Reality: “Nyah nyah nyah nyah—I can’t hear you!”

by: Shakespeares Sister

President says NIE leak was political, denies Iraq has worsened terrorism. In other words, he’s the Decider, and he’s decided that Iraq hasn’t worsened terrorism, and because “we’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” that means that no matter what the NIE says, the reality is that we’re safer, bitchez.

And worry not—the President plans on declassifying the “key judgments” of the NIE to prove that he’s right. No no no, you cynical liberal traitors; he’s not cherry-picking. He’s just “directed National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to declassify those parts of the report that don’t compromise national security.”

And anyone who suggests he ought to declassify the whole thing is obviously a terrorist sympathizer. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Osama bin Democrats.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Woody, I'm Sorry To Tell You, Nothing's Changed

by: Minstrel Boy

Before I get into my recipe for peach pie I'm going to make you sit through a Woody Guthrie song. I love Woody Guthrie. He was an important voice in American music. Some of Woody was authentic, some of it he just made up. He wrote simple, direct songs that still resonate today because they speak the truth.

When Woody wrote this song he had just finished the Northern California Peach harvest. Woody and the other Dust Bowl Okies were working right alongside the illegal Mexicans. The thing was that right after the harvest, and right before payday, they rounded up all the Mexican workers (both legal and illegal) and deported them. This time, over Los Gatos, the plane caught fire and crashed killing everyone aboard.

Woody told Pete Seger that the Juan, Rosalita, and Jesus y Maria mentioned in the chorus were people he knew, worked along side of, shared food and music with and were now dead. Woody also said he cried every time he performed this song.

I wish I could tell Woody that things were better now. They aren't. So, I do what I can. I pick my own peaches. I belong to a group that keeps water stations out in the desert in the faint hope that someone won't have to die of thirst to service the insanity that they call policy. We also have had to start guarding our stations and testing the water on a regular basis to ensure that the sick racist fucks that call themselves "minute men" haven't salted or otherwise poisoned the water.

Here's the tune.

(Woody Guthrie)

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges are filed in their creosote dumps
They're flying 'em back to the Mexico border
To take all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Roselita
Adios mi amigo, Jesus y Maria
You won't have no name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportee

My father's own father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
It's six hundred miles to the Mexico border
And they chased them like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves


The skyplane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon
The great ball of fire it shook all our hills
Who are these dear friends who are falling like dry leaves?
Radio said, "They are just deportees"


Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can raise our good crops?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on our topsoil
And be known by no names except "deportees"

(CHORUS and fade) *

*performance note: I like to fade this one out by dropping instruments and voices one by one to end with a solo concertina or violin.

I deported this post back to where it came from.
25 September 2006

Canned Peaches

by: Minstrel Boy

This post was inspired by a family farmer out near Show Low. He had a gorgeous crop of peaches. Beautiful, inspired fruit. He was unable to find labor to pick this crop. Thank you all you border crawling sons of bitches. You're down here on my border screaming your racist, isolationist bullshit and a decent 4th generation farmer is going broke because you are off on some fool's errand to take focus away from Iraq, which your side fucked up beyond all repair, from the economy, which your side is selling to the Chinese for fucking counterfit yuan they are printing by the bale, from Katrina and the overall incompetence of their policies.

The farmer who grew these peaches got so frustrated and depressed that he put a box for donations by the side of the road and a sign that said "I'd rather you pick everything you can carry off than watch it rot."

I canned 30 quarts of peaches and made 8 pies. The pie recipe will come later. And, in case anyone might ask. I did leave a donation. I left what I thought was a fair market price for the fruit my son and I picked. Then I dug a little deeper and left some more.

Tom Tancredo, John Kyl, John McCain, and all these other assholes can kiss my country ass.

Two or Three pounds of peaches will fill a quart jar.

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water. (an industrial strength dishwasher will suffice as long as there is a very hot drying cycle)

Make the canning syrup and keep hot by adding 1 1/2 cups of sugar to 6 cups of very hot water. Stir until completely dissolved and clear.

Wash fruit well. Don't worry about knocking off all the fuzz because the next thing we're going to do is to peel the peaches. You'll need a great big ass put of boiling salted water and a great big bowl of ice water that has had two 500mg tablets of vitamin C dissolved in it.

Take the peaches three or four at a time and dunk them into the boiling water. Wait until the water has reached a full boil again and then remove them to the ice water bath. This will make the skin come off easily. Slice the peaches in half and remove the pits. Slice in halves, quarters or smaller slices depending on your preference. I like smaller slices where the wide edge of the peach is about 1/4".

Put the peach slices into the prepared, sterilized jars (i use Mason® but Kerr® will do in a pinch) and cover completely with hot syrup. Let stand a few minutes to make sure there is NO AIR BUBBLES IN THE JAR! Don't fuck this part up, you'll kill people. You will want a small bit of headspace in the jar between the fruit and the lid. I find that a bit more than a quarter inch is good. Wipe the rims clean, really fucking clean with a damp towel (smooth cloth, not terrycloth or paper) put the lids on tightly. Place in a canning pot of boiling water for a minimum of ten minutes. Don't cheat. 12 minutes won't hurt a goddamn thing either. But remember, minimum, 10 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and cool for twenty four hours.

Now for the moment of truth. Check your seals. Do not tighten the lids or fuck with them at all. You either have it or you don't at this stage of the game. First, press the top of the lid with a finger, if the lid springs up when you release your finger, you didn't achieve a good seal. Put this one in the refrigerator or make pies right away. Second test, tap the lid with a spoon. A dull sound mean bad seal, a ping means you got a keeper. Now, bring the jar up to eye level. The lid should be slightly concave. Peaches canned well, with a good airtight seal should last all winter if kept out of direct sunlight and away from high heat.

Nothing will brighten a winter night like some home canned peaches over ice cream. Unless of course, you have a favorite person in mind to share them with.

Finally, to anybody who thinks their goddamn misguided and plain stupid ideas for securing our borders will have any effect beyond making people more desperate and possibly violent I offer this bit of spanish wisdom. If requested I will translate in the comments section.

la cerca de quince metros, la escala de dieciséis metros y besan mi extremo mestizo.

crossposted at Harp and Sword

Do you think young voters will make a difference in the election?

by: Pam

This Reuters article, Young voters -- a wild card in 2006 U.S. elections, notes that the margin of victory will be so small in many races that the turnout of young people (18-24) could make a difference.

This is a demo group that is frequently touted about and talked about in the media (even courted with Rock the Vote campaigns), but it's a sector that simply doesn't consistently vote at the rate other age groups do. While the Reuters article points out that a record number of young folks voted, it wasn't a greater percentage of that demo than before. SFGate, in 2004:
...polls from the Harvard Institute of Politics, the Pew Research Center and MTV all predicted that that this would be the year that the long- ballyhooed youth vote would finally make a difference in the presidential race. The youth voter pool is immense -- 40.6 million Americans are between 18 and 29, comprising 1 in 5 eligible voters -- but it has rarely been a factor in the 32 years since 18-year-olds have been eligible to vote. Four years ago, just 37 percent of 18-24-year-olds voted.

But despite all the efforts, an Associated Press exit poll survey found that fewer than 1 in 10 voters Tuesday were 18 to 24, about the same proportion of the electorate as in 2000.
One significant point made in the Reuters article is that while Republicans have done a poor job of registering young people -- Dems are quite successful here, and have support in polls -- the Republicans actually turn out the votes.
A nationwide survey released this month showed young Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans by a 21-point margin, up from 19 percent in April.

That's enough to cost some Republican candidates the race, said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster who analyzed the survey taken by the nonpartisan "Young Voter Strategies." He said if young voters turn out in November in the same numbers as in the 2002 mid-term elections, they could give Democrats a 1.8 percentage point advantage, enough to sway any of several razor-tight races this year.

"We can do a better job, as Republicans, addressing the registration of the younger voters," he said.

But Democrats also face a challenge. Although they have a clear advantage in numbers, the poll shows young Republicans are more intensely loyal and likely to vote. "The Democratic base continues to need work," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake in Washington. "Young voters are not very engaged."
IMHO, about the only thing that would motivate young people to vote in much more significant numbers would be a draft. Any thoughts?

Dog Whistles

by: Shakespeares Sister

I’ve blogged about dog-whistle politics before (most recently here, with the most famous example being President Bush’s Dred Scott shout-out during the 2004 presidential debates), because I find it incredible how often Bush et. al. use the technique to send covert messages to their conservative Christian base. Ian Welsh at The Agonist has identified Bush’s much-discussed “just a comma” comment as another dog-whistle.

[T]his is another case where Bush is using code words to speak directly to his Christian right base.

The phrase is: "Never put a period where God has put a comma." Which is to say — it ain't over yet, and God may well make it better. So Iraq's bad, but if we trust in God, he'll make it better.
When I’ve written about dog whistle politics before, sometimes progressives are reluctant to believe that there’s a there there, but that’s the whole point. Only the dogs are meant to hear the whistle.

In fact, many of the times that Bush uses phrases we find completely bizarre, and chalk up to his tendency to create new words like “suiciders,” are actually dog whistles.

In his 2003 State of the Union speech, Bush listed as one of his goals “to apply the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America. For so many in our country — the homeless, and the fatherless, the addicted — the need is great. Yet there is power — wonder-working power — in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people.”

Wonder-working power? To me it sounded like he’d been reading too many comic books. To conservative Christians, it sounded like the refrain of one of their favorite hymns, There Is Power In the Blood:

There is power, power,
Wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power,
Wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

In the transcript of just about any Bush address, I could pull out a similar dog whistle. It’s no surprise he’s inserting them into interviews now, too, with the elections around the corner and reports of disaffected conservative Christian voters. When the master blows the whistle, the dogs come a-running.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

The Market Really Does Solve Everything!

by: Shakespeares Sister

U.S. to relax air travel restrictions

[Kip Hawley, head of the Transportation Security Administration, at a news conference at Reagan National Airport] said that most liquids and gels that air travelers purchase in secure areas of airports will now be allowed on planes. He called the new procedures a "common sense" approach that would maintain a high level of security at airports but ease conditions for passengers.

That means that after passengers go through airport security checkpoints, they can purchase liquids at airport stores and take them onto their planes. The new procedures go into effect on Tuesday, Hawley said.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

We Aren't Safer?! But We Could Be!

by: Gary


Do we really need an intelligence assessment to tell us that we are in fact less safe now than before the Iraq war?

No we don't.

But...It's nice to have someone official support an assertion that is so obvious to the thinking members of this country. Of course we are LESS safe! America attacked a sovereign Arab nation without provocation based on an elaborate web of lies. Not only did we attack, but we duped other nations into the fight with us (don't forget Poland).

Bush continuously says we are safer because we are attacking the terrorists over there, when in reality all we are doing is motivating ever greater numbers of terrorists-in-training.

We are not safer!

We won't be safer until the biggest target on this nation is removed from office, and that target is named George Walker Bush.

The assessment, the consensus opinion of the entire federal intelligence network, concluded that the Iraq war has fueled Islamic extremism and contributed to the spread of terror cells.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a prepared statement that the intelligence analysis "should be the final nail in the coffin for President Bush's phony argument about the Iraq war."

"Despite what President Bush says," Kennedy said, "the intelligence community has reported the plain truth -- the misguided war in Iraq has metastasized and spread terrorism like cancer around the world."
President Bush lies. He lies to me. He lies to you. And he lies to our allies.

His lies have not protected us, they have put us more clearly in the sites of terror. He has thumped his chest and dared any enemy to question him. He has created our fear, milked it and minted it with lies. He has made that fear real, not because he is protecting us, but because with every word he puts us more directly in harms way.

He is no leader. He is not a decider. He is a divider.

He is an abomination to the Declaration of Independence. He is a tumor on the butt of America. He is an enemy combatant to the Constitution. He hasn't controlled, captured, or swayed the terrorists. He has incensed, inspired, and increased the terrorists. And in my opinion, any who voted for him will share the blame the next time American blood is shed because of his failed policies. In fact, you are to blame today; for as sure as I will take another breath on this land, one of our brave American soldiers will die because of the retaliatory actions of a so-called "insurgent." Another one of "ours" will die on this day because this President lied and made him go over there and attack the innocent. Another will die because some innocent Iraqi is now a member of the terror network. We will reap what this President has sown, and we needn't an intelligence agency to prove it. All we need do is open our eyes to the world around us.

But it's not too late.

In November We the People have the power to show the terrorists that We the People are not the same as those who lead us. We can show humility by admitting our mistake. Proof will be offered by way of the most democratic of processes: a vote. If we hobble this liar by taking his legislative right-hand from him, we have the chance to prove to the terrorists that we are not all liars and crooks, and that we don't support those who are.

Vote Democrat this November if you love America. Vote Democrat if your love our fighting men and women. Vote Democrat if you have had enough of the lies. Vote Democrat if you want a different future.

It's not too late to fix this threat, but it is up to you to make the first move!

In Response, If Response Were Appropriate

by: Dark Wraith

On a recent thread at The Dark Wraith Forums, enduring and welcome commenter Wild Clover of Clover's Field asked me the obvious question:
Now, someone please give me logical and true explanation as to why gas is now under $2/gallon? The neo-con response is it is the end of summer driving, and prices always drop this time of year. But this is a 90+cent drop since the Lieberman/Lamont primary! Or since Isreal and Lebanon "quit" the shooting... both events heralded the slide.
I elevate my answer to her to an editorial post, and I do so in part specifically because I am interested in avoiding giving answers to her query. I leave it to the readers to understand why I would not want to answer a question about the current state of gasoline prices.

Hence, herewith is my response.
Good morning, Wild Clover.

It never ceases to amaze me that the mainstream media pundits find all kinds of irrelevant reasons for what happens in the world.

The truth of the matter is that, a few months ago, there were pinches in the extracted hydrocarbons supply chain. These were not all that notable; but what was notable was the violent price reactions in the futures markets for raw and, by consequence, retail hydrocarbon products.

More notable still was that I did not hear one media pundit—not one of any significance—mention the fact that some of the biggest participants in those futures markets for crude, gas, and distillates are the oil industry companies, themselves. Every last day, those corporations are in the markets hedging and playing with open positions in the billions of dollars; and lots and lots of traders—most of whom are way too smart to buck hurricane price movements—follow the herd, even when the herd is led by a bunch of bull(s).

That part of my preamble to a rant might sound good to the weary heart of a progressive person, but there's a whole lot more to the story than just the tale of a bunch of greed-driving, multi-national corporations that are, by their very presence in futures markets, affecting and maybe even manipulating gasoline prices. The rest of the story has parts with the serious potential to irritate some on the Left as well as just about everybody on the Right.

Folks, for the next five—probably ten or more—years, there's going to be plenty of oil. Major new platforms are going to be springing up, pipelines are coming online that will allow for better distribution, and we might even get our heads out of our butts and get some better refining capacity of our own lined up.

That doesn't mean there won't be problems. We are competing with aggressive, nasty cheaters: Russia is in the business of trying to exercise something that looks like monopoly control over hydrocarbons not just within its own boundaries, but all through the region. China has a history of cheating like a mo'fo' at everything it does in international trade. The Middle East will remain about as stable as a drunkard standing in a canoe to pee.

We used to be pretty good at the games, too, but we're being out-maneuvered, out-flanked, out-smarted, and out-spent everywhere we turn, these days.

In a nutshell, we are getting our butts kicked.

But "we" refers to you and me—to all of us, both individually and as a nation. Oil companies will do quite well because they're not in the business of protecting the "we" that includes you and me and all of the rest of America, and they're most certainly not in the business of protecting the "we" that includes you and me and all of the rest of the peoples, animals, plants, ecosystems, nation-state autonomies, and postulates on human rights and dignities of the world, even though it is nation-states that ensure the massive financing through the World Bank and its affiliates for their profitable ventures.

And the "we" that includes the you and me and all of those other non-corporate things and ideas? We're on our own.

And as an aside, we've gotten ourselves pretty much roundly hated just about everywhere, but that's not really the important part; what will become overwhelming to the dialogue of the future about the American economic empire is the reality in the here and now that we have lost the world's presumption of the enduring standard of our currency. It is no longer respected; and in time, just like our military might, it will no longer even be feared.

Now, don't get me wrong: it's going to be years before the dollar loses its status as the denominating currency of choice in international contracts, but the handwriting is on the wall. We've squandered our future for a few short years of butch cowboy stupidity and national financial irresponsibility; and no amount of military firepower, swaggering neo-conservatism, and vapid flag-waving is going to fix that.

We had our fun. And just for old time's sake, let's pull out a credit card for one more toy we don't need, and let's go get a mortgage for a house far beyond any semblance of basic, reliable shelter. Yes, let's do that: the Communist Chinese government has its wallet open for one more round of beggars.

Of course, among us are those who honestly do live by the maxim that enough is abundance, but no one gets to walk away clean. Unlike Jesus, who insisted He was in but not of this world, we don't get to die brutishly but with a really cool Get-Out-of-Hell-Free card. We're in and of this world, whether or not we particularly like the blood and misery it lays to our own material lives and eternal souls.

Here's the good news: it is not "we" who will pay. Most of us will be dead before the time of reckoning is upon us. If we're lucky, we shall be buried deep enough to be spared listening to what the "we" of our world's future will say of us.

Yes, for a while longer, oil will be relatively plentiful, competition for it will be fierce and nasty, and gas prices will go through spasms of economically debilitating volatility.

But there will be enough, at least for the "we" of this moment.

That's what I want to say; but I won't.

The Dark Wraith believes that sometimes it is best to let the future tell its own story.
24 September 2006

George Allen: the stale cracker, part 2

by: Pam

"Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,' He used the N-word on a regular basis back then."
-- Dr. Ken Shelton, a white radiologist in North Carolina who played tight end for the University of Virginia football team when Allen was quarterback.
The hits keep on coming for the cracker lovin' Virginia Senator, who's watching his words come back to haunt him -- again. (Salon):
Three former college football teammates of Sen. George Allen say that the Virginia Republican repeatedly used an inflammatory racial epithet and demonstrated racist attitudes toward blacks during the early 1970s.

...A second white teammate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from the Allen campaign, separately claimed that Allen used the word "nigger" to describe blacks. "It was so common with George when he was among his white friends. This is the terminology he used," the teammate said.

A third white teammate contacted separately, who also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of being attacked by the Virginia senator, said he too remembers Allen using the word "nigger," though he said he could not recall a specific conversation in which Allen used the term. "My impression of him was that he was a racist," the third teammate said.
Salon contacted Allen's Senate office, and members of his campaign for comment (email and phone), and no one has responded. One consultant to Allen hung up on a Salon reporter.

Tossing the "N" word around is one matter, but look at this hair-raising anecdote from Shelton.
Shelton said he also remembers a disturbing deer hunting trip with Allen on land that was owned by the family of Billy Lanahan, a wide receiver on the team. After they had killed a deer, Shelton said he remembers Allen asking Lanahan where the local black residents lived. Shelton said Allen then drove the three of them to that neighborhood with the severed head of the deer. "He proceeded to take the doe's head and stuff it into a mailbox," Shelton said.
Allen, who wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook photo, had a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor's office, says "he has grown since then."

Of course he said that before this bit of business came out. If it was a "youthful indiscretion" (or at this point a long list of them), then his campaign shouldn't have a problem discussing it as a matter of the past. Hanging up doesn't sound like the Allen campaign has a game plan for spinning this one.

Too damn bad.
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Oh, don't forget to catch the anecdote in the article where Allen gives Shelton the nickname "Wizard" -- after United Klans imperial wizard Robert Shelton.


* George Allen: the stale cracker

The womb control patrol escalates its battle

by: Pam

Het allies, we've been warning you that the fundies, while the homos are the whipping boy in vogue at the moment, are still working hard on its movement to control the womb and sexuality of the rest of you. It's all one big ball of wax for them that they define as "moral values." In that game, gays and anyone interested in non-procreative sex are the Satan-loving enemy.

Reproductive freedom has never been on the back burner for these folks, with the attacks on the sale of Plan B, efforts to put abortion service providers out of business, and the passing legislation allowing pharmacists not to dispense medications because of "religious principles" -- isn't it funny that these stories never seem to revolve around the Viagra? No, the fundies are focused women and gays.

In a frightening article in the Chicago Tribune, Abortion foes' new rallying point, reporter Judith Graham reveals the escalation of the fundie wars over contraception itself -- controlling women's sexual behavior is clearly the goal. If you read their bleating, birth control is a "gateway drug" to all sorts of social ills.
Emboldened by the anti-abortion movement's success in restricting access to abortion, an increasingly vocal group of Christian conservatives is arguing that it's time to mount a concerted attack on contraception.

Their voices were raised in Rosemont on Friday and Saturday at an unusual anti-abortion meeting that drew 250 people from around the nation to condemn artificial birth control. Experts at the gathering assailed contraception on the grounds that it devalues children, harms relationships between men and women, promotes sexual promiscuity and leads to falling birth rates, among social ills.

"Contraception is more the root cause of abortion than anything else," Joseph Scheidler, an anti-abortion veteran whose Pro-Life Action League sponsored the conference, said in an interview.

... "It is clear there is a major rethinking going on among evangelicals on this issue, especially among young people" disenchanted with the sexual revolution, said Rev. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "There is a real push back against the contraceptive culture now."
It should be noted that these folks are mounting a challenge to this stark reality: according to the Guttmacher Institute, 98% of sexually active women 15 to 44 used at least one method of contraception -- almost 40 million women in that age group use birth control. A Harris poll found that 91% of Americans believe couples should "have access to birth-control options."
What this boils down to is a case for "women and men having sex only within marriage and only for the purpose of procreation," said Steve Trombley, president of Planned Parenthood of Chicago, and "I don't think that's sellable in any corner of America."
Those stats, however, mean little to these zealots (or the elected officials that they've put in charge). Some quotes:
"It's time to get serious about denying Planned Parenthood funding for birth control or sex education and abortion. We need to hold them accountable for this contraceptive welfare. We have to work very carefully to keep that sword away from Planned Parenthood...Chemical contraception doesn't prevent abortions, it causes abortion," he said in an interview. "If we believe life begins at the moment of conception, we have to defend it against [this] chemical attack."
-- Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International

"When people use contraception, they're not asking themselves, do I want a lifetime relationship with this person or would this person be a good parent," Smith explains. "They're simply hooking up, typically because of sex, and sliding into marriage."
-- Janet Smith, professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit

"It's not just a side issue from pro-life, it's the core issue. Abstinence is the way to prevent abortion."
--Libby Gray Macke, director of Project Reality, an abstinence program in Illinois
How far will these people go?

Compromising Values, Honor and Integrity

by: Foiled Goil

Don't Bend Rules of War, Even if Enemy Does

The United States must hold to high standards, not give terrorists more recruiting tools...

There is something oxymoronic about the "rules of war," but the civilized nations of the world do have them. They are called the Geneva Conventions and have been around in one form or another since the 1860s, a sad recognition of humanity's history of conflict.

The United States was among nations ratifying the major update of the conventions in 1949 that covered the treatment of prisoners in reaction to the horrors of World War II.

These are the rules the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically declared this year should bind the government in its handling of suspected international terrorists. President George W. Bush wants an act of Congress to bend them, to give interrogators more latitude in the methods used to extract information from prisoners.

When dealing with an enemy that crashes planes into skyscrapers full of people and appears to delight in beheading civilians on camera, it is indeed tempting to toss the rules and bring in professional sadists.

But the United States must be better than that. Congress must ensure the compromise reached last week maintains a high standard. While the proposed law bans some specific actions as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions, it otherwise lets the president interpret the rules without further oversight. That leaves a lot of gray areas that could continue to tarnish America in the world's eyes.

To stoop to the savagery of the enemy is to sink to its level, to cede the moral high ground in the righteous war against these international outlaws and to further imperil Americans who might fall into enemy hands anywhere in an increasingly hostile world.

Few things have been more valuable for recruiting by Islamic extremists than the humiliating treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American forces at Abu Ghraib prison. What would more discourage other nations from cooperating in the fight against terror than a unilateral U.S. interpretation of the Geneva Conventions? [snip]
- - -

Powell makes sense, but too late

Colin Powell is late.

Late by weeks, late by months. Truth to tell, late by years.

"The world," he wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain last week, "is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

The eyes goggle at the word, neon obvious in its understatement. Beginning to doubt? "Beginning"?

Au contraire. Surely the world began to doubt when we barreled unilaterally into Iraq, crying "WMD! WMD!" Surely, the world began to doubt when, finding no WMD, we declared that not finding WMD didn't matter. Surely, the world began to doubt when it read headlines of our soldiers committing acts of torture at Abu Ghraib. Surely the world began to doubt when news broke of the U.S. sending alleged terrorists to countries where they could be tortured by interrogators. Surely the world began to doubt when Dick Cheney lobbied to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture. Surely the world has doubted for a long time now. [snip]

Before Sept. 11, this country whose moral authority much of the world is "beginning to doubt" was a nation whose moral authority inspired much of the world. Imperfect and even hypocritical as we often were, we were in many ways the world's moral policeman, the nation that held other nations accountable on human rights. Friends and enemies might have thought us a tad too idealistic, a bit too naive, a Boy Scout in the community of nations, but many of them admired us, too, for our simple faith in the power of right. [snip]

I don't mean to minimize the threat terrorist fanatics pose to your life and mine. But vital as it is that our lives be protected, there are things that matter more. Meaning the essential character of our nation. Experts say torture is an unreliable tool for interrogation; it often produces false confessions. But even if that were not the case, even if we had to choose between saving Americans and preserving America, it should be an easy call.

Kill me before you kill my country.

Quick Note on the Law of Unintended Consequences

by: Minstrel Boy

The New York Times

says that the war in Iraq has made the problem of terror worse. Go read the whole thing, it's only a couple of pages. Here's a very telling paragraph:
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

Wow, so instead of making us all safer by stomping the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions into mush with their jackboots they've made the problem worse?

Looks like the old "Law of Unintended Consequences" at work again. It is that mysterious force that thwarts good people trying to do good stuff for mankind. Like how the supporters of Prohibition were not trying to make bootleggers and moonshiners rich, it just happened like that. The guys leading the war on drugs weren't trying to make thugs in Medallin and Cali rich beyond imagination, it, well, it just happened. We really didn't want to send the opium growers of Afghanistan into the arms of the Taliban, but hey, the Taliban had guns, they were already shooting at us and "the enemy of my enemy" and stuff.

My personal favorite manifistation of this effect though happened right after the Civil War. There was a huge problem of ex-soldiers, many of them amputees, who were now hopelessly addicted to morphine. Science went to work. They came up with a drug that they felt would "cure" morphine addiction. It was heroin. They were right in a sense. When I started shooting heroin again after a couple years of knee and ankle surgeries it completely cured my addiction to Oxycontin. Ya listenin' Rush?

crossly posted at El Rancho Harpo
23 September 2006

I Knew This Day Might Come

by: Minstrel Boy

Regular readers (all six of you!) will remember a couple of weeks ago when there was a little dustup around El Rancho Harpo with teenage drinking and one asshole dad. If you're a newer reader, welcome, you can do some catching up here if you're so inclined.

I went to my regular AA meeting here in my little town this morning at ten. I'm sitting, off in a corner having a cup of coffee, when who should walk in but the guy that had bought the beer for the kids in the first place.

He takes about two steps inside the door and stands there holding his "court card" which is a record of AA meetings attended. They are usually given out by treatment programs mandated by the court system. We get a lot of folks walking through the meetings that have those. Some people complain about it, how it degrades the quality of the meetings by filling them with people who don't want anything we have to offer and are just marking time. I take a slightly different view. I am all in favor of not allowing people to highjack a meeting or misbehave, but I have noticed that the people who get sent in on a mandate from the legal system have about the same rate of recovery as anybody else. I figure, hey, if they're in a meeting with us for an hour, let's make the best of it.

So homeboy's standing there looking around the room, not recognising a soul when he sees me. He turns a little pale and is looking like he's about to bolt. I get up and go over to him, offer my hand to shake and say "Must be a real bitch to go somewhere and I'm the only one you know." He mutters some stuff. I show him where the coffee is, introduce him to some other people and go back to where I was.

The meeting starts and since it's in a small town there aren't a whole lot of us there. We go around the room and introduce ourselves. It gets to homeboy and he tells us his name and says "but I'm not an alcoholic, my lawyer is making me come here." That's cool with me too. When it's my turn I say that I wasn't an alcoholic when I first came to AA either. I was firmly convinced that it was somehow more sophisticated and glamorous to be a junkie. And again, since this is one of four meetings that happen in town during the week, I figure it's cool to not do anything to rattle the cage. If he wants to give sobering up a try he deserves every chance in the world to make a success of it.

He launches into his version of the events that got him into trouble and has managed to rationalize a lot of it to where he is a victim of government oppression and creeping fascism where the police state has intruded on people's right to raise their children as they see fit. Oh yeah, I'm the self righteous asshole who called the cops rather than face him like a man.

After the meeting I go over and ask him if my being in the meeting makes him uncomfortable. He says no. I tell him that if it ever does to please let me know and I can easily find another spot to get a meeting in. I also tell him that the D.A.'s office has contacted me about his case and that I will testify in court if they ask it of me. He mutters something hostile and I walk away.

I remember what it was like to be newly sober and totally fucked.

crossposted to El Rancho Harpo

A Political Circus as Big as Texas

by: Konagod

We have an interesting race on our hands down here -- the outcome of which will determine the next governor of Texas.

Meet the key players:

Carole Keeton Strayhorn - Independent
Rick Perry - Republican
Chris Bell - Democrat
James Werner - Libertarian
Kinky Friedman - Independent

Things have begun to simmer with remarks by Kinky Friedman deemed racist by many.

The Burnt Orange Report has done quite a job reporting on the antics. You can check that out here and enjoy a Kinky audio clip of this:
Then I come down to Houston, I went to a bowling alley. I couldn't go bowling, there were no bowling balls. The people here throw 'em all in the sea, thought they were nigger eggs...thought they were nigger eggs.

Although Friedman claims to have been holding up a mirror at racism, it sounds more like something I might say when I'm drunk and listening to Pimp C. Or this:
Friedman said he would put sexual predators in prison and "make them listen to a Negro talking to himself."

There's more in the Houston Chronicle with Kinky's response to the recent negative publicity:
"When somebody bucks the ... two-party system like this, the system punishes them and it tries to ruin their reputation and assassinate their character," said Friedman, who added that he would "never" apologize as requested by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People because he doesn't think he's done anything wrong.

Poor Kinky doesn't need any help with assassination of his character; he's taking care of that quite nicely. I do find the guy humorous and entertaining though. He also has the best website of all the candidates.

Not long ago, our incumbent governor, Rick Perry seemed a safe bet to win the race. As we edge nearer to election day, such certainty will hopefully fade. We deserve better. Whoever wins will likely do so with around 30% of the vote.

You'd think, with 5 candidates on the ballot, there would be one I could be excited to support. Sadly, there's isn't. Carole Keeton Strayhorn is an ex-Democrat turned Republican who has now turned Independent. Rick Perry is also an ex-Democrat turned Republican. Many on the political right are dissatisfied with Perry's record during the past 6 years, particularly those opposed to and affected by the Trans Texas Corridor. I know absolutely nothing about Chris Bell other than what I read on his website today.

What we have is a potential free-for-all and the results will be interesting, as will the next six weeks leading up to the election. I'm expecting a wild ride with a disappointing outcome.

A recent Survey USA poll showed Perry with 35 percent of the vote, Bell and Friedman with 23 percent, and independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn with 15 percent.

crossposted at konagod

A cavalcade of wingnuts descends on DC

by: Pam

A Who's Who of AmTalibannery is gathered for the Family Research Council's "Washington Briefing" (Thurs-Sun) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in DC. If only the earth would open up and swallow this crew:

Tony Perkins, Don Wildmon, Gary Bauer, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Dr. James Dobson, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Maggie Gallagher, Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Bishop Wellington Boone, enator George Allen, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Brent Bozell, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill Bennett, Sen. Rick Santorum, Paul Weyrich, Rev. Herb Lusk, Dr. Richard Land, Tony Perkins, Katherine Harris, Tony Snow.

Take a look at a couple of the breakout sessions:
* Impacting the Culture through the Church
(featuring black homobigots Herb Lusk, of Greater Exodus Baptist Church and Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church)

* In Defense of Mixing Church and State from Acts 16 (Rick Scarborough, President, Vision America)

Today a featured session was "The Preservation of Traditional Marriage," a panel with homo-obsessed Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Professor and columnist on the Bush payroll Maggie Gallagher. Some of Marilyn's bloviating (a transcript of her diatribe landed in my inbox -- thanks Andy). A snippet of the insanity:
Colorado Rep. Marilyn MusgraveAs we face the issues that we are facing today I don't think there's anything more important out there than the marriage issue. And I've been a pro life activist most of my adult life. I care very deeply about the sanctity of life. But this issue that's in front of us today is critically important. I am amazed when I hear Robby George speak and Maggie and I hang on every word they say. And I believe that thing that Robbie said recently when he was talking to members of Congress about how if we have gay marriage our religious liberties are gone.
I'm sure that Colorado voters don't think marriage is their obsession, and that's why Marilyn's looking in the rear view mirror as Dem challenger Angie Paccione is bearing down, about to run her over in the race. You can almost feel the flop sweat in this closing bleating after the flip.


NAFTA (again)

by: Jersey Cynic

A few posts down (Oh Canada) I did say I was not going to bring up NAFTA -- SPP -- NAU -- NASCO, etc.. anymore. Before I do close the NAFTA issue completely, I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts about the lack of reporting on these 'secret' committees and 'secret' meetings. According to Joseph Farah, founder of the conservative rag World Net Daily, they are the ones that uncovered all of this. Mr. Farah asks Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, what he knows about the NAFTA superhighway:

"There's nothing I'm aware of in any authorization bill. I don't know where these things get started. This is one of those blogosphere things that makes you wonder what's going on."

Now, given that Roberts made an allusion to the Internet in this response, I get the feeling he knows precisely where this thing got started – right here at WND. This is not the blogosphere, however. This is WND, one of the largest news sources on the Net.

This is not a rumor.

This is not conjecture.

This is not conspiracy mongering.

This is simple reporting of what is public information on the public record.

Here is Mr. Farah's full commentary.
(doesn't he look like Bobby Badfingers?)

I just can't help wonder what rush bimbo's buddy, Mr. Farah, is up to with this constant reporting of NAFTA, etc.... and why is he one of the few "news sources" doing so?

I guess I'm just looking to file this topic under FARCE, once and for all... so whattaya think....file it?
22 September 2006

Borders are a pain in the butt

by: Konagod

Take a look at these three rivers.

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Aren't they all beautiful? I've always loved rivers. I've also always been impressed by the fact that you can cross some rivers and be in another state (political boundary). Or another country (political boundary). However, it is illegal to cross one of the rivers pictured (I won't tell you whether it's A, B, or C) . You must cross at an approved facility and have your paperwork in order. The white man says so.

Sometimes, I confess, I despise boundaries.

You know those brown skinned people who keep trying to cross our border and we call them illegal immigrants?

Well. Let me set the record straight. We white people are the immigrants. And we black people, for the most part, are the (involuntary) immigrants.

That little river down there we call a "border?" That little stream was never a "border" until whitey arrived. Prior to us, that was just another river, not unlike the Little Missouri.

Suddenly the white man made it a border with his artificial boundaries and now everyone sneaking across it, as well as the "line" across the deserts of California, Arizona, and New Mexico) has been declared an "illegal immigrant."

I am the descendant of illegal immigrants.


Scene from El Rancho Harpo (featuring my 10 year old piano playing niece)

by: Minstrel Boy

Schoolday afternoons out here at El Rancho Harpo are fun because my niece stops by on her way home from school to practice the piano. She loves my piano. Even though I am not a piano player I have a very nice one. It's an old german Bosendorfer Parlour Grand (that's a bit smaller than a baby grand) with mother-of-pearl white keys and real ebony black keys. She says she likes the way the keys feel, and playing a grand makes it all seem more real to her. She loves it when we raise the top.

But that's not what this is about. She was over yesterday and while she was in the music room practicing I was in the kitchen with MSNBC on. She finished and came out with me to have a snack before her dad came over to pick her up. They were going over the controversy stirred up by the Pope, the reaction of the muslims, and then Hugo Chavez and his "devil" remarks.

This wonderful 10 year old girl said to me "Why are all these people doing this?"

I asked her if her mother had ever told her about the imaginary friends she had when she was growing up. They were called Wendy and Bigga. She said yes. I told her when I was a little boy I too had an imaginary friend named Bobby Kallapido. Then I said "Imagine that your mother and I decided to start a war over who had better friends."

She said "That would be silly."

I agreed.

I went down to the crosspost, tried to beg a ride....

God Bless America and the Almighty Dollar

by: Missouri Mule

A neighbor told me her brother had reenlisted in the Army and had gotten a $45,000 bonus. Whoa, Nellie! So I decided I would call the recruiters in Jefferson City and see how much they would pay me to join up. I told them I was 20 years old, one year of college and wanted to join so I could go to school on the GI bill when I got out.
I called the Navy recruiter. He said if I would join for six years he would give me $40,000 and they would pay me $37,274 for my college when I got out. I asked them how much they would pay me each nonth. They said I would start out at $1178 a month, then after four months I would be E-3 and receive $1278 a month. An E-2 in the Army is still a private. So I asked what I would make as an E-3 which in the Army is a Private First Class and he replied $1501. Not bad but I thought I should call the Army and the Marines and see if they could beat the Navy's offer. I didn't tell the Navy recruiter that the minute I set foot on a ship get seasick and start throwing up.
The Marines wouldn't offer me anything to join but after I had proved myself they would give me $8000 to re-up at the end of my tour. Forget that. I then called the Army recruiter. He said he would guarantee me $25,.000 to $40,000 bonus depending on what job I signed up for. I told him I wanted whatever paid the $40,000 bonus and he said that would be Patriot Missile technician. And not only that, they would pay 100 percent of my tuition and I could be a full-time student while still in the Army. This could amount to up to $72,000 of tuition benefits.
I didn't confess to the recruiter that I'm not in good health, and too long in the tooth. I did, however, tell him that thanks to the information I had a better understanding of how they could recruit young, naive, and disenfranchised men and women from East Jesus. Long Suffering wanted me to call them back and ask where to send the bill for his "bonus" for the spending two years in Vietnam.

21 September 2006

The Fact That We Are Debating This At All Makes Me Sick

by: Minstrel Boy

That, in a nutshell, is my position on the whole torture, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, wiretapping, and every other liberty and right a bunch of frightened cowards have chosen to trample in their endless War on Terror.

I have tried being pragmatic, talking about how torture simply does not work. If your goal is to produce valid, actionable intelligence, you will not be torturing people. If you're a sick, twisted piece of shit who enjoys inflicting pain to make yourself feel omnipotent and stuff put on some leather chaps and chains, go to a bar where people think that kind of thing is sexy, hire a pro, and have at it. If you want to save the lives of our men and women out there on the fields of battle, you need to get the truth. Truth does not spring from torture. Even in the cases where almost by accident some bits and snips of truth fall to the floor of the torture dungeon they are surrounded by fantasy and lies which are produced by somebody in unimaginable torment in the vague hope that this will somehow fucking stop.

I have seen torture. I have seen it on the battlefield where the "ticking time bomb" was no mere philosophical conceit. I have seen wounded, frightened prisoners, bound and helpless in a group as an interrogator with a pistol in his hand shot the first one without so much as an acknowledgement that this was ever a human being. The next one was shot because the interrogator (an ARVN "officer") didn't like the look on his face. The third victim was crying when the torturer stood in front of him. He was the first one to be asked a question. It was a simple "How many of you are there?" He was too frightened to respond, he was choking on the snot and blood from his cut lip. He was pistol whipped and the question was asked again. Again, there was not an acceptable or understandable response. This might have be a result of his jaw now being broken too, but he might have been a hardened communist, that implacable foe we were all supposed to fear. The fourth prisoner didn't wait to be asked any questions, he told the man with the pistol that he was a member of the 4th NVA division, the name of the commander, the name of his lieutenant and where he had last seen all his comrades two days ago when they had been dropped off and told to hold their position in the city of Hue. I thought that this was going to be the end of the session. I was wrong. The man that just gave that information was shot in the kneecap. It kept going on. I couldn't watch anymore. When I was finshed thowing up I returned to my unit and told them that there was nothing to do here.

I asked my immediate superior why we were turning prisoners over to the ARVN. We knew full well what was going on. The VC shot on the street in Saigon in the famous picture got off easy. I was reminded that I was the only person in my unit that spoke enough Vietnamese to do more than find the nearest whorehouse and haggle over the price. Every time I brought things like that up I was told that if I wanted to become a full time interrogator that a billet would be found.

There was a successful intelligence program that worked very well in the south. It was called "Chu Hoi" which means "open arms or welcome home." The basic idea was to take a VC or NVA and tell them that if they gave up information that would be of use to us in an immediate, verifiable context we would take them away from all of this, give them a ticket to the big PX and make sure they had enough cash left over to open themselve a liquor store in Orange County. If you have ever eaten noodles in Garden Grove, had your nails done, or conducted business with a Vietnamese American in that area chances are you might have been dealing with someone who was a communist until the moment he was offered that deal. I have. They are some of the finest Americans I know. Usually once the words came out of the mouth of the interrogator there were no more communists in the room. The biggest problem that the Chu Hoi program faced was that it was no fun for the sadistic shitheels that were used to going to bed at night with a long lullaby of screams.

There are reasonable, veteran politicians who are right now sitting this out. They are perfectly content to watch the Republicans debate the finer points of torture and what is or isn't allowed.

I am officially and completely all out of fucking reasonable. Understand? TORTURE IS WRONG. WE SHOULD NOT FUCKING DO IT AT ALL. The fact that we are having this debate at all means that we have already lost far more than was ever imagined when the planes hit the towers. An analogy I used on an open thread at the Dark Wraith Forum was that it is akin to having to explain to teenagers that the acceptable way to dispose of unwanted puppies does not involve throwing them out of a speeding pick up truck at highway signs. The fact that you have to explain this kind of thing at all implies a high level of failure is already in place. The fact that the president has gone before the nations of the world and defended his policy of torture and cruelty shames us all. Maybe we deserve to lose this fucking war too.

Crossposted at Harp and Sword

Bill O’Reilly: Brave Little Soldier

by: Shakespeares Sister

In a journalistic handjob that would sooner win an AVN Award than a Pulitzer, ABC News profiles Bill O’Reilly, who has deemed himself in his latest book a “Culture Warrior.” Or, for those who are cheap with the syllables, a “T-warrior,” short for “Traditional Warrior.” ABC, happy to oblige his fantasies of service and self-sacrifice, and carrying on the military jargon that conservatives so love, describes O’Reilly as having served “tours of duty in the more conventional news departments of CBS and ABC” before he went on to become Generalissimo Bill on The O’Reilly Factor, fighting a “war” he helped create and perpetuates on a nightly basis: the war he describes as “pitting traditional Americans—those who believe the United States is noble—against those who are secular progressives and believe the country is fundamentally flawed.”

"It's the traditionalists who really want to keep the country pretty much the way it is," O'Reilly said. "Against the secular progressives who want drastic change. … They control the media."
Says the man being profiled on ABC’s 20/20.

Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches, he can resemble a formidable culture warrior at times.

He even calls himself, "T-Warrior," short for "traditional warrior."

When "20/20" pointed out that he had one of the loudest voices in the media, O'Reilly said he and his fellow traditionalists were outnumbered and had been since the days of Walter Cronkite.
O’Reilly took issue with Cronkite after he found out he was a “real radical left guy” (the concept of being objective regardless of one’s political leanings being ungraspable for the likes of O’Reilly). Until then, he’d thought Cronkite was “fair,” but finding out about his personal political leanings sent O’Reilly on a crusade against the media—apparently, by becoming a part of it, though he continues to speak about “the media” as if he is somehow separate from it, in spite of hosting a daily television show, a daily radio show, and being a published author.

20 September 2006

Jeff Gannon gets the ax

by: Pam

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...the Blade kicked him to the curb. (Media Bistro, h/t Ablog):

Jeff in the good old butch Bulldog days. And today.

Following Executive Editor Chris Crain's departure from The Washington Blade, the paper chose Kevin Naff as his replacement this week. One of Naff's first decisions was to sever ties with columnist Jeff Gannon.

We spoke with Naff:
I made the decision...Basically, my concern is that he has a huge credibility problem, for obvious reasons, and if a member of my staff lied about their identity, lied about their name, lied to their editors, lied to their sources, I would fire them. I wouldn't publish them.

And this has nothing to do with his political beliefs. Our oped pages will always be open to members of the community of all political stripes. I will be reaching out to different conservative voices to get those folks inside the paper...Their views will be reflected in our pages, but I just think we can find better people to represent those views.

Why the political closet costs us our rights

by: Pam

McGreevey opposed gay marriage to hide own homosexuality. He's just one of many closet cases, Dem and Republican, that we all know are out there, casting votes against marriage (or any gay civil rights measures) for fear of drawing attention to their own tortuous battle within.
"I did not want to be identified as being gay, and it was the safe place to be," McGreevey said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I wanted to embrace the antagonist. I wanted to be against it. That's the absurdity."
It's not absurd, really -- it's dangerous. People who cannot think clearly about their own sexuality in this vein have no business deciding for those of us who have reconciled that truth what our rights should be.

That's the price we have been paying for the political closet, where politicians and lobbyists have personal demons that manifest themselves in virulently anti-gay voting records and advocacy and off-hours cruising. Look at former Virginia Congressman Ed Schrock from an earlier post (after the flip)...


Desperate measures: GOP drops cash on MO-SEN

by: Waveflux

Missourians, fetch your hip waders:

MO-SEN: National GOP Dumps Nearly A Million Bucks Into Race

This race is getting hotter. The National Republican Senatorial Committee just plunked down nearly a million bucks to target Claire McCaskill, the Dem challenger to increasingly endangered GOP Senator Jim Talent. Records just filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the NRSC yesterday dumped $836,379 into the race, almost all of it for ads. Get ready for slime time.

Talent is desperate. He spent a big chunk of money on early TV ads and all he got for it was a slight bounce that soon went flatter than a dead possum. The most recent Rasmussen poll shows McCaskill having taken a three point lead over Talent, a neat reversal of their standings back in August. This race is still incredibly close, but we've seen now that more money isn't going to help Talent. It can only help Claire.

(Thanks to Josh Marshall and the TPM Cafe crew. Cross-posted.)

It’s about moral values, people!

by: Shakespeares Sister

Unfortunately, this one isn’t from The Onion, but the WaPo:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist signaled yesterday that he and other White House allies will filibuster a bill dealing with the interrogation and prosecution of detainees if they cannot persuade a rival group of Republicans to rewrite key provisions opposed by President Bush.

Frist's chief of staff, Eric M. Ueland, called the dissidents' bill "dead."
Which is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s only been water-boarded within an inch of its life so far.

Frist is unhappy with the bill proposed by Republicans John Warner, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham because they believe that asserting compliance with the Geneva Conventions as long as CIA interrogators don’t engage in “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment of detainees is rooted in language too vague, and could not only give too much leeway to our interrogators, but also “invite nations to interpret the Geneva Conventions is lax ways that could lead to abusive treatment of captured US troops.” They’ve also had the temerity to suggest that the president’s desire to ensure detainees can be convicted with secret evidence they’re not allowed to see for themselves is a fat load of horseshit. (I might be paraphrasing.) Basically, Warner, McCain, and Graham are being vaguely empathetic and logical, so Frist no likey.

Frist struck a more jarring tone, telling reporters that the trio's bill is unacceptable despite its majority support.

For a bill to pass, Frist said, "it's got to preserve our intelligence programs," including the CIA's aggressive interrogation techniques, and it must "protect classified information from terrorists."
Translation: We need to be able to torture people, bitchez! Compassionate conservatism, baby.

As Hilzoy notes: “After all sorts of unspeakable bills have passed the Senate under his leadership, here is where Bill Frist is finally going draw the line: he will not allow limitations on the administration's ability to torture people, or to violate treaties our country has solemnly sworn to abide by. Making it illegal for CIA officials to keep people standing for 40 hours, or to hold them in rooms cooled down to 50 degrees while dousing them with water, or to deprive them of sleep, even when a pretty impressive array of intelligence officials say that these techniques don't work, and an even more impressive group of retired generals say allowing them would put our soldiers at risk: that's just too much for him to swallow.”

That’s because he’s a Real Man, whose objectivity hasn’t been compromised by actually serving in the military, unlike those pussies Warner, McCain, and Graham. Mmm, I love the smell of gorilla testosterone in the morning.

Except…Frist isn’t even just a hardcase with a brain of mush and a heart of stone. If he could truly, genuinely just not abide even the mere thought of “softness” (as speciously defined by pants-wetting chickenhawk warmongers), that would be one thing—a contemptible position to be sure, but at least he’d be a loathsome shit with integrity. Instead, he’s just pandering (via), as per usual.

“This very definitely is going to put a chilling effect on the tremendous strides [McCain] has made in the conservative evangelical community," said the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, one of several conservative activists who support Bush's proposal on interrogation techniques.
There you have it. The Traditional Values Coalition supports torture—and anyone who doesn’t risks the ire of the conservative evangelical community, that self-proclaimed beacon of unassailable moral rectitude, who pray to a savior who, when facing certain torture and eventual death, fell to his knees on the Mount of Olives and prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

His fear forgotten, now torture is a traditional value. And Frist, whose only principle is Whatever It Takes and who worships none and nothing but Power, is all too willing to accommodate, to accept the new definition of values as he remakes America in the image of the least American among us.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Winner of the Pointless, Infuriating Twaddle Award

by: Paul the Spud

Attention gay men: You all look exactly like this.

I'm really in the wrong profession. Why am I working so hard for my Master's degree when I could simply write bang out some complete, utter horseshit and get paid to do it? Case in point: this totally fucking ridiculous article from the ABC news website, "Gay Stereotypes: Are They True?"

(Hint: If there's a yes/no question in the title, it's a good bet that the answer is "Hell, yes.")

I'm wondering why in the hell they bothered writing, not to mention printing, this nonsense in the first place. I just find it simply preposterous that after decades of fighting for increased acceptance, equality and visibility, there are people that still behave as if gay people stepped off a flying saucer from planet Limpwrist early this morning, and they have to somehow understand this bizarre new species!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this epitome of stupidity is penned by none other than John Stossel, ingoramus par excellence. Apparently, writing this tired, hackneyed flapdoodle was too much of a daunting task for he of the mighty moustache; it took another writer, Gena Binkley, in order to crayon-scribble something this colossally dumb. (All emph. mine)


Let's Trash Ted!

by: Jersey Cynic

From Editor & Publisher... Ted Turner says the media, especially in the US, should work harder to cover all parts of the world honestly and intelligently...AND Ted even said some nice things about women, --"men should be barred from public office for a hundred years in every part of the world." and -- As for women: "If we had women holding all the public offices, the amount of money on the military would be immediately cut way back and more would be spent on healthcare and education," Turner said. "There wouldn't be lack of family planning or birth control if the women ran things."

SO, maybe I should cut him some slack? (I just hope he didn't say those nice things about women with that TT smirk on his face)

And maybe he DOES put his money where his mouth is. I understand he has put up a lot of $$ for The United Nations and (their) causes around the world!

And....Turner expressed his hope that the next U.S. President would be a "great leader who thinks ahead, like Al Gore." He suggested the audience help convince Gore to run because "we can't afford to waste another eight years."

I'm starting to like this guy! -- how about you?

OK TED -- Don't you own a couple of TV Networks?
How about you turn TNT into a 24/7 "honest and intelligent" news source with the likes of Olberman, Stewart, maybe a special blog segment? Let the women run the show. Sponsor Al Gore for President. SHIT! Just imagine......

COME ON TED! Help us out here Cowboy! You could round up quite a posse!!

UPDATE:Here is the full story from Reuters. He also said:

"...It would be a much kinder, gentler, more intelligently run world. The men have had millions of years where we've been running things. We've screwed it up hopelessly. Let's give it to the women."

(Jane learned him well!)

The Myth of "Clean & Green" Nuclear Power

by: Konagod

Just how "clean" is nuclear energy?

I'll cite this example from the February 2005 issue of Wired titled: "Nuclear Now! How clean, green atomic energy can stop global warming."

After some 20+ paragraphs extolling the virtues of atomic energy, we finally are given a small hint:

What's still missing is a place to put radioactive waste.

Now, check out this piece from the NY Times today regarding the Feed Materials Production Center, a uranium-enrichment facility in Fernald, Ohio.

From the time it opened in 1951 until it closed in 1989, the Feed Materials Production Center in Fernald enriched 500 million pounds of uranium, 67 percent of all the uranium used in the nation’s cold war nuclear weapons program.

The center also created 1.5 billion pounds of radioactive waste. It operated in obscurity until 1985, when neighbors discovered that the plant’s waste had polluted their air, soil and drinking water.


When a Server Gets Hosed

by: Dark Wraith


The recovery of Big Brass Blog from a server-level problem is now complete.

I think.

The Dark Wraith has just returned from Hell.*

*(It sort of looked like America under the Bush Administration, except the torture victims got coffee breaks.)
19 September 2006

More on boobies

by: Pam

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Nothing like some boob envy or boob hating to make your day. While the big dust up over minority representation at the Clinton lunch was going on, there was a ridiculous and insulting (and quite frankly unhinged) column by Ann Althouse over Jessica at Feministing's pose in the notorious blogger photo that caused its own kerfluffle (see here, here, here). Jessica is in the front row in the gray shirt.

My comment: All I know is, I hope I'm not in any pix if I ever do get invited to such an event, because the boobie patrol will have way too much to deal with.

Jessica has decided to make lemons out of lemonade, or, to be more accurate, a T-shirt out of the gigantic boobie-hating dustup. BTW, 20% of the profits from T-shirt sales will go to Breast Cancer Action.

MadKane has a limerick:
Ode To Ann Althouse

Poor Ann Althouse! Jessica Valenti looked discernibly female in a blogger group photo with Bill Clinton, and Ann is aghast, appalled, and dismayed!

Ode To Ann Althouse
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Some bloggers are easily shocked
When gal lefties don't look like they're jocks.
Poor Ann can't abide
When such women don't hide
Their endowments beneath frumpy smocks.

More on the brouhaha from these folks: Pandagon, Feministe, Echidne, Emboldened, Broadsheet, Lawyers, Guns and Money, Booman Tribune, Feminist Law Professors, Ilyka Damen, Eschaton, The Mahablog, TGW, Steve Gilliard, The Heretik, Majikthise.
18 September 2006

'Jesus Campers' worship pic of Dear Leader

by: Pam

Can The Rapture happen already? I'm tired of these people and ready for them to get the hell out of here and leave us all the flip alone.

The documentary Jesus Camp is in theaters now, and it's a good look at the evangelical camps for kids that are creating the AmTaliban of tomorrow.

How unhinged are they? Well, I would put bowing before a photo of George W. Bush as a deity as a sign that someone needs to fast-forward the Rapture to n-o-w.


Religion in the Blogosphere

by: Konagod

Yesterday's post ("Sunday Sermon") was inspired by David at Quaker Agitator. It makes me positively livid when someone on our side is ridiculed if not verbally attacked simply because of their religious faith.

Today I've learned that David is shutting down his blog. At least he's leaving us with a fine rant:

But there is one thing I can agree with my conservative friends on: the Left wing of the "blogosphere," the folks who call themselves tolerant and open-mnded and "progressive" - some of them - are amongst the most abusive, intolerant folks I have ever dealt with. Patronizing, sneering, dismissive, smirking, condescending, mean-spirited, insulting.
I'm tired of it.

And when does this happen? Whenever I mention God or my faith. Which is why I started this blog in the first place.

This country is a mess, friends. It is on the road to ruin. The time has come, and the opportunity is here, I believe, for a new progressive movement to re-establish progressive values as the basis for a better America. I think the Left has that much to offer. That includes people of faith on the Left, by the way. Or it could. Progressives have the brains, the energy, and the ideas. And this medium gives us all a useful tool to organize, to educate, to agitate. And what do we do with it? Well, some of us - too many of us - use it to insult and abuse those with whom they should be joining hands, locking arms, and getting down to work.

The timing of this is unfortunate as I made a decision this morning to begin compiling a list of blogs by people of faith who are working their butts off for us. I'm sorry that the list is now shorter by one within 2 hours after embarking on the project.

What do you get when you mix a rich Iranian/American woman with a US and Russian space crew?

by: Jersey Cynic

You get The First Female Space Tourist

Well, all I can say is: Good for you lady! It must be nice.....
Hey, don't get me wrong; the idea of space travel is cool! I understand there are a lot of benefits to space exploration -- it really is amazing when you think about it. Who knows, maybe if I had an extra 20mil, I'd check it out too. I should be excited for her. She's worked (studied) hard all her life. Her family had to leave their country after the Islamic revolution -- in part because "the opportunities for a young girl to study science were becoming limited there."

Ansari said she expected seeing Earth from space would alter her view of the planet. "You'll see how small and how fragile the Earth is compared to the rest of the universe," she said. "It will give us a better sense of responsibility." (REALLY! -- is that what it takes?)

Well, she "hopes to inspire girls in her homeland to study science". EXCELLENT!! You go girl! I agree, we need more woman scientists -- we need more women everywhere!

Actually I can think of 20 million better ways she could have helped the women in Iran.

What do you think?
17 September 2006

Welcome To Limbo

by: Foiled Goil

In the few short years since the first shackled Afghan shuffled off to Guantanamo, the U.S. military has created a global network of overseas prisons, its islands of high security keeping 14,000 detainees beyond the reach of established law. [snip]

Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were "mistakes," U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross. [snip]

But dozens of ex-detainees, government ministers, lawmakers, human rights activists, lawyers and scholars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States said the detention system often is unjust and hurts the war on terror by inflaming anti-Americanism in Iraq and elsewhere. [snip]

Human rights groups count dozens of detainee deaths for which no one has been punished or that were never explained. The secret prisons — unknown in number and location — remain available for future detainees. The new manual banning torture doesn't cover CIA interrogators. And thousands of people still languish in a limbo, deprived of one of common law's oldest rights, habeas corpus, the right to know why you are imprisoned. [snip]

Questions of Law, Sovereignty

President Bush laid out the U.S. position in a speech Sept. 6.

"These are enemy combatants who are waging war on our nation," he said. "We have a right under the laws of war, and we have an obligation to the American people, to detain these enemies and stop them from rejoining the battle."

But others say there's no need to hold these thousands outside of the rules for prisoners of war established by the Geneva Conventions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared last March that the extent of arbitrary detention here is "not consistent with provisions of international law governing internment on imperative reasons of security."

Meanwhile, officials of Nouri al-Maliki's 4-month-old Iraqi government say the U.S. detention system violates Iraq's national rights.

"As long as sovereignty has transferred to Iraqi hands, the Americans have no right to detain any Iraqi person," said Fadhil al-Sharaa, an aide to the prime minister. "The detention should be conducted only with the permission of the Iraqi judiciary."

At the Justice Ministry, Deputy Minister Busho Ibrahim told AP it has been "a daily request" that the detainees be brought under Iraqi authority. [snip]

Another released prisoner, Waleed Abdul Karim, 26, recounted how his guards would wield their absolute authority.

"Tell us about the ones who attack Americans in your neighborhood," he quoted an interrogator as saying, "or I will keep you in prison for another 50 years."

As with others, Karim's confinement may simply have strengthened support for the anti-U.S. resistance. "I will hate Americans for the rest of my life," he said.

Full article: U.S. War Prisons Legal Vacuum For 14,000

Sunday Sermon

by: Konagod

When I was growing up in a small delta town, the only religious conflicts I ever experienced were between the Methodists and the Baptists. Sometimes even the Methodists couldn't get along with one another. It would also have been easy to conclude that black folks didn't go to church.

My town had a First United Methodist Church. It really wasn't large enough for two Methodist churches but my father started one anyway. Located on the outskirts of town, my church was smack-dab in the middle of what was then (and by some, even now) known as "colored town." At least that's what the really nice people called it. I won't bore you with some of the other names.

When I was very young it struck me as somewhat odd that so many black families lived around our church but none ever attended. After I was older it was easier to understand why. I vaguely recall one of my parents explaining the reason to me.

"They aren't like us. They don't worship like us."
(and we don't really want them among us.)

Before I chose to abandon any form of organized religion in favor of the piecemeal collage I assembled for myself, I did attend a few services offered by other denominations. There was never a perfect fit. I even flirted briefly with Hinduism, only to be totally put off by the superiority complex again which I found so prevalent in many Christian groups.

One thing my father used to believe was this: If you take 6 million people and quiz them on the Bible, you are likely to get 6 million different interpretations of it.

Religion is, and should remain, a personal issue -- even for those who proselytize and wear their religion on their sleeve, or their car bumper. Where things get a little sticky is when adherents feel their religion is true and all others are false. Sadly, that's a common opinion and an increasingly dangerous one to express.

Religion-bashing is a commonplace occurence in many blog threads. Because a few outspoken so-called Christian leaders have strayed as far as possible from the teachings of Christ, Christianity has very negative connotations for many -- particularly in the Blogosphere. Many of us lefties are as guilty as any when it comes to making blanket derogatory statements about people of faith, and particularly against those who call themselves Christians.

Pick any blog and wait for a post about religion. I'll even help you out by giving you this
example. Read the comments, one of which I'll share with you here:

the more I study it, the more it occurs to me to believe that religion is a form of insanity.

We hear a lot about the need for tolerance -- particularly in the LGBT community. This need must be expanded to religious differences if we are to avoid inciting widespread global conflicts between religious groups. Indeed, many who call themselves Christians are abominable people, and the same can be said of any religion. When going on the attack, it would be ideal if we could all stick with specifics rather than broader generalizations to avoid alienating those who would otherwise glady be our allies.

The mind-blowing insensitivity of major public figures when dealing with other cultures and religions poses a threat that makes terrorism seem like a gang of grade-school bullies. As if the red-hot Bush rhetoric isn't fanning the flames hard enough, we now have the Pope insulting Muslims.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pope "sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions."

It's now the fault of the Muslim faithful for failing to correctly interpret the Pope's intentions. Nice work.

While walking in unfamiliar pastures, it is best to keep one's eyes on the ground instead of gazing into the heavens. Aside from avoiding the occasional venomous reptile, one might also avoid stepping in shit.

16 September 2006

News Feed Democracy in Action

by: Dark Wraith

Most of you have probably already noticed the news feeds running here. On the left-hand side at the top, BBC News headlines are offered; in the lower part of the right sidebar, NPR news headlines are cycling. The refresh rates for both are set to three hours. To stop the headlines from cycling, all you have to do is mouseover the one on-screen; the feed will not advance for you until you mouseout. Clicking on a headline will take you to that story at the news source.

I provide these news feeds here via an AJAX script embedded in "include" files—each having its own styling elements in the cascading style sheet—called by PHP parsedinclude skinvars set at the appropriate places in the blog skin. That last sentence was given to point out in a subtle way that the news feed presentation trick isn't quite as easy as it might look. On the other hand, once the coding is built and the general invocations are there, it really isn't all that hard to put in more news feeds. The practical limit here is five, of which I have the two already dedicated.

Now, the news feeds are provided here on the assumption that, because you visit blogs and might, yourself, be a blogger, you like news. In fact, you might even be what could be called a "newshound." Acquiring timely information is, at least for some of us, virtually a lifestyle: as we continually inform ourselves, we at once empower our lives, enhance our discourse, and deepen our understanding of the world in which we fight for what is good and right.

I can easily pull three more news feeds to put in the sidebars. I have a number of high-quality feeds available for capture—truthout, CNN, Google News, etc.—and you need to tell me what you would like to see: more world news? health and medicine news? some arts and entertainment news? It's your call (within limits: no News of the Weird, no dedicated news streams about Brad and Angelina, no Sex4U news).

Vote for the one that you want most. I shall close the poll on Tuesday and use the results to determine what will be the last three news feeds that go into the sidebar.

Have at it.

What one category of news feed would you most like to see added here?

  — Poll results —

It’s Good To Laugh

by: Foiled Goil

I received this in an email and thought I’d share...


This is the funniest thing I have heard in years, and his laugh is contagious! It's a phone call from a man in Texas who witnessed a car accident involving 4 elderly women. It was so popular when they played it on CHUM FM that they had to put it on their site. Close your eyes and just picture what he is watching... it's even better than a video clip!!! You've got to listen to this!

Go to: CHUM FM

The Price of Ignorance

by: Konagod

We went out to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for lunch today. Being the creature of habit that I am, I was going to order my usual: a vegetarian enchilada with a spinach, mushroom and squash filling.

Txrad suggested I ask them about their spinach supply or consider ordering something different. When our waitress came to take our orders, I asked for the veggie enchilada, and to inject a little humor I added, "and could I get that without the E. coli?"

The waitress had no idea we were in the midst of an E. Coli outbreak linked to spinach. I suppose I take for granted all the news I know since I read at least two papers every morning and then sit here at my desk reading news for several hours each day. However, I was alarmed that a waitress in a restaurant would not have been exposed to this news either via the web, a newspaper, a televised newscast, or as a last resort, by restaurant management.

The more I thought about this, I wondered how many millions of people in the country were unaware of, or could care less about...
other critical news.

If you wondered why Bush seems to be driving this one hard, check out the video on the C&L link. It's enough to give you watery diarrhea and bloody stools.

Tools of My Trade (the electrics)

by: Minstrel Boy

This was inspired by Pogo. Actually, I get flack from people that know me because I get all sidetracked on political rants, cooking, and almost never write about my life in the music industry.

So, this one goes out to Pogo and all the other guitar players out there. It's about how I tend to look at my guitars as a tool box and not a collection of instruments.

First I'll start with the workhorses, these are guitars I use most of the time. They are Stratocasters. With a twist. I built them. The only cheating I did was that I took the body blanks to a friend of mine who is a master builder for Fender and he snuck them onto the computerized router/planers. Oh, yeah, and the necks were built by the same guys that built my 5-string banjo. They have the presses and stocks of cured woods and they build beautiful stuff. I told them that I wanted ebony fingerboards, big fat silver frets, a minimum of inlay (that's a personal thing, I don't like the feel of the big inlay stuff under my fingers) and that's what they gave me.

For the guts of the instruments I went to the guys who used to do the sound tech work for the Dead and a bunch of other San Francisco groups. They have a thing where you can get a Strat harness, all wired up. It's like the fabled '65 "Fat" strats. Two single coil pickups, one double humbucker at the bridge. There is a switch that will turn the bridge pickup to single if that's the sound I want but I usually leave that one alone and just go for my Silver Anniversary Edition strat when that's the sound I want.

I use a Fender stock bridge, no tremelo or stuff like that. The tuners are top of the line Schalers. I can't stress enough to beginners or even dedicated amatuer players. If you have, like friend Pogo, gotten an off-label axe to start out with, if you want to progress I would suggest that the first thing you do is replace the bridge and the tuners. A bridge that won't hold the strings steady and still under high tension and tuners that lock into pitch are crucial. It's also one of the ways those joints save the money they save. Think of it like beefing up the suspension and getting low profile wide ass tires for your off the floor sports car. The bodies and necks on them are fine, they are built to factory specs. You can, a little at a time upgrade them at your pleasure. I would start with bridge and the tuners because, if you were to upgrade the electronics you would mainly be amplifying an out of tune axe. ugh.

I string them heavy. My reasons are that thick strings under higher tension when tuned to pitch produce a richer tone, greater sustain and hold their pitch better than skinny strings. I buy my strings in bulk from a warehouse online. Right now I'm working with Dean Markley Jazz sets. When the case of strings I am using gets low, I will look for the cheapest sets in the high gauges that I like. I also like flat wound strings for electrics. Less finger noise. These are the gauges of the strings I use starting with the high E. .013 .017 (.026 wound).035 .045 .057. Anybody reading that who is a player is probably saying "Jesus Horatio Christ that's thicker than my acoustic!" You're right. If you want to get that big, ballsy, sound, this is the best way to get it. I would also suggest that if you try to go to higher guage strings to do it slowly. You don't get extra points for murdering your fingertips. A lot of little practice sessions, where you quit when it keeps on hurting too long after you take your hand off the strings is better than marathon runs that risk blisters or even bleeding. Expense really doesn't buy you any quality here. Good decent strings sound like good decent strings. I change the whole set when ever I change strings. I also change the whole set when I've put around 20 hours on them. If it's a live show situation I change strings right after the last show of the night.

I finished the strats with a combination of tung oil and clear laquer. They gleam. Deep, warm gleam. I have three of these all built along the same lines. I have three because one is tuned standard, one to open G, one to open D. The open tunings are for working with a bottleneck. It's a whole other instrument really and will get it's own posting. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Buy a chromatic electronic tuner. Don't skimp and buy a cheapo. Buy one that will allow you to see how far off you are. You'll get to where by sound and by feel you'll be able to get close. The thing is though, with pitch close does not count at all. I use an old Korg with a VU style meter and a through line so I just plug the guitar into the tuner, plug the outline of that into the amp. I check my stuff all the time.

I like the way that Stratocasters sound. They sound to me like an electric guitar should sound. There are other types of electrics out there, hell, I own a few of them but, for me, it's that stratocaster sound. Nothing like it. When it's totally called for I reach for one of my other tools in the box. These are pretty much stock off the rack guitars. I use them for sounds that you just can't get anywhere else.

'68 Les Paul Sunburst (because nothing else sounds like a Paul) I love their sound but for long term playing they are too damned heavy. My left shoulder is ruined from years of slinging Pauls. I play it sitting down.

'65 garden variety Telecaster in trick stringing scheme. The trick is to take the bottom four strings and bring them up an octave. This compresses the chord structure and makes a tight brilliant sound that will penetrate through all kinds of noise. For blues, rock and roll, or country rythym work it cannot be beat. I did fiddle with the pickups a bit also, I use an old middle pickup off a strat at the neck and a big old humbucker off a dead Paul at the bridge. I just realized that telling all of that probably has you saying "Garden variety my ass!"

'68 Rickenbacker 12 string (when the producer wants something that sounds like a Ricky 12, the only thing that will do is a Ricky 12) I have a small change here that makes a huge difference too. The separation on the bottom two strings is two octaves instead of one. That's how Leadbelly did it. That's how I do it.

'74 Gibson L5, the ultimate blues axe. Everything else pales.

Those are the current electrics in the line up. Others have come and gone but these have stayed. I love them all in their own way.

crossposted at Harp and Sword, where men play harp and chickenhawks are nervous!
15 September 2006

A-Z list blogging -- what is it really about?

by: Pam

There has been quite a bit of a dust up over who was/wasn't invited to the Clinton blogger lunch in Harlem, particularly because, as one of my readers, Miss Wild Thing, noted, "it looked like a blizzard hit the room." For a range of takes, surf and read Terrance's, Liza's and Steve's posts on it -- and check out the comments. Terrance does a great job of describing the "blogging while brown" phenomenon.

Steve wasn't invited by Peter Daou, organizer of the lunch (and is employed by sHillary) but he would have declined anyway:
Peter Daou saved himself some work by not inviting me. I don't go to private sessions with politicans. That is not what Jen and I do here. I don't give private advice to politicians. Period. I work for the readers. Not for the Democratic Party or a candidate. I don't even raise money for them, I only let people know where I contribute.

He would have done well to invite Liza, she's a smart, funny woman with a lot of good ideas. Same with Pam. Why Pete overlooked them is beyond me, but it was a mistake he should rectify.
The inclusion of more women at these types of gatherings is a positive sign -- I knew that would come sooner than the appearance of minority bloggers. It's just that predictable.

As I said in my earlier post on this (and on the John Edwards dinner), the dearth of color that results when these blogger events are coordinated is not surprising (I was the only spot of color at the Edwards event). Many bloggers of color aren't first or even second string in terms of profile, and therefore aren't in the network of those in-the-know who organize events of this type.

That's not an excuse, of course, but an explanation. Oliver Willis, for one, was invited, according to Peter (he emailed me about this), but couldn't make it. I don't know if there were other bloggers of color on the short list, or who they were. I really don't think the lack of color was intentional, as Peter has been an advocate of linking up to women and minority bloggers, including me. Nevertheless the picture speaks a thousand words.

Quite frankly, bloggers of color aren't always on the radar of the well-known bloggers either. Linking is powerful, and if it's concentrated among an inner circle of folks who all look the same, with few exceptions, it's going to be tough sledding to get in the mix. In many ways, the blogosphere is still about human nature, for better or worse. It just doesn't feel good when exclusionary behavior (intentional or unintentional) plays itself out in the virtual world, because people have fantasized that this would be one place that could be free of the crap. Sorry, folks. We're all a work in progress.

And read about one more reason why that photo might have been missing some color after the flip...


Vachel Lindsey - - The Leaden Eyed

by: Minstrel Boy

This post was originally posted 7-23-06. I got a comment on the post today which will be printed in full at the bottom.

Like a composer that writes for his own performance, Lindsay wrote for his own readings. Many of his manuscripts are like scripts for the stage. He was exuberant, thoughtful, outrageous, and very American.

This is one of my favorites. I would have put it on the sidebar but the lines are too long and would have to be broken, ruining the scan of the words. . .

The Leaden-Eyed

Let not young souls be smothered out before
They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.
It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull,
Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed.

Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly;
Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap;
Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve;
Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

-- Vachel Lindsay

I received this email today:

Thanks for spotlighting Vachel Lindsay. I serve on the board The Vachel Lindsay Association, a non-profit organization devoted to the legacy & ideals of the poet. We've been active for 60 years here in the Vachel's hometown, Springfield, Illinois.

I blog about Vachel on behalf of the VLA here
I love Lindsay's art, his bardic devotion to the oral tradition. His politics are particularly good, with the obvious exceptions of his early prohibitionism and enthusiam for the missionary movement.

The Leaden Eyed is a particularly good choice to represent the poet's considerable body of work in one short poem. His was a democratic, populist and utopian voice.

Thanks again for remembering this great American dreamer.

This is an excellent site that contains a wealth of information on an important American poet. I urge you to visit. Reading Lindsey is something I believe is essential to understanding the character of America itself. As the writer said, there were some unfortunate aspects of Lindsey's politics, but whether or not you agree with his take on a subject or his position on an issue, there were never any hidden agendas with him. You knew without any doubt exactly where he stood and what he believed. The things that Vachel Lindsey believed were things that he believed in the middle of his bones. I wish we had poets approaching that today.

crossposted at Harp and Sword

The Meltdown

by: Konagod

It was not a great day for President Bush with the press. There was frustration and some snapping dismay.

Pressed on why he opposed the idea of sending a large contingent of special forces to Pakistan to hunt bin Laden, Bush said his strategy was to work with Pakistan's government.

"First of all, Pakistan is a sovereign nation," Bush said. "In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.

Yeah, as with Iraq. Silly me. Friday haiku time:

Bush is fighting back
The Washington Urban Myth
We are on the hunt

From sovereign nations
We now need invitations
To hunt Bin Laden

Funny how things change
The boogey man IS coming
Third Awakening

Quote of the Day

by: Shakespeares Sister

"I wouldn't exactly put it that way." — President Bush, when asked today if he agrees with House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who claims that Democrats "are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people."

Get it right, Lou

by: Waveflux

Lou Dobbs got back on his soapbox this week and delivered a harangue on Iraq that was exactly half-baked:
Like President Bush, Sen. Reid had no recommendations for defeating our enemies in this conflict. Sen. Reid is right that the American people deserve better. They deserve better from both political parties and our national leadership...Neither the Bush administration nor the loyal Democratic opposition is speaking to the American people about how these wars will be won and at what cost.

Don't like the drive, Lou? Tell it to the guy behind the steering wheel. Fix the responsibility where it belongs - the Republicans, the people in power. Blame George Bush and his enablers in the GOP, the people actually in charge of the war and and the military and of all three branches of the federal government. Take a cue from Mary Landrieu, who said, loud and clear, what you should have:
In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did. Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of.

Listen close, Lou:
I'm not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about Democrats not making us safe. They're the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still at loose.

(Via Atrios.)
14 September 2006

Please god, no

by: Pam

Kerry: I'm prepared to kick Swift Boat's ass. Jeebus on a cracker. Yeah, man. It's a little late for action on that front, isn't it? Read the delusion
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSen. John Kerry (D-MA) doesn't believe that Hillary Clinton has the inside track on the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and says he would vigorously defend himself against new attacks by the Swift Boat team, according to an interview with The Examiner.

"I’m prepared to kick their ass from one end of America to the other," said Kerry, in a strong hint that he intends to run for president once again.
Stop. It. Now.

New from The Dark Wraith Forums News Network

by: Dark Wraith

Some of the long-time readers of Big Brass Blog, Release 1.0, may remember the occasional posting of a 24-hour delay version of a news product produced for The Dark Wraith Forums News Network. Bringing that tradition back to life seems appropriate as part of the revitalization of this fine Website.

For those of you unfamiliar with this news product, The Dark Wraith Forums News Network delivers a scrolling, four-story stream, usually updated every 24 to 48 hours: for each story, the linked source comes first; then the description (a summary of what the news article is about); then a sarcastic comment that begins with something like "More news about..." and ends with "...later, here on The Dark Wraith Forums News Network"; and finally a linked logo to The Dark Wraith Forums. The commercial version of this stream includes microbar ads between each story. Those are removed for the 24-hour delay version I post here at Big Brass Blog (I generally provide enough vexatious advertisements in the sidebar).

Without further delaying an already out-of-date news cycle, herewith is presented the first installment for Big Brass Blog, Release 2.0, of a static version of a news stream from The Dark Wraith Forums News network.

The Dark Wraith Forums News Network ©2006...

BBC News: China's state-run news media service has announced that all foreign media must now submit every article and picture for approval by authorities before publication, prompting widespread condemnation among press freedom advocacy groups: Reporters Without Borders called Xinhua a "predator of both free enterprise and freedom of information"... More news that gives us a little hint about what's in store for us when China, which lends us so much of what we borrow as a nation and as individuals, becomes our new owner, later here on The Dark Wraith Forums News Network...

Pravda: Reflecting the diplomatic difficulties Russia faces as an emerging force in world affairs, President Vladimir Putin yesterday said that it was his hope that sanctions against Iran could be 'avoided altogether' in dealing with the UN Security Council's confrontation with the Persian nation over its nuclear program; but Putin minced no words in publicly castigating Tehran for its rhetoric about destroying Israel, saying, "[Iranians] don't differ from Brazil or South Africa [in having the right to high-technology programs]; but we must understand that neither Brazil nor South Africa [is] setting the goal to destroy another state and... writing about it in [its] constitution... Regrettably, the Iranian leaders are talking publicly about it, and that doesn't help international security or the foreign policy of the Iranian state itself." ... More news that means Putin is trying to tell the Iranians that he likes their oil and gas, but he'd prefer they stop trying to get their country cratered by the guys next door who have about 200 nukes they could use if they got a really good excuse, later here on The Dark Wraith Forums News Network...

Guardian Unlimited: At a Cuban summit of non-aligned nations, more than 100 countries—including North Korea, Iran, and Syria—have called for an expansion of the definition of "terrorism" to include the U.S. attack on and occupation of Iraq... More news about those silly little countries that don't understand that the U.S. can't be a terrorist state because we might have to blow away any country that says we are, later here on The Dark Wraith Forums News Network...

The New York Observer: Fourteen years after imposing a partial ban, rumors are running rampant that the Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of permitting gel-filled, silicone breast enhancement prostheses back onto the market... More news that makes you wonder why it took the FDA so long, considering we've had a phony boob in the White House for almost six years, later here on the Dark Wraith Forums News Network...


by: Minstrel Boy

This organization was started by returning veterans who want to make sure that their voices are heard in the election cycle. I've done some research on them and found out that General Wesley Clark is a board member. They are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans speaking out and up for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. They state that the core mission of is:
to support the veterans of America's most recent conflicts as they run for public office, and to ensure that no politician in Washington gets away with votes or words that hurt the troops and veterans.

I'm down with that.

Watch their ad Body Armor. It is being run in Virginia and is, quite simply, the best political ad I have seen this cycle.

There is also a button you can click to donate to them so they can keep running their ad. I did.

crossposted at Harp and Sword where, by some miracle, comments are enabled again.

Fear of the boobie, part 3

by: Pam

...a two-class system is emerging for working mothers. For those with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice...But for lower-income mothers — including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers and the military — pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breast-feed at all, and others to quit after a short time.
The gap between the rich and the poor regarding the ability to breastfeed your child is out in the open in a stunning, but unsurprising piece in the NYT.

Lower income women receive the same message all mothers receive that breastfeeding your child is important; unfortunately, companies that these women work for see this need to pump as a "problem" even as they know this is discrimination.
It is a particularly literal case of how well-being tends to beget further well-being, and disadvantage tends to create disadvantage — passed down in a mother’s milk, or lack thereof.

...Public health authorities, alarmed at the gap between the breast-feeding haves and have-nots, are now trying to convince businesses that supporting the practice is a sound investment. “The Business Case for Breastfeeding,” an upcoming campaign by the Department of Health and Human Services, will emphasize recent findings that breast-feeding reduces absenteeism and pediatrician bills.
And it's definitely a case of class-based discrimination where lactation support is available as well. Stats from the CDC confirm that the corporate culture's lack of acceptance of lactation support has exacerbated the class gap:

* 73 percent of mothers now breast-feed their newborns. After six months the number drops to:
* 53 percent of college graduates
* 29 percent of mothers whose formal education ended with high school.


Sounding the fundie alarm

by: Pam

"There are a number of pastors that said, 'Look, we don't get involved in politics, I'm not going to get involved in this issue, I just want to preach the gospel,'. When they realize their ability to preach the gospel may very well be at stake, they may reconsider their involvement."
-- Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, sounding the homo terror alert as election day nears to mobilize religious voters
You know, this new tactic of "religious discrimination" is getting tired and boring already. No one is stopping the bible beaters from worshipping or spewing bigotry in their churches.

The public is beginning to draw the line and fundies are feeling the heat. The AmTaliban goons just want to be able to impose their small-minded beliefs -- and specific belief system -- on everyone else in the public sphere.
By expanding the discussion from marriage to religious expression, social conservatives say they will reconnect with religious voters and religious leaders who don't necessarily view same-sex unions as a threat.

...Perkins and others are building a case file of anecdotes where they say religious people have spoken out against gay marriage only to be punished. Perkins specifically cited the decision by Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich in June to fire his appointee to the Washington area transit board after the board member referred to homosexuals as "persons of sexual deviancy." The board member, Robert J. Smith, said he was expressing his personal beliefs as a Roman Catholic.
Boo hoo.


Speaking of fundie organizations, what's happened to the former haunt of Peter LaBarbera, the Illinois Family Institute? Blender Autumn noticed the entire site is down -- a little domain renewal problem?

Here is the Google cache.

Ann Richards R.I.P.

by: Minstrel Boy

I must confess that I loved Ann Richards even before she nailed Bush's daddy's ass to the wall in her speech in '88. I was in Texas to play and hang out with some of the Texas boys and one of their ringleaders said "We need to play for Miss Ann's picnic."

We went and were having a fine old time. Miss Ann was a gracious, and genuine host. Naturally gregarious and a hoot and a half. The best part happened when, by Texas law, we launched into "The Yellow Rose of Texas." After we had finished Miss Ann came up and said "Don't ya'll know the real words to that one?" We said that we thought we had just finished singing the real words. Miss Ann said no, and she told us about a young "high yellow" slave girl named Emily Morgan West (or Emmy Morgan, Emmy West, or Lilly Moore) of legendary beauty who was captured by Santa Ana during the Texas Rebellion. There is no historic documentation or verification for anything in this story, which to a Texan, only makes it that much closer to the truth. Santa Ana fancied himself a lady's man and did his "Napolean of the West" best to woo her. Emily lead him on and around. She was able to smuggle plans and information to Sam Houston before the battle of San Jacinto. In an alternate version Emily kept Santa Ana so enraptured the morning of the battle that his army was left leaderless and was defeated.

For those of you who forget, here's a midi file to
listen to and refresh your memory.

Miss Ann, I have been singing this version ever since that day. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching me "the real words."

The Yellow Rose of Texas was a woman fair to see
Though many loved her beauty, she lived in slavery,
When war was fought in Texas and the battles shook our lives
General Santa Anna took Emily as a prize.

She's the sweetest rose of color that Texas ever knew
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew,
You may talk about your Clementine, And sing of Rosa Lee
But the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for me.

He tried to win her favors, thought himself a dashing man
But his courtship she rejected, and she stole his battle plan;
Then sent it to Sam Houston, for this she found a way
And so the Union Army fought and won the day.


Where the Rio Grande is flowing lived a woman brave and fine
A heroine of the people and honored in her time
The Yellow Rose of Texas has long been laid to rest
But history would be different without the lovely Emily West.


Ann Richards was 73. She was also an immortal spirit. Fare thee well Miss Ann, you've earned your rest, we'll keep on working.

There's a copy in my crosspost over at the "Harp and Sword"

Nothing we do matters if we don't have fair elections

by: Shakespeares Sister

BradBlog got exclusive access to a Princeton study on electronic voting systems and now reports on the findings: “Malicious Code Can Be Easily Inserted into Voting Machine, Spread from One System to the Next, Resulting in Flipped Votes, and Stolen Elections…All Without a Trace Being Left Behind—Study Also Confirms that Voter Access Cards Can Be Created At Home to Defeat Security Protocols, Allowing Voters to Vote Multiple Times in a Single Election.”

"We've demonstrated that malicious code can spread like a virus from one voting machine to another," said [team leader Edward W. Felten, a professor at Princeton's Department of Computer Science] in an exclusive interview, "which means that a bad guy who can get access to a few machines — or only one — can infect one machine, which could infect another, stealing a few votes on each in order to steal an entire election."

…The Princeton study is the first such extensive, independent, publicly-released investigation of the hardware, software, and firmware of a Diebold AccuVote DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) system of the type used in Maryland, Florida, Georgia and many other states. In all, such touch-screen voting systems made by Diebold, will be in use in nearly 40 states across the country this November.

The study, which also reveals a number of other troubling vulnerabilities – including the confirmation that voter access cards used on Diebold systems may be created inexpensively on a personal laptop computer, allowing a voter to vote as many times as they wish – was released this morning in full on Princeton University's website along with video demonstrations of some of the most disturbing revelations of the report.
Go read the whole thing. Here you will find a video demonstration of their findings, which I sincerely recommend watching. (Via Get In Their Face.) Spread it far and wide. Write to your Senators and Representatives, direct them to the video, and ask for legislation to guarantee fair and honest elections now before the November midterms.
13 September 2006

Welcome to Big Brass Blog, Release 2.0

by: Dark Wraith

Yes, this really is the Big Brass Blog, founded in February of 2005 by Pam of Pam's House Blend and Shakespeare's Sister. The domain has been transferred to Dark Wraith of The Dark Wraith Forums. Pam and Shakes were the founders, and they shall always be recognized and honored as the reigning queens of Big Brass Blog and the Blogosphere.

Soon after Big Brass Blog was brought to life, Shakespeare's Sister invited me to become a contributing writer here. Subsequently, I worked on the architecture and theme of the blog. The results of the visual alterations and enhancements can be seen in the sidebar Legacy Archives, which offer month by month views of B3 content from February 2005 to August 2006.

At 11:59 p.m. on August 31, 2006, I had the glad task of removing Big Brass Blog from the abomination of Blogger and moving it to NucleusCMS, a very nice, flexible content management system that I have deployed as a collaborative online magazine with Weblog features and other enhancements. Contributing writers will be invited to join and post here on the main blog forum as well perhaps as on blogs that could be created as subsidiary enterprises from the main site. Such additional blogs would be something like the "diaries" of other popular sites; but here, such blogs would all operate under NucleusCMS, about which you can read below the page fold on this post.

Whine and Cheese
First, the cheesy part. You might feel the urge to be impressed by the architecture of Big Brass Blog, Release 2.0. Don't fight that urge: this place has some very cool stuff. Most of it, however, is working in the background, but some of it is apparent. For one thing, you'll notice in the sidebar Navigation panel a link to the permanent open forum here; and at the bottom of this main page, you can always view the latest five comments on it. I made that message board "flat" (i.e., non-threaded) to give it a less confusing, linear look, sort of like HaloScan, with which many of you are familiar and quite comfortable.

The big difference with comments here is that for mark-up you have to use the ancient "BB Code" tags of old message boards instead of HTML tags. (Bizarre as it is, the open forum message board handles HTML tags, not BB Code.) Some of you are already familiar with BB Code: bold-facing is done with [b] to open and [/b] to close; italicizing is done with [i] to open and [/i] to close; underscoring is done with [u] to open and [/u] to close; text coloring is done with [color=name of color] to open and [/color] to close (where the name of the color is something simple like blue, red, green, etc.—but don't try to get cute with some fool thing like Periwinkle Blue or Late Afternoon Salmon, for God's sake). You can make embedded links with [url=Web address of link] to open and [/url] to close (where the link address is something like, and it's not in quotation marks). Nucleus developers are working on a way for real HTML to be employed in comments, but that won't come for a while. My own effort produced something that almost worked, but not quite. This, in my judgment, is one of only several genuine drawbacks with NucleusCMS: the other is that there is not yet a stable preview feature for comments, but that's coming, too.

Feel free to use the permanent open forum to post links to articles, offer opinions, or just blow off a little steam about the stupidity of the neo-cons. The thread will sunset postings on a regular basis to keep the forum from overrunning the database. Disrespectful, vexatious, or otherwise flatulent trolls will be shot and then given a degrading wedgie. As my Kentucky ancestors would have said, "Ain't no season on varmint... ain't no bag limit, neither."

Speaking of HaloScan, some of you who comment at blogs using that system might have noticed that on some blogs there are these weird, almost irrelevant posts showing up, with the "commenters" all seeming to have homepages with "" in their domains. Those comments are being generated by spambots that have penetrated the HaloScan system. They are doing a magnificent job of clogging up all kinds of other commenting systems and blogs, too. Some of the so-called "community blogs"—where people can create their own blogs within a sort of meta-blog—are getting chewed alive with hundreds of blogs being created by spambots specially designed to pull that stunt. I bring this up to point out that this Weblog has several layers of security laid in. If, somehow, some spambot manages to make it through my defenses here, I will go Medieval on the fools who sent it out to do its dirty work. I should point out, by the way, that not all spambots are commercial deals: apparently, at least one progressive hoe-handle has figured out how to do a spambot that's posting comments with links to progressive articles on HaloScan-enabled blogs. It looks like he doesn't have many zombies pumping the bot, though, but that doesn't mean I won't install his computer in his back food port if he shows up here.

That above rant about spambots is the hallmark of increasing frustration with a cyberspace ecosystem that's suffering under the weight of a number of problems that in their aggregate pose serious threats to the future of a free and open global Internet community. It is a crying shame that our legislators in Washington are so stunningly, utterly clueless about the real—but, most unfortunately, enormously complex—issues eating their way into the fabric of the online world. In the stead of meaningful legislation and careful regulation, we get the dominant voice of telecoms and their apologists using some Republican legislative leaders as their mouth organ, while at the same time we get a rather diffuse, disorganized (lack of) opposition that tries to simplify the matter down to calls for an open Internet, which actually does nothing more than serve the profit motives of another set of corporations parasitizing off cyberspace.

Let us now dispense with the large bottle of whine and go to the more immediate matter of the whine on the dinner table here at the new Big Brass Blog. This site was a lot like work to create at this level. What you're seeing here is NucleusCMS at about half of its full potential. Even at that, to create some of the effects requires more than a little knowledge about PHP or, at the very least, the willingness and patience to learn some basics about how PHP works. It's really cool once you get the hang of it, but it's not a piece of cake. That being said, Nucleus does offer out-of-the-box "skins" that can be used to deploy a darned nice, impressive, yet relatively simple NucleusCMS blog in a matter of an hour or so. If you've ever seen TypePad in action, Nucleus might give you the strong impression that you're in that type of Website architecture environment. Take the warnings and the invitation for what they're worth. If you're using Blogger, you really owe it to yourself to leave; but advice like that is easier to offer than to follow, of course.

Moving Right Along
On behalf of the Big Brass Blog group, I thank you for coming here. If you are a returning visitor from the old days of B3, thank you also for not having a heart attack when you first saw this total make-over. It is attractive, though, isn't it? Click on "More" to see how NucleusCMS can do the same for your blogging experience; otherwise, there's some other reading here for your pleasure and benefit. Enjoy it, and please return often: this is a good blog, but it's a whole lot better when readers visit and comment.


If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked A Cake

by: Minstrel Boy

Wish me luck on my first attempt at cross-posting. Since we have such clear and original thinkers in the arena of politics, human rights, economics and such, I will most likely confine my country butt to things like cooking (a passion), music (my profession), and history (my secret love). If anyone ever has a subject that they would like to hear me on, I invite you to post the suggestion on the Open Forum Board. I intend to be a regular reader and commenter there and I will do my best to research and weigh in on topics you might suggest. Now, without further ado I bring you


There is a lot of legend and lore surrounding this cake. It originated at the famous Hotel Sacher in Vienna. This cake was developed on orders of Wenzel Clemens, Prince Metternich, who was bringing guests to dine at the hotel. His orders were to create something his guests had never tasted before. The problem was that the world famous pastry chef of the hotel was sick and unable to leave his bed. Franz Sacher, then sixteen years old and an apprentice in the kitchen took it upon himself to create this cake. This recipe is the one used at the hotel to this very day. I have included a small variation at the end of the post for those of you who remain too lazy or too scared to temper your chocolate.

First, the ingredients:

4 1/2 ounces sweet butter (unsalted)
4 ounces powdered sugar
6 egg yolks
4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (more on this later)
4 1/2 ounces cake flour (sifted)
6 egg whites
3 1/2 ounces baker's sugar (extra fine granulated but not powdered)
Apricot Jam
extra chocolate and cocoa butter for glazing (or get coveture chocolate)

alternate glaze of ganache:

1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sweet butter

That isn't too intimidating now is it? Again, as with the most sublime foods, there is a theme of simplicity. Be ruthlessly demanding in your choice of ingredients. The level of success here demands it. I use Challenge brand European style butter when my relatives in Ireland have allowed their care package duties to slide (yes, I'm talking to YOU my dear daughter!) . Irish butter is almost it's very own product. Yes, they use cows like everybody else, but the Irish butter is quite frankly the best in the world. (which means SEND ME SOME NOW!). I buy my eggs from a neighbor who gently raises Rhode Island Reds. They run about her yard, scratching and hunting bugs. She feeds them by hand every morning and night. At night they roost in a special coop amid fresh straw. These are some happy critters folks. The eggs they lay reflect that satisfaction. One must, however, be on guard against the occaisional fertilized egg in the batch. They have a tiny bloodspot on the yolk and must either be set aside for a less important recipe or given to the dogs (who always wait at a polite distance when I am cooking). For the cream, I use the Manufacturing Cream product from a local dairy. It has a butterfat content of 40%. Hey folks, this ain't no sissy health food here, this is Viennese Pastry. For the chocolate I use Trader Joe's Pound Plus Bittersweet® it is Belgian and very good stuff. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you consider moving right now. They are an essential component of civilized existance. I also use their house brand of premium Apricot Jam. It is luscious.

Now, let's get to baking.

Over simmering, not boiling water, melt the chocolate until it is smooth and glossy. Take care not to allow any water or steam to get into the chocolate. It will sieze if this happens and that ruins everything. Be Carefull. I mean it. Carefull.

Separate the eggs. Have two bowls, one smaller one for yolks and a mixing bowl for the whites on either side of you. Use a small dessert bowl in the middle for catching the whites as you separate them. If a yolk breaks, or you find a fertilized egg discard it bowl and all.

Now cream together the butter and powdered sugar then add, alternating slowly, the egg yolks and melted chocolate. Mix this until it is completely smooth and has a sensual glossy look.

Beat the egg whites at a medium speed until they are foamy. Turn it up to high, then begin adding the baker's sugar a teaspoon at a time until you have Stiff Peaks. That means when you raise your whisk or beaters the points stand straight up without any flopping. Slight curling is acceptable, but we want VIAGRA stiff. Got it?

Now gently, calmly fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter, then do the same with the cake flour.

Turn into a buttered Springform® cake pan and bake on the middle rack at 350° for an hour. Cool on a rack for at least an hour. Then remove from the pan.

Slice the cake in half horizontally and generously slather (god i love that word slather it makes me feel all decadent and stuff) between the layers with Apricot Jam. Transfer this to a buttered marble slab that has been painted with a base of Coveture Chocolate. To make a regular bittersweet chocolate into a coveture simply add cocoa butter to it while you are tempering, this will make for a thinner coating. Using a pastry brush (which is merely a camel hair paintbrush) coat the outside of the cake. When it has hardened, carefully trim around the edges and place on an appropriately dramatic serving plate. (I use a cut crystal pedestal) For a totally cool look you can also sift powdered sugar over a doilly or other cool pattern. If you don't want to bother with the tempering, or don't trust your instincts on adding in the cocoa butter you can usually find a coveture grade chocolate at the Godiva store. If you really don't want to bother you can use a simple ganache to glaze.

Take the cup of cream and heat it right up to the boiling point. Then dump it over the chopped chocolate and butter. Mix it until it very smooth. Paint this over the cake and allow to cool completely.

That's the Sacher torte my friends. If you edit out all my ramblings you'll find that this is merely a moderate level of difficulty recipe. It shouldn't take much more than 20 mintues of work along with an hour of baking time. Give this one a try, you'll be a legend of the dining room. Franz Sacher ended up owning the hotel where he created this. I have had to settle for extra good behavior from my children and an occaisional inspired roll in the hay after dessert.

Oh yeah, this is best served mit schlag (which is fresh unsweetened whipped cream) and either espresso (not latte, not cappuchino bitchez, espresso in a goddamn demitasse!) or a nice Earl Grey (cream, no sugar) tea. Save the Brandy for a wee bit later, the alcohol would just destroy your palate for the onslaught of chocolate to come

crossposted at Harp and Sword
11 September 2006

Only Numbers

by: Dark Wraith

Criminals killed 2,996 people on American soil five years ago. Those five years mark 1,826 days, or about 43,824 hours, or approximately 2,629,440 minutes. Our world moves onward, and with every passing moment that awful day recedes further into the history of our people even as it weaves ever more deeply into the fabric of our future.

Mendacious IdiotThe man at left was the leader of our country on that day: on September 11, 2001, he had been the President of the United States for 234 days. His name is George W. Bush; he is the 43rd President of the United States. One thousand one hundred forty-eight days after the attacks—on November 2, 2004—he won re-election, garnering 62,040,606 votes, while his closest rival received 59,028,109 votes. The man at right has been held responsible for directing the attacks upon the United States of September 11, 2001. He is Osama bin Laden. He has not been captured or killed in the 1,826 days since the attacks. He has, instead, continued to be the spiritual and inspirational leader of an organization called al-Qa'ida, which has in the intervening time been in part or in whole responsible for leveling as many as 30 significant, lethal attacks across a dozen countries, among them Spain, Great Britain, Egypt, and Indonesia.

Since 2001, Mr. Bush and his allies in Congress have spent $430 billion waging a "global war on terror." This world-wide engagement includes large-scale wars in two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, where a total of approximately 3,000 American soldiers have been killed, along with perhaps 70,000 civilians.

Yet, despite all of the thousands upon thousands of lives lost, the hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and the nearly two thousand days since the United States fell victim to the largest attack in history on its continental soil, the man in the picture at right, above, is still free, and by President Bush's own testament we must remain fearful because al-Qa'ida—as well as other, similar terrorist organizations—remains a clear and present threat to the United States and its citizens.

Lest we ever forget what has become of our nation in the years and days of George W. Bush's Presidency, we must continue the counts, for it is in the numbers that the truth shouts for all to hear, should we so choose.

The Dark Wraith has thus spoken upon the anniversary of a melancholy day.

This article is cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums.
10 September 2006

No Agreed Clear Narrative

by: Foiled Goil

'War On Terror' Loses Clear Direction

By Paul Reynolds, World Affairs Correspondent
BBC News website:

In the five years since 9/11, a clear-cut and well-supported "war on terror" declared by President Bush has become confused and divisive. [...]

Fear is a powerful motivating factor. Fear after 9/11 led to the Bush doctrine of the pre-emptive strike.

But this doctrine has not been endorsed by all.

Doubts, divisions and defections have developed among American allies. For many around the world, sympathy for the United States has changed into suspicion and, for some, even into hatred. The prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, the treatment of prisoners, secret prisons and rendition flights all added to this feeling.

The changes just announced by President Bush - acknowledging and emptying the secret camps and other moves - might answer some criticism but not all and their overall effect remains to be seen. [...]

The shadow of Iraq hangs over American policy and the world's view of it.

The problem is that many governments and peoples do not see Iraq as part of the answer to terror. They see it as part of the cause. They therefore want to distance themselves from American policy. [...]

But Iraq has probably been the greatest single factor in producing the confusion that is now evident. Washington declares that Iraq must be won or the war on terror will be lost. Opponents say it has made things worse, though many opponents add that now it must be won.

A difficulty for the Bush administration is that it argued differently when the invasion was announced. Then, it was about weapons of mass destruction.

Terrorism floated only in the background as a nightmare in which a rogue state might give some terrorist nuclear weapons.

Now, Iraq has been declared the frontline which has to be held or it will move to the streets of America. [...]

It is perhaps not unlike the debate over South Vietnam. That war, too, was declared necessary for victory in the other long war, the Cold War. In those days, it was said that if South Vietnam went, the whole of South East Asia would go too, in a fall of the dominoes.

And nor has Washington been effective in solving another motivating factor for the jihadis - the Israel-Palestine conflict. Its portrayal of Israel as a victim in the war on terror sits uneasily with, say, the Europeans, who generally see the dispute as territorial not ideological and therefore amenable to a compromise.

There is therefore no agreed and clear narrative for the "war on terror". [...]

"It will get worse before it gets better ..."

08 September 2006

Snark Bytes

by: Foiled Goil

"We are fully committed to working with both sides to bring the level of terror down to an acceptable level for both." —George W. Bush, after a meeting with congressional leaders, Oct. 2, 2001 (-About as sharp as a marble.)

"We need to counter the shockwave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 4, 2001 (-An intellect rivaled only by garden tools.)

"I'm the master of low expectations." —George W. Bush, aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003 (-Couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel.)

"Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., July 25, 2003 (-Driveway doesn't quite reach the road.)

"See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction." —George W. Bush, Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003 (-The antenna doesn't pick up all the channels.)

"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the — the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003 (-As smart as bait.)

"In my judgment, when the United States says there will be serious consequences, and if there isn't serious consequences, it creates adverse consequences." --George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 8, 2004 (-Too much yardage between the goal posts.)

"There is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron-clad absolutely solid evidence. The evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a weapon." --George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 8, 2004 (-Hasn't seen the ball since kickoff.)

"The recession started upon my arrival. It could have been -- some say February, some say March, some speculate maybe earlier it started -- but nevertheless, it happened as we showed up here. The attacks on our country affected our economy. Corporate scandals affected the confidence of people and therefore affected the economy. My decision on Iraq, this kind of march to war, affected the economy." --George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 8, 2004 (-The wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead.)

"The march to war affected the people's confidence. It's hard to make investment. See, if you're a small business owner or a large business owner and you're thinking about investing, you've got to be optimistic when you invest. Except when you're marching to war, it's not a very optimistic thought, is it? In other words, it's the opposite of optimistic when you're thinking you're going to war." --George W. Bush, Springfield, Mo., Feb. 9, 2004 (-Running on 3 cylinders.)

"We're still being challenged in Iraq and the reason why is a free Iraq will be a major defeat in the cause of freedom." --George W. Bush, Charlotte, N.C., April 5, 2004 (-Proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.)

"Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country." --George W. Bush, interview with Al Arabiya Television, May 5, 2004 (-The elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor.)

"I have a record in office, as well. And all Americans have seen that record. September the 4th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never forget." --George W. Bush, Marlton, New Jersey, Oct. 18, 2004 (-Dumber than a box of hair.)

"We thought we were protected forever from trade policy or terrorist attacks because oceans protected us." --George W. Bush, speaking to business leaders at APEC Summit, Santiago, Chile, Nov. 20, 2004 (-Would lose a debate with a doorknob.)

"I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words. So put that down. I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something." --George W. Bush, speaking to reporters, Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 2005 (-All foam, no beer.)

"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red." --George W. Bush, explaining his plan to save Social Security, Tampa, Fla., Feb. 4, 2005 (-As clear as a muddy windshield.)

"If you're a younger person, you ought to be asking members of Congress and the United States Senate and the president what you intend to do about it. If you see a train wreck coming, you ought to be saying, what are you going to do about it, Mr. Congressman, or Madam Congressman?" --George W. Bush, Detroit, Mich., Feb. 8, 2005 (-Careful now, don't let your brains go to your head.)

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." --George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005 (-And there he was: reigning number one at number two.)

"You see, not only did the attacks help accelerate a recession, the attacks reminded us that we are at war." --George W. Bush, on the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington, D.C., June 8, 2005 (-The relative IQ of a deck chair.)

"I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome." --George W. Bush, defending Vice President Dick Cheney's pre-war assertion that the United States would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, NBC Nightly News interview, Dec. 12, 2005 (-Not the brightest light in the harbor.)

"I think -- tide turning -- see, as I remember -- I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of -- it's easy to see a tide turn -- did I say those words?" --George W. Bush, asked if the tide was turning in Iraq, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006 (-His brain waves fall a little short of the beach.)
05 September 2006

Resisting the Death-Knell

by: Foiled Goil

With deep appreciation, I wish to thank the Dark Wraith for his most gracious invitation to join with him on the Dark Wraith Team at this new Big Brass Blog in the fight to take back our country.

“We've become activists because we give a damn . . . and we're pissed!”

Resisting the Death-Knell of the Republic

“The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.”
~Theodore Roosevelt
Labor Day speech at Syracuse, NY
Sept 7, 1903
26th president of US (1858 - 1919)

This Labor Day weekend I have received a much needed recharge from two events. The first was the courageous, passionate, fact-based welcome speech by Salt Lake City mayor, Rocky Anderson to Dubya Gump. And the second, MSNBC's Countdown host Keith Olbermann's commentary on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's condemnation of thoughtful dissent saying those against the policies of the Bush administration and the Iraq Occupation are "morally and intellectually confused." Der Rumsfeld- füehrer then tried to egregiously compare loyal opposition with Fascist sympathizing. Mayor Anderson's speech and Mr. Olbermann's rebuttal revived me like rushes of cooling, super oxygenating air on a stifling hot day. For those of us working everyday to change, improve, replace, or eliminate the injustices and threats to our democracy that assault our sensibilities from every angle, adult daily living takes on an additional burden. The knowledge we must carry within us to fight the power causing these injustices takes a heavy toll on our peace of mind. We've gone beyond casual observer status or even interested partisan. We've become activists because we give a damn . . . and we're pissed! We dug deep into the data to learn the truth and discovered that America is on the brink of losing its freedoms, its identity, its very soul. We carry with us always the knowledge that this 230 year experiment in democracy could actually fail. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but we might be witness to the slow tipping into the abyss of totalitarianism that our children and grandchildren will be made to suffer. It happened once before on this orb and we all must not let it happen again.

So, I am encouraged and grateful to Mayor Anderson and Keith Olbermann for their courage and intelligence to do what all of us must do every day, speak truth to power. They didn't just lay out the facts of the crimes and assaults on our sensibilities by this Bush crime family on our democracy. They painted pictures of the real and increasing danger by these neocon, Republican, Christocrats and the very reasons why we must not let these outlaws in office continue to abscond with our country . . . with our nations very lifeblood. If you haven't already drunk deep from the refreshing waters of their healing words, you owe this respite to yourself.

Every now and then you have to reiterate the dream. You have to remember why you are in the fight, why your sacrifice, struggle, and commitment were called upon in the first place; why you were called to service. [...] Thus, we can do no less than engage our hearts and minds in this fight to regain our country from these elitist burglars occupying the government. [...] We must all guard against burnout. Which is why, every now and then, it's good to hear words to help us sustain the fight.

Most Americans now know that the active power in America has become the property of a handful of deranged criminals who are not interested in the good of all citizens, but only interested in their special class of robber barons. Taking President Roosevelt's warning to heart, we fight to prevent our ever hearing the death-knell of our Republic.

-- Michael Shelby – Straight from the Shoulder

The 2008 Pulse, Poll #1

by: Dark Wraith

Yes, it's only 2006, but the 2008 race is already heating up. They're coming out of every nook and cranny of this great land, from California to the New York islands (now that could be a catchy tune!). They're showing up at conventions, festivals, parties. Several have been sighted in Washington DC, for Heaven's sake. This is your first opportunity to choose your dream candidate. Right here, right now at the Big Brass Blog, make your choice and see what others have to say.

We've even gone to the extreme of putting a new security system into place: it's called the KenBlackwell Hacker Twacker™, and we're just dying give it a whirl, especially since we sprang for the Katherine Harris Platinum ElectroWedgie feature, just in case we have any has-been Republican losers try to show up to rehabilitate themselves with their old paymasters in Washington.

Without further ado, VOTE.

Who is your favorite Democrat to run for President in 2008?

  — Poll results —
02 September 2006

Pulp Economics:
Rationality, Incentives, and the Agency Dilemma

by: Dark Wraith

Like all self-respecting academic disciplines, the science of economics works from a set of assumptions. From these assumptions, economists apply logic, mathematics, and some degree of individual and group bias to describe the economic world. A general rule in all sciences is that assumptions should be as few in number as possible and should be altogether reasonable. Once in a while, an assumption can be discarded because a good model is found that does not need it; and sometimes, an assumption can be discarded because it turns out that it can be derived as a consequence of other assumptions. In a first course in the principles of economics, several assumptions are laid on the table right away. To a greater or lesser degree, others are hidden or otherwise ignored, the pedagogic theory being that it's best to quickly start applying a parsimonious set of assumptions to generate usable models without engaging in long-winded explanations about why one thing is an assumption while something else is not. Economists, like many other professionals who teach the uninitiated, also like to get away from the word "assumption" pretty quickly since, almost inevitably, some student who thinks he's actually witty will have to get chewed out for making some worn-out, cutesy remark about the verb "assume" being somehow related to making an "ASS out of U and ME." (I, personally, about 20 years ago dispensed with any shred of patience when dealing with that idiotic nonsense: my usual treatment is something along the lines of "Oh, do shut up and try to learn something today before you flunk out of here and end up at Ace Trucking School.")

Moving along, to present an important concept from economics in this article, two assumptions will be presented in the course of this exposition. As is typical in Pulp Economics articles here at The Dark Wraith Forums, we shall advance the plot by featuring the activities of an average person whose life cannot help but be infused of economics. Along the way, we shall also set forth some terminology in a more or less formal way. A few terms to lay the groundwork must be provided at the outset, but first, the protagonist of this story must be introduced.